Yesterday I berated The Old Republic for the horrific art failures. I stand by everything I said, but in the interest of fairness I thought I’d point out that the game does have a couple of incongruously gorgeous locations. The above shot was sent in from a reader, and is apparently a shot of Alderaan. I don’t think I can get there in the free trial, but it’s nice to know it exists. Here’s another great location:
- Nailed the established Star Wars style.
- Set on the not-tired-and-overused planet of Tython.
- Looks wonderful. Good use of color.
- Well-designed angle of approach to allow the player to take in the whole scene.
That’s a win. A solid win.
I clicked on one of the fast-travel points and this is what it displayed. Odd.
Pffft. Come on, guys. You can’t give the prospective customer a clickable link or a button? Then again, given the condition of your website, maybe the fewer visitors the better.
You might remember Charles Dennis from Knights of the Old Republic, playing the role of Taris crimelord Davik Kang. His voice is obviously that of an old white guy, with a dash of Italian-American accent. So naturally they gave him the above role: A huge young guy.
It was really hard to accept the voice and the face going together, and I think the Italian accent made it worse. Maybe it wouldn’t have seemed so off if I didn’t know how old the actor was.
Although, that’s just existing Star Wars baggage talking. We don’t have a particular affiliation associated with Italian. Rebels have American accent. The Empire uses World War II German design aesthetics with British accents. In the original trilogy, the Rebels all wore earth tones and the bad guys were all black and white. Neither side had any particular skin pigmentation.
You could easily make a deliberate design choice that some faction, planet, or race used Italian accents. That would have been cool. Denied that, we sort of revert to our default expectations for voices. It’s an interesting problem. You can say, “You shouldn’t worry about these details,” but that’s like saying you shouldn’t notice if an NPC Imperial officer walks in wearing a Banana yellow uniform. We use stylistic cues to interpret the world, and when something stands out it’s natural to assume that the designers are trying to get your attention.
To be clear, this isn’t some awful crime or anything. This was a minor, two-minute quest intended to fill out the world and introduce you to the light side / dark side system. I’m just using it as an excuse to point out that there are a lot of style cues beyond the visual, and a skilled designer will use these to sell or expand the setting. Barring that, they at least should get the age of actor and character within three decades of each other.
The opening crawl for the bounty hunter class. These are all pre-rendered, so they’re the same for all players of the same class. I feel strongly that they should have rendered these instead, and used this to insert your chosen character name into the opening crawl. Referring to the player in such a roundabout, generic way felt very fake and cheap. Like when GLaDOS says, “Great job, subject name here.”
The Bounty Hunter is probably the most fun so far, though in this game he’s basically an assassin by another name. I have yet to have to run someone down and capture them. Always with the killing, these jobs. What is this, an MMO?
And speaking of my spry young Bounty Hunter…
Everyone refers to him as the “young hotshot” or the “new kid”. Like the opening crawl, this is another example of how the greater focus on roleplaying results in less roleplaying flexibility. In a regular MMO, you can devise any story or origin you like for your character, because it doesn’t matter. In SWTOR, your story is already written, and you work to reveal it.
Bounty hunter is one of the very few classes where I’ve enjoyed playing as a man. He’s voiced by the Omni-voice himself, Steve Blum. So many of the other male voices sound dorky. Don’t even get me started on Smugglers.
He’s still young at heart, though. That’s me dancing center-left.
You know the swing number that was playing in the cantina on Tatooine? Not the really iconic one, but the more low-key one that plays in the background when Luke is talking to Solo. Apparently, that little number is thousands of years old. This is something that really bugs me about the Old Republic timeline. They take the time to wipe the slate clean by setting everything thousands of years in the past. But then they back-port the entire world of classic Star Wars, breaking a lot of ideas in the process. We have a noble and democratic-ish Republic versus a cruel and fascist styled Empire. The architecture is the same. The music is the same. The costumes are nearly the same. We have freezing people in carbonite. Same small handful of allegedly irrelevant, out-of-the-way planets. (Hoth and Tatooine being notable offenders.)
Apparently culture, art, politics, and technology won’t change over the next in five thousands years of history. As far as I can tell, this is not the fault of BioWare, but just a general problem with huge multi-author settings running against the wall of fan expectations. It’s a shame, but Trek has it even worse.
Do you… can I get you a chair? No, I guess you don’t need one, apparently.
Could Have Been Great
Here are four games that could have been much better with just a little more work.
The Best of 2015
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2015.
C++ is a wonderful language for making horrible code.
What was the problem with the Playstation 3 hardware and why did Sony build it that way?
A programming project where I set out to make a gigantic and complex world from simple data.