The Geek Side of the Force?December 7, 2009 at 10:49 pm | Posted in General | 2 Comments
Tags: choice, companion characters, game design, Grouping, Hawley really wants a Light-Sabre for Christmas, star wars the old republic, wom sticks
One of the great things about being an IT geek is that I get to play with new tech toys. I like to think I’m an early adopter, but the fact of the matter is that being an early adopter is expensive; being a bleeding edge adopter is stupidly expensive.
This means that I’m not as early an adopter as I might want to be. I tend to look at whatever tech toys are out there, or coming out, and decide if they’re something that I’ll use, as much as something that I’ll want.
You may be wondering about why I’m rambling about my views towards early adoption, but there is a point. I think.
I think the point is one of open-mindedness, and willingness to embrace change. Where would we be now if we’d all hated mobile phones, or digital downloads, or (gasp) paying a subscription to play a game we’d already paid for? Most geeks are early adopters in some way, shape or form; we’re already more open-minded than most.
And this is where MMOs come in.
Star Wars: The Old Republic is receiving a lot of press at the moment. It’s hardly surprising, what with it being one of the most anticipated Intellectual Properties on the market, and it being in the process of releasing some much anticipated information regarding the game, it’s ethos, and the characters we’ll get to play. Yes, I can see you Star Trek Online, but I’m not about to get into any sort of Star Wars/Star Trek geek-off. The intarnet is full of gladiatorial pits where geeks go to fight that fight, and this isn’t one of them.
I’m more wondering at my own initial reaction to these announcements, than anyone else’s. I am, after all, an opinionated slacker, and assembling intarnet opinion is a task that fills me with the big fears. I can, however, throw my opinion out into the void that is the intarnet as well as the next chap, so I’ll do that.
Let’s start with Companions.
Companions just seem wrong. Over the years I’ve come to not mind pet classes. I think the only pet class I’ve encountered that wasn’t stupidly overpowered is the Captain (evil oppressor of the proletariat that they are), but turning each class in the game into a pet class is something else. I’m also aware that Companions aren’t necessarily pets, but that opens up a whole new can of worms; that my Companions will be uncontrolled, aggro-whoring add-magnets that will just get me killed. That I won’t be able to use any clever or special tactics because the Companions won’t let me.
But then I spent a short time gaming, and analysing how I was playing. Which was largely solo. I was going through the early part of Mirkwood, and I was alone. The more difficult areas I spent in the same area as other players, with the same goals as them, but we never grouped.
So what? Well, my gaming would have been enhanced with the handy-dandy ability to summon up a group of characters to help me out in the more difficult quests. Had I not been a sneaky, selfish but ultimately smart player who (in my defence) was healing all the other solo players, I would have become annoyed that I just wasn’t capable of completing those quests, and getting into Mirkwood proper.
Because, let’s face it, sometimes getting even a small group for open-world questing can be really annoying and time-consuming. Especially when levelling alts; many of my alts have had to miss out rafts of group quests, because finding a group was effectively pointless.
It also works within the Intellectual Property. Star Wars is about the adventures of a group; it’s about Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2-D2 and C-3PO. It’s not about Luke taking on the Empire by himself, with occasional moments of grouping; LFM Trench Run, need Y-Wing and DPS.
And if anyone does think they’ll replace real live people as group members then I have a bridge for sale. Companions will be a utility, a way of enabling people to see the group content easier, rather than a way to complete the content easier. To quote a certain smuggler; “Good against remotes? That’s one thing. Good against the living? Now that’s another…”
Paladins, Mr Asmodeus! Thousands of them!
It’s an old Dungeons and Dragons gag; wondering who is knocking on the door, Asmodeus sends his factotum to find out. It’s a line that often pops into my head when I hear or read a comment about (potentially) over-subscribed classes.
I am not immune to the seductive charms of playing an under-subscribed class, but I’m beginning to wonder if games with less than 35 classes really do get under-subscribed classes, or whether it’s largely personal perspective that colours things.
