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Hyperspace Beacon: Loyal to their cause


As some of you may know, I love roleplaying in MMOs. Most of the MMOs I've played have had RPG tagged at the end. Even though it's not required to roleplay to enjoy an MMORPG, immersion is compounded when you do, therefore fun is compounded, too. In the Star Wars universe, I could not help but wrap myself in lore when I played a soldier or agent of the Galactic Empire. From line and formation to order and procedure -- all of this was in service to His Majesty, the Emperor. Of all the characters I made over my seven years of Star Wars Galaxies, my Imperial characters were the most purpose-driven.

When Bioware announced the trooper class for Star Wars: The Old Republic, many players asked who would want to play a clone. There's no personality there, no motivation or character development, right? I disagree very strongly. In fact, I will go so far as to say I believe there is only one binding factor between soldier types: loyalty. Even then there are different types of loyalties and different motivations behind an individual character's loyalties.

Step past the break and watch as I contrast the loyalty of famous factions of existing Star Wars soldiers and compare them to the trooper and agent classes of SWTOR.

Next to Darth Vader's black skull mask, the most recognizable face for the Galactic Empire has to be the bright white armor of the Stormtrooper. Star Wars canon tells us these are the Emperor's elite soldiers, and only the best can make it through the intense training on Carida. The Humans who graduate from the academy are usually very driven and focused, although they all seem to have misplaced loyalties -- to a fault. The sense of superiority as a species and as warriors is ingrained in them as a part of their training, but their loyalty is driven by the sense that they are doing something right. George Lucas has said himself on multiple occasions that the Stormtroopers are not bad guys, they are just working for bad people.

Clones were very similar to Stormtroopers. In fact, some of the Stormtrooper ranks were said to still be clones -- possibly not clones of Jango Fett, but clones none the less. The Kaminos, who made the first clones in the Clone Wars, implanted different skills and intelligence levels into each group of clones. Very few were exact replicas of Jango Fett. It's possible that the only clone that was a complete duplicate of this Mandalorian was Boba Fett. Unlike Jango Fett and the conscript Stormtroopers who would come after them, the Clone Troopers knew nothing but loyalty to their benefactors.

I have had many discussions with friends and fellow roleplayers about the Clone Troopers and the moral implications of inbred loyalty. Some believe that the clones were nothing more than semi-sentient beasts of burden, and others believed this type of genetic manipulation to be nothing more than a type of psychological slavery. Regardless, these humanoids were loyal because there was nothing deeper about them, despite being modeled after a very independent person.

In stark contrast to Stormtroopers, the Imperial Intelligence soldiers were loyal to the Empire because of the personal benefit. Sure, they usually start their military career in one of the other branches of the armed forces such as the army or navy, but to be in the Imperial Intelligence, it takes a special kind of loyalty. Intelligence members usually knew what they were doing and the motivation behind it. They were usually power hungry, at best, or maniacal tyrants, at worst. Most seemed to have some sort of personal vendetta against either the Republic or Rebellion. Former Jedi who became members of the Inquisitorius were the perfect example of this.

My friends have claimed that the Imperial Security Bureau was the scariest group of loyalists in the galaxy. Roleplaying an ISB agent was one of the most enjoyable experiences I ever had. I had to find that special place in myself that was an extreme loyalist to the point where anything that was even remotely anti-Imperial was wrong. Here is a twist: the ISB was loyal to the Empire only by proxy. The bureau actually was run by COMPNOR, the political party that backs the Emperor's ideals. Members of this party are loyal, first to the party, then second to the emperor who leads it.

COMPNOR had some strange beliefs beyond those of the Emperor. The whole idea of Human High Culture stems from this party. Therefore, it was nearly unheard of for "alien" species to be a members of this loyalty-enforcement agency; even near-Human species were treated as sub-sentient. According to the ISB and COMPNOR, the number one way to tell whether someone you know is a Rebel sympathizer is if he or she has more than five non-Human acquaintances.

In an interesting turn, Bioware took these archetypes and split them over the two factions. We have the soldier type embodied in the trooper class, and the ISB agent and Intelligence officer encapsulated in the Imperial agent class. The developers at Bioware seem to place story first and combat mechanics second. I believe they saw so much immeasurable potential in national loyalty that they wished to spread it over two classes. Unlike, say, the bounty hunter, who holds no real loyalty to the Empire, these classes have great potential for interpersonal conflict, especially if the character discovers her nation committing acts that are contrary to her own moral compass.

Besides the combat prowess of both of these classes, I hope you consider the character-building prowess as well. Not all soldiers are personality clones of the next, not even the actual clones. Tell me what you think. Is there enough potential in these classes to make an interesting story? Are you interested in playing a trooper or agent when you're finally in the game?

Star Wars: The Old Republic is finally here, and the Force is with Massively! We've prepared a Hutt-sized feast of class introductions, gameplay guides, lore roundups, and hands-on previews to help you navigate the launch period and beyond. And don't forget our weekly SWTOR column, the Hyperspace Beacon!

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