Monday, August 15, 2011

5 reasons to be psyched for Star Wars: The Old Republic

  Phew, it's been a long time since I relaxed in the Beach House! I have decided to drop the whole "weekly One Piece chapter reviews" since it was entirely too time consuming (and there are far better reviewers out there) and decided to write about stuff that I feel a bit more passionate for. While wrestling is certainly within that category ("I love me some wrasslin'"), those needs will be taken care of in my wrestling column section in the soon to be operational When that site is up you can double dip on some more SHR goodness, but for now this will do. Today, however, I want to speak to my geekiest of fans; I'm talking to you, my Star Wars peeps.

Exactly how I imagined the Second Coming of Christ.

  For those in the dark right now, allow me to elaborate on what this Old Republic is. It is a Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) in the same vein as World of Warcraft, which I reviewed in this very blog site. Set 3,000 years (!) before the rise of Darth Vader, the game will allow you to fulfill ANY Star Wars fantasy you ever had; and yes, that may include Wookie bumpin'... ya freaks. 

"Hold up, SHR, don't you already play World of Warcraft? Why would you stop playing that and jump on this game?"

  Well, I'm glad you asked you asked, dear reader; because today I am going to tell you my top 5 reasons why you (yes, you!) should be psyched about Star Wars: The Old Republic!

V - Bioware

  If you've been playing games for the past decade you know exactly who Bioware is. In case you just found out what the internet is, and somehow wound up in this blog then allow me to regale you with the knowledge of gaming lore. Based in Edmonton, Canada (making Edmonton the place to produce two of my greatest loves) this behemoth of a developer has risen through the ranks in the game developer's community by creating some of the finest PC and Console RPG's of the last decade. Mass Effect in it by itself is proof enough of their expertise and quite possibly their crowning achievement, but let's look at their list at a glance: Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, and Dragon Age. Dizzy yet?

  At some point in 2007 Electronic Arts decided to buy Bioware and help them produce their games. One of the byproducts of said "unholy alliance" is Star Wars: The Old Republic, budgeted at over $100 MILLION, yes, that's U.S. dollars. Not only that, but recently EA decided to move their departments and CEOs around and decided to give Bioware it's own division within EA. Meaning the gaming titan considers the developer one of it's foundations and an equal, something that only Activision/Blizzard (off the top of my head) has been capable of pulling of.

  So when the idea of an MMO, based on Star Wars, being made by BIOWARE was announced, I did what any hot blooded nerd would do...

"A Nerd's Fangasm" by Stephen Colbert

IV - The Mass Effect 2 Wheel

  As a teenager, with my first and shiny new PC, I was exposed to Lucasarts' Adventure games very early on: Sam & Max, Maniac Mansion, The Secret of Monkey Island, Full Throttle, The Dig, and many others were quite possibly my favorite games during that particular gaming era. These games featured a lot of conversation (at the time the conversion to fully voiced dialog had just occurred and it was deemed the best thing since sliced bread) and multiple choices. Your choices being voiced out gave you a sense of owning the story and choosing how it was going to end. But it was an illusion, for only CERTAIN answers and conversations were "correct."

Enter Mass Effect 2's wheel system.

"I'm Commander Shepard and this is my favorite Rican on the internet."
  The simplicity of it all is staggering really, how did it take us almost 20 years to figure something like this out is beyond me. But man, am I glad we did. The ME2 wheel is quite possibly the most intuitive conversation interface ever made, with the only possibly exception being writing the lines exactly how they will be said and with a symbol next to them telling you if it's a good choice/bad choice or neutral. The wheel has become so immensely popular with Bioware and its fans that after ME2 it's been featured in not only Dragon Age 2 and Mass Effect 3, but Star Wars: The Old Republic. And it boils down to not only simplicity but choice. Actual choice. If someone dies in Mass Effect because of one of your choices, it's a done deal. Unless you reload the game and choose "Live" for that poor soul, but you have to make a choice nevertheless. And bringing that to the MMO space where hundreds of thousands will make similar choices (sometimes grouped no less) will be an interesting experience to behold.

