Daily Elysium: Closure - LucasArts Style

Listen, baby. You and me, we had some good times. It was a good run, and you showed me the world. Hell, you showed me several worlds, and baby, they were beautiful, but you know things change. IÂ've changed, and I donÂ't know maybe youÂ've changed a little. Yeah, you got curves, baby, and thatÂ'll keep the masses looking at you, touching you, loving you. But, thatÂ's the problem. I mean you float that package out there, and it just screams to be caressed, to be lovingly explored, but, and donÂ't take this the wrong way, itÂ's just window dressing.  Know what I mean?  YouÂ're all show, and no depth. Baby, itÂ's not you.  ItÂ's me. I need something more, something deeper --- more meaningful. LetÂ's just part ways now, nice and clean like, and keep our fond memories of my getting into your pants. And by 'getting into', I mean crafting ...

Oh, so you saw us? Yeah, sure, I was playing a little Knights of the Old Republic. What of it? We never said we were exclusive. You know, I still see Everquest every now and again - you know what they say about your first love - and sure sheÂ's looking a little pointy, but sheÂ's got experience, and when you make her Ding! ... heaven. And, you ... you! YouÂ've been seeing, what 250,000 other people, so donÂ't rag on me about an innocent tryst with KOTOR. Oh, that? ItÂ's just my little name for her. What? What did I say!  Don't be hatin'!

Galaxies, wait. DonÂ't be like that. We still have our memories....

... or so it might go if games were sentient, self-aware, and jealous lovers. Which, I hasten to point out, theyÂ're not.

So, my infatuation with Galaxies appears to be waning, which honestly isnÂ't an indictment of the game. ItÂ's a natural cycle for me. I donÂ't usually hang on to games for very long, just donÂ't have the time to put all my gaming eggs in one basket. I guess it works out pretty well. When it comes to people, IÂ'm faithful, monogamous (which keeps me from dying a slow, horribly creative death), and reliable. But, when it comes to gaming, IÂ'm a slut.

-- I appear to be getting off track. I really wanted to say something about why Knights of the Old Republic is a superior Star Wars game to Galaxies. ThereÂ's no elegant way to segue from a slut self-proclamation to a solid dissertation on the subtle art of storytelling in developing video games, so weÂ're just going to have to do it the hard way. Which is to say in a very contrived way.--

You know who else was a slut? Hester Prynne of Nathaniel HawthorneÂ's The Scarlet Letter. Trampy little harlot with her reverend fetish! And despite that, the Scarlet Letter is considered a triumph of fiction, and why? Because it is about weakness versus strength, temptation, a fall, and redemption. It is, at its core, a narrative of our most basic humanity. (You should think of this segue as a speedbump in the article)

What just floors me about Knights of the Old Republic, one of the things that makes it not only a great Star Wars game, but a fantastic game in its own right, is that it encompasses fundamental struggles of humanity. The kind of stuff thatÂ's been hanging out in literature, theater, and philosophy for pretty much as long as weÂ've bothered with such things. And it does it through the modern mythological focus, Star Wars.

Now, I donÂ't want to hyper-exaggerate the probably unintentional genius of Star Wars, because when you get right down to it, the films are only a hair's width away from average B-fiction.  And yet the franchise lives on because it is, on its deepest - possibly imagined - levels, about the struggle of temptation versus restraint: the struggle of denying our own darkest impulses, even when those impulses manifest in the guise of good. The Jedi is the perfect human, and thus most dramatic and allegorical in his fall. The Jedi are metaphors for the struggles of our own not quite so galactic daily lives, and pose the question: when weÂ've fallen to the Â"˜dark sideÂ', can there be redemption?

What is Star Wars (and by Star Wars I mean only the original trilogy) but the story of Anakin SkywalkerÂ's redemption as explored through a path of temptation?

Again, I only elevate the movies to this level of extrapolation because I want to make a point about gaming, not because I think Star Wars is some pinnacle of storytelling, because - and let me be clear - IÂ'm pretty sure that any deeper meaning George Lucas threw in was entirely by accident.

