Maryland Franchise Law

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Five Franchises That Would Make Great MMO’s

Orcs, elves, goblins, dwarves and gnomes, are we tired of them yet? The apparently eternal success of World of Warcraft would say no, but let’s take a look at a few other massive franchises that could easily make the leap from movie, book or single player sensation, to instant MMO classic.

Transformers: With over thirty years of history and two movies, (Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) to their name in the last five years grossing almost two billion dollars at the worldwide box office, there’s no beating about the bush, the robots in disguise are big again, massive actually.

Who would have thought a thirty minute toy ad disguised as a kids cartoon from 1985 would provide the basis for a multi billion dollar franchise? Men in suits, that’s who.

How might it work? The temptation would be to go with just two classes, Autobot and Decepticon, but why not also introduce a third playable class; Humans? They’ve always played a pivotal part in the Transformers history, from the Headmasters to the Witwicky’s (in both Transformers: The Movie and the new live action revival).

The game could take place across multiple major real world cities and even extend onto other planets and fictional locations outlined in the Transformers mythos, locations like Cybertron, Junk and Autobot City.

As any Transformers fan will tell you, this MMO should definitely be based on Dreamwave’s Generation One comic book series.

Chances of it happening: Despite the fact that the franchise is huge at the moment, this one’s a long shot. Activision Blizzard are the current video game license holders and they seem happy to give us a non-massively multiplayer game with the release of each entry in the movie franchise, but don’t seem to hot on the idea of getting a full blown MMO project into production at any of their studios. You have to think the chances of a Transformers MMO getting made are pretty slim, at least until the movies have run their course.

Call of Duty: Ironically, the subtitle for the latest Call of Duty game, World at War, would have been a great title for a massively multiplayer entry in the series, it even had a zombie horde attack mode that would have been perfect for one of those novelty Halloween events that MMO developers like to throw to entice subscribers back into the fold.

How might it work? It’s not particularly difficult to imagine that players will be able to choose different “races”, from the US Special Forces to the British SAS and everything in between. You’ll also be able to choose what class of soldier you’d like to be, a tank-like demolitions expert fitted with RPG’s, C-4 and a bandoleer stocked with grenades, a stealthy Navy SEAL, or perhaps a support class field medic? It’s your choice.

Chances of it happening: You can bet Activision Blizzard is already taping this one out. Call of Duty is the biggest franchise in videogames at the moment, and Activision’s financially savvy CEO, Bobby Kotick us unlikely to let this cash cow go unmilked for much longer.

The question is, does Activision have the stones to make it pay to play in a climate that’s increasingly edging towards the free to play model? Oh, and do we go the venerable World War II route, or the fresher Modern Warfare route?

Harry Potter: It’s frankly amazing that we haven’t seen this one yet. The Transformers movies may have racked up almost two billion dollars in ticket sales worldwide, but Harry and his Hogwarts pals are on another level entirely.

The Potter books have sold nearly half a billion copies, the movies generated more than a staggering five billion dollars at the world wide box office. You could argue that with the book series wrapped up and the movies coming to their own conclusion in the next two or three years, Pottermania is no longer at its height, but it’s still one of the most financially lucrative entertainment licenses around.

How might it work? First thing’s first, the movies are great, but let’s base this more on the books okay? After all, you’ve got an absolute wealth of material in there, why let it go to waste? EA is also blessed with an abundance of in-house studios with the experience and pedigree required to do good on a Potter MMO. Studios like Mythic and Bioware posses the expertise required, and Potter fans would know the material was in good hands.

Obviously the game would center around Hogwarts and its surrounding woodland grounds, the Forbidden Forest, Hogsmeade etc, but lets not forget there are other magical schools in the Potterverse like Durmstrang and Beauxbatons.

It goes without saying that should you enroll in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, you’ll be able to choose which House you belong to (or perhaps the AI controlled Sorting Hat should do that!)

You’ll also be encouraged to take part in several classes such as Defense Against the Dark Arts, Herbology, Diviniation and much more on your way to eventually becoming an Auror.

Chances of it happening: Let’s face it, the Harry Potter games by EA, even the last one, Half Blood Prince, which had nearly seven months of development time tacked on at the end due to the movie’s delay, have never been especially good. They’re not bad, just not very good. EA’s Potter games have always been the prototypical movie-based licensed game… adequate enough to get fans excited, but not good enough to truly make the most of the source material.

