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Columns: More for Explorers - The Codex

By Michael Bitton on May 11, 2011

More for Explorers - The Codex

Why do many of us love sandbox MMOs? It’s true, a sandbox MMO allows players the freedom to do a lot more than your garden variety themepark game, but at its heart the freedom of exploration, of an experience not guided from A-to-Z  most of us yearn for.  And so it has been an uphill battle for BioWare to break the “themepark” stigma of Star Wars: The Old Republic in order to reassure players that they are looking to offer players of all playstyles a number of features to tickle their fancy, but it’s particularly hard to convince explorer types that there is something there for them, at least up until recently.


As development has pressed on we’ve learned more about the size and scope of SW:TOR’s planets, with Tatooine and Alderaan said to be particularly massive and this has been reassuring to some who were worried about the size of the game world. More recently we also learned that Star Wars: The Old Republic will feature “Datacrons”, which are scattered throughout each planet and can be fairly tricky to not only discover but to get to even once discovered. Both aforementioned items obviously won’t re-create the sandbox experience some players are looking for, but they go a long way in terms of establishing that there is more to the planets being created for the game than excuses to create a line of quest hubs from top to bottom of the planet map.

Last week’s Friday Update introduced us to SW:TOR’s Codex, which isn’t exactly a revolutionary feature, but is simply yet another angle for explorers to dig deeper into the game. The Codex is a collection of unlockable lore entries intended to provide an extra layer of background and context for players who are interested in that sort of thing. And that last bit is key, as I imagine most of you reading this don’t tend to pay much attention to the codex feature present in a number of RPGs or MMOs, but I think this time may be a bit different. First off, the codex is a great feature for explorers, since unlocking codex entries is done primarily through veering off the beaten path and exploring the game world, which includes finding and defeating creatures or characters you wouldn’t normally encounter in your questing.

Damion Schubert on Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Codex:

“We give away some codex entries for free. For example, we think that it’s important that players have basic background about the locations they are visiting, and key people in their class story arcs will almost always merit a codex entry. For the rest, though, we want people to explore the planets a little more, and take on some challenges a little ways off the beaten path.

Wandering to distant locations on the map will unlock codex entries about those far flung corners of the globe. Unlocking the codex entry for the k’lor’slug, for example, involves killing a hard to find, tougher k’lor’slug deep in one of Korriban’s tombs. Additionally, exploring the artifacts in the Academy’s library can reveal ancient bits of lost lore, and doing quests for various alien species can unlock their entry in the codex.

Currently, none of these are locked behind a serious challenge – our codex unlocking k’lor’slug is a challenge for its level, to be sure, but not a ‘OMGPWN3D go bring back 3 friends in epics!’ challenge – and that’s intentional. Explorer gameplay should, first and foremost, reward exploring.”

Even if you aren’t an explorer type by nature, you may be more inclined to be interested in the codex entries you happen upon or even feel the rare desire to seek them out in SW:TOR due to the story-centric nature of the game. If you’re finding yourself pretty invested in your character, their decisions, and the story as it is progressing, the lore entries found in the codex are probably going to be a lot more enticing to you as BioWare intends to use codex entries in a manner that, at least to me, closely resembles the way the codex was handled in Dragon Age: Origins. You’ll learn all the important story bits by simply playing through Dragon Age: Origins, but there is an absolute wealth of relevant information found in the game’s codex, and some of it is even helpful in completing certain quests. Knowing myself, I’ll probably spend hours poring over the codex entries and seeking out every single one I can find.

I’d like to leave you all with two questions this week:

For the explorers: Are you finding the exploration-centric features slowly being revealed for Star Wars: The Old Republic sufficient enough to dispel some of your doubts about the game? What other exploration features would you like to see BioWare implement?

For non-explorers: Outside of Datacrons, which will confer tangible stat boosts to your character, do you see yourself paying attention to or even seeking out codex entries in Star Wars: The Old Republic due to the story-centric nature of the game?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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 as the site's Community Manager.