Posts Tagged ‘Lore’

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Read Lately – Star Wars: The Old Repubic: Revan

November 28, 2011

I wanted to like this book, I really did. A month ago when I was so eagerly anticipating the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan, I didn’t expect I would be starting a review for it this way, and I really don’t like having to be negative, but what can you do.

Granted, it is possible that my high expectations may have clouded my judgment. For one thing, I’m a big fan of Drew Karpyshyn — he wrote the Star Wars Darth Bane trilogy and also the Mass Effect novels that I found I really enjoyed. But more importantly, I’m also a big fan of the character Revan, having been obsessed with and emotionally invested in his story from the Knights of the Old Republic games. Still, I have a feeling that even the most  casual of readers picking this up will find many problems with the writing and execution of this novel.

To be fair, I’ve been following Drew K’s blog for a while now, and on it he occasionally talks about the pressures of looming deadlines and the challenges of meeting them. His writing in Revan appears to be the latest victim of this restrictive time crunch, as it’s definitely not his best work. This is a shame for two reasons: 1) He’s usually capable of much better writing, and 2) I would have pegged him as the perfect author to tell Revan’s story, as he was intimately involved with the development and writing of the first KOTOR game.

Another reason why I think the book was a rush job is how well it started out in the first handful of chapters, versus how everything started unraveling and falling apart in the second half. I’d glimpsed some of the not-so-positive starred reviews prior to finishing the novel, and thought to myself, “Nah, this isn’t that bad.” But then I hit part II. And I began to understand.

First of all, in retrospect so much of the book felt like filler, lengthy exposition sequences and drawn-out descriptions. While I understand the need to bring readers up to speed with the events of KOTOR (for those who have never played the RPG or need a refresher — it’s been about 8 years since the game’s release, after all) I lamented the fact it came at the expense of scenes that actually required details and a more in-depth look. Instead, important action sequences and scenes that actually drove the plot forward or called for more emotion were completely glossed over.

Second, the book was so short. It’s not like there wasn’t enough to write about. Like I said, so much of the novel could have been fleshed out and made better. It just felt like the author needed it to be over and done with, fast.

Third, there was a very noticeable shift in focus by the end of the book. I thought I began by reading about Revan, but little by little, he started taking more of a background role, and by the final chapters it was clear the emphasis was more on the Sith character of the novel, Lord Scourge. I just found this odd, and I still don’t really understand the purpose.

Nonetheless, there is still plenty of Revan, which is one of the reasons why I couldn’t just toss this book aside. There will be answers to some big questions left behind by the ending of KOTOR and KOTOR II, and for this reason I don’t regret reading it at all. The Jedi Exile also plays a huge role, and it is in this book that she is finally identified and given a name — Meetra Surik.

However, speaking of characters, don’t expect many of the companions from the games to make an appearance. The three that get the honor are Canderous Ordo, T3-M4 and Bastila Shan. The rest like Mission Vao, Zaalbar or HK-47 are only mentioned in passing, or given some weak excuses why they couldn’t show up. Carth Onasi doesn’t even get a mention, and while admittedly he was one of my more whiny and annoying BioWare boyfriends, I couldn’t help but notice the snub. Ouch.

I don’t want to make it sound like Revan was all bad. I personally liked a lot of the dialogue, though I think I’m probably in the minority with regards to this. I definitely think dialogue-writing is Drew Karpyshyn’s forte, but while some lines might work well in a video game, I admit they don’t always translate well onto a page in a novel. Some plot points were predictable, but in general I enjoyed the story. And finally, like I said before, the book does manage to bring some form of closure. Sort of.

This does beg the question: Is closure — that is, a truly satisfying conclusion that emotionally invested KOTOR fans have been waiting almost a decade for — even possible for an epic story like Revan’s? Honestly, I believed the answer is yes. And I still do. Which is why I had such high hopes for Revan. Despite my biases, I still think it could have been the book to bring ultimate closure to the KOTOR series. If only Drew K had been given enough time.

