In preparing for tonight’s Multiverse Chris sent me an article to read about Morality Gear in Star Wars the Old Republic (Thank you to Darth Hater for taking the time to write it). He wanted to be sure I was appropriately informed on the subject so I didn’t end up stuffing my foot in my mouth like the last time we talked about the game! In reading it, I became very confused by the subject. I fully understand where the developers are going with this gear but I don’t get the why. The why just doesn’t make sense! In fact it makes so little sense I had to write about it!
This article is based on speculation and speculation only. I am only using Star Wars the Old Republic as an example and not picking on it individually. This type of things happens in every MMORPG and I just happened to use this one because it is new and I read about it today.
The Illusion of Choice
Star Wars the Old Republic will use a morality system similar to Bioware’s single player games. I had honestly not thought about it to begin with but I guess it makes sense that they would use something they’re familiar with. As your character progresses through the much touted story line they will have to make choices, both good and evil, that will effect the outcome of the tale. That is a great sort of system in a single player game with a defined ending. In an MMORPG I get the feeling that it is going to be a train wreck. This could not be any clearer than with the introduction of this morality gear.
I said earlier that I didn’t understand the why behind morality gear. Why would it exist? SWtOR is not a single player game. Every choice a player makes ultimately influences their experience. That is what Bioware is harping on, the fourth pillar of story. Of course they’re talking about how the choices you make in the single player story will chance how the game world looks and reacts to your character. You’re forging your own story, so to speak. That is fine but I’m talking about how those choices will influence your ability to enjoy the game once that nifty fourth pillar ends and you’re left staring at the realities of the other three.
Bioware has brought gear into the morality mix and this sounds like a terrible idea. Consider this: you play through your story arch and try to react how you would normally. You pick some light side choices and some dark side choices. When your story ends you end up at light level three. Awesome for you! The world changes based on those factors but, beyond that, you’re left at the end game. What happens if the best gear for a slot is light level four or five? You’re either screwed or get to go grind out light side faction (which basically invalidates your choices anyway)! The truth of the matter is if you want to optimize for the end game you don’t actually have choices, just the illusion of choices. To optimize you have to pick one side or the other every time or face the consequences. That leaves me once again questioning the viability of the game beyond the story campaign.
I wrote recently that I believe two faction MMORPGs are an obsolete mechanic. I had no idea that that particular article would tie so neatly into this one. I bring it up because I am also confused on how a morality system could even exist in a two faction game! This is the Star Wars intellectual property so a Jedi is good and of the light side unless they fall and Sith is malevolent and evil until they’re redeemed. Nothing is black and white and the morality system addresses that. With that said, in the rigid confines of this MMORPG a Jedi cannot fall. They cannot switch from their faction’s side. A Sith cannot be redemed. How can you possibly have morality choices then? A Republic Jedi is a Republic Jedi regardless of choice. What happens if they make all dark side choices? Will they be hated on their own faction and punished through game mechanics? Is it viable to be dark side, Republic Jedi?
So that leaves me to ask, why give the illusion of choice? If I know that by picking dark side options in the story line with my Jedi I’ll be punished later on why would I do so? This is where the fourth pillar ends up several feet shorter than the other three. Eventually you’ll run out of story line and be left at end game with regrets. Were this an MMORPG where you weren’t artificially separated into sides for no reason what so ever (other than the fact WoW did it) I could see it. Choices made in the campaign would ultimately dictate who’s side you were on. The way SWtOR is designed it just doesn’t matter. You either do it right or do it your way and suffer later. Only time will tell if I’m right or wrong but on a fundamental level someone somewhere needs to be asking these questions.