Saturday, January 2, 2010

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

After a six and a half year wait, it is a time of civil war in the galaxy. The galaxy is finally going to be divided and all of us will have meaningful tasks to perform to contribute to the war effort.

Or we could just be grinding our way through this monotony in order to land the latest loot and shinies.

Can there really be anything "meaningful" to contribute to a war that has a clearly-defined ending? Spoiler alert! The Rebels win in the end. Also, Vader is Luke's father, Jabba is choked to death, the sarlaac chokes down Boba Fett and Leia loves Luke. (It's not like that at all. He's her brother!).

So go ahead, determined youngster! Join the Imperial faction. Loser.

Pitting the Rebels against the Imperials will always have a tint of "so-what-ed-ness" about it, as long as we're set in this time period AND so long as SOE and Lucas Arts does not say that this is an alternate universe. (Which is a total cop-out no matter what the medium; movies, comics, television, novels, you name it.)
Anything that holds true to canon will have a predetermined outcome. Anything set in an alternate universe will be lame and frustrating. What's a Star Wars fan yearning to live in a virtual Star Wars universe to do?

For six and a half years, we all have been asking and answering that question. Crafting comes to mind. Raising pets. Decorating. Entertaining. Mindless PvE. Collections. Mindless PvP. Space. Consuming everything pushed our way like a thirsty drifter given a strawberry smoothie.

But it really just felt like three long days each looping several times before advancing to the next. I’ll break them down for you to cure you of your doubts.

Ah yes. Pre-CU. The gift of the gods, it was. For many, it was their first MMO. For those who choose to remember, it was heaven on the internet. For those who actually recall, it was a whole lot of nothing with a cool skill system stuck on top to drive us to consume said "nothing" at a ridiculous clip. The "Cries of Alderaan" gave us hope, but gave us nothing in the end.

I'll allow this to encompass all the Jedi Grind Fests as well as the controversial Combat Upgrade. The end result was that all we had going for us was a series of rather fun Village quests, with nearly everyone and their alt accounts ripping up the internets to unlock Jedi. Some will say it was hard work and something to be proud of. Personally, I'll tell you it was a game and there was nothing hard about it at all.

Finally, SOE and LucasArts (or some subset or combination therein) decided that we were all morons and that there was a huge untapped demographic of morons that hadn't yet subscribed to the game. Words were removed along with pets, melee, ... oh you know the list.

But we did get Jedi for free, right? Isn't that the bulk of the subscribers were trying to get on DAY TWO? And now we could be heroes instead of farmers! Icons instead of I Can'ts!

I'm not about to get into the failure of the NGE in this article. The game has improved since then; no doubt about it. But here we find ourselves on the cusp of the next day, DAY FOUR - A SUBSCRIBER DIVIDED.

Trying to get excited about a GCW update is a lot like getting excited about getting a Christmas present from your grandmother. Sure, it's fun to receive and open it up, but there's a really good chance that it's a pair of socks that are too tight.

The Chronicle System blew all the wind from my sails. I was completely dismayed at the grinding requirements that were put in; requirements that were an enormous stumbling block for me to get out the tales that I wanted to tell. Blocks that I just don't have the time or will to overcome. Maybe if this were DAY ONE again! But alas.

So I refuse (or am unable) to get excited about the GCW. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised with such low expectations. From what I've seen so far (and I've only 'SEEN' and not tested), it looks frustratingly contrived, hopelessly repetitive, purely cosmetic, and ultimately meaningless.

DAY FOUR is just the next piece to the SWG saga that will be stuck on repeat.
Star Wars is really about the personalities and the decisions they make. It's set against the backdrop of civil war, a conflict that moves forward and is ultimately affected by the decisions of the characters. At the core of it all: faith and morality; good versus evil, each with their own temptations and rewards.

To suggest that such ingredients cannot be used in a video game is preposterous. Books have been engaging readers for centuries, and the printed word in their hands cannot change dynamically based on the will of the reader. It is set in stone, start to finish, yet it still manages to enrapture.

The old "Choose Your Own Adventure" books broke away from that mold and brought the reader into the story as a character. MMOs are (or should be) no different. Some of the more recent and note-worthy single-player video games have followed suit and have their stories unfold contextually with decisions and actions made by the player for the characters they control. Bioware seems to think they've managed to translate this powerful feature into the MMO genre. It remains to be seen.

Meaningful decisions. That's what SWG lacks. But we do have a choice, you realize. And I'll make mine after I find out if DAY FOUR brings me socks or not.


Anonymous said...
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Torak101 said...

That's the same problem most MMO's have.
A game can only do so much to add "meaning" to the player experience.

You can PvP and there are rewards and purpose for example. The PvP is being added too and improved.

Whether you like it or not is a matter of personal choice.
Over analyzing is this communities issue :)

Vincer Kaden said...

I think "over analyzing" is one of the few perks to being a part of the SWG community. Discussing the game is oftentimes more entertaining then playing the game. I feel that the best way for me to identify with what I do or do not like about the game (or anything) is to start putting words down.

I never intended to cancel, but my credit card expired. It's easy to let SOE scoop out subscription money each money automatically. It doesn't feel like you're really spending money. But the act of putting in new credit card information allows for a moment of clarity. It's a deliberate act of giving someone money. I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

I was amazed at how little difficulty there was in arriving at that decision.