Monday, September 26, 2011

Franchises and MMOs


I need to start this little entry saying that I am not a big fan of any franchise. I do like the Star Wars movies and the Lord of the Rings books and movies, and I even play LotRO, but I am not the kind of person who’ll buy T-shirts and themed mugs. Still, franchises made it to annoy me this past week when I decided to think about it a bit, and how it is present in a game that I like very much, and how it basically creates other games where the game company won’t hold all the power over its tittle, and it could just vanish if contracts are not renewed. The good part of franchises is that it allows us to live a world that became limited by the lack of new books and movies about such fantasy worlds. It is much easier to imagine further adventures in such worlds by playing a game then by making fanfics, comics and pieces of art, since those require some skills that not all of us have. Playing MMOs is simple enough and a good medium to experience these worlds again. All of this also made me wonder how many MMO players out there actually hold no interest at all about Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, and how they might experience the games from these franchises. I thought often about this when I played World of Warcraft. I had played the strategy games and was quite happy to find all the lore spread around a seamless world full of quests and story. And then I’d find players who never played the strategy games and would simply shrug that they had just been in a very important place within the story of Azeroth. I see myself doing that about SWTOR, though I have not played it yet. All I’ve ever seem about the old republic lore is what they’ve shown in the movies, and yet, their website is full of lore to read that I can’t get myself to go and experience. So now it is me shrugging about the story elements that are not appealing to me right now, and given what I’ve read on the game system so far, I am just plain not interested in SWTOR at the moment. My point here is: how many franchise based games end up out of a gamer’s list because of the franchise part of it? Or even the opposite, how many games out there get players because of the franchise, even if the gameplay part of it is not the one the player really enjoys? I have been playing LotRO a lot lately, and I recognize a game system that is not different at all. It is repetitive, with a lot of grindy quests and repeatable actions in order to gain reputation. The very same things I complained about WoW when I left it. But I read the quests and follow the story, and that franchise part of it is keeping me hooked, it seems. I know it might be very difficult to find such person, but I like to wonder how LotRO feels to a person who never read the books or seen the movies. Is the game world enough? Are the movies and books required to make everything bind together? I recall back in WoW visiting Stratholme with a kid who had made up a story of the place. It was very cute, he was a young teen who said that it was a monster city and it was our mission to clear the place. I knew the lore of the place and so I told it to him, but recalling that event makes me wonder if some franchise based games might be leaving a lot of gaps that only those who follow the franchises are able to fill in. Or even if the worlds are more interesting to those who don’t know exactly why a burning city filled with undead is there in the first place. What about you guys? How is your relationship with franchise based MMOs? I am still confused, seeing myself liking a game for the story, even though I am not a big franchise fan.

5 comments:

  1. I suppose I'm the opposite in this experience... I played WoW without knowing anything about the earlier Warcraft games. I was in the dark about a good amount of the lore, and a lot of things seemed unfinished and unexplained. Oftentimes, I really didn't understand what was going on in the big dungeons. Since I started playing in the middle of Burning Crusade, no one was running the old world end game dungeons anymore, and I sometimes stumbled on these mysterious places that no quests led to, and no one ever talked about in chat, like what I later learned was something related to Black Rock Depths or Molten Core. The place was intimidating, and I didn't go in. Later, I found Ahn Qiraj, and a guildmate and I briefly explored the first room together (it required a "raid" to enter, so I added my guildie as a "raid" group so we could go in). There was also a strange place in the Wetlands zone where I found a lot of dragon whelps and I think a gate, and when I asked in guild chat what the place was, all they said was that I should run away quickly. Then there was the giant dragon in Duskwood that I found guarding a giant portal. That supposedly led to the Emerald Dream.

    So, a lot of mystery and exploration, and the feeling that I missed out on a lot. What backstory I didn't learn from the game itself and the in-game books I learned from the WoW Wiki.

    As for LotR, I read The Hobbit, tried and failed to read the first of the LotR books, but thoroughly loved the movies. I watched the extended editions as well as the theatrical releases, so I know the story pretty well. But I still haven't tried the game.

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  2. See, that is interesting! I always knew a lot of the Warcraft lore, difficult to imagine how it felt to a person who didn't play the strategy games. One of the most "lore heavy" moments to me was to enter Undercity. The entrance to the throne room, with petals in the floor, will have the echo of that scene in the strategy game. Same goes for the throne room, where there will be an echo of the king's murder.

    As for LotRO, this might sound a bit odd, but I found it very interesting to play the game for some months and THEN read the books once more. It helped a lot to imagine the whole landscape, since the game world is based in the books.

    Some games I wish they'd just print and publish books, like the Elder Scrolls books in Morrowind and some of the EQ2 books inside the game. I believe it would be an interesting book of short stories. I also wish I could find a novel version of warcraft's whole lore. I haven't tried to read any of their books yet though, and I believe they are about parts not covered in any of the games.

    Other then possible good reads, I am a big failure to follow franchises and buy customized products.

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  3. My first WoW character was an undead. When I wandered beyond Brill for the first time, past the zeppelin tower I saw the sign that said "Undercity", and I thought it was a dungeon, so I avoided it for a while.

    I of course had no idea what it meant when the words "Ruins of Lordaeron" appeared on the screen when I entered that area, since I didn't know what Lordaeron was. The courtyard was completely deserted, and it took me a while to even find where to go inside, since the main door was closed. (The side door with the portals was also closed until I bought Burning Crusade later.)

    I did notice some strange sound effects, like a ghostly echo of cheering crowds when I passed through one area on my way in, and the ringing of bells in a spot where there was a broken bell. The empty throne room was mysterious, but I just sat on the throne. ;)

    It was all very gradually revealed to me over the course of questing through the game and piecing together little hints and clues. So the whole thing was a mystery.

    Eventually I watched that video on Youtube showing Arthas' return to Lordaeron, the flower petals falling, the cheering crowds, and the scene with his father, and I rushed back to the game to re-examine all the evidence. Now I saw the petals on the floor, which I had thought were just part of the clutter of the ruin at the time, and I recorded the sound playing in the throne room with the music turned off so I could play it very loudly and actually hear those echoes.

    For me, it was like a ghost story! You see the mysterious evidence of past events first, with haunting echoes, and only afterward do you see what really happened!

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  4. That's a cool experience :)

    Until the Burning Crusade I had a lot of fun in WoW regarding meeting places from the lore. But I hated how they handled Arthas in Wrath of the Lich King. He was everywhere, and I think it would have been more interesting if they kept some mystery to him. In the end he just seemed lame, meeting my player characters multiple times and never really killing them.

    I stopped playing with Cataclysm, where the main story just doesn't catch my interest at all. The underwater zone was AMAZING to me, and the one inside the plane of earth was nice too, but that's it. I guess I value the game's story more then what I thought of at first!

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  5. I never played Wrath of the Lich King, but I've heard people say that Arthas didn't *want* to kill you, and that the purpose of his encounters with you was to make you know what it was like to fall into corruption.

    I played some of the Cataclysm content, but only what was available to a level 20 character and below, due to the free account restrictions. I don't think that includes the underwater zones. ^_^

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