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?

It’s going to WHAT?

Expecting this for SWTOR?

Okay, what the heck? I was away from the main Star Wars: The Old Republic forums for a while, working on getting a book published and focusing on school and when I come back there are threads out the wazoo about how badly SWTOR is going to fail. Some of the angst that I have read has been internet trolling of course, but some of it seems to be genuine fear. But why? The game looks amazing.

Well, first and foremost in many people’s minds is the debacle that was and is Star Wars Galaxies. Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) will be forever emblazoned in many players memories as the worst game company ever created. They rushed the game out before it was completed, which is nothing new. Many game companies put out games before they are finished, but this game was… well… awful. The only reason people played it at all at launch was that it was Star Wars. The fact that for about three days the players walked around on worlds that had nothing on them, no mobs, no buildings, not even any plants, no NOTHING, was absolutely awful. But players suffered through the bugs, because it was Star Wars, and parts of it were fun. Then came the Combat Upgrade, (Or as we called it Completely Useless) where they made what was one of the most innovative and cool games out there, minus the annoying bugs, the same as every other MMO out there. They didn’t need level defined gear and enemies, but of course, WoW had it, so they must need it, right? Wrong. Then the day that will live in infamy, the day the Next Generation Entertainment hit the servers. SOE lied to their player base. SOE undid in a day what many players had spent years perfecting, tweaking, and basically having fun with. They decided not to listen to the community, to do their own thing. Why should they care if they shafted most of their players? It wasn’t SOE’s problem. Small wonder many of the most hardcore players simply left and will likely never return. I was one of those. The game is still running, on limited servers, but I for one will never touch it again, and I am not alone. SWG failed, and failed hard through no fault of the game, but through the less than intelligent choices made by SOE.

Bioware is not SOE, and while some of SOE’s employees have joined Bioware, I highly doubt that even the most jaded of Bioware’s employees could say that Bioware is going to repeat the same mistakes that SOE freely admitted they made. Second, Bioware has a formula that they use for their games. Well, yeah. How many of us, when writing stories do NOT use some kind of formula? How many of us use an outline, a plan, something? For me, it makes it clear what I need to write next and my stories are nowhere near as complicated as some Bioware games. Some people criticize Bioware for following a pattern, one that I have put as my intro picture. Bioware’s stories are not Pulitzer prize material, but they are also not bargain bin trashy romances either. There are limits to what can be done in a video game story. Admittedly, they are pushing the envelope of what can be done in game stories with what they are focusing on in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Some people have criticized Sol Invictus and others have praised him for making this chart. It is good, as far as it goes. Bioware DOES have a pattern.  But think about it, did the fact that you were following the same general pattern detract in any way from the experience in Mass Effect 1 or 2? I had no time to be thinking about that as I was blasting my way through the games.

Last but certainly not least, we come to the clincher. Many people are saying that SWTOR is going to fail because Bioware has never made a MMO before. They are known for their single player games, but a single player game, no matter how big or complex, is nothing on a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying game. But, they know this. This is why they have spent so long, and such epic amounts of money, to make it. This is no Star Wars Galaxies clone. This is no WoW Clone. This probably will not be a WoW-killer, to use the internet lingo. WoW is simply too huge, too easy to play at the lower levels, for any one game to simply knock it off its pedestal. The only thing likely to kill WoW is Blizzard Entertainment, the same way SOE killed SWG with stupid choices.

To sum up – some people think SWTOR is going to fail. Some of those people are being pessimists or internet trolls. Some of them have legitimate cause for concern, after the horror that was SWG. SWTOR is a massive game, larger than any other. One wonders exactly how many DVDs will be required to carry such a game. Bioware has never made a MMO before, true. But… that also has some plusses. They had no preconceptions. The idea of full voice over for every character was laughable, until Bioware started doing it. Are there going to be problems? Almost certainly, this is a game made by humans, and humans are not perfect. Is it going to flop at launch? Doubtful.

That is my two cents worth anyway. What do you think?

Picture from Game Riot

PC versus Console

Old School?

It used to be simple. Computers were for things like word processing , banking and other real world enterprises.  There were some computer games, but not a lot. I remember games like Parsec and Asteroids from the old Commodore 32, I was 10 when my family got that I think, so that would have been 1982. Its graphics were pathetic, it went at the speed of a snail, but it was the only game machine I had, so I enjoyed it.  In contrast, consoles were for games, period. I remember Donkey Kong for the Atari. One system did not work for the other’s games. Nowadays however, things are nowhere near as simple. Now we have the Xbox 360, the Wii, and the Playstation3, all of which you can do word processing on. The lines between them are blurring. Is this a good thing?

The first automatic computers (like ENIAC) were designed to do specific jobs, which they did fairly well. Then came the 1980s and the dawn of the ‘personal’ computer. Customers demanded more from their computers, and the computer companies complied. Overnight, computer technology changed. Suddenly computers could do more, faster, than ever before. And suddenly the concept of a game for personal computers was no longer ludicrous. Games like Wastelands were no longer the norm after the mid 1980s, now things like X-Wing, Wing Commander, Battletech, Star Trek, all of these and more were suddenly out there and people who did not have gaming consoles had enjoyment time.

For many years, the consoles seemed to be a niche market. Not as fancy as many of the PC titles that were coming out, but they cost less and were generally less complicated. This is no longer the case. A good console these days will run about $250-$500 US for a really good system, although a decent one can be had for $100 US in many places. But the games… When you have to pay $60 US for a game, it gets expensive fast. And from what I have seen of the games, well, they still seem… I don’t know… limited maybe? They are generally shorter than PC titles. Aside from the Roleplaying games, which by definition are much longer, the action games seem to run about 24 hours worth of original play time, not counting rerunning levels and the dreaded ‘Aw CRUD, my cat hit the controller while I was paused to get a  drink, and I lost the game!’. Now, don’t get me wrong, that IS a lot of play time. But for someone used to playing games like X-Wing and TIE fighter, well, they just seem too short.

This has been exacerbated in recent times with game publishers making hybrid titles, once designed for both PC and Console. Probably the worst example of this was Ubisoft’s latest entry into the Splinter Cell franchise, Conviction. Don’t get me wrong, it is a fun game. It’s not Splinter Cell no matter what they might call it, but it is a fun game. But at only 11 levels, and not all very large, it is quite possible to blow through the single player portion in half a day even on the hardest levels. And then we get into The Force Unleashed 2. I beat that, on the hardest level, in a little less than eight hours of playing. Of course I am not a true hard-core gamer, who could likely do it in 4 hours. What the heck?

