First off, welcome to the first installment of “The Beej Republic,” an ongoing series where I will cover Star Wars: The Old Republic as it works its way through testing and into our grubby little fanboy hands. I had originally thought of doing this project as a separate blog, but talking it over with Syp, the idea of a regular column is much more appealing for everyone involved.
Of every MMO on the horizon, there is none that interests me like Star Wars: The Old Republic. I read nearly every snippet I can find about it because, in all honesty, the buildup is half the fun of a new MMO release.
But right now, there are two camps on the TOR battlefront. There are the optimists who believe that Bioware should be given the benefit of the doubt based on their track record, and there are the pessimists who fail to see exactly what the big deal is with their announcements.
In The Optimists’ Corner…
Most of the information coming from Bioware these days is admittedly a bit so-so, but the game is still around a year from release. We found out recently that their Advanced Class System will offer customization based on a branching template of a foundation class. There are NPC companions which might be pets or similar to DDO’s hirelings, with varying levels of customization and impact on the player’s personal story. And there’s the story itself, where we know very little about regarding how the multiplayer aspect will affect choices made.
And the optimists looking at TOR tend to see these announcements as being okay, saying that people have wanted new elements for MMOs, but the moment they get them, they deride them because they’re not revolutionary enough. The optimists see the glass being half full with Bioware goodness. They’ve delivered in the past, and they’ll deliver again. If The Old Republic turns out to be KOTOR with a chat window and co-op missions, that’s okay because KOTOR was a fantastic game.
In The Pessimists’ Corner…
The information that Bioware gives us is not just so-so. It’s garbage. In the TOR pessimist’s eyes, the game is starting out on the wrong foot. It is not giving us what we need for the MMORPG genre to stay alive, but is instead infecting the dregs of the social web with the worst disease imaginable: mainstream popularity. The companions are just NPCs or pets, and those have been done before (and better! In single player RPGs, no less!). The Advanced Classes that were touted as an amazing feature are nothing but a Blizzard ripoff that we’ve had for nearly six years. The storyline itself is so self-contained that there is no possible way for Bioware to integrate other players and make any choices actually matter.
Most of the announcements have garnered the derision of many players claiming that these elements are all things that have been done before, and most of the time in single-player RPGs. And that’s where they need to stay. The MMOverse needs new ideas, not ideas recycled from games that may be over a decade old. We don’t play MMOs to micromanage a party to get through an Instance; we party with other players so we can socialize and work as a team. The min-maxers cry at the idea of other people even minutely participating in other players’ stories because they might influence a choice that prevents the player from unlocking X ability five years down the line.
In The Beej Corner…
I’d admit it. I’m squarely in the optimists corner right now. I think the pessimists who look at the early videos and claim the animations are silly need to lay off. I think those who say the game is too cartoonish and garishly colored need to take a look at a certain 12-million-subscriber behemoth’s visual style and popularity. I think those who say that companions are going to suck need to play the game first. There are plenty of games with intricate pet/hireling systems that do just fine. And as for the story naysayers? I would like them to present a single time—one time!—where Bioware’s storytelling has ever been subpar. If there’s one thing the company knows, it’s narrative.
Now, part of this might be based on my undying love of Star Wars as an intellectual property. I hope my discussions don’t seen fanboyish; despite my love for the IP, I want to be as unbiased as I can, providing actual insight on the game. I am probably the biggest Star Wars nerd I know, and for me, TOR is a MMO dream come true. I fell hard for pre-CU/NGE Star Wars Galaxies, hologrinding a Jedi back in the day. I’m the guy who my friends have called to fact-check published authors on their EU lore.
That said, when TOR goes live, my World of Warcraft subscription will be cancelled if it hasn’t been already, my account (potentially) sold off, and a lifetime subscription for The Old Republic purchased. So, yeah, welcome to The Beej Republic.
Where do you stand on The Old Republic? Is it the second coming of the MMOverse, is it a marketing ploy that will fail miserably once it gets into gamers’ hands, or do you just not care one way or another?