So recently it was revealed that the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) MMO by Bioware will have the option of utilizing NPC companions. (Check out this video interview for the full scoop.)
Apparently this is the apocalypse and the demise of the genre as well as false advertising as an MMO. Keen is not the only one that seems to take issue with this.
The main point I pulled from Keen's post was that the inclusion of NPC companions meant that Bioware is developing a single player game with multiplayer options rather than a massively multiplayer online game.
In the other posts I read regarding this (and the dislike for it) I couldn't help but notice a point of view that was being missed…
Why can't it be viewed as a multiplayer game with single player options?
That thought was then followed up with these:
Why does an MMO have to mean forced grouping at all times?
What MMO has forced grouping at all times nowadays?
But mainly what I saw as missed that MY ears latched onto during that interview was the part the NPC companions play in the story.
Dragon Age, anyone?
Story equals immersion. Your companions will react to your choices…
There are going to be certain characters that will be integral to the Star Wars story, but won't suffice as a simple quest giver. And some… you just can't expect to create. So genre destroyer be damned, it sounds to me to be more of a vehicle of driving the story. Plus, you're more likely to listen to what they have to say than read quest test, amirite?
Anywho, in this post I am going to move forward with addressing the “single player games are trying to overthrow and destroy MMOs” argument.
The argument of false advertising struck me as odd. See, when I was playing some iPhone games I thought THOSE were falsely advertising as MMOs. Those games were truly single player. The only thing massive about it was getting a list of people so your number of mafia members, vampire coven, rock band, army, etc. was bigger. You didn't actually play with the people you invited to your “group.” You couldn't actually play with them. Your game was unaffected by the gear their player was outfitted with. Their player was nothing but a number for you.
MMO gamers these days run the whole gambit of playstyles and time available to play. A lot of us have families, jobs, etc so we have to find balance in our playing. For some, spending hours searching and waiting to fill group slots ticks away at precious time available to run anything. (And let's not forget the selection of people that is out there… they range from helpful laidback peeps to whiny uptight jerks.)
Then there's different sizes of groups needed for different tasks. It's easier to find others to fulfill those roles when they are at the same stage of the game as you are, but you get passed by (or are far ahead) it can be more challenging.
And what about those group quests while you are leveling (especially in WoW)… you know, the ones where you advertise you are seeking a group and the overwhelming response is “lol L2solo noob” or “u dont ned a grup 4 that!!1!!” Times like that an NPC companion would be greatly appreciated, I suspect.
I view the option of an NPC companion as a possible solution to fill a needed slot. Of course, it will depend on how it actually is implemented. Overpowered NPCs would be bad, but having them minimally capable would be helpful.
Does this mean everyone will just solo the whole game with their NPCs? Doubtful.
Also, you can only have 1 companion out at your side at a time, even though you may have multiple companions to choose from. So, no, you won't be able to whip out an entire army of NPCs to fight alongside you.
What it does is open up another door of opportunity. And you know, you just might learn something while having to work alongside that NPC… something you wouldn't have learned while trying to drudge through content completely alone.
I mean, let's be realistic here, a large majority of MMO (think WoW) is solo until you reach endgame. Sure, there are group quests, dungeons, etc along the way, but you can complete most of the leveling tasks alone. If there are NPC companion options, you could even complete some of those group quests along the way instead of dumping them from your log if you couldn't find assistance from other players. (Or instead of returning when you've out leveled the quest to where you can easily solo it.)
Think of it this way: SWTOR does not have pet classes, so your companion is essentially a pet. You will likely have to manage them to some degree. And a solo player who whips his companion out will not be as powerful as a group, especially compared to a group that whips out their companions too.
Take Home Message
I know change is scary, but it's the one constant thing in life. It can break you if you don't learn how to bend with it. Now, if it was to the point where people were playing and testing out the companions and finding issues with them, that is one thing. But to get worked up into such a tizzy over hearing the very idea of them? Personally, I'm looking forward to trying something new. If all you see is “warning! bad!” try some reframing and maybe you'll find some benefits buried amongst your negativity. But, I suppose, negativity sells better, yes?
Join the newsletter
Subscribe to get family gaming tips, reviews and our latest content by email.