The Engagement Is Off: Breaking Up With The Old Republic

Obok hasn't aged well under the pressure of monthly payments.

I’ve been hesitant to commit, then I rashly got engaged. I sunk hours of play into my relationship with The Old Republic [TOR], now I’m calling it off. I purchased the game, paid the monthly subscription fees, then I realized I was not happy. I was no longer satisfied being in this costly relationship. The newness of our accord quickly wore off, and all that remained was the constant grind that constantly cost me $15 a month.

The first month passed. The newness of BioWare’s, well done, story arcs dried up like a Tusken Raider corpse sitting under Tatooine’s twin suns. Each time I launched Origin, I would hover my mouse over the TOR launch icon, just to move it away. Obok Stillsky’s bounty hunter blood no longer boiled for dangerous contracts, and my thirst for the Dark Side had been satiated . The only contract I was concerned about now, was the one I had with Electronic Arts.

Blizz, I knew you the least but I will miss you the most.

I never was a Massively Multiplayer Online [MMO] fanboy but I couldn’t resist  the lure of a well funded and developed Star Wars iteration. I realize now, that I will probably never be a MMO regular. TOR had all the makings of an MMO I could enjoy, and honestly it is a well made game but its biggest problem, for me, it’s an MMO. Some of the fault lies with me and the types of games I enjoy playing, which are anything but a MMO. One issue that I take no blame for is the soon to be archaic subscription model, that less and less MMOs are using.

The pain of me leaving is too much for her to bear; she can't stand to look me in the face.

Paying for a game, then continually paying for it on a monthly basis, is and will forever be foreign to me. With great games selling for $15 to $60 (not excluding superbly priced indie games that go for cheaper) that provide 100s of hours of game play, I have trouble justifying a $60 down payment in addition to monthly fees. The subscription model for MMOs are going the way of print and my experience with TOR was my first and last venture into this dying business model.

Not even a free TOR Tauntaun pet will bring me back.

The Old Republic, License to Kill. Learning Permit, License to Thrill. Pt. II

(Continued from last week’s post: The Old Republic, License to Kill. Learning Permit, License to Thrill.)

Rather than the air horn acting as a signal to stop, it acted more like a starter gun at a track race. The car lurched forward and the front end rose in the air from the sudden acceleration. The cone burrowed into the underside of the car like a porcupine trying to escape the spears of a San Bushmen. After a good 20 yard dash the car finally came to a sudden stop, but not due to anything the driver did. Thanks to the fast acting efforts of the passenger, motivated by survival instincts, who pulled the emergency break. The cone, trapped and dying, billowed smoke as if bleeding. Then, as a revenge to the car and the driver who killed her, the cone caught fire.

Rodian eyes are big but the largest on record belonged to the one standing before Obok at that very moment. As if the music was a living being, and was capable of noticing the tension, it shut its mouth. The Twilek dancers’ gyrating generators slowed, then stopped and their lekkus lowered to their sides. Obok gave the Rodian a chance to speak, just to hear the stupidity. “Can I get you a d…d…drink?” fumbled out of the beak that Rodians call mouths.

My passenger and I finally stopped laughing just as the cone caught fire and the two girls in the car performed a real life fire drill. The counselor was cool under a cones fire and made sure the two drivers were fine before rushing indoors. By this time everyone was out of their cars and about a month early, we were all getting practice at our first high school pep-rally bonfire. Standing in a scattered, well distant circle, we watched the bonfire and the crying girl behind its creation.

Obok only dressed for a drink on very rare occasions, today wasn’t one of them. His “clubbing” outfit said only one thing, killer. Everyone in the basement already new the name of Obok’s attire and were already on the floor and behind bar-cover. Two glorified Gamorrean bouncers, embolden by their recent, Twilek infused, increase in salary, flanked the Rodian. Obok drew first, shot first and killed first.

The counselor was on his way out of the school, extinguisher in hand. Watching him make his way towards the fire, like a shop owner trying to save his burning store, gave me another excuse to cackle. This time my laughter was echoed by another. A girl from class, who I had also shared glances with prior to this mutual experience, was laughing with me.

