A couple of weeks ago, I was cleaning out the drafts folder on this blog. I had a hundred of so article stubs that I never managed to turn into proper posts. It was mostly just random notes and single-paragraph article stubs. But mixed in with those scraps was this thing. Way back in July 2012, I apparently began and subsequently abandoned this LP of SWTOR.
I think my heart just wasn’t in it. In the past, I’ve managed to make some fun stories. Champions Online was too dumb for its own good. I thought Lord of the Rings was earnest and admirable despite its occasional insanity. And while there are few places more well-traveled than Azeroth, I like to think I found a few funny places and ideas that hadn’t yet been given the mocking they so richly deserved.
But Star Wars the Old Republic is too bland a target for my kind of humor. It felt like the game wasn’t even trying to make a case for itself. When mocked, the game doesn’t even have the decency to fight back. The (early) quests were a bit lame, but not mind-bogglingly stupid like Champs Online. SWTOR was based on well-known source material, but unlike LOTRO I didn’t feel like this game arose from a genuine love and appreciation for the universe. Oh, I’m sure plenty of people on the project love Star Wars, but that wasn’t coming through the malaise of cookie-cutter game design. The stories eventually get interesting, but only after many endless hours of soul-crushing hotbar-based combat and trudging through environments that are too dull to mock in screenshots.
This isn’t fun and it isn’t funny. It’s mostly just sad to see how much money was spent to make something so lifeless. I’m only posting this because my choices are:
1) Delete this and leave the blog blank for a few days.
2) Post it.
So don’t read this and think, “This is supposed to be good.” More like, “This is hopefully better than having no content for several days.”
Okay, back to me-from-2012…
Get on With It Already
Unlike some of my other series, I’m not going to meticulously track in-character and out-of-character commentary. Also, I’m not going for comedy here. We’re just going to jog past all the quests while I point at them like a tour guide. In keeping with the standards of tone and continuity set by the Star Wars Expanded Universe, we’re going to half-ass this.
Are your expectations sufficiently lowered? Great. Let’s get started…
Step one is to create a character.
I’m just kidding. Step one is actually creating an account on SWTOR.com, a process somewhat akin to filing taxes through an interpreter. Step twenty three is to create a character, so let’s skip to that one.
Oh wait. At some point, we start the launcher. After you log in, you get this screen:
Pick an environment? Really? Like what, Star Trek? Farscape?
Note that there is only one environment available. And it is not selected by default. It’s a menu with only one option, which must be selected before you can continue. Click on “SWTOR (swtor)”, then click on “Next”. There’s no explanation to the user as to what they’re choosing or why. Now, I’ve done this enough that I can guess this is probably where you would select the beta servers if you were in the beta. But what is your average user supposed to think here?
The next screen is a little splash screen of upcoming content, so this list could easily be put there as a drop-down list or something.
You might say I’m being petty. Okay, yes. But I say the devs are at least as petty. How contemptibly apathetic do you have to be to make a dialog like this? No, it doesn’t ruin the game, but it’s trivial to fix: If there’s only one environment available, then skip this screen. Barring that, have it selected by default. Barring both of those, explain to the user what this mystery quiz is for. Barring that, quit your job designing interfaces and go back to greeting people at Wal-Mart.
Anyway. Once you’re all nice and logged in, it’s time to make a character. Which means we need a name.
We know how character naming works in Star Wars. The trope even has a name: Luke Nounverber. A good Star Wars name mixes a short first name with a noun-verb last name. Julia Cakebaker. Stan Chairsitter. Vicky Boobhaver. Bob Booblooker. Eddie Fartsniffer. Shamus Blogblogger. Et cetera. Bonus points if you can work some outer-space flavor into the name, as in “Skywalker” or “Starkiller”.
The other kind of Star Wars name is the three-syllable pair. Jengo Fett. Han Solo. Mace Windu. Qui-Gon Jinn. Moff Tarkin. Mon Mothma. Max Rebo. Count Dooku. Boba Fett. Princess Leia. Vrook Lamar. Raana Tey. Visas Marr. Krynda Draay. Owen Lars. Cliegg Lars. Darth Vader. And others.
