Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hot Topics: More Festival of Love Hate

Star Wars, by nature, is a classic tale of good versus evil set in a fantasy environment, arguably science-fiction, but perhaps not by literal definition. The characters and concepts speak to people of all ethnicities, ages and beliefs as it both abstracts and clarifies the story details so as not to appear merely a reflection of current real world issues.

Star Wars is also about fun and excitement; the unknown and fantastic, full of twists and turns and unexpected revelations. From the tale of a farmboy who saved the galaxy, to the realization that two droids could have as much personality as any other character, to the literal muppet who made us believe he really was a master of the mystical Force, Star Wars has always had the ability to immerse us in this galaxy of make believe and tell us a tale that we're willing to believe.

To be certain, not all delvings into the fantastic were so well-received. Beloved by some, but hated by others, the Ewoks might be considered a blight on the Star Wars genre; one that may only be trumped by the general discontent saved for Jar Jar and his gungan brothers. (Were there any gungan girls, incidentally?)

Say what you will, Star Wars has always managed to pull through and be one of the most successful franchises in the history of our planet despite mixed reviews by the harshest and most demanding critics: the fans. It has made successful ventures beyond the movies and found audiences and profit in novels, television, video games, comic books, action figures, board games, clothing and more.

Which brings us to the current Star Wars MMO and the specifics of the Ewok Love Day Festival ongoing. Rather, I would suggest we pull back a bit and take a larger chunk of some of the recent additions - however temporary - there have been to Star Wars Galaxies.

Beyond the Festival of Love, we have had the Jabba-sponsored Moon Festival, and the Wookiee's Life Day event. All were conceived, designed, built and implemented for the sheer enjoyment of those who took part. And isn't Star Wars about having fun? Is that not enough to qualify any for inclusion in a Star Wars game?

The Empire Strikes Back was not only about Yoda, nor was Return of the Jedi only about the Ewoks, or The Phantom Menace about Jar Jar. But more and more, it appears that Star Wars Galaxies is based around these fun little events that do nothing to advance the story, build the drama or immerse the players. Meanwhile, the Battle of Hoth is nothing more then a recurring dream that feels more like a roleplaying game within a roleplaying game, spies receive an unbalancing update, engineers are still forgotten, and Imperials and Rebels waltz arm in arm amongst the colorful and nightclub scene that the hive of scum and villainy has become.

SOE needs to draw more then tiny tidbits from the movies and media to develop SWG. It is not sufficient to point at Ewoks - those cannibalistic little devils - and note how cute they are, thus basing an entire event around them while crushing out any last vestiges of canon in one swift stomp. It is not enough to suggest that Jabba is jovial simply because he is overweight, and thus may enjoy sponsoring costume parades. It is not enough to put wings on any character simply because there is iconography in the real world that suggests that this might mean "love".

Go and have these events. Clearly they are well-received, and they should be. None are required, nor are any so prevalent that they should affect other styles of gameplay. But do not forget that Star Wars ISN'T just about fun and light-heartedness. There is a severe and gripping battle for freedom ongoing; a struggle against tyranny and domination that has victory dangling from a thread. While presents were being crushed by candy-loving stormtroopers, an innocent world was being enslaved by the Empire, never to be heard from again.

We must find that world and immerse ourselves in its story.

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