Well, it’s been awhile and needed to sit down and write about something this weekend, and since it’s on my mind this week, I’ll go ahead and talk about the new Star Wars. The Force Awakens has had a good reception, and it was great seeing it over the holiday with my family. Since then, seen it two more times with friends, so have a little bit of perspective on it by now. For those who haven’t seen it yet, spoilers ahead, so stop reading!
I was lucky enough to have grown up in the 70’s while the original Star Trek was in syndication. I think it aired in the late afternoon on school days, just before the parents got home and dinner took over, and we’d catch every episode we could, eventually surprised when we caught one we hadn’t seen before. When we finally saw the second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before” with only a partially formed crew of those we all know (Kirk, Sulu, Scotty and a strangely hot-headed Mr. Spock – Dr. Mark Piper anyone?), it was an interesting view into the early days of the series. In the episode Lt. Commander Gary Mitchell is imbued with godlike powers and quickly becomes a threat to the rest of the crew, with the inevitable shirt-ripping fight with William Shatner in the climactic ending. It was a scarier episode than we had become accustomed to in the later shows, but moreso, we all noticed how much more rough around the edges Spock seemed to be. Of course, probably at this time, thoughts were about Vulcans being more closely aligned with their warlike Romulan cousins, and much still to be fleshed out. Even then, Leonard Nimoy had a presence as Spock that could not be denied.
We’ve got a number of new, smaller scale, independent fantasy MMOs in various stages of completion on the horizon – Pathfinder, Shroud of the Avatar, Crowfall, Camelot Unchained, Pantheon – as well as some larger scale efforts – EverQuest Next being the notable, though the sale of Sony Online Entertainment to Daybreak Gaming Company has many players doubting that game’s future. The one thing in common between all of them is a latching on to traditional fantasy tropes – elves, dwarves, swords, dragons…you get the picture. Sure, we have some space games coming too with Star Citizen and the recently released Elite: Dangerous, Defiance, Destiny, and Planetfall 2 but we seem to be caught between swords and spaceships (ok, some superheroes and zombies are in there too!).
Can we try something new? I’m the biggest fan of fantasy there is, but I’m thinking our settings could use a good kick in the pants. Or is D&D-style, Tolkienesque fantasy the only financially viable (e.g. safe) option when investing millions of dollars to build out a game? My guess is that a solid idea, excellent gameplay coupled with good marketing could take some other ideas further than they have gone to date. Just a few ideas this week to mull over, even if they never get built!
So in one of our infamous brainstorm sessions, we were sprouting MMO ideas, and one of them that came out is one that I’ve seen great examples of in other games – Star Citizen, EVE, The Repopulation, even Star Trek Online, but none of those quite had the hook we were thinking of. I thought this week I’d go ahead and just toss the idea open to the ether for someone to run with or ignore (my guess is that there are at least a dozen other people thinking along the same lines who have more programming expertise and, more importantly, money to pay programmers.) Our thought was something of a Star Trek mixed with Battlestar Galactica and Blade Runner – that drive for exploration, but with a real sense of danger in the universe. Space travel is not safe, but it is necessary. Necessary because earth is dying.
The Year is 3786 AD and the Earth is dying. War, starvation, global warming, predation of resources are enough to seal our fate. But, as if to rub it in, scientists just confirmed the sun is slowly and surely expanding. The expectation is it will not be long before we go extinct – we won’t live to see the Red Giant because we’ll have killed ourselves long before then; the days are numbered for the human species. But 50 years ago we found something. Conspiracy theorists whispered of a discovery by Mars 17 that was quickly hushed up along with whispers of alien artifacts. Shortly after the announcement of the Sun going Red, the Corporation unveiled a fleet of ships “capable of faster- than-light travel” along with a list of the most promising systems that could support human life. And they are recruiting scouts…
My brother Erik gave me a copy of the novel Ready Player One for my birthday back in June, and since it’s his birthday today, thought I would wish him happy birthday and thank him for that trip down memory lane. So much of our early days were spent in these fantasy worlds. I remember picking up copies of the super-sized Fantastic Four and The Hulk at the PX on the army base in Germany, and later moving on to Weird War and Sgt. Rock, Tales of Mystery, and Tales from the Crypt . Erik kept up with everything too, and made the great discovery of The X-Men (I think we were both in love with Jean Grey there for awhile) and The Micronauts when we had moved back to California. We started out, probably with Raggedy Andy and later The Magical Land of Noom books, but later of course on to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, along with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and later, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and ultimately Dungeons & Dragons up through a good chunk of the Dragonlance series. We were both hooked in our own ways on these worlds, me more in the tabletop realm, and Erik taking to video games like a fish to water. It seems we were in great company, though, but books like Ready Player One, amazing in its own delving into video game lore, only scratched the surface of all the stuff we were interested in.
Thought I’d take a break from the MMO world this week and talk a little bit about the whirlwind of changes with the Star Wars franchise. For those who haven’t been watching all things Star Wars, the big news is that George Lucas has sold all the rights for Star Wars to Disney Studios, and has bowed out of making any future movies, serving only as a consultant. Add to that news that Disney will produce a new Star Wars movie (set after the original series) which will appear sometime in 2015, and that J.J. Abrams will be directing. For those who don’t know J.J. Abrams, he produced the Lost television series, the Goonies throwback Super 8, and the 2009 Star Trek reboot. He’s produced a ton of SF television, including Felicity, Fringe, and recently, Revolution (the one about the power going out).