So, to wrap this review up, you may find Revan interesting if you’re into Star Wars novels or game tie-ins in general. I say read this book if you’re fan of the character and the KOTOR games. You might end up disappointed, but you’ve come this far, so might as well finish up. Also read this book if you’re really into the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO. There will be quite a few mentions of Revan and his adventures in the game, so knowing the character’s background might enhance the story behind those quests for you, but it’s definitely not required knowledge.

But if you don’t know much about the lore behind SWTOR and the Old Republic era and are thinking of picking Revan up to get pumped for it, I would rethink that decision. For that, you’d probably be better off playing KOTOR instead of reading this.

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SWTOR: Huttball And Lore?

August 22, 2011

Note: Star Wars nerd talk ahead. Content may not be suitable for all readers, proceed with caution.

Okay, so when BioWare released their Star Wars: The Old Republic video for the PvP Warzone Huttball, I got really excited. I’m not even a fan of PvP, but that trailer had me itching to get right in there and crack some skulls. It’s the first time in a long while that anything to with PvP has gotten me this intrigued, so I guess that was why I was a little…surprised at some of the backlash this particular Warzone has gotten from SWTOR fans.

Not that forumites ever needed a good reason to gripe about a weekly update, but what caught my interest this time was that much of the complaints stemmed from a lore aspect. The video again:

Is the idea and execution a little silly or ridiculous for the Star Wars universe? Well. If you ask me, probably no more than that two-headed announcer during the podrace scene or how about, I don’t know, maybe that entire freakin’ movie in general? But I guess the better question, and what most critics are asking, is: What conceivable reason would my <insert class here> have to want to participate in Huttball?

As a Star Wars geek and an occasional roleplayer, this discussion made me muse. I agree the argument’s a lot easier to make for the non-force using classes, especially Smugglers or Bounty Hunters who answer to no one and like to live on the edge. But on the other hand, would the Jedi or Sith be above killing for sport on a public stage purely for the entertainment of others?

The Sith, perhaps not. You have to admit, someone like, say, Darth Bane is kind of an ass. And don’t even get me started on Sith Inquisitors. Last I checked, Emperor Palpatine was cackling away while zapping Luke Skywalker to a pulp, and Darth Maul tormented Obi-Wan as he was hanging on for dear life by toying with him instead of just finishing him off like, you know, any normal sane person would (I have deep-seated issues with The Phantom Menace, can you tell?) Those that value power and strength would probably have no qualms about cutting down the Republic and enjoy killing those they deem weak in a booby-trapped arena of death and suffering.

But how to explain for the light-sided Jedi? I was mystified by the complaints at first, but now I’m starting to see why hardcore lore hounds and roleplayers would be up in arms, seeing as how Huttball pretty much goes against everything the Jedi Order stands for. It’s a shame when negativity surrounds a great feature like this, but I do admit lore is kinda important especially in a Star Wars game. Are there actually any conceivable reasons why a light-sided Jedi would participate in this bloodsport?

Personally, if I was playing a Jedi, I could come up with a few — to help a dear friend, perhaps. Or more likely, I just wouldn’t care; Huttball looks fun, just get me in so I can play the crap out of it. In all seriousness though, if a player does feel very strongly about it, I suppose there are other Warzones. Other roleplayers, Star Wars lore geeks and Jedi players, I welcome your thoughts.

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SWTOR Guild Formed: The Republic Mercy Corps Needs YOU!

August 15, 2011

Guilds. Whether they be called fleets, clans, supergroups or any other name, they’re obviously very important to me, as evidenced by the many times I’ve promoted or referenced my guilds on this blog. I’ve been lucky; in the past I’ve been in some great guilds where I’ve  been made to feel like family, where logging on is like coming home.

Which brings us to Star Wars: The Old Republic. Seeing how it’s a game I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, seeking out a group of like-minded people who were going to be in it for the long haul like me became my priority. I’m not a fan of guild-hopping, and my preference is to find a good group of people right off the bat — where relationships and guild unity can be built upon from day one, where members are goal-oriented and dedicated, where our characters can “grow up” together from level one to endgame.

