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Star Wars and the Modern MMO

Michael Bitton Posted:
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I’ve been writing about Star Wars: The Old Republic here at MMORPG.com since 2009 and playing the game on and off since the game’s release in 2011.While I’m still excited for the game’s future, there are simply things about the game that will never change. SWTOR is an MMO from the World of Warcraft era of MMOs and the genre has simply gone in a different direction in recent years. I often think about how I’d love to play SWTOR – only re-imagined with the new landscape of MMOs in mind. But things like action combat or even a smaller set of active abilities probably aren’t going to ever happen for SWTOR, so where does that leave things for the future of Star Wars and online games?

The thing that often gets me coming back to SWTOR is leveling up through the content with a friend who hasn’t experienced it. BioWare’s done a commendable job really streamlining the leveling experience so that it sort of works like a co-op KOTOR with friends, but the game’s archaic MMO trappings constantly remind you of its age, no matter how well BioWare manages to mask things with its efforts to streamline the experience. Looking down the line, I’d really love to see a Star Wars “MMO” along the lines of something like The Division. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t love to see a new, fully realized AAA Star Wars MMO, but frankly I don’t think that’s in the cards.

The Division may be a flawed game, ruined largely in part due to the many, many exploits that plagued the game’s launch and even post-launch content, but the structure and scope of these increasingly popular “loot shooters” more realistically represent the sort of online games we can expect coming from big publishers in the future.

With that in mind, a Star Wars game like The Division, but with more of a focus on the BioWare formula for the game’s story, is something I’d find incredibly compelling. The Division tells much of its story through the game world, but it’s also got a full campaign that can be played through with friends or alone due to its use of a story that doesn’t make your character the one true hero. As a member of The Division, you’re special, but you’re still part of a group. Telling a story this way isn’t really BioWare’s MO, but it’s been done before, such as the story based Flashpoints we’ve already seen in SWTOR.  It’s not as easy to tell as compelling a story when you’re writing things so that multiple players can participate and make decisions, but I feel it would be a worthwhile compromise. The roll-based dialogue system works and it’s the one thing I’d really like to see kept from SWTOR to facilitate something like this.

The “loot shooter” genre that games like Destiny and The Division occupy would also be a solid fit for a Star Wars game in terms of gameplay. Most combat in Star Wars is done with a ranged focus, though there is plenty of melee involved as well, and this is probably one area that could set a Star Wars “loot shooter” apart in terms of gameplay. The real question is in how The Force would be represented. Personally, I feel a grittier setting focused on the Star Wars underworld, similar to the mobile game Star Wars: Uprising, would fit a game like this particularly well. Unfortunately, even Uprising added lightsabers and Force powers, so it’s hard to see a game like this go live without allowing players to be Force users in some fashion. That’s going to make things tricky in a game designed primarily around shooting, but I definitely think it could be done.

Lastly, when would such a game be set? I feel BioWare Austin has done an exceptional job at really fleshing out the Old Republic era fans love from the KOTOR games, but the studio has also done a pretty great job expanding things out further with the story and setting of Knights of the Fallen Empire. Heck, the cinematic trailer for Knights of the Eternal Throne trended heavily on Facebook and even got Eurogamer to suggest it looked better than some Star Wars movies. Sure, a new game in the same setting would likely cannibalize the SWTOR population, but it could ultimately serve as a better platform to tell these Star Wars stories and create these co-op experiences than SWTOR ever could and that would be a win for gamers and Star Wars fans in the end.

What would a new Star Wars “MMO” look like to you? Would you like to see something along the lines of The Division or Destiny? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB