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A reply to Royalkin.
I have been playing MMOs for about 7 or 8 years. My first MMO was SWG, a sandbox game, and back then I had a blast in this game. Still, I never could really shake the feeling, that something in MMORPGs was totally and fundamentally wrong, or missing. I was a gamer ever since I was 16, so some 25 years now. I also grew up with Pen and Paper Role Playing Games, in my childhood and youth, it was the German "The Dark Eye". Now unlike D&D back then, the Dark Eye was not a dungeon crawler, acutally fighting took only a very very minor part. In a whole evening you could play 6-8 hours with maybe 1-2 combat situations. The rest was narration and interaction. Living a fairy tale. This was the childhood dream of games: the "what-if" dream, where you were someone from a book or a movie. What if you were Frodo, or Captain Kirk, or Luke Skywalker - or anyone from movies, TV series or book novels? And now, you CAN be a hero or villain from Star Wars!
I loved RPGs ever since I played Ultima VI - The Quest of the Avatar somewhere in the 1980ies. For me it was a revelation. I was the hero of a mysterious land called Britannia, the Avatar of the Eight Britannian Virtues. I spent years with delving into the lore of Britannia. But one thing I never did: I NEVER played Ultima Online. I couldn't. For me, as one who LOVED the Ultima RPG single player series, I passionately vividly hated Ultima Online. The reason was simple: if I had been the Avatar, the hero of legends in many Ultima CRPGs, why in the world should I be a nobody in Britannia now? Why should I spent months and months to do some mundane tasks like crafting chairs or daggers or fish? Why should be be just one anonymous nobody among thousands in a MMO, doing mundane tasks or mindlessly killing mobs just so, when I was the Avatar, the hero of stories and fairy tales? In Ultima the single player RPGs, I had Iolo, Shamino and Durpre, I know Lord British as a friend and adventures of me were sung in tavern and depiced in paintings! It was epic, it was a great tale I was part in. When I played UO a few days on a friend's account, I was HORRIFIED. This was a perversion of Roleplaying! People did mundane tasks like WORK! They killed each other! They hunted wild animals just for XP and loot! Where was the story? Where was the magic? Where was the purpose? Nowhere. For me, this sort of gameplay was the ultimate horror. Pointless, mundane and like a factory job. "Let's go kill stuff." Reason? Because we can. Yes, a lot of people made up stories in their mind. But then, for what?
I was a while happy in SWG, which sounds like a contradiction. But that was because I was with nice people, and because I am such a big Star Wars fan that you could essentially put me in a grey box with a lightsaber, and I would be happy. A while. But for me, MMOs of the sort of Everquest, UO, and all up to WOW were always reduced RPGs, a RPG cut of the essential part, that part which made playing Ultima, Baldurs Gate, Stonekeep, Wizardry, Might and Magic, Bards Tale and all the other RPGs so great: STORY. A place where things are connected to you, and not just some "fetch me 20 Gnoll paws, because you get some reward". For me, that sort of gameplay was always a reduced, limited concept.
And that brings me to SWTOR: this kind of personal, heroic story, is what I always wanted to see, and what I always saw as the logical, necessary next step of Online Role Playing Games: giving the role, the personal story element into the massive world. A story which was connected to YOU as class, as race and as person. Giving you choices to actually decide the outcome of your story! So far we could NEVER make ANY decision! For me, SWTOR is like two-dimensional games finally became three dimensional! Yes, SWTOR has flaws. Yes, SWTOR is only the first baby-step in this new dimension of Online Role Playing. But what I abhorred was this WOW like concept, that a MMORPG is only about grinding items, grinding dungeons, grinding faction points. WOW had developed MMOs into work! Into a job at the rubberband factory! For me, WOW was the ultimate low point of MMO development, keeping people in a hamster wheel of "push buttons to grind points", without any personal reason, any moral choices and total lack of consequences. You just killed because you were told to. How people loved this mindless, soulless points grinding always was beyond me. Now sure, SWTOR does not re-invent the genre. But SWTOR DOES re-invent the genre, because it adds a depths, a third dimension: story. You have a personal story, all things have some meaning and most important you can make decisions and alter the outcome of the story. Opening up this new avenue for Online RPGs was THE most needed step for the genre, and from here I hope we see this as a whole new way to play online role playing games. This first step is of cause in some points flawed, because heck, it is the first time we see this! But from here on, a new era is there, and for me there is no turning back to EQ/WoW-like mindless "kill all that moves because we say so" MMOs.
Story was the long overdue, logical next step of Online RPGs. And despite all details about we may argue in the future of SWTOR, despite issues this game may have, I am happy to see this long needed evolution finally manifested. It is the return of what made games like the Ultima RPGs so great: the story of a hero and the moral dilemmas of decisions and consequences. From here on, it can only get better!
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