I wrote a post a few days back about the groundwork that existed for, and lead directly to, the current crop of fantasy based MMORPGs.
For me, one of the key items in that groundwork is Dungeons and Dragons.
D&D defined for so many people the essential elements of what we have come to accept as the norm for fantasy MMORPGs. Think of all of the general concepts brought together in D&D, loot, experience points, levels, hit points, character classes, groups, right down to the over riding prevalence of PvE, that were defined in our minds by that game.
So when somebody like me first logged onto a game like EverQuest, they were immediately at home. It was evolution, not revolution. We were trained and educated to be there.
Meanwhile, science fiction does not have a similarly influential game behind it, something that defines the genre, something that would let us know when we have “arrived” at the prototypical science fiction MMORPG.
This is both a strength and a weakness.
It is a weakness in that the desire to make or play a science fiction MMORPG has no focus. There is no path, no map, now way of telling if we have arrived or even what direction we should head.
Furthermore, that lack of a strong gaming influence devoted to science fiction means that, when it comes to MMORPGs, we tend to get fed things that are associated with other genres, especially fantasy.
The strength comes with the freedom that science fiction allows. If you saw the comments thread on my last post, you will have seen that we could not even come up with a working definition of what is science fiction and what is not.
With no “science fiction D&D” there is no rigid box drawn around what a science fiction game is. It will be a long time before a mainstream fantasy MMORPG can escape from the domain defined by D&D, but science fiction is no so constrained.
So I believe that, when the great, defining science fiction MMO comes (and it must come some day… maybe not some day soon, but some day) it will be far easier for us to accept it than it would be for us to accept a fantasy MMO that broke all of the conventions laid down by D&D.
Science fiction is, and should be, the realm of advancement, the realm of the new and different.
Unfortunately, D&D appears to have also locked science fiction into that same set of concepts. When you look at games like Star Wars Galaxies or Anarchy Online, you see the influence of Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, influence from which we will have a difficult time escaping.
But there is hope.
Somewhere, at some small studio, on some indie project, there must be somebody, some game designer, with the (small “v”) vision to imagine and create a science fiction MMO that will break the mental boundaries in which we all seem to be constrained. Somebody who can break the MMOs free of the conventions we are all comfortable with, the conventions we all see as “normal.”
There is a market for it.
There is a hunger for it.
There are whole forums just waiting for it.
When will it arrive?