I Have a Bad Feeling About This

Sadly, my skepticism increases.

Two pieces of news in row coming from BioWare that, for me personally, are less than thrilling; first was the revelation that space combat would essentially be an instanced, tunnel-based ‘macro-game’, and then the recent (and quiet) release of details on another Companion – the droid T7-01.

Before getting into the details of my growing dread, let me say this: I’m very much in favor of the Companion System. Though I’m guessing it’s not identical to the single-player implementations of the past, companions have worked really well in other BioWare games, such as Mass Effect 1 and 2. Personal and inter-personal interactions make for great stories, and it definitely increases a sense of depth to a game. As weird as it might sound, companions do a lot for enhancing a player’s character; developing “relationships” with NPC characters does so much for our investment in a game because, just as in the Real World, many aspects of our selves are defined through our interactions with others.

However, I am not in favor of BioWare’s approach to space combat, and I want to touch on this first. Though I haven’t read the PC Gamer article yet, the concept as a whole seems extraordinarily flawed to me. Sure, I’ve enjoyed every Star Fox game I’ve played (the comparison to these games is the best analogy I’ve seen yet). But that was Star Fox, and we’re talking about STAR WARS. Death Stars and the Millenium Falcon. X-Wings, Y-Wings, A-Wings. Tie Fighters. Dogfighting. With LASERS.

When I read about this, it was truly the first time I was disappointed by news about TOR. I would rather BioWare simply said, “Yes, we recognize space combat as a critical aspect of the Star Wars experience, but we cannot implement it in a manner and to a degree which will make our customers, and ourselves, happy”, and just left it out. I don’t expect a fully functioning flight sim of the caliber of TIE Fighter or the X-Wing games; but I sure did enjoy Freelancer a whole lot, and that is one of the strongest examples of free-form, open space flight toned down for a mouse and keyboard. Hell, I’d even be willing to pay extra for it (take note, BioWare, I’m trying to hand you money).

The space combat information was a letdown, albeit a somewhat minor one. It did, however, plant the first seeds of doubt in my mind; is BioWare missing a large piece of the puzzle with their approach to MMOs?

My enthusiasm took a serious hit when I read the following (emphasis added):

“BioWare has not revealed where your Jedi knight will meet T7-O1, just like every other companion mentioned for this game, but rest assured, he’s waiting for you somewhere in that galaxy far, far away.”

~ Massively

This got me thinking: so I’m guaranteed to meet T7-01? Just like every other Jedi Knight? And only Jedi Knights? When I gather for battle, how many T7-01’s am I going to encounter, in addition to mine? And will they all be named T7-01? Granted, the above wasn’t written by BioWare, but I think we can be secure in the overall accuracy, considering the source. So let me see if I’ve got this straight…

Me: I can get my own droid?
BioWare: Yep!
Me: Cool!
BioWare: You meet him at level 5.
Me: Oh. Okay…
BioWare: Just like every other Jedi Knight.
Me: Um…
BioWare: But only if you’re a Jedi Knight.
Me: …wait. What? Really?
BioWare: Yes.
Me: Huh. Can I rename it, at least?
BioWare:
Me: Aww… <expletive censored>!

So much for customization, and a personalized experience. I get my own droid, just like the 10,000 other Jedi Knights. Class-restricted Companions just doesn’t sit right, and based on a Companion’s role in the player’s story, I’m betting it’s going to be pretty hands-off in terms of changes players can make to those NPCs. Granted, BioWare hasn’t released the full details of how the system will work, but so far I’m not particularly optimistic.

I get it; BioWare’s focusing on the story. They’re pushing that facet of the game pretty hard. They want to be the first to inject real story into the MMO genre. They’re going to deliver a personal story to each player. Every class will have it’s own, unique story. Story story story. I’m getting the distinct impression that in their quest of the almighty story, BioWare has blinded themselves to the nature of MMOs, and why we play them; it seems they’re building an online single-player RPG, not an MMO. I like story in my MMOs, but I play them nearly as much for the emergent parts – the unscripted, impromptu, real fun that comes from adventuring in a virtual world with other human players. I want options, an open field, and the ability to choose what’s best for my character based on my own flawed logic (or the logic of a stranger who’s better at math and willing to share on the Internet). I don’t need to be a unique and beautiful snowflake (just like the thousands of other snowflakes), but I certainly don’t want to be locked into anything; customization is the name of the game. They’re called virtual worlds for a reason.

