On Role-Playing

The peer pressure was eventually enough to crack me, and now I’ve been playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, the latest and greatest of the Star Wars MMOs. Well that’s not hard, there’s only been two. And it might not be the greatest of the two either.

At this point, players of the old and now-defunct Star Wars: Galaxies are probably staring bulgy-eyed at the suggestion that it might have been better. And before playing SWTOR I might have felt the same.

Here’s the thing. SWTOR tells incredible stories. It is all about the story. And stories can be hard to tell if your main character is under the control of some random pissant out in the cyberworld. That is to say, you’d have to tell a tale with no idea of who that main character is, what he/she is like, what his/her background is, what their skills are, what their role is in the world, etc. So to tell the best tale possible, SWTOR pigeonholes you almost completely. You do have a piddling amount of wiggle room… my Imperial Agent can be a “good” guy or an “asshole” (very different thing from being evil). But the backgrounds and attitudes I’d choose for him are largely irrelevant. It’s all in my head, and it’s often at odds with the story. It’s a very GOOD story, mind you. But I have almost zero opportunity for deviation.

Galaxies, or SWG, had the exact opposite problem. There was almost no story at all, and definitely none that felt of consequence to a character. And that’s a bad thing, but it made up for it with ridiculous amounts of customization letting you be a huge range of things. Plenty of species, plenty of ‘jobs’ and skills that you can mix and match to your heart’s content, several styles of homes you could plant nearly anywhere on a planet and fill with whatever junk you like, and even form player-run cities and governments with them. Plus, the economy was almost exclusively player-driven. The expectation was that players would make their own fun. Plenty did! But eventually the lack of sense of anything to do caused it to stagnate. When the company’s management (against the advice of its developers) decided to strip out a lot of that customization, they destroyed the rest of the fan base they had.

SWTOR is good but I need some of that customization. I want a home for my character’s stuff. I want to be able to decorate it. I want to be able to decorate my ship. I want to be able to CHOOSE my ship, rather than just having the same stock one that all players of my class have. Hell, I’d like to even be able to name the damn thing, even if it’s just in one tiny little text box that will never be seen by anyone but me. I’d like the chance to feel that I have some say in the role I’m playing here, even if it’s just that superficial.

I just want a good middle ground. Surely that’s possible.