Is it a cost saving feature? Are they going to try and get us to buy add-on packs to get more things in the games? Things like, the rest of the story? Is that the way that games are going now? Geez, I hope not. I can barely afford the games themselves now.

I don’t think that either consoles or PCs are going away anytime soon. With the standardisation of console hardware, it is much easier for a manufacturer to make a game that will work with any of that brand of console (theoretically anyway). But PCs can usually do more than just games, hence why I myself own a PC and not a console. I can play some console titles on my PC, it just isn’t easy. I would like to know why so many games that are coming out now are so short. Maybe they are just to whet player’s appetites so they will buy all of the add-on packs and downloadable content.

I for one hope that is not the case. Over to you. Do you prefer PC or Console and why?

Image from http://www.library.drexel.edu/blogs/thesuggestionbox/?m=200705

What is this, the Inquisition?

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Um… Wait a moment, no, that was Monty Python… oops, sorry.

No one expects the IMPERIAL Inquisition!

We all know what inquisitors are, right? According to Star Wars anyway. Beings who are trained to ferret out secrets, to work behind the scenes, to plot, and to seize as much power as they can through nefarious means. Where the Sith Warrior prefers much more straightforward methods, such as crushing the skulls of anyone who gets in their way, the Inquisitor is much more subtle. But what IS an Inquisitor?

An Inquisitor, or ‘truth officers’ are servants of an Inquisition. Historically, the Inquisition was an arm of the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages and actually up until near the end of the 19th century. The whole point of the historical Inquisition was to combat heresy. Of course, who defined heresy? The church did. This led to some of the most gruesome excesses in religious history. But this is not real life, this is Star Wars.

In the Expanded Universe, there have been several organizations called Inquisitions from the time of the founding of the Old Republic. The court that tried Ulic Qel Droma when he was captured, before his rescue by Exar Kun, was called an Inquisition. And the leader was the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic. It was interesting that in that particular form, the defendant had no right at all to legal counsel.

Over three thousand years later, Emperor Palpatine created the Imperial Inquisition to hunt down and exterminate the remainder of the Jedi knights. They were dark side adepts, willing and able to do anything it took to get the job done. We don’t know how many Inquisitors were around at this time, but apparently there were enough that they could cover the galaxy with their nets. Their power and influence was feared. As was their authority, they answered only to Palpatine and to Vader.

During the time of Star Wars: The Old Republic, there will probably be many players who play the class Sith Inquisitor. The class looks fun. The advanced classes, what we have heard of them, also sound fun. But this class is not likely going to be for the people who want to wade into battle without thinking. Sith Sorcerer and Sith Assassin are the names for the advanced classes, and just from the names, we can assume that both will do ungodly amounts of damage.

All of us remember the Force lightning from Return of the Jedi, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, right? It has shown up in games as well. Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight, Jedi Outcast, Jedi Academy, and then The Force Unleashed where it was truly insane what you could do with it. The idea of throwing lightning around is nothing new, magicians and sorcerers have had that ability in story and myth since the dawn of time. Odin and Zeus in particular were fond of thunderbolts. So in story or game, it’s cool.

But in practice? Just the thought of holding 1.21 jigawatts worth of power in my hand gives me goosebumps. Lightning is an elemental force, it is awe inspiring, magical in so many ways. And it is utterly terrifying when one is caught out in it. I speak from experience. You have not lived until you have had a lightning bolt detonate a tree less than a hundred yards from where your tent is set up. There was nothing left of that tree but a crater. Lightning is a powerful symbol as well, speed and power.  Anyway, back to Star Wars. How many of us could watch the Emperor throw Force lightning and NOT be a bit awed by it? I mean, here is an old, decrepit looking man, who can kill with a thought. Yeah, it is scary, and that is the point.

While we do not know a lot about the Inquisitor class yet, and likely won’t for awhile, we do know a few things. They specialize in Force lightning and have some very cool looking abilities with it. They have lightsabers, and use them, but their main ability will be with Force powers. I am hoping for a ‘mind trick’ like ability, Force Persuade or something like that, something to confuse enemies, and maybe make them allies for a time.

The whole idea of a Sith Inquisitor is not straight up fighting, although he or she can. It is about sneakiness and power. What better way to win a fight than to use your opponent against his allies? The power of the Dark Side will be manifest in these sneaky beings, and I for one hope to see a lot of them.

What do you think? Does the Sith Inquisitor sound like a good play style for you?

Photo from http://whsdrama.westwood.wikispaces.net/

Bending a few laws until they squeal

Well, last week we found out a few more things about one of the most beloved classes in Star Wars. The smuggler has always had an odd place in people’s hearts. The rogue has always been a particular favorite in role playing games of all kinds. Everything from the burglar, to the pickpocket, to the tomb raider and the assassin, have been played in all kinds of games. Sometimes they have a heart of gold and sometimes they have a heart of ice. And sometimes, they are both, depending on the circumstances. Smugglers have a place near and dear to the hearts of Star Wars fans, due in no small part to a carpenter who was given an audition on the spur of the moment. The man who defines ‘smuggler’ for my generation, Harrison Ford, the man who played Han Solo.

Everyone remembers Han Solo, the king of all smugglers. Even if he was down on his luck during the original trilogy, he was still (supposedly anyway) the greatest smuggler of the time. He either had the fastest ship in the galaxy or the fastest tongue. No doubt about it, he was an incredible pilot with great luck at times and absolutely abysmal luck at others. Han was always more my favorite character than Luke, because Han would do whatever it took to win. Luke always had those pesky scruples get in his way. Han was always more pragmatic. He lied, he cheated, he stole. And when it all came apart, he pulled his blaster. He was sneaky. Come on, how many of YOU would have imagined to hang your ship on the back of an Imperial Star Destroyer’s bridge tower while trying to escape it? And by the end of Return of the Jedi, he is shown as truly a good man, not just in it for money. Romancing a princess never hurts either.

A lot of thought obviously went into the smuggler class in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Jedi can live in a perfect world, where they can do the right thing every time. Smugglers have to survive however they can. And if that means a few pesky local regulations, or Imperial decrees get ignored or tramped into the dust? Who cares as long as the smuggler gets what he needs? That may be the goods delivered on time, a ‘special’ job done for the Republic, or simply getting out of a cantina alive after a deal goes wrong. Or it may be something more. Why do people smuggle? In most cases, perhaps 90%, it is economics. I have actually met a couple of people in real life who I am almost absolute certain were smugglers. One of them said something to me that stuck.

She said: “The money is good, but the main thing for many people is the thrill. You are doing something that is against the law. Maybe the law is stupid, maybe it isn’t. But what you are doing is against the law. There is no denying the fact that there is a thrill involved in pulling it off, in showing that your skill is more than the skill of the law enforcement agents.” But then she laughed. “The money doesn’t hurt either.” I never saw her again after that. I never found out her last name, and I am never likely to – it was twenty years ago.

For her and people like her, it was a game, a game with incredibly high stakes. A game with a large element of danger involved. A game where, if you make a wrong move at the wrong time, you are caught, or worse. This is the mindset that Bioware seems to have been shooting for in this game. If so, they seem to have hit the bull’s eye from what we have seen.

The smuggler advanced classes that Bioware revealed last week seem to fit Star Wars to a ‘T’. The gunslinger and scoundrel advanced classes sound like a lot of fun. The scoundrel is the sneaky one. A ‘stealth belt’ and  a scattergun sound right up my kind of alley. But for other types, those who like the Wild Bill Hickok type, the gunslinger is for them.

It is odd, gunslingers were never really heroes. People like Wild Bill Hickok, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp and others, were anything but heroic. The Hollywood ideal of two men with low slung guns facing each other in the street at high noon is complete rubbish for the most part. Yes, Wild Bill did it a couple of times, but he was crazy. And anyone going up against him was also crazy. And the thing about the gunfight at the OK Corral? According to several sources, half of the Clantons were not armed when the Earps and Doc Holliday arrived. Some fair fight.

But that is the point. Why fight fair? If it is a matter of survival, almost anyone who has ever been shot at will tell you the same thing. HANG scruples, rules, laws or anything else. Give me something solid to hide behind while I gun my enemy down. That part of the smuggler class is very realistic.

These are not stand up fighters, although they can. These are not heavily armored enough to take whatever punishment is dished out at them. And they don’t have some hokey religion and ancient weapon to give them an edge. What they have are their wits, their skills and their nerve. And now, we have seen the ship as well.

The XS Stock Light is based on the old Ebon Hawk from Knights of the Old Republic. Just looking at it, it looks fast and powerful. The fact that it has two turrets and missile launchers will help out when those pesky cops and Imperial patrols start getting too close. The fact that it has smuggling compartments is also a plus, for when you are either caught red handed, or need to hide something. Just as long as you don’t have to hide yourself in one of those compartments. Even if that was a classic scene, Han, Chewie, Luke and Obi Wan sneaking into the Death Star inside one of the Millenium Falcon’s hidden compartments, I don’t want to reprise that scene.

Oh and speaking of that. What is Bioware thinking? The companion for the smuggler is going to be a Wookiee? Aw man… How unoriginal can you get? I mean he is obviously NOT Chewbacca, but still…sheesh.

Over to you. Do you want to be scum and villainy? And if so, heart of gold or heart of ice?

For a few credits more

Bounty hunters. We all know what they are, right? Boba Fett from Empire Strikes back and Return of the Jedi, Jango Fett and Zam Wessel from Attack of the Clones, Calo Nord from Knights of the Old Republic, these are iconic figures in Star Wars. There are other bounty hunters as well who make appearances in various Star Wars pieces, but they are generally not pivotal characters. Bossk, the Trandoshan seen on the bridge of the Super Star Destroyer Executor in Empire Strikes back has received a lot of attention in fiction and games of various kinds. Princess Leia disguised herself as a bounty hunter to gain entrance to Jabba’s palace in return of the Jedi. And then Mira was a HAWT bounty hunter in Star Wars the Old Republic II. Bounty hunters are well known.

But what IS a bounty hunter? According to Wikipedia:  A bounty hunter captures fugitives for a monetary reward (bounty). Other names, mainly used in the United States, include bail enforcement agent, fugitive recovery agent, and bail fugitive investigator. Bounty hunting, and bounty hunters, are actually legal in only two nations: the United States and the Republic of the Philippines. Other countries do not have bounty hunters; they use only standard law enforcement agencies to recover suspects. (Bounty Hunter) So there’s a legal definition of what we know about bounty hunters.

There is another way we recognize bounty hunters. Movies have portrayed people hunting fugitives or outlaws for financial reward for a long time. Movies such as ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ and ‘For a Few Dollars More’ with Clint Eastwood are likely the best known of the bounty hunter westerns. The characters portrayed in those movies are barely one step removed from the scum they are hunting. The thought is that to catch a bad man, you must send a bad man. The Star Wars bounty hunters certainly fit that category as well.

But – the bounty hunters in Star Wars are not JUST bounty hunters. Many of them are assassins as well. Jango Fett, whether he was a Mandalorian or not -which changes from week to week depending on who you ask- was probably the best example of a Star Wars bounty hunter. He was willing to do whatever it took to get the job done, up to an including setting a bomb on a public landing pad to kill everyone in the area to try and get his target. He was willing to shoot his partner to keep her from talking after she had been captured by Jedi. He not only condoned, but participated in the initial acts of the Clone Wars, until he was killed by Mace Windu.

It seemed for a long time that bounty hunters in Star Wars fell somewhere between comedy relief and nameless, faceless masses to be slaughtered by the good guys. We all remember Boba Fett falling into the Sarlacc and the monster burping, right? And that was AFTER he had been 1) Disarmed by a very young and inexperienced Jedi, 2) knocked unconscious by a stray cannon round, and then 3) blindsided by a blind man.

Calo Nord in Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic didn’t even fare that well. He had a ceiling fall on him, and then he was slaughtered with his backup and left to rot in the Tattooine suns. Some ’greatest bounty hunter in the galaxy’ huh?

Then Mira came along. She made bounty hunters cool, not just faceless or stupid incompetents. Her wrist rocket launcher was simply too cool. But then we get a massive let down. Of course she had to be a Jedi in disguise, didn’t she? Bummer. But I have to admit, she looked really, really good in her outfit.

Ok, so we come to Star Wars: The Old Republic. Bounty hunter is the Sith Empire armored ranged class. The images that we have seen draw heavily on the images of Mandalorian armor from KOTOR I and II. The character is not a Mandalorian, that we know of. Of course we do not know a lot of the story yet, and likely we won’t until much closer to launch, if then. We want some surprises. But the mechanics look good.

The idea of a single blaster armed warrior taking on a Jedi or Sith is laughable under normal circumstances, but the TOR bounty hunter seems up to the task. He/she does not just have blasters. Heavy armor, flamethrower, various darts, rockets, a jetpack, all of these have been shown as well as a very cool lasso-type ability. The thought of pulling an opponent through the air to hit him with something is strangely satisfying to me. Maybe I have played too many games where the bad guys can hide and snipe from inaccessible locations. We don’t know a lot about the classes yet, but we have seen glimpses of what is likely the ship for the bounty hunter and various sources have stated bits of gameplay. I hesitate to use some of those sources, because I do not want to violate any legal restrictions. But what we do know is that bounty hunters will have the heaviest armor of the Sith Empire classes. And the armor does look cool. Much cooler than the Inquisitor’s clown outfit.

We know that the bounty hunter is a neutral character, at least at first, not affiliated with either Sith Empire or Republic. But with the current Mandalorians serving the Empire grudgingly, there is lots of room for cool story arcs and plot twists. I look forward to seeing what Bioware can come up with this time.

Over to you: what do you want from bounty hunters in TOR?

Picture from http://beefjack.com/news/bounty-hunter-class-revealed-for-star-wars-the-old-republic/

Tanks in Star Wars The Old Republic: more than beef

We have been hearing a lot of stuff about tanks on the SWTOR forums lately. The iconic armored forms of the stormtroopers and Boba Fett come to mind specifically. Hence the focus of Bioware into the Trooper and Bounty Hunter classes. In this installment I will be discussing the Trooper.

We see troopers for the first time in Episode IV. The rebel soldiers who try and defend the Tantive IV from the Devastator’s assault get pwnerized pretty badly by the men in white suits. Yes the men in armor go down fast when shot, but come on! Stormtroopers are not supposed to be heroic, right? They are the BAD GUYS, right? They shoot so badly they became a mythos all their own. Who hasn’t heard of the Imperial Stormtrooper marksmanship academy? The one place in the galaxy where the only one who is safe is the target? They get killed when people miss them, one bangs his head on a low beam… the list goes on and on. They are NOT heroic. It only gets worse for the poor troopers as the movie progresses, an entire platoon getting chased by a lone smuggler, getting outfoxed by an old man in a brown robe, yeesh…

Then we get Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. The Imperials utterly devastate the Rebel base on Hoth, but somehow manage NOT to capture any of the big shots they were aiming for in the first place. Oops. And then to add more insult, in Episode VI who beats the Stormtroopers? An entire legion of troops gets pwned by a small band of commandos, a Wookiee and a bunch of Ewoks. Sigh. It just doesn’t pay to be an elite soldier in Star Wars, does it?

Now before anyone starts screaming about me not defending the stormtroopers – I do. They get a bad rap. When they are facing the heroes of the movies, of COURSE they are going to lose. It would not be a good story otherwise – but let’s look at it objectively. What are Stormtroopers for? They are there for the heroes to show up, outmaneuver or out-fight. Troopers are not heroic in the original trilogy. Even the Rebel troops on Hoth and Endor were there to put emphasis on the hero’s actions, not to actually do anything else.

Then we see Episode II: Attack of the Clones, which showed a very different kind of trooper from the Stormtroopers that we all knew and laughed at. These guys actually had a clue. They actually hit what they aimed at, and when they did, they devastated it. Games like Republic Commando showed a very gritty take on what it was to be a single cog in a huge military machine. I am not going to go into the stuff from the Clone Wars series because I don’t watch it. We all know what happened in Episode III. Most of the Jedi Order were taken down by troopers when Order 66 was given. Was it easy? No. Did a lot of the troops die doing it? Yes. The ones facing Ki Al Mundi lost a bunch of men when he deflected their fire but they took him down in the end. It was a major cinematic moment in Star Wars and it was the troopers who did most of it.

So… Heroic troopers. Special Forces like Delta Squad from Republic Commando are much easier to sympathize with than TK421 ever was. They have personality. Scorch in particular still cracks me up when I hear some of his one-liners, even today. We never see their faces, all we see are their personalized helmets. But it doesn’t matter. We remember them. We remember Sev counting his kills. We remember Scorch saying ‘You want a big crater or a small one?’. We remember Boss saying to a Trandoshan that tried to ambush him ‘You lizards need to realize that I am a lot more scary than you.’

Speaking of scary, we had seen Kyle Katarn be scary and epic in the original Dark Forces, but then we found out that he was a Jedi. Er, sort of a Jedi. He was a lot better as a mercenary than as a Jedi in my opinion, but that is just me. The novelizations of the game absolutely rocked. ‘Soldier For The Empire’ should be required reading for anyone who plays anything Star Wars. The later games were good, no question, but the best was when he was a not-so-common soldier.

In the book Allegiance, by Timothy Zahn, we see Stormtroopers as they were intended. Elite troops. Not gods, but very, very good at what they do. They are not supposed to be common soldiers, so when the heroes beat them, it is supposed to be hard. Not ‘Oh another squad of stormtroopers, I will use my left hand this time, it will be more of a challenge.’ He makes that part of the book believable. The rest was good, but not great. The stormtrooper parts though, ROCKED.

The trooper in Star Wars the Old Republic seem to be taking a similar approach. These are not cannon fodder. These are not people who die from near misses. These are beings who can wade into the thickest fighting and stand there while the bad guys throw everything they have at them. Beings who can unleash hell on their foes while taking the best the enemy can throw at them and laughing at it. Characters who can take and hold an enemy’s attention so that the squishy beings around them don’t. They are tanks.

Tanks in real life are mobile, they are offensive and defensive weapons. They can take punishment while dishing it out. Tanks in games are usually grouped into two general kinds. The uber-tank, like the Tanker from City of Heroes, who just takes the punishment so that others don’t have to. I have seen a tanker stand off Lord Recluse, all by herself, for ten minutes. She just stood there, taking the hits while the group respawned. Then there is the DPS tank who can take some punishment, while dishing out punishment as well. This is actually more like the soldier Shepard from Mass Effect 1 and 2. That character could take damage, but oh man could that character dish it out as well. The commando from Tabula Rasa, for those of us who played it, went this route. Heavy armor, insane amounts of damage done, often in area effect.

That seems to be what Bioware is shooting for in this MMO. Heavy armor, heavy weapons and lots and lots of ammo expended. Sounds like fun.

Over to you. Do you want to give troopers as envisioned by Bioware a try?

Photo courtesy of: http://www.swtoronlineguide.com

Remembering History

Ok, rant on. I am SICK of George Lucas and Lucasarts changing things! First we have Obi-Wan Kenobi being the last of the Jedi in A New Hope, then we have Yoda being the last of the Jedi in Empire Strikes Back, and now we have untold HUNDREDS of Jedi who survived Order 66 and were hiding around the galaxy. After all, we only saw a handful of them get killed in the movie, right? Shaak Ti was the highest rank of them apparently, and of course she gets pawnerized by Starkiller in The Force Unleashed.

So much for Jedi history. It keeps changing, with every season of The Clone Wars changes something else. I guess it is George’s sandbox and he can knock down any sandcastles he wants to. One of the interesting points on Attack of the Clones was the Jedi Archives were supposed to be inviolate. The only ones who could access them were Jedi and why would Jedi change or remove information? Why indeed? Can anyone spell retcon? Rant off.

The Jedi Order existed hand in hand with the Republic for a very long time. As a matter of fact, according to Wookiepedia, the initial study of the Force was undertaken on Tython thirty six thousand, four hundred and fifty three before the destruction of the first Death Star at the battle of Yavin. Since the Republic itself was founded twenty five thousand and fifty three years before that battle of Yavin (there have been several there in Star Wars history after all), this shows the origination of the Order predates the Republic.

Now the actual Order of Jedi that people recognize as Jedi didn’t come to be until much later. And the reason it came to be was typical. Powerful people will have differing opinions on things, this is known. And when those powerful people have access to things like the Force, well… Yuck. The conflicts known as the Force Wars devastated Tython, and the survivors went elsewhere. They founded the Jedi Order some seven centuries later. Interestingly enough, the lightsaber, the signature weapon of the Jedi, was not invented for many years, almost ten thousand according to Wookiepedia. Before that, they used swords, blaster and other weapons as the situation called for it. Of course, once they had lightsabers, all bets were off.

The history of the Jedi Order, unsurprisingly, is dark versus light. Ever since the inception of the Order, heck, before it with the Force Wars on Tython, there were always those who chose the dark path. The Jedi stood for selflessness, for compassion, for mercy, for nobility and courage. This is not an easy path. It is so tempting to give in to expediency, ‘just this once’,’ just for this time’… So, much of the Jedi’s history has been conflict with Dark Force users.

Eventually, this culminates in the events of what we learned about in 1977 in Star Wars: A New Hope. But it takes a long time to get there. The time we are focused on is set thirty five hundred years before the events of A New Hope. It is a time of war, a time of heroes and villains. It is a time where history will be made, and lost.

The timeline on the SWTOR website  is an interesting look at the history as told by a Jedi historian. It is going in reverse order, starting with the Sacking of Coruscant, the defining moment of the game. It is chronicled by a Jedi historian who is trying to uncover the truth behind the war. At the moment, it is half done. Considering that the game is due out in April of 2011 that works well for updates over the next seven months. The reading is fascinating. A great deal of work went into the writing of the timeline, and getting Lance Hendrickson to voice Jedi Historian Gnost-Dural, that was a stroke of genius.

So far, the timeline has covered the Great War itself, and has moved as far back as the Mandalorian Wars, the events that set in motion the game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Now, not all of the material is great, the Mandalorians using Sith Armor is just one inconsistency that strikes me, but there are some parts that just resonate. The Battle of Bothawui was such a powerful piece. Inspired of course, by the last stand of the Spartans at Thermopylae, as was glorified in Frank Miller’s 300, this entry was, in a word, epic. Others were kind of ‘meh’. I personally couldn’t care less about some smuggler defeating a Mandalorian fleet. But for the most part, the entries are very good.

As teasers go, this timeline is probably one of the best I have seen for a game that is not out yet. It gives just enough information to whet the potential player’s appetite while at the same time leaving lots of room for expansion and leaving people hanging. As a marketing tool, it is working. People are talking about it. People are visiting the site, trying to figure out what was left unsaid, trying to fill in the gaps. Which is good, from a marketing standpoint. The publisher wants people engaged, they want it to be talked about. They want the game hyped as much as possible. That said, if it is over-hyped, bad things can result as well. But I do not see that happening. This timeline is a good example of a marketing tactic focused on a particular group, Star Wars fans.

I just hope George Lucas doesn’t start changing things in this as well, or we might wind up with a Kushiban as the Sith Emperor. That would make about as much sense as some of the other dubious choices made in The Clone Wars recently. I loved the idea of The Clone Wars, I HATE the execution.

Enough ranting. What do you think of the Jedi history as told by the Timeline? Does it make sense?

Photo courtesy of Star Wars: The Old Republic RP Wiki

I can hear people. Whoa…

People have heard a lot about Star Wars the Old Republic since its announcement. We have heard about story driven a MMORPG, which is actually nothing new. Most MMOs have story. World Of Warcraft has a story, IF you can find it. And IF you can stand to read each block of text for each quest. I know I couldn’t. Bioware is well known for making gripping stories so we can expect a cool one. What else? Combat. Every MMO out there that succeeds has cool combat. From the sheer nastiness of the combat medic in the original Star Wars Galaxies, to the utter coolness of a sniper shot felling Lord Recluse at the end of a Statesman’s Task Force in City of Heroes, to dropping a Bane mech with a single careful torqueshell rifle shot in Tabula Rasa (may it rest in peace), to running in shouting ‘Leeeeroy Jenkins!’ at the top of your lungs in World of Warcraft. Just kidding. Anyway, from those types of MMOs to the grind, grind, grind, run away, grind, grind, grind, RUN AWAY of most MMOs, combat is a major factor. Even Star Wars combat really is not anything new. Some of the looks and moves are cool, but again, most of them have been done somewhere. Most of what is in MMOs has been done to death in other MMOs. What IS new for Star Wars: The Old Republic is the amount of voice over.