The fact of the matter is that making Jedi a playable class is always going to make them a popular choice for players. Let me first canvas the lizardy-bit of my brain for an opinion; “WOM STICK! WOM STICK! WOM STICK!”
Hmm. If that’s not a vote for Jedi light-sabres, nothing is. The fact is that light-sabres are an iconic movie weapon. Deckard’s blaster, the USMC Pulse Rifle, even the Federation-issue Phaser aren’t as iconic, as recognised, as the light-sabre is.
Add to that a group of magic monks that think nothing of bringing a knife to a gunfight, and of course it’s going to be popular. In the same way that people want to play smugglers, people will want to play Jedi. They’ll be living the dream of being in the movies.
Heck, I’ll be living the dream with them.
And I will stand up now, and say I’ll be playing a Jedi Consular. I can say this with authority, because unless Bioware introduce cripplingly low character slots per server (curse you, SOE, for all your Star Wars Galaxies annoyances!) I’ll be creating a Smuggler, Trooper, Imperial Agent and Jedi Knight as well. Being Alt-tastic is like that. I like trying them all out.
Depending on the re-specialisation possibilities, I might even have more than one of certain classes. How crazy can one blogger be?
Quite a lot. Because I must be feeling really, really charitable today; I refuse to get antsy about how many people will be playing Jedi.
They’re paying their money just like I’m paying mine, so they get to play whatever they want.
How’s it lookin’?
The artwork style seems to be slightly cartoony, not as much of a cgi cartoon as the Clone Wars series, but not exactly photo-realistic. I’d assume this has been chosen to allow the maximum number of current pcs to run the game, as well as extending the lifetime of the game due to lessening the dating effect as video game effects improve. It’s smart thinking, and has helped World of Warcraft immeasurably.
I’d prefer to have a game that ran smoothly whilst looking good, than a game that could look amazing if I didn’t have to minimise all the settings because I don’t want to spend a couple of grand on a new gaming rig.
From a design perspective, I’m also not bothered if it does look slightly cartoony. I’m playing a game on a pc; I’m old enough to remember when people were blobs. Heck, I remember when I was represented in game by an “@” symbol. And every so often, I am still represented in game by an “@” symbol. Good game-play makes a good game, regardless of looks. I can be shallow, but not that shallow.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
… Mr Lucas said; “Let there be Star Wars”. And Bioware want to bring us a game with the same epic sweep of story-telling, but within an MMO. Can it be done? Should it be done?
If they create a game that blows my socks off, and part of that is a fantastic storyline, then I won’t be complaining. I’ll be too busy playing the really cool game. It doesn’t have to be on rails, it doesn’t have to mean it will be a single player game hiding under the skirts of an MMO, and it most certainly doesn’t have to get in the way of players forming groups. I refuse to shout at Bioware for trying to be original, when all the time I desperately want MMO developers to try something innovative. Them wanting to treat storyline a little more importantly than it has been treated in the past is something that I should applaud them for, rather than deride them.
Bioware seems to be doing whatever they can to let me play their game. That means giving me companion characters who can help me see the group content, even if I’m the only person on the server. It means letting me play not one, but two different types of Jedi, as well as a couple of cool non-Jedi classes. It means letting me play them on my current pc, not a pc that I’ll have to save for from now until game release (and still not afford). And it means them trying to bring storyline, and through it plot engagement, to the fore.
So I can either choose to see what will happen and judge Bioware by the results they achieve, or I can decide to take what they release and judge it using my own preconceptions.
Having thought long and hard, and over many, many brews, I’m going for the former. As stated previously, if I want the experience of watching Star Wars, I’ll watch the film. I don’t want Bioware to make a Star Wars movie and I really don’t want them to create Star Wars: The Re-enactment MMO; I want them to make a game. A really good, inclusive and overall just plain fun MMO that deserves a chance to rock my world.
And they’ll get that chance, from me.