The Naked Gamer: #1ReasonWhy


The Naked Gamer is a regular opinion column that strips back the superficialities and looks at the flesh underneath. If you’ve got a topic you’d like discussed, drop columnist Kristy Green a line!

When I applied to write for The Oceanic Gamer, I told myself that I would never write this article. It is something that has been talked about for so long and it’s really getting to the point where I feel that if people just don’t get it now, then they never will. It’s not like there aren’t already plenty of articles out there by people a lot more knowledgeable and smarter. People better at getting their thoughts, opinions and more importantly, their feelings across.

However I feel I should at least give it a try after seeing the recent twitter campaign #1ReasonWhy. This twitter campaign saw women and men raising awareness of some of the battles still fought by women within the gaming industry. These were women that are making our games, expanding our knowledge and bringing gaming to everyone.

Before I started writing, I thought for a very long time how I am going to write this. I thought about what angle I should approach this from, how I should handle it. How I could maybe bring something new to this subject. In the end, I decided to bare all and go for the all natural stance, just like my column is named. I figure if I can’t talk truthfully and honestly about our current situation than there really isn’t a point in writing about it at all.

I wanted to start over ten years ago. This is because while I’ve been gaming since before I went to Kindergarten, it wasn’t until the ‘90s that I got into online gaming and I guess I became a part of the larger gaming community. So much has changed so quickly and I feel that the gaming industry is actually getting worse and moving backwards instead of forwards.

Roughly twelve years ago, I was really getting into MUDs (Multi-User Dungeon). They were awesome and as someone with a crappy computer and an even crappier internet connection they were the poor man’s MMO. This didn’t make them terrible games at all though. MUDs were text based and so they ran off player’s imaginations. You could create anything in a MUD just by typing. There were fewer constraints and it meant that people were creating systems that are amazing even by today’s standards.

I got to experience this first hand and it was my first experience being on the other side of the code. I got to be a world builder for a pretty amazing MUD. There were only two of us that got to play around in the game and create whatever we wanted, and I felt very lucky.

You may have already noticed where this is heading. My world builder colleague was indeed a male. There were three of us working on this game and the owner/coder of the game was also male. You may be already cringing thinking of the horrible tale I am going to tell but the truth is, there is no horrible tale. Everyone knew I was female, I was even titled the Goddess of Chaos, but no one cared. I was never once told to go make a sandwich, get back to the kitchen or even to show people pictures of my naked body parts.

No one cared.

I created amazing areas in that game. My world building skills were centred more about creating zones that were filled with their own sort of story, with hidden passages and brain teasing puzzles. My counterpart tended to make more killing zones, packing in as many baddies as possible and letting the player kill or be killed. This partnership meant we created a world with something for everyone and was targeted to all gamers.

When I think back to this time, I can’t help but wonder where everything went wrong. My first experience as a part of the gaming industry was great. My last experience though was completely different.

I worked extremely hard running a Community Team for an Indy MMO developer. I did an amazing job but I still felt constantly that the only reason I was there was because I was female and not because of all I had done.

It started as jokes like when discussing possible competition prizes – it was actually suggested that they could give away game shirts that have been worn by me (including a photo as proof). It continued when I was working to make the community a better place and was told how the directors made the right choice getting in a ‘girl’. It ended when we were going through the job description and one of the perks was going to game conventions. I said that I can’t sell the game, I’m not hot enough. The reply was, ‘don’t worry you are plenty hot enough’.

It was horrible seeing the hours of work I put in be pretty much squared down to the fact that I am a woman. It was hard to feel any pride in the amazing direction the community was taking when it was simply because I am a woman. It doesn’t help that I would take my developers hat off, put my gamer one on and get the exact same treatment.

And people keep asking me why I left such an awesome job.

So these are my experiences from the beginning and the end – I won’t bore you with the middle. Next week I will be coming back to this subject and exploring why this is happening instead of just my experiences. I will also be explaining the full reason I am writing these articles when I said I never would.

So stay tuned for what I am hoping will be at least a slightly interesting take on the gaming industry from my personal experiences.

