Family Guy Online preview with creators Gary Rosenfeld and Ian Verchere
So I was on my way to Twentieth Century Fox for the first time ever. Despite the fact that I absolutely hate going out when it's raining, I was pretty excited to head over to Los Angeles to check out Family Guy Online, the free-to-play MMO from Fox and Roadhouse Interactive. I ended up getting a flat tire on the freeway, which really worried me as I thought I would miss my appointment entirely. Oh, and though this was on Friday the 13th, anyone who really believes any of that malarkey is an outright buffoon.
But I digress. I arrived at Fox in a bit of a bad mood due to my previous altercations with both terrible weather and stupid car maintenance on my part, but was greeted very kindly, being offered both hot and cold beverages upon my arrival. It was nice to get out of the rain and into a snazzy building rife with cardboard cutouts of Family Guy and Simpsons characters, portraits of said characters decorating the walls, and large plush toys placed over desks. Now, I'm not the biggest MMO fan out there. As a matter of fact, I really only like one game in the genre, Glitch, and that's because it's very non-MMO-like. I didn't know what to expect from Family Guy Online, but I would eventually find that it, too, was not just another typical MMO.
While checking out the game in action, SVP of Interactive Games and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products Gary Rosenfeld and Roadhouse CCO Ian Verchere talked me through it, discussing the objective of Family Guy Online and delving deeply into its development. The first thing gamers should know about this free-to-play browser-based title is that it isn't a ridiculously hardcore MMO that only longtime fans of the genre will be able to appreciate. Quite the contrary, actually.
Family Guy Online is being dubbed a "mid-core" MMO. I was told that getting into the virtual world of Quahog is as simple as "opening up the browser and jumping right in." Gamers shouldn't expect "leather armor" and swords, elaborated Verchere. What they should expect, however, is what both Rosenfeld and Verchere called an "MMLOL" experience. Family Guy Online isn't meant to be this massive sprawling epic. No, the developers want to "deliver humor to online play." The main objective of Family Guy Online is to have individuals playing and literally laughing out loud as the game's antics unfold.
And judging by the design of the quests and side missions in the game, it looks like there will definitely be a lot of laughing. Before taking on any particular quests, you can choose to check out a clip from the TV show that directly sets up your objectives. Clearing quests also rewards you with an animated clip from the show, and gamers can expect to revisit a lot of their favorite moments as I was told that the writers and developers revisited practically every episode.
This attention to detail continues into the map of of Quahog. Rosenfeld explained how the game's world was painstakingly recreated to reflect what Quahog would look like in a 3D setting. Family Guy Online runs on the Unity engine, and I was told that this was the ideal choice for creating a proper 3D Quahog rife with the show's hilarious cast of characters. I spent some time just running up and down different streets, and everything certainly seemed like a seamless recreation of the Quahog we see on TV.
Despite the fact that Verchere emphasized the casual gameplay style of Family Guy Online, he was quick to inform me that the game is "set up" for some of the more typical MMO tropes. PvP gameplay and team-based boss battles are all things players can probably expect somewhere down the road, and according to the developers, the game will continue to "evolve and develop" as time passes. Additionally, players will be able to obtain new skills for their characters as they level up, and there will be an online shop filled with skills and attire.
Fans of the series should be aware that you never actually take on the role of the Family Guy cast. Instead, you create your very own character, and classes are based on the Griffin family. The Peter class is your hulking tank character. The Lois class takes on the role of healer, but can certainly handle her (or his) own with a comedic martial arts offense. The Stewie class has ranged attacks. Meanwhile the Chris and Meg class features your all-around characters. There's currently no Brian class, but the bipedal pooch did appear in silhouette form in the demo I was being showed. I was told that for now this class was locked, but Rosenfeld hinted that it could be "coming soon."
Other characters can be seen throughout Quahog, and these all have different purposes. Mayor Adam West, for example, immediately popped up at the start of the game and delivered a few lines of dialogue. He also appeared after a quest where the player character obtained a new hat, praising the new accessory and even making a playful rib about Jewish people. Fans will be glad to know that series writers Alex Carter and Andrew Goldberg were heavily involved in the game's development and were in charge of writing all of its original dialogue. In other words: hell yes!
I made sure to ask about Seth MacFarlane's involvement in Family Guy Online, to which Rosenfeld replied that he was heavily involved as the executive producer. MacFarlane has been in charge of the game's original content, and the entire scripts of characters he voices on the TV show are voiced by him in the game. I would like to once again say ... hell yes!
As previously stated, I'm not a big fan of MMOs. That said, I'm actually looking forward to playing Family Guy Online. I had so much fun checking out the demo and playing the game for myself that I had completely forgotten about the lousy weather and my crummy tires. If you're a fan of the series, you should definitely watch out for it as there is sure to be plenty of content to keep you interested. As if the series-themed quests weren't enough, players will be able to engage in different mini-games (such as chasing the Greased Up Deaf Guy) and find collectible items all around Quahog. You'll be able to visit the Drunken Clam, a spot that the developers plan to make a social area with different mini-games. (There was even a mechanical bull, but details on that element were under wraps during my demo session.)
Something fans should really be looking forward to is the relevancy of Family Guy Online to the TV show. Rosenfeld stated that memorable items seen in a new episode will be incorporated into the game once the show goes off the air. Additionally, the online status of the MMO will allow for pop culture references to be plugged almost immediately. Special events based on real-life holidays and TV episode happenings will also be referenced in Family Guy Online.
It goes without saying that if you're a fan of Family Guy and you play video games even at the casual level, you should definitely keep a lookout for Family Guy Online. Combat and collection doesn't seem too deep, but I think this game will be all about the authentic Family Guy experience more than anything. As of today, you can check out the game's open beta, so I would suggest trying it out if you can. What I really got from my time watching and playing a bit of the game is that it really lets you explore Quahog any way you want. So whether you want to team up with a group of other players or just explore on your own and have a good laugh at the game's gags, you can play how you want to. Both Rosenfeld and Verchere told me that Family Guy Online was meant to be "an extension of the Family Guy show", and it certainly looks that way.