Posts Tagged ‘Back Story’

h1

SWTOR: Becoming A Jedi Knight

March 25, 2011

Another week, another Friday where I get use this blogspace to talk about my thoughts on the latest Star Wars: The Old Republic update. Today’s reveal — the Jedi Knight Character Progression video.

Okay, so while I don’t remember when I watched the original Star Wars movies for the first time, I do know it had to be somewhere in the late 80s when I was just a little tyke and at the time my parents were transferred overseas. So what would you do if you happened to be a little kid stuck in the outskirts of some foreign city, where at the time there was not much to do and no such thing as Saturday morning cartoons (and even if there were, you wouldn’t have been able to understand them)? You watched your beloved 70s and 80s movie trilogies on VHS, over and over and over again! It was all we had. And that’s how I fell in love with Star Wars.

So I was watching the Jedi Progression video and thinking to myself, “Hey, this looks pretty cool,” but at about 0:36 where the Yoda-ish theme song kicks in and the droid pipes up with its little trill, I suddenly I found myself feeling a little choked up. This is going to sound embarrassing, but I don’t know how else to put it. It was like being pulled back 20 years ago and watching Luke Skywalker take his first step from being a naive farmboy to becoming a seasoned Jedi Knight all over again.

And then it was over. Subsequent armor sets started reminding me of the prequels era and pulled me out of my heavy cloud of nostalgia. Don’t get me wrong — the armor sets themselves were stylish, fashionable and overall looked very, very cool — but thinking about Episodes I, II, and III always tends to have that “smelling salts” effect on me. For a few moments there though, the powerful music and the image of that Jedi reaching that momentous milestone in his evolution — igniting and marveling over his first ever lightsaber — almost had me thinking about ditching my Bounty Hunter plans and going with the Jedi Knight for my main. Luke Skywalker’s “hero’s journey” was one of the things that made me love Star Wars so much. They’ve even got that pose from the poster down.

The fact that the Jedi Knight was the class I played in the Taral V demo probably also had a hand in making me feel this way. The wide range of abilities I had to play with impressed me, and that was only just a small subset of what was available. I know I said before that I had very little interest in the force users, but it’s one thing to say that before I saw the Jedi Knight in action, another to have actually experienced the joys of breaking a vine cat’s face in with my lightsaber.

What it all boils down to, though, is the epiphany I had after watching the video — I think I understand better now why someone would want to play the Jedi Knight. You see, I’d always thought of it as a “typical” decision, but now after the video and reflecting upon my own fond memories, I kinda feel bad about that. This update has made me think that perhaps it would be more accurate of me to replace “typical” with “meaningful” instead.

h1

My Champions Online Superhero Character: A Creative Endeavor

February 2, 2011

It might be all the same for some, but because roleplaying is such an important aspect in my MMO gaming, creating a character in a superhero game can mean going through a much different and more convoluted process. After all, besides having to sport a skintight costume that defies all laws of gravity and wedgies, one can argue the most important trait that separates your friendly neighborhood superhero from your typical fantasy or sci-fi MMO character is having an alter ego.

Essentially, I’m creating two personalities — I have my superheroine, and then I have her secret identity that protects her friends and family from being murdered in their beds by her arch enemies, a second mild-mannered persona with which shes uses to disguise herself for the purposes of fighting crime. Along with that, I need a kick-ass origin story. The more traumatic, and the more freak accidents or tragic events involved the better.

At least, that’s how it should work in theory. However, I created my Champions Online character Red Gazelle waaaaaay before I had the chance to really ponder the nature of this duality, or read this post on Blue Kae’s blog that made me consider the many ways a character can take shape in a player’s mind. For him, it happens one of two ways: 1) either he has an idea for a name before building a costume and powers around it, or 2) he has a costume in mind that suggests a certain power build and a name.

Number 2) probably best describes the way I came up with Red Gazelle, but what is probably closer to reality is that I blundered around the character creator messing about with the myriad options before I settled on a look I liked. Anyway, I don’t have an alter ego and I don’t have a backstory, but I am slowly trying to remedy that. I want to gradually build up the RP elements and add depth to my character, and sometimes you just have to do it as you go along.

I ran into a challenge almost right away. When it came to choosing a fast travel power, I saw what was available to me at the time and immediately chose Flight. What can I say? I like being able to travel up vertically as I please and to fly down from great heights without hurting myself. And it doesn’t matter if it’s slower; being able to float over obstacles instead of having to go around is very psychologically gratifying for me. It was working out quite well, until the guilt started chafing me at the back of my mind.

You see, in wanting to develop a good RP background and story for the Red Gazelle, I also wanted to do a good job of it. I wanted the whole picture, and I knew I couldn’t achieve this by throwing a bunch of costume pieces and random powers together, even when it’s a convenient one like Flight. I’m a “I-want-a-travel-power-to-match-the-kind-of-hero-I-am” kind of player, and so you see the reason behind my bad conscience — gazelles don’t freaking fly.

In the end, I replaced Flight with Super Speed which suited my character better, even though it’s a little less efficient especially in the urban jungle that is Millennium City with its many looming buildings and twisting alleyways. It’s strange, though; while I did sacrifice some convenience for the sake of roleplay, at the same time there is just something so wonderful about having that choice to make in the first place. It was strangely encouraging, and somehow increased my appreciation for CO. There is great fun and pride in seeing your character and his or her story evolve over time, and I look forward to discovering more of this game.

h1

Who’s Who In The Galaxy

January 7, 2011

Three new biographies were added on the Star Wars: The Old Republic site today, which I’d normally just take at face value, until it was pointed out in the forums that we’ve actually heard of one of the entries, Jewl’a Nightbringer, more than a year ago in a Developer Walkthrough video when she was mentioned by the NPC Mako.

First of all, even though the article does mention her winning the Great Hunt, I don’t think I would have remembered to make the connection, so kudos to Aeterno, whose post was the one that caught my attention. Second, I thought it was worth pointing out because it really confirmed what I’ve always thought about these biographies and other similar updates — that they’re not trivial for those who really want to get into lore of the game. These characters aren’t just innocuous names thrown in for filler; presumably, each person with a biography page has his or her own story and a place in the galaxy, even the ones we figure are less significant and have never heard of. But like in the case of Jewl’a, maybe we have, and just forgot or plain didn’t notice.

I’m a big fan of using history and character lore to construct a sense of immersion, and like I’ve said before, these aspects contribute in making our virtual worlds richer and fuller places to be. There’s a lot of potential in these new entries — for example, I have to wonder if perhaps Darth Jadus has already personally infiltrated the Republic under a secret and influential identity, based on some of the keywords in his description. It could explain why they’re not letting us see his face for now. And regarding the political rivalry between Supreme Chancellor Janarus and General Garza of Republic Special Forces, come on, who doesn’t like a good old government leader vs. military honcho story? Last time we had a Biographies update, I said I would love to learn more about the NPCs in-game, and now I more confident that we’ll have the opportunity.

h1

A Tale Of Three Biographies

October 22, 2010

Based on opinions I’ve seen around the community, I gather most gamers care about having a story and lore elements behind the MMOs they play. So I  have to wonder why it is that so many people on the Star Wars: The Old Republic forums will turn up their noses in scorn when it comes to updates like Biographies.

I know it’s not much, and I don’t deny that I would rather see updates related more to the MMO side of things, but why can’t we take reveals like these at face value and appreciate them for the information they do bring? Like the fact that things like biographies, timelines, and inhabitant pages, etc. are important resources that contribute in making our game worlds richer, fuller places to be? I for one think that’s a good thing. And furthermore, it’s Bioware and Star Wars, the former a company known for their story-driven games and the latter a franchise based in an extensive yet finely detailed universe rife with lore. These kinds of updates sort of come with the territory.

Maybe it’s just me. Personally, I believe all knowledge is worth having and yes, I’m one of those people who read every single codex entry in the Mass Effect games and Dragon Age: Origins.

Today’s update includes three new biographies, one for each allegiance:

  • Keeper: Director of Operations for the Imperial Intelligence sounds like your typical sinister spymaster. I can’t remember for sure, but I think he may have been in the book Star Wars: The Old Republic – Fatal Alliance.
  • Bouris Ulgo: Oh, sweet, a mad king. Some speculate a relationship to Trask Ulgo because several forumites have deciphered a bit of the Aurabesh on his page to read “For Trask”.
  • Diab Duin: I’m a big fan of Sullustans! And if he’s the diplomat or representative for an important resource planet, is there a chance that that planet could one day be in the game?

