In SWTOR, every class is a pet class?

As the game approaches, I’m becoming more and more interested by some of the things I read about SW:TOR. From the way the Dark Side and Light Side are handled (which I still feel could turn into a min-maxing nightmare, but could also be really immersive), to the mixed reactions to the quest/story structure, I’m really looking forward to seeing how it all shakes out.

Today, Hunter’s Insight has focussed on an aspect of the game I’d not heard much about, but which sounds genuinely innovative and interesting. You may have heard that in SW:TOR you’ll have the chance to get a Companion character. But did you know that, essentially, this means that not only is every class in the game a pet class, but that there’s actually an extended story and relationship developing between you and your companion?

“Companions don’t play the same role they do in Guild Wars. They are a huge story element. You quest for them, you get to know them, you romance them, they do your chores, take out the trash and are customizable. On a mechanics level I think they’re actually more akin to pets. I think they effectively make every class in SWTOR a pet class, which is actually kind of interesting.

I had experience with two companions. Khem Val and Kaliyo.

Khem Val is essentially a tank as demonstrated in the video. My inquisitors pet. I found that because I was playing a Sith, even though I had some ranged attacks I often closed with people early on. That meant that instead of being shielding by my tank I was often right beside him. Kind of annoying. I definitely should have changed tactics but it was my first play-through and I had no idea what I was doing. His personality left something to be desired. Even when I was being evil it was not good enough for this guy. You have to be seriously rotten to impress him. Also I’m not really the type to enjoy a companion who walks around in a loincloth although I’m sure that can be changed later. Because I didn’t like him, I never looked into it.”

It’s very interesting to hear just how much personality these characters are invested with. Bioware have always been particularly strong at writing companion characters – Minsk, anyone? – and I hadn’t realised how thoroughly they’d be carrying that ability through into their MMO.

I do wonder how well the companions will stand up to hundreds or thousands of hours of game-time. Will you get sick of them? But, on the other hand, the level of personality and attachment to the world these characters could generate might well be a game changer on their own.

An NPC you actually care about? What a concept.

What do you think? Irritating min-max targets, or huge addition to the genre?

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Star Wars Beta Reactions Roundup

Ah, I do love a good NDA-drop day. Last week, whilst I was busy sunning myself on the mountain slopes of Skyrim, Bioware and Electronic Arts announced that bloggers and press were now free to comment on the Star Wars: The Old Republic beta, which many of them have been playing for months.

So, the news, views and opinions are now out there – and the good news is this: there’s no “hated it” section in this roundup list.

Point-By-Point

Retelling the Experience

Single Focus

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Why can’t you play a Mon Calimari in SW:TOR?

One of the great things about the Star Wars universe is the extent to which it includes wildly non-human races – far more than other popular SF settings, Star Wars is known for its very alien aliens.

Coming to SW:TOR, you might have assumed that one of its real strengths would be the range of strange, interesting races you could play – Jawas, Mon Calimari, Wookies, the lot.

Well, not so much, as it turns out. Syp at Bio Break discusses the lack of races, and how it’s one of the most curious decisions to come out of SW:TOR’s development so far

“For a game that’s trying hard to be the next generation of WoW, there’s a shocking lack of understanding as to just how capable players are at stepping into the skin of non-traditional races. The “RP” in “MMORPG” means that you are taking on a role that is something other than yourself and hopefully not just a Mary Sue situation. You get to explore a world through a different perspective and in a different body than your own.

Whether this comes as a human, elf, dragon, giant cow-person, or a robot hasn’t presented a hardship because we have imaginations to allow us to slip into these roles. Video gamers have been doing it for years, so why would BioWare think that we’re now going to balk at the prospect of playing a Mon Calimari as if we’ve never seen a character option other than “humanish” before?”

Syp’s both confused and disappointed by the limited choices, and makes a great case for allowing more of them. Of course, there are other problems with allowing non-human races – radically different heights and physiques mean a lot of additional art work, and the more radical the change, the greater the art investment needed. It’s notable that all the announced races look a lot like humans, meaning that they’ll probably be able to share a lot of animations, reducing development costs.

But the stated reason for restricting the game to humans – the idea that gamers won’t be able to identify with non-human characters – seems odd. Surely Warcraft shows that there are plenty of people who are happy to play enormous cow-creatures, tiny gnomes, and even bears, cats and trees?

Do you think they’re right to restrict character choices? Or were you looking forward to playing a Hutt Jedi?

Article Source: Bio Break .

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Why I love being gay in WoW

There’s something that’s been bugging me for a while, and I’ve only recently managed to figure out what it is. The recent news that a sexual relationship in Star Wars: The Old Republic will be enough to earn your character Dark Side points has upset me. The ‘sex is evil’ meme is such a strange (and potentially damaging) one, and it’s sad to see it rear its prudish head in such an unexpected place. Even worse is the news that SWTOR will not allow same-sex relationships.

That’s a real line in the sand, as far as I’m concerned. You may think I’m over-dramatizing the issue – and I’ll admit that the title of this editorial is deliberately inflammatory – but I think it’s important. There’s a serious point at issue here, which is perhaps not immediately apparent.

Blizzard have already made this mistake, in a less obvious way, with World of Warcraft. The storyline for each new Goblin character dictates a relationship with another goblin of the opposite sex. If you create a male goblin character, you will automatically have a ‘girlfriend’ in the form of Candy Cane. If your character is female, she will have a boyfriend – Chip Endale. The silly names distract from the issue, but the fact is that (if one abides by the storyline Blizzard have set out, and from which no character has the capacity to deviate) every single goblin player character in the game is heterosexual, at least ostensibly so.

