Friday, August 15, 2008


So my vacation last month disrupted my posting schedule, leaving me with a few things I really wanted to talk about that now seem out of date. But I won't let this deter me--I will just post on last month's news as if it's this month's.

Nearly a month ago now, at E3, Electronic Arts chief executive John Riccitiello confirmed that EA, with LucasArts and BioWare, is working on a KotOR MMORPG.

For those of you who need that spelled out for you, an MMORPG is a massively multiplayer online RPG (role-playing game), like World of Warcraft. KotOR (Knights of the Old Republic) is an RPG set in the Star Wars universe four thousand years before the events of the Star Wars movies. The first game, developed by the renowned BioWare, was released in 2003 to much acclaim from fans and critics and received many awards. KotOR II, developed by Obsidian, was released in 2004 (on Xbox--the PC version came out in 2005) and received considerable acclaim as well, though a rushed deadline had left it a little rough around the edges. For my part, KotOR restored my faith in the Star Wars franchise amidst all the lousy movies that had been coming out. BioWare is my style--talky but with satisfying battles, lovable NPCs (non-player characters, usually referring to characters who accompany and fight by the PC's side), and a character-focused, absorbing story with choices you can make that will affect the way both individual quests and the overall story will play out. KotOR easily remains one of my favorite games.

I received the news of an upcoming KotOR MMO with mixed feelings, simultaneously experiencing giddy excitement beyond measure and trepidation, with perhaps slight disappointment. On the one hand, the KotOR universe is one of my favorites. I was totally obsessed with the game while I was playing it, and it is the only game where I have consciously felt a real sense of sadness as I neared the end--I remember taking my time on that last planet, knowing that I could never play the game again for the first time (unless maybe I got neuralized). Like most of the games I play it has good replay value, but there is something sacred about the first time you play through a game. Since finishing KotOR II, I've been dying for a sequel to be made. So much was left undone, and I can't wait to dive back into that universe. With war brewing, an MMO is a fitting milieu for the sequel.

But on the other hand... I don't play MMOs. This has always been my policy. I spend too much time obsessively playing my single-player RPGs as it is. MMOs steal your soul. While in single-player games, your enemies will wait patiently for you to load your saved game and come back, in an MMO, every moment that you are not online not only means you are not gaining power, but your opponent could be gaining power without you to challenge him. To gain an advantage, you must spend every free moment online. If this doesn't sound so serious to you, just watch The Guild. In addition to being pretty creepy, it's totally hilarious.

*Sigh*. In truth, really, The Guild somehow perversely makes me want to play MMORPGs more. It doesn't have to do with envying the lives of any of the characters, but with the fact that Felicia Day is awesome. Who wouldn't want to be like her? If she can play MMOs and be that cool... I guess my stance against MMOs is breaking down. They may steal your soul, but maybe it's worth it. Can't really say my soul has ever felt at home in the real world; maybe it belongs in a fantastic MMO adventure world, after all. Okay, that's getting a little sad... Anyway, maybe KotOR is the game that will finally break down my defenses and make me give in to the world of the MMO.

But there's another concern I have with a KotOR MMO, one motivated in selfishness and fueling my slight disappointment. In the first two KotOR games, the single-player nature of the games lent itself to a very Me-centric storyline. While the player characters were different in the two games, they were both notable individuals--crucial players in galactically important events. I was particularly attached to the PC in the original--the PC in KotORII was interesting, but since I was never really sure how much she knew that I, the flesh-and-blood player sitting at the computer, didn't know, there was a disconnect there that kept me from really bonding with her. But the MMO environment brings anonymity--each player character is just part of the hoi polloi, one of many. The focus of the MMO is on lots of quests rather than on a concentrated storyline with NPCs that you learn to love, or at least love to hate. I have trouble imagining being in the KotOR universe without being one of the characters in the original games, especially if either of them make an appearance, since they wouldn't look or act like the characters I created in KotOR and KotORII. If the MMO is supposed to be a sequel to the first two KotOR games, I'm not sure how the game developers will handle the continuity. I want to revisit KotOR, but I want to be the KotOR PC again.

Despite my reservations, I am thrilled that they are working on this project, and I can't wait to see how it turns out. I have faith in BioWare's ability churn out a good product. I just hope it doesn't disrupt my image of the characters that I grew to love so much.

No comments: