The Beej Republic: Buying In?

First off, welcome to the first installment of “The Beej Republic,” an ongoing series where I will cover Star Wars: The Old Republic as it works its way through testing and into our grubby little fanboy hands.  I had originally thought of doing this project as a separate blog, but talking it over with Syp, the idea of a regular column is much more appealing for everyone involved.

The Beej Republic logoOf every MMO on the horizon, there is none that interests me like Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I read nearly every snippet I can find about it because, in all honesty, the buildup is half the fun of a new MMO release.

But right now, there are two camps on the TOR battlefront.  There are the optimists who believe that Bioware should be given the benefit of the doubt based on their track record, and there are the pessimists who fail to see exactly what the big deal is with their announcements.

In The Optimists’ Corner…

Most of the information coming from Bioware these days is admittedly a bit so-so, but the game is still around a year from release.  We found out recently that their Advanced Class System will offer customization based on a branching template of a foundation class.  There are NPC companions which might be pets or similar to DDO’s hirelings, with varying levels of customization and impact on the player’s personal story.  And there’s the story itself, where we know very little about regarding how the multiplayer aspect will affect choices made.

SWTOR Jedi Force Lightning And the optimists looking at TOR tend to see these announcements as being okay, saying that people have wanted new elements for MMOs, but the moment they get them, they deride them because they’re not revolutionary enough.  The optimists see the glass being half full with Bioware goodness.  They’ve delivered in the past, and they’ll deliver again.  If The Old Republic turns out to be KOTOR with a chat window and co-op missions, that’s okay because KOTOR was a fantastic game.

In The Pessimists’ Corner…

The information that Bioware gives us is not just so-so.  It’s garbage.  In the TOR pessimist’s eyes, the game is starting out on the wrong foot.  It is not giving us what we need for the MMORPG genre to stay alive, but is instead infecting the dregs of the social web with the worst disease imaginable: mainstream popularity.  The companions are just NPCs or pets, and those have been done before (and better! In single player RPGs, no less!).  The Advanced Classes that were touted as an amazing feature are nothing but a Blizzard ripoff that we’ve had for nearly six years.  The storyline itself is so self-contained that there is no possible way for Bioware to integrate other players and make any choices actually matter.

Most of the announcements have garnered the derision of many players claiming that these elements are all things that have been done before, and most of the time in single-player RPGs.  And that’s where they need to stay.  The MMOverse needs new ideas, not ideas recycled from games that may be over a decade old.  We don’t play MMOs to micromanage a party to get through an Instance; we party with other players so we can socialize and work as a team.  The min-maxers cry at the idea of other people even minutely participating in other players’ stories because they might influence a choice that prevents the player from unlocking X ability five years down the line.

In The Beej Corner…

I’d admit it.  I’m squarely in the optimists corner right now.  I think the pessimists who look at the early videos and claim the animations are silly need to lay off.  I think those who say the game is too cartoonish and garishly colored need to take a look at a certain 12-million-subscriber behemoth’s visual style and popularity.  I think those who say that companions are going to suck need to play the game first.  There are plenty of games with intricate pet/hireling systems that do just fine.  And as for the story naysayers?  I would like them to present a single time—one time!—where Bioware’s storytelling has ever been subpar.  If there’s one thing the company knows, it’s narrative.

SWTOR Jedi Now, part of this might be based on my undying love of Star Wars as an intellectual property. I hope my discussions don’t seen fanboyish; despite my love for the IP, I want to be as unbiased as I can, providing actual insight on the game.  I am probably the biggest Star Wars nerd I know, and for me, TOR is a MMO dream come true.  I fell hard for pre-CU/NGE Star Wars Galaxies, hologrinding a Jedi back in the day.  I’m the guy who my friends have called to fact-check published authors on their EU lore.

That said, when TOR goes live, my World of Warcraft subscription will be cancelled if it hasn’t been already, my account (potentially) sold off, and a lifetime subscription for The Old Republic purchased.   So, yeah, welcome to The Beej Republic.

Where do you stand on The Old Republic?  Is it the second coming of the MMOverse, is it a marketing ploy that will fail miserably once it gets into gamers’ hands, or do you just not care one way or another?

