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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Retcons and Comic MMO's

BusinessWeek has a feature on the potential of upcoming MMO's for Marvel and DC superheroes and mentions and interesting aspect of working with these licenses ... their often long and winding fictional history:

Not to mention, Marvel and DC are both blessed and cursed by their history and highly recognizable properties. These heroes, with their long histories (Superman dates back to 1938), have given birth to the term "retcon" (Retroactive Continuity). In short, it means that the turnover of writers over a long span of time made the stories so incomprehensible, and characters so god-like, that it necessitated stories to specifically written to fix things by either modifying histories or using cataclysmic events. This isn't exactly the kind of firm foundation people think of when they want to jump into a virtual world.


Although it is still too early for details, DC has announced is that Jim Lee would be heading their project. While it is exciting to see how a famous comic book artist will handle building whole game worlds, it also opens up new and exciting opportunities. How would an MMO show off the art of Jim Lee? Perhaps it would be a cell-shaded game to preserve the comic book feel? What if this was just the beginning? DC and Marvel could potentially tap into their pool of artists and bring in guest artists to put together areas and characters. Imagine running through a city zone specially drawn, designed, and populated by Todd McFarlane's creations. Or maybe a unique buildings, streets or missions put together by well-known talent that will remain in this virtual world for fans to visit and interact with. Such a thing wouldn't just be a game, it would be a three-dimensional comic book museum.

As for the problem of continuality... there's no rule that says that the video game has to be linked in to the comic books in every way. This is both Marvel and DC's chance to start with a clean slate. All the heroes without a lot of heavy backstory to weigh them down. Perhaps this will be the best way to put them back into their places in modern mythology. Here is a chance to bring everything to back to a point when things were new and wondrous... the ultimate retcon. Instead of wanting to be Batman when he flies by in a high-tech jet, players can aspire to be like him. Imagine walking down a Manhatten street, watching Spider-Man swing by, sitting down next to Wolverine and Beast at a local pub, then rushing out to help the Fantastic Four beat down a giant sewer monster. Or maybe you don't even have to be heroic. Perhaps you would rather use your powers to strengthen Magneto's ideology. The point is, fans may soon have the opportunity to choose whether they want to join Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, or become a fresh recruit for the Green Lantern Corps.
-- The (Online) World Will Always Need Heroes

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