My plan was to wait until closer to launch before I started looking, but of course, that was before a fellow blogger offered me an opportunity to be involved with The Republic Mercy Corps.

From day one, I was embraced as an integral part of RMC, was able to work with the leadership, and was even invited to take part as an officer in the major decisions of the guild. The RMC philosophy is first and foremost to have FUN! Don’t believe me? The working guild title was originally “PARTY HARD!” — seriously, don’t ask.

The RMC is a semi-casual, family-friendly and no-pressure guild — but at the same time dedicated, goal-oriented and driven. Whether you’re into raiding, PvP, roleplaying, or what have you, there will be something for everyone. Current plans are for rolling on a PvE server, but many of our members enjoy PvP. Along with heroics and raiding, we will be striving for — and achieving — excellence in PvP activities, but never at the expense of our members’ or other players’ enjoyment. Feel free to read more about about RMC’s mission statement.

Lore hounds hopefully will also recognize the significance behind the Republic Mercy Corps, named for the organization that served as volunteers in the Galactic Republic’s military. We encourage but do not require RP, but if you’re a fan (or even if you’re not!) check out our guild lore, the RP backstory that will drive our mission and let us know what you think. The Star Wars universe is one steeped with lore and history; for many, SWTOR will be the perfect opportunity to start their RP career — though this just in from leadership: sorry, no RPing a Jawa-killing sociopath allowed! Dammit.

Strong relationships, dedication to the guild and inclusion are the foundation of the RMC. Guildies can depend on support no matter what their level, and find teams to complete quests, heroics, or flashpoints. Involvement and a good standing in the SWTOR community is also important to us, as evidenced by the above image created by none other than our Guild Leader DavidRHall, which won second prize in a community-organized guild poster contest. We are new but we are growing, and so far I’ve been impressed by the maturity and positive attitude of our members, and well as their passion for the game.

Our website and guild portal are now up and running. If you’re interested in joining us, we’re always seeking similarly dedicated individuals! We place no demands on time or schedule, but rather on character and merit. I value guild unity and am the type of gamer who prefers to “grow” with my guild, and I feel very fortunate to have found this great community of SWTOR players who love the game. Check us out. Apply through our site if you feel the RMC will be a good fit for you, we’d love to welcome you on board!

(Oh, and Sith, Bounty Hunters and Imperial Agents, do not fret! We are also currently in the process of setting up an Empire sister guild.)

“We are all in this together, and we will win this together. Be the hope. Join the Republic Mercy Corps.”

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SWTOR: Friday Grab Bag

June 3, 2011

Quite a lot of Star Wars: The Old Republic updates to cover today, not just from the game site but from all around the net, which is something of a surprise considering how close we are coming up on E3. Granted, nothing earth-shattering, but I had expected things to get a little quiet. Or is this a sign of things moving forward, since by all accounts SWTOR is still on track for a 2011 release?

Advanced Class Page Update

First from swtor.com, the webpage for Advanced Classes has been overhauled so you can see their information laid out nicely without digging through all the regular class pages. You can view how a particular class “branches”, as well as the various skill-sets that become available as you level. A bunch of passive class abilities can be gleaned from this update, but otherwise it’s purely an improvement to the official site. Still, it’s much more informational than what we had before, and just look at all the pretty colors now!

New Lost Suns Comic

Another comic that will tie into the story line of SWTOR, taking place at the same time as the start of the game. The first issue of “The Lost Suns” will be available from next Wednesday, this time not as an e-comic, so I’m going to have to make the trek to my neighborhood comic book store.

I think this is going to be a good one. Written by the same writer who did the “Blood of the Empire” (which I enjoyed a lot), “The Lost Suns” will star Theron Shan as a Republic spy sent on a mission to discover secrets of the Sith Empire. Yep, another Shan. Glad to see Bastila’s line has been so prolific. Theron, however, is apparently the estranged son of the Grand Master Jedi Satele Shan — but he himself is not a Jedi. From the moment “a secret son” was translated from the Aurebesh found on Satele’s biography page, the identity of this young man had been shrouded in mystery, making me wonder if the title of the comic is also meant to be a clever play on words.