Ever wonder what Star Wars would be without all that accidental depth to hold it together? Well, rush out and buy Galaxies for the answer. The hundredth time you trot through Bestine, Tatooine 44395 looking for someone to train you up to Advanced Landspeeder Waxing, and think maybe IÂ'll pick up a mission, with all the zeal of deciding to purchase a Happy Meal, you realize the reason you loved Star Wars is not because it takes place on a desert planet. It, in fact, has very little to do with the sound a blaster makes when itÂ's fired, or what a Krayt Dragon looks like real close up, or even whether you ever have a force sensitive character. ThatÂ's not to say those arenÂ't fine excuses to keep playing the game, as long as itÂ's keeping you engaged, but that thereÂ's a good reason many people have said Galaxies doesnÂ't Â"˜feel likeÂ' Star Wars. The reason is that Star Wars is a dichotomy of parallel levels of good versus evil; that between characters and that within all characters over time, and such simply can not be replicated as a MMORPG.

I suppose I have Knights of the Old Republic to thank for my epiphany. Once I Â"˜feltÂ' what it was like to play in that universe within those epic conflicts again, I saw why a Rodian crafting Wookie pants is just not enough on its own to qualify as a Star Wars title, no matter how many times you paste the franchise name on the box, or how many Imperial Stormtroopers walk past.

IÂ've been on something of a Star Wars kick, lately, and I think itÂ's coming to a close as my time with KOTOR dims to a cool twilight like the last of Tatooine's suns dipping below the dunes. I still have to write my Galaxies review, and IÂ'm sure IÂ'll have some final thoughts on KOTOR, but the total soul consumption I sought from Galaxies, was only to be found in Knights instead. Maybe it was perfect timing, a heavy dose of just what I wanted, just when I needed it most, but I canÂ't return to my Rodian tailor with any sense of accomplishment now. Not when I know how vapid the world he lives in is. Until there are fallen heroes striving for redemption, and an epic story of self-exploration, of struggle, and of despair mitigated only by faith in the power of oneÂ's self as this Rodian tailor is called to save the galaxy, then Galaxies just wonÂ't be Star Wars enough for me.

And, as for thickly written opinions on the cultural value of Star Wars ... I think I can move on now. 

- Elysium

Comments

It's 2 am and I just got in from work. It may be the lack of sleep, but this article is just freakin' funny

Sean, I always knew you were a slut.  Remember when I beat you so bad in MVP 2003 you let me keep it? 

Maybe when Galaxies actually developes a storyline, epic struggles and jedi and such, it will pick up.  Right now it is just getting started.  The grander the scale, the later the payoff.  Although I do think KOTOR is, for a Star Wars game at least, a masterpiece; I think it is just a quick fix.  You can play through KOTOR in 20 hours and get instant gratification, becomming a jedi and saving the universe in a weekend.  With Galaxies, however, just think how proud you will finally feel when, after months and months of work, you finally become a jedi.  Not only will you get a supreme sense of acheivment, you will also be looked up to like a God, like a Jedi in a Star Wars game should be.  And also, if eventually in Galaxies you can purchase starships, just think how badass you will feel when after years of work you get yourself a super star destroyer...Oh my.

So, I say, KOTOR is quite a delightful romp into the Star Wars universe; perfect for a quick Jedi fix.  But, if Galaxies develops as it should, it could be the better Star Wars experience.

Patience is a virtue. 

Actually, it is totally funny. Well written, and it's true what you say about the SW feeling.

The introduction to that article was simply fantastic!

With Galaxies, however, just think how proud you will finally feel when, after months and months of work, you finally become a jedi. Not only will you get a supreme sense of acheivment, you will also be looked up to like a God, like a Jedi in a Star Wars game should be. And also, if eventually in Galaxies you can purchase starships, just think how badass you will feel when after years of work you get yourself a super star destroyer...Oh my.

This is the same argument Brad McQuaid said about level 50 in EverQuest. There are two main flaws that I see. One, when you do reach Star Destroyer/Jedi status, several other people have already beaten you there, and nobody really cares. Two, most people don't get to this point, and thus are living with the pants making game Elysium describes. Either way, you don't get the payoff you describe, you never save the galaxy because there are 300,000 people trying to save the galaxy right beside you. And if you fail, they don't cease to exist, neither do you, there is no risk, hence no payoff.

Not to say SWG is a bad game, because really I've never played it. Just pointing out how that's just like the argument people used with EQ, and look how it turned out.

Damn good article man. I've never played SWG, so I really have no idea what you're talking about, except for agreeing with the overall point that the trappings of the SW universe are not what makes it good. Still entertaining to read, though.

No. No. No.  You've got it all wrong. See, only the PC version of KotOR is in competition with Galaxies - that's why it was delayed.  The XBox version of KotOR is NOT in competition with Galaxies - so continue playing both until your heart's content (or, at least that was the reasoning LucasArts gave back in December of last year.  I just have a hard time buying it.).