“Makes this entire class worth showing up for?” I quipped as our eyes met, both gleaming due to the enhanced lighting from the cones death.

“Sure does,” she replied with an inviting smile.

I pressed the issue, “How about we put our new license to use and do something together this weekend?”

As the fire was put out and the smoke rolled around our heads she smiled and replied, “You bet.”

As Obok’s personal shield activated, a blaster bolt shot out of his highly modded S-110 blaster gripped in his right hand. As his blaster fired, so did his flamethrower attached to his off hand. The Gamorrean to the Rodian’s right was hit just above his armor and dropped to the ground like Bantha poop, before his blaster could even clear the holster. The Gamorrean to the left of the death mark had dropped his vibro-axe as he squealed and burned, his skin blistered and darkened and he too dropped to the ground just like his axe. The Rodian turned to go for a blaster in the couch behind him but slowed by his liquid exuberance, he only got turned around before Obok’s electrodart hit him square in the back, paralyzing him. Obok walked up slowly and calmly to the gyrating green-skin and turned over the Rodian as the electrodart’s potency died out. “You don’t take a bribe for a mark’s freedom, it’s not very professional,” was the last words the Rodian heard before his permanent retirement.

Obok, took off his helmet. Sweat dripped from his purple skin. He reached to wipe his brow but one of the Twilek dancers that he interrupted earlier was quick to pat the sweat away with a lace scarf. “From what I figure you owe me credits for at least a couple of dances,” she whispered with a smirk.

Obok smiled and said,”I’ll buy you dinner, maybe we can share a dance.”

As the bartender put out the burning bacon behind Obok’s shoulder and the smoke swirled in the air the Twilek replied, “You bet.”

Many a Gamorrean have been turned to bacon by this flame thrower.

Sh*t I’m Engaged, to The Old Republic.

I skipped the dating phase, force jumped over the “exclusive” period, and went right to putting a ring on its finger. I’m engaged to The Old Republic [TOR]. I went from fearing even going out on a date with TOR and straight to commitment. The ring is purchased (game) and I am already set up for potential alimony payments (monthly subscription fee). I’m fully invested and loving every bit of the honeymoon period.

                        Should she be laughing that much?

In my younger years and admittedly, even in my 20’s, I would get lost in the books that make up the expanded universe of Star Wars. Reading intricate stories about the fringe characters from the movies (especially the bounty hunters) and playing the D&D based Star Wars role-playing game [RPG], provided me an expanded view of the dark and seedy underbelly of Star Wars. It is this dark and seedy underbelly that made my love for Star Wars what it is today, it is also the reason I threw caution to the wind and put on ring on TOR.

So who am I? In the RPGs, I always gravitated towards bounty hunting. It’s true, there’s no better prey than human, or Wookie, or Aqualish, or Nikto, or Gungan… especially Gungan. I was Obok Stillsky, Tusken Raider turned bounty hunter. I was lawful and only took bounties on those who deserved it. I was part of the seedy underbelly but kept my hands clean from a moral standpoint. With age though, I’ve become a bit more dark sided.

My main influence to role-playing my TOR character is derived from Watto’s famous line in the Phantom Menace,”Mind tricks don’t work on me. Only money.” I am still Obok Stillsky but I am a Chiss; a purple skinned, red-eyed hunter, with only one motivation… credits – Mitt Romney would be proud. I don’t negotiate with targets, no matter how sympathetic their story may be. I don’t fear falling towards the dark side if it means getting the results I need on a bounty. What kind of bounty hunter would I be if I didn’t fulfill my contracts?

Perhaps the most famous Chiss of Star War's lore, Admiral Thrawn.

The books and RPGs of my past are now being relived in a digital world. TOR does a wonderful job of further adding to the great Star Wars lore and even throws in a few, rather large, easter eggs that reference games and books of the past. There is actually a Raven (of Knights of the Old Republic fame) cult, referred to as Ravenites, who play a large role in the game play on the planet Dromund Kaas.