The Naked Gamer: Age and Gaming

Age and gaming

The Naked Gamer is a regular opinion column that strips back the superficialities and looks at the flesh underneath. If you’ve got a topic you’d like discussed, drop columnist Kristy Green a line!

Well, it’s that time again. The time when my age gains a +1 and my experience bar resets for another year. Normally around this time I take a moment to reflect over the past 365 days and my life in general, although this time it’s a little different as it’s one of the big ones. You know the ones, where you are meant to make a big deal and you have to start ticking that older age bracket box.

Usually I will spend two weeks moping around and considering why I still claim the title of Gamer.  Even though I have always been on the younger side of the average gamer age, and probably always will be as the average age grows older with me, I find that society seems to continue thinking of gaming as child play. They seem to prefer to make up their own mind and ignore anything that might seem contrary.

Every year I am asked when I am going to grow up and stop playing with children’s toys. I am told that as a female my gaming hobby is either an attention seeking pastime or something I should finally give up to do things more worthwhile. I’ve even been told I would never be able to find someone if I continue to do anything that may be considered such a manly vocation.

I admit that these comments used to bother me. While a part of me knew they were false and I knew they shouldn’t get to me, they did. Every year I wondered why I enjoyed gaming and I even started to think maybe I am just being attention seeking? Who cares that I’ve been playing computer games since I was a girl. It was obviously something I did for some silly reason and simply not because of pure enjoyment. I even quit gaming for three years – it was torture.

So like usual, when this birthday came around I found myself once again having my deep soul searching assignment as to whether or not I should give up gaming.

I like to think that this year I am a little older and wiser and maybe that’s why I realised I don’t care anymore. I game because I want to, I game because I enjoy it and I love writing about gaming, talking about gaming and being a gamer.

While sure, it may not seem the most awesome life and while it may seem like I am wasting it staying home on a Friday night with a beer and my favourite MMO, I say waste away!

I can’t change how other people feel, what they choose to believe and even stop them from spreading it around, but I can decide if I am going to listen and if I am going to let them get to me. So, I am going to decide to not do that.

If there is one thing I would tell my younger self right now, it would be to never stop gaming no matter what other people might think. If they have a problem with your gaming then it’s their problem, not yours.

So boot up your computer, start a new game and let’s go save a princess together.

To gaming for life!

These are not the factions you’re looking for!

A long, long time ago in a land far away, there was a beautiful princess, handsome rogue, black knight, evil king and a brave lad about to take his first steps on a great adventure. Oh, did I mention the menacing castle, wise wizard and two bumbling dwarves for comic relief. Sound familiar? It should because Mr Lucas not only lifted a classic fairytale template but the childlike morality that goes with it. So, in SWTOR you tend to be pushed to one moral pole or the other in order to benefit from alignment rewards.

This was not always the plan though. Back in the hazy genesis of the game there was talk of having three factions: saintly, chewing-the-scenery evil and normal people just looking to make a buck. But as the game evolved that went the way of other ambitious ideas and we ended up with the binary factions each gaining one of the neutral classes. Perhaps they didn’t want to stray too far from WoW’s recipe or maybe three factions was more work than they could handle.

The ghost of the third faction still haunts the corridors of BioWare Austin, as has been acknowledged by the promise of neutral gear sometime in the indeterminate future. So, to draw a long bow, perhaps a third faction is a concept that could be dusted off and re-examined because the game could certainly benefit from it.

Now before I go further, this is a mental exercise so don’t go flaming about problematic details, we’re painting with broad strokes here. So grab some Giggledust and lets go down the rabbit hole…

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first, since much of the ground work is already in the game. The neutral faction already has two classes: Bounty Hunter and Smuggler. Now if my math is correct that leaves us a class short. Rather than introduce a new one I’m going to suggest ‘Revanites’ where neutraly aligned Republic and Empire plays could defect to, but probably not until level 50 once the class story is out of the way. Why complicate things.

Now we need a capital. What’s appropriate and easy? Hutt Space in one form or another predates either The Empire or The Republic and Nar Shaddaa rivaled Coruscant as a trade hub until the Kyyr system’s star went supernova and destroyed the Ootmian Pabol trade route, so we’ve got our capital city. Unless BioWare feel like building Bilbousa. Nah, didn’t think so.

