Editorial: Cannot Column Now, Watching The Old Republic Trailer

Oh, massively-multiplayer online games. We used to have so much fun. I would come home from a not-particularly-grueling day of school and log in for a few hours of mindlessly killing badly-animated Everquest baddies. Then, when I was all grown up and in college, we had lots of fun killing little rabbit things outside San d’Oria. Just as recently as last week, we were crawling through the dragon-haunted depths of Blackwing Descent in World of Warcraft.

I propose a ban on all PCs named Jar-Jar.
Grab a lightsaber, join with friends, save the galaxy!

But the bloom is off the rose, MMOGs, because I find myself more and more running to the comforting arms of my mistress, single-player games. How can we reinvigorate our failing relationship? Couples counseling? Key parties?

What is this? A The Old Republic trailer? Oh. Oh my. I am in love.

BioWare can generally be trusted to make entertaining software. The new E3 trailer is really just an interesting mash-up of much-touted game features, like space battles, crew skills, and lightsaber combat. Jaded MMO forum commenters, ever paragons of rationality and objectivity, are quick to call it WoW in Space, preferring instead the riveting action of EVE Online, or Microsoft Excel in Space.

But I dare even the most hard-hearted nay-saying naysayer to watch the trailer and not feel a little of that old Star Wars excitement. There is something downright quixotic and intoxicating in the Old Republic mythology, a vision of a fantasy world sans the usual trappings of elves and dwarves. A bit of magic that is not mired in quaint woodsy hollows and cold stone castles.

A minimalistic, functional UI out of the box?
This is the first MMO UI that I do not wish to modify.

Projected for a late 2011 release, The Old Republic is the answer, I hope, to our MMO prayers. Rift promised us more of the same, if better-executed and with a fresh coat of paint. Guild Wars II hopes to innovate and bring about a dynamic world. But The Old Republic promises, and I think the trailer shows, fully intends on delivering, a paradigm shift in themepark MMOs, from barely-interactable point and click worlds, to fully-voiced, story rich, fun games with immersive lore and the sorts of features modern MMO players expect.

Cautiously optimistic? Nay; I am unabashedly excited for the release of this game, and Bioware’s E3 showing has only whetted my hunger for a new Star Wars experience untainted by the hack writing of George Lucas.


  1. I don’t typically care for MMOs, but I’m looking forward to trying out The Old Republic. Really, though, I wish they’d have just made KoTOR 3 instead and get all the MMO-ness out of the game :D

  2. EP: It can’t be a bigger disaster than Star Wars Galaxies. I refuse to believe it.

  3. @EP: WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG. Every new trailer from E3 makes me want to drive to Irvine and punch Blizzard in the dick. There is literally nothing about The Old Republic that looks bad. The biggest complaint people have so far is that it is “WoW in Space, with Lightsabers.” To which I say, bring it the fuck on. I’m getting really burnt out on WoW, and I think having a Jedi Knight instead of a Death Knight is just the thing. I still want the same basic gameplay type: intense, large-scale raids and smaller PVE content, but the fantasy setting has been done to death, and BioWare can deliver a fucking story, which is more than I can say for Rift, which is all style and fanservice but no substance.

    @DG: I get that; KotOR is a monument of gaming, its sequel less so, but the world is poised for a new PVE MMO to take over WoW’s throne. The problem with other offerings is that no one cares about the story; Rift’s lore is invented out of whole cloth and just sucks. WoW had an established, popular setting and lore. So did Warhammer and Conan, though those were botched by Mythic and Funcom’s blundering. BioWare generally doesn’t fuck up story, even if they fuck up other shit, so I think the established Expanded Universe lore will help draw people in to the game and make them care about endgame raiding as something more than an arbitrary gear grind.

  4. @SB: SWG was early in the MMO lifecycle, and it really missed its mark by trying to be a sandbox-style game before such things were really popular. Either you had PVE fanatics who wanted to be Jedi and fight evil, or you had sandboxers that wanted to live a second life as a wookie hairdresser or whatever. And it just missed both markets, especially with the “New Game Experience” and how they handled being an iconic Star Wars character archetype, the Jedi.

    SW:TOR, on the other hand, doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a PVE/PVP MMO in the style of Everquest I/II, WoW, AoC, Rift, etc. But it it has two benefits: first is an established story continuity that people love from prior single-player games, and second is that it has BioWare’s general level of fit and polish. Even a “bad” BioWare game like Dragon Age II is still a well-put together game with full voice acting, excellent graphics, usable and intuitive combat, and a tightly-woven narrative.

