Hyperspace Beacon: The sorry state of roleplay in Star Wars: The Old Republic

    
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Since the server merges, the Star Forge server has unofficially become the roleplay server for Star Wars: The Old Republic. And roleplaying’s fight to remain a relevant way to enjoy this MMORPG has never been tougher. Roleplayers, if nothing else, are resilient. We are still in the game and attempting to find our place in this world where there is little support for our gameplay style from the developers.

Some of you might remember the late ’80s, but for those who don’t that was a period of time when the only thing keeping Star Wars alive were the RPGs. Timothy Zahn would not pen Heir to the Empire until 1991, the best video game we had was arcade-only made in ’83, and The Phantom Menace was well over a decade away. This was the period of time that the keeper-of-canon Pablo Hidalgo started his quest to become a part of the Lucasfilm family. It was the time when only two things were keeping the Star Wars alive: the Kenner toys and West End Games’ Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game. We know it wasn’t the made-for-TV Ewok Adventure movies.

Roleplayers have been the undercurrent that has kept the franchise alive, even during the dark times — during the prequels. What is their current status in SWTOR?

Fleet instance 1 – no, make that fleet instance 2.

Every MMORPG with a strong roleplay community has a hub. Star Wars Galaxies had Chalmun’s (Mos Eisley) Cantina. City of Heroes had Pocket D. And SWTOR has Vaiken Station.

Into the wee hours of the morning, you can find a sizeable group of people from five at the slowest times to one hundred during peak times looking to roleplay at the central bar area. Sometimes, the amount of chat spam is unbearable. A typical Saturday night will usually have twenty to thirty people near the main staircases and the bar below. But the problem is that you have to find the right instance.

Just the other day, there were four instances of Vaiken. I was in instance 3, which had next to nobody roleplaying at the bar. When I went to look at the map to switch to instance 1, it was red, meaning that I couldn’t travel to it. In fact, the message was that it was “depopulating.” I guess that is the servers way of saying that it’s going to get rid of that instance, so don’t travel to it. It was possible that most roleplayers would be in that instance. But if I couldn’t get to that instance, does that mean that the other roleplayers couldn’t either, so they were congregating in instance 2?

I tried instance 2 first, only to find it devoid of roleplayers. This meant that the RPers were gathered in an instance that people couldn’t readily get to. There is a way around it by adding someone to your friendslist who’s in that instance, but not everyone knows it. And it’s possible that they might be on an instance-switching cooldown like I was.

This kind of situation could be avoided altogether if the developers had thought to at least add a roleplay instance as they did for PvE and PvP.

Do not roleplay in public.

Despite the number of roleplayers still gathering on Vaiken station and having in in-character conversations, many roleplayers don’t like to actually roleplay there. Chat spam is part of it, but mostly it’s the number of trolls. There are so many people who seem to enjoy berating roleplayers and actively attempting to interrupt their fun.

If you’re not a roleplayer, imagine that every time you attempted to run a flashpoint, another player who wasn’t part of your flashpoint group would jump in front of your camera and spam particle effects. He wouldn’t say anything, or if he did, you had him on ignore. But that didn’t stop the particle effects or his ability to interrupt your boss fight.

That’s pretty much what roleplayers have to deal with when there is a troll in roleplay.

This means that the vast majority of roleplayers have taken their roleplay to strongholds, personal or guild-owned. This makes it very difficult to try to grow a guild. Most of the time, it means that a guild doesn’t grow at all. There isn’t a good influx of new blood, and roleplay becomes stale when it isn’t externally visible, killing a guild really fast. By my estimation, the average roleplay guild will last maybe a month before it dies off. This puts a lot of stress on guild leaders and discourages leaders from taking on that kind of position. I know that I don’t want to do that anymore.

BioWare won?

In Star Wars Galaxies, there wasn’t a time were roleplay was not a popular way to experience the game. The developers even had a community ambassador (Senator) to specifically represent that gameplay style. I even served in that position for a time. It’s not as if there weren’t struggles for roleplayers even then, but the developers — or at least, the community management — didn’t actively discourage that gameplay style.

Roleplayers have been an active part of the Star Wars community from the beginning. From the cosplayers to the kids playing with the action figures to the tabletop roleplayers. Not everyone has had the same style of roleplay, and maybe they didn’t mesh, but they have always been there and encouraged to continue to do what they were doing by the people at LucasFilm.

When I talked to Stephen Reid, the Community Manager before the game launched, he said that there would not be anything in the game that would actively enforce roleplay on the roleplay servers. That remained apparently true through these last six years. Although the storytelling encouraged individual roleplay, there has been nothing added to the game that would encourage corporate roleplay. Roleplay happened in spite of the game because it’s the core of the Star Wars community.

I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet, but most of the roleplay leaders have already. And those who are still here have been beaten and bruised. It won’t be long until they all move on too. I will throw this question out to you: Is there anything that BioWare can do to bring back roleplayers at this point? Or if you’re not a roleplayer, does having roleplayers on your server bother you or encourage you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Every other week, Larry Everett jumps into his T-16 back home, rides through the hypergates of BioWare‘s Star Wars: The Old Republic, and posts his adventures in the Hyperspace Beacon. Drop him a holocom on Twitter @Shaddoe or send him a transmission at larry@massivelyop.com. Now strap yourself in, kid — we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!