So what’s the point of having a neutral faction? In a word – Endgame. To avoid changing too much of the existing game during levelling, specifically voiceover and story, a neutral faction would really exist to create added gameplay dynamics in warzones and, if it’s ever fixed, open-world PvP. Potentially it could help balance factions by allowing the two smaller ones to team up against the largest. Or not. Wholesale slaughter can be fun too.

More to the point, since endgame content is still a bit thin it gives Bioware the opportunity to develop new material that will make level 50 gameplay more compelling and stand out from other offerings in the genre.

Before I wrap this up, I’ll just say again, this is purely a ‘what-if’, it’s not fully thought through because I’m not a game designer. I also understand there would be a lot of work to make it happen, so don’t waste your time pointing that sort of thing out. But taking all that into consideration, why not join in this flight of fancy and tell us what would you like to see if a third faction was a possibility?

Throw a comment in below!

Why SWTOR will never ‘Jump The Shark’

First things first for those under the age of 40 who may not know what the term ‘Jumping The Shark’ means – here’s some free edumacation for you.

Now that’s out of the way, here’s why I think SWTOR will never be at a stage of ‘jumping the shark’: because the Star Wars franchise made that jump years ago. Before you start entertaining the idea of inserting a light saber in one of my cavities, let me explain.

At risk of sounding like an old bugger, it can be pretty easily argued that the Star Wars universe’s best work is behind it. No-one would argue that it isn’t totally embedded into Western culture in particular, but that widespread love and acceptance is predominantly based on the original three movies and to a lesser extent Episodes 1 to 3.

Sure, there have been TV series, toys, piles of books and stacks of comics, but it’s the movies that are the foundation of everything Star Wars. And those original movies are the pinnacle of what has been achieved in Star Wars. Everything since then may have been enjoyable, engaging and even of higher quality, but it’s all of lesser importance (my, I can already hear the sound of this site’s server sighing as it prepares for the onslaught of comments).

Now before anyone gets totally up in arms, I believe that this is actually a great thing. If Star Wars were still the groundbreaking new kid on the block, imagine the pressure on an MMO like SWTOR succeeding. And it’s likely it wouldn’t succeed, because it’s taken all these years for Star Wars lore to be rich enough so that something like SWTOR will appeal to a big enough group of people to make it viable. It’s easy to sell a Star Wars Lego game, but an MMO is a much different beast and only now after so many years is it a viable option.

So overall, although there’s no shortage of criticism of SWTOR, and some of it is certainly valid, SWTOR is in a space where it’s likely to go from strength to strength. Obviously in a number of years it will decline like any game, but that’s no jumping the shark. That’s plain old ageing.

Over to you as always: have I jumped the shark in my jumping the shark analogy??

[Superb image via]

Okay, who is ready for school?

I was just finishing my mid-term exams when I had a thought. Is there school in Star Wars? Then I remembered that yes, in A New Hope, Luke wanted to go to the Academy. But what about the first, what was it, nineteen years of his life? Was he home schooled? Was he taught in a classroom somewhere like Anchorhead? Did he have a tutor? What kind of school would Luke Skywalker have gone to? Or did he?

At first thought, it is a no brainer. He had to have gotten some kind of education. Maybe it was all in moisture farming, but, no – that doesn’t work either, since he is a pilot and apparently a good enough one even in the wilds of Tattooine that his friend Biggs comments on it when they meet again right before the Death Star attack: “Luke is the best bush pilot in the Outer Rim, sir.” Contrary to popular belief you usually cannot do what Anakin did in The Phantom Menace – crawl into a starfighter with no training at all and fly it like a professional. Admittedly, what he did was autopilot mostly and/or was incredibly lucky / the Force. So… maybe with the Force, you don’t have to study to be a pilot? That doesn’t work very well, does it? I sure wouldn’t want someone piloting anything I am in who didn’t study to be a pilot.

