Learning to Love the Gun

As I’ve mentioned several times over Twitter, I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate to have gotten in to test Star Wars: The Old Republic not just once, but twice. It has opened my eyes to a wonderful galaxy of things that I never thought possible. The way each quest is presented to you is quite unique, and the things you choose can affect your character one way or the other. Do you allow the person who tried to kill an Imperial to live and serve the Empire or do you kill that person for the attempt right then and there? Upon seeing a woman getting smacked around considerably, do you step in to defend her or allow this to continue? The fact that we have these choices is something unique to The Old Republic, something I love, and seeing it all come together, even in a beta format, is nothing short of incredible.

Quite possibly the best thing about the beta, however, was that it allowed me to test the various classes that I had been waffling between for ages. I did let myself test the Jedi Consular, and I discovered very quickly that it felt like I was coming home after a long time away from it. After coming to that realization, I had to stop playing for fear of spoiling the story for myself and I knew I had to come back to this class after launch. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the same resolve with the Sith Inquisitor, taking the character (not once, but twice) through their trials on Korriban and winding up with my first companion character. I’m planning on taking her a bit further simply so I can explore the talent trees in a bit more depth (and so I can figure out whether or not my Consular will be wielding a dual-bladed saber or a single one).

However, on the last few days of my first weekend in beta, I decided to do something different. I decided to try out a class I had no desire to play come launch, just to see what the story was like. High on my list of classes I was so certain I wasn’t going to touch was the Trooper. In the past, the trooper had been presented to me as a heavily armored tank, the exact sort of thing I swore to myself I was never going to be. I tried that back in World of Warcraft and I sadly came to the realization that tanking was too high-stress for me. Back then, it was the very last thing I needed in my life. However, after exploring the trooper a bit more, I came to the startling realization that if I chose the Commando Advanced Class option, I could heal. Healing I could do! And, from the sound of the things I had heard at the time, it seemed like they would be similar to paladin healing in World of Warcraft. I could do that! Paladin healing had always been my favorite kind of healing!

Armed with this knowledge, but still very certain I was going to hate the trooper in spite of this, I logged into the beta that first beta weekend and rolled myself a trooper based on one of my oldest characters: a paladin from the Warcraft universe named Damaris Vordane (called Vordane in-game). Once I finally adjusted her looks to SWTOR standards, I logged in, the opening crawl rolled, and I was ready. Vordane’s story, same as the story of every trooper in the game, began on Ord Mantell, where the Republic was fighting valiantly against separatist forces. Even as I made my way through the first few minutes of the opening movie, I knew something was something off about the separatists, namely that they seemed to have weaponry and knowledge they definitely weren’t supposed to. By the time the opening movie was over and Vordane was ready to set foot into the world armed with little more than a gun and the clothes on her back. She knew with absolute certainty the separatists had to be stopped before they destroyed everything she loved with a cannon they had stolen from us.

At the time, I had just finished playing a few levels of a smuggler, and I found myself missing having the cover system to hide behind at first. However, the more I played my trooper, the more I realized I wasn’t missing it at all. I had a giant rifle, after all. Four or more average level mobs? No problem with a big-ass gun! A stronger mob and an average one? Also not really a problem once you got the rhythm down. I had an amazing gun, and I was going to use it.

As the story continued to unfold during this most recent beta weekend, so did Vordane: a soldier dedicated to the Republic and doing what was right. She didn’t need the Force or any other fancy gimmicks. She was a soldier. She didn’t need to be anything else. What she had was her conviction and her faith that they would be capable of doing the right thing in the end, and, you know, a big-ass gun. I suspected things were getting bad for me when I discovered I had gotten a gun that I fell in love with before I had gotten the chance to take it anywhere (I dubbed it Bertha), but I pushed it aside, engrossed in the story. By the time I was done with Ord Mantell, I was confronted with several plot elements I had never anticipated, and it was in that moment, faced with that surprising plot twist, that I said something I honestly never expected to.

“I’m in love.”

Vordane the trooper around level 9 or so, about ready to leave Ord Mantell.

That’s right. The one class I told myself I would never like or love was the one I had fallen completely head over heels for. It was the perfect class. I got to stand at a distance and shoot at things, but I was well-armored enough for it to almost not matter if I got hit. I was a freaking wrecking ball with a gun, and I didn’t care what got in my way.

Even now, as a commando that has gotten hold of a cannon (this thing is the best thing ever, I swear) and her own starship, I still love it. I’m still trying to make sense of the abilities I’ve got, but I know I’ll be back. I’ll probably have an all-new character ready to go by then, as Damaris’ proper story lies outside of SWTOR, but I’m definitely having a trooper in my alt arsenal.