Ah, the delicious mystery — this is why I love comic and book tie-ins. The Q&A also states that Theron’s story will have profound repercussions on the plots in the game, along with “about a hundred pages’ worth of aliens, outfits, spaceships, and landscapes based on game content”. Sounds good, though I would probably pick this one up even if it had zip to do with SWTOR. I can never turn down a good Star Wars comic after all.

SWTOR at E3

E3 is right around the corner. This new article pretty much lays out what to expect — sneak previews of an encounter with the Eternity Vault on the planet of Belsavis, the struggle to dethrone a usurper on Alderaan, and a battle with Sandpeople and more on Tattooine.

Signs also point to the possibility of a new cinematic trailer, just like the last couple of years. If you get the swtor.com newsletter, you might have noticed an image at the bottom of the email teasing something happening on the site June 6:

If the image looks familiar, that’s because we’ve already seen snippets of it from the novel trailer for “Deceived“. As Jaramukhti has already pointed out months ago, that seemed like a hell of a lot of work just for a book trailer, no? His hopes that the footage will turn out to be the making of a new cinematic may pan out after all. Me, I’m hoping it will be a release date trailer! Too optimistic, maybe?

MMORPG.com Interview

A pretty comprehensive interview with Georg Zoeller on the subject of Advanced Classes, going over the system and looking more closely at specific abilities and details of the classes. I think the reason why there’s so much information on these ACs is that they’re really trying to emphasize the point that it’s really more like 8 classes per faction rather than the 4 — each branch will have its own story, the AC choice will not be optional, and as far as I know, once you make the decision you can’t take it back.

EA Launches Origin

EA debuts Origin today, their new direct-to-consumer gaming platform for gamers to purchase and download EA games and other content. They’re clearly gunning for services like Steam with this, which is both bad and good I guess, since I do all my digital game purchases through Steam exclusively at the moment, but buying stuff like DLC and other content for Mass Effect, Dragon Age etc. and keeping it all together could be easier with Origin.

In addition, “digital downloads of Star Wars: The Old Republic will be available exclusively on Origin later this year”. What this means for me, I don’t know. I was always planning on getting a boxed Collector’s Edition, but the idea of no-hassle digital delivery is also very appealing. But what to do, what to do, when both avenues will no doubt offer “exclusives” to tempt me?

More…?

I’ve been keeping an eye on Twitter all morning, and the forecast was calling for scattered SWTOR updates throughout the day from everywhere. There may be more coming, I don’t know, but they’re definitely ramping up for E3 and when next week rolls around I’m sure things will get even more crazy.

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Rift: Fraternizing With The Enemy

May 26, 2011

I don’t recall if I’ve ever written about the fact you can communicate with the other faction in Rift, but regardless, it’s a feature that’s been around since day one and which I find myself appreciating more and more each day.

Originally, I was a little skeptical towards the idea, but after thinking about it, it really does make more sense from a PvE perspective. Lorewise, all things point to Guardians and Defiants speaking the same language, so there really is no logical explanation why they shouldn’t they be able to understand and communicate with each other. Fundamentally, our two sides might be at odds, but we also share a common enemy. We don’t play nice together, but when a rift invasion is threatening to tear apart our land, perhaps dropping our ideological differences and banding together temporarily would be good for both sides in the long run? At least, that’s the way I see it.

A personal anecdote: the other day, I found myself and another Defiant meeting up with a Guardian at a major rift in Shimmersand — all farming earth and fire for the eggshell dailies, what else? Admittedly, old habits die hard. Every once in a while I still want to slap myself when I remember that instead of hopelessly emoting gestures to a Guardian, I can simply /say to them what I think. Kek!

In short, however, the three of us ended up working out roles between ourselves on the fly — without having to mime it all out, thank god. Obviously, neither my group member nor I could do anything for the Guardian tank, so he went DPS instead while I healed and my Defiant partner took up the tanking duties. It was a quiet night, as it was only the three of us for a long time. Regardless, we steamrolled through about a half a dozen major rifts, banished our foes, collected our loot, finished our dailies, and everyone went to bed happy.