Is that such a big deal? Sex is rarely important in mainstream MMOs, sexuality even less so. The goblin storyline was overshadowed by another piece of controversy anyway – namely, that the goblin starting zone plot later forces you to murder your cheating boyfriend or girlfriend, literally ripping their beating heart out of their chest as vengeance for their treachery, which understandably made a few people slightly uncomfortable.

[inline-ad]

Blizzard have always shied away from any explicit sexuality in their games. The realism of the game world, such as it is, is more often played for laughs than for serious intent. The few relationships that do pose a danger of provoking some genuine discourse (such as one of WoW’s very rare potential multi-racial relationships) are often erased from the game (in this case with a very heavy-handed center-stage plotline, which saw Thrall marrying a fellow Orc in an in-game marriage ceremony with the player as a witness). As for SWTOR, Jedi hardly have a great track-record as far as romance goes, with Anakin Skywalker’s doomed love ultimately driving him to asthmatic villainy, and his son coming within a hair’s breadth of sleeping with his own sister – there’s a case to be made to say that Jedi shouldn’t be allowed to have any relationships until they learn to do it properly.

These implicit statements of sexual normality are massively important, though, to me at least. They’re important because they mark a default. They lay down a set of parameters, saying “Here is a normal, standard situation. Any differentiation from this norm is deviant, different and (most importantly) not normal.”. That’s simply not good enough. It’s a very dangerous statement to leave unchallenged. Silence on a subject is all too often taken as assent, especially by bigots and idiots who hold the erroneous belief that the majority of people share their views.

It’s not as if I don’t understand the reasoning behind it – some of it, at least. Blizzard and Bioware are merely picking one path, to make things as simple as they possibly can. The sexuality of characters in the game, PC and NPC alike, is just not important. Indeed, focusing on it would detract from the core of the game (that being, in essence, ‘killing things and taking their stuff’). I understand that, and I’m sympathetic. The problem is that the wrong decision has been made. Instead of removing explicit sexuality from the game world, they have instead made sexuality a definite part of the game world – but only in a very specific flavor. Like it or not, that sends the message that only one type of sexuality is necessary in order to create a believable, fully-sustained world and background. As we all know, that’s not the case.

My main in WoW is gay, as are most of my other characters.. It’s not as if I’ve spent hours plotting out an intricate sexual history for each of my toons, but as a tabletop roleplayer and storyteller in real life, I can’t help but invest each of my characters with some basic personality and simple backstory. A lot of them – it turns out – are gay, including my main. It’s not something that makes a big difference to the way I interact with the world and the other players within it, but it’s something that makes a difference to my enjoyment of the game. More significantly, it’s a choice that I’ve made, and I’m glad that Blizzard have left any such decision – as none of them are Goblins – entirely up to me.

I’m not suggesting that Blizzard add a Sexuality drop-down menu to the character creation screen, and I certainly don’t propose making MMOs a flashpoint for sexual politics. I would have been happy to leave the question of sexuality to the individual interpretation of each player. Unfortunately, by adding an openly-stated ‘default’, Blizzard and Bioware are forcing players to either accept the decisions imposed by the game, or to actively stand in opposition to them. When a personal choice is singled out as so far outside the bounds of normality that the system simply doesn’t have the capacity to implement it, a dangerous and falacious statement is being made. Gay or straight, game or no game, that’s not something we can afford to tolerate.

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Badges suck, Draenai confuse, and Pandas (presumably) Kung their Fu – the roundup

Lots of good posts today, and I’ve already selfishly taken up one spot talking about people getting their legs broken for Diablo III swords. So, it’s that time again – time for an awesome post roundup!

  • Pandas. Srsly. The Dead Good Tanking Guide has an, erm, dead good piece on the “Mists of Pandaria” possible expansion. “The gloom that has wrapped around me with Cataclysm has lifted, just a little, since thinking about what “Mists of Pandaria” could imply.” They actually make it sound good!
  • Cynwise continues the new trend of “playing WoW with your kids”, talking about just how confusing Azuremist Isle actually is, all the major time boo-boos, and what could be done about it“Dad, what do you mean they changed some parts of the story but not others? How can a story work like that? Why didn’t they change it to all fit? What are development resources? Why? Why?”
  • Big Bear Butt achieves the impossible – he actually makes the Firelands daily quests sound fun “And they’ve got this blazing phoenix flight form too, it makes me swoon with desire. Have you seen them flying around in that form, leaving blazing contrails across the sky?”. (Bonus points for making one quest sound absolutely filthy.)
  • Kurn is having an absolutely fascinating dilemma – she’s starting to think that voice chat actually makes her a worse player. “I still feel as though my play is lacking and although I have all this other stuff to take into consideration (raid leader stuff, etc), I’m not convinced that it’s not just pure laziness stemming from voice communication being available to me.”
  • And finally, Procrastination Amplification makes me facepalm with the news that in SWTOR, all loot will be purchasable with badges – “All items that bosses can drop will also be available in stores for badges? This is the epitome of boring loot. Do you know how people say that if you never take any risks you never get the chance of good things happening to you? “

Do you love badges? Understand Azuremist Isle? Still hate the idea of pandas? Find voice makes you smarter? Or just not want spiders to spew their sticky fluid on you? Comment below.

All quotes taken directly from their respective articles.

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