I, Jedi?

November 24, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

There’s been a lot of discussion recently on the proposed classes for Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I’ve been checking out Darth Hater and Bio Break, but your browsing may have been elsewhere.

As Syp posited, it seems that out of 8 classes, a nice round half of them are light-pipe wielding force-monkeys.  That means Jedi or Sith.  Now, because I’m a bit lazy, I’m going to refer to both Sith and Jedi under the term “Jedi” for the rest of this article.  I’m fully aware of their differing beliefs and philosophies, but quite frankly I think typing “or Sith” a few hundred times for the sake of the pedantic will destroy my soul.  There’s not much of it left, and I’d like to keep what I have.

One of the fun things about life is that we don’t get to decide who we are.  We are born into our station in life.  Boy, girl, rich, poor, it’s all random.  In a game, we create our characters, as if we’re Professor Membrane with our own little “Clone your own You!” kit.

At that point, birth is not random.  It’s not an accident.  It’s a fully perpetrated act of creation.

Let us, for the sake of argument, pretend for a few moments that the events within Star Wars really did occur a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

Those born with the requisite genetic bits to become Jedi are rare.  Then they also need to be discovered by the Jedi Order, and taken off to become Jedi Knights.  There is a huge, teeming galaxy full of people, with only a small percentage able to use the force effectively enough.  So Jedi are a very small part of the population; you definately have to win the genetic lottery, then the lucky break lottery.

In a game, all the rules of random birth are thrown out of the window.  It’s so un-random that we’re even assigned a limited choice of character types; no brewers of blue milk here, thank-you!

And out of that limited selection, half of the choices are Jedi.

Tangent time:  Let’s imagine the situation.  Some characters are in a room:

  • I’m a Jedi me.  I get to shout Wom! whilst carving stuff up with my uber lightsaber, and with my leet mental acuity I get to levitate stuff, and throw stuff about.  And I’m dead good at acrobatics and leaping about.  What do you do?
  • I’m a Smuggler.  I get to…  smuggle stuff.
  • Oh, so you hide stuff?  Isn’t that like tidying?  Because tidying is hiding stuff, isn’t it?  Tell you what, you tidy up the ship, and I’ll go off and adventure?  Can I borrow your Wookie?
  • Hey, don’t mind me, I’ll just brew up some blue milk…

In the films, Jedi are all-powerful.  It takes another Jedi to take one down effectively.  That, or a heavily armed squad of clones who get the jump on a Jedi, on account of the Jedi thinking they’re on the same side.

Even in the Original Trilogy, the signs are there.  It’s Obi-Wan and Vader fighting each other in A New Hope.  In Empire Strikes Back, Vader makes Solo look like a chump as he casually “Talk to the hand”s Solo’s best quick-draw.  CoolAsFuck.  And in Return of the Jedi, it’s three Jedi in a room, bitching each other up, whilst everyone else is off picking on each other.

Jedi fight Jedi.  Norms fight Norms.  It’s a two-tier galaxy, kids.

And here we are, looking at a game that seeks to emulate those films, and we’re surprised that half of the classes are Jedi?  In a way, I’m surprised they’re not all Jedi.  Because given that Jedi are far more powerful than everyone else, who would want to intentionally gimp themselves?

Jedi fly better than everyone else.  They shoot better.  They hit people with wom-sticks better.  They ride anything.  They drive really, really well.  They take pain better.  They are neither clumsy nor random.  They do, or do not.  They never try.  Anyone else might be a specialist, but Jedi are just plain all-round fantastic.

So how do you create non-Jedi classes in a Star Wars world, without:

  • Rendering them pointless, because they’re so underpowered in comparison, or
  • Rendering the Jedi farcically weak?

Game balance is one of those fantastic things that really, really eats the soul out of an Intellectual Property.  It’s rare you find an author that thinks of game balance whilst writing.  And any one that does is probably not putting a good story forward; would Dune work if Paul Atreides was balanced to the same power level as Duncan Idaho, or maybe Gurney Halleck.  How about Stilgar?

Same for Star Wars.  So to be honest, I would perfectly understand if only Jedi classes were available, or if no Jedi classes were available.  Because I’d prefer that to Jedi being intentionally gimped so that there were less complaints that Jedi were too powerful.

Of course they’re powerful.  That’s the point.

I don’t envy Bioware.  They get to try and create a game with a horde of angry Star Wars fans dissecting every decision.  The Lore-Monkeys will scream at them for every game-balance choice.  Theory-crafters will shout at every lore-based choice.  And the Original Trilogy fans will shout because it’s set in some weird non-movie-canon period of time, instead of a perfectly serviceable Galactic Civil War.

From a personal point of view, I really couldn’t give a flying slice-hound for what BioWare do, as long as the game is good.  I’ve grown up with the Star Wars films, and they have made me the geek I am today.  They are now, and will always be, my favourite films.  Everything that uses the Intellectual Property, such as books, merchandising, and games, is based on the films

They are not the films.  They never will be.

If I want the experience of the films, I’ll get them and watch them.  I don’t read a book or play a game.

Good luck, Bioware.  May the Force be with you.

Cheers,
Hawley.

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