Any of you familiar with the movies knows that the empire of Vader’s day isn’t the alien inclusive, warm and fuzzy Sith playground of SWTOR. Aliens are not tolerated in Palpatine’s version – it’s often referred to as a ‘humans only club’ and in some ways SWTOR is just as exclusive to humans.
Wait, did I just say that SWTOR is inclusive but it’s not? Contradictory much?
Let me explain. From the beginning, BioWare have had a pretty clear idea of what they would and would not do. Playable and romanceable races are one of those areas where they think they know best. Some they have relaxed (decisions having real consequences, others they have stuck to (player characters must be as human-like as possible).
While for some games a new playable race meets strong reactions for and against, you know you’re doing something reeeeally wrong when it’s met with a resounding “meh”. Cathars are humans with a re-skin – nothing newsworthy there. I mean, we all loved it when that Cathar character in The Empire Strikes Back grabbed the blaster and…. oh…. wait there weren’t any Cathars. This is a race that exists nowhere except in comic books and as a companion in the original KoTOR. Aside from the fact it’s an easy race to make playable since they’ll fit existing armor, there’s no good reason to add them. Lazy or panicked addition, I can’t really tell. Although their unremarked deletion from the video now playing on swtor.com could be a clue (see before and after), so let’s add ‘confused’ to the list. Now, if it had been Trandoshians, that would be news. Instead this seems more a case of activity trying to look like movement.
I’m not beating up Bioware for their assertion that for a character to be relatable it must closely resemble a human, particularly the face. After all, the less like us things look in the animal kingdom, the more likely it is to have its own classification of phobia. But it’s not a universal truth and it’s a lazy assumption. Personality can be injected into anything either by the creator or observer. For example, the first exercise a prospective animator will often be faced with is the flour sack. Think the flying carpet from Disney’s Aladdin. It’s not a nuanced performance, but you know what it’s thinking. Not convinced? I’ve one word for you. Well, four letters actually: R2D2. Perhaps BioWare have heard of him.
For a tripodic pepper pot, that droid has more personality in his little canister body than Mr Lucas managed to inject in most of the characters in the new trilogy combined. Now I’m not saying there’s much subtlety there either. R2′s vocal expressions are broad and much of what we pickup from him are the generous reactions provided by other cast members, but that’s the point. In an RPG you don’t need your alt to provide much, because you as a player do that. We are very good at anthropomorphising things. We do it all the time with our pets. Projecting real feelings is second nature – some of us even manage to do it with politicians. Most players don’t need the emotional telegraphing. If you are a hard core raider you won’t miss it and if you enjoy RP you don’t need it.
In writing and other creative fields there is the precept of ‘be prepared to murder your darlings’. No, it’s not recommending infanticide, but how you must be prepared to sacrifice cherished notions for the sake of the greater work’s quality. The idea of players not being able to relate to their Trandoshian bounty hunter or Rodian consular is flat out wrong.
If BioWare want to give people an added, meaningful reason to create alts and play other story lines, they need to wake up and smell the blue milk.