The Digital Continuum: SWTOR turns up the heat

E3 2009 has come and gone, with it came new information on Star Wars: The Old Republic -- and fresh concerns. To call BioWare ambitious would be an understatement of vast proportions. Every NPC receiving full voice acting ratcheted up my curiosity as much as it did my eyebrows. We may need a new word to describe the depths of this game's ambition.

As if the voice acting news wasn't enough, BioWare revealed a cinematic trailer that reminded me how powerful this property can truly be, in the right hands. The excitement was so immediately potent that it caused some people to cry "over-hyped!" in the few short minutes between the trailer's beginning and ending.

I think it's time to asses the current situation, and maybe ponder a few things about Star Wars and BioWare.
Hype it up

I really don't understand where this notion of BioWare over-hyping the game has come from. So far, the trailer has been the only serious marketing push and it was released at E3, the industry's once-a-year, big hypestravaganza. So how is that a surprise? The point of the event is to get everyone excited and then leave them wanting to know more.

For the sake of simplicity, I'm going to focus on Tobold's write-up. In his concern, he draws comparisons to Mythic and Funcom, and neither work. Mythic's approach to hype was nearly two years of nonstop catch phrase-like support from the always friendly and entertaining, but often over-promising, Paul Barnett. Once that hype train was a rollin' it just... didn't... stop. Things seem to have stabilized, but the damage has already been done.

Funcom over-promised on a lot of features too and consequently overdeveloped themselves into a buggy, unfinished launch. Not to give Funcom too a hard time -- because nowadays Age of Conan is a significantly better game -- but there is a decided difference between them, Mythic and the BioWare/Electronic Arts/Lucas Arts powerhouse trio.

To me, this is all just a case of "Fool me once..." mentality, and I can respect that cautiousness. It's futile for BioWare to worry about having too much hype, though. They're making a KOTOR MMO for crying out loud, how can anyone expect anything less than fervent fan adulation at some point? Creating a Star Wars game comes with a built-in automatic hype machine, they're called Star Wars fans.

The (class) story so far

Jedi, Sith, Bounty Hunter, Trooper and Smuggler -- all these are good, iconic class choices. On the downside they're almost worryingly safe choices, too.

Here's the only problem I see with the previously mentioned powerhouse trio: There's an army of people with a vested interest in this game, and I wonder if they'll allow risky game design choices. Will we see a droid class, or a force sensitive martial artist? I'd like to think so, but none of those are really iconic to the average fan. Unless you worship R2-D2 -- but how many people want to roll around and make funny robot noises? Well aside from myself, of course. (Breeooow!)

Then again, I don't know how many gamers I've met that haven't said something along the lines of, "Statement: You're looking quite healthy today, meatbag." at least a few times in their life.

Speaking of story

Binary good versus evil choices are boring and tired. Besides, when life presents us with decisions there's never an absurdly evil choice or saintly good alternative. Chances are Star Wars: The Old Republic will offer interesting shades of gray, especially concerning the Sith Empire classes. I hope that BioWare strives to explore all the hard choices that the classes should have to make throughout the progression of the war between the old Empire and Republic.

The Sith example given at this year's E3 hands-on demo is, to me at least, the ideal that I hope the entirety of SWTOR aspires to achieve, because in my mind, it's one of the harder classes to present as three-dimensional. Most people think of Sith as full-on dastardly baddies, when in reality even they have differing opinions on how to get things done. A classic example is the eventual decision to invoke the Rule of Two, but BioWare's example of efficiency versus loyalty is also a good one.

This article was originally published on Massively.