The next Big Bang from Bioware
by Cody Hargreaves and Daniel Ball
Cody: When Dan and I sat down at our Round Table of Gaming (constructed entirely from discarded Playstation 2 game covers and a small collection of BluTak we found underneath my bed) in an attempt to find something interesting and thought-provoking to discuss with you today; there was one game that sprang to both our minds almost immediately: SWTOR.
SWTOR, for those of you that haven’t been trolling the MMO-verse for scraps of information regarding its release these recent months, is the catchy new acronym for the latest and greatest in MMO goodness, Star Wars: The Old Republic. It the next serious contender for the MMO crown; the next in line to take down the champion World of Warcraft; the next Big Bang in a universe that has, of lately, been rather unfortunately Bang free.
And so, when Dan and I sat down at our table, and began to discuss what could be, would be, and should be a part of this most exciting MMO release, we thought you might like to know what exactly we thought might be nice to see.
Space. Lot of space.
Ironically, it the one thing we don’t see too much of in the vast majority of space-faring MMOs, and we want more of it. Give us our super-ultra-hyper-nano drives and our happy-go-lucky pilot and send us on our way. Give us plenty of bad-guys to shoot at while we’re out there. Give us a galaxy, nay, a universe to explore, and don’t give us the map. Oh, and make it fun. If it looks anything like Star Trek Online when it finished, delete the lot and start again. Dan, I think you’re up.
A new Imperial March.
Dan: Forgetting the classics, more often than not game soundtracks are hardly discussed, especially MMO soundtracks. When I started playing Age of Conan earlier this year; however, one aspect of the game really stood out to me: the music.
A lot of MMOs have very generic music, simply cut and paste without much regard, depending on which zone you’re in (low budget and free-to-play MMOs are especially guilty of this). The music in Age of Conan was different, and struck me immediately. Funcom absolutely nailed the mood of each area, and battles were made so much more epic and exciting when the music ramped up. It truly showed how music can be used effectively not just as background noise in a game, and, to me at least, set the standard to which I compare any MMO now.
SWTOR, in my opinion, and if the Star Wars movies are anything to go by, has the potential to completely blow our expectations out of the water. Relative to most MMOs, there a much grander scale (I mean, space, come on!). The possibilities are ridiculously endless, if the effort is put in. There’d be nothing like a movie-esque Star Wars battle theme booming from your speakers as you and your Jedi companions take on some ambushing Sith, or vice versa.
or do not, Lucasarts. There is no try.
Cody: As much as I enjoy sifting through the bloody aftermath of a hundred dead animal corpses in search of whichever part of their anatomy I’ve been tasked with removing this time, a small part of me yearns to experience something new and exciting, something I’ve never seen before. In my mind (and rest assured that at this point in time, I am no game developer), such quests would take the form of missions, specifically tailored to suit not only my level and class, but my reputation and standing with a given planet or race, and of course, my alignment, too.
Say I choose to play as a Bounty Hunter, would the quests I receive from the NPCs around me resemble those given to a Smuggler, or a Sith Lord? History suggests that they would, but I’ve hopes for something more. Imagine what it would be like if the Bounty Hunter class only received quests — contracts — to track and kill other players and NPCs across the galaxy, as their title implies. That would sure as hell change my perception of the MMO.
Or let say that in choosing to play as a Jedi Knight, my sole responsibility would be to track down and eliminate enemy Sith players and Wanted NPCs, while of course completing the mundane requests of the local citizens on a given planet; whereas playing as a Sith Lord would require quite the opposite, tracking Jedi Knights, while terrorising the local townsfolk as the bequest of a Dark Sith Lord. Sounds good to me. Bioware?
A more sympathetic saga
Dan: I completely agree that a quest system even remotely close to the scenario above would do so much for the game. It raises the question in my mind of the quality and delivery of the story.
Being a writer, I understand how hard it can be to develop a story. To its advantage, Star Wars has a lot going for it already. The series has had a lot of room to grow and expand (with its countless offshoots – be it comics, animated series, et al.) but, of course, if you continue to expand something, it bound to encounter problems over time.
I haven’t read/watched/played even half of the Star Wars related media out there; however, I’ve played enough to know that some iterations are downright bad (or, more politely put: were poorly executed.)
Checking out www.swtor.com, it plain to see that a huge amount of work has already gone into the world, its lore, and its characters. Still, I’m a little worried.
Anyone who played an MMO knows just how trivial the story can be in relation to the game, and how easily skipped over it is in a flurry of anxious, loot-hungry clicks. It would be such a shame if this lush new addition to the Star Wars world SWTOR is going to offer is so hastily rushed over. It seems almost inevitable, but done right, specifically in the delivery of the story, SWTOR has the potential to be something truly amazing.
Mainly, I’d really love to connect on an emotional level to the game (and story), and I understand how difficult this process must be when developing an MMO. That said, if this shift in MMO storytelling and immersion is going to occur, I can’t imagine a better time or a better game to set the precedent.
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