The True Path…

With a release date for Star Wars: The Old Republic announced at long last (the 20th of December, 2011; just in time for the holiday season), I’ve found myself once again contemplating the question I’ve been asking myself since we first heard this game was going to be a reality: what was I going to play? This is the opportunity many of us have been waiting for. We can be pretty much anything: a soldier for either the Republic or the Empire, or someone who uses the Force. Needless to say, we have quite a few options. Each of the classic icons from the Star Wars universe (such as Han Solo, Boba Fett, even various Jedi) are represented somehow in our class options, and, from there, it’s mostly up to us. From the people I’ve talked to, everyone seems to have some idea of what they want to be. I have friends who will be Jedi and Sith, smugglers, troopers… the whole lot. In fact, it seems like everybody knew what they wanted to play when I asked them. Everyone, that is, except for me at the time.

Now, before we had a full list of race and class combinations at our disposal, I thought I knew. From the get-go, I knew I wanted to play a Twi’lek. There was really no way around it for me. I was going to play one and no power in known universe was going to stop me from doing it. I’ve found them fascinating ever since we first saw one in Jabba’s palace back in Return of the Jedi. I blame the lekku, not so much the skimpy dancer outfits he had them shoved into. I knew they would probably be like the blood elves in WoW, but I didn’t care. It was what I wanted to play, and that was going to be it.

With my race definitely solidified, I immediately went out on the internet to see what classes they could actually be. In every MMO, there tend to be racial restrictions. Certain races cannot be certain classes for one reason or the other, whether because of game mechanics or otherwise. However, for some reason, this never occurred to me at the time when the only information available to me told me that Twi’leks could only be Jedi Consulars and Smugglers. I didn’t exactly know what I had been hoping for, but that was certainly not it. It wasn’t that I didn’t like these options; I thought they’d be quite awesome, actually. The problem was that neither of them really appealed to me. I was hoping, at the time, for at least one Sith option, but, at the time, I had nothing.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with the Republic. After all, the majority of my internet friends seem to be going Republic, and I knew that if I did, as well, it would give me the opportunity to actually play with them for once. While that was a strong selling point for the Republic, I wasn’t completely happy with it. Don’t get me wrong. I would love to play with people I know for once, but it didn’t feel right. I’ve spent a bit over two years in World of Warcraft playing an undead shadow priestess who’s almost fanatically loyal to her people. After that, the Republic seemed far too good for my taste.

Admittedly, a smuggler would be my Republic fantasy. (Specifically, I’d probably be a gunslinger; they look badass.) Other girls my age wanted to be Princess Leia or Queen Amidala after watching the films. I wanted to be Han Solo. Not only did Han have Chewie (possibly the best companion out there), but he got the princess in the end. Not to mention the smugness and the blasters and so many other things that I can’t even list or else this post would get far too long. I will probably be playing one as an alt; my altoholic tendencies can never be ignored. However, that didn’t help me when trying to figure out my Twi’lek. I had a story for her in my head, and I soon discovered that I couldn’t think of a way to make the story I was working on work for a smuggler. It did take me awhile before I realized that I shouldn’t compromise my girl’s story just to make a class work for her. After all, it would be my money I’d be spending to play. Shouldn’t I play what I want?

Then, like a sign from the Force itself, I discovered something wonderful: Twi’leks could be Sith Inquisitors. For that matter, the class story seemed to match everything I had been working on for her. There was confetti, there were explosions, there was a mental celebration of epic proportions! I thought I was set!

Then, just to spite me, Bioware put out the Jedi Consular trailer. It just made the class seem so awesome that I almost reconsidered. Almost. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was doing it again. I was trying to sacrifice something I had worked fairly hard on for a class that just looked awesome. So I stopped, took a step back, and watched the Sith Inquisitor trailer once again. It took watching that video along with a few other snippets of Inquisitor gameplay before I realized I knew what my time as a shadow priest in WoW had been preparing me for: being a Sith, specifically an Inquisitor. So, I’m sorry, members of the Republic, but the Empire is where I belong. Prepare yourselves. We’re coming for you.

Now if I could only figure out my Inquisitor’s name…

Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Lately, I’ve gotten back into playing Lord of the Rings Online, and, not all that surprising, I’ve noticed a distinct difference between the WoW and LotRO communities. On the WoW forums, you’re bound to find multiple posts detailing why exactly things are going to hell in a handbasket or complaining about the latest changes. The LotRO forums, however, are different. I’ve seen some posts complaining about different things, but on the LotRO forums, I don’t feel like I’m going to get judged for voicing my opinion, which, I have to say, is kind of nice.

However, there’s something that I’ve noticed in LotRO (both the forums and in-game) that has made me a bit uncomfortable. Now, I’d like to point out that the following behavior is in no way restricted to Lord of the Rings Online. However, this is where I first really noticed it and then began to see similar behavior elsewhere. And, quite frankly, it was a bit disturbing to me.

