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Freeze Frame
Sometimes It's All About the "O"
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on June 17, 2005   |   Episode 55 (Show Archive)  


This Final Fantasy XI clock comes in the attractive coffin look so popular with today's gamers!
Online role-playing games get a lot of flack for their lack of originality. Even though there are several break away hits, by and large most massively multiplayer online role playing games are cut from the same cloth. They generally involve beating up on animals roaming the forest, traversing large areas, going on multi-part quests, and making you team up with others to compete against bigger creatures.

But lately it would appear as though companies aren't just taking their game play ideas from other companies, but actually shopping at the same stores for their logos, too. At E3 this year I was struck by Koei's upcoming swashbuckling online role-player, Uncharted Waters Online. But not because it's about time we saw an online pirate game or the fact that it's a Koei game that has nothing to do with Japanese wars; instead it was because the logo looked, well, familiar.

The reason it looked so familiar is because I had just gotten done reading the literature Square Enix had given me about their online service, Play Online. Fans of Square's Final Fantasy XI will surely recognize the logo right

With silly characters, big hair and plenty of ridiculous costumes, here's hoping we never have to see a Phantasy Star movie!
away, and although it's really a very simple design, at least one aspect of the logo manages to look nearly identical to that of Uncharted Waters Online.

But then I started to think back to the game that got me into online role-playing games in the first place. Sega's Phantasy Star Online for the Dreamcast might not be a traditional massively multiplayer online role-playing game (it only allows four gamers to play together at the same time, after all), but it showed me just how much fun working together as a team could be. But now that I look at that logo I realize that it uses the "O" in exactly the same way as Play Online (Final Fantasy XI) and Uncharted Waters. The only difference is that it's pointing a different direction.

Obviously the "O" isn't the only common denominator here. The word "Online" appears in each of those titles, which could go a long way to explain what that stretched out "O" is doing there. But then again, Twisted Metal Black Online didn't use this look, nor did Alien Front Online. In

Pirate games from the old days didn't need some fancy "O" to get the point across, they used pirate ships!
fact, no genre other than role-playing game has used this funky looking "O", leading me to wonder if there's more to it than just being there to represent the "Online" elements.

But even if it is nothing more than a subtle way of advertising that the game is online, there's certainly no reason for two of the companies to take what was already established. I won't get into the battle over who came up with the design first, but shouldn't these companies be trying to go for different designs? After all, there are dozens of memorable video game logos ... why don't these companies come up with something that people will remember years down the road?

It's not like Uncharted Waters Online was pigeonholed by a lack of props they could use for their logo, it's a game about pirates after all. What about an eye patch? Wooden leg? Cannon ball? Hook for a hand?? I mean really, there are hundreds of cool pirate-related props they could have used ... instead they rip off Play Online which was in turn ripping off Phantasy Star Online. When a big "O" is the best you can come up with for your cover about pirates, then maybe it's time to be more of a hands off kind of employee.


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