The Soapbox: In praise of SWTOR's 12X experience

It's taken 12 times the normal XP rate, but Star Wars: The Old Republic is finally my main MMO (at least for another week or so). Well, OK, it's also taken a series of spectacularly ill-considered decisions by XLGAMES and Trion, but that's a rant for another day.

I've been playing SWTOR quite a lot over the past month since BioWare's subscriber-only pre-expansion boost has cut all of the godawful grindpark garbage right out of a galaxy far, far away. Too bad it's just a temporary fix, though -- here's hoping that the devs give veterans the option of keeping the XP bonus long after December 1st.

I'm sure most of you linear content fans disagree with me when I use words like grindpark or when I say that these sorts of MMOs are life-wasting endeavors. But think of it this way: I just saw all of the game's story content -- its reason for being and its most important pillar, if you will -- inside of four weeks. For all intents and purposes, I beat the game save for the same gear treadmill I've run in a hundred other MMOs. Now I can play something else without that incurable Star Wars O.C.D. nagging at my subconscious. I may even go outside.

Or, instead of knowing I'll have months of unwanted grind hanging over my head, I can replay a class story or two at my leisure and make different choices. Or I can hunt lore clickies, check out that bounty week thing, and -- gasp -- roleplay! In a roleplaying game! How crazy is that? And naturally when the Shadow of Revan expansion and its new story content hits, I'll enjoy some fresh Star Wars yarns without the crushing weight of zomg-I'll-never-finish-all-these-pointless-content-gates clouding every single play session.

How long did it take you to clear all eight of SWTOR's class stories? Six months? A year? Did you do so while holding down a job or indulging in other hobbies? Why did it take that long since the story spans a matter of hours if you watch a YouTube-powered cutscene movie marathon?

Because BioWare stuck a bunch of mind-numbingly repetitive planetary quests, travel-based time sinks, and general themepark MMO foolishness in between the parts of the game that people actually wanted to experience. This was of course a smart business decision because it effectively allowed the company to sell its much-desired Knights of the Old Republic III (and IV, V, VI, etc.) in a sort of serial format that forces customers to pay for it continuously over time rather than shelling out a single $60 box fee.

Now, though, BioWare has thrown subscribers a bone by finally admitting that yeah, all of that filler is a waste of time, so here's a free pass -- albeit a temporary one -- to the good part.

The funniest thing about the 12x event from my perspective is that since I've caught up, I feel far more inclined to stick around and do a bit of gear acquisition and dungeoneering, both for the fun of the mechanics and for the fun of testing out all the dialogue trees with my mates. Hell, I may even do a raid or two for the first time in forever. I actually want to do some achievement hunting, some Galactic Starfightering, and even more roleplaying, all of which will continue to net BioWare my $15 a month for the foreseeable future.

My previous stints in SWTOR have been marked by a dreadful, I-can't-wait-to-finish-this feeling that's akin to working a particularly awful job, but now that the skinner box stuff is temporarily gone, so is that unpleasant feeling! It's downright amazing how that works, and it's absolutely a new experience for me both in this game and in themepark MMOs generally.

I don't want to leave the game because the game is no longer a prison sentence but instead a series of nostalgic pleasantries centered around virtual Star Wars action figure tomfoolery, even if none of it is canonical or even plausible relative to the rest of the franchise.

While I'm currently loving SWTOR, it remains a shell of the Star Wars MMO that it replaced. That can't be argued by any rational sentient who compares the feature list for the former with the feature list for the latter. But now that the grind is gone, it's at least an enjoyable shell, and my hope is that maybe one day MMO developers will learn that you don't have to gate fun behind busywork to keep paying players around.

Everyone has opinions, and The Soapbox is how we indulge ours. Join the Massively writers as we take turns atop our very own soapbox to deliver unfettered editorials a bit outside our normal purviews (and not necessarily shared across the staff). Think we're spot on -- or out of our minds? Let us know in the comments!