May the 4th Be With You
This coming weekend is a big one in the Star Wars universe. May 4 is celebrated world-wide as Star Wars Day - an unofficial non-holiday for most, a sacred religious rite for others.
Perhaps as a tribute to Star Wars Day, Lucasfilm has revealed the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. Most members of the original main cast will be returning to reprise their original characters, and they will be joined by a cast of young newcomers.
Personally, I'm not terribly familiar with most of the new cast, but I recognized Bill Weasley, Gollum and legendary Swede Max Von Sydow. I haven't really seen anything with the other young actors, but nobody had really heard of Mark Hamill or Carrie Fisher before Star Wars came along, either.
In Star Wars: the Old Republic, May 4 will observed via another Double XP Weekend, running from Friday to early Monday morning. The developers have also marked the occasion with the addition of a new mini-pet astromech droid, MT-4T - a free gift to every player with an account created before May 4 2014. I gotta say, of all the droid mini-pets, this one is my favorite.
Of course, this comes on the heel of the announcement that SWTOR's next expansion, Galactic Strongholds, is being pushed back 2 months, with Early Access to subscribers starting in August. A delayed expansion is not necessarily a bad thing, though - theoretically, it allows the developers to add more to the project to make it feel "bigger" upon release, rather than having to build it out over several smaller updates later, and gives them more time to polish it up and work out any bugs during extra beta testing.
Indeed, BioWare is promising a number of extra features to be added to the initial offering.
- The original Nar Shaddaa Sky Palace was supposed to ship with three rooms unlocked for Early Access players. Now it ships with 5 rooms.
- New "Conquest Events," which appear to be PvE content somehow associated with home ownership.
- Expanded guild functionality: leaderboards, Conquest Events for guilds which involve "conquering" entire planets, and flagship-related guild-wide buffs. Plus a new form of quick-travel transport to allow guildies to instantly travel to the aid of a fellow member. These features alone will be worth the wait.
- A new stronghold on Tatooine, bringing the total number of strongholds up to 4.
- Players will be able to display their pets, vehicles and companions as stronghold decorations. I have a sneaking feeling that most homes will feature at least one female companion decked out in slinky dancer or slave-girl costumes. I know all of mine will.
With the 2-month delay, Galactic Strongholds is turning out to be more than just the "housing expansion" that it would have been if it had been pushed out in June.
Looking ahead, there is some interesting stuff in store for the games in development - according to LucasFilm, all future games will be considered "canon," meaning that the events they describe will be consistent and "aligned" with the events that take place on screen in movies and TV shows, and in the novels and comics. Writers have been producing new post-Return of the Jedi content since about 2 minutes after RotJ hit the silver screen in 1983, so there is over 30 years' worth of Expanded Universe stories and characters that are now considered non-canon as LucasFilm and Disney gear up for a new post-George trilogy.
The Star Wars games currently being developed by EA will have to stay consistent with the events in the new films and TV shows (beginning with a new animated show, Star Wars Rebels) - video game bad guys can't go around blowing up planets they might need for the movies, and they can't kill off characters that may return in sequels. Game writers can certainly create self-contained stories and characters, much like characters in sit-coms: the main character has a little adventure that may feature guest appearances by external events or figures, and when his adventure is finished the world and everything in it is essentially the same as it was at the beginning.
An example of this would be a Star Wars Battlefront game - the character is depicted fighting in a war where the outcome is known. He may win or lose that day's battle, he may even receive orders from "General Solo" or whoever, but the outcome of the larger war is already determined. The events of the single battle don't really leave the battlefield - the contributions of x_TellUrMomHi_x are never entered into the annals of history.
Of course, this means a lot of fan-favorite stuff probably never really happened. Grand Admiral Thrawn likely hasn't risen to power in the wake of Palpatine's death. Chewie probably isn't killed by the Yuuzhan Vong. The Solo twins, Jacen and Jaina, and their little brother Anakin might never be born... unless they are. It is not unheard-of for Expanded Universe content to end up being used in the films. The capital planet of Coruscant was invented by Timothy Zahn in Heir to the Empire, and was later shoehorned into the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi and then greatly expanded in the prequel trilogy. Aayla Secura started out as a secondary character in a comic about Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos, who started out as a minor background character in one scene in the Phantome Menace; both characters were later promoted to canon. Aayla Secura became one of the key characters in the Clone Wars animated series, and "Master Vos" was mentioned by Obi Wan Kenobi in Revenge of the Sith, and later made an appearance in the Clone Wars series.
Given the historical distance of Star Wars: the Old Republic from the timeline of the new films, however, it is highly unlikely that anything from there will get the same promotion. Though it is an EA title, and EA is the "official" developer of future Star Wars games, the 4000-year gap means that the events of SWTOR will have about as much relevance to the new films as the events of ancient Etruscan history have on current affairs in North America, if even that much.
I will be observing Star Wars Day 2014 the same way I did last year: a quiet day of contemplation and reflection, while carving through Republic scum on my Sith Juggernaut. This year, as every year, May the 4th Be With You.