It's official! The Non Disclosure Agreement covering Star Wars: The Old Republic has just been lifted (for press at least… and partially at least), so now we're free to discuss everything...
...that you already know.
Which brings us to the problem that lottery BETA's and online NDA's tend to have; they just don't work. Please note: We are not talking about the real, physical, 600 page paper NDA's that have been dog-eared with brightly colored sticky notes so that you can easily find where to sign in goat's blood.
Those NDA's work, and work well. The instant that you violate them your soul gets ripped screaming from your chest and thrown to ravenous pack of snarling lawyers where it is hungrily devoured in the spotlight of example for all others to see. They're scary, intimidating to sign, and strictly enforced.
But online non-disclosure agreements?
They simply cannot exist in an online environment for a number of reasons. False information, bogus accounts, and things like "YouTube" make containing any breaches a nightmare and actually enforcing a consequence on those violations nearly impossible. Things get posted, shared, and spread through the community and the blame for it falls on both parties. It is our fault as the player for not honoring our agreement and the oath that we took, and it is the fault of gaming companies for taking "D@r+hB0n3r" at his word.
And the developers know this.
Online NDA's aren't designed to stop the flow of information completely - they're designed to control it, and make it easier to get negative or particularly sensitive information removed, all the while keeping the "buzz" and word of mouth advertising of their product intact.
An online NDA is something that you think is there, but in reality it doesn’t exist in the way that you envisioned it. It’s like the Master himself said…
So what does it really mean now that the NDA has dropped?
It means that sites like this one are free to let assholes like me look at all the sensitive things that have been glossed over and poke them with a crudely sharpened stick without fear of being kicked out of the village by Lance Henriksen like the fat guy who fell asleep in "No Escape".
So now that the NDA has dropped, I’ll draw attention to what I feel is one of the biggest issues with Star Wars: The Old Republic, (or "Sweater" to its friends), point out what I think the ugliest aspect of the gaming will be, and end with the reason that I’m yearning for the release date like a heroin user scrambling for his favorite burn-discolored spoon.
The Bad: Red Zones
Red Zones, or as we like to call them here in the United States: "Countries that we couldn’t point to on a map if you held a gun to our head, including those that we share a common border with", are the very few places in the world that aren't lucky enough to be the United States of America.
This means that while your weird little country might have things like poisonous spiders, giant sharks or god help us, giant poisonous spider sharks, what you don't get to have is local access to this game.
Which is probably the cruelest thing that you can do, because other countries suck and video games are the only form of escape that these people have past mud farming and trying not to join the “Pox of the Month” club.
But all joking aside (or at least, we’ll try), Americans only make up a modest percentage of gamers, and even a more modest percentage of rabid Star Wars fans who would willingly kill for a piece of George Lucas’s beard lint. Making the game available almost solely to the United States and a few of our closer minions is a huge oversight and is being taken as a slap in the face by foreign gamers everywhere.
The developers haven’t ruled out overseas play, and have alluded to the addition of servers in the future, but as game launches of this scale go – it was a pretty stupid move to make. Gamers are an unforgiving bunch, and as noted before, foreign gamers have access to Australia, which is the “kill you by something really goddamn poisonous” capital of the world.
This needs to be fixed, quickly.
The Ugly: Sticking to Canon
Sticking to canon in any game that imports a pre-existing universe is always an issue. More so with SWTOR because as I’ve noted in the recent past, Star Wars fans are f**king psychotic. Now, before you angrily throw down your Timbits and try to “force choke” me with two pudgy little fingers outstretched in rage, let me explain.
Believe it or not, being f**king psychotic isn’t always a BAD thing. It can sometimes mean that you’re very passionate about something, love it with all of your heart, and if necessary you’ll stalk and kill someone on the internet to defend it.
I totally get that.
Star Wars fans are in creepy stalker-esque love with the Star Wars Universe, and since a franchise can’t legally issue a restraining order, it is a pure and beautiful thing. Because of that very real, very passionate love, you cannot get a true fan to shut up for even a MINUTE about anything Star Wars related. I mean, look at me – I’m on my SECOND Star Wars article, and I don’t even really LIKE Gene Roddenberry.
That being said, there are going to be people who know every detail no matter how small about the Universe, and these people are going to be driven to blind rage when they see even the tiniest of canon changes.
Changes that had to happen.
I realize that I’m poking the proverbial Rancor by saying it, but it absolutely true. If you’re going to open up a world to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people and give them the ability to affect it, you’re going to have to make some changes to the storyline. New characters will be introduced, new reasons for seemingly already answered questions will be revealed, and the canon as we know it will be altered, because it has to be.
When you change the genre and delivery platform of entertainment, your canon is no longer set in stone. It becomes a moving, twisting, living thing that grows and adapts like we do. So unless Darth Vader starts wearing a signature ascot and gains a wise cracking animal sidekick, we kind of have to suck it up and roll with the little punches.
Although, by law, ascots f**king rule, and could only add to the awesomeness of the universe.
The Good: It’s F**king STAR WARS!
Single player games, a few Lego imports and nostalgia aside, we’ve felt forcibly disconnected from the Star Wars universe since the days of the original release of Galaxies. Now we get to go back and play in multiplayer world that is tailoring a story to our character and sucking us into the game play itself?
What in the hell is there not to love?
Every game out there has its merits and flaws. Every game out there has its fans and its detractors, and every game out there is currently being compared to “World of Warcraft”, as if that is the standard to achieve for “maximum fun”. But take away the extremes on both sides. Remove the rabid fan boys and ignore the jaded haters, and what you are left with is a game that offers something that no other MMORPG can…
…the chance to freeze to death inside a TaunTaun on Hoth.
…the chance to become a doom crier on Alderaan because the Nerf Herder calendar is running out.
…the chance to go over to the f**king DARK SIDE.
Above all else, Star Wars: The Old Republic offers you the chance to lose yourself in the world of Star Wars, and an innovative way to become part of it, so you feel more like a character in an epic story than a player sitting behind a keyboard at a computer.
And me? I’m absolutely playing. I’ll be creating a character with a name you’ll never know, on a server I’ll never announce. Because for all I’ve said and done, I absolutely deserve the mass gankings that I have coming, but I’m not willing to pay for my crimes just yet.
Because Star Wars fans are f**king psychotic.