As someone who is predominantly a PvE’er, I can see the value behind such interactions. Our factions may hate each other, but we’re not all unreasonable. Communication allows for planning during times when cooperation will benefit everyone, which is what makes Rift such a unique game in my eyes because rifts are dynamic events that can happen out of the blue at any time regardless of who’s around. You can’t always choose your allies, and having the ability to communicate with whoever’s there is a nice option to have. I’m not saying we should all sit around a campfire and sing Kumbaya, but I also like the idea of being able to say a proper “Thank you” when a Guardian goes out of their way to save my skin out of the goodness of their own heart.

Sure, PvP on the other hand is now filled with 100% more trash talk, but despite initial concerns that it would lead to wide-spread dickery, it really hasn’t. I seem to recall Scott Hartsman saying something about wanting to give people a chance, and I think ultimately that was a good call.

Besides, on Faeblight I get the pleasure of witnessing some truly phenomenal, grade-A RP trash talking. Some time during my first week, a group of us were mowed down by a roleplaying guild of level 50 Guardians cutting a swath through Freemarch, but instead of being pissed, I thought it was actually quite awesome to have been slain for my impiety. One has not truly lived until he or she has had the experience of some Guardian yelling down at their dead body, calling you and all your friends a bunch of “vile, godless dog-hearted mountain troll whore-sons.”

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SWTOR: The Codex! Explorers Rejoice!

May 6, 2011

Borg cube? No, datacron.

BioWare introduces The Codex in today’s Star Wars: The Old Republic Friday update. My first thought: “Great, more reading!” By the way, I meant that. Just wanted to clarify, as people often complain how sarcasm doesn’t translate very well through text, but I guess sometimes neither does sincerity!

As I think I’ve reiterated many times before, any time any random bits of text pop up in a game world, be it in an MMO or any other game in whatever genre, I do make an effort to read it all. Probably a good chunk of my 90-hour playthrough of Dragon Age: Origins was dedicated to poring over every word of every single codex entry I found (sometimes, I think that game put me under a spell). I can’t say I was as diligent with the Mass Effect games, since the codex there was presented as more like cut-and-dry encyclopedia entries, but I did read a good number of them, especially those on alien species, lore, and worlds.

SWTOR is going to take the best from both systems, which I’m tickled pink to hear, using the codex to inform as well as to reward exploration. In fact, Principal Lead Systems Designer Damion Schubert references the work of Richard Bartle, specifically emphasizing that the codex would be an enhancement to gameplay for the explorers in all of us. As it happens, that’s the category I most identify with, at least according to the tests (with Killer being the lowest, carebear that I am).

The way it’s described reminds me a little bit of a mash up between the artifact and book collections systems in Rift — giving you lore and background information into the world, encouraging players to wander off the beaten path, and sometimes making you go through challenges to unlock the codex that you need. But the focus remains:

“Currently, none of these are locked behind a serious challenge – our codex unlocking k’lor’slug is a challenge for its level, to be sure, but not a ‘OMGPWN3D go bring back 3 friends in epics!’ challenge – and that’s intentional. Explorer gameplay should, first and foremost, reward exploring.

That’s not to say that some codex entries shouldn’t be challenging. Quite the opposite, we want some codex entries to be worthy challenges – but we want those challenges to be centered on exploration.”

It sounds like a little achievement system all on its own. Especially when you consider the addition of “datacrons”, in-game objects in the world that are sub-sets of the codex entries which players can find, usually in hard-to-reach places like on special mobs or like “on a ledge off in the distance” that require some ingenuity. Uh oh. Again, memories of mishaps and falling to my death during Rift artifact-hunting sessions are suddenly flashing before my very eyes.

These datacrons will apparently spawn in predictable locations, and are useable by each player only once. Mr. Schubert writes that this idea was inspired by a game mechanic in one of his earlier projects, and hopes that over time we’ll see a similar pattern where a social dynamic will emerge, where new and old players will band together and form groups like organized hunting parties to go forth and explore the world.