So for optimal name-making, we should have two names. Unfortunately, you can’t give yourself two names. The game won’t let you. I don’t know why. Other games have made this work, but not SWTOR. Online gaming being what it is, the available supply of non-idiotic one-word names is likely to fill up quick. Like, this has already happened. Ages ago.
Veteran players tell me that you can get second name, much later in the game. The game can’t be bothered to tell you about this at the outset, so it’s not like a new player can plan for it. This also means that your first name still needs to be server-unique, which defeats the biggest benefit of having two names.
Now the truth is, I’m more of a Star Wars fan than most of you. I might know less about the universe. I don’t read the comics, or the books, and I haven’t played half the Star Wars games out there. But I saw the movie first, which is what matters most. I was six when the original movie came out, and I saw it like, a bunch of times over the years.
I even owned the original toys. I lost them or they broke or I traded them for candy or whatever, but the point is: I once owned toys that, if I still had them and if I hadn’t ruined them, would be older than most of you. This is the most important thing about fandom.
In keeping with this line of thought, and thinking back to the benefits of having “star” in your name, I’ve decided to name myself Hipstar. If I ever get a second name, it will be “Fann”.
Let’s see… who do we want to play? The game has eight character classes, four for each side. Let’s consider:
Starts on Korriban. A dreary brown starting area that involves about ten thousand miles of hiking. Pass.
Same starting area as Warrior.
Starts on Hutta, world of the MAXIMUM ORANGE color filter. I really don’t want to post nothing but orange screenshots for several weeks, because that would be almost as monotonous as playing through Hutta yourself. On the other hand, Bounty Hunter is a fun class and seemingly indestructible as far as I’ve played it.
It’s a great choice if you happen to be playing the game on an amber monochrome monitor. You won’t even notice.
PRO: Really interesting quests. Really neat to see how the rest of the Empire views their Sith masters.
CON: Hutta, again. Pass.
I get what BioWare was trying to do with the Smuggler. They wanted a wise-cracking Han Solo type. They failed. The voice actors are wrong for the part, sounding too much “Welcome to Applebees, can I start you folks off with an appetizer this evening?” and not enough “swaggering rogue”.
But the real problem is the dialog. Your “jokes” are not. They are stupid and lame. Worse, you don’t even get the last word. The NPC always gets the last comment, where they point out how stupid, inappropriate, or lame you are. You’re not a wise-cracking scoundrel. You’re a tone-deaf idiot, mugging for an audience that doesn’t care.
Your quest involves your ship getting stolen, repeatedly. That’s right, as the scoundrel you get tricked and ripped off by the NPCs, not the other way around. This is like playing as a Sith Warrior that gets beat up all the time or a Bounty Hunter who can’t find his dog.
Five thousand years before the events of the Prequel Trilogy, you play as a… stormtrooper. Sure, it completely muddles the events of the movies and undercuts the established idea that the pre-Jar-Jar Republic didn’t need a central army, but this is a Star Wars game and the fans demand soldiers in white armor called troopers. So shut up.
It’s not a bad questline. It’s basically the Bounty Hunter power set. The starting area is kind of a bland, generic war-torn ruin. (Same starting area as the Smuggler, actually.) You’re supposedly fighting against a rebellion, but the rebels outnumber the non-rebels so it’s not clear why these guys need to start a war to take over. The planet seems to be made entirely of military bases, though, and I’m not sure why the bases are all clustered together and I’m done trying to make sense of this.
The female Trooper is voiced by Jennifer Hale. Adjust your gender accordingly.
Pass, reluctantly. Might come back to this one later.
Great looking starting area. Appropriately themed conflict. Good power set. Plus, you know, Jedi.
Jedi Knight, I choose YOU!
Too late! I already picked Jedi Knight.
Hey! I thought this was my story. Why isn’t my name in it?
Anyway, let’s see where this goes…
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