If anything, I wish we could have gotten more information in these biographies. It’s nice reading about these NPCs who will have important roles in the game and all, but without context, it’s hard to feel anything beyond that. Will we personally encounter them in the game, and if we do, are they quest givers, rep leaders, etc. or what? Now that I know their facts and background, I want to know why my player character should care.

Today’s update also included a Fan Friday with a Developer Corner covering concept art creation, but I’m sorry, the greatest thing about that whole article has gotta be these new Ithorian smilies!

h1

SWTOR Companions: Prospects For Fan Writing

May 29, 2010

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.

"Dammit, Sleer, pay attention to me!"

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.

Meet Vette, one of the Sith Warrior's known associates. I'm betting that she's probably romanceable.

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.

*spoilers over*

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.

h1

Bioware Teases With Biographies

March 26, 2010

Today’s Friday Update at the Star Wars: The Old Republic site was not the update I expected. Actually, I’d been thinking it was high time for a new timeline installment, but instead, today we get a new biographies page to showcase some of the characters we’ve seen in promotional materials like the Threat of Peace webcomics or the Deceived trailer. By the way, if you have not seen that cinematic trailer yet, click that link, for the love of all that is good and holy click it NOW.

Satele Shan, direct descendant of KOTOR's Bastila Shan.

Those who are dying from anticipation are already crawling out of the woodwork claiming that this isn’t a real update, but come on, it’s Developer Appreciation Week! And hey, I’d actually been reading those webcomics. In any event, it’s something new and that’s reason enough for me to be happy (and I’m sure that’s no surprise to anyone who reads this blog with any frequency). So they’re not actually giving us any real game information, but who cares? Not every update has to be gameplay-related. Are we forgetting the importance of the lore behind the games we play? Would the epic stories behind World of Warcraft have been as deep and engaging if we had no idea who the hell Mulfurion Stormrage, Thrall or Rhonin were? Wait, on second thought, forget Rhonin. I really, really dislike that man.

It’s refreshing to see when developers take the time to build up the story elements of their game; it’s an aspect that’s too often ignored these days. Not to mention Bioware’s forte is in their ability to use writing to shape the look and feel of their games, so this is just them flexing their storytelling muscles. Case in point, a quote on the SWTOR forums from the community manager himself:

Biographies is the foundation for something more… what exactly that is, I can’t tell you quite yet. All I can say at this time is stay tuned; E3 2010 isn’t that far away and we actually have some exciting (and new) updates for you before then.

Fascinating, I can’t wait. I know, like, understatement of the year.

So, um, any other bounty hunters thinking of going for the 100 million credits bounty on Grand Master Satele Shan? Anyone? Show of hands?

h1

From Games to Books

March 8, 2010

Nothing beats being able to curl up at the end of the day with a good book (or in my case, a Kindle) in your lap. I love to read, so there’s always a pretty eclectic collection on my reading list — mystery, drama, sci-fi, horror, fantasy, the occasional trashy romance (I’m actually quite partial to the historical Harlequins…mmm…), and because I’m such a sucker for the lore behind the games I’m playing, every now and then I’ll also throw in a video-game novel. I guess you can say it’s one of my guilty pleasures.

This is going to sound really nerdy, but I do love game lore. I love it a lot. Books based on video games aren’t always all that good, but I’m not reading them for the award-winning writing. I pick them up for what they bring to the table in terms of the back story and character development. It’s why I choose to read them in the first place, and not just some brief article on the game’s wiki page.

And I do get pleasantly surprised every once in a while. I just finished reading Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne by David Gaider, which I must say is one of the best video game novels I have ever read. There are parts of it that feel rushed (what I like to call the “primer effect” that plagues so many works of this genre), but despite that I was still quite happy with the depth of the story. I also felt that character development was done surprisingly well — so well that I don’t think I can bring myself to hate Teyrn Loghain anymore. If you enjoyed Dragon Age: Origins and would like a little background information on the events that took place before the game, I would definitely recommend this.

I’m moving on to Michael Crichton’s Pirate Latitudes now, but I’m not done adding video-game novels to my lineup of books-to-read just yet. I’ve read most of the Warcraft novels but there are still a few out there I haven’t gotten my hands on, or I might even give some of the Warhammer Online books a try. I was also recently made aware of the Mass Effect books (thanks to Paulman) so that’s another possibility. If there are other lore-geeks like me out there who enjoy their games enough to read their novelizations, I’m also open to any recommendations!