BioWare has a long history of producing kick-ass RPGs. With recent hits
like href="" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Mass Effect 2
and href="" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Dragon Age,
and older games
like Baulder’s
of The Old Republic
it’s hard to argue with their success. MMOGs are a different
beast altogether though, and many obstacles lay ahead for
if they hope to bring any of the roleplaying elements they are famous
for to Star
Wars The Old Republic

To be clear, when I say roleplaying, I don’t mean typing
“thee” and “thou” in chat
channels or speaking
in funny voices in voice chat. To me, roleplaying in an MMOG means that
I have to choose sides, make decisions, and that those decisions mean
something and can affect me down the road. They should come back to
help or hurt me later in the game. BioWare is an expert at this with
single player games, where your choice to kill someone or let them live
will have consequences. The choice is yours, but whatever you do, you
will have to face the music at some point. I want to see these same
choices present in style="font-style: italic;">TOR!

Since MMOGs have moved away from the sandbox-style games, like style="font-style: italic;">Ultima Online,
to more story-based
pursuits, such as style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest,
very little has actually changed as far as the roleplaying aspect. You
could argue that the sandbox style games actually gave you more
roleplaying options than the story based games that dominate MMOGs
today. While there was no real quest line to follow, you were able to
decide if you wanted to be good or evil. You did what you wanted and
had to live with the consequences, good or bad. If you wanted to be
evil and kill new players all day long, you could. People would
remember your name and kill you on sight whenever you ran into them
later. Play a good guy and help players out, and often times people
would remember and give you discounts or lend a helping hand when you
needed it.

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With story based MMOGs, I had hoped games would give us direction and
purpose without losing the ability to make choices. Alas this was not
to be--most current quest-based games give you little more than a
choice between taking a quest or not taking a quest. I want to take a
quest to kill a target and then be faced with the decision whether to
actually kill them or let them go. Either way, there could be
consequences for my actions. Let me piss off an NPC and have to face
him or his minions later. Let me refuse to take a quest from an NPC
vendor and then be forced to pay higher prices from then on. I want the
quests I do to have some impact. It doesn’t have to be some
shattering impact like in single player games, but let me make a choice
that affects me. In most MMOGs right now, nothing I do affects anything
other than my XP bar.

BioWare has promised that in style="font-style: italic;">TOR
we will be able to make choices, take choices, and decide how we want
to accomplish our quests. This sounds exciting and is exactly what I
want to see in game. However, this is a monumental task for any
developer to accomplish and, call me jaded, but as the old proverb
goes, “Talk is cheap.” Still, BioWare has piqued my
interest with their href=""
showing 2 players inside a starship on a
quest. During the quest, both players got to make decisions that
affected how the quest played out--decisions that had consequences for
the players! This was exciting and had me hooked. This was was a
glimpse of the game I had longed for.

However, after watching the video many times, and drooling over
actually seeing what I’ve wanted for years, questions start
arise. We saw a two man instance where each got to make a decision, but
what about 5 man instances, or raids? Will each member of the party get
to make a choice, or only a lucky few? How will PUGs work? Can some
asshat in my PUG screw up the story for my character? It is hard to
imagine that TOR could be much more than a single player game with the
ability to take a friend or two along on certain quests.
get me wrong, I would love to see a game like style="font-style: italic;">Dragon Age
or Mass
Effect 2
that I could play
online with my friends, but that’s not really an MMOG. MMOGs
require cooperative play, not just playing in the same place at the
same time.

Of course, for any of this to work, style="font-style: italic;">TOR
will have to make use of a lot of instancing. I have no problem with
instances as long as they are designed for groups of 5+. The question
is, can thousands of players play together, and every player still feel
as though they are having some impact on their characters? These are
all questions that need answers, but I guess we shouldn’t
look a
gift horse in the mouth. I mean, what Bioware has shown us is already
much more than we have gotten from any other AAA MMOG.

Damn BioWare! I swear every time I see a new MMOG in production that I
will not get excited about it until it’s actually released.
Promises are cheap and too easily broken, but I find myself wanting to
believe that they can do it. They have shown they know what a good RPG
is, but do they know what a good MMORPG is? Time will tell, but I have
to admit that I find myself drinking the Kool-Aid. I believe BioWare
can do it or, damn it, no one can.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016