Star Wars: Sith Under Construction

At least personally, the news that The Old Republic wasn’t going to come out until 2011 took a lot of wind out of the sails of my boat, the S.S. Hypester.  Hype and anticipation and excitement are terrific in some ways, but they need a lot of attention, care and energy to maintain.  Personally, once I know that something I’m looking forward to is over six months away, I carefully put it out of my mind until then.   Apparently, EA’s even narrowed down the date a bit more, saying that TOR isn’t coming out before April 2011, so those who were hoping for a January 1 release might well just put that right out of their mind.

It’s weird to think that by the time TOR releases, my daughter — who has a couple months yet until she’s born — will be turning 1, and my son (who’s 9 months) will be 2.  They will be my padawans and I will teach them the ways of the gaming geek, oh yes I will.

So in the meanwhile, I keep TOR in the periphery of my vision, wondering how some of the more dedicated websites and podcasts are going to fill up the next year of their projects.  I mean, BioWare only has so much new info to release, and I guess there’s beta to discuss (whenever that happens), but a year… man.  A year’s a long time for a gamer.

Fighting the general malaise concerning this title is BioWare with a developer blog about, more or less, why they felt it necessary to shove in a second Sith force-using class:

When we set out to build our game, we knew we needed more than one Sith class. The original trilogy only has two Sith in it, but they couldn’t be more different: the heavily armored brutal physicality of Darth Vader compared to the frail but immensely powerful Emperor Palpatine.

Color me weird, but I’m not buying it.  You *needed* more than one Sith class?  You couldn’t go, “Hey Bob, let’s create a few different skill trees and let players customize what type of Sith they want to be!” and free up one more class slot for someone who’s not a lightsaber jockey?

It’s much more probable that BioWare knows which side of the nerd bread its butter is on, and they’re going to give players all the Jedi fanservice their hearts could desire.  Why have one when you have two?  Heck, let’s just nudge away all those pesky non-Force using classes and make it all Force choke, all the time!

Moon Over Endor agrees with me, while TOROcast is getting a little irked at the heavy Sith Inquisitor focus as of late.

8 thoughts on “Star Wars: Sith Under Construction

  1. spinks February 9, 2010 / 12:46 pm

    You know, since seeing that the game won’t be out until at least 2011, it has kind of dropped off my radar. I love Bioware, but I’ll have a whole new Dragon Age expansion before that.

    Heck, DAO2 might even be out before that. And that’s before even considering Mass Effect.

    Probably it’s good news for STO though, they have some time to get settled in.

  2. Blue Kae February 9, 2010 / 1:01 pm

    I’d already put TOR on the mental back burner, but with the confirmation of a 2011 time frame for the release I’ve stopped seeking out any information altogether. Like you, I just cannot maintain any real interest in a game that is more than 6 months away. Sorry to any of the dedicated TOR blogs or podcasts out there, but I’ll see you next year.

  3. Buhallin February 9, 2010 / 3:02 pm

    I think you’re looking at old-MMO class conventions, and not the vision that Bioware has. What is a class in TOR? Sure, it’s a set of defining abilities and playstyle, but it’s also a STORY. That looks like the defining characteristic of a “class” in TOR to me. Assuming they didn’t want to break that structure they couldn’t just make it some tree specialization, because it would mean the same story for every Jedi/Sith player.

    And personally, I think providing two major storylines for Jedi/Sith is going to be a very good thing for the game.

    Side note: Firefox’s spell checker recognizes Jedi, but not Sith.

  4. Sharon February 9, 2010 / 5:13 pm

    Congratulations to you and Mrs. Syp, and best wishes for a safe and healthy pregnancy and delivery! 🙂

  5. Syp February 9, 2010 / 5:16 pm

    Thanks!

  6. Eliot February 9, 2010 / 7:47 pm

    Sorry, Syp, but I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with you there. But I have a reason!

    I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Mark Rosewater’s design articles about Magic: the Gathering. If you play, you probably are; if you don’t play, probably not. I haven’t actually played Magic in years, but his articles are usually great resources for talk about designing any sort of game. One of the concepts he goes over time after time, ad infinitum, is that of design space. The idea that it’s possible to create more design space through a restrictive paradigm is, I think, what caused the split between the two Sith/Jedi classes.

    Consider, for a second, the split between Imperial Agents and Bounty Hunters. Technically speaking, both classes use ranged weapons and gadgets to provide a variety of different effects You could just design both of them to be the same class with divergent talent trees and make the distinction between Agent and Hunter to be a storyline decision. It would work – they’d both have the same set of abilities – but you actually create more design space by having all of an Agent’s talent trees devoted to different ways of doing Agent-like things. Instead of feeling like a class that uses a gun, both feel distinct from one another as separate parts with some similarities.

    Same deal with the Sith. Could you create one class that has all of the Inquisitor and Warrior abilities? Of course. But that would mean that you’d have to give the class fewer things unique to each tree, and it would mean that the core abilities would get shared across both classes. You’d be creating a narrower design space for something that Bioware clearly feels should be broadened.

  7. Syp February 9, 2010 / 10:51 pm

    @ Eliot – I used to read Rosewater’s columns all the time, good stuff.

    Sure, I can see your point, and until we see the game in action, this really is just conjecture anyway. I’ll stand by my statement that the game didn’t *need* four force-wielding classes — I think they wanted them, and design space or no, the simplest explanation is that BioWare sees Force classes as their biggest draws, which means the more the merrier. Wouldn’t the design space be even bigger if they had a different fourth class that wasn’t a kissing cousin of a Sith Warrior?

  8. expostninja February 9, 2010 / 11:15 pm

    Would the design space be bigger for the fourth class? Possibly.

    Would it be larger for the Sith as a concept? No.

    I’m going to go ahead and use WoW as an example here. Let’s pick on Warlocks and Mages for the irony value. Both of them are heavy casters, using similar gear, casting similar spells, and as indicated by the intense rivalry between the players of both classes they’re very easy to mash together. Couldn’t you just make them one class, with one tree for being “mage-like” and one for being “warlock-like” and a third for some combination? Doesn’t that free up additional design space?

    With experience in WoW, you can see that you can’t really compress two classes with three talent trees each into one class with three talent trees. Fireball and Immolate, as an obvious example, are fighting for the same design space if they’re in the same class. They’re too similar to both be a baseline spell for the same class, but which one is superior to the other? Should a mage be able to cast Shadow spells? Should a warlock be able to cast Ice spells? Even with all of the similarities between them, the two classes lose a lot of their unique space when they’re mashed into a single class.

    If we assume just two divisions for each class in TOR (which I think was mentioned before, that there would be two “specialties” for each), making a single “Sith” class cuts your design space into a quarter of what it could have been. That one class would eventually specialize into the Warrior or Inquisitor… and that would be it. With both as separate classes, you open the possibility to variants on the warrior and inquisitor concept that can’t be done in the same space if they’re sharing a class.

    Moreover, by separating the two classes, the only thing they need to share is that they both wield lightsabers and have Force powers. What those powers are is completely unshackled – it’s unnecessary to give the Warrior the ability to throw lightning or the Inquisitor the ability to force-choke and throw things. Instead of forcing them (pun unintended) both to occupy the same region of design (things that Sith can do), they get to occupy their own design spaces (the brutal martial powers of warriors, and the more subtle and arcane powers of inquisitors).

    Now, if they do turn out to be kissing cousins of one another with the same laundry list of powers and glowstick blades and a few minor differences, then I’ll eat crow.

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