If you have not heard there is a new Star Wars MMO brewing: http://www.swtor.com/
Now even as a fan I tried out Star Wars Galaxies when it came out years and years ago. I, like many of the people at that time, thought it looked like reskinned Ever Quest junk. It also played horribly. It released based on the promise of the game massively improving when the Space Combat expansion came out. Well to make the long story short that sucked too, and so have the other five expansions (even one named so expressively as "Rage of the Wookies").
When it comes to most games based on the lore and legend of Star Wars there are not many that really disappoint at all. Battle Front and Battle Front 2 have been some of my hallmark games for years. I could go on about great SW games, but I looked around and there have been more than 150 game titles launched for every game system known to man including Cell Phones. There is enough lore in the SW universe that one could get a graduate degree in it.
Some of the games titles were not the best and moved in a run-of-the-mill-way when they know most of us will just buy the thing because of the word "Star" next to the word "Wars" in the title. The fact is that they are right, we will. Let's face it if Force Unleashed had been about a psychic space hamster with a lazer sword defending playgrounds... well I would have played it so bad example, but would it have done as well? The game was not about a psychic hamster but a amazingly powerful Sith that was connected to one of the greatest villains in popular culture ever. Regardless of the game having break through technology in dynamics and AI it was the fact that it was a Sith/Jedi dude hurling tie fighters at ground troops with his power that made us, in the end, go "Wwwwooooooowwwwwwwww*drool*" and buy the game. (note: I don't own it yet, I'm very poor but I have friends with money and PS3s)
Only true game nerds such as myself would have been watching the dynamics and AI collaboration before seeing the light saber and tie fighters. I would have been playing Psy Space Hampters, Playground Battlemasters (or PSHPB (psh-pib) for us keeping track) blowing the crap out of everything and trying to see where the dynamic engine breaks wondering why people were all going on about some new Darth Suncrusher* game. Again that is the nerd in me.
Which brings me to my point: What to do about Jedi?
One of the big reasons that playing Mr SuperSith in FU (which is the greatest short name for a game ever) is so much fun is because no one else is like him and he is special and important. Only the most penultimate of "normal" people get mentioned and that is only truly because of their interaction with Jedi. Granted this game is taking place during a time where there were tons of Jedi and Sith in every coffee house glaring at each other. So really the question isn't what to do about the special super warriors in a galaxy far far away; the question is what happens when everyone is a Jedi and no one is special?
One of the major things about MMOs is that, essentially, it is a big game of dolly dress up. Everyone wants to look cool and unique so game companies are forced to make the game have so many possible styles and items to obtain and choose from it is like the LA fashion week each and every expansion. Want proof? Look at WoW for the argueable staple in todays MMO game.
- First game, World of Warcraft: Traditional blizzard warcraft over the top fun look. Beats the pants off other MMOs with a fresh cartoon look but still has great appeal.
- Second expansion, Burning Crusade: Gems, shards, daemons, and my Pally looked like a benched power ranger in glowy purple. Beats the crap out of what new fancy content that the online Final Fantasy game puts out at that time.
- Third expansion, Lich King: Rough mean looking weapons and armor, arguably has the rough look of Warhammer to it and presents good competition to the new coming game.
Aside from odd quirks in handles and blade color the light saber is the same all around. Only the characters made them significantly different and appealing to us. Face it Darth Maul was pretty cool. In the last scene (no matter what you think about the first movie) when he drew one blade, then turned the weapon over to draw the second one we even knew was coming it was sexy, but he made it that way. Thankfully fashion is some thousand years in the past so it might not be all robes. Race would play a key role in making one character appear greatly different and this much is true of the SW universe when there are a great deal of races to choose from. Specializing in force powers to create pseudo classes also sounds appealing. I understand that there will be a continuing storyline in true BioWare brilliance, but I wonder at what confines this could put on my game, and what value I will have in it when I know everyone else could be doing the exact same thing. Can you say the most massive online game walk-through ever made? I might do it myself and retire on the subscription service.
To be clear here I am a fan of Star Wars. I also keep a place in my heart for Bioware writers and game developers that my future children will have trouble accessing. Mr. Muzyka and Mr. Zeschuk range high on people I would attack a small country on my own just to sit around, have a beer, and listen to them talk. I have high hopes for this MMO and great faith in the minds behind it. So where does this trepidation come from? Well because I love this stuff so much. I have the same reflex when I hear new Indiana Jones movies are coming out and someone is making a live action Thundercats movie. Only the greatest of people should be allowed access to my childhood dreams and loves. In this case I think we are spot on.
I think this game has massive potential but as much as I want it to appeal to the fans I want it to appeal to players all over and the SW story is a major challenge to do that. It was written first as a story and a game second where all other giants in this field like WoW it was just the reverse. I wish BioWare all of the best of luck and if I can be there for any of it (including back massages) I will. I would like to bring one of my bosses with me because I am pretty sure that he sleeps on Return of the Jedi bedroom sheets and deserves it more than I.
However I will promise you this one thing: If even one midiclorian potion shows up I am going to the dark-side and booking a flight to the ranch.
*I know the name is Starkiller, shout out to by book reading friends.