It’s impossible to know just how much longer EA has the license to the Potter universe, but if it extends past the release of the last movie in the series (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two), then it becomes increasingly likely that an MMO based on the Potter books will come to be.

The Elder Scrolls: Many have already called Bethesda’s long-running series of games, especially the latter two, The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind, and The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, “single player MMO’s”.

The Maryland based studio spares no expense when it comes to the level of detail that goes into creating these expansive worlds, including individual living places for most characters that appear in the game, fully voiced non-playable characters, individual knives, forks, pots, pans etc.

How would it work? Would it be a cop-out to say, “almost exactly like the single player games”? Because the truth is that most fans want that kind of experience carried over to an Elder Scrolls MMO. They want to fully voiced actors, they want the insane level of detail, the intricate, amusing and sometimes obscure quests, they want it all.

The world is already laid out, after initially choosing your race; Breton, Redguard, Imperial, Orc etc. all you need to do is pick your class from a number of familiar archetypes; barbarian, acrobat, assassin, bard, healer, mage etc. And hey presto, it’s go time.

Chances of it happening: Heated forum discussion aside, we know that Bethesda is at least considering the opportunity for an Oblivion themed MMO, as well as a Fallout themed MMO. The question is, do they have the resources to take on such an ambitious project, and do they risk ruining the franchise should the game not be all it can be?

Grand Theft Auto: It’s the elephant in the room isn’t it? Some might say that with the impending release of the upcoming APB from Scottish developer Realtime Worlds, we don’t need a massively multiplayer Grand Theft Auto. They’d be wrong.

While APB looks interesting and fun, it just doesn’t seem to have the soul and mischievously smart beating heart of a Grand Theft Auto game. Much like Saints Row, it (at least for now) looks to merely be a pretender to the throne.

What makes the GTA games great is their attention to detail, the random talk show hosts, the great music and the memorable characters, stuff that APB just doesn’t seem to have yet.

How might it work? Imagine a Grand Theft Auto game where fresh new radio, television, internet and cellphone content and dialogue are introduced on a weekly basis.

Imagine multiple cities like Liberty City, Vice City and Rockstar North’s equivalent of London and Tokyo connected by bustling international airports. Imagine that entire world crafted in Rockstar’s legendary attention to detail, spiced with a hint of that famous Rockstar wit and satire as seen in Grand Theft Auto IV.

Now imagine that world as it comes crumbling down under the sheer destructive force of you and two hundred thousand of your best friends and buddies.

As in APB you’d be able to pick law enforcement or crime, and like in GTA: Vice City Stories you’d be responsible for building a small empire to stake your claim to regions of territory within your chosen home city. The cops of course, will have something to say about your less than legal attempts to expand your empire. Cue the tanks, the chopper and the copters, the boats, the buildings and the explosions.

Chances of it happening: For a long time the rumor last year was that Rockstar was going to buy APB from Realtime Worlds and slap a great, big, ugly, GTA sticker tag on it. Thankfully that wasn’t the case, you can’t help but feel Rockstar are better than that.

Some might argue that the franchise lost some of its luster with the release of GTA: IV, but the game has sold an estimated thirteen million copies, so what do they know?

You have to think someone at Rockstar HQ has at least brought up the idea of an MMO GTA, and their tentative steps at dabbling with online multiplayer in the last few games shows they’re at least considering what an online GTA might mean for the series.

Will it ever happen though? My guess is eventually, especially if APB takes off and proves itself a massive success. The problem then is, will GTA: Online then be seen as an also-ran?

Honorable Mention:

Half Life: Initially the mention of Half Life as a franchise that could be spun into an MMO might seem a little odd… until you consider the living, breathing, post apocalyptic Northern European environment of City 17 as a starting point.

Monster Hunter: This pretty much is a portable MMO already, Monster Hunter III on the Wii will even have a monthly fee in Japan! Let’s take the next step and make it persistent shall we?

Animal Crossing: Nintendo seems content to tease, and considering the Wii’s dodgy online capabilities, we’re content to wait on this one.

Bioshock: Wander the labyrinthine hallways of Rapture in its heyday and gaze in wonder at the sights, sounds and marvels of a civilisation careening headlong towards its inevitable downfall, where do I sign up?

Halo: Microsoft tried and failed at leasr once to get this one off the ground, we’d like them to try again please, and try harder this time!

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Rep. Roscoe Bartlett Defends Auto Dealers’ Rights at Capitol news conference on July 14, 2009