Thursday, March 8, 2012

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star Wars: The Old Republic, the new massively multiplayer online game is a (somewhat cartoony) theatrical masterpiece melded into a standard MMO engine.  While they have done something unique and wonderful, the underlying game is not much different from most other popular MMOGs.  Is following the formula good or bad?  Depends on the judge of course.  For me, I like sandbox environments and unique game mechanics, so I'm not too thrilled about that part.

Making a game that is so focused on telling a compelling story seems like a waste of a persistent online world.  I would like to see an MMOG made that takes advantage of the medium in a powerful way, but still remains a game.  The cool thing about having a virtual world that grows is the ability for players to make a mark in it.  Why do most games have some magical trading post where everything in the world is searchable?  Why can't players make stores that other players could visit?  Why do most games have no way for the players to modify the landscape in areas by constructing buildings, or strip mining, or planting crops?  Why are there no consequences?  If I die, I can just magically come back to the same place with nothing lost.  If I fail a quest, I don't get berated by the quest giver, I just go back in time and try it again.  It's great that you can make a permanent impact on your character though the story interactions, but other than your own character, the world is a fairly static, re-spawning obstacle course.

It seems that part of why the game makers have opted to go with a game mechanic base very similar to the World of Warcraft formula may have been a strategic move to not only appeal to a wide audience, but to appeal specifically to the audience of the players of the largest MMO out there right now.  With such a big production and initial investment, I suppose it would be financial suicide to try something innovative enough that would risk making a game that is for a niche audience.  So, in a way, I cannot blame them, but at the same time, I can't see the game holding my interest for long.  So long, and thanks for all the stories, Bioware.