I hope you don't mind Elysium but I posted a link of this on Rage3d...

I have to admit I agree with you. I dont have an Xbox, and we just bought a house so there goes my excuse of not being able to play KOTOR, but I wish I would have saved the $50 I spent on Galaxies and put it towards my dwindling gaming fun for a rainy day.

I was in the beta for Galaxies and I yelled and screamed as loud as any about how it wasnt ready. Im a sucker for a good MMORPG and was really hoping I could get into the game even though it bored me to death during beta along with all the nasty little bugs you encountered whenever you touched your keyboard. I must say though that I have yet to see any of those bugs, but Im bored to DEATH with this game.

Having a family, 2 dogs, a house and a very demanding job to take care of I dont have the time I did in college to devote 15 hours a day in advancing my mage in EQ or my chanter in DAoC. I was really hoping that SWG would sate my thirst for a MMORPG.

At first I was into to it. I never got higher than master of anything in the beta so I was completely into getting my marksman/weaponsmith up in levels so that when they did put in some content in the game(vehicles, space travel and the ultimate PvP of Rebel vs Imperial) and people started joining, I could have a higher level character to enjoy the "galaxy" with. Alas, after finally getting expert in all my marksman disciplines and seeing that I had 70k exp PER disc to go in order to become specialized.... I finally had enough.

I thought about it. If I kill a white mob (cuz the others take me out pretty damn quick) I get about 200xp in the discipline I used to kill it with. I have 3 marksman disc... pistol, carbine and rifle (actually there is a 4th one called ranged specialist but it seems rather random when you get xp for it). First level you hit is 1000xp. Not bad. 2nd level to hit is 5000xp. Ok, higher level, more work I can do it. 3rd level expert is 15000xp... quite a bit more work but hey when I get it Ill be able to take on all those reds (90% of the mobs I see) and get more xp. I hit expert and OMG! 70,000xp for specialist in ALL 3 disciplines!!!! WTF? At 200xp per kill I cant even add that high on how many Id have to kill. Then I ran into a Master Marksman/Scout and he told me the secret. "Go kill those Kima's, theyre red but they are SOOO slow". I was like cool, I can do that. So I went to kill the kima's. Yea they slow all right but it takes about 10 minutes of kiting them to kill them. You get 1000xp for it though but if you do the math, Id have to kill 70 of them so thats 700 minutes per discipline. Times 3 disciplines... sh*t thats 2100 minutes (35 hours!!!). I have a life man, I can't do that! So, I thought that maybe grouping would be the thing to do....

The game is so huge its hard to find anyone let alone group with a decent bunch of people that stay on long enough to find a decent camp/mob. So I continued to solo alot and killed the same dude's in the same missions over and over and over. Got my rebel faction up quite a bit but then those missions just made me take on reds all the time. I tried to figure out the incentive of being in a faction... other than seeing your faction members in purple and you have a choice of buying some cool stuff from the rebel recruiter... I couldnt see it. Oh yea, buying those things for the recruiter takes "faction" points. You get like 19 points per mission. To buy a lame ass rifle takes 5000 faction points. What a joke... But Im a sucker and continued my plot in advancing the rebel cause. Of course I died rather quickly mind you unless you put your ultimate target between you and the mobs guarding it. They were so damn stupid until you blew up the "small slave camp", then they'd run after you.

And of course the running. You run everywhere... I thought this was Star Wars, hell give me a Mountain bike for gods sake.. this is stupid. Along with the running, I have to admit I love the waypoint system, very nice.. but since you have so far to run and the mobs between you and your destination are totally random you run ALOT more than the distance between you and your waypoint... again, whats the point? I must have gone 2130m SE (+ another 1500m in avoiding almost everything cuz its red) for every mission and that took a good 20 minutes round trip not counting your mission objectives. Going the same way got me rather familiar with the geography but I ran into a different group of Fed-Dub dudes, Imperial soldiers, rebel soldiers and some gang of lame dudes called MeatLumps just wandering around in the wilderness not doing a damn thing. Hell, at least in CrushBone the mobs "seemed" to be doing something like guarding their castle.

And these are the things the future wife would say:

Wow, thats a pretty game... where's your X-Wing? Why do you have to run all over?

If you had a gun and shot someone with it, dont they usually go down in the first 6 hits?

That kima thing looks like a small ground hog.. why dont you go step on it instead of having to shoot it 115 times?

So those are real people there dancing in this cantina thing? What else do they do and do they have to hit certain keys to do that "reverse, twist shimmy thing"?

