Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Dear Bioware, Please save me from your new Star Wars game

I’m going to write about the new Star Wars game today, but this is not a preview. This is a cry for help.

I spent three happy years playing “World of Warcraft,” and three years playing “Ultima Online” before that. I could hedge my language and try to wiggle out of it, but the technical term for my condition is “addict.”

I kicked my Warcraft habit last year when the novelty finally wore off. I played every class in the game and even tried my hand at high-level raiding for a while. Then the Lich King expansion came out and I realized if I wanted to keep up with my guild I would have to have to work my way through 10 more levels of crap.

I did everything I could to relieve the boredom but at that exact moment the game became work. Kill 20 of these, collect 10 of that. Carry this item to this person and spend 30 minutes watching an animated bird carry you across the world. I couldn’t take it anymore. I actually grew to resent the game. Logging in felt like a job, a duty — a chore I had to complete before I was allowed to do anything “fun.”

It was a strange feeling, to feel contempt for something I used to be addicted to — like I had suddenly developed an allergy to ice cream or come to despise the sight of cupcakes. Perhaps I should thank Blizzard Software for ruining their game. They killed something I loved and let me get my life back.

But now there’s a new dealer on the block and I’m not sure I can stay away.

Sony made the first Massive Multiplayer Star Wars game in 2003. It was called “Star Wars Galaxies” and it rocked the online world for a year or two, until “World of Warcraft” came along and showed us a better way.

Galaxies didn’t start out as a bad game. It was rich, open-ended and detailed, but it never quite felt like Star Wars. The developers made crucial decisions based on “realism” and “game balance” and alienated the fan base from day one.

In the early days, you couldn’t just walk into the game and start as a Jedi. You had to work for it. A lot. Hours of tedious labor to earn something that single-player games let you do on the first screen.

It’s a perfect example of “be careful what you wish for.” Forum wankers may whine about being true to the story and earning your status in a game, but when Sony actually tried to build a game that way, those folks were the first to complain.

Sony turned Star Wars into a Kafkaesque treadmill of frustration and despair, but the players kept playing, hoping that one day the game would improve and the promise of Star Wars online would be fulfilled.

Sony eventually “fixed” the problem by allowing anybody to start as a Jedi. Imagine working for months to achieve Jedi status in a game, only to log in one day and discover everything you worked for is being given away for free.

“Star Wars Galaxies” was a dismal failure, but LucasArts seems to have learned from their mistake. The first step was to give the license to another developer. This time they gave it to Bioware, a company responsible for the best story told in the Star Wars universe since Timothy Zahn took a swing at it in 1991.

Bioware revitalized the Star Wars universe by breaking away from the familiar characters and creating something new. Their game “Knights of the Old Republic” was set 4,000 years before the era of Luke Skywalker, allowing them to keep all the flavor and all the archetypes from Star Wars without being bound by the existing story.

The result was an epic game with a uniquely personal feel. Bioware mastered the single-player roleplaying genre and now they’re about to unleash a multiplayer version.

The project is called “Star Wars: The Old Republic” and it’s set to launch sometime in 2010. I’m hoping that Bioware will delay their launch date for as long as possible because the day they release this game will be the last productive day of my life.

“Star Wars: The Old Republic” promises to be the deep-fried Mars bar of online games. You know you shouldn’t eat it. You know the very idea should disgust you. But it takes a special kind of willpower to see that booth at the county fair and walk on by.

So please, people from Bioware, take your time and delay this launch for as long as possible. If you are forced to launch this game in 2010, please make sure it sucks. Introduce lame story elements and show-stopping bugs. Screw up the control functions and make it annoying to play. Impose unrealistic progression requirements and limit the monster spawn rates so there’s nothing fun to do.

Make the crafting system expensive, time-consuming and impossible to coordinate. Introduce horrible lag times and make us wait 30 minutes before allowing us onto a server. Screw up the combat system and make all the targeting twitch-based, so only people with great reflexes and great connection speeds will be able to play.

Screw up the game balance so only Bounty Hunters and Creature Handlers are worth playing. Ruin your story with boring, repetitive quests. Make the raiding so hard that only the most dedicated five percent of your player base can participate.

And then, if that’s still not enough to keep people away, double your monthly fee and start doing unscheduled maintenance at 8 p.m.

I’m begging you, please. Ruin this game before it ruins my life.

Written by Michael B. Duff

July 30, 2009 at 15:24

Posted in Games

2 Responses

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  1. Duff, you are so right on. The deep fried Mars bar analogy hits home. This game will definitely ruin (or run) my life when its released unless they do something merciful to chase me away.


    July 31, 2009 at 10:07

  2. I feel ya on this one bro. I have yet to kick the WOW addiction myself so big grats on that feat of strength.


    August 3, 2009 at 11:29

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