Several hours of my life I will never regain

Star Wars: The Old RepublicFor those of you who play video games, here is Prof. Singleton’s review of Star Wars: The Old Republic; for those of you who do not, these aren’t the droids you are looking for, move along, move along. I am putting this up on the blog even though it is not microbiology relevant, as I became pretty damn annoyed in the process and needed a place to vent. However, to appease the pedantic, and to make it microbiology relevant: midi-chlorians.  ‘Nuff said.

I’ve been a fan of all things Star Wars since Episode 1: No Subtitle (Note: in my world, there was no so-called “Prequel” trilogy) came out during the summer of 1977. I’ve played a number of Star Wars-related video games through the years, including  Dark Forces, X-Wing, Tie Fighter, Star Wars Battlefront, Republic Commando, Force Unleashed, and both of the Bioware Studios developed Knights of the Old Republic games. My choice of games has run the gamut from first person shooters, RPG’s, to tactical turn-based strategy games, but in each case the story is paramount. I have listed those games so that I can beef up my cred for commenting today.

Star Wars: The Old Republic is Bioware’s newest offering in the world of Star Wars games, and is the company’s entry into the mass online world of gaming. In The Old Republic, you start with a level 1 character and interact with both non-player characters and other human players in a quest-driven world; you talk to a character, they ask you to do something, and if you accept you go out and do that to gain experience. The non-player characters and the world will seem familiar to anyone who has watched even one of the movies. Through these quests, you gradually level up and acquire items to further equip your character to survive in the game environment.

I played in the early levels with a character in the “Imperial Agent” class; a master of slipping in the shadows and accomplishing the Empire’s aims in a quiet, behind the scenes manner. I made an avatar who looked totally bad-ass: wrap around mirror shades, a couple of cortical implants, and facial tattoos to that might make Ishmael proud. Then I set out on world of Nal Hutta (home to Jabba the Hutt) to accomplish some mayhem. After several hours, I had leveled up to about level 8, eliminated a couple of hundred enemies, and gathered a ton of useless items. And I realized then that I was not enjoying myself at all and cancelled my subscription.

This is the financial model of many of the mass online games: introduce players to the game world and rake in the monthly subscription fee. I’ve played some of them, but only the base games which are typically free to play at the lower levels. The Old Republic is different, and has an upfront payment of $59 for the base game (disclosure: I got it for $39 via Amazon on sale) which includes a month of free play as long as you enter a credit card number for a subscription. The game is pretty with nice graphics, and appeared technically robust with no lag issues on our 3 year old computer systems and crappy house wifi network. However, there wasn’t anything to set this game apart from the other, cheaper online game alternatives other than the label “Star Wars” at the top. Much of the action felt pointless as well. I had an initial interaction with my so-called superior in the game world who tasked me with inciting a conflict between rival Hutt gangsters, but after that I felt that I just was wandering around looking for stuff to shoot, bodies to loot, and getting useless items to sell to vendors for cash.

The final straw for me came when I entered “The Gas Factory” building on Nal Hutta, in order to accomplish an assigned quest. I had just finished up another quest in “The Rust Yards,” a completely different area on the same world, but as I walked into “The Gas Factory,” I realized I had already been there. The building inside and outside was exactly like the one I had just come out of in a completely different area of the game world. The bad guys were different, but all of the rooms were completely identical. This is just laziness on the part of the designers. I understand that the job of the designers is to create a virtual world from scratch, and that in order to reasonably accomplish an immersive reality you must reuse aspects of the game, but this jarring experience destroyed any semblance of immersion for me.

I suppose the reason that I did not enjoy this game was because of the minutiae of the gaming experience. You walk (actually jog; all player characters seem to be running around the game world) and acquire items such as “gas cylinders” that you can unload on non-player vendors for Republic credits. However, as far as I could tell the vendors did nothing with the “gas cylinders,” so it appeared that I wasn’t actually doing anything within the game economy. The “gas cylinders” could just as easily been tagged as “useless item to sell” with the exact same effect.

I imagine that if I were to be dumped into the world of Star Wars: The Old Republic, I would rather not have to run around accomplishing pointless tasks. I would instead be slaving away at the University of Coruscant, looking for a way to demonstrate the link between Force sensitivity and midi-chlorian levels, utilizing Koch’s Postulates. A fruitful line of research in that direction would most likely help me in my dream of creating an invincible Sith army much more rapidly that obtaining and selling “gas cylinders.”

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About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on April 13, 2012, in Bogus!, Get off my lawn!, Rant and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Several hours of my life I will never regain.

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