Massively interview: Multiverse explains the Buffy MMO, Firefly's delay

Yesterday we brought you word that the folks at Multiverse (the developers of the MMO middleware) are in development on an MMO based on Buffy the Vampire slayer. At the same time, news came out the Firefly MMO will now be delayed considerably while they focus their efforts that other IP from writing dynamo Joss Whedon. Yesterday evening we had the chance to speak with Mr. Corey Bridges, Co-founder, Executive Producer and Marketing Director for the company. Mr. Bridges took some time out of his busy schedule at the Virtual Worlds Expo to explain a bit more about the Buffy/Firefly MMO hoopla.

Most interesting, it sounds as though (despite the lack of any announcements about it) there has actually been some forward movement on the Firefly MMO! Mr. Bridges could say almost nothing about it because of contractual obligations with Fox (the owners of the Firefly IP), but what he could say left us with the tantalizing impression we may actually see that Firefly game someday. Read on for all of that discussion, plus tidbits on why they're working on a Buffy title, a bit on what the game will be like, and the interactions between the 2D and 3D game spaces.

You folks put out a number of interesting announcements this week, but the one many people were most drawn to was the news of new titles. You announced that you were pushing off the Firefly IP MMO, and it sounds like you are already in development on an MMO set in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer IP. Is that accurate?

Corey Bridges: That is accurate. We are already in development with Buffy. That's obviously different than when we announced the Firely arrangement. There, we hadn't begun work on it. Annoying as heck that we had to delay the Firefly game.

Can you talk at all about what happened with the Firefly IP?

CB: I'm actually contractually bound from saying much about that at this time. I can say that it's not an issue of someone being at fault. Neither Multiverse or Fox, or anyone in specific made an error in this. There are just some issues that need to be worked through. Hopefully things will get back on track before too long.

"We are not announcing any relationship with Joss, but I would love to work on these games with him. We're definitely seeing what we can do on that front."

Fox and Multiverse had long talks about this, but we felt that it was appropriate - even though it would open us up to people venting their frustrations – to be candid and transparent about this. Fox especially wanted to do a release to let fans know that plans are released for right now. We really look forward to picking this back up as soon as possible. We are really happy to be working with them, and they're really happy to be working with us.

Our understanding has always been that you had the license, and that you didn't plan to develop it, but instead you were searching for a developer for the game. Is that correct?

CB: That is accurate.

Would it be a huge leap to say that you haven't found the right group to work with on that front?

CB: That I would not say.

Has there been any pre-production or work done on the project at all?

CB: Yes. Wrapped up in this is unfortunately the reality that we can't talk about this project. I'm dying to say more, it's one of the great frustrations in my life that we can't talk about it. We were moving and grooving, and now we have to put the breaks on. Hopefully things will change.

All that said, the Buffy announcement is very positive. We have to ask, how is it that you folks are able to get ahold of these great intellectual properties? What kind of relationship do you have with Fox and Joss Whedon to get in touch with these worlds?

CB: Well, we're big fans of "where there's a will there's a way". We are not announcing any relationship with Joss, but I would love to work on these games with him. We're definitely seeing what we can do on that front. I and the rest of the team, unsurprisingly, are huge Joss Whedon fans. He does a fantastic job creating worlds. Firefly was an easy setting to understand how that could be a fully realized world, but even Buffy – which takes place primarily in our world – has a lot of mythology to it. Sometimes literal mythology.

He had to do a lot of world-building, setting up the rules for how the supernatural elements would work. He had to make sure there was a solid logic and coherence there. It's not just that he creates great characters and tell good stories, but he is fantastic at creating new worlds. I don't want to give away the end of the Buffy series if anyone hasn't seen it yet, but it was such a perfect setup for further storytelling in that setting. It doesn't just have to be about Buffy, basically. If it were set during the series she would be pretty much required, but that's just not the case for the way the world is now.

It doesn't sound like you're doing the expected diku-style game set in that world. It sounds like you're going to start off with at 2D client? Can you talk about your plans for that?

CB:

"It doesn't just have to be about Buffy, basically. If it were set during the series she would be pretty much required, but that's just not the case for the way the world is now."

It would be cool enough just to do a 3D Buffy MMO, but the reason we're especially interested in doing this ourselves is that there are benefits to other developers using our technology. We're going to be 'eating our own dog food', making the game and developing the newest elements of our platform. The flash 2D development alongside the 3D world is all new stuff. It makes it really fun and interesting for us, and valuable for everyone using the platform.

What we're doing with the Buffy game then is releasing it in stages. It will first be a flash-based virtual world, with the full Multiverse server behind it. Instead of using our 3D worldbrowser to start off with, we'll just be using a flash client. It's a 133k download, it's very small. It fetches UI and assets dynamically, so it's a very quick and easy experience. This launches instantly and just streams the content to you, and it all comes from the Multiverse servers.

So it will start as a 2D flash-based MMO where you can go on missions and interact with other players. This will extend even once we have the 3D client working, where you can both interact with players using the other point of view. We're going to have these shared spaces where 2D and 3D people can interact. All of this will come out in phases, with staged gameplay coming out. We're sort of blazing a path with this concept, and we're really interested in what this might mean for players of the two versions.

We're planning to have content that can only be done by 2D players, and content that can only be done by 3D players. It'll be really interesting to see what the response is, and it begs the question of what we can put in front of those players. The easy thing is to say that it will be more casual in the 2D version of the game and more deep/casual/rich in the 3D version. Odds are that will be a good descriptor for how this pans out. It'll be interesting to see, we're really looking forward to the design challenge on this. How to make it really make sense.

This article was originally published on Massively.