This past weekend I finally decided to start reading Robert E. Howard’s sword & sorcery classic Conan the Barbarian. At one point the author felt the need to write a history of the world that Conan inhabited in order to give him a greater sense of “realness”. It’s remarkable how both Howard and Tolkien both supplemented their fantasy worlds with such detailed historical backdrops in order to fully immerse the reader.
In many ways it was those authors who laid the foundations for the idea that worlds beyond our own could be imagined and created. Today’s virtual worlds and MMORPGs owe both of them a debt of gratitude.
However, it was during my reading of this history in the book entitled “The Hyborian Age” that something caught my eye that gave me pause and may be of interest to MMO enthusiasts.
Here’s the passage in question from Conan the Barbarian:
Then the Cataclysm rocked the world. Atlantis and Lemuria sank, and the Pictish Islands were heaved up to form the mountain peaks of a new continent. Sections of the Thurian Continent vanished under the waves, or sinking, formed great inland lakes and seas. Volcanoes broke forth and terrific earthquakes shook down the shining cities of the empires. Whole nations were blotted out.
Sound familiar? Notice that Cataclysm is capitalized. Substitute Atlantis and Lemuris for the Barrens and the Badlands and suddenly you get what sounds like the promotional description for Blizzard’s upcoming World of Warcraft expansion: Cataclysm. As many of us know by now after witnessing the 2009 BlizzCon promotional barrage, Azeroth will be besieged by volcanoes, earthquakes and floods — all eerily similar to the catastrophic events described in Howard’s Conan the Barbarian — except that in Conan’s history the cataclysm is not apparently caused by a dragon.
On a side note, even the WoW: Cataclysm trailer which seems to be narrated by a male Asian voice actor sounds strikingly similar in style and cadence to the opening narration of the Conan the Barbarian movie by veteran Asian character actor and Conan cast member Mako. Coincidence?
Now if there wasn’t an Age of Conan MMO out there, it might not pose a problem. Still, you have to wonder what the developers and publishers of the Conan MMO think about this revelation.
Imagine if the roles were reversed and another MMO company borrowed the title of a major historical event from Warcraft lore and named their expansion after it? Given the protective nature of Activision’s legal department that recently shut down a volunteer project and had an iPhone app pulled it’s safe to assume they might do something about it.