You know what was great about Firefly? The characters’ interactions were subtle and their motivations, while hidden to themselves, were often clear to everyone else on the ship. Fundamentally, it was a character drama that used a smuggling mcguffin every week to show something about the characters and their relationships.
Now, consider this article over at Wired Magazine that foretells of a Firefly MMORPG. Ignore the fact that he calls Firefly hard science fiction for a moment (Sorry, I can’t ignore it. It’s just… like, neither the author or his editor know what it is? It’s about as hard sci fi as Star Wars, which is about as hard sci fi as Hello Kitty. It’s a literary genre. You’d think an editor would know what it is.) and consider what MMORPGs are good at:
In World of Warcraft, you team up with other players to accomplish quests. Even on designated “role playing” servers, I’m told that the character stuff is pretty thin; it’s a strategy and tactical game (which can still be an RPG, of course). People have fun playing it when they play it as such. The rules don’t support playing a character with motivations and relationships.
Now consider this:
What made the show special was the wry, often self-deprecating humor of its characters, from the captain with the checkered past to the unwittingly sexy engineer, the dull hunk of a mercenary with a girl’s name, and the mysterious young woman passenger with special gifts.
Sounding pretty good, right? (I mean, aside from the fact that Kaylee is wittingly sexy.)
The online version will move away from those central characters — after all, there’s only one Mal Reynolds. In an MMORPG, “everybody has to have their own story,” says Multiverse co-founder and executive producer Corey Bridges.
Now, moving away from those characters, that’s great. Making it so everyone has their own story — their own checkered past, embarrassing name, secret love, death wish, quest for forgiveness or whatever, that’s great. But a shadow falls:
“Television series can be really good properties to turn into MMOs, because when you make a TV series, not only do you need great characters, but you need to create a full, rich, compelling place,” Bridges says. “If you’re doing science fiction, you have to really think it out and create an incredibly rich environment that is compelling in its own right, and worth exploring and going back to week after week. That’s what Joss Whedon did with Firefly.”
See, cuz, no, he didn’t. He didn’t care about how fast the ship could fly, what planets existed, or how ranks work in the Alliance forces. What mattered was that the ship broke to put the characters in conflict with each other, the Confeds were bureaucratic and cold, and that the planets they landed on were stuffed full of characters who wanted something from the protagonists. Shit, he didn’t even know what was on the left side of the bridge until Serenity. He certainly didn’t have a list of planets, ships for sale, and damage values for different weapons.
“We want to find someone who wants to do something unique and fun and interesting, not just a re-skin of World of Warcraft or Star Wars Galaxies,” Bridges says.
Because the underlying technology is already in place, “I feel confident that we’ll see something the public can play sometime in 2008,” he adds.
That underlying technology had better make some leaps and bounds if this is to be anything but a pale shadow of something really fun and engaging.
PS: What’s up with the baggy drawers on the dude at the head of this post? He’s a superhero from 1940. He seems to be hiding not only an enormous schlong, but love handles, as well.