Perfect Ten: A small sampling of literary offerings from MMOs

    
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Perfect Ten: A small sampling of literary offerings from MMOs

Salutations are in order once again for our most literate and eloquent readers of Massively Overpowered! I bid you welcome to our numerical column of weekly merriment, Perfect Ten, because this week I take on a topic near and dear to my literate heart as we tackle a variety of tomes released that one may associate with the massively multiplayer online video games we so adroitly cover upon this site. Yes, bequeathed unto us by such noted literate scribes as… wait, Scott Ciencin?

All right, that’s enough of that intro; this has now depressed me and I’m not happy about it. But there are a lot of games out there with novels, lore books, and the like floating about in the ether. I’ve tried to avoid titles wherein the novels are either the inspiration for the game in question (Lord of the Rings Online, Otherland) or just written about related concepts in a larger franchise umbrella (The Elder Scrolls Online). Still, I’ve probably missed some. Thus? A sampling!

This is really what you're going with, huh.

1. World of Warcraft

Oh, gosh. So many books here. Do you like books? World of Warcraft has books. It has lore books. It has novels. It has comic books. It has art books. It has a recipe book. I’m not making that up, it’s a real thing. You could build yourself quite a library out of books about this video game if you thought that brand identification was a substitute for developing taste.

Everything's about proper literacy with you!

2. Final Fantasy XIV

There are actually a fair number of books about the prior game, Final Fantasy XI, but they are generally Japanese-only and thus are difficult to read for the presumed majority of our audience. You have my apologies. On the plus side, Final Fantasy XIV also has a plethora of lore books and art books for players to read, and those are available in English! I love the lore books so much. I want another one. I want another four. I will buy every single one of them.

Library?

3. Star Wars: The Old Republic

You might point out that the larger body of Star Wars expanded novels shouldn’t wedge this game onto the list here under the rules I laid out in the introduction, and you would be entirely right. So it’s a good thing for this particular column that the game actually had a nice big lore book published when it was not far into its launch period, huh?

No, really, that exists. I own it. Gosh, looking back, this game was just being pushed to an overwhelming degree. Bit of a shame that it collapsed under its own issues, isn’t it?

Read it and... well, just read it.

4. Guild Wars 2

I remember when it felt like kind of a big deal that this particular game was getting a whole prequel novel to kick its story off. This was mostly down to cynicism, as it didn’t seem to me like the big iconic characters at the center of that novel were really going to become nearly as beloved by players as the initial writing staff seemed to assume. An assumption that seems to have been somewhat justified, but hey, the novel itself is all right!

books about space here

5. Elite: Dangerous

One of the fun things about doing columns like this is that you sometimes learn things that you just didn’t know beforehand. Before starting, for example, I had no idea that this game has novels… but it turns out it does. Yes, Elite: Dangerous isn’t just a sequel to a game series but even gets a whole set of good old-fashioned books to tell its stories. There’s something kind of heartening about that, at least to me.

Gank the king!

6. Albion Online

Pretty sure I knew that this happened at one point but subsequently forgot about it, only to be reminded once again that this title also got a prequel novel. Considering that Albion Online generally seems to have done pretty well for itself, this feels appropriate. It’d kind of be bad if some Kickstarted title had a whole prequel novel that no one wants to read or even think about, right?

That’s called foreshadowing right there, if you didn’t know. See? We’re doing all sorts of literary stuff today. Book puns!

Hiss?

7. EverQuest

This is where that intro bit came from because whilst I didn’t know Scott Ciencin personally, the fact that he penned an EverQuest novel is not what I would call a good sign based on the stuff he’s written that I have read. It was generally not good. The man was prolific, but… well, he made a lot of money with licensed stories and doesn’t appear to have really cared too much about those stories. And considering the aggressive attempts to make EverQuest a larger franchise, that does not exactly fill me with confidence.

I can’t find much about novels explicitly tied into EverQuest II, coincidentally, but since the two games are tied together you could make a convincing argument and I might just not have seen anything.

This was once controversial!

8. City of Heroes

Remember the City of Heroes comics? You might not. They weren’t very good. But they were at least a labor of love, and before the game shut down they were all made available to players as free downloads. So that was a classy move. Still, there was a comic and it was published and that means we’re counting it here.

I think it’s worth noting at the time that this was something of a surprise move, especially since for a while you got the comic for free if you were an active subscriber to the game. That just strikes me as worthy. It also would bring in actual player characters from time to time, and generally felt like it was written with a love of the world, the players, and the characters. Oh, and let’s not forget that it’s why anyone knows who War Witch was.

ha ha ship go brrrrr

9. EVE Online

Looking in on EVE Online from the outside, it’s interesting how the game has such a density of setting but mostly seems to use that as background instead of making it an active portion of its pitch to potential new players. This is probably because coming to the game for the story is like enticing a sheep into a wolf den with the promise of sheep-free grazing spaces, but I digress. I went looking, and yes, there are definitely novels for the game floating around out there.

I’m going to be honest, this actually makes me super curious. Are these novels any good? Do they explore the world more? Are they awful hack jobs or written by people with no interest in the source material? I’d believe either one. If you’ve read these, let me know in the comments.

Nope.

10. Shroud of the Avatar

Justin: “Didn’t Shroud of the Avatar have a novel written?”

Eliot: “What? No. That’s ridiculous. They promised that but never delivered it, that was the story with that. SotA can’t get a novel.”

Justin: “I’m really pretty sure that it was released.”