The themes I’ve encountered as a money hungry bounty hunter have been mature and fun, even in conjunction with Disneyesque dialogue. A request by a high ranking  Imperial officer to kills his daughter? If the credits are right, Obok will oblige, and did, despite her whimpering pleas. All the gadgets you saw in the movies are there too. Jet-packs, flamethrowers and explosive/electric darts are all at your disposal. Even the great negotiator, the thermal detonator, is available at higher levels.

So from the pages of the RPGs and books has come TOR. Looking to play the stoic Jedi or embrace the dark side? TOR has it. Want to be a Han Solo like smuggler or a shifty Imperial agent? TOR has it. TOR has drawn from the database of Star War’s sources and turned it into one of the first multiplayers I have spent more than four hours in, much more than four hours.  TOR is the marriage of Star Wars lore and underworld-done-right. I have found my future wife and within her world, Gungan bounties are done pro bono.

My Inability to Commit: Keeping My Distance From The Old Republic

There is no other universe that I cherish more than that of Star Wars. From the hippie-dippie Jedi to the skilled stalkers of the Bounty Hunters Guild, Star Wars has been a constant in my life. It has provided me with thousands of hours of entertainment, spurred creativity and brought me closer to certain family members. It has also caused me great pain. The death of Qui-Gon Jinn, of Yoda, and the lack of a death for Jar Jar Binks, have all caused me moments of sadness and, in Yoda’s voice,”Suffering.” One Star Wars related experience, in particular, had a double impact.

One thing that has been on par and now surpassed my love of Star Wars has been PC gaming. When the MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game Star Wars Galaxies released in June 2003 I was just getting ready to start my last semester of undergrad and had been anticipating its release. What a perfect game for me to get lost in during the summer before my last semester? Well, it wasn’t. It was a disappointment. I played very little during the free month provided with its purchase. I never played it again. Like Obi Wan on the Death Star it disappeared. Occasionally, like the force, it would whisper to me through news bits on gaming websites. I’d even listen, on occasions, to a podcast that reviewed add-on content, but I never committed to it again.

When news of a new Star Wars MMO (Star Wars: The Old Republic) first started making its rounds I was vaguely interested but mostly brushed it away like a juvenile Bogwing. As more info came out about The Old Republic [TOR] the more interested I became. When BioWare was named the developer of the new MMO, my Jedi senses raised the hairs on my arms. I had been fooled once before by the Lucas hype machine so I still didn’t commit. This time I would wait for the reviews and make an educated decision, not rush rashly towards a choice like some kind of scruffy nerf herder.

Well the reviews are out, and they have been spectacular. I must admit I was hoping  that they weren’t. I was hoping for poor reviews and an easy excuse for me not to commit. I was wanting the Death Star to win this one, by blowing away my desires to play, but with Jedi Masters like those at BioWare, I new this games destiny was greatness. Now it really pains me not to commit, not to play and not enjoy a universe that I consider almost family.

My fear? This game will take too much of my time. This is a worry I’ve never had, for any game. I would actually welcome such a fear for most games and then follow it up with a purchase. Not this one. I am actually hesitant to commit. I am fearful of the amount of time I would invest into this game. Will I eventually change my thought process and hyper jump into the TOR universe? One thing keeps repeating in my head as I continue to fear this purchase, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” I would hate to end up suffering but I hate monthly subscription fees even more.

Our New Imaginary is Our Virtual Reality

As a method for me to get to sleep as a child I would imagine myself in a imaginary world. I would picture myself alongside fellow G.I. Joe, Snake Eyes. I would imagine myself as a Dark Jedi decked out in my own outfit that I would meticulously design in my head. That’s what I really spent most of my time doing, imagining what I would personally look like in these fantasy worlds. What would my shoes look like? What color would my Jedi hood and cloak be? Would my cloak fit loosely on my body and cover the majority of my face or would it fit snugly around both my head and torso? I spent the majority of my time on designing my outfit within my head rather than living out my fantasy actions. I would picture what a perfect battle helmet would look like, what best armor would go well with it and… sleep.

