Hi ho… Hi ho… It’s off to play we go…

Well, well, well, what have we here?

We got a tasty tidbit in the latest update, didn’t we? Crafting is looking very good, and this is coming from a Star Wars Galaxies veteran. But it wasn’t just the crafting, was it? There were also those interesting sounding side missions for the companion characters to do. Whether it is treasure hunting, diplomacy or other types of things, it sounds very interesting. Side missions and mini-games almost always spice things up.

I think the first mini-games I truly remember, not counting the puzzles in old games such as Donkey Kong, Contra and Pitfall, were from the first Knights of the Old Republic. The gun turret scenes, the swoop races and Pazaak, ah, the memories are sweet. But… blowing Sith fighters up, while fun, did get repetitive. It brought back fond memories of flying in the gun turret of the Otana in X-Wing Alliance. Good memories of exploding Imperial ships. But even then, how many times can you listen to Carth say ‘Incoming Fighters!’ without going ‘GAH! Not again…’? Pazaak was fun, and I even found an online version, fan made of course. I have to admit I found the swoop riding annoying, but that is normal for someone who doesn’t have the best reflexes.

Bioware has introduced a number of mini-games into their regular games in more recent years. KOTOR 1 (I try to forget KOTOR 2 most of the time) had the workbench as well as the other mini games. Mass Effect had the circle that you had to pass your pointer through to unlock things/defuse things/etc. Mass Effect 2 had the bypass and hack mini games. Even Jade Empire had the flying game with the Glorious Dragonfly. But as in most games, especially in recent years, crafting is starting to take a larger role. It used to be ‘Oh I need something, I will go kill ‘x’ number of zombies/goblins/dragons/whatever to get money to buy it’. Now, it is ‘I will go out, kill ‘x’ number of zombies/goblins/dragons/whatever to get pieces to make it.’ But the time involved in crafting has always detracted from the time spent going out and playing. Unless you are one of those strange people who likes to play as a builder, you get a bit annoyed at times having to spend time crafting when you could be blasting stuff/hacking things/ etc.

This little teaser from Bioware seems to have set things on their heads again. Now you don’t have to spend time at the workbench yourself. Your ever industrious companions will work for you, even when you are mean and turn the lights off on them! You can even have them working on things when you are offline!

That was always my major problem with crafting in MMOs. Either you cheat, with a macro or something, or you cannot compete with people who do things like that. I always wanted to play the game, not get bogged down trying to find the best ingredients to build the perfect set of Sith underpants to beat that nasty Jedi in some Level 15 quest. Now you can send your faithful minions, er, slaves, er whatever… to go do these things. And what you can send them to do… wow… How many other games have companions where you can send them to gather things? Larian’s Divinity 2: Ego Draconis, had runners you could send for ingredients. But for them to actually make things for you while you are not playing the game…? Whoa, that is cool.

In the update, we see the bounty hunter companions. I am assuming, carefully, that the same types of skills –gathering, crafting and mission- will be available for all classes. Now it is very likely that the missions will be VERY different. A Sith Inquisitor will likely have very different missions for his or her companions than a Republic Trooper would. But the basic idea will be the same. While you are out doing whatever it is you do, your companions will be hard at work back at your ship, or off doing whatever you ordered them to do.

I like this idea. I like it a lot. One of my gripes with KOTOR was that when I was out and about, the crew never moved from their spots. I always wondered when Carth went to the washroom and where. Was there one in the cockpit of the Ebon Hawk?

Over to you. What do you like in mini games? Are you as enthused about this idea of crafting as I am?