About that Firefly MMO

 Posted by (Visited 10393 times)  Game talk
Dec 072006

There you go: Wired reports it’ll be done with Multiverse.

  44 Responses to “About that Firefly MMO”

  1. De esta forma, los chicos de Multiverse esperan conseguir una buena publicidad para su proyecto, mientras que los browncoats podrán disfrutar de una nueva faceta de su universo favorito. 🙂 (Vía Raph Koster)

  2. does, however, seem to be a good candidate for this conversion, considering the variety of possibilities the show brings to the table. I could see where that might be a distinct advantage in sourcing the content. This one is worth watching imo. via Raph Koster’s blog

  3. ve seen strong arguments put forward elsewhere for setting the game before or during the war. The Wizard of Duke Street sets forth some Hopes & Fears concerning the game. Raph Koster’s post concerning the game garnered some interesting responses, including one from Corey Bridges: To respond generally to one common concern: we’ll have something that consumers can play in 2008. It’ll be at least a beta. And yep–we want to have an experienced team make this.

  4. Firefly will make for a tricky MMORPG.

    What made the firefly show interesting wasn’t the world, it was a dysfunctional ship filled with 9(?) dysfunctional characters. (Kind of the opposite of Star Trek, where everything is shiny and everyone is sane, level-headed, and non-violent.)

    If captured, such an atmosphere would make for interesting role play. I could imagine eve-online with a ship that’s guaranteed to break down, the ability to have a crew on each ship, and incentive for the crew to occasionally backstab one another.

  5. […] https://www.raphkoster.com/2006/12/07/about-that-firefly-mmo/There you go: Wired reports it’ll be done with Multiverse. (Post a new comment) […]

  6. Color me very dubious. Putting out any MMO is a large undertaking, but a 2008 release date seems to me to be unlikely, unless they have the core pre-production team already in place and working smoothly. Particularly with the expectations this license carries with it.

    OTOH, I was pretty skeptical about WoW, so my opinion may not be the last word.

  7. Raph’s making the FireFly MMO!?!


  8. That sounds “Ify”.

    I think it makes more questions than it answers. Im excited to hear the IP is going to made an MMO, but…..

  9. So this would be the second MMO with only humans to play? (Or am I forgetting some games?)

    I’m also a bit skeptical… it’s just such a difficult task to get right.

  10. Evangolis, remember that Multiverse makes a 3rd part MMO platform, so a lot of the work is done up front. That’s what makes the deal cool… Well, okay, that and Firefly. *huge grin*

  11. I just don’t want the IP to get tarnished by a bad title. Not that i know who is on this project, but, anyone recall the farscape games? YICK!

    Its scary and exciting all at the same time.

  12. Given the Hollywood connection and the desire to translate a lot of film IP into a franchise, Multiverse is going to take off if this works out.

    There is a small, but strong fanbase for the Firefly franchise, so this makes sense for an film IP expansion. And as the number of players needed to breakeven is lower using the Multiverse platform, it’s also economically viable.

    Moreover, as the sunken cost for pre-production in terms of concept, art, systems already have been done, the cost is all in execution and live time. Execution on the IT front is covered by Multiverse. Execution on art can be outsourced to China, Indonesia, Korea, etc. CS can also be outsourced, so the only other major things are vison, direction, execution of launch and subsequent follow-through.

    Firefly, the MMO will be another component of the Firefly fandom and could likely be the online platform for gatherings. Good for them. Go for it and don’t blow it.


  13. I don’t know; I agree with Mike that this is one is going to be a bear to pull off. The show was great because of the ensemble acting, not because of the universe or backstory, per se. What are they going to have, 200,000 Firefly-like crews avoiding the authorities and smuggling?

    If they set the time period at pre-Unification, with the war still raging…. now there you have some possibilities. Or start a new one, for that matter.

    If that happens, I want River on my strike team, :D.

  14. The Multiverse press release just went out over the wire.

  15. I am reminded of lemmings… a population boom, a wide dispersion, coupled with near-blindness and surprisingly deep waters…

  16. Firefly is a good license to build a virtual world with. But I’d agree with others that they’d need to take care not to base gameplay too much on what the characters in the show/movie do.

