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Give BioWare a Break

Suzie Ford Posted:
Editorials 0

Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.

If I didn’t know better, I would say that this should be BioWare’s new company motto. Or maybe they could use the title of W.C. Fields’ last movie, “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break”.

Perhaps you’re asking yourself why. In case you haven’t been paying attention to this week’s news about Star Wars: The Old Republic, there is a gigantic internet hissy fit going on about what some have crudely coined “pay to gay”. The term has been applied because of the decision SWTOR devs and/or EA made to make the planet Makeb one where players could interact with homosexual NPCs and content. Ostensibly rubbing salt into the wound is the fact that Makeb is the only place in the SWTOR universe where these types of interactions will be allowed for now. No other new companions or romance options will be added when “Rise of the Hutt Cartel”, SWTOR’s upcoming expansion, arrives later this year.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think that BioWare really did a dumbass thing with the whole idea that same gender romantic interactions with NPCs are confined to a single planet at this point and that it all takes place “behind the curtain” as it were. Let’s just call it what it is: Segregation. But it was never intended to be a separatist move, to keep all same gender romances on one planet. But that’s how it’s going to arrive in-game when Rise of the Hutt Cartel is released. Honestly, this had to have been a marketing decision. Nobody is that stupid, are they? Wait...don’t answer that.

Still, what is mystifying is the fact that BioWare is under fire from both sides of the social issue of same gender romances in games. The one side is offended that there are any SGR options in the game because they see it as BW and EA pandering to a vocal minority. The other side sees this particular situation as a money grab by developers and the publisher since access to these options will require players to pay to get to Makab rather than having it be a free journey. Those who choose not to buy will still be missing the heretofore promised gay relationships.

In the last State of the Game letter from Producer Jeff Hickman said this:

Topic #4: Same Gender Romance: Any news on this front would be great… Answer: First of all, I want to apologize that this is taking so long to get in the game. I realize that we promised SGR to you guys and that many of you believed that this would be with a companion character. Unfortunately, this will take a lot more work than we realized at the time and it (like some other pieces of content we talked about earlier in the year) has been delayed as we focused on the changes required to take the game Free-to-Play. As we have said in the past, allowing same gender romance is something we are very supportive of.

What 99% of all reports on the internet and 99.9% of the armchair forum posters in the world seem to have missed is the sentence that comes right after what Hickman stated above:

Secondly, I want to reveal today that we are adding SGR with some NPCs on Makeb and do intend on pursuing more SGR options in the future. More details to come!

It’s a bit dramatic to put that statement both in italic and boldface but it needs to be seen and understood. Drama rules this time.

Hickman categorically did not state that SGRs would forever be segregated to Makeb but that this was, in essence, a start for more SGR options in subsequent updates and expansions.

Anybody whose knickers were in a knot having a “DOH” moment here? Let’s hope so.

BioWare is committed to the support of players who choose to pursue same gender romances. They have been for a long time. Both the Dragon Age and Mass Effect series have lovely SGR options for players, albeit more limited than heterosexual interactions, but that’s a topic for another day. What is true is that BioWare has every intention of providing options (check that as the operative word for those who turn up their noses at homosexual relationships in games) to the gay community and it won’t be just on a single planet once they’re finished.

It’s always seemed a curious decision to have included SGRs in SWTOR or any other MMO. It fit in the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series because both were single player games. SWTOR players can, if they choose to roleplay, enter into homosexual relationships with other living, breathing players rather than with scripted partners. But, hey. BioWare was only continuing its supportive way to bring player choice into any game it developed.

At the beginning of this editorial, it was said that BioWare’s new company motto should be “Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t” and it’s still the truth simply from the standpoint that this widely respected development house is one of the only, if not the only, company that gives this option to players. They have done so for many years out of respect for a group of people that, while annoyingly vocal, is often mocked and marginalized by the rest of the gaming community. But it seems as if it’s never enough and it can only be imagined how tired of the argument BioWare developers must feel. But, worn out as they may be, they keep trying to give people as many different ways to play their games as possible.

I have been an outspoken critic of BioWare over the past couple of years from the poorly imagined Dragon Age 2 to the abysmal ending of the Mass Effect series to the blunders the team has made with Star Wars: The Old Republic. Still, this time I have to believe that people are wrong or are, at the very least, missing the big picture and the promise of more SGR content for those who choose to play that way. The flap over Makeb has been totally blown out of proportion. BioWare should be smacked for the clumsy way SGRs are finally deploying but not for the fact that they are incoming.

What about you? What are your thoughts on the subject? Please join a polite and respectful discussion in our comments thread. We’d hate to see it closed for a fundamental lack of civility to those whose opinions differ from our own. Carry on!


Suzie Ford

Suzie is the former Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. Follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom