Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Starships and Advanced Classes

Running a bit behind on the updates (both from Gamescom and last Friday's update). Some of the news that came out of Gamescom and was confirmed in the Friday update pretty much drained my enthusiasm for SWTOR. But I'll get to that.

First of the two Friday updates we got is something we pretty much already had: two of the starships players will be able to get in The Old Republic (for the Jedi and Sith classes respectively), just now officially announced and on the HoloNet. Here's the official news:
Whether you’re looking to dominate the galaxy in the name of the Empire or rescue it from darkness as part of the Republic, you won’t get very far without a starship. In Star Wars™: The Old Republic™, your starship will be your base of operations, and it might even be your best friend. Ship models are specially designed to match the needs and tastes of each of the class types, so even though all the starships are outfitted for traveling the galaxy, each has its own character.

Study the style and specifications of the various Starships by accessing the HoloNet now!
The starship pages contain a short description, some concept art and screenshots, and a video of the interior (which had already been released at E3). At the very least they could've thrown another ship in there and give us something new. But oh well.

The second Friday update is a Fan Friday update showing the usual fan art (with some nice images in there) and such. It includes a piece of concept art from the developers and shows five new forum avatars that people can use in the forums.

The most interesting part of the update though is, from the Developer Corner, the reveal of all the names for all the advanced classes along with a three-point list for each of their specialization. Let me copy it here:

Trooper

Commando
  • Heavy Blaster Cannon
  • Grenades
  • Ranged DPS
Vanguard
  • Blaster Rifle
  • Energy Shields and Defense
  • Tank


Smuggler

Scoundrel
  • Blaster ‘Shot Gun’
  • Stealth / Medicine
  • Burst ranged damage or Healing
Gunslinger
  • Dual Pistols
  • Quickdraw / Fast Attacks
  • Ranged DPS


Jedi Knight

Jedi Sentinel
  • Dual Wield Saber
  • Saber fighting specialist
  • Melee DPS
Jedi Guardian
  • Single Saber / Heavy Armor
  • Leadership / Party Buffs
  • Tank


Jedi Consular

Jedi Shadow
  • Double Bladed Saber
  • Stealth
  • Burst melee damage
Jedi Wizard
  • Single Saber
  • Powerful Telekinesis / Healing
  • Ranged Control / Damage or Healing

Bounty Hunter

Powertech
  • Flamethrower
  • Defense / Energy Shields
  • Tank
Mercenary
  • Dual Wield Guns
  • Missiles
  • Ranged DPS


Sith Warrior

Sith Juggernaut
  • Single Saber / Heavy Armor
  • Fear and Darkside Auras
  • Tank
Sith Marauder
  • Dual Wield Sabers / Armor
  • Saber fighting specialist
  • Melee DPS


Imperial Agent

Operative
  • Blaster Rifle / Energy Blade
  • Stealth
  • Burst Ranged damage
Sniper
  • Sniper Rifle
  • Cover, Ambush, Orbital Strikes
  • Ranged DPS


Sith Inquisitor

Sith Sorcerer
  • Single Saber
  • Force Lightning / Force Drain
  • Ranged DPS or Healer
Sith Assassin
  • Double Bladed Saber
  • Stealth
  • Burst Melee DPS
To say that people are unhappy with some of the names is an understatement. Particular "Jedi Wizard" is drawing a lot of ire. In fact the first thing anyone who sees that list tends to say can be best summed up as "WTF, Wizard? Are they serious?" Of all the names listed everyone I've talked to (without mentioning anything in advance) singles out "Wizard" is seeming an extremely poor fit.

In fact, I don't think I've heard anyone say that they think that it's the best possible name; the closest anyone defending BioWare here will come is saying something like "it's just a name". It might be just a name, but it's a name that anyone who wants to play the class will be referred to for as long as they play the game. It seems so incredibly ill-fitting for Star Wars (and in particular for Jedi) that all it can do is constantly sour the experience playing. It does the exact opposite of making you feel like a Jedi and instead calls to mind settings like Warcraft, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, casting fireballs and teleporting and turning people into sheep.

In fact, ever since the announcement of that name I've got this recurring thought of Luke waking up in Ben Kenobi's cave with the old man hovering over him saying "you're a wizard, Luke". He then goes off to the school for Jedis and Wizardry under the tutelage of Professor Yodalore where, together with his friends Herleiame and Han Weaslo he fights the evil Lord Volpatine and his Darth Eaters. And don't get me started on Chewbacca in this nightmare. Wizard indeed.

Those defending the name say that the word "wizard" has actually been used in the movies and thus is part of canon. They're referring to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope in which Uncle Own says "That wizard is just a crazy old man" about Old Ben Kenobi. People have already pointed out that this is said in derision, but I think it's more than that. To me that sentence shows Owen's complete and utter ignorance as to what a Jedi is by calling Obi-Wan something he's exactly not. The rest of the movie then lifts Luke out of the ignorance of his upbringing (represented by his aunt and uncle) as he discovers what a Jedi really is.