So some more on piloting issues.Surely it involves stuff like mathematics, history, sciences, stellar geography, astromechanics, navigation, plumbing or electronics? ‘How to fix broken stuff without the proper parts’ might be course in Tattooine schools, or it might not have been. Some of that could be taught by tutors, or as an apprentice of sorts. That is another question: how much of any of that list of subjects did Luke know? Admittedly, he was in hiding, unbeknownst to him. The Skywalker name was fairly distinctive. If word had gotten to the upper echelons of the Empire that there was a kid with the Force who had that name, would that have been a good thing? I don’t think so. So the whole reason that Owen kept denying Luke the chance to go study at the Academy was to keep the boy out of the sight, or try to anyway. Not that it worked in the end. So how well educated was Luke in A New Hope?

He obviously knew one end of a blaster from the other, he knew how to fix droids, and he knew how to fly. Beyond that? Who knows. My personal feeling is that he was not uneducated. This is a ‘gut’ feeling from watching the films so many times. He was reasonably well educated for someone who grew up in the back of beyond. Kind of like a young man growing up in the Western United States during the latter part of the nineteenth century. That is, he probably sat in a classroom with a bunch of other people his age for part of a day, several days a week, from the time he was five or so. The rest of the time, he was working with his uncle, keeping the moisture farm going, not an easy task. Maybe the teacher was a stern, possibly handicapped former farmer who couldn’t work, but found a place doing something he either enjoyed or despised. Not a nun, not on Tattooine. After all, his brain was still in his skull, right? So no B’omarr involved. Good thing too, ick.

Higher education is covered well in the movies, with the Imperial Academy mentioned a few times but no one covers any lower education. Maybe it is simply too commonplace to be seen in normal conversations. But to be a reasonably functional member of society an education is pretty important. If you make it a high tech society, like Star Wars is set in, well it is kind of important.

In the end, we don’t really know what Luke Skywalker had for an early education. He learned a lot ‘on the job’, as it were, with his uncle. But for actual education, classroom type education, we have no idea. If so, it was likely a small classroom, maybe the kids of the area in some kind of place set up by the Darklighters. Maybe in Anchorhead. Or maybe he was just so skilled in the Force that the things that us lesser beings need education for, he could do naturally.

What do you think? Can you see Luke Skywalker as a kid in a classroom?

WHAT did that being just say? Profanity in SWTOR

We all know what profanity is. None of us were born yesterday. But…what is it exactly? And why does it exist in Star Wars? Star Wars is a fanciful setting, filled with fanciful beings, so why have such a gritty, not very nice aspect to it?

According to Wikipedia: “Profanity are words, expressions, gestures, or other social behaviors that are socially constructed or interpreted as insulting, rude, vulgar, desecrating, or showing disrespect.

The original meaning of the adjective profane (Latin: “in front of”, “outside the temple”) referred to items not belonging to the church, e.g., “The fort is the oldest profane building in the town, but the local monastery is older, and is the oldest building,” or “besides designing churches, he also designed many profane buildings”. Over time, this meaning changed to the current meaning.

Other words commonly used to describe profane language or its use include: cursing, swearing, expletives, dirty words, sentence enhancers, cussing, blasphemy, and irreverent, obscene, foul, indecent, strong, pejorative, choice, bad, or adult language.”

Profanity has most likely existed for as long as long as spoken language has. It is not always a bad thing. Interjections are used in sentences to indicate extreme emotion. Also according to Wikipedia: In grammar, an interjection or exclamation is a lexical category used to express an isolated emotion on the part of the speaker (although most interjections have clear definitions). Filled pauses such as uh, er, um, are also considered interjections. Interjections are typically placed at the beginning of a sentence or in a sentence by themselves.

The word “interjection” literally means “thrown in between” from the Latin inter (“between”) and iacere (“throw”). Interjections are generally uninflected function words and have sometimes been seen as sentence-words, because they can replace or be replaced by a whole sentence (they are holophrastic). Sometimes, however, interjections combine with other words to form sentences, but not with finite verbs. When an exclamation point is not needed, a comma can take the place.

Interjections are used when the speaker encounters events that cause emotions. The emotions are often strong (surprise, disgust, joy, excitement, enthusiasm, etc.), but are not necessarily so (boredom, irritation, mild surprise, etc.). However, several languages have interjections that cannot be related to emotions.