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Kip Braunstader

many times ive tried to dip my toe into rp servers i find its a little intimidating and clicky..i was on jung ma when swtor first came out (memory is foggy) i think it was rp pvp?..i used to put people on ignore that had names like booboofet ect….i dont blame rpers for insulating themselves

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Rodney Perry

EA and Disney have boat loads of money….why are they nickle and diming this pile of crap. Kill it with fire and make a better game. Please vote with your wallets and stay away. I liked this game…preordered the collector’s addition…played for three years. The game never lived up to its potential…. let it rest in peace (except hutt ball, it was always fun) They sold us amazing cinematics and a mediocre game.

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J

SWTOR is like many other modern MMORPGs, it simply lacks tools and features to make the roleplaying experience a good one. Instances are bad enough, but all the RP is focused on the fleet and imo that is a pretty bland setting. At least in WOW you can run an RP addon and then see other folks running that addon when you are out in the world. I really wish games still had things like biography and character info screens that you could fill in yourself. SWG had that, but it also had all those wonderful social classes.

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???? ???'? ???? ??'? ??? ?????.®

SWG didn’t just allow it, for crying out loud devs would come to your guild as Vader, pretty cool stuff.

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Sashaa

“PEX” :(

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???? ???'? ???? ??'? ??? ?????.®

That’s the one, think there’s a YT video. That was a game run by the fans for the fans. NGE hate aside.

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Ryuen

Even when not actively roleplaying, and honestly it’s been a few years I was part of that community, I love seeing roleplay around me as it makes a game feel more alive to me.
For that reason I’m still of the opinion that the RP community is important to a game and it honestly saddens me that most companies don’t do more to encourage that playstyle.

It’s especially sad considering the RP community in general requires little in extra resources and are usually the most loyal players there are. These guys don’t leave when there is a content drought because they create their own content and, from my own experience, happily keep their sub running/are more likely to spend some extra on cosmetics they really like.

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Bruce Morrison

I think what’s slowly killing SWTOR is the emphasis on PvP and flashpoints.

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guardianelite

I never thought I would leave, the downhill slide started with the server merge and culminated with the changes to Conquest and now the sole upcoming focus on PvP. Those of us that have been in the game from the beginning remember the early loot boxes controversy that surrounded PvP loot boxes with Battlemaster and Centurion gear. And BWs answer to the controversy was to say SWtoR was an RPG, that it was a story based game, like most of BWs work at that time and that developers placed PvP in the game as an afterthought. Up until SWtoR I personally never RPed in any MMO, it was either text based RP via a web service or tabletop.

But what I found on my RP server was a vibrant community that shared a love for this IP that the developers could not and would not ever understand. I brought in my own stories, merged my own website that contained fan fiction of the Star Wars Universe with a guild site and even took up 3D art to keep up with the demand from those I played and wrote with; learning not only Blender and Hexagon, but mudbox and other art programs to render my stories.

And all of that came from SWtoR.

We are the most self-sufficient, non-demanding and friendliest community in game. We cross all lines of play, PvP, PvE…Solo. And we don’t ask or have ever asked for anything. It was understood from the very beginning that we would have to take care of ourselves. And we did. When all of the Raiders, PvPers and PvEers left the game or cried about content, it was the RPers who sustained the game, bought from the Cartel Market, fashioned our own events and kept things rolling.

We never asked or expected anything from BW, but every person deserves a level of protection and acknowledgment. BW never gave that. And as time went on and with the changes being made as focus shifted from one part of the player base to another, it became harder and harder to sustain not only our own community, but the game we so cheerish.

My sub ended this month, but I took with me the friends and writing partners I made to.discord. I’m still doing art, I’m writing, just without the background and contact that was SWtoR.

And before any NiM raid heroes and PvP warriors respond to this. I also raid,.I also possess the Wing of the Architect and not in 3.0 when anyone could get it, but 5.0 after GC. I’ve done every story, race and class in game. There are three Elite Warlords in my legacy as well as one Season Two All-Star. My point is, I played, WE as RPers play the game. Even through BW pretending we don’t exist or some troll parking a Rancor at the bar on Vaiken, we endured.

Some of us finally realized, we don’t need the game to carry on with our lives of Star Wars. BW has squandered once again one of it’s greatest resources, like it always does.

Theryl
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Theryl

It’s been a couple of years since I RP’d in SWTOR but I’ve kept contact with old guildies and associates. At this point, entire guilds are picking up and moving on to other games and I think the bleeding may be irreversible. But as someone noted below, it’s not just RP that’s in bad shape in SWTOR.

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Paragon Lost

The harassment directed at those who want to role-play or just remain in character in SWTOR has always been pretty bad and only gotten worse as time went on. Always saddened me.

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Zora

Gosh it’s -not- rocket science, just create a RP phase people who willingly wish to flag themselves for may coagulate around. There, done… you’re welcome.

No, it doesn’t require expensive tech, resources or a brainstorming session. Only the will to do it.

Look, put the unlock for the feature inside one of your bloody crate store gambleboxes? Does that make it more palatable to whomever is left in the studio with any authority to decide anything?

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spencer quinn

while I agree its not gonna happen for two reasons
1. it at best a temporarily solution or band aid for RP. it won’t actually fix the problem
2. the devs have stated in a interview that RP instances would only strain the severs