By B.J. Keeton

B.J. KEETON is a writer, teacher, and runner. When he isn't trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting Firefly back on the air, he is either writing science fiction, watching an obscene amount of genre television, or looking for new ways to integrate fitness into his geektastic lifestyle. He is also the author of BIRTHRIGHT and co-author of NIMBUS. Both books are available for Amazon Kindle.


  1. I’m not fully on board with any MMO until I actually play it a week and see how I like it.

    UO loved it until the naked guys would PVP me and take my stuff; oh & my armor was a penalty with lightning strikes, wtf…lol so I became a naked PVPer but quickly grew bored

    EQ, played it, hated it, 3 weeks of not playing and a bored weekend before my free month ran out, played it again and suddenly was hooked. got my soulfire, lv 44, but didn’t want to commit to the raids and harsh penalties, quit & sold it after 9 months

    SWG, played in beta, moved at launch and by the time I could get in it was a month later and there were alot of negative feelings from people on it so I didn’t play. The beta was fun but enh.

    COH, played beta for a month, enjoyed it, played live for a month but everything seemed the same. No visible costume ugrades and seeing the same bosses 20lvs later just seemed boring so I quit.

    WoW, waited till it was out a year, played it, hooked in 1 hr probably lol, played 8 months, quit for 1 yr, played for 6, then quit after BC was such a grind with raiding and have never gone back

    WAR, hated & I mean hated the animations of every race but goblins & orcs. the humans were just ugly, the elves ran really stupidly, just couldn’t stand all the graphics and it didn’t appeal to me, only played beta

    AOC, liked the first 20lvs, kept playing a POM till 54, but tired of the pvp gank. i could kill 1 guy nearly 90% of the time but often my guild was split all over and I would get jumped for 2-3. I killed some 2 groups, but the game just became a chore, guess I don’t like PVP, enh not sure. But also the drops didn’t see that great at the time, no really cool looks in the first 2-3 months of the game so i quit after that

    Aion, enh, played but didn’t get hooked, only got to lv 10 and had no desire to log in and play, just didn’t hook me. Maybe I had seen it all before, gather 10x, kill 10x…even the wings didn’t do anything for me.

    TOR, ok, so that long msg above was just to say I want to enjoy an MMO and I’ve played alot of them. Something new & different may be fun. I don’t know how changes will play out until I try them. Just because something sounds diffferent, I have to see it first hand and try it out to know if I’ll like it. So I’ll never be 100% into a game until I play it a week, and then only about 80% if I really enjoy it until I play it 3 months which is a good time test for me.

    I’m really wanting to try out Monster Hunter Tri, not a MMO, but you can play with 3 othrers. Perhaps TOR will be similar you do alot by yourself but can group too. I’ll hold my final opinions until more information is out but right now thumbs up and I’m looking forward to it.

    1. I’m the same way; I generally have to try a game before I shell out a load of money on it. But for TOR, the IP and the company behind it almost guarantee that I’ll love anything they do. Three months as an MMO test? You’re a better man than I am. Most of the time, I give a new game a week, and if it hasn’t taken my attention by then, I move on.

  2. Oh I forgot to mention Horizons…LMAO…

    Talk about a game that changed from the drawing board to launch. In the beginning it was going to be devils & angels, new players would be part of a family and get xp or some benefit from older players, Dragons you start young and grow to ancient. Well most of that was scrapped by beta which I was in. The dragon was hmm, pretty boring. I did’t play after beta, wasn’t interesting or fun. some people did and got ancient dragon but I quit following it though I know it shut down perhaps a year later but not positive of exactly when.

    1. I had a friend who got to Adult with his dragon (the second stage). He called me to come over and watch it happen. It was neat, but I think he quit the game before he got Ancient. It was an interesting concept, and he liked the game, but I never could get into it.

  3. As a recovering WoW-aholic (almost two years!) I’ve pretty much sworn off to play any MMO’s. That being said, the TOR does look interesting to me from a Star Wars nerd PoV, but, so did the Warhammer MMO back in ’08.
    Warhammer actually did quite good in the opening month because WoW was (is?) boring once you’ve ‘completed’ everything (in that specific patch/expansion). Blizzard managed to catapult people back in the game with the release of WotLK, though (that and WAR being not that great of a game, but I digress). The result was quite noticeable in WAR’s subscribers: from 800K+ down to roughly 100-200K+ (?).