    Ideally the game would allow for players to assume nearly any role they wanted – from building and maintaining ships, to flying ships, to running small towns on the outer planets, to working for the Alliance, to being smugglers and mercenaries, and anything between. If they do that, and allow Firefly fans to live in the Firefly universe, they’ll do well. If they try to make it a game where everyone is Mal or Jane or Zoe….not so much. At least not in my opinion.

  17. It’s probably going to be in keeping with the continuity in term of setting. In terms of gameplay I can see players working to form a “guild” which will own a ship. When in space, any guild member can fly the ship and do trades and skill gains (like Eve-online). However, when the go do missions, the missions will be instanced raids.

    The part that is a bear to pull off is the story and character elements. Without the two critical components, it’ll end up being a virtual laguna beach (if they are leaning towards the MTV crowd) or an hollow Eve-Online or an even worst SWG.

    Maybe I’m too optimistic as I’m a fan. But, I also know that it has to be geared toward the fanbase, existing and new. It’s genre entertainment. It’s not going to be mass market. With the Multiverse platform, it doesn’t have to be. It only has to be a Virtual Laguna Beach with a bit of Eve-online and SWG. I think it will appeal to the sort of people who just hang out in SWG enjoying the “venue”.


  18. What made the firefly show interesting wasn’t the world, it was a dysfunctional ship filled with 9(?) dysfunctional characters.

    Sounds like an MMO to me already. 🙂

  19. I think that working with that *world* might be easier then let’s say working with the Star Wars license. Joss Whedon appears to be very open to a lot of ideas at least when you listen to the audio commentaries of Serenity where he often left people come up with their own ideas and sometimes even lines.

    I’m very curious about that one and if it somehows brings the tv series back to life then I would appreciate that as well 😉

  20. Hey Charles – I’m sure the developers will figure out a way to get dwarfs and elves prominently involved 😉

  21. […] I picked up word over at Raph Koster’s blog regarding this “Wired” report that indicates that Multiverse may be imminently announcing that they will be building an official MMO world based on Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” using their toolset. Words cannot describe how excited that makes me. Well they can, but nothing I’d want to post here. =P Now if they can just find the right company to make the actual game, giving it the love and attention that this great creative IP deserves. It would be a shame to see this one butchered, but it’s a legitimate risk when dealing with licensed IPs. […]

  22. Oh I have such high hopes for this one… but am waiting to read more information. Damn site is being slashdot’d horribly..

  23. I don’t feel the show nor movie (Serenity) had so much history that an MMO would be overly tricky. There’s a lot they can do because so much of the world of Firefly was not yet defined. It seems like Fox decided to, instead of making more TV shows or movies, make an MMO to extend the IP, not just iterate what’s already there.

    The characters from the show too were pretty well cast as specific “classes”, if they choose class-based system (or a skill/class/template hybrid like SWG).

    Consider the IP wasn’t a mass hit, and the two referenced games were not mass hits in the way GW/WoW define it nowadays, and the probable good crossover between Firefly fans and this genre, I think the MMO has potential. Probably more in the retention category than the attraction, but that just means not tossing $75mil at it 🙂

  24. Ideally the game would allow for players to assume nearly any role they wanted – from building and maintaining ships, to flying ships, to running small towns on the outer planets, to working for the Alliance, to being smugglers and mercenaries, and anything between. If they do that, and allow Firefly fans to live in the Firefly universe, they’ll do well. If they try to make it a game where everyone is Mal or Jane or Zoe….not so much. At least not in my opinion.

    I completely agree. I think that when SWG moved to make everyone into one of the characters in the movie was one of the prime reasons they lost such a large percentage of their customers. MMOs are filled with individuals not clones.

  25. As an avid Star Wars fan, when I first heard about Star Wars: Galaxies, I thought it would be the game of my dreams.
    Then the reality kicked me in the soul. And it hurt.

    As an avid fan of Firefly/Serenity, I am very concerned by this news.
    In fact, I’d be less concerned by an impending Reaver attack.

    Much like Star Wars, the potential of the Firefly ‘Verse is incredibly huge in terms of MMO/virtual-World/whateveryouwannacallit. But the current reality of those types of games means that potential will likely not be reached. Or even come close to being reached, for that matter.

    What does this mean for all the Browncoats out there?
    If they make this game, they’ll rape us to death, eat our flesh, and sew our skins into their clothing. And if we’re very, very lucky, they’ll do it in that order.

