In October 2008, BioWare teased the unveiling of Star Wars: The Old Republic by triumphantly announcing (along with a giant and now ironic graphic) that “THE WAIT IS OVER.” Oh, but it had only just begun. What’s more, with Early Access kicking off yesterday, many are still waiting (sometimes impatiently) for their golden ticket into the game.
Full disclosure: I got into the game yesterday in the first wave at 7AM. Take a moment to spew your hatred at me. It’s OK, I’ll wait.
All right, hopefully that’s better now.
Now, I’m a bit of a night owl, I admit, so I went to bed fairly late last night, but I honestly never fell asleep. The excitement was too much. While I’ve played the game extensively as part of a variety of different opportunities, I’d finally get the chance to create my own character and keep it. Three hours later, my alarm buzzed on and I was up at 7AM, only to find my ‘golden ticket’ absent from my inbox. Barely coherent, I almost made the decision to go back to bed and squeeze in a bit of sleep, but after waiting a few minutes and giving the launcher a go I found myself able to log-in. Awesome!
From there I proceeded with my typical MMO launch ritual: pick a server and commence grabbing names I want for my current and future characters. Unfortunately, we were looking to set up our guild on an RP-PvP server and there was little to go on as far as server names went, at least up until the very last minute. I wanted to know which of the two available RP-PvP servers would be the “it” server, and without any real information to go on, this was basically a roll of the dice. In my indecisiveness, I had several of my friends roll up on a total of three servers (two RP-PvP and one PvP). I’m pretty picky about this sort of thing, but luckily, the good folks at SWTOR-RP.com threw their weight behind Jung Ma as the unofficial RP-PvP “mega server.” At this point, faint memories of the planning behind making Starsider such a server in the run up to Star Wars Galaxies’ launch danced in my head and I immediately had us all relocate to Jung Ma. Why? Over seven years later, the one remaining super-active server (soon to be closed, along with the game) is Starsider. The foundation laid for Starsider before SWG’s release helped establish a server that would go on to withstand all the tumult the game and its playerbase has dealt with up until now, and I was hoping to find the same thing in Jung Ma. Not because I think TOR will go through the same mess, but because attrition eventually hits all servers and a server with a thriving community as its foundation is simply more likely to remain active over a longer period of time.
As exhausted but happy as I was, judging by the comments I saw on the official board or even our very own forums, it was apparent that there were quite a few unhappy people out there (yes, yes, understatement of the year). I get it; everyone wants to get into the game. Gamers want to set up their guilds, lock up names, and play with their friends that may have already gotten in, etc. What I don’t get are a lot of the conspiracy theories I see flying around. From my point of view, BioWare is painfully aware of the fact that with MMOs you only get one first impression, and having instability (or worse, massive downtime) along with gigantic queues is not the way you want to kick off an MMO as anticipated as Star Wars: The Old Republic. When BioWare (who have a lot on the line with this project) say this was the best course of action to launch the game, I’m inclined to believe them. They’ve torture tested their service with the massive beta test weekends they recently put on and they're likely have a good idea of what they can and can’t handle to ensure a smooth and playable experience. A healthy dose of skepticism as fine, but reading Stephen Reid’s latest post on the subject, I hardly think BioWare sounds unreasonable in their approach. While this is certainly an inconvenient period for many gamers itching to get in and play, we’ll soon put it behind us as the official launch is just a few days away. With that said, BioWare’s James Ohlen provided gamers with some good news yesterday, outlining the developer’s post-launch plans for SW:TOR.
We’ve heard some of this stuff in recent days, and I’m specifically referring to BioWare’s high prioritization of expanded guild features and hints at a significant expansion to space gameplay down the line. However, there were also some interesting new tidbits in James’ official announcement of their plans. One in particular that stood out to me was his mention of the previously hinted at “Guild Capital Ships” feature. Oftentimes, developers talk about seemingly pie-in-the-sky ideas such as this pre-launch (often to never be heard about again), but hearing James specifically mention this feature as part of BioWare’s post-launch content announcement went a long way for me in reaffirming that it may well be a very real possibility. Now, if they really kick it up a notch and couple the space combat game to it, well, we may have something really interesting on our hands. It’s one thing to have what amounts to your very own guild hall in space, but a guild hall with lasers and missile launchers mounted onto it for some group-centric space content? Yes, please! I realize James never mentioned the whole combat aspect, but hey, a man can dream right?
As I push forward into Star Wars: The Old Republic, and as many of you continue to receive your golden tickets and start your own journeys, I wanted to go ahead and end our column this week with a send-off to Star Wars Galaxies. By the time we run next week’s column, Star Wars Galaxies will officially be history. So, for those of you who played the game through the good times and the bad – thanks for the memories! What I'm curious to find out is whether or not you will continue your adventures in The Old Republic as the era of one Star Wars MMO ends and another begins anew.