Star Wars definitely has lightsabers and laser guns, and you might even say that it features those two things prominently. It also features space travel, though, not to mention dancing, podracing, slavery, gambling, starship modding, politics, and deep sea exploration. And that's just the first six movies. Hundreds of Star Wars novels, comics, and games (all of them authorized by the franchise's creator, for what it's worth) have fleshed out the IP's imagined history to the point where it is one of -- if not the
-- most richly imagined and diverse alternate universes ever conceived.
But don't tell that to the reductionists! No sir, all of that other stuff
in Star Wars that doesn't directly impact Luke and/or Anakin Skywalker's heroic journey is superfluous crap that gets in the way. In other words, you must have white-clad heroes, black-clad villains, and fast-paced combat or it's not Star Wars!
On the one hand, I can sort of understand this sentiment even though it's pretty far removed from the factual facts of the license. See, the franchise is old, and a significant number of its fans are also old and saddled with more responsibility than they once were. Whether it's because of raising kids or climbing the career ladder or the limitless entertainment options competing for our time in an always-on world, some of the people who thrilled to the exploits of Hamill, Ford, and Fisher in the 1980s are now blind to the way the license has expanded far beyond those pulp matinee roots.
And that's OK. An IP as far-flung as Star Wars has room for all types of fandom, and as a Gen Xer myself, I fondly remember all of the iconic action hero moments from the original trilogy. At this point, though, those are only a small part of a ginormous, all-inclusive license, and that's why I roll my eyes when I see "fans" saying things like "there's no crafting in Star Wars!" To be frank, there's more crafting in Star Wars than there is combat, from a certain point of view. And while you may not want to be Uncle Owen
, someone else out there certainly does.
It's all about options, really. And more options are rarely a bad thing, particularly in a genre such as ours where the titles purport to be something more than pick-up-and-put-down idle amusements. Sure, Star Wars needs combat, preferably of the fast-action variety, but that's far from the sum total of the IP, and thus it should be far from the sum total of a Star Wars MMO that expects both sustained engagement and financial support.
The combat-or-bust mentality certainly isn't exclusive to Star Wars fans, either. Developers, publishers, and financiers are equally guilty, likely due to the dreaded "feature creep" wampa that lurks in the shadows of every large-scale software project and waits to tear the arms off of producers, project managers, and accounting droids. Here's the thing, though. Crazy, full-featured Star Wars titles have already been done across multiple gaming genres, so it's not as if doing more of them would require some sort of unattainable alchemic rocket science hitherto unknown in this part of the galaxy.
At this point, some of you are probably rolling your eyes at another anti-Star Wars: The Old Republic
rant from yours truly. But that's not my intention here, believe it or not (as you'll see in the March 29th edition of Massively's Second Wind
). The point is a more general critique of the reductionist mindset that's done a huge disservice to MMOs and virtual worlds over the past few years.
Ultimately, Star Wars is a vast universe that can and should repeatedly flex its muscles in every corner of the gaming market. And I like a good Star Wars combat lobby on occasion, don't get me wrong (where have you gone, Battlefront
and Jedi Academy
?). But when talk turns to MMOs, and by extension, virtual worlds -- you are aware that MMOs are virtual worlds, right? -- then I demand more than combat. Even the relatively small slice of the Star Wars universe that George Lucas showed us on screen features all manner of non-combat activities including, yes, crafting.
To sum up, you certainly can and should have crafting in your Star Wars MMO. Not to mention housing, space exploration, performance art, and any number of other pastimes not directly related to using the Force or making the Kessel Run in, ahem, 12 parsecs.
If your thinking limits Star Wars to glowsticks and non-stop running and gunning, well, I feel bad for you. Use your imagination every now and again, and remember that only a Sith deals in absolutes.
Every two weeks, Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie take a break from their themepark day jobs to delve into the world of player-generated content. Comments, suggestions, and coverage ideas are welcome, and Some Assembly Required is always looking for players who'd like to show off their MMO creativity. Contact us!