Dreams and Realities: Four IPs MMO Gamers Need

by Mario Podeschi, November 16 2010

Message boards and speculative bloggers alike buzz with conjecture about what the next big MMORPG will be. The rumors really explode when a game design company with a few credentials buys the rights to a certain franchise. With new titles like Star Trek Online staying afloat and an MMORPG based on James Cameron's Avatar just on the horizon, MMORPGs based on existing settings have never seemed more popular.

Below you will find WhatMMORPG's take on the top four intellectual properties we're all dying to see. Each entry begins with the dream of what might be, followed by the often harsh reality.

Game of Thrones MMORPG

The Dream: Following the success of collectible card games, pen & paper roleplay, a war-based board game, and its HBO Special, a franchise based on George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire book series expands into the MMORPG market.

Like the series itself, the MMORPG is an ambitious project with room for incredible character growth. A fascinating character building engine allows characters to gain flaws even as they gain levels, resulting in a world where blind assassins, one-handed swordsmen, and dwarfed strategists are not unheard of. The “Aging Engine,” which Martin insisted on including in the game, also creates a strange sense of urgency to the world—characters grow old and can potentially die in the 1 month = 1 year translation of their lifespans.

The game rewards long-standing accounts by including wives, hostages, and children as “loot” for sidequests. Not only do these serve as character-specific keys for certain quests, they also provide ways to pass on a portion of a main character’s experience to additional characters on the account. It proves a dazzling way to encourage the “alt” system popularized by many MMORPGs as characters work toward building a legacy to leave to their in-game “children.”

The Reality: Rumors of a Game of Thrones RPG appeared in 2009 when Cyanide Studios (Blood Bowl) acquired the rights to produce a game in the franchise, but in July 2010 they announced a real-time strategy approach instead of an MMORPG. The momentum of other games in the franchise like the HBO Game of Thrones and Battle for Westeros board game suggests that an MMORPG is within the realm of possibility.

Harry Potter MMORPG

The Dream: At Infinitus 201X, the Rowling franchise reveals its support for the new Harry Potter MMORPG. Marketing itself as “the first MMO where everyone is a wizard,” it features one of the most in-depth magic systems ever released in an online game. Some Potter fans protested this decision, as Rowling herself has never been a fan of video games. Yet even Rowling has admitted in interviews that the game is “deeply educational,” and that developers had stayed rather sincere to the source material.

One source for the game’s popularity with parents is its huge focus on world geography: the game lets players start in London, Brazil, Egypt, Japan, or the United States, and adventure areas involve fantastic interpretations of real-world locations. Rumor even has it that future expansions will include a hinted-at Australian school. The game plays as much like Carmen Sandiego as it does the MMORPG genre, and its variety of puzzles are enough to make the game world into a digital playground popular with both children and adults.

The Reality: Warner Brothers whispered of a possible Harry Potter MMO in 2008, and the $40 million they handed to game developer Turbine (Asheron's Call, Dungeons and Dragons online, Lord of the Rings Online) has led some to suspect that they may be working on a new way to milk the lucrative cash cow that is Harry Potter.

Firefly MMORPG

The Dream: The Serenity MMORPG was released to the cheering of Browncoats everywhere. Blending over-the-shoulder and three-dimensional space combat in a manner similar to Star Trek Online, Serenity provides fast-paced action and a dizzying assortment of player-on-player conflict. A rich skill system allows characters to lie, cheat, and steal to accomplish their quests in addition to good old-fashioned shootouts.

The Reality: Joss Whedon’s short-lived space western carried its franchise curse to the MMORPG industry. Multiverse ( bought the rights to a Firefly MMO in 2006, but the company has since dashed the hopes of Joss Whedon loyalists. Should the curse of the franchise ever be lifted, gamers could expect an adventuresome setting with a variety of space westerns.

On the plus side, Multiverse has moved on to toy with the idea of an Avatar MMORPG.

Forgotten Realms

The Dream: While Turbine's Dungeons and Dragons Online was set in the relatively unheard-of setting of Eberron, the latest Wizards of the Coast-sanctioned MMORPG takes place in the traditional high fantasy persistent world of Forgotten Realms. Featuring cameos from famous characters and voice acting from famous D&D players like Vin Diesel and Steven Colbert, the Forgotten Realms online stays true to the heart & soul of D&D with the aid of fantasy authors and veteran dungeon masters alike.

The Reality: The widely-played Neverwinter Nights is often called the first graphical MMORPG ever made, so in a way, the dream has already become reality. Add to that Bioware's Baldur's Gate (1998) and Neverwinter Nights (2002) as well as Turbine's Dungeons and Dragons Online (2006), and the development of a good, brand-loyal MMORPG sounds awfully feasible.

In August 2010, Atari announced that a Forgotten Realms MMORPG was in the works, with author R.A. Salvatore on board as a creative consultant. The game is set to include five core classes at first and be set in the Neverwinter region of the Realms. Whether this game will live up to the legacy of previous Neverwinter games has yet to be determined.