Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Old Republic MMORPG

The concept of the MMORPG initially intrigued me. From the early, all text "MUSE" (Multi-User-Simulation-Environment) and "MUD" (Multi-User Dungeon) games to the original Ultima Online. It is part of what drew me into online roleplaying in the first place—beginning with the Battletech MUSE but quickly transferring to the original Star Wars MUSH (Multi-User Shared Habitat/Hallucination). As I was dabbling in these games, I also got the chance to see Ultima Online while visiting my cousin one summer week. This is how I first experienced the concept of MMO games and came to form my opinions on them.

It was a slow process, but I gradually became disenchanted with the concept of online roleplaying—at least in such a huge environment. Why? Well, its simple, really—because there are a whole lot of a**holes out there—many of whom just get their jollies from trying to ruin or crash a game. And even if you can get past them, you run into the hypersensitive over-dramatic types or the hyper-controlling manipulative types. Bleh. Sure, I had my fun online and made some good friends out of the deal, but the bulk of the people frankly annoyed the heck out of me. Most of the blame goes to the anonymous nature of the internet, where people feel (and seemingly rightly so) that there are no consequences for being as big of an a**-hat as they want to be.

And so it was with a groan of disappointment that I first heard that the video game company Bioware was producing NOT a sequel to their awesome Knights of the Old Republic series, but rather an MMORPG. Star Wars: The Old Republic is (to my knowledge) the second major attempt at a Star Wars online game—the first being Star Wars: Galaxies. And while I have nothing but love for Bioware, I have a very difficult time believing that this game—no matter how pretty it looks—is not going to be World of Warcraft with lightsabers.

WoW is THE MMORPG against which all others are measured. They must be doing something right to be as popular as they are. But even so, every thing I have seen about the game has turned me off (and no, I'm not just talking about that South Park episode). The Leeroy Jenkins video, while funny, shows a kind of mathematical 'grind' type of gaming I just find boring. Throw in all the 'Individual' quests in which your party has to take down a bad guy—only to realize that every other person in the game has probably done the same exact quest... boring and disappointing. The concept of going out, killing critters, 'harvesting' treasure and goods and selling them... again, it is all just 'grind'. No drama. No plot. No development. Yeah, they may launch 'metaplots' like the king of darkness or whatever, but those all occur and resolve without any real input or influence from players. You can't REALLY effect the world as whole. If you don't play for a week or a month, the plot will continue without you. And then you add on top of this the fact that so many people online are jerks...well, you have a recipe for a game type that I just don't want to play.

Bioware is known for their immersive and story-driven games, where your character's choices have an effect (to at least some extent) on the environment around them, and certainly upon the end result of the story. In comments they've made about this game, they've stated that they're going to try to bring that same kind of 'personal touch' to Star Wars: The Old Republic. Frankly? I don't see how it is possible. You run into the same thing you would with any MMO—if you have one group of players go up against a particular 'Sith Lord', then you have to make that same mission available to every other player on the game. So everyone was 'the chosen one' who defeated Darth Badass. No uniqueness. And you STILL have the problem with online jerks. While reading some forum stuff on the Bioware site, I found this discussion. It just...makes me cringe to think that if I did even try this game, I'd be in the same world as these people (and note, and typing or grammar errors in the below are not my own):

Oparey: The Sith stand no chance against the Republic, The troopers alone are almost more then enough to destroy the sith, and to top that the Jedi are much more powerful and well trained then the Sith!

Darth Travech: i can see that you want die trooper. but just wait, one sith lord, can destroy and kill all soldiers of one battalion. just one sith lord. without imperial agents, nothing, one sith lord alone. anyway, the troopers don't have enough force to kill should know that you're lost and , also your republic.

MaxStarkiller: For the jedi

Darth Travech (Again): shut up jedi. you should know the jedi are weak, the jedi power can't be compared with our power, our power does not have one limit, the truth is we'll destroy the republic and crush the jedi order, together, the sith lords, will enter to the jedi temple and we'll kill, the kids if they don't want join us, if they don't want be our apprentices, we'll kill the padawans, knights, masters. all jedi will die.

Amoman: join the republic so the sith are good but the trooper and smuggler can take them down before they get close to attack.

Darth Travech (AGAIN): i can't believe, how you can think that? the power of the dark side of the force, is more strong than the troop's power, the solders know this, only together, we can rule the galaxy, only with our power, we can defeat the republic and crush the jedi order.

This kind of witty banter goes back and forth for several pages...and let me remind you this is just a forum for comments on a posted video. It isn't a roleplaying page or anything like that. Now, a while later, Darth Travech blesses us once more with his wisdom:

Darth Travech: perhaps, i only use the force, i just use powers of the dark side, not light side, maybe i can be a ignorant about that, but, listen, i am not a sith inquisitor, the sith inquisitor is who uses the force, not lightsaber, but i was trained as a sith warrior. the sith warrior is who uses the lightsaber more than the power of the force, but also the sith warrior uses the force, but no so much as sith inquisitor.


Darth Travech: the lightsaber cant be blocked with the force, only other lightsaber can block it, anyway, you must learn more about the force, skills and lightsaber uses. i've said that, becouse i am a sith lord.

Okay, so... whatever. This guy is obviously a fan of Star Wars, and maybe he's even attempting to roleplay here (on a comment forum...), but even so, who would WANT to roleplay with that.

Maybe I sound like a prude, and maybe I am, but...its doofs like that who just make me not even want to consider playing an MMO.

And yet...

Holy hell, have you SEEN the cinematic 'trailers' that Bioware has produced for this game? They are two of the best trailers I've seen for anything, let alone a video game. The first depicts a Sith attack upon the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. The Second depicts a rag-tag group of Republic troopers battling a Sith invasion force on Alderaan. Seeing these trailers makes me want to see a MOVIE based on these events. Unfortunately, I know that the game won't even come close to being as cool as these trailers are. Sigh. Am I still intrigued by the Star Wars MMO? Yes, a little, but probably not enough to consider buying it (of course, if it doesn't come out for Mac then the whole matter is academic anyway).

1 comment:

  1. Darth Travech: All your base are belong to us.

    Come on, you were thinking it, too. Admit it!

    There is a certain amount of suspension of disbelief that you have to have to enjoy an MMO. More than a single-player video game. I played City of Heroes quite a bit, and used to joke about how we'd beat Frostfire (which was the first 'long' villain adventure, really), and immediately start the same mission over because someone else on the team had it. The joke was, "DANG... this guy's got some really good lawyers. We just arrested him 5 minutes ago, and he's already out again, recruited a whole new set of lackeys, and set up an entire base in a new (or occasionally even the same) building!"

    You have to be able to get past that and go through the storyline for what it is. You can't make any permanent changes to the world, that's just the nature of an MMO. Yes, fifty thousand other players will have defeated Darth Badass before you get to him, and everyone is the chosen one. You have to kinda block that out and just enjoy the story. The fun in MMOs is largely in the teamwork. It adds a level to the game you just don't get in games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect. If you get on a good team, it's a blast. Of course that door swings both ways, and there are plenty of a**-hats, as Rolo mentioned, who just enjoy being an a**-hat. The other thing you have to get past is the idiots who think it's cool to have a stupid name. I'm sure it'll be a race when the new game opens to see who can name a character Master Bates first, and you'll likely run across Darth Balls, or something equally childish, at some point too. At least these morons advertise their stupidity openly and are easy to avoid.

    Bottom line, you can have a lot of fun in an MMO, but if you're a serious roleplayer, it's going to take a lot of 'looking past things' because the fact is it IS the internet, and people can and will be stupid because there aren't any consequences.