Friday, 5 February 2010

BioWare Blog: Composing the Sith Inquisitor

Despite the title of the piece this week's Friday update give us a BioWare blog entry that isn't about the music for the Sith Inquisitor class, but about the story of the class. Or rather, it is about trying to convince us that that class truly is different from the other Sith class. Here's an excerpt:
But BioWare and LucasArts have always been about story, so it’s not just the Lightsabers and the Force powers that differentiate the two Sith classes. With two Sith classes, we have the opportunity to explore the Sith order from two very different perspectives, to develop a more complete picture of the Sith Empire at the time our game is set, and to present strikingly different character arcs and choices.

Whereas the Sith Warrior class is all about the martial side of the Sith, the Inquisitor is about the darkest of dark side secrets; everything that’s weird and unsettling and dangerous about the Force. The Inquisitor is about power not (solely) through brute force and intimidation, but through manipulation, corruption, and knowledge.
I don't buy it; it still feels like an arbitrary limitation on the classes. While Han Solo could never because Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader could definitely become (like) Darth Sidious. After all, the choice of being more martial or more mystical is, for the Jedi, one that they make constantly throughout their life and not just once when they first enter the academy. Palpatine is so powerful and relies so much on the force because he is old and lived for a very long time. Give Vader the same time and lifespan and he too would be a master of the dark side of the Force.

That they can show two sides of the Sith Order with the two classes is true, but you can just as easily swap Darth Vader and Palpatine around and still have the same stories. In fact, didn't Vader grow up as a slave too originally? You can do the same with any class; that you can tell two soldier stories with a "Noble Trooper" and a "Common Trooper" doesn't mean that it's a good idea to do so, particularly if you're still missing out on other stories that the class can't tell.

Oh, I'm sure that the two stories are going to be quite different, that's not the point. I can take the exact same character with the exact same abilities and tell two entirely different stories. What matters is that you can't tell all stories with all classes, thus making it important to have classes that have stories only they can have. They had exactly that before announcing that they have four force-sensitive classes. But while there are so many stories that can't be told with the classes they have they chose to have two classes per side that can have the exact same stories?

Not to mention that this way they're limiting player choice and customization because now you apparently can't choose to be a duel-wielding, lightning-throwing Sith because one ability falls in one class and the other in the other class. If Darth Vader wanted to learn Force Lightning then he could, but players can't do the same.

But I guess that I've just come to the realization that I don't like this strict class approach that SWTOR is using one bit. It's shoving players into narrow roles instead of leaving them with freedom to make their own choices. Warhammer Online did the same thing and while there at least it made sense (being based on a miniature wargame and all) it did feel incredibly restrictive. The only thing you can be is one of the limited (eight) things that the developers decide you can be; so where does that leave player ownership? Where does that leave making the player the co-writer of their own stories?

Anyway, that's enough ranting from me for now. You can read the whole article on the official SWTOR site.

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