  5. The thing that excites me most about The Old Republic is the statement that its name conveys: it is set in the Old Republic era, which is the most interesting era to me in the entire Star Wars universe. It’s a very vague era (anywhere between the beginning of Revan’s journey through Darth Bane up until Phantom Menace) and I always found it far more interesting than the post-RotJ stuff. The Jedi Order still has reason to exist beyond being revived after death by Luke Skywalker and the racial variation in Jedi is wonderful in the setting. In the movie series, not only are there no nonhuman Jedi, there are very few nonhumans in general due to Palpatine being a racist.

    I do not presume to know whether or not The Old Republic will replace WoW, but I will say this: If I join an MMO again, it is unlikely to be WoW, and it is becoming increasingly likely that the next MMO that I play will be The Old Republic.

  6. My WoW guild has pretty much fallen to splinters; this is largely true of most big guilds on my server. We had our server first Heroic Nef kill last week, seven months in to the expansion, from a group that is comprised of excellent raiders. If they cannot get a consistent group of the best of the best on the server, no one can. Some have been upset by class changes, some have left for other games, and some are just plain sick of us only having 4-5 good raiders show up and having to deal with 5-6 new players or outright scrubs, or flakes who leave halfway through.

    Every last one of us has said we will regroup in SW:TOR, because most of us are Star Wars fans (we’re mid-20s and 30s nerds for the most part; how could we not be?), and it looks like the most likely successor to the type of gameplay we fostered in our WoW guild.

  7. Of course. That’s how MMO launches go. A large server system to handle initial loads, with merges after the opening surge smooths out.

  8. It’s not peetering out. It’s invariable that some of the launch adopters will decline to continue playing; straight growth is impossible. Rift, for example, experienced hours-long wait times during head start, so they added servers for launch. Now they’re about to offer free transfers (ahead of probable server merges) because that’s just what happens. Even WoW didn’t start exploding with servers until it had periods of excessive server load.

  9. Server merges are not ‘typical’ of successful MMOS, Lane.

    EP has this one right. I’m with him all the way.

    I know you want it to succeed, but wishing isn’t the same as having.

  10. Also, WoW didn’t merge, so I don’t understand how that is even slightly relevant. They had to add servers because of demand, not merge them due to lack of demand.

    Server merges are a sign that the game doesn’t have the population to keep the servers viable whilst separate. That’s not a sign of ‘healthy’ MMOs or ‘typical’ use. It’s a sign of a declining playerbase due to an inability to retain players: signs of a failure or a dying mmo.

    Show me presently long-term viable and successful mmos with declining playbases and I’ll show you squares that are round.

  11. This might change your mind, or at least, show you that the current launch model inevitably leads to some server merges due to differences in the Internet population.

    Which is not to say that TOR will have server merges; maybe it will be successful on a completely unthinkable scale and show constant growth. But “successful” MMOs in this day and age (like Rift) do show server transfer and condensing/merges a few months after release. I’m not saying it will immediately replace WoW, but the fundamental tech behind Warcraft is aging, and it shows. As Diablo III and whatever Titan becomes near release, WoW will get progressively more and more back-burnered until the world moves on. Enthusiasm is flagging for the title, which is sad. It’s a landmark of the genre and something I have sunk literally countless hours into, and made a group of friends that are in many ways closer to me than people I grew up with.

  12. Rift is not a successful or long-term viable MMO. A couple years will see it go through the usual emergency manoeuvres, too.

  13. I’m not sure of the specifics of Rift and other recent MMOs, but TOR is reportedly such a huge investment (17 novels worth of story, hundreds of artists producing content, etc) that anything but millions of people logging in every day means Bioware is bleeding out money in an epic fashion. We’re talking Spirits Within looks sort of successful by comparison. I’m not a Bioware or KOTOR hater, but I just don’t see how they could possibly recover the money they’ve put into TOR at this point.

    It could in fact be an awesome game. That game could also be a massive commercial flop. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. I’m just betting that there’s no way it ends up making Bioware money.

    Remember that WoW had fewer people playing at its launch than now (I assume?) afterall.

  14. -I want new KOTOR!

    -Also, I agree with EP. I see this losing money irrespective of how good the game is.

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