The point of this language lesson is that profanity is probably one of the few things that can be recognized in almost any language. It is almost universal. Now, we might not understand what someone says that is profanity in another language, but likely we can get the gist.

It is worth noting that some of the better known science fiction series had profanity that resonate even today. Battlestar Galactica, both the original series and the newer version, had ‘frak’. Example: ‘That frakking piece of frakking junk just frakking frakked up’. Farscape had ‘frell’ which filled the same role, being profanity that would not anger anyone. It is obviously profanity, but it is not any that anyone would know, and it does not call into question anyone’s ancestry, beliefs or any of the other aspects that are usually impacted by profanity.

Star Trek, as it was originally envisioned, did not have profanity. They were supposed to be beyond that. But then, the Klingons came along and they had to have some form of insults for everyone. Calling someone a ‘P’tak’ who is not a Trekkie will probably just get you an odd look. A Trekkie may or may not reply in Klingon and possibly draw his dagger or Bat’leth. Or they might just laugh, depending on the Trekkie.

But in Star Wars, why would we want profanity? Profanity is not nice. But then again, many of the situations in Star Wars are not nice. But at times, being polite is better than being insulting. After all, would you call the real Darth Vader an ‘***hole’ to his face?

I didn’t think so.

Profanity adds a level of realism to the game. Real people, when they drop a wrench on their foot, generally do not say ‘Oh darn that hurt’. Well, not any of the real construction people I used to work with anyway. What they had to say in that kind of situation was not for any kind of online forum anywhere. Many people react in stressful circumstances with profanity as a stress reliever or a distraction of sorts. Soldiers in particular had a reputation for being profane, and it is one that if fairly well deserved. I once heard a master chief petty officer in the United States Navy curse for three solid minutes, without repeating himself. He had cause, mind you. A lower ranked seaman had done something dumb and put civilian lives in jeopardy, mine included. From the dawn of history, soldiers have used profanity to express displeasure at situations, officers or orders. Only in recent years has there been an attempt to curb the use of profanity in the ranks, a more politically correct military, which is an oxymoron if I have ever read one.

Profanity is seen a lower class thing, but that is not always the case. Anyone can use profanity, but it is not usually accepted in the higher levels of society. For instance, there had better be a very good reason for a President say, so speak something profane during a live TV broadcast.

In some cultures, profanity is more accepted than others. For instance, some parts of the Maritimes of Canada seem to have the F-word as a normal figure of speech. It shocked the heck out of me the first time I heard a six year old talking that way and his mother leaned over to me and said “It’s okay, that is just how we F-ing talk up here.”  You could have knocked me over with a feather. It is not insulting; it is just part of how they talk. That kid had no clue what it meant. It was just part of how he had grown up. My own mother would have literally washed my mouth out with soap at that age for saying that. She did it to my sister for that exact word.

In Star Wars, it is supposed to be a family friendly series and it shows. DarthDerriphan on the TOR forums actually put together a list of profanity that was used in the movies, shows, books, comics, etc. Swearing in a galaxy far, far away… It’s a long list. It helps add character to various beings in the Star Wars universe. They can act like real people.  Real people get emotional, get angry and say things that they sometimes regret. But sometimes not. Jabba the Hutt calling someone an ‘Echutta’ is obviously not a compliment. Boba Fett calling Han Solo ‘Son of a Barve’ likewise.

It adds another level of immersion to the game, to the story, when the characters act like real people. For instance, in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, Joker is NOT politically correct, but he more than makes up for it in piloting ability. If he drops profanity all the time, no one minds, because he is the greatest piloting things since sliced bread.

I personally think there should be a language filter for any game that children (Under the age of 13 when they likely know all of the words and more) will play. But I am old fashioned. Or am I?

What do you think? Profanity in Star Wars or no?

Image courtesy of:

Star Wars The Old Republic: it’s about class

I’m really thrilled to have a guest post from Xaelyn, whose post on hooks in gaming impressed me mightily. I asked him to write a piece of SWTOR‘s proposed classes, and he’s delivered in spades:

swtor-classes3 One of the more popular topics for SWTOR theorists has been that of which classes remain to be revealed. Of the eight possible classes, three have been officially announced (Trooper, Smuggler, and Bounty Hunter), with two others being considered ‘given’ (Jedi and Sith), leaving three slots completely unknown.

