Top 10 universes in need of an MMORPG

An online RPG based on the zombie movies of George Romero? It’s just one of Ron’s top 10 universes that would be perfect for an MMORPG…

It’s a credit to the creators of a movie when they construct not just a film or a plot, but a setting in which those events take place. It’s tough to build a world, and not a lot of filmmakers have been able to pull it off. That said, those that have accomplished this feat have done such an impressive job that indeed, these are worlds we want to visit again and again, and not just in movie format, either. We’re talking television series, comic books, video games, and even, in this case, MMORPGs.

What’s better than passively taking in a world? Why, actively joining into the world, of course. That’s why this list has been assembled. If any world is full enough to allow for active participation in MMO-type shenanigans, it’s the following ten universes.

George Romero’s zombie world

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The man who created the modern zombie movie has never gotten a fair shake when it comes to videogames. Yes, there are some great zombie games out there (Resident Evil, Left 4 Dead), but none of these are part of the Romero universe, and none of them are MMORPGs. When I watch a zombie movie, I don’t just watch a zombie movie, I want to be in that world. I think I can speak for everyone else that a zombie MMO could potentially be the most brilliant thing on the market.

The zombie world’s outbreak steps would make for perfect level progression. From Night Of The Living Dead‘s farmhouse to Land Of The Dead‘s Fiddler’s Green, there’s a fairly reasonable increase in scope and danger. There’s also a whole lot of potential settings, from isolated farm communities for early leveling areas, to massive, sprawling underground bunkers, which groups of survivors could raid (as a raiding group) for supplies and special weapons.

There’s the little issue of zombies surrounding said cities, but that’s why you have periodic zombie waves that get beaten back by the city defenses. For the raid instances, there’s no better way to ensure a group’s ready for raiding than to have them wade through rooms of zombies.

Even Romero’s theory of increasing zombie intelligence could explain why some zombies are mindless corpses, and why some are more dangerous and advanced (y’know, boss zombies). Plus, there’s always the military to deal with if you want a real challenge. Granted, there’s no PvP, but that didn’t stop Lord Of The Rings Online from making a special setting for PvP only. Just take their idea, but make it humans versus zombies.

Mad Max

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Think about it. The Mad Max universe is dying for a MMO-style game. Yes, there’s Fallout and its sequels, but there’s not even a Fallout MMO, let alone a Mad Max game. The post-apocalyptic wasteland is perfect for exploitation when it comes to massive multiplayer games.

Imagine a Bartertown chock-full of player characters and computer merchants. Imagine a Main Force Patrol station or a biker gang hang-out for raiding purposes. Imagine the Transcon One stretching out into the computer distance, knowing that your future is leaving the coast and heading into the wastes, where who knows what is out there waiting?

Everything from rogue bikers to feudal states take place in those deserts! Then there’s the dying elements of modern humanity on the Sunshine coast. Will you be one of the MFP or a civilized person, upholding nobility in the face of total collapse, or will you become one of the all-or-nothing boys and ride along with Toecutter and Lord Humungus?

Unlike the Romero zombie scenario, which offers limited PvP choices, this one has a pretty good natural setup with good versus evil and various classes of characters, vehicles, and weapons at the ready.Predator/Aliens

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I’ll go ahead and combine these two universes, since there’s a significant history of overlap between one and the other across pretty much every kind of media ever conceived by humans (short of TV). They go well together, and cover one another’s weaknesses and strengths pretty well.

While the xenomorphs would be more of an environmental enemy, akin to the zombies of the Romeroverse, the Predators could make a good secondary class similar to the Horde in World Of Warcraft, with the space marines serving as the Alliance. Using the Alien universe would help pull the humans up to Predator level in terms of technology, and there’s always other technological advances from Weyland-Yutani to help the squishy compete with the dreadlocked aliens.

The PvP in this game would be incredible. Balanced classes on similar footing, but with different weapons and fighting styles? Individual hunter groups versus human squads? Three or four predators versus an exoskeleton? Now we’re talking fun! For those more into raiding, well… look at the Nostromo. Imagine any ship that class covered with aliens, which a planetary survivor group would need to scavenge for supplies.

Or perhaps you’re leaving the safety of a sanctuary ship for the surface of an Alien planet (or a Predator planet! Or a human colony!). Maybe you’re even hitting a Weyland-Yutani storage facility for scavenging. There’s a lot of potential here.