One night while in game, a new player had mentioned they had come to LotRO from “another game run by Blizzard”. Now, the fact that they would avoid mentioning the name of the game was a bit strange to me, but I didn’t question it. The only other MMO I had ever seen anyone mention up until that point had been Everquest, and that had been on the forums themselves. I could only assume that this person’s WoW experience had been so mind-blowingly horrible that they wanted to avoid mentioning the name of the game at all costs. (Not that I could understand how horrible their experience had been, mind; I’m still quite taken with WoW.) However, the conversation took a rather horrifying turn for me when the chat channels turned into nothing but a stream of how much WoW sucked (mixed with various other expletives that I won’t repeat, mostly because I can’t remember them). I had to log off. I couldn’t take it.

I had thought it was a one-time thing, but then I saw something similar the next night. And then it seemed like I kept seeing it everywhere I went! Rift came out and some people were going on about how superior it was to WoW! WoW players would go on about how it was superior to every other MMO under the sun! Some LotRO players will go on and on about how it’s superior to WoW! It’s like a never-ending cycle of attempting to bask in their own superiority and failing miserably.

The whole thing made me start to think, though. If you strip away the setting-specific things of every single MMORPG out there, you’re left with one main thing: they’re all MMOs. The setting doesn’t matter. The races and classes don’t really matter. They’re virtually the same thing. I may get skewered for saying so, but you know what? Its true. The core mechanics of every single MMO out there are pretty much the same thing. You quest for things, you turn in the quest to get rewards. You heal, you tank, you work together to take down some big bad enemy. You gain levels and new skills and abilities. You get some of the best-looking armor out there.

You guys see where I’m going with this?

At the end of the day, we’re all playing an MMO. Sometimes, we’re even playing for similar reasons. We may want to immerse ourselves in a fantasy world of some sort. We might just want to hang out with friends who play the same game. But the point is, we’re all playing something similar. So why all the hate? Why must there be this mentality of “our sandbox is better than your sandbox”? Why can’t we all just get along?

Maybe I’m some sort of hippie in that regard, but I honestly cannot see why the various MMO communities can’t just coexist peacefully, and, quite frankly, it upsets me. So, guys, please, can we put aside our hate and just share in our love of playing MMOs? At the end of the day, we’re not just Rifters or WoW players. We’re gamers. Why can’t we embrace that?

Hate Language is Not Cool

There are very few things that get me up in arms nowadays.  Lately, I’ve been trying to not let the little things get to me, and, while I’ve been exposed to several jackasses thanks to the LFG system in WoW, I can endure the jackassery most of the time.  That isn’t to say, however, that I’m completely invulnerable; there are things that will bother me and get me up in arms.

First amongst them, however, is using the word “gay” in a derogatory manner.  Now, the situation in question went like this: a group of people were advertising an instance run and were apparently short a tank.  No amount of standard advertising seemed to work, so the person doing the advertising (let’s call her Person A for ease of reference) decided to spice it up, adding things like “We loooooooooooove yooooooooooooooooou” and such to the end of her recruitment blurbs.  After two rounds of the “We love you!” recruitment blurbs came across the channel, someone (Person B) responded with “Gay.”  I was offended, as were a couple of other people, and we spoke up.  An approximation of the conversation we had went thusly:

Person C: Dude. Not cool.
Me (not wanting to start anything, really): Now, now, Person B, there’s no need for that.
Person B: She’s my wife; I can say what I want.
Person C: Dude, that’s still not cool.
Person B: All you people complaining about it, shut up. She’s my wife. You don’t have to spend 70+ years with her.
Person A (the wife): lol
Person D: Neither do you.

There was a little more ridiculousness that I cannot exactly recall, followed by Person A repeating her recruitment post in the hopes of getting a tank and her husband saying “Gay” in channel afterwards.  I never did pay attention and see if they ever did find a tank.

Now, you guys have to understand that I consider myself a very tolerant person.  However, hate language is not okay and it is one of the things I will never tolerate.  I don’t care if you’re related to the person you’re saying it about, I don’t care if you’re married to the person.  The fact of the matter is that hate language does exactly what it says on the tin.  It spreads hate, and, what’s more, it’s the wrong way to get me or anybody to do things for you.  If I see people using hate language in party chat or in any chat channel I can see, I (and people who feel the same way about hate language I do) will either ignore you or tell you off (depending on my mood).  I will also not provide you with the help you need because you come across as an asshole.

Think about it, guys.  Think about all the times you’ve been called a “huntard” or a “failadin” or something else entirely.  These words have entered into our MMO vocabulary, and, quite frankly, I don’t like it.  Words have power, folks.  Words mean things.  You don’t like it when people insult you, do you?

I’m not saying that everything has to be fluff and bunnies, because I know it never will be.  I’m just saying that maybe, just maybe, we should start thinking before we speak/type.  Words can be hurtful; we need to remember this.