I can't even pretend that I have all the answers, but I believe the same compulsion that drives Star Wars fans back to each and every movie and convention despite the primary principles that he or she finds wrong with the franchise is the same compulsion that drives a Star Wars: The Old Republic player back to the game. Just read some of my past Hyperspace Beacons; you don't have to step back far to find an article where I extensively berate the development decisions. Yet here I am still playing nearly every day since day one.
Beyond the general gameplay, I also roleplay in SWTOR despite the lack of chat bubbles and other roleplay niceties. Here's another phrase I didn't make up: "Death by a thousand papercuts." That is probably the best way to describe why some of my friends and guildies no longer roleplay in SWTOR. The last papercut that drove one particular guildie away was the Portable Relaxation Unit. This guildie said multiple times to us, and I believe I quoted him on occasion, "We don't need sitting in chairs; we just need an emote or item that spawns a chair that we can sit in." When we saw the teaser screenshots for the Portable Relaxation Unit, we thought this was BioWare answering the long-time wish of roleplayers to have sitting-in-chairs. Guess what? We can use the PRU to sit in a chair, but only if we wish to relax for 15 seconds at a time. It's completely understandable that my guildie felt that this was BioWare giving him the finger. And I don't blame him for leaving. Yet here I am still playing the game.
It's not just the lack of sitting in chairs that makes SWTOR hostile to RP. Cross-faction communication is difficult, and I don't mean the lack of chat bubbles. One of my favorite type of roleplay revolves around sitting (or standing) in a neutral venue like the cantina on Nar Shaddaa and philosophically discussing the differences in factional beliefs. For one of my characters, this usually involves cursing in Sith and screaming about how aliens are the ruination of not only the Empire but the galaxy as a whole. For instance, if she said, "Ryaeste uzsien ardytijas kam meo tave virsune iv tave Tsis Aeuso, tave zebra asilas," I might want to send the Mirialan Republic Trooper a whisper letting him know that I didn't mean it personally. Unfortunately, that type of communication is absent from SWTOR. I have to rely on forums or some other third-party platform to express my desire to not offend the player. That or I break the flow of conversation and interject an out-of-character statement. Yet here I am still playing the game.
By now you're probably wondering why, after so many "papercuts," there are any roleplayers left in SWTOR. My answer might not apply to everyone, nor is there one solitary reason why I still find this fantasy world enjoyable. When I say that I love the world, I don't mean the Star Wars universe, although that's certainly part of it. However, a large chunk of what I like BioWare created itself.
Take, for instance, the Sith Empire. I often wondered why I don't like playing on the Republic side. Sure, being a Smuggler with a heart of gold or a Jedi Knight fending off the evils of the galaxy is great. But the Sith Empire is fresh and different. Being a writer, I enjoy understanding and exploring the motivations of certain characters. I study not only what people do but also the reason behind those actions. In SWTOR, unlike any other Star Wars game era, we have the Sith species interacting with the galaxy at large. These are the people who inspired the whole Sith religion and in essence created the first Sith Empire. How can this seemingly evil society exist without destroying itself? We know that post-Ruusan, the Sith Empire implodes, but that's not for another 2,000 years. BioWare created a society that even with its flaws not only survives but thrives.
BioWare also created myriad characters unique to this era of the Star Wars timeline. Of course, there are the big ones like Satele Shan, Jace Malcom, Darth Malgus, and the Dread Masters. But BioWare also created many minor characters that also play a significant role in the galaxy and are very interesting to us in roleplay. I enjoy characters like Darth Vowrawn, who happens to be a powerful Darth yet not grrr-angry all the time. In fact, Vowrawn was so loved and admired that one of his apprentices commissioned a giant statue to be created in his honor. Of course, to make the story more interesting, the slaves rebelled and the statue now sits just outside Kaas city. It's known as The Unfinished Colossus.
I know that I would not enjoy these stories that BioWare created if not for the other roleplayers in the game. I play on The Ebon Hawk, and roleplayers on that server gather on the server's unofficial fansite, but there are also great communities for Begeren Colony and The Progenitor.
True Star Wars fans might hate Star Wars, and maybe a true SWTOR fan hates SWTOR. But I can tell you that I stick with the game because I love the world and I love the setting. I don't think I can find another MMO with the richness of history and story that I can use to build my character's personal story.
The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!