As much as these creatures have been featured in games, I’m shocked nobody’s made a run at this kind of MMO before. It’s a natural world. When it’s time for an expansion pack or you need to leave one level for a more advanced level, you just move to a different planet. Simple and significantly more graceful than the average instanced Guild Wars area, or self-contained level like the kind found in WOW.

Planet Of The Apes

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Once again, you have a pretty good division between sides here. The apes versus the humans (and friendly apes). That alone makes PvP simple and easy to implement. As for raids, perhaps you can raid the Forbidden Zone for artifacts to boost your guild/group/whatever’s powers, as well as more advanced technology remnants from what’s left of old humanity. You could also have ape forces move into the Forbidden Zone to hunt down rebellious humans, humans making raids on Ape outposts, and any number of combinations of ape versus man in the struggle for control of the distant future.

Considering the fact that 20th Century Fox is about to restart the Planet Of The Apes mythology with an all-new origin story (that also includes several elements of the old universe), now’s the time to launch a MMO based on the Ape properties. Whether you want it to be the current Rise or the more familiar Planet setting would be entirely up to the game designers, but modern humans versus intelligent apes would be a pretty satisfying scenario, as well as an excellent movie tie-in.

Judge Dredd

Speaking of perfect tie-ins, Judge Dredd everyone. With going on 34 years of back stories, characters, and a variety of settings and powers and job classes, Judge Dredd is the sort of property that could definitely become adapted into a MMO-style game. From block wars as PvP to Judges versus mutants or Judges versus crime syndicates, Judge Dredd lends itself to all aspects of a MMO.

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If you need a big-bad to raid against, then why not mine one of Dredd’s many big-bads, like Judge Death, PJ Maybe, Satanus, ABC warriors, rogue SJS members, or the Total War terrorist group as a whole. Dredd shifts wildly away from the fantasy genre towards a dystopian future, but the variety of Mega-Cities, colonies, and mutant townships provides an incredible universe as well as a chance for game designers to get creative once they get bored with coding yet another concrete hulk of a city.

Harry Potter

I’m not sure why this hasn’t happened yet. Harry Potter lends itself incredibly well to videogames, as you can pretty much just invent any sort of big-bad you’d like, and the powers of magic being such as they are, you don’t have to have a gigantic monster to be a lethal villain, just incredibly skilled at magic.

From potions to defense against the dark arts to various elemental magic methods, you’ve got a wide variety of options for how to customize your character and fit yourself into a class or role for questing in groups. Most of Harry’s actual adventures center on a group of people anyway, so it’s not like you’re forcing grouping onto users of Harry Potter and the MMORPG of Doom.

Another positive aspect of the Harry Potter universe? It’s got its own house divisions which form the various factions of wizards. PvP as competing for the house cup or wizard duels, a great mini-game possibility in Quidditch, and of course, a litany of monsters and supernatural creatures with which to pull characters, settings, enemies, allies, and general universal colour.

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Centaurs, leprechauns, goblin bankers, ghosts… there’s your variety of magic-using character classes! Legendary magical artifacts as epic weapons? Using the grades of Hogwarts as character advancement, and using Hogwarts itself as a starter zone? Why not?

Of all the universes, Harry Potter is the one most likely to have wide-ranging appeal, from young kids to adults who ought to know better. There’s magic and mystery, mythological creatures, cool settings, and what amounts to an open universe capable of anything. Pick up where the next (and last) Harry Potter film leaves off? Go into the open time before the first fall of Voldemort?

There’s such a wide range of open space that anything could be done with Harry Potter and it’d fit in universe.

Terminator

The bloom is off this rose. The failure of the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series, and the lukewarm reception to Terminator Salvation and Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines, as well as the legal problems around the franchise’s current ownership group, Halcyon, might doom this idea before it could begin, but what fun it would be to undertake the Terminator mythology as one of the last surviving remnants of humanity. After all, the Terminator series has been a huge arcade success, so why not translate that to a console MMO world?

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You’ve got a wide variety of weapons, from the modern to the near-futuristic, as well as a variety of vehicles for vehicle combat segments. You can arm your human character with weapons and armor befitting his or her role in the Resistance, from medics who exist to heal injured companions to heavy gunners as DPS and well-armed point men or reprogrammed T-800 units for tanks.

You can upgrade your gear and, if you want to get legendary weapons akin to the purples of WOW, then you can steal prototype weapons from Cyberdine facilities or recover them from long-abandoned military bases. The worldwide scope of the war against the machines means that local versions of the game can be customized to Britain, America, Asia, or wherever you might want to release the game. That gives it a real world grounding and a universal appeal.

