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Uplink Analysis: Science Fiction MMOs

Written by David "Scooter" Bass on November 13, 2012

WildStar Uplink is a bi-weekly conversation we hold with our fans about MMO design, philosophy, and news. The main goal of these conversations is to gauge how important certain issues are to the WildStar community. More than just a simple conversation, we ask questions about topics that are important, and we share your responses with the development team directly. Want to participate? Follow @Team_WildStar on Twitter for the weekly question, participate using #WSuplink, and keep an eye on the community team (CRB_Atreid, CRB_Aether, and CRB_Scooter) to interact with us throughout the discussions.

Last week, we discussed a little about the state of the MMO genre. Specifically:

Given science fiction's prevalence across movies, television, and books, why does it seem like there are so few sci-fi MMOs? What do you think can be done to widen the sci-fi MMO field?

It's a tough question with no obvious answer:

StarWarsDaddy: Good sci-fi can cross many genres at once: sci-fi/horror sci-fi/adventure sci-fi/western; plain sci-fi is boring and lots of sci-fi is targeted to guys ... gotta get something with strong female leads.
CRB_Scooter: Sci-fi quite literally has infinite possibilities, and I'd love to see more of it. Tons of unrealized opportunities out there.
OniOnidra: It's a very good question and I have no answer.. I love sci-fi and it's sad to see so many fantasy MMOs.
dpi209: Because established RPG systems are more fantasy-based - thinking about D&D etc.
KurikLein: I think "Magic" plays a role, Sci-Fi MMOs haven't represented magic in a way to bring over the fantasy players.
KurikLein: A lack of escape is also a possibility as we are getting more and more Sci-Fi in our lives these days.
jleithart: I think if there are better sci fi MMOs made, the gap will be bridged.
Jaednor: First things that come to mind with sci-fi are big guns, spaceships, cold space. Doesn't sound very inviting or fun. :(
lethality_mmo: I think one reason for fewer sci-fi MMOs ... tech things need/beg for an explanation, fantasy doesn't - we just "believe".
nohelixws: @lethality_mmo Very true. When you invite comparison of real tech to magic/future tech you invite people to look under the hood.
lethality_mmo: Also, fantasy worlds seem to "take you away" better than a sci-fi setting can.
ValkavGaming: I think the reason there aren't more sci-fi MMOs, is because the ones that already exist aren't overly successful.
nohelixws: I think its a balance/world issue. Making a gun=magic barrage both in dmg and cool factor is hard. Easier if its either not both.
MyrddinDE: Traditional RPGs have their typical monster types, but in SciFi settings don't have the "Orc, Goblin, Skeleton".
nohelixws: I think there is a fear factor as well. Don't want to be compared or accused of stealing from Star Wars, Dune or Firefly.

We sat down with Mike Donatelli, Content Director, who's had experience with both Fantasy and Sci-Fi MMOs. Here are some of his thoughts:

I think one of the reasons we haven't seen too many successful science fiction MMOs (especially compared to fantasy MMOs) is that everyone tends to see science fiction as a serious genre. At least the way we do sci-fi, there's a level of humor to it that hasn't really been seen anywhere else.

In television, Battlestar Galactica was one of those super-serious shows. I watched episodes of that show and was exhausted. The first episode, "33," by the end of it you're as tired as the ship's crew is. It's a great show, but you don't come out of it saying "I want to live in that universe!"

Firefly is a great example of a fun universe. It has its serious moments, but there's a level of humor and personality in it you don't see enough of in science fiction. You watch that show and you go "I wish I was part of that group of people." That's what we're aiming for with WildStar.

The truth is, if you're not creating content that is enjoyable and fun, it makes no difference what genre you're choosing. Developers shouldn't take their game too seriously; sometimes you see teams that have got bibles full of explanations for why certain things in the universe work the way they do... you have to worry about when and where you might need to wear a space helmet, so some games will just avoid exploring places because of that fear. But for us, we don't want to have to worry about that sort of thing. All we care about is whether something's fun or not; if wearing a helmet is fun, then great.

What do you think about the state of science fiction? Do you like more or less serious content? Let us know on Twitter at @Team_WildStar and keep an eye on the #WSuplink hashtag for a heads up when we begin a new topic on Monday. Thanks to everyone who participated in this week's discussion, and have a great weekend!

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