III - Scope

Coruscant, in all of it's in-game glory.

  There's a reason MMOs have that first "M." Some MMOs downplay the first "M," usually because creating that much content can be headache inducing. Bioware has produced some of the biggest RPG's of the last decade, so scope isn't exactly alien (ow my inadvertent pun) to them. But how big are we talking about here, exactly? Well, in more than one interview the designers of TOR have stated that:

"TOR is bigger than all of our previous games combined."

  I want anyone reading this to sit down and ponder about this for a few seconds. Anyone who's ever played a Bioware RPG can do the following exercise. Get your saved games, write down the 'Time Played" for each and every single one of them and now add all of them up. I tried doing this, but then when I realized I had well over 200+ hours played in just TWO of their games I realized just how massive this game is. 17 planets are currently in the beta build of the game, ranging from medium sized to "OMG CORUSCANT!!" sized. Here's a picture of "large game worlds" and I want you to look at World of Warcraft for a second.

Holy Sh*t...
  According to most reports and comparisons made by Bioware itself, each TOR planet is roughly 4-5 WoW zones in size. The entire "World of Warcraft" map was at one point 80 square miles, which is not too shabby. Lord of the Rings Online is a HUGE game with 30,000. But this game has 17 planets (and you best believe more planets will be "discovered" and '"explorable" as time passes by) and that's quite a lot of real estate to get lost into...

II - Fully Voiced MMO

  Bioware isn't even playing fair when it comes to this point. Anyone who's played an MMO before knows how leveling/questing usually goes. You find a questgiver (usually adorned with giant exclamation points on top of their heads), you click spam them until you have every single quest he had for you and you race to kill 10 goblins or whatever mundane task they had for you. You could read the reason WHY you need to kill 10 goblins, but 99.99% of MMO players don't care and won't read it. I consider myself a person who enjoys story and game lore for immersion, but I'm not going to sit here and lie to you, I have RARELY (if ever) read a full quest log. Because in the grand scheme of things, these stories are about the zone you are in and nothing else. They don't exactly concern YOU particularly, they're just a means to an end. Enter Bioware's Story philosophy:

  I don't know about you, but the task at hand is mind boggling. Entire planets full of NPCs that speak to you, and you speak back to them, and get involved in their plight? Not to mention your own companions, like every Bioware game ever made. That right there is quite possibly the biggest (as said in the video) and most monumental voice over project in the history of media.

I - It's Star Wars

  Allow me to be a fanboy for half a paragraph, if I'm allowed to. Outside of Harry Potter, which at the time of this writing is decimating all sorts of box office records as a franchise, Star Wars is THE franchise. It's the ultimate IP, and it's been that way since that space crawl penetrated our imagination in 1977 , or 87 for some *cough*. Countless books, comics, animated series, and games have spawned from George Lucas' 1977 gamble. Knights of the Old Republic is the only Star Wars RPG ever made (worth a damn) and it won countless awards. Even its mediocre sequel fared better than half the games out there. The strength in the name alone would carry the game, hell look at the "Force Unleashed" games. If they weren't Star Wars themed, you wouldn't even bat an eye at them.

  Then you add the fact that 90% of the MMOs out there in the market are all a Tolkien/Warcraft knights and sorcery medieval-esque romps and you can start to see why this is a big deal. It's an MMO that is going to carry the franchise into some interesting territory, one dominated by elves and orcs. The big elephant in the room is slowly losing subscribers, while the Pre-Orders for TOR keep climbing. Industry analysts are even claiming that TOR will reach 3 million subscribers on the first year, which is a staggering amount for a regular game, let alone one that let's you play with all these people. Will you be there in a Galaxy Far Far Away when it all begins again...?

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