A couple of interesting tidbits in Business Week about James Cameron and Ron Howard conceiving MMOGs to go along with upcoming TV and film projects.
My first thought is that these guys, admirable filmmakers both, have no fucking clue what they're getting into.
The rampaging success of World of Warcraft (and EQ before it) has lit up dollar signs in a lot of eyes, but a painful reality check awaits those unfamiliar with MMOG development.
These games are hard to build. Much harder than making a movie or a TV show, and they take a lot longer.
Imagine making a movie where the script is never finished, the actors count in the thousands, don't know their lines, or ever hit their marks. Many badmouth you publicly and some even actively try to sabotage your production. Oh, and you're trying to invent the camera and projection equipment as you go.
Going with a middleware company might sound good on paper, but integration with a platform rather than homegrowing your own has its own, significant problems, and there has not yet been a AAA title built on such a middleware package.
The elements that make a movie compelling by and large don't work in a virtual world: a single authored narrative, a small set of characters or even just a single main character, and, duh, an ending.
Virtual worlds, Diablo-like hybrids like Guild Wars aside, comprise not a single story handed down from on high but multiple mini-stories (quests), which are largely window dressing for the more compelling, dynamic, and utterly uncontrollable player narratives. Everyone's a hero. And the stories don't end.
If I had to guess, these games will be less like MMOGs as we know them and more like Halo or Diablo, smaller-scale spaces with limited ways to interact with and impact the world. Which might be fine. Who wants to be a crafter in Terminator Online?
But why the warning bells, you ask? Building and marketing a fictional world based on a popular media property's got to be a no-fail, multimillion-player bet, right?
Star Wars Galaxies, anyone?
Actually, a MMOG based on FERRIS might be kinda fun...