T.I. headlining hip-hop MMORPG

Incarcerated hip-hop star first act to sign onto Platinum Life, a new free-to-play multiplatform massively multiplayer game which will incorporate role-playing and rhythm elements.

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T.I., on the outside…
T.I., on the outside…

On May 26, hip-hop artist T.I. began serving a 366-day prison sentence for federal weapons charges. But being behind bars isn't stopping the Atlanta-based rapper from expanding into new media--games, specifically. This morning, Austin, Texas-based independent developer Heatwave Interactive announced it is working on a hip-hop massively multiplayer game starring the rapper, born Clifford Harris Jr.

Called Platinum Life, the microtransactions-based title will take standard free-to-play role-playing game mechanics and adapt them to a hip-hop music-scene setting. Players will take the role of an aspiring musician who must earn "fame," the game's version of experience points. This is accomplished primarily by playing shows in the game, where players will perform existing hip-hop hits by engaging in Guitar Hero-like, pattern-matching rhythm minigames and more traditional RPG actions.

Players can perform...
Players can perform...

Platinum Life will also incorporate other RPG elements, such as non-player characters. NPCs can also be used as back-up musicians or DJs during shows, although Heatwave CEO Anthony Castoro, a former Ultima Online developer, said that players will be encouraged to form their own groups. These groups will be able to take advantage of a certain level of music-creation tools, but will act more like a party in a traditional RPG, using spell-like special abilities to move the virtual crowd.

Performing more and more successful shows will put players on the path to follow an in-game "icon"--a real-life musician who offers a career path for players to emulate. T.I. will be the first such icon, with Castoro saying the game will feature "around a dozen" major real-life musicians as icons, whom players can eventually open up for at major venues. These icons will also determine character classes, which will include rappers, R&B singers, DJs, and other musicians.

As a player becomes more famous, the size of his NPC entourage will increase--as will the "drama" the NPCs in said entourage creates. This drama system will task the player with missions, such as helping out an entourage member who is in a troubled relationship or in trouble with the law.

...but they'll have to make sure their entourage stays out of trouble.
...but they'll have to make sure their entourage stays out of trouble.

Speaking of legal troubles, Castoro was emphatic that Platinum Life would not be as violent as other hip-hop themed games, such as Def Jam Icon or 50 Cent: Blood in the Sand. Though players can get into scuffles with rival crews, there won't be any shooting or killing. However, the game's open-world setting will allow for some Grand Theft Auto-style gameplay, with the paparazzi hounding players much like the police did in GTAIV.

Heatwave is aiming to release Platinum Life on the PC and other undefined platforms in 2011 or 2012. However, the company will begin building up to the final game's launch with a series of social media initiatives, the first two of which are expected to arrive this fall.

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