    I’m afraid TOR will face a similar struggle. The game might do quite good in the opening months because people are bored of WoW (the game’s been out for 5+ years now), but in the end they’ll come back to WoW. And it’s inevitable that TOR gets compared to WoW (5 years of polish). WoW fanboys will grab every opportunity to bash the game because of bugs and/or missing features. TOR won’t be a WoW killer (only Blizzard can kill WoW), but it will have its own niche. I just hope it won’t flop like every other MMO released after the WoW hype.

    As for the actual game itself: it’s an MMO. Every player is a hero. From the superStar Wars geeks such as yourself, to Joe Blow around the corner of the local Delly, so I’m going to have to side in the pessimist corner. The choices you make most *probably* won’t have that much of an affect on the game world (Mankrik’s wife anyone?).

    Regardless, I won’t be playing it either way. MMO’s are huge timesinks. 🙂

    1. I go through phases. There are times when I love MMOs, and there are times when I think that my time would be better spent doing other things.

      TOR won’t be a WoW killer because nothing will be. TOR will be TOR, and there will be an existing fanbase from which players will be pulled. I think, if anything, Bioware will take all the major features from currently popular MMOs like WoW did when it was released and change them just en0ugh to make them interesting. Then, fanboys won’t be able to cry about their non-inclusion.

      I’m not as interested in making a difference in the game world of TOR as much as I am interested in making a difference in my character’s story. My Paladin has done the same quests as my Death Knight (save introductory DK quests). And in both cases, despite polarized alignments, one is supposed to be good and the other evil. That doesn’t make sense. Why did my Draenei DK save those gnomes? Why did my Paladin wipe out that village? In the end, only their gear differentiates them in the roles they play in the game (if I were spec’d ret). I want TOR to change that with the story; I want my Jedi Consular to be a completely different kind of character than my Sith Warrior or Bounty Hunter. I want my other Consular to be a different character than the first one…based solely off the choices I make in playing the game.

      Will I get that? We’ll see. I’m an optimist, so maybe I’ll see /part/ of that in the finished product.

      1. Hah, yes. I was a PvP’er myself (a griefer if you will ;)), so I barely paid any attention to quests. All I saw was kill X and/or collect Y.

        You’re right in the character (story) department. Will you get that? I’d be thorougly surprised if TOR allowed that, and what kind of room you have for that.

        What’s more: I’m curious whether players will play any other classes besides Jedi/Sith. How did that work out with SWG? I only received snippets of information from it every now and then, but didn’t you need to do an obscene amount of stuff before you could become a Jedi? Then they changed it in a patch and everyone and their grandmother could be one? Correct me if I’m wrong!

        1. It was super-hard to get a Jedi when I did it. It took 6 months of constant work (sometimes 24 hour a day macroing) to be able to unlock the ability to create one, and then you had to train them up from Padawan levels.

          But people /did/ play other classes. I, myself, loved the Swordsman/Doctor route (basically a Paladin template) and the Commando/Teras Kasi combination was interesting. Rifleman was cool, and Combat Medic was one of the most feared PvP opponents.

          Eventually, they did change it to where anyone could be a Jedi, but that was after I left the game, so I have no idea what percent of the playerbase ended up jumping on the Lightsaber bandwagon.

          Lots of people did, I’m sure. And lots of people will in TOR, too. I’ll be one of those people. To me, I love the idea of being a healing Jedi. That’s what interests me in the world, but a lot of people love Bounty Hunters and Smugglers and they’ll get their jollies there, too. From the limited time I’ve spent in SWG past the NGE and CU, I do recall seeing people running around in armor with guns rather than robes with lightsabers. I think because of the nature of the genre every class will have a representation, and the fact that Bioware is including a class-specific questline with each one will help that even more for those who want the whole experience.

  4. I am quite concerned. My Spidey Sense is on red alert.

    How Bioware handled patching, marketing and releases of Dragon Age, Awakening and the many DLCs makes me believe that EA has an unhealthy influence on the company. Awakening still did not get patched, and it is sorely in need of quite some patching… but they already released the Darkspawn Chroncles DLC.

    I think Bioware makes great RPGs, but their idea of a individual player story driven and fully voiced MMO makes me wonder if they should not rather make a great single player RPG than a sRPG trying to be a MMO.