  26. I could see content for this coming from both overseas and the gaming community. After all, the Multiverse marketplace could use an IP like “Firefly”, with it’s mix of custom design and real-world common stuff, to help things along. We’ll see.

  27. […] Raph reports that Wired reports that Firefly will be making a comeback – as an MMO developed using the Multiverse platform.Instead of making the game itself, the company will hire a development team that will craft the virtual galaxy using Multiverse tools. […]

  28. csven: definitely. I don’t have a very optimistic outlook on the whole thing, but, like Second Life, I’m genuinely hoping that it stays around long enough to give Multiverse a good name. It would be an excellent publicity stunt and proof of technology.

    magicback: the trouble term is “MMO”. That suggests they’re going to try to build gameplay into it, and I am deeply, deeply suspicious of that. If they called it “Firefly Online” or “Virtual Firefly” (I’m terrible with names), then I’d be more laid-back about it.

  29. I’ve stopped caring so much about IPs these days, please look to various badly mishandled IP based games to understand why. If somebody would take a great concept that is finished and polished…I don’t care what it’s about, I could even play yet another fantasy game!

    SWG was a great game concept, but it felt like it was released 6 months (or more) too early, it lacked polish, etc. then mass developers were moved to EQ2 and it went downhill from there. So when Raph and Friends(tm) release a “No Name” game without pressure from a giant corporation to release before x date, I will be there! 🙂

  30. I hope they can do something great with this IP. As Frank suggested, and the beauty of multiverse is the legwork already gets done. They already have content design, and art resources as were mentioned can be done “offshore”. Unless the combat, and diversity issues can be addressed then it will be a “venue” type game also as frank mentioned.

    If any readers are hardcore Firefly fans or can post or email me links to some larger Firefly community sites I’d be appriciative.
    contact at gamemarketmetrics.net

  31. One of my concerns is Multiverse. How proven is this product? In effect, we have two different IP in play in a single game. I’d be more comfortable if there were a higher profile product out there using Multiverse all ready. Or have I missed something?

    OTOH, having English and Chinese speakers in the same game will at last be 100% in line with the canon. That could be amusing.

  32. One of my concerns is Multiverse. How proven is this product?

    It’s the chicken and the egg problem. Multiverse is taking the lead on the Firefly MMORPG so that it’ll prove that the Multiverse engine is capable of creating a real MMORPG.

    Firefly also forces the multiverse engine team to include space features (like those in Eve Online), and I assume they’ll also be forced to impliment avatars moving about spaceships… which means that the engine would also be able to handle a fantasy equivalent of ocean-going ships with avatars onboard.

  33. Multiverse got Jim Cameron(sp) on their board is a clear sign that they are going for the hollywood connection in the same way that SL is going for the techie connection. This is a clear sign for me that they will focus on both blockbusters and also arty stuff.

    Jim Cameron already indicated that his next project will involve both his new camera system for filming and also a VW component. We can reasonably assume that he is working on streamlining the digitalization of the capture into VWs in the same way motion capture and visual digitization has advanced the art of both 3D graphics for film and for VWs.

    Moreover, Mike’s thoughts on the parallel development of space features for Multiverse and Firefly, the MMO sounds reasonable too. The space ship is the housing, the castle, the base, the ocean-going ship, the user-designed instanced environment, and ultimately the user-designed pocket universe within Multiverse environment.

    Now, back to Firefly. As an armchair designer, I would put the focus of the MMO game on quests that deal with stealth, avoidance, trade, and odd mission, the stuff that the crew in the TV show deals with daily. Direct combat would be lethal and to be avoided. The pace will be slower, quests are not repeatable, loot are fewer, and trade arbitrage will be harder. Gameplay will allow players to focus on their own agenda when they are playing alone and guild missions when playing together.

    A simple and fun innovation needed is the mechanism for people to import and trade video, audio, and other media and combine them with character scripts (Myspace + character scripts). Players will record and trade their own “song and dance” routine, their original Firefly dialogue, or fanfic videos. Imagine a bunch of interesting and wacky space truckers.

    Another innovation needed is a better system to design interesting quests dyanmically (something beyond SWG’s mission terminal) and a writing staff to write up more witty NPCs with witty dialogues. Or get a staff to go the easy route and shamelessly still cool phrases and situations from popular and obscure shows and movies.

    Design the biggest and baddest underworld boss as a wannabe multimedia DJ that sends the crew to do some really weird mission, like sending crews to solve the messages generated by Richard Bartle’s Haikumatic.