There’s no real PvP, unless you wanted to take the Lord Of The Rings solution and allow people to create Terminators and other Cyberdine robo-baddies for the PvP field, based on the strength of their human side characters. Still, it’s a huge universe, and it’s an interesting combination of, say, Call Of Duty or Halo-type FPS games with RPGs, both in setting and in the way it might handle combat situations during raids.

It’s just a shame nobody thought of this a few years ago, when people were excited and hungry for new Terminator properties. Maybe a successful MMO can revitalize the movie franchise?Pokémon

Let’s be real. While some may scoff at Pokémon and the incredible success the franchise has been, it’s got fans. Lots and lots of fans. The obsessive nature of the Pokémon player who tracks down and categorizes every Pokémon in every game is exactly the kind of person you want to play your MMORPG, because most MMOs are dedicated to have people track down every single bit of epic gear, min/maxing every state needed for their class, and in hard pursuit of the best of the best. This is what turns a MMO into a long-running hit.

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How would this work with Pokémon? Well, I’m not really sure how a traditional MMORPG setting would work with Pokémon, but with team battles and gym battles, I’m sure somebody could figure out some way to make the game mechanics. Maybe you replace raids with tournaments, guilds with gyms, and factions with teams (like Team Rocket).

Even if you couldn’t shoehorn Pokémon into the traditional MMO model, having an online universe where individual trainers hunt and recruit the best of the best Pokémon while battling one another for prestige, gym points, or whatever? It would definitely work.

Talk about your thriving PvP scene.

Starship Troopers

From Robert Heinlein’s original vision of the mobile infantry to Paul Verhoeven’s dystopian, vaguely fascist unified earth, the Starship Troopers universe is one of the most fun to consider when dreaming up a MMO. It combines all the fun of heavy combat and first-person shooters with the ability to create a character and level them up through the ranks of the mobile infantry.

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Whether you want to be a heavy gunner or a combat medic, the military specializations of the various members of the mobile infantry depicted in the movie will be your character classes. When it comes to upgrading weapons, simply upgrade your weapons and armor with bug technology.

When it comes to settings, Starship Troopers has solved the problem of leveling. When you want to raid, get the fleet to drop you on Klendathu. When you want to train, get the fleet to drop you on Earth.

When it comes to leveling, you travel from planet to planet, engaging in various tasks and trading on the various off-world colonies. PvP is problematic, but of course there’s the LOTR solution to PvP that should solve those problems.

Anything old west

Yes, this isn’t really a single property, but a genre. That said, this is a genre that’s begging for a proper MMO treatment, and the reception for Red Dead Redemption has proven that. Hell, just base the MMO on Red Dead Redemption, and you’ve got yourself a winner. Someone call Rockstar Games and get this thing off the ground.

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When it comes to characters, you’ve got a variety of classes and options. From Civil War sawbones as healers to Indian medicine men as magic-wielders to gunslingers, lawmen, and bounty hunters, there’s a wide variety of character classes available. As for dueling PvP factions, do you want to side with the evil railroad barons or do you want to side with the good people of the west? Do you want to be a bank-robbing brigand or a noble lawman? Do you want to be a mercenary or a bounty hunter?

There’s any number of properties you could adapt or adopt, but why limit yourself? Steal from all of them (like how the Fallout game series has stolen from all the post-apocalyptic movies and settings over the years). As for settings, you can use trains and stagecoaches to travel from instanced place to place or individual states/stages. As you advance in skill, you move further and further into the formlessness of the Wild West.

You could band together and raid villain hideouts for epic gear, raid gold mines for loot, or rob trains. When it comes to settings, the Wild West also has the best crafting system possibilities. Just take the things people would normally do for a living in the Old West, like cooking, blacksmith, breeding horses, or selling snake oil, and there’s your crafting system.

A good MMORPG should be limitless, and these settings above are in no way the limits of what can be done with MMO technology. There are dozens of worlds just aching to be developed and inhabited by player characters, and if you don’t see your favorite property suggested for development, be sure to suggest it below. There are dozens of potential settings that were considered and dismissed for this article, so perhaps there can be an expansion pack for this article in the near future.US correspondent Ron Hogan has always wanted a Mad Max MMORPG; if you could combine that with a Romeroverse MMO, then you’d have the best videogame ever. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.