Just some first thoughts on Star Wars: The Old Republic/SWTOR

Posted on December 29, 2011 | 4 minute read

I’ve been playing SWTOR. Not nonstop (hey, this isn’t Guild Wars 2 we’re talking about), but regularly. This isn’t a review. I’m not far enough along for that. This is just a very quick post expressing my appreciation for the RP elements of the game.

As I’m sure most of us know the game isn’t “officially” released in Australia yet. I grabbed a key from G2PLAY (there was some manual interaction with CSR due to email address discrepancies, but they were amazingly quick to respond to emails and get the key out to me) and rolled Empire on the unofficially claimed Australian server The Swiftsure.

Not having followed the development of SWTOR at all, this was all completely new to me, so I had zero expectations. I read up on races and classes the day I started playing.

The dialogue

It’s like every interaction you have with an NPC has a quotable snippet of awesome of some sort. Dialogue options are generally really cool (although sometimes they’re repeated…) and my Rattataki Sith Inquisitor has a kickass attitude.

I also very much appreciate that dialogue options are not spelled out for you - you have to infer what each option means from a general summary. So when you actually choose something, the character often surprises you with some funny or otherwise unexpected response (that is still in line with the summary you selected).

In fact, I just love the RP element of the game in general. Just the fact that you’re going around and making these sorts of choices in your NPC interactions (choices that actually have an impact on your character and how others view them) sets SWTOR apart from other MMOs I’ve played. This is what an MMORPG should be (ie don’t forget the “RPG” part). The next step is to somehow inject that RP element into player interaction as well (which is difficult, as you can’t force people to role play amongst themselves).

Anyway, role playing: BioWare is doing it right. But then, is anyone really surprised on this front?

Quests

Like I said I’m not far enough along to be able to judge the game definitively, but some of you will know my hatred for traditional MMO questing systems.

SWTOR quests have not annoyed the crap out of me yet. I believe that this is greatly tied into the RP elements of the game. Choosing my responses in NPC interactions forces me to be more emotionally involved in my character’s progressing story (and the story of the world in general) than I normally would be in other MMOs (where the story is kind of like a background layer that sometimes goes on the backburner). The quests I encounter in SWTOR are still go kill this, go talk to that, but each quest is tied into this story that I am engaged with an interested in.

Let’s compare:

  • Quest A: I have to go to a tomb and bring the monster Seh-run a “special meal”.

  • Quest B: I go to a tomb, speak to the monster Seh-run and sympathise with his plight (or not…but I did), go to the Sith Academy and speak with the person who has access to the “special meal” for Seh-run. Have a discussion with him about the morality of feeding Seh-run this meal and the reprecussions of such an action, then decide whether I want to give Seh-run the food at the risk of having him go on an Acolyte-killing rampage or allow him to slowly starve to death. Decide to feed Seh-run, go back and bring him the “special meal”, handing it over with a word of caution.

In the end I’m still talking to NPC A, then walking to talk to NPC B, then walking back to give an item to NPC A. But the fact that I had to discuss the situation and consider the consequences of my actions made me so invested in this fairly minor quest that I didn’t even care about having to walk to the Sith Academy and back to bring an NPC an item. Even as I write this I’m wondering if Seh-run is out there murdering Acolytes right now.

Lesson learned

So really, this is making me reconsider my thoughts on quests somewhat. Well, let’s not say reconsider. Let’s say adjust my position based on new information. The core mechanics of the quest itself do not necessarily need to change to make the quest tolerable or fun (‘tolerable’ is not good enough). What makes it fun is having the player progress through a story they are emotionally invested in.

Don’t get me wrong - I still think questing mechanics need to evolve. New types of quests need to be designed and I am still thinking that MMOs should rely more heavily on quests that encourage direct player interaction due to the very nature of the game, but I now see that there is a way to make even the more traditional quest templates work and work very well.




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