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The Digital Continuum: Where mundane and fantastical merge

Kyle Horner

The wizard leaps across the chasm, deftly avoiding a hurled ball of fire that the Goblin shaman had thrown in a rage. A space fighter weaves through suspended rocks in space as hostile blaster fire scorches the tips of his wing span. A retail employee swings the massive hammer he found in the home improvement section, saving a co-worker from the blood-thirsty sprite from another world?

Wait, wait, whoa, whoa -- how did we get there? Well, maybe we're not really there yet, but I'd like to think that someday a publisher and developer may have the collective reproductive sacs to pull off a sort of Jumanji meets MMO sort of experience. Someone needs to become the figurative Ash Williams of MMOs.

While I'm looking forward to running around as a twisted Sith figure in Star Wars: The Old Republic or forging a brand new alter-ego in Champions Online, I'm also ready for someone to take the mundane (but integral) aspects of life and make it into something special. For me, the ultimate for-fun MMO would take the modern, flat world and fuse it with the fantastical, magical, cyberpunk and even a tinge of lovecraftian to give it some kick. And yes, World of Darkness could possibly be close to this dream game of mine -- but not until some actual information is released.

I want to bludgeon snapping death pixies with a blunt object, and then level up. What joy it would be to search inside a seemingly familiar house, only to happen upon a den of cyborg bikers. Just once, couldn't somebody hand my character a magically imbued lead pipe and give me a quest to kill a few homeless kobolds before they ransack my neighborhood? Even the inanity of another kill quest would pale in comparison to a game that dared to take our power fantasies to their ultimate height and integrate them with the world at large.

Would there be localization issues with such a game? It's very likely. But I don't really care, because you can't please everybody in the first place. The best course of action would be to set this game somewhere in the American experience and embrace that, much like the Grand Theft Auto series does. Then, a developer could expand from there over time, adding new "factions" like the Canadians who posses improved frost resistance, or the British -- naturally higher charisma!

What type of game elements would such a title primarily focus on? I'd say combat, probably, as it generally is with all games in the genre. We are talking about the ultimate power fantasy here, after all. Still, I imagine that after successfully merging the common with the fantastical, just about any other gameplay conundrum could be worked out. Crafting is easy, of course: take a sturdy trash can lid, wrap that up in advanced poly-plastic and enchant it with a water ward. Voila! Cool new water-resistant shield. Things like homes could become, well in-game houses sporting improved-yet-unstable future tech. Who wants to forge a weapon with a heavily modified washer and dryer combo? Cars, trucks and motorcycles are all similarly enhanced. They have engines that run on any kind of waste or can even be upgraded to fly through the sky at higher levels of play.

Who knows, maybe this is the game that exists somewhere between a PC and a smart phone. I'd be down for some augmented reality MMO action.

Given a sizable budget, a competent development team, a stout publisher and great marketing -- something like this has some real potential. Granted, that can be said for almost any project. Ultimately, it could become a project about seeing how deep the imagination of fans and developers could reach. Would it be perfect, or even near-perfect? Doubtful, but it could be so very unique from all the other games out there that it'd be worth the effort.

Obviously this is me at my most indulgent. I mean, this one is right up there with a freshly conceived AAA steampunk MMO developed by Blizzard. Then again, I once never thought we'd exist in a world with multiple superhero MMOs on the horizon, a KOTOR BioWare MMO and almost no sign of further fantasy outings. So maybe, just possibly, something like this is a possibility.

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