Everyone who has played a recent Bioware game knows about voiced NPCs. Dragon Age Origins, and Mass Effects 1 and 2 both had HUGE amounts of voice acting, both by the main player characters and the supporting NPCs. Add to that the lines from some of the bad guys and other NPCs and you have major coolness. One of my biggest gripes with older MMOs is I wanted to hear things from people in the game. Not just the big shots, the major quest givers, but from others. Many MMOs recently have added sound bites to major quests. The biggest gripes I had with Star Wars Galaxies and World of Warcraft was that there was always silence when the characters were talking. They would say ‘Hi’ at times, but no more. The quest was all given in text form. And it got annoying. We had the journal for text. I want to hear the voice of the person I am talking to. I know, I know, I got spoiled by Mass Effect, but can you blame me?

Sound effects in games have come a long way from things like ‘Pong’ and ‘Asteroids’.  You know, ‘ping’, ‘bang’, ‘zot’ that kind of thing. Arcade games had cool sound effects and even voices sometimes. But the processing power of the Commodore 32 or similar home entertainment consoles simply couldn’t handle the load. Sound, sure. Realistic sound and voice? Not so much. The main reason they introduced cutscenes to games was to immerse the character in the game. Because, let’s face it, the actual gameplay was not immersive for a lot of games. Come on, how immersive is the grind in WoW? I tried, I really tried to immerse myself. But it didn’t work. The only MMO I ever really managed to immerse myself in was Star Wars Galaxies, and we all know how that turned out.

The whole point of a video game, any video game, is a suspension of disbelief. We play video games to get away from reality for a while. Some of us may play them too much but all of us play them for the same basic reasons. We want to be able to lose ourselves, if just for a time, in the game. We want to have fun, we want to be excited, we want to go ‘Oh MAN that was cool!’. Sound effects are just one of the many ways that game designers draw in their players. Graphics, music, plot, action, all of these are important. But if the sound is ‘meh’, the game will likely be remembered as ‘meh’, if it is remembered at all. From the few video clips we have seen of in-game footage, I personally do not think Bioware is going to have that particular problem. Of course, many of the sounds are well known. Lightsabers of course are truly distinctive. And then they said the magic words. ‘Fully voiced’

As far as I have been able to determine, it has never been done before. Heck, as far as I can find, it has never even been TRIED before. The work involved is just too huge for most game developers to even attempt. To make every single NPC, every single quest giver, or quest participant, speak is just…whoa… Just the coding for the voices had to take years. And such voices…

We judge people, on a daily basis, by how they sound when they speak. Yes, we look at them, but their tone of voice is one of the major factors in how we judge. Are they angry? Sad? Happy? How do they feel and why? Tone of voice tells us a lot. It makes the characters come to life, which is one reason things like opera and theater are never likely to go away. Movies are fun, but the raw emotion that can be portrayed live has no substitute. Now a video game is not live, the conversations will never change, well, not quickly or easily. But to be able to hear how a person is feeling… That is just ‘wow’!

Is this being telling the truth? Is he/she/it about to blast me? It adds a layer of suspense, and immersion to the game. Just the clips that we have seen show a great deal more emotion that is shown in most games. Not that we expect anything less from the makers of Mass Effect and Dragon Age.

Personally, I think it is about time. I want to immerse myself in the story. I want to feel the tension, the fear, the grittiness that is Star Wars, especially during the time of the Great War. I want to hear the fear in someone’s voice as they beg for their life before I blast them. But again, I am not a very nice person when I play games. I want the game to stand out. I want it to be epic. And if it is anything at all like the clips that have been shown, I don’t think that will be a problem.

From the Imperial Agent and Bounty Hunter quest footage clip:

Czerka rep: “Do you know who I am?”

Imperial Agent: “I couldn’t care if you were the queen of Naboo.”


Over to you. Are you looking forward to the voices as much as I am?

Put on the hardhats people…

Lets build!

Okay, who wants to build stuff? Whether it is swords, guns, buildings, starfighters, capital class starships like Star Destroyers or space stations like the Death Star… Um, wait a sec… No, I don’t think I want to build a Death Star. People tend to blow them up before they can really be used. And it is just so insulting, it was always those pesky small fighters doing it too. And the Millennium Falcon – every time that ship shows up, Imperial insurance rates must hit the roof. Man, if I were an insurance agent in the Star Wars universe, you couldn’t pay me enough to insure that huge pile of junk. Sure it has a really, really big gun on it, one that can destroy planets, but come on! It’s a massive risk to build one. No insurance company in existence is going to take a chance on it. So if you build it and some pesky Rebel scum blows it up like they always seem to, you are out of luck. And out several hundred billion credits.

So… Let’s stay small. Many games these days have some kind of crafting component. It can be something as simple as slots for sockets on your equipment that items of some sort can be placed in to enhance it. Who here played Diablo II? *Raises hand* The socketable items in that game were just too cool. You could make your gear do everything but sit up and beg. Same for KOTOR I. But was it really crafting? It was more enhancing an already crafted item. Players wanted more.

MMORPGs have incorporated crafting almost since the first ones. Games like Dark Age of Camelot, Everquest, City of Heroes and World of Warcraft have incorporated or added in a crafting element to keep players happy. But for the Star Wars fan, the pivotal moment was when Star Wars Galaxies came out. I remember the harvesting, the searching, the planning and then the building. I had one character who was an artisan, he was supposed to go droid engineer eventually, but I got tired of the constant work involved. And yes, it was work. You needed a lot of resources and not trash either. Better resources made better products and I still remember the sticker shock when I looked at some of the best items for sale on the bazaar and elsewhere. But players could make virtually anything in the game that other players could use. Anything from bio-agents for combat medics to starfighters and space transports after Jump to Lightspeed came out was feasible for players to build, if not always easy. But that was the challenge.