So, you having fun yet with the game?

The last question was the ultimate one for me... I honestly answered... "no" and she said, "hell go water the lawn" and I did. Know what? I had about as much fun doing that as playing SWG.

Great article!

Isn't the problem of story (or lack thereof) inherent with any MMORPG? Isn't that why the single player game is always going to be better? It's more like a book, where you can be lead along the story. Or maybe, if the storyline branches, like one of those old choose your own adventures.

But an MMORPG...with so many characters and people, how do you create a coherent storyline that people can appreciate the same way? The only way I can think of capturing that is to think of the game like Band of Brothers. There are big, world shaking events that go on, propagated by the admins, and the stories pan out to how you deal with the people around you as you get forced through those events. The story isn't going to be quite as intricate.

But my question is, can the MMORPG story ever be as intricate and detailed as any single player game? I've only dabbled in a couple of MMORPGs, so I don't have the great wealth of knowledge that some of the others here have.


Maybe when Galaxies actually developes a storyline, epic struggles and jedi and such, it will pick up. 

No. Wait for Horizons!

 

Par just made my week with his highly constructive comment, a bit e/n but thats how I like it.

I had hope for Horizons when we were promised beta but since I never heard anything and the game is set to be released...in 3 months.  I am having my doubts now.  Help me to fix those doubts !

Having never played Galaxies or KOTOR, I can only add good post Par!  I play games to have fun, not to work so when I'm playing I try to ask myself if I'm having fun playing this.  I usually only get halfway through a game because the latter half starts to feel like work or I lose interest.  A good example is Mario Sunshine.  Great game for the first half, then after 50 or so shines it just seems like work to collect the rest.  The only MMORPG I ever played was UO and I only lasted like three days, way to much work, no fun.

Exactly. The basic truth is that this is a game, and as such it needs to be fun and entertaining. Mainly what they have done is emulate a part time job without a story or context to make any of it worthwile. I know I will not stay past my 30 days, there is absolutly nothing, zero, zilch to make SWG worth paying for... in fact I'm pretty sure Sony ows me some money for working on their assembly droid line :p. Frankly the amount of effort needed to even pick your noise in SWG is offensive given the lack of context.

So I was sitting in my office and I usually do, ignoring some work mail that would require me to spend energy on something other then trying to make my poor blues playing wookie a better rifle man...well more specifically I was bitching loudly about missing the dam shuttle and griping to my buddy on Team Speak that I now have to wait 10 pointless minutes to try and hook up with him... My sweet beautiful wife wondered in to see what I was gnashing my teeth about so loudly.

She listened patiently as I repeated my teeth gnashing for her benifite... She looked at my screen, looked at me... blinked once...

"You are playing a game that makes you sit around waiting for a bus?"

She then proceeded to snicker at my expense and wonder out of the office chortling at what a lack wit I am.

It really helped put the whole thing in perspective. SOE has no respected for it's players time and does not have any intention of giving you good entertainment for your buck, why should they when people will pay them to sit around waiting for the bus... Bah.

I haven't played SWG for a few days, I think next thursday is our Guild night, but after that I'm pretty sure I'm done, I can go wait for bus in real life... oh hmm I own a car and don't have to.

Beautifully put Griffon.  SOE can kiss my ass, they rarely know fun, just timesinks.

Ha ha ha...that's hilarious. I can see it now, a true Star Wars Epic: Episode III.5, Waiting for the Bus. How heroic

I should have clarified.  SWG is ONLY for the truly dedicated gamer, I believe they have a name...oh what was it...nerd, yes that's it.  SWG is only going to be fun for the über-nerd in us all, not for the casual or even somewhat-dedicatedd gamer.

The part about not being the first one there isn't really fair, either.  If I got to walk on the moon, I wouldn't step off the lander and say, "Meh, it's been done, let's go play poker."  You will still get a huge sense of acheivment once, after long hard hours (days(weeks(months))) of work, you get your own starship.  There will be others, but not many.

And, the only game I can think of where you save the world or literally have to start over from the beginning is Steel Batallion.  Otherwise, in KOTOR or any other RPG for that matter, you can just go back to your last save and try again.

So, if you are a truly dedicated hardcore gamer, SWG I think is the real answer to your Star Wars fix.  Otherwise, for the 99% majority of us, KOTOR is the best way to go.

Dont you mean a real Star Wars fan and not "real gamer".  I mean come on, I'm harder than hardcore about gaming but SW: G, meh... I need depth not window dressing...

I guess a mesh of both.