The Digital Continuum: Five KOTOR MMO Jedi counter-measures


With the less-than-grandiose announcement that Electronic Arts, BioWare and Lucas Arts are working together on a KOTOR MMO, I've found myself pondering the game that until now was nothing but a rumor. Granted, I already thought about the game quite a lot even before it was the now more official affair.

There are no two ways about it. Star Wars as an MMO presents developers with a tough issue: how to deal with the Jedi class. I still think that one of the many mistakes with Star Wars Galaxies was setting it during the original trilogy, where Jedi were almost non-existent. I got the draw of the setting, but for an MMO it really didn't cater to the fervent desire to roll a Obi-wanna be character. Yet I also feel like it's a mistake making Jedi readily available without presenting players with other options that are equally appealing. Neo-futuristic-magical-samurai with energy swords aren't a hard sale for most players choosing which class they want to play. Thankfully, BioWare seems to have chosen itself a wonderfully powerful loop-hole: Knights of the Old Republic.

My basic goal with each of these ideas is to pull as many players away from the Jedi class as possible. Of course, no matter what you create or do some players will inevitably go for the class and that's fine. However, it's worth doing everything that can be done to give people a valid reason not to create the force-enabled, lightsaber chopping characters. Variety is good for us all.

Sith

Let's start with the Jedi's most hated nemesis as a class option: the Sith. During the KOTOR era there were several "Sith Wars" that broke out between Jedi and their fallen brethren. In the time before Exar Kun gave into the dark side, the Jedi operated quite differently from how they've been portrayed in most movies, videogames and books. Jedi apprentices were chosen not solely during their childhood, but also up through their young adulthood. Surprisingly, the Jedi were exceptionally decentralized and had no qualms with members seeking marriage and family. This of course led to the Jedi proliferating much more than in their later years. However, it also allowed Exar Kun to convert and amass a huge Sith army. Thus leading to the Great Sith War, which would be a perfect setting for an MMO within the KOTOR timeline.


Sith use the force very differently from Jedi. They operate the force through passion and raw power where the Jedi instead deal in emotion-free, focused control. One classic Sith attack is a surge of lightning that can deal massive damage to any target. The closest Jedi variant of this power, Droid Disable, is essentially a carefully focused electrical blast that disables or damages hostile droids. Even Sith and Jedi lightsaber preferences differ, although that's a more subjective topic. Another way to look at this is that while the Jedi are almost like Paladins, a Sith is much more akin to a Dark Knight. Granted there's more variation to both sides than that example, but it's a simple metaphor that illustrates the point well enough.


Mandalorians

In the KOTOR era Mandalorians are considered ruthless, heartless and fearless warriors. They were especially seen this in this light during the time of Sith Lord Exar Kun because of their alliance with him. It's also important to point out that Mandalorians aren't a single race (although they started out as one) but are in actuality a amalgam of countless other races. The entire "race" is named after their great, ancient warrior-leader Mandalore, a name which has since become something of a trophy that many Mandalorians have attempted to claim as their own.


Similar to the classic Bounty Hunter in that they make amazingly sought after mercenaries; Mandalorians differ in that any surviving members possess a imposing warlike nature. They prefer (now-iconic) heavy armor and ordinance over anything else and also consider war a source of both pride and honor. Basically, these guys wear impressive armor, wield seriously awesome weaponry and love every day they get to spend doing it.

Echani

Silver-haired and fair-skinned, this is the race who pioneered the martial style of Echani. They also exude a strong elf-like aura, which makes them a prime candidate for a certain group of players. Oh, they're also a prominently female race. It's always cool to see some cool butt-kicking women in a game.

From the very beginning of their lives, Echani are trained in their inherited martial art. They are literally a culture that worships combat. Many of them are force sensitive (I sometimes wonder if their style is similar to Teräs Käsi, with the channeling of your inner force) and can also become Jedi. The question is whether or not it should be allowed, since the more races allowed Jedi status the more Jedi we're bound to see running around. It's also worth mentioning that the art of Echani is practiced without the use of weapons, armor or force powers. They're basically the monks of the KOTOR universe, so why would you want to make one a Jedi anyhow? Wait, don't answer that.


Of course I should mention that you don't have to be Echani to practice their martial art, which would allow for lots of racial choices when picking the class. In the first Star Wars MMO players were given the option of learning Teräs Käsi as an advanced profession, but that martial style reminds me more of the original trilogy. For some reason that style doesn't resonate with the Old Republic setting as well as Echani does, at least not for me.

Wookiees

"It's not wise to upset a Wookie." -- Han Solo

It was at this moment that I think a lot of people decided Wookiees were pretty awesome. It doesn't take much to convince most people that facing one of these guys in battle would be at the very best a harrowing experience, which kind of makes this part of the article easy! Their incredible strength is what Wookies are especially known for and allows them to fire their patented Wookiee Bowcasters. It also gave rise to the Wookiee fighting style that is best described as a raging barbarian type of affair. You really don't want to go toe-to-toe with an enraged Wookiee. Despite their animalistic nature this fur-covered race is actually quite advanced as demonstrated by their weapons technology and combat tactics.


Done well, a race such like Wookiees is a strong draw for many players. It was certainly a popular race in Star Wars Galaxies back in the day, from what I remember. I don't see why it wouldn't be as -- if not more -- popular with BioWare putting their touch to the race.

First-degree Droids

I probably know what you're thinking: Droids, seriously?

Well stop and truly consider it for a moment. Putting aside the obvious comparisons to HK-47, there are lots of really cool reasons for BioWare to design a playable droid race. First of all, seeing as how the setting of the game is so flexible it's very believable that never-before-seen combat droids could exist in the KOTOR MMO. Droids can also offer a unique armor system in an MMO wherein new equipment essentially amounts to new bodyparts. Plus, there are all sorts of different types of droids: Battle, assassination and medical droids are all possible class types that could have their own unique thematic presentation. They don't have to play mechanically different from their non-droid counterparts. Simply giving them a visual difference should cause a lot of players to think twice (if not thrice by this point) about just creating a Jedi. Who doesn't want to be like HK, really?


As for the "First-degree" thing, it pertains to droids enabled to have complex and creative thought processes. In an MMO set during a great Sith War it's entirely possible to imagine a galaxy where many droids are created both legally and illegally. I suppose part of this is just my innate desire to run around as a soulless killing machine, but is that so wrong? Plus, the roleplaying opportunities are endlessly entertaining.

I'm sure at least one of my ideas is somewhere near the target area of what BioWare has (or will) come up with for KOTORO. If not, that might even be better as it could mean they've been able to and allowed to think up wholly new races and/or classes.

This article was originally published on Massively.