Deciphering The Old Republic (24-ish hours in)

I’ve racked up about a day of playtime with Star Wars: The Old Republic. I’m a level 21 Bounty Hunter with little patience and a well-oiled trigger finger. When the opportunity arises, I’ll murder anyone, even the innocent. I’m ruthless in combat as well, never leaving without having slaughtered at least fifteen men, beast, or droid. My only mission is to eradicate the other hunters participating in the Great Hunt, and to eliminate their targets too. What I do from here can only get worse.

Here’s something that occurred to me today though.

During a recent interview Daniel Erickson, The Old Republic’s lead writer, spoke about the reaction from fans when introduced to the game’s emphasis on storytelling. Immediately they cried out that MMOs cannot have story, or at least ones as meaningful as the games that don’t try to incorporate thousands of players at a time. A large part of the convincing BioWare was forced to do was with the Beta. After seeing exactly how dialogue and cutscenes would live in what is an otherwise typical MMO, the same fans that thought story was impossible, realized their assumptions were based off of limitations other games have faced.

So, obviously the question is: did it work? Better yet, can it work? Largely the answer for both of those is yes, but given what an MMO was before The Old Republic came around, I’d go so far as to argue it isn’t an MMO. More specifically, the leveling experience is familiar to the wrong genre, the Flashpoints on the other hand don’t bother to make any significant enough changes. The Old Republic’s leveling experience is the reason why I’m not sure how a free-to-play model could apply, unless it’s capped out at a certain level. You’d rarely see someone plan to level to 85 in World of Warcraft and start a new character to do it all over again, yet I’ve seen multiple people claim they are going to use The Old Republic strictly for single-player needs. Whether or not they actually go through with it still shows there’s a desire to cut out the multiplayer in MMO (MSO?).

It’s surprising in itself that The Old Republic exists. Apart from the fact that it’s a hugely popular franchise with an devoted RPG developer behind it, The Old Republic has an identity crisis. It can’t do a lot of things that traditional RPGs can do, and it doesn’t do things traditional MMOs did. Is it trying to change our perceptions or is it just unique? Will the next batch of content be single-player or multiplayer focused? The more time spent thinking about the possibilities, the more interesting this whole thing gets.

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