Out With the Old, In With the New

As players line up for SWTOR early access like tovarisches waiting for toilet paper, tonight marked as grand a farewell as could be arranged for an altogether more fearless and ambitious game set in the same universe. Star Wars Galaxies, whose chief liability was that it was saddled with the tiresome Star Wars IP, is no more.

Bioware’s $300 million behemoth will be off to a roaring start, of that there is no doubt. Perhaps it will have better endurance than I expect, based on how far I got in the beta. My inclination, today, is to be negative about it, but I’m trying to look on the bright side. What that bright side boils down to is that Bioware is the best thing to happen to the Star Wars franchise since The Empire Strikes Back. They have done their best both to produce an experience as high in quality as possible, and to conform to the market expectations mandated by their enormous budget. It’s a title that could take no chances, and does not. SWTOR is by no means a bad game, but that it exists as it does is a sad commentary on the state of MMO design. Eight years ago Star Wars’ place in the MMO space lie with a game too revolutionary for its own good, so innovative that the Lucas goons had to put a boot on its neck to force it to conform. That effort did not entirely succeed, and even to its last day it was a game far richer in possibilities than SWTOR will ever be.

Somewhere, lurking in the depths of the bleak ocean that is MMO development, there is somebody working on something that learns the lessons – good and bad – taught by Star Wars Galaxies. Someday we’ll have the game that does for MMOs what Skyrim does for single-player RPGs. But that day is not today. Today is SWTOR’s day, and as players warm to it, especially players who remember what SWG was and what it could have been, the thing to remember is that every cent they give it it is another cent worth of validation in the echo chamber that surrounds George Lucas that what was done to SWG, the stifling of innovation in favor of conformity and derivation, was the right thing to do.

2 responses to “Out With the Old, In With the New

  1. The game that will change MMOs like Skyrim changed RPGs? I know which game you’re talking about.

    Embers of Caerus will be that game, if they get enough funding to meet their 2015/2016 goal. Its basically a group of 55 game developers/ex-Darkfall or Mortal Online players. Basically the next generation of sandbox pvp games after what DF/MO did to the scene.

    Now if only the independent MMO dev company can actually pull off their ambitious goals this time. I must say though, as negative as I can be, these guys are the best shot at the indie-sandbox-pvp MMO yet.

  2. “It’s a title that could take no chances, and does not.”

    So goes the dev community since Blizzard perfected the ‘Fantasy MMO’ formula. You really speak some cutting words in this post, that I can see being echoed in the general blogosphere about 2 months from now when the inebriating effect of a new MMO set in the beloved Star Wars universe starts to fade. SWG was put down like Old Yeller, and I wonder if there will be a backlash against SOE if SWTOR becomes increasingly sanitized and safe instead expanding on the edgier dark side story lines and interesting sounding crafting/PvP details. I don’t have any ill will against SOE since I never played SWG and wasn’t a huge EQ fan, so hope SWTOR gets better and better – but for once I do not feel any rush to jump into the latest MMO. Hate getting left behind in the PvP race though, as I understand gear makes you godly, so the early adopters will rule the playing field in 6-8 weeks, wrecking us noobs.