This, along with a slow trickle (if it can even be called a trickle) of information, and the lack of a release date preventing us from predicting when class reveals will happen, have stoked the hopes and passions of many a SWTOR forum-goer. So, what are the most popular ideas put forth? How can we hope to evaluate their likelihood? Let’s discuss in reverse order, of course, cuz I’m a bit daft.

Iconic: it’s not about battle-mages

BioWare has given us hints in their various oft-repeated catchphrases as to what makes them choose the classes they’ve chosen to implement. The three largest requirements seem to be that the class be iconic, heroic, and unique. The ‘iconic’ descriptor should serve well as our possibilities filter, as it gets rid of numerous silly suggestions. Battle-mages are certainly heroic, but definitely not ‘Star Wars’.
The words Jedi, Sith, Trooper, Smuggler, and Bounty Hunter all produce immediate characterizations in the mind of the Star Wars fan. What are some others? Senator brings to mind Leia and Padme. Officers bring back memories of the insidious Grand Moff Tarkin and every other cocky guy in a dark uniform with an English accent. Pilots are seen throughout the original trilogy. Crime Boss could perhaps remind someone of Jabba the Hutt. Assassin may conjure up images of Zam Wesell from Episode II. Engineer may remind people of young Anakin.

The contenders

For the next step, we can consider each class individually:

swtor-classes1 [Republic] Senator – This is one of the more infamous suggestions being kicked around online, and one I personally support. It is iconic, as I mentioned above. Leia and Padme are two of the most influential characters in the saga. The common objection is that it would suffer in the solo ground-based combat game. They lack the weapons and armor of the Trooper, the gadgets of the Bounty Hunter, the tricks of the Smuggler, and they are certainly no Jedi (Senator/Chancellor Palpatine being the exception). However, I believe their saving graces would come in the form of accuracy bonuses and their companion characters. Leia and Padme don’t shoot nearly as much as many of the other characters, but their hit percentages are higher. Companion characters have been confirmed by BioWare, and this could be a great help for the Senator class. Leadership abilities could enhance the abilities of a Senator’s bodyguard, greatly assisting with the smoothness of questing. In groups, having a buffbot is definitely handy, making this class highly desirable.

Final evaluation: Likely.

[Sith Empire] Officer – Ah, the Officer class. While being a good pairing against the Senator—both are leaders, wear light clothing, and usually brandish pistols—it is also iconic in the same way the Troopers are. Many of the extras in the movies wore this uniform, and it’s immediately recognizable. To top it off, Grand Moff Tarkin was perhaps one of the most evil, brilliant, power hungry men in the Empire. Honestly a pity he died in Episode IV, as he was played brilliantly by Peter Cushing. In my mind, the Officer would play much like the Senator. Light armor, deadly accuracy, and group/companion buffs. I’m sure the Officer’s training would play into some kind of tactical and dialogue bonuses as well, which would flesh out the class nicely. If either the Senator or the Officer don’t make it into the game, I would be very surprised.

Final evaluation: Likely.

[Republic or Empire] Pilot – Images of orange jumpsuits with white helmets, or modified stormtrooper armor with breathing apparatuses certainly appear in the original trilogy quite a bit. Luke spends a good portion of his screen time in his flight suit. There’s always the famous Wedge Antilles, who went on to become leader of the daring Rogue Squadron, among other things. Of course there’s Jek Porkins, who is infamous as a source of mocking laughter for his portly self somehow fitting into his cockpit. The main problem with this class proposition is that we don’t know how much space combat will factor into the game. Either way, it presents a balance issue— Pilots would most likely be gimped on the ground, while having bonuses other classes wouldn’t have in flight, potentially turning many off of the space combat altogether.

Furthermore, Luke, the most iconic pilot, wasn’t a pilot first and foremost. He was a farmboy, then a Jedi in training, and then a Jedi. While Wedge was primarily a flyer, most of his exploits are EU, which presents a problem, as BioWare is drawing much of their inspiration from the trilogies to cater to a broader audience. More people have seen the films than have read the novels or comics, after all.

