Buffy and Firefly MMO’s May Yet Go Online, But Hurdles Remain

by Gene Turnbow
Crew of the "Serenity"

Crew of the "Serenity"

You may have been reading in other news sources that Multiverse, the development platform that was going to be used for the possible creation of MMO’s based on Joss Whedon properties Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, had to close its doors on December 7 of 2011. The source code lives on, however, – and has been snatched up by the newly formed Multiverse Foundation. Fortunately for the huge fan base of Joss Whedon’s scifi western, the idea of a Firefly MMO is too big to die.

Tristan Bacon, head of communications for Multiverse Foundation, says that the company has acquired the source code and is “starting work full-time on the actual MMO creation platform.” Bacon says that if there is still interest from fans, the team intends to use the platform to make a Firefly MMO.

And that’s where things get complicated.

When we went to the MultiverseMMO web site, we found a home page full of Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.. , which is a web designer’s way of saying “we don’t know what’s going to go in this space yet.”  This doesn’t bode well.  The parts of the site that do work indicate that all the work done since 2004 on the Multiverse MMO platform is now going to be open source for anybody to use.  A statement on the web site describes the situation:

Right now, it takes at least three years and as much as $20 million to make a Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG), due to challenges in the areas of engineering, asset-creation, and marketing. That price tag means independent game developers simply can’t afford to enter this exciting and lucrative space.

Multiverse blows away these barriers to entry.

The Multiverse Foundation is the only company focused on delivering a complete Open Source end-to-end solution for MMOG and virtual world development. To solve the challenges mentioned above, The Multiverse Foundation gives developers ample code and content to get you started.

The development of a Firefly MMO depends a lot on Multiverse getting not only the technical help it needs to finish the platform, but on obtaining the all important intellectual property rights as well, which at this writing they have not yet secured. Since Bacon has made a public request for programmers interested in working on such a project, implying that money is tight, we have to wonder how they’ll ever manage the licensing rights to the Firefly property. They’ll have to go a long way to prove that they can not only finish developing the platform itself, but the creative content as well, then successfully set up and maintain the horrific pile of technology it takes to support any kind of MMO, let alone actually market it and make enough of a profit to make it worth licensing.  There is a reason it costs $20 million to get an MMO online, and the very nature of massively multiplayer online technology is one of the hugest barriers to entry.

The challenges ahead for a Firefly MMO are not insurmountable, but loom large – but Fox was surprised in 2004 when there was enough interest in the property to get a movie made (Serenity, 2005).  Still even there, while adored by fans, it wasn’t until it was released on DVD that the film even made back its production costs.

With much of the work done and operating well enough to demo, there may still be hope for a Firefly or Buffy the Vampire Slayer MMO in the future – if they can develop the content and get it released while these properties still have enough juice left in them to allow them to make enough money to be worth doing, never mind making a profit.

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Links

  • MultiverseMMO web site
  • The Multiverse page on SourceForce