    Ok, enough rambling for now 🙂



  34. Firefly has two distinct factions though. Players could CHOOSE to be the Independent or the Core worlds (can’t remember the name of that faction). Both sides could be very different experiences.

    We’ll see if they have the bandwidth to pull that off though.

  35. OK, let me throw a little cold water on expectations (including mine).

    According to the press release, Mutliverse will not develop the game themselves, but “select and lead an independant developer.” So here we have several issues that argue against any game, much less a decently thought-out MMO, being launched in 2008:

    1. No game design yet. Time to develop a decent game design: 3 to 6 months, with 3 months being the “Gee, this is probably going to suck, isn’t it?” mark and 6 months being the “OK, now we have an even shot” mark. Even retreading game systems from some other product, there is a lot here to think through and do paper testing on.

    2. Pre-production: 6 to 12 months. Probably more like 12, because any developer chosen is going to need to come up to speed on the Multiverse tools, which are still in development, the last time I looked. So they are going to be finishing up the building of pipeline tools during pre-production, most likely, especially since no one the Multiverse team has produced a commercial MMO before; the tools will need some work. But who knows, maybe they get it done in 6.

    3. Development: Minimum 12 months, including coding the game systems, creating the interface, building out the art and animation assets, sound assets, balancing game play internally before Alpha, et al. They MAY save some time using sound and music from the show, but most of the art and animation assets will likely have to be built from scratch.

    4. Testing: Alpha, closed beta and open beta: Minimum 6 months if everything goes perfectly (you know, just like it always does when MMO game systems meet the players), more likely 9 months. Twelve would be better and they may have no choice, depending on what happens in the tests.

    So we’re already up to a minimum of 27 months. If they already have a game design completed, you can maybe shave that down to 24 months. Meaning, if they started today, they might be able to launch in December 2008.

    And that is if they have a full, experienced MMO team onboard and the budget to pay them. If the dev team has never developed an MMO before, add 6-12 months to the development time. If the team is US-based and the budget is $4 million or less, add 10 points to the Potential Suckage Factor. If the dev team is in Korea or China, add 6 months for communication issues.

    On top of that, no discussion yet of who will host, who will perform customer service, who does the 24/7 network administration, where the billing and account management tools will come from or how they get integrated, the experience of the people involved with all of that…

    Sorry; I just don’t see a decent game happening in 2008. Would LOVE to see it happen, but I just don’t see how it can.


  36. Jessica – Yeah, I very likely won’t come out in 2008, but they can always extend the schedule. It worked for Duke Nu– oh wait 🙁

  37. Outstanding thread, everyone. Thanks for the excellent critical thinking.

    To respond generally to one common concern: we’ll have something that consumers can play in 2008. It’ll be at least a beta. And yep–we want to have an experienced team make this.


  38. Jessica Mulligan wrote:

    According to the press release, Mutliverse will not develop the game themselves, but “select and lead an independant developer.”

    I have some complications to add to your complications…

    Extra complication #1:

    The primary reason Multiverse wants a Firefly MMORPG is to show off its engine and attract more and larger authoring teams to create Multiverse MMORPGs. The secondardy reason is to provide a commercial test-case (and/or proof of concept) so that flaws in the engine design can be discovered.

    Multiverse has three approaches to firefly:

    1) Get a totally independent company to write it. This minimizes risk (finacial, managerial effort, company cultue) for Multiverse.

    2) Create a division within Multiverse to write Firefly, and let the division modify the public parts of the Multiverse engine as appropriate.

    3) Create a division within Multiverse to write the Firefly content (and some quest scripts), but put the bulk of the coders in the main Multiverse team.

    Why the differences? A LOT of code written for Firefly will be very valuable to all of Multiverse’s authoring teams, such as spaceship physics, drawing pretty procedural supernovas, etc. The other authoring teams will want this code since it saves them work and makes their games better. In part, Multiverse wants them to have this work because when Multiverse’s authors are succesful, Multiverse is successful.

