Hyperspace Beacon: Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter

It's interesting: When I'm intrenched in the news of Star Wars: The Old Republic, I tend to forget sometimes what people know and don't know. For instance, I love what I've seen of Guild Wars 2, but if you were to ask me, "Who is that tiny race with the big machines?" I would have to look it up. So it shouldn't have surprised me when I received an email a couple of days ago asking about non-combat activities in SWTOR. I know there has been talk of non-combat activities, but it's usually pushed to the side so that combat can take the forefront. I certainly don't blame anyone for that. Most players are interested in combat, and BioWare's marketing is, of course, going to focus on that.

This message I received from Isaiah was concerning his whole guild. He asked the following:

We are primarily interested in the RP aspects of the game. I theorized that the RP elements and player interactions on the RP servers will be community-regulated, meaning the players drive the RP as opposed to BioWare. BioWare briefly touched on crafting months ago, but nothing new has been revealed. What about mounts? Player housing and the ability to name our ships? What about non-armor clothing options and general RP immersion into the universe? I know it's a rather open-ended line of questioning, but do you have any insights or theories about non-combat activities in game?

Beyond the break, I will answer these questions, and since he asked me about my theories, I will do a bit of that, too. See you on the other side.

Isaiah asked about the general immersion of the game. A player mount, for some reason, was the first element to come to my mind when I thought about this article. It's not that I find mounts the most immersing part of MMOs, but rather that I believe they do add to the size of an MMO. If we were designing a game in which everyone walked, then the scale would be quite a bit smaller (Star Wars Galaxies at launch notwithstanding). However, given the mention of mounts by a couple of developers, we now know that the planets are grand. Mounts are non-combative (in general), and they absolutely make me feel like I am a part of this world.

I'm sure by now we know there is a wide set of emotes. Emotes like /sit, /cheer, and /dance all work, but according to one roleplayer, there are no interactive emotes yet. At the fan event in London, a few roleplayers from the Hands of Darkness roleplaying guild were able to play through the starting class quests. These astute individuals attempted to interact with the environment outside of combat yet were unable to do so. Hopefully, BioWare is going to add in those elements at a later date. I need to be able to sit down with my friends and toss back a Starshine Surprise.

Although not all of his comments made it into the final interview because some were a bit off topic, James Ohlen mentioned to me that we'd get non-combat clothing, and one observant poster at the UK event noticed a social vendor in the game. Hopefully, this is where we'll spend those "social points" that were mentioned to a couple of us at PAX East. However, it does appear that there will be rewards that do not strictly involve combat or even exploration.

In random booth chat with developers, I learned that the community wants to be involved with in-game player activity, but unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), the community team will not be randomly spawning NPCs or creatures in the world for player-run events and the like. This does not rule out the possibility of events run by the community team, but there will more complexity to the events than a simple plop-down of attackable targets for shooting practice.

Isaiah asked about my theories, so here goes. I will preface this by saying that there are no announcements regarding anything mentioned here. This is just the result of my intuition regarding what I've seen in announcements and other MMOs.

The first thing I believe has to be in this game is Pazaak, if for no other reason than that it was in Knights of the Old Republic, but I don't believe that will be the only social minigame. High on my list of minigames to appear in SWTOR is Dejarik. We have seen multiple Dejarik tables in concept art and in screenshots, even. It has to be in there. Well, I say it has to be in there!

I don't exactly know whether this counts as non-combat, but it is definitely not faction-based: I believe we will see some sort of tournament-style combat with other players. Think of the arena fight in KOTOR. Friendly competition between players is kind of the point of a game, right? Imagine if the devs build these one-on-one competitions with special skill sets (because we know certain classes will not be suited for 1v1 combat). But that's a big stretch, so don't read too much into that.

My last non-combat speculation is about racing. Racing was a key plot point in KOTOR. It would be kind of silly not to pull from that iconic moment. Imagine doing the Boonta Eve race 4,000 years before The Phantom Menace. Or how about racing through the skyways of Coruscant! That would be awesome -- and non-combat.

Those are just a few of my theories. So what do you think? What other kinds of non-combat activities have you seen in other MMOs that would make a great fit with SWTOR? Let me know in the comments. Just keep in mind that even if your ideas don't make it into the game, you will always have /dance.

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 Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!