Seth McFarlane’s Family Guy Online is one of the world’s most watched TV programs; chiefly, because it’s politically incorrect and hilarious, but too, because it’s good. It was only a matter of time before they turned it into an MMORPG called Family Guy Online.
And why not? The IP alone will attract millions of players, and thanks to 10 seasons already finished, there’s an almost limitless supply of cheap, reusable character and plot, setting up a good decade’s worth of expansion content.
It’s a clever move – but also a dangerous one. Up until this point, the Family Guy name has provided class-A content in every form; but, as we all know, confident IPs rarely make the jump to the online gaming world with the same success. Take a look at Star Trek Online, Battlestar Galactica Online, Lord of the Rings Online – sure, these games are arguably on the less terribad side of the fence, but they’re as far from class-A as you can get – these aren’t quality representatives of their IP, and neither is Family Guy Online.
But I digress. Making Free to Play MMOs isn’t about quality representation of the IP – making Free to Play MMOs is about making money, and in that element (and that alone), Family Guy Online is going to be a resounding success, because it follows all the rules.
What rules? Why, the ‘make a world and let people run around in it’ rules, of course. Don’t worry about doing anything new – that’s not important anymore – all you need to do is build a 3D Quahog, fill it with a bunch of NPCs that vaguely resembles the citizens of Quahog, and have those NPCs offer the players a stack of quests – cleverly interweaving them with episodes from the Family Guy TV series – and play short clips from the series after completing them, to remind your audience that they’re still playing Family Guy by laughing hysterically at content they’ve already seen before.
And that’s exactly what we have with Family Guy Online – complete with achievements, collectables and localised deodorant advertisements on every corner – a virtual Quahog, playable in your browser, with great quality textures and an accurate representation of the characters from the Family Guy world. Just what the doctor ordered. Probably.
Obvious cynicisms of a jaded gamer aside, Family Guy Online begins with an almost typical character creation – almost, because you’re asked to choose a character template before beginning customisation, from a possible Stewie, Lois, Peter, Chris/Meg (and Brian, if you’re willing to fork over some cash) – that will see you choosing from a variety of hair and clothing styles, before appearing at the Griffin House aside your invisible guide – the magnificent Mayor Adam West.
Mayor West will teach you the fundamentals of Family Guy Online – the same fundamentals found in every fantasy MMORPG on the market today – before directing you to one of the Griffin’s to collect your first quest. This quest, like all others I experienced in the beta, have been carefully modelled on… every quest currently available in the fantasy MMORPG genre (subtle enough?) – collect this from there, after killing that, but before talking to them, and every combination in between.
Fortunately, the NPCs in Family Guy Online aren’t bound by the same laws as we non-cartoon humans – they can appear in many places at once, allowing you to get quests from them in different locations. For example, you can get a quest from Stewie while he’s playing in the sandbox, but head to the abandoned house around the corner and you can get another one from from him during his construction project with Brian – one of the episodes from the series.
Outside questing, your core source of gameplay will likely be exploration, as there appear to be hundreds of achievements and collectables strewn throughout Quahog, within the form on small quests, or simple ‘click to discover’ points.
Speaking of Quahog, there are 9 playable areas on the map, which can be accessed by… actually, I have no idea. Probably by completing quests, or gaining levels, or something. At present, I’ve only visited the Suburbs and Downtown, but they both seemed like accurate and appropriate representations of the areas I’ve seen in the series.
What else am I missing… oh, combat. Combat uses the tried-and-true skill-based hotkey system; some skills deal damage, other stun, and so on. It’s highly possible that this combat system contains a lot more depth than I’ve witnessed in 5 levels of gameplay, but I’m not holding my breath.
Outside what I’ve mentioned above, Family Guy Online is a typical fantasy MMORPG with a Quahog-coloured coat of paint; they’ve taken the time to add an acceptable amount of original dialogue, and they’ve kept a lot of the Family Guy humour and style, so fans of the series that also like pick-up-and-play browser MMORPGs with lucrative, balance ignorant cash shops, are likely going to have a lot of fun with this one; however, those looking for a fresh new take on the MMORPG style with Seth McFarlane taking the wheel… well, it looks like we’re going to have to wait a little longer.
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Related: Beta, Family Guy, MMORPG, Review, TV