I think the idea of “shared lore” is awesome. My only concern — my apologies if it sounds cynical — is that as with many MMORPGs these days, information like that inevitably ends up on an online database faster than you can blink. Instead of turning to social avenues within the game to find these datacrons, people may just hit up Google instead.

If the overall positive reaction to this update is any indication though, exploration is still a passion to a lot of players, including me. And I was glad to see a dev blog from BioWare that held it in such high regard.

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SWTOR: OMG I Love Drew Karpyshyn!

April 22, 2011

Why think of a proper title for this post when I can just go with my first reaction at seeing today’s Star Wars: The Old Republic Friday update? I’m a huge fan of Drew Karpyshyn’s work.

Last month Darth Hater posted an article about the possibility of a third SWTOR tie-in novel coming to us later this year, penned by none other than Drew himself. I’m so glad that this has been confirmed today by BioWare — along with a title reveal: Revan.

A whiny and obnoxious hockey-haired pansy!

Yes, that Revan. You can’t imagine how full of squee I am right now.

I think some stories benefit from an open ending, while others suffer from a conspicuous lack of closure. Personally, I’ve always felt Revan’s story falls in the latter category. Whether you agree with me or not, it’s still sort of a moot point –  because I can’t imagine that even the most casual fans of BioWare and their games really didn’t see this one coming. Nothing screamed “To be continued!” louder to me than the ending of Knights of the Old Republic, and I never believed for a second they were going to leave this doozy alone. BioWare’s simply been biding their sweet time and waiting…waiting for something like SWTOR for the perfect chance to finally explore the mystery of Revan.

Drew Karpyshyn says in the Q&A that fans want to know what happened to Revan after KOTOR, and that he’s “ecstatic” that he’s the one who gets to tell the story. You’re not the only one, Mr. Karpyshyn. If anyone is going to continue the story of Revan, I’m so glad it’s you.

Like, sure, I want to find out what happens, but then I don’t want to know just for the sake of knowing, if you know what I mean? For example, I think so many movie sequels these days suck so hard because their creators simply string any old plotline together and rush it out the door so it could coat-tail ride on the success of the original. I really didn’t want to see the same sort of thing happen to Revan’s story.

Knowing that it’s in Karpyshyn’s very capable hands helps a lot, even if Revan’s story has become a canonical quagmire where geeks fear to tread.

For one thing, the man knows his stuff — both the character and the Old Republic era. In his words, “KOTOR was my first creative foray into the Star Wars universe, so writing Revan felt a little bit like I was returning to my roots.” Come to think of it, the subject of the novel should have occurred to me the moment I saw Drew Karpyshyn’s name attached to a new SWTOR book project. He’s probably the best choice (if not the only right choice) of author for a book about Revan, being the one who wrote much of the scenario and dialogue for KOTOR in the first place.

In any case, I’ve been a fan of not only his writing in games like KOTOR and Mass Effect, but I’ve also come to really enjoy his novels as well. His Darth Bane books rank among some of the better Star Wars books I’ve ever read. And in fact, earlier this year, it was reading Mass Effect: Revelation that made me wonder if there’s hope for the video game tie-in genre yet.

Revan will take place about 300 years earlier than the other SWTOR novels, but we are told the events of this book will have a major impact on shaping the game’s universe. However, there is nothing to indicate whether or not Revan will actually make an appearance in the game (personally, I hope not…it’s one thing to provide closure, it’s another to needlessly resurrect a character). But we do know from the Q&A that along with Revan, several of his companions including Canderous, T3-M4, Bastila Shan (yes, might we please put the matter of whether or not they have children to rest once and for all?) and even the Jedi Exile will have major roles to play in the novel.

I can understand how for some a SWTOR Friday update about an upcoming novel can be a disappointment when information about the actual game would be more exciting (actually, “disappointment” is an understatement judging from some of the rage-filled and betimes puerile commentary in the forum thread in which 20 pages had to be unceremoniously deleted). But those who know me know that I love reading, and that I enjoy sitting back with a video game tie-in novel every once in a while. Personally, I’m really looking forward to reading Revan “later this year”.

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