If you’re a fan of MMOs, last week was pretty damn exciting for you. BioWare announced they would be adapting the beloved Star Wars universe, and the equally beloved Knights of the Old Republic franchise, into a massively multiplayer online experience.
However, if you’re a fan of just Star Wars... or just Knights of the Old Republic... or just not the MMO genre... then last week probably ranged somewhere between “bit of a letdown” to “huge disappointment.” You desperately want to continue supporting your favorite universe and your favorite game series, but seriously, an MMO? This about sums it up.
We know. We were once as skeptical as you, but after sitting in on the official announcement at LucasArts headquarters, we’ve come away eager and excited all over again. Here are the six things that convinced us, quoted from a roundtable discussion with the game’s lead writer.
The story still matters. The story is still Star Wars.
Daniel Erickson, Lead Writer on Star Wars: The Old Republic:
“It is 3,600 years before the movies. It is 300 years after Knights of the Old Republic 2.
The Sith Empire shows up and surprise attacks the Galactic Republic. Pretty much totals them, then calls for a truce, to which the Jedi say, ‘No, it’s a trap.’ The Republic says ‘We have to do it,’ and while they’re off signing the treaty, the Sith Empire slaughters all their major people and sacks Coruscant. This forces them into a much, much worse truce in which they must give up all sorts of different planets. Now we have a Cold War scenario with border wars and skirmishes happening.
When the game starts, the truce is going to break. Everyone knows it – the big war is coming.”
Don’t like MMOs? Think of The Old Republic as KOTOR multiplied.
“RPGs for BioWare are always built on four pillars. Combat, exploration, progression... and story. You put all these things on a truck and you drove them to MMO land, but one of them fell out and never got there. When we started talking about doing a BioWare MMO, it was obvious to us that you have to have all four things.
Stories frozen in time aren’t stories. A story that goes nowhere isn’t a story. Most MMOs have background, and the people you meet have a story. But you don’t have a story. Your story doesn’t progress, characters don’t change and nothing you do does anything. You don’t have a story - you have a background. When the whole twist is that the villain secretly wants you to kill him because he has problems with his mother, nobody cares. But everyone cared about the KOTOR twist because it said ‘this is about you.’
If you’re someone who doesn’t play MMOs but loves BioWare games... If you’re thinking, ‘I just wish they made another KOTOR,’ you could pick up this game and just have your multiple KOTORs. We’re doing more content than all other BioWare games combined. You could get the exact same experience you were expecting to get. Only you cannot pause the server.”
Choosing between classes is like choosing between KOTORs.
“You have a different story depending on what class you pick, and that class story is going to take you from the beginning to the end. It’s not, ‘Level 10 – hey, I got a Jedi quest!’ It’s the context and feel of your entire experience in the game, resulting in the most unique stories we’ve ever written.
In Baldur’s Gate, we didn’t know if you were a Druid, a Warrior or a Mage. We didn’t know what your fantasy was, so we told a very classic story. Now, we know you are a Sith. You are training on Korriban and you were born in the Sith Empire; this is who you are and this is how society expects you to behave; here are your choices and here are your decisions. For all intents and purposes, when you choose Sith you are saying, ‘I want to play the Sith RPG.’ Which gives us the ability to not only tell these specific stories, but to tell stories that never would have been told... especially when you get into the classes that we can’t talk about today.
I would love to say that there was a quest that made sense for both Ben Kenobi and Darth Vader to do. We never found one. Not even one. So if you play this game as a Jedi, and then you play as a Sith, you will not see one piece of repeated story content. Not one quest, not one line. The contextualization is all important. If your fantasy is running around as Vader, you better feel like Vader all the time.”