Final evaluation: Not very likely as a class, perhaps as a profession. Completely dependent upon the implementation of space combat.

[Sith Empire] Crime Boss – Ah, the infamous glutton Jabba the Hutt. While he didn’t make his way into the films until Episode VI (no, special edition doesn’t count), his imprint matches his physical size. Knocking people off, setting up robberies, commanding a small army of minions, and eventually hoarding a cache of credits and spice certainly sounds heroic, does it not?

The caveats: while other games who’ve implemented a class like this, most notably City of Villains, have had multiple spawnable minions at the command of the player, this would not mesh well with the companion system already set up in SWTOR. Firstly, it would most likely be redundant. Everyone gets a companion! A workaround could be that they are less than heroic, simple thugs that are expendable. No need for companion quests for the thugs. The need for thugs is brought on by a Crime Boss’s aversion to doing their own dirty work. They’re not skilled combatants; that’s what they have minions for. However, in parity to the Senator idea, they could be the Sith’s main buff/debuff class.

Final evaluation: Unlikely.

swtor-classes2 [Sith Empire] Spy – Also called the Assassin, this is one of the more popular Sith suggestions. Internet detectives have dissected the epic “Deceived” trailer and have decided it wouldn’t be completely far-fetched for the Twi’lek female who accompanied the Sith Lord into the Temple turn out to be a Sith Spy character class. Naysayers contend that she’s an example of the companion system.
While the Spy doesn’t have an amazingly iconic movie counterpart– Zam Wesell was in maybe 5 minutes of total screen time in Episode II before Jango killed her—it’s been suggested that she could be a counter to either the Smuggler or the Senator archetypes: a light, quick, stealthy saboteur with tricks up her sleeve. While I find this an interesting possibility, I pray it doesn’t turn into the WoW-esque Rogue, with near-invisibility in broad daylight and enough debuffs to neutralize most targets completely. I’m a little jaded, forgive me.

Final evaluation: Likely.

[Republic or Empire] Engineer – Also known as the ‘Mechanic’, some people would compare this idea to Chewbacca or young Anakin. Chewie spent a lot of hours in the walls of the Falcon keeping that hunk of junk the fastest freighter in the galaxy, and Anakin was a mechanical prodigy as a child- 3PO and his podracer are proof of that. How this class would function is a little bit of a mystery to me. One possibility I see is class-specific companions in the form of droids. Perhaps some non-combat technological bonuses (slicing, repair) could be thrown in there as well. We don’t really have any iconic examples of how a mechanic would behave in combat, which is part of the problem. Chewie was a mechanic, but he was other things as well: if nothing else, a Smuggler in partner with Han
If this falls into the Republic side, it would round out the need for another heavy armor class for the faction.

Final evaluation: Moderately likely as a profession, less so as a class.

Other classes have been proposed for the need of direct mirrors. While I believe BioWare is trying to avoid direct mirrors altogether, instead spreading counters and checks through two classes (I see Bounty Hunters being Troopers crossed with Smugglers for instance), it’s still a viable path for the devs.

[Sith Empire] Commando – Every army needs its grunts, and for every army of grunts, there need to be elites. The Republic has its Troopers, and while the Bounty Hunter matches it in heavy armor capabilities, the Bounty Hunter isn’t a soldier in the same sense.

Final evaluation: Moderate. On one hand, it mirrors the Trooper. On the other… it’s a Trooper…

[Sith Empire] Slaver – This would be a minion class much akin to the Crime Boss, except that it’s typically proposed as a ‘pet class’. This again becomes redundant because everyone gets companion characters, so I don’t really see it as a viable possibility.

Final evaluation: Unlikely.

[Republic and Empire] Second Force-Users – A fringe idea is that Jedi and Sith be split into two separate classes depending on whether they want to specialize in Force Use or Lightsaber Combat. Many see this as preposterous, as having half of the already small pool of classes being Force Users significantly cuts down on originality, and the confirmation of character specialization leads us to believe that we could spec either way.

Final evaluation: Highly unlikely. Not happening.

