- So Microsoft is setting up a console as an American company to show the Japanese how it's done (and get some expertise to brush up on their PC gaming efforts.) As launch approaches, it becomes increasingly obvious that there is an enormous RPG-shaped hole in the launch lineup. After launch, especially in Japan, the problem continues to dog the Xbox and just keeps getting worse and worse. “What on earth can we do to fill this gaping wound,” pondered Microsoft? And then they kept right on pondering YEARS later when Bethesda and Bioware finally showed up, far too late to save the platform's reputation among RPG fans. “Hmm, what about that lineup of beloved, world-class tabletop RPGs we bought the rights to two years before launch? Nah, I 'got nothing.”
I mean, seriously. Shadowrun, Earthdawn, Mechwarrior… Can you IMAGINE a big-budget Shadowrun RPG as a launch title for the Xbox? WTF were they THINKING!?
- Halo barely made the X-Box's launch. What do you think the chances of them slapping together a decent RPG for launch would be?
- Well, they did take Mechwarrior...and called it Mech Assault. They removed all of the logistics (ammo management among other things) and custom creation, giving us a really lame 3PS instead of a good RPG.
- I could imagine a big-budget Shadowrun RPG. And I could imagine it sucking badly. The reason Bethesda and Bioware make good RPGs is because they know *how* to make good RPGs. Whereas FASA Interactive has only ever made Mech sims and shooters. If tomorrow, Id Software said that they're making an RPG, would you be excited? Sure, it might look pretty, but John Carmack is already on record as poo-pooing the concept of putting stories in videogames.
- Later, another company decided to bring the BattleTech universe to the Nintendo DS handheld. What to make? A clone of Mechwarrior? No, FPSes are hard to do on handhelds. How about a videogame version of the actual tabletop game of Battletech? A top-down strategy game, with custom unit creation, all the weapons, all the rules, just compacted into the super handy Nintendo DS with a very easy to use touchscreen, which could simplify many of the phases during a turn? It was already shown that strategy games on the DS, like the Advance Wars series, can be done and succeed, and as the Battletech universe is so open-ended you could just base the game around individual skirmishes and multiplayer and completely skip trying to add complex story or engaging characters...after all, it is just about mechs blowing other mechs up.
So of course, they took the best idea they could think of and made a completely crappy clone of Mech Assault on hardware that is barely comparable to Nintendo 64.
- Really, if you want to get technical, what was FASA, the original FASA (not FASA Interactive) doing when they sold Microsoft the videogame rights to all of their properties? Not licensed them, sold them. That means that now Catalyst, who owns Shadowrun and BattleTech, can't license the properties to make games off of them. No deal with Bioware to make a Shadowrun RPG. No deal with the Total War guys to make BattleTech 3025: Total War. What were they thinking?
- What bugged—past tense—me about the late FASA Inc. was some rather shady business practices they engaged in. It's fairly well known that they "borrowed" a lot of mecha designs from Sunrise/Harmony Gold. It is somewhat less well known that they stiffed a LOT of the authors and game designers who wrote the tie-in novels and game supplements for their various games. Now FASA is gone, but maybe the people who have the rights to the games now will be more ethical.