One of the fans attending the UK Community Event uncovered one of BioWare’s nods to explorers in Star Wars: The Old Republic: Datacrons. Datacrons are located throughout each of the game’s worlds and according to BioWare’s Daniel Erickson are quite difficult to find. The upside is if you put in the effort to secure these Datacrons you’ll be treated with some nice bonus lore for your codex and for those of you who can’t be arsed to care about that bit, you’ll also receive a permanent bonus to your statistics.
Woo! Stuff for explorers! This is great, right? Not so fast there, laddie bucko. In typical fashion for just about any new discovery about the game, the official forums were up in arms over the implications of including such a feature. I’m not going to say that fans are always right or wrong when these uproars inevitably occur, but in this instance I honestly found it a bit amusing. Not in the sort of I’m making light of their fears or concerns, mind you, but in that we’ve been generally treated so poorly as gamers with these sorts of systems in games that gamers even have a reason to fear in the first place.
As I briefly noted earlier, at first glance this sort of discovery would sound like a pretty snazzy surprise. Unfortunately, there’s always a Dark Side to collectibles and fans are always quick to worry about all of the possibilities. Basically, fans were concerned that Datacrons might be limited in nature or require players to farm them to be viable, and about their implications on PvP, and so forth. Fortunately, BioWare’s Georg “Observer” Zoeller quickly jumped in front of the panic to clarify some things:
“…Yes, their effects are permanent, however they are also predetermined (there are X datacrons with exactly these effects, not randomized) so we can ensure they are balanced and luck has nothing to do with their effect. Their locations are fixed, not randomized and they don't 'spawn', meaning they will always be there for your character when you get to the location.
We're not talking about people having to find the 99 hidden flowers on each planet or something like that; the number of datacrons is small, scaling with the size of the planet. Think single digits. Not the kind of thing you would usually associate with grinding.”
Do they matter? In the grand scheme of things, sure, they'll matter. How much? That depends what type of player you are. If you are in pursuit of the most optimized character ever, you will probably want to pick them up, but most people will probably do just fine with finding just a handful of them.”
If you are not an explorer - no big deal - datacrons always stay accessible to you, so you can't lock yourself out of them and you can come back and pick them up later in the game when you have your comfy personal transport to get around in. “
In short - we think it's a feature that adds to the game, that rewards going off the beaten path and discovering the wonders we put all over the worlds.”
There you have it, folks. No big deal. So, do you now love ‘em or would you rather BioWare left ‘em out? Me? As someone who greatly enjoys exploration, I’m ecstatic. It is a bit bittersweet though, as the locations of these Datacrons will inevitably be plastered all over the interwebs before long, but that’s not really BioWare’s fault. I suppose they could’ve randomized them, but then players would actually have reason to kvetch about them.
I do miss the days of exploring because you simply didn’t know either way. For example, I did a ton of exploring in Star Wars Galaxies, and I probably weighed too heavily on the things I found in the game world. For example, I once found a stone on Endor that was carved with Aurabesh symbols and I ended up looking up the Aurabesh translation chart in the hopes that I’d discovered something significant in my aimless travels. This was especially true before the whole Jedi nonsense exploded. I didn’t necessarily want to play a Jedi as many other players did, but the fact the developers were coy about it and suggested it was something players had to discover through playing the game gave me the idea this concept permeated the rest of the game’s design and I could find other interesting and rewarding things.
The interwebs as they are today don’t really jive with that anymore, but I’d definitely like to see them use Datacrons to get us to check out other things on the horizon. I had a map of all the hardlines in The Matrix Online (teleport points) which you had to physically visit and unlock in order to use, and while I knew where they all were their locations often made me wonder about certain landmarks I could see off in the distance and encouraged me to explore further; I’m hoping BioWare takes this route as well.