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The Digital Continuum: Blurring the line between co-op and MMO

Kyle Horner

There has been a flood of co-op games this year, and they've been really popular. People love to play with one another. Everything from Red Alert 3 to LittleBigPlanet shipped with some form of online co-op, people are eating up the co-op experience. And why shouldn't they? It's a whole heaping ton of fun. But of course, the biggest selling co-op experience this year has likely been Wrath of the Lich King.

Let's face it, our beloved MMOs are pretty much the thesis of co-op gaming. Granted, you can solo in World of Warcraft if you like, but the core experience of that game is playing with other people -- be they friend, family or complete stranger.

Traditional games and MMOs share a lot in common, but they ultimately sit and different ends of the co-op experience spectrum. There is almost certainly a sweet spot somewhere in the middle and I posit that Blizzard has been able to come the closest to it, but there's more ground to be made. In fact, there's one game in particular that could push the itself further towards co-op than any MMO before it: Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Much speculation and talk have been made about Star Wars: The Old Republic, but I find it highly surprising that nobody has really caught on to what this game really seems to be about. Just take a look at what BioWare has been going on and on about since it was announced:

Story-telling as the fourth pillar of MMOs?

The game content is like KotOR three, four, five, six, seven, ect?

Each class has their own storyline quests that will take players from first level to last?

Hell, even companion characters ala every BioWare RPG to date.

It all points at a big, monstrous fact: BioWare is making the single biggest online co-op RPG ever. SWTOR will be very much an MMO in many ways, yes. What it won't be is an MMO like any other to date if I'm correct here.

Imagine it this way: You login to SWTOR and see some of your friends online. You think, "Hey, I really want to finish the next chapter in my Jedi's class storyline!" and message people on your friend (or guild) list until you have a small, but good party. You then play through the storyline just like you would in Mass Effect, Jade Empire or KOTOR -- except you're playing it with your buddies. Not only that, but your character is persistent. The story of your character doesn't have to end once you've beaten the primary storyline. You can make your own story through PvP, or wait until an expansion and continue that story with the same character -- or you could make a wholly new and different character.

I think the better way to look at SWTOR is not as just another MMO. If BioWare pulls it off, what they'll really be creating is the first massively multiplayer online co-op game. SWTOR won't have PvP, it'll have an extensive online multiplayer mode. Just imagine taking your KOTOR 1 or 2 characters and pitting them against your friend's online to see who's got the better skills. SWTOR won't have an end-game raid system. It will have a fully featured co-op story mode where people can experience the thrill of the story together.

Are there chances for disappointments and under-delivered promises? Sure, but I'd like to think BioWare knows better than to make those mistakes. We'll see soon enough.

Gallery: Star Wars: The Old Republic Screenshots | 68 Photos

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