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!
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.