It was something else to do in the game besides grind. Admittedly, you had to find the resources first. Either you had to go out and mine them, harvest them, whatever, yourself. Or you had to pay someone else to do it for you, which could get VERY expensive. A lot like real life in some respects. I remember my first suit of composite armor for my commando character. It cost more than all of my starfighters combined. But it was worth it! Players will buy almost anything if it is available in a game. But if it is decent, gives them an advantage, or just plain looks better than the regular gear, you better believe the virtual items will fly off the virtual shelves.

So, what kind of crafting do we want? Do we want something like the system in City of Heroes, where you crafted items to improve your abilities? I still recall fighting Hamidon a dozen times, trying for a specific drop to make a specific piece. Or do we want to be able to build anything like in Star Wars Galaxies? I have to say that, speaking for myself, the crafting in that game and others like it was more than a bit overwhelming.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic I and II also featured customization. Customize your lightsabers, your blasters, your armor, what have you, you could make it better. The developers have stated on several occasions that customization will be present, but what kind or how much, we don’t know. I don’t know about you but I want to trick out my blasters. KOTOR II in particular had crafting out the wazoo. You could make all kinds of things. Weapons, armor, grenades, mines, swords, guns, you could make it all. So it stands to reason that The Old Republic will as well. They have even hinted that you can customize your personal starship, but how or to what degree, they haven’t said yet. Annoying, isn’t it? I want to put the biggest weapons I can on mine. What can I say? I like big guns.

Many players gain enjoyment from building things. Hence the popularity of the LEGO series of games. But not every player has 1) the time, or 2) the inclination, to sit around for hours and hours watching things be built. For myself, I want to be out blowing things up. But there is a distinct subset of players in MMOs who live to do one thing and one thing only. Build. And their work is generally in high demand. They can charge whatever they want for their services, because lets face it. They provide a service. Usually a very good service for those of use who lack the patience to grind, grind, grind, build, build, build. We don’t mind paying them for the convenience. We want to play, not work.

Over to you. What would you want to be able to build or customize in Star Wars: The Old Republic? Is there anything you would NOT want to see able to be built by players? For me, I really don’t want to see player-built Star Destroyers and Death Stars!

Blaster versus Lightsaber

Ok, we all know what happens when someone brings a sword to a gunfight. Now it is POSSIBLE for a highly skilled and sneaky sword wielder to beat a person with a gun. It has been done. Much as I detest the idea of drawing on Hollywood for examples, the 1971 Charles Bronson movie Red Sun shows what happens when an overconfident outlaw gunslinger gets cocky around a samurai. But fighting a man armed with a gun when he is far away and you are only have a sword does not usually work very well. But that is real life. Star Wars is different.

In the original trilogy, we do not see much of lightsabers in combat. We see Obi-wan slice a thug’s arm off, and we see Darth Vader and Obi-wan battle it out in Episode IV. We see Luke and Vader fight in Episode V. And then we see the only time in the original trilogy that a blaster get used against a lightsaber in Episode VI when the last surviving scout trooper tries to gun Luke down and then run him down. The blaster bolts hit the blade and we all remember what happened. They were deflected, leaving the enemy virtually defenseless against the energy blade. Wow, that makes the lightsaber a VERY effective weapon when fighting blaster armed enemies.

The prequel trilogy shows a lot more lightsaber action. From the combat with the battle droids at the beginning of Episode I until the final climactic duel between Obi-wan and Anakin, lightsabers dominate in almost every battle they fight in. The only reason Order 66 worked was it took the Jedi COMPLETELY by surprise. One on one, using a blaster against a lightsaber simply doesn’t work very well for the blaster wielder. And people wonder why Boba Fett carried a flamethrower and multiple other weapons?

According to Wookipedia, blasters are particle beam weapons that fire from a replaceable power cell. This makes them much more powerful than a slug throwing weapon such as a real life assault rifle. Blasters are line of sight, that is, if you can see it, you can usually hit it. Although atmospheric effects will slow and or degrade the particle beam somewhat, only at extreme range will the effect be discernible. On the down side, blasters are fragile, as is evidenced several times in the movies with Jedi slicing weapons apart. But if you hit your target, you will do damage, lots of damage.

Lightsabers are elegant weapons. They are swords whose blades are composed of pure energy. Anyone who has wielded a sword in real life (which I have btw) can tell you that no matter the blade, they are not easy to use. Add to that a weightless blade, you cannot tell by the pull where the blade is. It would be very easy to hurt yourself with one of those. But this is not real life, this is SPARTA! Sorry, couldn’t resist. No, this is not Sparta, this is Star Wars.

In Star Wars, lightsabers are melee weapons. Some users could throw them. Some could wield them using the Force at long distances, telekinetically. But mainly, lightsabers and all their derivatives are meant to be used up close and personal. Ordinarily, this would be a problem. If the blaster wielder sees you before you see him, BAM! You are dead. But then we get into the fun part.

Say that a Trooper sees a Sith Warrior at a distance. Trooper pulls out his blaster rifle and Bam! He fires off a round. What happens? Sith warrior blocks the bolt with his lightsaber is what happens. And then Sith Warrior is likely more than a little ticked off. He jumps to close the distance and the fight is on. What will happen next is utterly dependent on the skill of the combatants in question.

Is the Sith Warrior someone along the lines of Darth Malgus or Darth Vader? In that case, that Trooper is toast, period. But if he is not… Things get more complex. The Trooper will fire, the Sith Warrior will deflect the shots. But can he deflect them all? Jedi Master Ki Al Mundi was taken by surprise in Episode III during Order 66, but he still managed to deflect many of the blaster shots that came his way. But there were just too many bolts coming his way for him to deflect them all. In this case though, the Trooper has problems. The Sith Warrior is virtually impervious to his rifle attacks. The Sith gets close and even a stock strike won’t keep the Sith from making a nice clean slice through that pretty white armor. End of story.

What if, instead of a blaster rifle, that poor trooper had a heavy repeater? A heavy machine gun blaster fires so fast that it is hard to see the bolts, let alone deflect them. The sheer weight of fire will count for something. Anyone wonder why the soldier that Darth Malgus took out first in the ‘Hope’ trailer was the one with the heavy repeater? Because he was the greatest threat. That weapon fired so fast that it would be next to impossible to block all of the shots. And if even one gets through it will do significant damage.

So, let’s try that scenario again. Sith Warrior jumps in and meets a hail of blaster fire. He blocks five, ten, twenty, but the twenty first gets through and nails him. Then while he struggles to maintain focus, a grenade lands at his feet. Ouchtime.

