Saturday, April 23, 2011

Good Science Fiction MMORPGS - The Lack Thereof

Why are there no science fiction MMORPGs that play like a science fiction novel in the way that there are so many fantasy MMORPGs that play like fantasy novels?  From EQ to Rift you create a character (the hero of your story), explore the world, go on adventures, interact with numerous characters, fight "big bads", and eventually reach a pinnacle of character development that eventually ends the game for you.  The most obvious example of course is if you just finished reading Lord of the Rings and you hop into Lord of the Rings Online you're going to feel a strong connection to the game, and enjoy a setting that feels like a fantasy novel.  Though less blatant, most fantasy novels have elements that you can see translated into most fantasy online games.

I've yet to experience this with science fiction games, few that they are.  EVE Online is one of the best science fiction MMOs I've encountered, but it certainly doesn't feel like any science fiction novel I've ever read.  Where is something that feels like The Culture setting?  Or Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth?  Or hell, any sprawling space opera type story of exploration and adventure, mixing starships and hand-to-hand combat, aliens, monsters, and robots?  Star Wars Galaxies and Star Trek Online both have the right trappings, but the wrong execution.  I play STO now and then, but the gameplay just doesn't feel right, plus the Trek universe is fairly limiting.  Star Wars: The Old Republic looks promising, but Star Wars has always felt more like fantasy in space than real science fiction.

I would love an operatic style science fiction MMO that made me feel like I was living out one of my favorite science fiction novels (see examples above) but I don't think there's anything like that even on the horizon.  Mythic's long-ago cancelled Imperator (they gave that up to make WAR?!) might have done it, but alas that ship has sailed.  If someone wants to front me $40 million or so I'll make my own :)

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