It would be utter irony if BioWare's designers show such utter ignorance as to what a Jedi is by adopting that exact name. And that's rather worrying for the rest of the game as well; if they get this so incredibly wrong then what else, something that's possibly of much larger consequence, will they get wrong?

The only ray of hope here is, as the news article mentions: "Please be aware that since the specific class details are still under development, the information provided below may be subject to change." If there's any chance at all of BioWare ever listening to the reactions of its fanbase, then they will indeed revise the name as the rage on the forums over this is quite strong. If they don't listen to this, then I don't think they'll ever listen to anything the community says. And numerous suggestions for a better name have been made (my personal favorites being "Sage" and "Mystic"), though at this point pretty much anything is better.

And though I'm singling out Wizard as, by far, the worst offender in non Star Wars sounding names it's certainly not the only one. Other that have drawn ire include Sorcerer (though, while I'm not enthusiastic about it, I think there might be a bit more precedent for it being used by certain Sith), Shadow (yeah, Consulars are definitely getting the short end of the stick name-wise) and Powertech (which indeed sounds also absolutely ridiculous).

The fear I have here as well, next to these names appearing in SWTOR, is that with these names apparently being approved for use it's just a step away from them becoming officially part of the lore. Thus letting the Star Wars franchise slip even further into mediocrity. Star Wars has always walked a precarious balance between science-fiction and swords-and-sorcery, but this would tip the balance too much.

Ignoring the names of the classes the rest of the list doesn't stem me very positive either. None of the classes sound particularly interesting to play to me. Much of that is just personal preference, but one worrying factor is how much healing is mentioned on the Republic side, while being mentioned hardly at all on the Empire side.

Anyway, I could go on with how much I disagree with SWTOR's bog-standard and seemingly ill-fitting game design. But then the game mechanics aren't why I was interested in this game in the first place. So I'll leave it at that and pray that they see sense and rename the Jedi Wizard at least.

I also hope to do a post later this week with a Gamescom round-up. There hasn't been that much news, but there have been a few articles and interviews (mostly Darth Hater has a lot of interviews). Just need to get them all together in a readable format.

6 comments:

BakaMatt said...

"Wizard" has to be a placeholder. There is no way they're going live with such a ridiculous sounding name. I don't share as much animosity with the rest of the lineup - "Shadow" and "Sorcerer" don't exactly roll off the tongue, but I can buy them. And I actually thought "Powertech" sounded neat for a powerhouse tank sort of Bounty Hunter.

Ayane said...

It might be a placeholder, but BioWare has always said that they don't release something unless they know it's ready. And they've announced this name in several places now. For the rest, while I kind of agree with you on the two S-names, I'll have to respectfully disagree on the Powertech name. :)

Scarybooster said...

I understand people are upset with the names, but the best way is write suggestions. Blogs are very important to BioWare, maybe you should suggest some names that have a better lore meaning? I'm not much of a Star Wars lore person, so I wouldn't know where to start.

BakaMatt said...

It's not necessarily lore that makes the naming upsetting, it's (as Ayane pointed out in the posted rant) how out of place it feels in a science fiction universe where magic has no place outside of superstition.

What would be a better name? Something that showcase their skill with the force without invoking high classical fantasy tones.

Try "Force Adept", for instance.

Kirksville Eats said...

I'm not as outraged as many people seem to be over the Wizard name. Star Wars follows Campbell's Hero Journey formula, with mentors and mystical boons. Call a spade a spade. Jedi manipulate the world around them with their minds; this screams wizard. I understand that people like to keep their science fiction and fantasy genres separate, but the archetypes are still the same regardless. Still, I do hope Bioware recognizes the community's strong dislike of the name and tries to make changes. They have to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em

Ayane said...

@Scarybooster...

I agree that the best way is to give suggestions and perhaps that would've made a better post (catch more flies with honey and all that, though I never understood why one would want to catch flies in the first place). The thing is though that the official forums are already full of suggestions, a number of which quite well reasoned. I'm sure that at this point BioWare has seen about all of them. But I agree, going over a number of suggestions would've been better.

@Kirksville Eats...

I don't think that Campbell's Hero's Journey requires that the setting be fantasy (or even that it include magical and/or supernatural powers). Manipulating the world with your mind doesn't scream "wizard" to me, it screams "telekinetic". if they threw fireballs and teleported and turned invisible and turned people into sheep with their spells then that would scream "wizard". I'm all for calling a spade a spade, but this isn't a spade, it's a pickaxe. ;)

I'm also not convinced that it's entirely about keeping genres separate and more that the term 'wizard' doesn't quite fit in Star Wars. In Babylon 5, for instance, I'd probably be just fine with that name for a class (in fact it'd probably be one I'd want to play).

I do at least agree with your last point though. ;)