Making the call

My predictions for all eight classes, at this moment, are:

Republic: Jedi, Trooper, Smuggler, Senator.

Sith Empire: Sith, Bounty Hunter, Officer or Spy, unknown.

Yes, that’s an ‘unknown’ in the last slot. I really want to split Officer and Spy into the last two possibilities, but I think Officer/Senator comes too close to exact mirrors for the current layout. That’s also why I think it’s likely that either the Senator or Officer will make it into the game, but less likely that both will. Only time, and BioWare/LucasArts will tell.

Until next time…
May the Force be with you.

Star Wars The Old Republic: World of Warcraft Killer?

swtor-july2009 One of the most common stories you’ll see, as the anticipation builds to SWTOR launching, will revolve around one question: will it be a World of Warcraft killer? As the long-standing tall poppy, there’s plenty of people that want to see WoW knocked down a peg or two. I’m not one of them, but it’s a concept worth exploring.

Like any simplistic question, it has its challenges. That said, I’m going to attempt to answer the question below. If you can’t be bothered reading it all, please vote in the poll you see to the right. The executive summary is: I think SWTOR will end up the number 1 competitor for WoW, but it won’t kill it. Here’s some more detail on how I see it:

1. An initial kick to the head

When SWTOR does launch, it’ll make one hell of a splash. The sort of splash that will rival or maybe exceed the launch of World of Warcraft. There’ll be all sorts of hyperbole from the gaming press and some pretty widespread mainstream media attention to. Expect TV news to show pictures of fans in Star Wars regalia lined up for midnight launches around the world. Expect a declaration by world leaders of an International Jedi Day, ratified by the UN. Ok, that last one may be a little far-fetched.

During this period, which will last up to three months, there’ll probbly be a noticeable hit on WoW. Just from discussions within my WoW guild, there’s a whole bunch of people who are going to want to spend some serious time in SWTOR, and most of that time will come at the expense of WoW time. The scale of the hit on WoW will come down to how well SWTOR is targeted at age groups. My guild is primarily in the over 30’s age group and there’s a lot of excitement. For the younger groups, the perceived quality of gameplay and graphic will play a bigger role in determining a shift in games.

2. The slow burn

Once the hype dies down, the real test comes when assessments are made on growth in players. This, like any MMOG, will rely heavily on playability, variety of content, how easy it is to socialise in-game and the ease with which one can get immersed in the lore. On the face of it, Star Wars has an incredibly rich story that LucasArts have taken some pains to maintain control over. It’ll be the combining that with an intuitive, outright fun game that’ll determine the ongoing success of SWTOR. Of course, saying a game needs to be playable is about as innovative as a social marketer on Twitter, but there you go. A final factor will be how emphatically SWTOR is adopted in countries like South Korea and China. Both have large and avid gaming populations and it will be their propensity to switch that could be key. I expect Starcraft 2 to play a large spoiler role in the equation worldwide as well.

3. The open marriage

Here’s where I get down to pure conjecture and the primary reason I believe SWTOR isn’t a WoW killer. The vast majority of players in the longer term aren’t going to jump to SWTOR at the expense of WoW. Those that can afford it will pay to access both on an ongoing basis, assuming SWTOR‘s pricing model is competitive. SWTOR will grow to close to WoW‘s size in a much quicker timeframe than WoW did. It may even exceed WoW‘s subscriber numbers eventually, but neither will establish an overwhelming dominance in the forseeable future. Blizzard Entertainment have five years of MMOG experience under their belt to throw new innovations and gameplay aspects at SWTOR, while BioWare undertake the huge task of establishing its own space.

4. The Sum Up

The MMOG market is so large and players so discerning, that polarising the debate by stating one option will kill another is silly. The reality is that unless BioWare make some large mistakes, Star Wars through its enormous userbase will ensure that WoW has its biggest challenge on its hands, but one it’s more than capable of meeting. It’s quite possible to have two MMOG giants in residence, particularly given that the MMOG house has grown so much over recent years.

My opinion aside, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ve created a poll which you’ll see on the right hand side of our web page. Or feel free to make a comment with some more detailed thoughts.