Eliot: “That’s impossible. That can’t be true. The universe isn’t set up that badly.”

Turns out Justin was right and I was wrong! To be fair, given Tracy Hickman on writing, it is probably the most successful part of SotA at this point. It still depresses me to think about, and thus books are cancelled forever.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”

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Robert Rose

The War of the Ancients trilogy of Warcraft books is an absolute must-read, great books

Justin Olivetti
Staff
Justin Olivetti

Star Stable!

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Phubarrh

Let’s not forget that Ragnar Tornquist gave us an Anarchy Online novel, Prophet Without Honour, which can still be downloaded for free.

Reader
Franklin Adams

Its outside of the scope but the two Greg Keyes novels for the Elder Scrolls were really good, if you like the franchise at all you should read them, especially as it covers a time period that will probably never have a game (after the Oblivion Crisis and assassination of Ocato but before the war with the Aldmeri Dominion).

Since we’re talking about in game books though, my favorite is from ESO because it makes fun of Skyrim, specifically the spell “Conjure Dremora Lord”.

The book is called “I was summoned by a Mortal” and its written by Kynval Zzedenkathik. Its written from the point of view of a Dremora, who is summoned by Vanus Galerion and its probably the funniest book in the game, if not the series.

It makes fun of the things the Dremora say in Skyrim (“I smell…weakness”), their lack of crouching while sneaking (“I followed, not deigning to crouch when my Conjurer hunched over to sneak, merely glaring at him and thinking, “I will feast upon your heart.”), how bad the AI pathing in Skyrim is (“…and though we Dremora are fearless, relentless, and unparalleled among warriors throughout Oblivion, our sense of direction is rather poor.”) and just what exactly our conjured Daedra “friends” have to deal with when they’re thrown back to Oblivion when the spell wears off.

Its great, if you’ve never read it do yourself a favor and do so.

Andy Turner
Reader
Andy Turner

Nah the rest of the universe is fine it’s just the earth that man has ruined

Reader
Bryan Correll

So far…

Andy Turner
Reader
Andy Turner

A man was depressed and decided to commit suicide. He jumped out of window and on the way down, someone stuck their head out of a window and asked him “ HEY! How are you doin’!?”. The depressed man replied “Ok…so far.”

Reader
Bryan Cole

I read the 2 Eve books, not sure if more have been released. They were good in that they captured the feel and essence of the game but they weren’t memorable because the characters were one dimensional and basically throw away and the plot was dwarfed by the over arching existence of the game itself, the massive universe it basically lets you be in and the novels felt like a day in the life of a floating clone.

Matter of fact, I’ve read the GW2 and Everquest books and they felt the same way, good execution on the feel but no real plot or character to take away and go off on their own.

WoW books on the other hand, those tie directly into the game and are usually pretty good minus a few strangely written interludes like Stormrage, Shadowlands, Vol’jin and few others. Thrall and Arthas storyline are awesome as is the Well of the Ancients trilogy with Illidan. Mostly, Cataclysm and on it just went oddball.

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Stormwaltz

Somewhere in my house, I have a copy of an X-COM novel written by Diane Duane (Star Trek, So You Want To Be A Wizard). Not a tie-in for the Firaxis reboots, but one for the original 1994 game.

Reader
Bryan Correll

Remember the City of Heroes comics? You might not. They weren’t very good.

I liked the War Witch/Apex/Horus ones which were kinda goofy and fun. Then they switched over to being about the big name heroes and tried to be like a ‘real’ comic. Those were just dull, especially the ‘Manticore is basically Batman’ type stuff.

Reader
Deadly Habit

The Hickman novel for Shroud of the Avatar really was the best thing to come out of it, and to think I got a hardcover version for like $5 new when they “couldn’t fit it in the box” to ship it to the Kickstarter backers, or wait it hadn’t actually been printed and they couldn’t reach a deal with the publisher to get copies, or that was their excuse back then (it gets hard to keep track of all their lies by omission or just outright). There’s also the sequel which Lord Brexit had claimed was almost ready to go that was supposed to have Hickman involved as well, but I have a feeling that’s another tale that will make Pinocchio’s nose grow more as Hickman had no clue about the issues backers had about getting their copy of the first book he wrote and seemingly was out of the loop for most of the goings on with the project.

Eric E
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Eric E

SotA’s book promised to backers was a scam. The lie that it wouldn’t fit in the box for shipping was funny. Than to find out that it was never printed and was sent to backers as a pdf another scam from their kickstarter. Now no one believes Richard Garriotts tales that another one is on the way. Actually no one ever believes anything he says now a days since he had scammed so many people during the Kickstarter and SeedInvest.

Narficus
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Narficus

Here is a direct link to Hickman’s reply.

This is news to me. The sad truth is that not only have I no control over this issue but do not even have a copy of the book of my own

How long was Hickman out of the loop? Since Portalarium (which as a company forfeited the right to do business in Texas) stopped updating their dev team page:

Tracy Hickman is…

Role: Lead Story Designer

Rialto
Reader
Rialto

I have a copy of the Albion novel, and what a strange beast it is. It’s quite well written, has an interesting story, and does a good job of using concepts from the game. Where things get weird is in the fact that the book was released while the game was still in beta, and there are a fair number of things (like the entire world map and many place names) that were altered or just outright removed/changed between when the novel came out and the full game released.

It’s still worth a read if you’re into the game, but expect to be a bit confused when you start to see places referenced that quite frankly no longer exist, and things that do (and have since launch) not referenced at all.