Friday, July 2, 2010

Can't wait for Star Wars: The Old Republic

So two weeks ago I gushed about how much I want a Kinect, and how cool Felicia Day was trying it out at E3. But really, the thing at E3 that I am truly most excited about is BioWare's upcoming massively multiplayer online game (MMO), Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR).

As a fan of BioWare's own Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KotOR) and Obsidian's KotOR 2, I was disappointed when it was announced that instead of a straight follow-up sequel, BioWare was doing an MMO sequel set three hundred years after the previous games. I'm still a little sad that they didn't tie up the plots set in motion in KotOR 1 and 2 with a KotOR 3 game featuring all of our favorite characters from the previous games. But based on what I've heard so far about The Old Republic, I think I can smother that disappointment with the awesomeness that will be BioWare's first MMO.

For those unfamiliar with these things, BioWare (creator of Baldur's Gate I and II, Neverwinter Nights, KotOR, and Mass Effect 1 and 2) is known for games with complex stories, strong writing, and plenty of player choices affecting the outcome of the story; a variety of interesting non-player characters (NPCs); and branching conversations, where player dialogue choices can steer conversations in different directions. That's why I love BioWare games so much. When I play a game, I want to feel immersed in an exciting story and world where I feel like I'm doing interesting and relevant things. However, these are traits that MMOs are not necessarily known for. After all, how could you possibly make a game for millions of players that includes all of those things? I can't speak for all of them, but I generally think of MMOs as games with straightforward stories that the individual players can't influence; a focus on other players which takes away the need for interesting NPCs; and largely one-sided conversations where NPCs just tell you to do things for them.

SWTOR is an MMO, but BioWare isn't skimping on any of the...BioWare-ness. That makes it one of the most ambitious video games ever made. Each of the eight classes that players can choose from has its own complex, engaging storyline where the player will get to make a variety of tough choices. Each class will have its own selection of NPCs to recruit. And, somehow, the game will allow branching conversation choices, even when multiple player characters (PCs) are present in the conversation. Furthermore, all dialogue will be fully voiced. Every possible line spoken by every NPC and every PC will be read by a voice actor in a recording studio so that the audio world of the game is complete. That is a LOT of dialogue (BioWare's Director of Audio described it as 10 KotORs back to back).

About the character classes. Players will get to choose between two allegiances: the Sith Empire, or the Galactic Republic. Those siding with the Republic choose from the Trooper, Smuggler, Jedi Knight, and Jedi Consular classes. Those siding with the Sith choose from the Bounty Hunter, Imperial Agent, Sith Warrior, and Sith Inquisitor classes. Now, I almost always like to play "good" characters in games (in this case, that would generally mean the Republic). When I first learned what all the classes were, I decided that I would probably want to play as a Jedi Consular or a Jedi Knight. I mean, who wouldn't want to be a Force user? After watching a few more videos and thinking about it a little more, I decided that a Smuggler might be fun too (Han Solo is the man, after all). And out of curiosity I might consider trying a Sith Warrior or Inquisitor in order to see some of the Dark Side story, since BioWare has said that we will see no story overlap between the two allegiances. But I dismissed the idea of playing as a Trooper or Bounty Hunter, and the Imperial Agent sounded totally lame. UNTIL I read the developer blogs. Each of the eight classes has a post written by one of the writers working on its story, giving readers an idea of what the class's story is like, how it feels to play that class, and what choices the player will have to make as that class. And somehow, these blogs made each class sound awesome! Even the Imperial Agent sounds cool, sort of like a galactic CIA operative, holding her own amongst people with greater firepower because she holds the invaluable secrets, working behind the scenes not for glory but because everything would fall apart without her. Now I want to play them all! I really don't know where to start.

Another awesome thing in SWTOR that we learned at E3: Each player gets his or her own spaceship. I am so excited about it. A place that you can relax in between missions, talk to your NPC teammates, and customize as you see fit (I hope there's a good amount of customization!). And, even better, you can invite other players to visit, so you can show off your digs. (That was one of my sadnesses with Morrowind: I had the coolest stronghold that I spent a considerable amount of time decorating very thoughtfully, but no one ever got to see it).

There are so many cool things we already know about SWTOR, and probably many more that haven't been announced yet. I can hardly wait for its release. I'm all signed up for testing...along with everyone in the world. But, please, please pick me! I'm in Hawaii, so there can't be many people in my time zone! I'm a girl, plus I'm very meticulous, so I can help a lot! Really! Please? Oh well, chances are I'll have to wait until next spring to play it with everyone else. But I have faith that it'll be worth the wait (and the price). So, come spring 2011, you'll find me in a galaxy far, far away playing a Jedi Knight. No--Imperial Agent. No--Sith Warrior. No--Smuggler. Gaaah!

Here's the awesome trailer from E3:

See it on the SWTOR website here:
(I would have embedded that one, but it played automatically, which is annoying.)


CatNip Thief said...

For me I think Guild Wars and MxO where the only games I played that I felt important to the story. Guild wars is an MMO but at the same time it's like a single player game too. Cause you can pretty much play it that way. Grab a NPC party and play the quests. You get cut scenes to progress the story and you see whats going on and your character falls into the story and becomes important to the games adventure.

MxO had a different feel but was close in terms of story. You join a faction and they would have these huge events and depending on the end results would determine how the MxO universe would go. At least that's what we thought. One day the developers accidentally posted the end results to an event that had yet to happen or wasn't over and was taken down like a few minutes later but not before it was grabbed and posted everywhere on the net. When the event was over. That post was reposted. So pretty much in the end the writers already determined which faction would win. So it felt pointless to participate in the events as it wasn't gonna change the outcome. Kinda sad really. Smaller events though didn't change some of the in game events by the developers RP team. So you could have each server have a different faction be victorious so when the main story line characters appeared they would say different things on the different servers. That was neat at least.

Eleni said...

I'm not familiar with the workings of MxO, but the idea of the event results influencing the MxO universe sounds cool, even if it wasn't put into practice properly. This works as long as the factions are reasonably balanced against each other. I don't know whether SWTOR will allow events like that to actually influence the SWTOR universe, but it's kind of like each character has their own personal single-player game in which they are important, but other people can team with them and come along for their missions, even if their own missions are unrelated.

I am familiar with Guild Wars (just beat Prophesies a couple weeks ago, finally). In that kind of MMO, the player characters are important to the story, but not so much the players, because there aren't any plot-changing choices to make. It's kind of like Diablo, or many of the Japanese RPGs, where you're saving the world but you only get to do the exact things that people tell you to do--it's a linear storyline. Obviously I enjoy that kind of game as well, but I love a little choice thrown in there (beyond a yes/no I will/will not do this quest).

Ambiguous Geek said...

Oh my word. I so want in on this.

Eleni said...

Haha, yes. It's going to be so epic.

Vanessa said...

I can hardly wait! The downside is it's probably be like WoW, 10-15 days of free trial and only becoming a paying member after that...

Eleni said...

Yeah, I've been playing Guild Wars which is somewhat rare in not charging a monthly fee. SWTOR apparently cost a LOT of money to produce (it's such a huge project, after all) that I can't imagine they wouldn't be charging a monthly fee to recover their costs. But I'll be willing to pay. BioWare is the best.