Now I am not saying that a Trooper will always win; not hardly. As I said before it is the skill of the combatant, and thus, the skill of the player that makes all the difference. But there is one other thing that needs to be said. This is not the movies, this is the Old Republic. Jedi and Sith are known factors, they are everywhere. In the movies, no one knew how to fight lightsabers, or they acted as if they didn’t. Does anyone think that people of the time period of this game will NOT have some clue how to fight Jedi or Sith?

In closing, a blaster versus a lightsaber is an uneven match. The lightsaber wielder has the advantage in that he can deflect the blaster shots while he closes, even without using the Force offensively. And once he is close, the contest is essentially over, if all the two have are a blaster and lightsaber. But sneaky tactics or heavy weapons may even the playing field. I look forward to seeing what Bioware has come up with when I finally get my hands on the game. I am definitely going to roll a trooper first.

What do you think? Should blasters be able to counter lightsabers in some way? Or do you want other options to counter Force users?

Good Sith and Evil Jedi? Wha…?

Light or Darkness

Jedi and Sith. Light and darkness. Good and evil. Simple, right? Bioware seems to be hell bent on making what we thought was simple complicated. The whole good/bad thing gets kind of fuzzy, like Dr. Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters put it. Those of us who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy know about good and evil. Darth Vader was evil, Luke Skywalker was good. Empire was evil, Rebel Alliance was good. Stormtroopers, brainless soldiers following orders to the letter with no questions asked, were evil. Smugglers and… um… murderers (Han shot first in the original) …were… um… good? Ok, so he turned good at the end of that movie, but is it so easy to define?

What is good? Oh, man, I doubt I could put that in words if I had a hundred pages to try. We all have our own definitions of good. Selflessness, heroism, courage, kindness, etc. But in the first movie, Star Wars: A New Hope, good was fairly easy to define. The people fighting the bad guys were the good guys, even if all of them were not ‘good’ themselves. Han Solo in particular was a mercenary, out for one thing and one thing only: money.  He took the charter job to carry Luke, Obi-Wan and the droids to Alderaan not out of a sense of helping others, but for one HECK of a payout promised by the Jedi. He certainly did not attack the detention bay of the Death Star to rescue Princess Leia out of the goodness of his heart. He would not have lifted a finger without the promise of a massive reward.  Yes, at the end of the movie it was shown that he was not simply a greedy, self centered scum, but it took most of the movie. But for the most part, in A New Hope, good was fairly easy to recognize. Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi were good.

Now as to evil. Again, where to start? We all have our own definitions of evil. Selfishness, greed, lust for power or other gains, or simply an excess of pragmatism. Why did Darth Vader strangle people with the Force? Was it pragmatism? The easiest and quickest way? Or was it because it was the most terrifying way to do it? Did he enjoy cowing his subordinates, or was it simply the fastest and most efficient method of promoting an underling? From the time of Episode IV until the end of Episode VI, Darth Vader stood as the personification of evil to most movie goers. He wore black, he was big and scary and treated his subordinates like dirt. It wasn’t until the end of Return of the Jedi, when we see his redemption that the entire story comes to head.  Until then, he was always the bad guy, the ULTIMATE bad guy. A sound of heavy breathing still scares me to this very day, wondering if my own throat is about to be compacted by icy insubstantial fingers of the Force. Darth Vader was evil.

Now, as to good and evil in games. Most video games through the history of them, you play a good guy. From the earliest games like Defender and Galaga, you were trying to protect others, fighting unending waves of bad guys to win. There was no question, you were the hero, and what you were doing was ‘good’. Not so more modern games. Role playing games in particular have always catered to all kinds. People who wanted to play ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’. Baldur’s Gate II was probably the best of its era in games where you could choose. You could be an amoral mercenary, killing anyone and everyone who got in your way, a cynical ranger dealing death to orcs and scum from a distance with a bow, or a noble paladin sworn to serve your gods and dealing holy fury to the enemies of truth and justice. Or anything in between.  And in all things, there was choice. You COULD play as a paladin and do evil. You then lost your powers and had to play the rest of the game as a fighter with a few odd quirks. I personally loved playing as a monk, always Lawful Neutral, that way I had to choose VERY carefully what to do and when.

And then games like Mass Effect, and Dragon Age: Origins where your choices for good and evil have a massive effect on the game. Do you support the noble good guy, even if he really seems to have no clue what he is doing? Or the schemer who had his brother murdered to try and snatch the throne? He knows how to get things done after all. Do you play the good cop, bringing truth and justice to dark places? Or the evil scum who is only in it for themselves? Only speaking for myself, I almost always play good guys. I see too much evil in daily life to want to perpetuate it in any way even virtually. Maybe that makes me a wimp, but I think it makes me a better person than many I meet on a daily basis.

Bioware has not given out a lot of information on the actual story of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Part of this is intended to whet potential player’s appetites, which it does very well. Part is likely because they have not finalized everything yet. I mean, come on, how COULD they have finalized it all by now? In any MMO there is a lot of stuff to get done, and in this MMO…sheesh… If half of what they tell us is true, it will put all the others to shame content wise.

But they have said that it will be possible to be a light side Sith. Or a dark side Jedi. My first reaction, like many people probably, was to say ‘WHA…?’ But then I thought about it. Jedi are not necessarily ‘good’. They have to do what it takes to protect the galaxy as a whole. Does this mean they can be paragons of virtue all the time? Heck no. Obi-Wan lies to Luke. Forget the ‘different point of view’ garbage. He flat out LIED to the young man. He did it because the truth would have caused all kinds of problems. We see Anakin, as a Jedi, act Dark Side. And that is what started his fall, in Episode II, avenging his mother.

But we never saw any Light Side Sith in any of the movies, probably because Lucas didn’t like the idea. Jedi were good and Sith were evil, period. Right? But now we have this quandary. If you are serving evil, does that make you evil? Do Sith warriors, Sith Inquisitors, Bounty Hunters and Imperial Agents HAVE to be evil in SWTOR? Bioware’s answer seems to be their stock one. ‘It is all up to the player.’

I personally am looking forward to playing a Dark Side Trooper or a Light Side Sith Warrior. How about you? What do you want to play?

Yin-yang image courtesy of: Dreamstime.