Thankfully today's games have much better character creation abilities than I do.

Now, I can design these characters in a virtual sense, live out the fantasies via video games and stay awake during it all. In Skyrim’s character creation section hundreds of thousands of combinations are possible and that’s a  very low estimate considering the multiple race options. You can tweek eye color, shape and positioning. You can design a perfect nose or, because mine is a little crooked thanks to my full face commitment to sports, something similar to Owen Wilson’s. The customization of character creation in Skyrim and many others games are nearly endless. You can create someone in your own image, as I usually do, or role play an entirely different gender. As a child creating myself as a hero was done within my head and also, through disproportioned sh*tty drawings that my sister made fun of. Not only can we create a character to our exact specifications but we can then take that character and live out a virtual existence with them.

Unique noses add character.

I don’t see this as taking away from our imagination but instead improving it and letting it flourish. Creativity spurs creativity and video games encompass a multitude of creative elements. Games are practices in writing through the copious amounts of dialogue and acting (see Star Wars: The Old Republic’s recent Guinness Record). The design elements for a game’s play, creatures, characters and cities take the skills of architects, interior designers and city planners. So much creativity goes in to a game it is almost mind blowing. What is even more impressive to fathom is the creativity that results from these well made games of epic proportion. Novels based of the lore of a game are numerous. Magazine and books focused on gaming. This blog ;). Games that are an undeniable benefit to society, like FoldIt and how it helped solve protein structures.

Games have stimulated my creativity and increased my hands on experience with social media, public relations and networking – all things I can apply towards benefiting me in an eye of a potential employer. Still continuing to struggle with sleep during my ongoing job hunt I have resorted back to a childhood method, with the same amount of success but with much more material.

Fool Me Once, Shame On You…

Can I recover from being spurned by a true love? Am I able to forgive and believe that which is dearest to me has truly changed? She does look different. Honestly, she looks gorgeous compared to when we last parted ways. She looks smarter, acts smarter and, even appears, to care about changing her ways. I don’t know. Can I forgive Star Wars Galaxies [SWG] and commit to her in her new and mature form of Star Wars: The Old Republic [SWtOR]?

You’ve appeared to pick up a few tricks from the time of our last soiree, the kind of tricks that would be useful in the bedroom (expanded dialogue options). Frankly, you appear to be a completely new person (New developer [BioWare] and is in no way tied to SWG except for the the Lucas lore).

The hype behind us potentially dating is persuasive (see this years [2011] E3 cinematic trailer below) and your friends say you are really a new person (previews have been reassuring). I remember that being the case before we dated last time too… Months and months of your friends saying I should date you (huge marketing push with SWG prior to its launch). “You were meant to be together,” were the words coming from my closest friends but none of them actually had spent any time with you (out of my gaming friends from those days I was the only one who actually purchased SWG).

I also remember your requirements of monthly dinners out (monthly subscription fees) rather I actually saw (played) you or not. I couldn’t say no at the time. You were everything I hoped for in a girl (game), but hope and actuality ended up being miles apart.

Now you want me back again and I must confess, you do seem shiny and new. Your implants and nose job (SWtOR graphics engine is amazing for an MMO) look great. I mean your makeup free look of the past was earthy (SWG was coated in the color brown) but your wrinkles would quickly show.

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SWG's Earthy Brown

SWtOR "implant" enhanced look.

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I don’t know. I mean, things are different but there are some glaring similarities. I’ve heard your promises before and you will have a lot of friends that will bide for much of your time and require me to share you (guilds for SWtOR have already been established). Also, loyalty to you will require almost all my free time (MMOs can be very time consuming) and will I get out what I put in (Will quest be rewarding and dynamic as promised?).

Well I have changed too. I don’t jump in head first like I used to. I like to make informed decisions rather than rash ones (read reviews extensively). I think I will wait until other people get to know the new you (player feedback) before I start saving for that engagement ring again.