    Conversely, the authors don’t really want Multiverse to ever produce Firefly because it’s a competitor, especially to any of the teams working on a sci-fi space-travel theme. Furthermore, the team working on Firefly doesn’t really want to include their code into the core Multiverse code because (a) they lose market advantage to the other authoring teams (hurting their internal revenues and political capital), and (b) code that’s written for general-purpose use is about 2x as much work as code that’s special-purpose. (For example: Procedural supernova skydomes might only be a week of coding if targeted at Firefly, but when an API, documentation, and extra features are added so any space-based Multiverse game can use it, it becomes 2 weeks of work. After all, some random fantasy MMORPG will not just want blue skies, but they’ll want blue skies with procedurally-generated supernovas that rotate throughout the day and occasionally turn bright purple on special holidays…)

    Microsoft had/has this problem between Office and Windows. The Windows team always wanted to suck in all the features/ideas from Office because it would make Windows better. The Office team didn’t, nor did Lotus or Novell, because that would minimize their USPs. For example: At one point in the 1980’s, the ability to print on any printer was a USP. Then Windows put it in the operating system. Then WYSIWYG was a USP for word processors, but Windows sucked that in too. The embedded objects… Suck. Rich-text edit control… Suck. Etc.

    Extra complication #2:

    Multiverse and others are making it “easy” to create umpteen million Diku-MMORPGs. MMORPG.com already lists 100+ MMORPGs. In a few years, all the MMORPG-development kits will raise this number higher.

    How does Firefly stand out from the 10+ other professional space-based MMORPGs that will be around in 2008? (For example: Eve Online has a space-MMORPG monopoly with (I assume) nice profits, and 2-3 years of features to go before Firefly sees the light of day.)

    How does Firefly stand out from the 10-100 Multiverse MMORPGs (mostly amateur) that will be around by that point, particularly if they’re taking advantage of the same Multiverse technology that is used to create Firefly?

  39. Let me see if I can structure a best case scenario, given that the complications stated so far are real and likely to occur.

    Possible developmental agreement and structure:
    Multiverse is likely to be neutral and get an outside team. However, they can help fund the outside team by organizing VC investments and hold a passive equity stake. They’ll then engage in a technology transfer agreement where Multiverse will have the option to acquire proprietary technology. A simple agreement would be to release proprietary technology after 3 years.

    Possible differentiating factor:
    Multiverse ultimately will lower the barrier of entry, so developers will have to compete on other areas like content or business model. Don’t know how big a group the Browncoats are, but I would design for this core audience, for the long tail, and for making consistent and reasonable profit from the fandom by providing an useful service (rather than mere entertainment). The USP is that it provides an entertainment platform for the fans, a 24/7/365 virtual fan conference with all the accoutremonts.

    Possible design and execution to meet the Dec 08 deadline:
    To meet the 2008 deadline, instead of adhereing to the XP-and-loot-grind themepark metaphor, it will use the methaphor of fan conferences. (It’ll sink if it even try to be a WoW mutant clone. Anyhow, there’s already Serenity the RPG) By focusing on this type of design, they can launch by the 2008 deadline.


  40. Mike and Jessica pretty much summed up my thoughts on the topic. I’m beginning to think the line of reason that goes “Ooh, we have this cool IP from Hollywood and a MMO construction kit in a box; maybe we could build an MMO in 18 months for 1/10th the cost of every other successful project out there…” is nothing more than misleading to investors that are about to take a bath. Why is it that the suits can’t see that all IP gives you is an installed base of fans that will try your game for the tradeoff that there are restrictions in what you can and cannot do with the IP. There’s an inverse relationship between IP strength and designer/player control over the resulting world. While I understand that in the beginning of the genre you needed (and may still need) IP to get in the door with an investor, I’m beginning to think IP is a liability to new MMO projects.

    LotRO, Star Trek and Firefly will all likely become just another Diku based in a static world that does not quench the thirsts of player’s desire for a more living/breathing world. Maybe once all the IPs are exhausted we can get back to creative gameplay and world design…

  41. LotRO, Star Trek and Firefly will all likely become just another Diku based in a static world that does not quench the thirsts of player’s desire for a more living/breathing world.

    One good thing about Firefly is that the backstory could be written on the back of a 3×5 index card. (I’m exaggerating a bit.) Firefly has much less backstory that Star Trek, LotR, or Star Wars, so (hopefully) it’ll have less to hinder the game design.

  42. […] He also commented on a blog post by Raph Koster as follows: To respond generally to one common concern: we’ll have something that consumers can play in 2008. It’ll be at least a beta. And yep–we want to have an experienced team make this. […]

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