Note: I know I’m a little later than usual when it comes to discussing the Star Wars: The Old Republic Friday update, but reading the new information on companions as well as the IGN interview really gave me a lot to think about. Before I continue though, a word of warning: I didn’t realize there was going to be so much gushing and girly-ness when I wrote this. I guess I’m feeling giddy because I’m going away for the weekend.
I think a lot of people are concerned that the companions in Star Wars: The Old Republic will take on too much of an important role, and start discouraging grouping and social behavior. Frankly, I’m not too concerned about that. Granted, if anyone can make the idea of playing with AI companions seem more enthralling than playing with real people, it would be Bioware’s talented writing team. But personally, I’m into MMOs to play with others, so having companions isn’t going to stop me from being social.
Instead, what I’ve actually been mulling over, are the prospects that SWTOR companions will have for roleplaying and fan lore. This may be a somewhat esoteric subject, but I’ve encountered enough fan writings on other peoples’ MMO blogs to dare hope that I’m not the only one excited about the possibilities.
RP isn’t something I usually do openly in-game, but I am constantly spinning out stories in my head and on occasion I will write them out. Long time readers of this blog will remember my strange attachment to Sleer, my Vulcan science officer in Star Trek Online. Or maybe it’s not so strange after all. I am reminded of a Nerf Herder lyric here (a band whose name is a Star Wars reference! Oh, how nicely this post is coming together…):
You don’t want a boyfriend
What you want is Mr. Spock…
Okay, so I admit I have a crush on Spock, and that Sleer is like my Spock from The Original Series. There are similarities between the two of them in the STO stories in my head (which I will never, ever, EVER put to paper because they’re just far too embarrassing). Sleer is my First Officer, he’s half-human, and I even dressed him up in TOS garb in-game. At the same time, I’ve also given him his own unique character traits and personality (or at least as far as a Vulcan can have a personality) to flesh out his relationship with my character T’Androma.
What can I say? I am a self-confessed mushy romantic. I read trashy Harlequins, watch weepy chick flicks, and “ooh” and “aww” over real life love stories. And so when it comes to games, it’s inevitable — whether it’s role-playing or writing back-stories for my character, I will inject a bit of romance.
And that’s the beauty of Cryptic’s character creator — they’ve given us a chance to work with a blank slate, to customize our characters and companions and write in their back-stories however we please. My only regret, however, is that other than them popping up every so often to tell you the status of your mission, there is absolutely zero interaction you can have with your bridge officers.
SWTOR companions, on the other hand, will contribute to your adventures in much greater ways. They are given motivations, personalities, traits like “honorable” or “roguish” or “flirtatious”. Hardly a blank slate, but their personalities won’t be set in stone either. Apparently, players can change their companions’ attitudes and moral leanings through an “Affection system” much like the one we saw in Dragon Age: Origins. I’m super excited about this. It means your interactions with your companions will be dynamic, even if the end results aren’t exactly what you had in mind.
Still, I think this will give roleplayers a whole different realm to work with. For the most part, it seems choosing SWTOR companions are about tactical options and strategies, but I have to admit, I’m pretty psyched about the fact you can romance them too. From Carth to Alistair to Garrus, I do love and use certain characters a lot just because they happen to be my Bioware boyfriends.
*mild spoilers ahead*
For example, I am reminded of my first playthrough of DA:O where I chose Alistair to fight beside my human noble in the final boss battle in the Dwarven arena. Amidst roaring applause, I asked him to kiss me after our victory, right there in the middle of the ring. The result on screen was cinematic perfection, the kind of scene you would see in epic romance movies after the hero and heroine has conquered some force that kept them from being together.
Yeah, I know that’s really corny and nerdy so feel free to make fun of me, but the only thing that pissed me off was that no one else was in the room at the time to witness that awesome moment. The point is, I already manage to pull this sort of thing with single-player RPGs, and I believe the nature of MMOs will make it even easier to roleplay beyond the main story line. I’m purely speculating here, but I’m guessing there will be fewer cases of finality, like the kind you’d find in DA:O where if you just so happened to be a poor little city elf, Alistair dumping your ass pretty much meant the end of the romance.
I’m sure the interactions with SWTOR companions will be heavily scripted affairs as well, but I think we all can still have our fun with them (and if you can get over the possibility of walking into a highly populated area with a few dozen versions of your companion standing in front of you). I am very much looking forward to shaping my companions through dialogue, building relationships with them, and expanding on the stories that come out of it. When the time comes, I can only imagine the RP perspectives we’ll be getting from all over the blogosphere.
Even though you might not have the complete freedom to build your team from the ground up the way you want, I think it’s a small price to pay to have companions with elaborate personalities that will actually interact with you. Or, you know, at the very least, acknowledge you’re alive when you walk into a room.