The Old Republic has definitely been knocked down a few levels in my list of anticipated games. Being set in the Star Wars universe will carry the game a long, long way. For me, being set in the Old Republic will carry it even further. But it can’t carry it past blatantly poor design decisions.

I’m still looking forward to it. I’m just beginning to feel like they shouldn’t be calling it an MMO. I have few doubts that it will be a fun game, and have no doubts that it will introduce some new ideas and mechanics to the genre. But my expectations for TOR have begun to shift; if I approach this as a single-player experience with some multiplayer elements, somewhere between your traditional MMO and Guild Wars, I think I’m going to be far less disappointed.

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11 responses to “I Have a Bad Feeling About This

  1. The more and more I see about TOR the more I see it as an updated KOTR with PvP. Not that that’s a bad thing but it just doesn’t seem as ground-breaking as they’re making it out to be. The real clincher for me will be the pricing plan, if they go traditional MMO pricing I’m just not sure I can deal with that.

  2. Honestly, I don’t think they can afford to do anything but go the subscription route. I hope they prove me wrong, but everything about the game screams traditional pricing. I had thought that, if they offered it, I would grab a Lifetime Sub, because my LotRO Lifetime Subscription has REALLY paid off so many years later (I don’t even mind the shift to F2P because I’ve had open access for years at this point). Now I’m not so sure…

    • Sadly I think you’re right. Especially when you consider how much they’ve spent on this game, they’ll need to get some money up front. You’re right about lifetime, that would be an interesting option that I’d have to think about as I also have a LOTRO lifetime and I feel the same as you about it.

  3. Have you seen the new space combat trailer that’s up? I’m not sure what I think, but there are positive signs but also they could still be “on-rails.”

    http://swtor.com/media/trailers/space-combat

    • I hadn’t seen that. Thanks for passing it along!

      I have to say, it *looks* very impressive. Amazing visuals. But what else would we expect from BioWare?

      It reminded me of the Star Wars Trilogy arcade game somewhat. It definitely doesn’t look like an on-rails game, because the ships were moving around the screen pretty “freely”, but it definitely looks like we’re looking at a tunnel shooter – just like Star Fox. Again, I liked Star Fox. But this is Star Wars.

      No matter how pretty it is, it’s still a little disappointing. My hope is that this is a “temporary” measure by BioWare that allows them to have “space combat” at release, and that they implement a more freeform, open world space combat, similar to how it was done in Jump to Lightspeed. *fingers crossed*

  4. I had the SAME thought about the arcade game 🙂 I’m actually not 100% sure it isn’t on rails but maybe I’m just not sure the difference between that and a tunnel shooter.

    For me, it all comes down to implementation – if they do something like SWG space combat that could be neat, but I’m not sure which direction Bioware’s going.

    • It definitely looks like a tunnel shooter – where you can move around on screen, but follow an overall path that the game chooses for you. The arcade game was on-rails.

      Having watched it again, I will say that it definitely looks like it will be fun to play. It’s just a let-down, in my opinion, that they chose to go with this instead of a more open implementation. Sure, it’s cinematic, and probably great for telling stories, but it’s not much for building a sense of living in a world. And that is my biggest issue with the last two announcements – they seem to be sacrificing so much for their precious Story.

  5. I guess I am less concerned about the droid than I am with the other companions. The PC Gamer article seems to indicate that he could give you quests for space, which means all players will probably get him. But I mean, you can at least say droids can be mass produced and it would make a little tiny bit of sense if you come across someone else with your exact same T7. A companion like Vette would be a lot more complicated. Walking into a room full of Sith with a bunch of the same blue female Twi’lek running around just wouldn’t work, no matter how you look at it. That’s where I’m a bit confused and a little wary.

    Glad the new space combat video looks fun to you. Star Fox was the comparison people were throwing around before, but now I’m starting to think Rogue Squadron. That was tunnel shooter-like, but managed to still feel Star Warsy and incredibly fun!

    • all players who are jedi knights*

    • /Agreed. Completely.

      The T7 is the least of my worries; a few different assets in the game, and the ability to skin and tint the droid, along with a rename, and BioWare is good to go. The others…not so much.

      I guess I latched onto T7 because it was that revelation, and the Massively description, that triggered my “bad feeling”. My best hope is that they allow us to cosmetically alter them and rename them. At worst, they need to restrict them from multiplayer encounters, or phase them out. I can imagine Vette conveniently “excusing herself” for “nature calls” right before we walk into a room that has other players…

      Not good.

    • Also, I have to imagine that pretty much every class will get some kind of droid option…not the T7, but SOMETHING

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