It's pretty safe to say that only hardcore Star Wars
fans (like me) know that the universe of the movies has expanded unlike most franchises. This expansion comes primarily in the form of books and graphic novels,
telling tales from as far back as 5000 years before the films, to roughly 140 years after.
And, for the most part, they're good. They're really, really good. The writers are solid and, in the case of the graphic novels, both writing and artwork are very well represented. With a few minor complaints, I'm happy with what has been done in my favorite fictional universe.
The Expanded Universe (EU) of Star Wars is a huge place to explore.
With the advent of two new Star Wars
television series (The Clone Wars
-already chugging along nicely for the kiddies-and an upcoming live-action show), Star Wars
still has a long life as a franchise cash cow.
One of the other areas where Star Wars
has flourished is the realm of video gaming. Though some titles have been great successes (Knights of the Old Republic
, The Force Unleashed
, and the Battlefront
series) others have tortured fans with disappointing game play (Force Commander, Episode 1
(both the game and the movie... blech) and, to some extent, the huge effort of Star Wars: Galaxies
That was me. Kosab Ebahor was my name. Getting killed a lot was my game... Seriously. I wasn't very good. But it was fun...
Having not only beta-tested Galaxies, but also subscribed to it for years, I understand the huge undertaking that is a MMORPG-that's Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game (now generally just called an MMO). It's a world inhabited by thousands of players all at once-all real people... except for the non-player characters, which exist in the system to move the story forward.
I had immense fun playing the game, problems and all. It managed to capture some of the feel of the movies. And it was HUGE. Multiple planets, tons of people to interact with, cool missions. I recommend you check it out.
So, imagine my glee when it was announced that a new MMO set in the Star Wars universe-and partially designed by Bioware, who blew everybody's socks off with the fantastic Knights of the Old Republic)-was in production.
Taking place 3500 years before the films, The Old Republic tackles an unexplored period in the Star Wars universe. What makes this MMO unique is that it adds a new layer of player development. Most MMOs (such as Star Wars Galaxies or World of Warcraft) offer three levels of play experience: Exploration, Combat, and Progression. The Old Republic has revamped this system, adding a strong story element. In other words, this is no hack-slash-get-more-power game. This is an actual story, a story that is different for each player character.
Those who have played BioWare's previous Star Wars entry know how well they are able to integrate story and game-play. BioWare claims that The Old Republic contains more story content than all of their previous games combined. And these aren't little games. Having played many of them, I can safely say that they're huge. Check out this list of credits:
Baldur's Gate II
Neverwinter Nights II
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II (KOTOR2)
See a trend? Yep... Lots of sequels in that list. And essentially that's what Star Wars: The Old Republic is: parts 3 through 9 million of the Knights of the Old Republic series.
And this is what makes it special. It follows the character development aspects of KOTOR, which was a single-player game. Moral choices branch off to different patterns for each player. This makes for a particularly intense, personal story. This narrative-based game-play is something new to MMOs, making it much more than just "kill the monster, get the treasure, get more stuff" type of multi-player universes that us gamers are used to.
In this case any decision made in the game affects what happens later. You may have forgotten you hacked the head off of that poor vendor ten hours ago, but the game hasn't-and it'll change the story to display your violent streak.
Here, kitty... have a taste of lightsaber.
This will permanently change what story your character experiences. Rather like real life.
This has never been offered in an MMO before, and will probably upset players who just want to run amok and chop limbs off of critters or constantly challenge other players to duels. That gets insanely repetitive and tiring very quickly and pulls many players (such as myself) out of the gaming experience and back into "I'm kicking sand in your face" reality. I play games to get away from the everyday struggles of life-not to add more.
By making Star Wars: The Old Republic
more story-based, BioWare is stepping up to the task of creating a truly immersive experience. It's quite a challenge, and one that I can't quite wrap my head around when it comes to designing a game that is played by thousands of people at the same time.
A daunting challenge for writers and programmers alike.
And hopefully one great gaming experience for Star Wars fans. Check out this video diary of the game's development. It's quite cool:
With luck I'll see you in the game. Until then, May the... well, you know...
SOURCES: Star Wars: The Old Republic, GameSpot