    I always like to be proven wrong. I hope it is the next step in MMO design – but what I see so far does not make me believe so! I rather bet and hope for Guild Wars 2 to be that.

    I also want to point out that STAR WARS is for me Han Solo, Stormtroopers, Darth Vader and the Empire. What is this Old Republic, is it even worse than Lucas demolition of his own franchise, aka Episode I-III?

    1. To me, the Old Republic media that’s been released so far (KOTOR games and comics I’ve read) have been vastly superior to anything in the prequel trilogy by far. The first two KOTOR games have a level of SW storytelling that rivals some of the better novels and probably . Yeah, they were that good. They were researched, and they were obviously held in high regard by the creators in how the narrative was handled.

      I haven’t experienced any of Dragon Age yet. I just haven’t had time. I’ll get to it eventually, but right now, I can’t argue for or against that point.

  5. I think it is a powerful IP which can draw in the numbers needed to really go toe to toe with WoW. If they can pull off a sufficiently strong feeling of being a total badass, and having a story that isn’t just interesting, but also feels like it matters, I think it will stay and be more than a niche. I predict a sustained two million minimum.

    It’s not going to be a WoW-killer, since frankly I think that term is stupid. And fails to include the fact that whatever feature, gameplay, or idea seems to be killing WoW, Blizzard will just add in as quickly as they can and possibly better.

    1. See, that’s what I think. WoW is fine on its own. I don’t /want/ another game to kill it. I just want a game that gets some love by fans and developers to actually possess a community worth being a part of. A game that can, as you put it, stand toe to toe with WoW and make a real go of being a champ.

      Given that it’s Bioware and Star Wars, I think 1-2 mil sustained is going to be normal. Of course, they said that SWG would do the same thing based on SOE’s track record with EverQuest, but we saw how that turned out.

  6. Oh man. OH MAN.

    I can’t wait for SW:TOR.

    I loved SWG until they broke it with the CU and NGE. I’m pretty sure there’s still a museum named after me somewhere on Tattooine on my old server!

    I kinda like that this game isn’t being heralded as the “WoW Killer” like AoC, WAR, Aion etc all were. If this game is even half-playable (like SWG often was, lol), I’ll be sucked in. I’m too much of a fangirl to not play it.
    .-= Jillian´s last blog ..Naming Your Price (And Why 5k Is My Sweet Spot) =-.

    1. I’d love to think that my old SWG PA city is still up and my Wookiee Armor is still there on display along with my lightsaber and crafting station. But I’m pretty sure Wanderhome is a ghost town these days. I’m halfway tempted to pick up the trial again and see if I can find a home pretty easily, but I just don’t think I have time to get into another MMO (and I know the game sucks now. I have to keep telling myself that, too).

      I’m glad that TOR isn’t a WoW killer, too. Of course, I like to think that means that people are logical and realize there is no such thing. What it probably means is that the blogosphere is full of cynics and fanboys. 😉

  7. “I think Bioware makes great RPGs, but their idea of a individual player story driven and fully voiced MMO makes me wonder if they should not rather make a great single player RPG than a sRPG trying to be a MMO.”

    I’m with Longasc on this. I go so far as to say that because they developed it more or less as a series of KOTOR sequels, it should be sold that way, offline and subless.

    I’m pretty sure it will be an above average game. It might even be an above average MMO. I will still wish that it was a proper offline KOTOR sequel.

    So… I’ll probably play it, at least for a demo period, but I will not subscribe to play, and I’ll not be happy that I need the internet to play for a while longer in the Old Republic setting. I’ll certainly wish them luck, but where I’d buy a KOTOR 3 in a heartbeat, SWTOR slips way down the list. Not because of game quality itself, but because of monetization and internet tethering. (You could play Guild Wars perfectly fine as an offline game, for example. Making it online only is a bit of a sore point with me.)
    .-= Tesh´s last blog ..More on Making it Real =-.

  8. It’s time to sit back and wait, I guess. Too few information for prediction at this moment. I can’t still get a grasp how to mix KOTOR (or Baldur’s Gate-ish) gameplay with MMO. This might be groundbreaking if it turns out well, but I still don’t want to give any faith to the publisher: Eat All.

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