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Thursday, 4 September 2014

Editorial: Seven Ideas for Spin-off/Licensed tie-in Video Games.

Editorial: Seven Video Game Spin-offs that Should Happen.

A little while ago, I pondered some ideas for survival horror games that (I thought, at least) would at least kinda-sorta break the mould that the survival horror genre tends to wedge itself into. It was fun. There were huskies involved.

So here's an oft maligned (not – entirely unfairly) type of game: Licensed tie-ins and spin-offs. Stereotyped as always being poorly made cash grabs sold at AAA prices despite being made at a third of the cost of any other game on the market, they are actually only almost always poorly made cash grabs, with a few gems managing to rise above their stations as, essentially, spin-offs for a niche market.

But some things lend themselves better to licensed tie-ins than others. Doing a vaguely serviceable Deadpool game is easy because it's just hack-n-slash mechanics with some wisecracks thrown in. Doing a serviceable Pride and Prejudice game is more difficult, because Lady Catherine de Bourgh would be the most overpowered character on the roster and everyone would use her in competitive battling.

So, here's my list of great potential licensed tie-ins and/or spin-offs.

Sword Art Online MMO.

Frankly, this one is kind of a no-brainer. After all, it's a series about MMOs. Making a MMORPG about it is not only a delicious MMOception, but it also comes with a wellspring of ideas for story and gameplay gimmicks.

You have a couple of options for this:

Either make the MMO Sword Art Online itself, with players playing players who are trapped playing the cursed death game, leaving you in a position where you can create a beautiful high fantasy setting, and have places where the high fantasy setting collapses into something surreal and science fiction-oid, as the in-game game glitches and falls apart on itself, and basically push the MMOception angle to the extreme; or make the MMO Alfheim Online and Gun Gale Online, letting players convert their character from one in-game game to another at will, meaning that if they get bored of flying around the charming fairyland world of Alfheim, they can find a terminal in town and switch to a gritty science fiction shooter, carrying over their level, stats and money with them.

Not to mention that SAO has a massive cast of characters who can show up as quest-givers or temporary party members.

Pokemon MMO.

If you say you've never thought about this, you're lying, and you have to stop lying.

The thing about the Pokemon games is that they're oddly reminiscent of MMOs anyway while still being single player, and it wouldn't be a big adjustment to open them up to being massively multiplayer. The basic storyline of Pokemon – go train, fight gyms, beat the Elite Four – is pretty well-suited for an MMO, especially if you can branch out to other regions after beating one.

We're six (seven? No, six) generations in now, with hundreds upon hundreds of Pokemon (there are seven-hundred-and-nineteen right now), which means that with a potential team of six, even with thousands of players on a server, no two players will be alike. The basic storyline of Pokemon – go train, fight gyms, beat the Elite Four – is pretty well-suited for an MMO, especially if you can branch out to other regions after beating one.

Not to mention that there's an obvious market for it. Type in 'Pokemon MMO' on Google and you'll find at least half a dozen fan games sprinkled about the rampant speculation that this year, maybe this year, Nintendo might announce a Pokemon MMO.

Batman vs Spiderman.

Marvel and DC don't seem especially fond of doing crossovers with each other. They've done them before, sure, but there's always a prickling sensation that they're doing so awkwardly and grudgingly, and that each one is vying to have their characters look better than the other's while still maintaining at least some vague semblance of fairness.

Still, if they were going to have two characters cross over in a game, Batman and Spiderman would be the ones for it – both have prominent presences on the video game market, are easily recognisable to the general public, and occupy similar cities with similar ways of getting around them (web-slinging is not all that different to ziplining and gliding, when you get down to it).

They're also virtually opposites in personality, meaning they'd be great foils for each other, and they both have some very distinctive rogues galleries. Imagine gameplay a bit like the Arkham games, and you have the makings of something truly great.

The Legendeer.

Hm. Gosh. Okay.

The Legendeer was a trilogy of children's books by Liverpudlian author Alan Gibbons, following a young man as he takes part in a 'game' that by shades and degrees transports him to lands of mythology, wherein he's forced into various roles. There are three books: One about Greek myth, one about vampire stories, and one last one about Norse myth.

This is another SAO game type thing where you'd be in a game within a game, but the three books are short enough that you could easily adapt them all into a single hack-n-slash game, with the player character progressing from fighting monsters in Greek mythology (culminating in a battle against the Minotaur), to fighting vampires and their werewolf servants, to the world of Norse mythology where he would eventually face off against Loki, who – spoiler alert – in the last book is the final assumed identity of the gestalt being formed from the eldritch abomination that created the teleporting games, and a school bully who was trapped in the game/myth world.

They're fun, wacky, and provide a lot of opportunity for some great gameplay – including some amazing boss battles, if done right – and a lot of very pretty scenery to have that gameplay in.

Final Fantasy XIV RPG.

“Son, I have news for you,” most of you will probably be saying right now, and with fairly good reason, I think, as MMORPGs are, in fact, RPGs (that's what the 'RPG' in the acronym represents). But I mean a single-player RPG.

More specifically, I mean the game that the trailers advertised.

Man, that looks like a pretty interesting cast of characters, right? The main character has a surprisingly distinctive design for a Final Fantasy game, and there's clear personality radiating from all of them, plus the setting looks interesting and there's hints of an intriguing plot here.

What a terrible, terrible shame that that character and his party do not exist in the game. What a terrible, terrible shame that the worldbuilding was wasted on a game so terrible that Square-Enix actually withdrew it and reworked it – the reworked version is much better, I hear.

I don't like MMORPGs, as a rule. I do like single-player RPGs, and this is ripe for that: You have a character who is already recognised and surprisingly beloved by fandom (he even has an official name), you have a detailed world, and you have numerous opportunities for storyline. You could quite easily use the graphical assets, soundtrack, and a bunch of the gameplay elements from the MMO, and doing so would not only drum up interest for the MMO, but also mean you could create a game that is startlingly cheap to make and yet can be sold at full retail price.

I see no downsides.

Pride and Prejudicial Kombat.

“Okay, now you're just being silly,” some of you might be saying. “Stop being silly.”

Okay, yes, I am. This is a silly concept. It's as silly as that one Les Miserables fighting game. But you know what? Silly sells. Silly things based on Pride and Prejudice especially sell, because it's so recognisable and iconic, and such a deeply embedded part of our culture.

Not to mention, the book has a surprisingly vast cast of characters, which is an absolute must for a fighting game.

Jam: The Platformer.

Suggested by Nine Over Five, a platformer based on Yahtzee Croshaw's novel Jam, that is essentially a video game version of 'the floor is made of lava' only instead of lava, it's jam.  

So, that's the list. There were a few that didn't make this one that may end up on a future list, but if you have any of your own ideas, please leave them in the comments.

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