((The RP XP with MJ – SPECIAL REPORT))
Behold, my very first RP in SWTOR. Thank you, Tyliana, whoever you were.
I’m a dedicated heavy RolePlayer. So, what do you think I wanted to test first upon setting foot in the world of Star Wars: The Old Republic?
Nah, just kidding. It’s RP! I was curious to check out the chat system, emotes, and the areas that could serve as backdrops for RP scenarios. I also wanted to see if it was possible to engage in RP-related PVP and how well RP adapted into the flash points or the scores of missions. Let’s take a look….
I have to say, as far as RP goes, Bioware loves us.
Sure, there might be some knits to pick, but that’s all relative to your type of RolePlay and your level of tolerance on some things. For the purpose of this article, I’m just going to talk about my own personal RP experience during beta testing and how each of the points I mentioned panned out under close inspection through an RolePlayer’s eyes.
The chat system is a lot better than I thought it would be heading toward launch, and I’m sure it will only get better. The major drawback is that general/open/local chat is area-wide, meaning a conversation between two people on Hutta will be heard by everyone on Hutta. The good news is that the ubiquitous MMO command “/whisper” works perfectly, you can respond with an easy “/r” then simply hit RETURN to reply from then on. The last person who /whispered you will be the one you automatically reply to just tapping into the chat window.
Guild channels also exist, but I didn’t get a chance to check them out in beta, and there’s also a Party channel; an easy solution if you’re going to RP with a small group and don’t want your dialog and exposition lost in the sea of general “How duz you make these works?” and “Wasn’t that a great episode of House last night?” chatter.
As of this writing, not all the emotes were complete. Keep in mind, it’s still beta, so I’m sure we’ll see improvement here. For example, “Bow” works just fine, but “Respectful Bow” results in the text: “Character bows respectfully to character” with the characters’ proper names in place of ‘character’ in this example. Bioware has a starfreighter-sized list of emotes for RPers to use, and they’re organized into categories in sub-menus: Emotion, General, Greeting, Social, Tactics and Action. It’s easy enough to locate them all by mouse. If you’re a speed typist and prefer to throw out a slash-emote, you can do that too. But, here it gets tricky. I had some difficulty with it. If I was in the Party channel, for example, and typed “/e sit,” I would simply ‘say’ “/e sit” in Party dialogue. You have to back out of the chat channel you’re in — or out of the auto response — to type out emotes. I couldn’t figure out how to do this, but as I said, it could just be me and not the system. If you figure it out, let me know.
Oh, and yes, RP fans, you can very easily keybind a “walk” toggle. One of the things I enjoyed doing was toggling on my “walk” and mouse-wheeling into first-person view while exploring. And talk about immersion! You can slide easily into first-person mode while chatting in-character, actually soaking up the first-person point of view of your character from your character’s eyes. Literally.
As far as locations for RP I only have this to say: THANK YOU, BIOWARE!
I only visited six locations (two were fleet hubs loaded with vendors and trainers — and the coveted VIP area for you lucky CEers out there), and I haven’t even scratched the surface of those maps.
Every planet is immense, with huge tracks of explorable land and just as many interior locations not closed to class or quest. Sure, there are mobs of enemies or beasts out in the wilds, and they all re-spawn rather quickly, but it’s not hard to find a remote area away from them that can substitute for any other similar location in the Star Wars universe. For example, I’m currently RPing a scenario with some guildmates in FRP that involves establishing a hidden Jedi enclave on the little-known world of Nazzri, a planet of rolling grasslands on the outskirts of the mid-rim, just up the Randon Run from Kashyyk. There are several secluded grassy areas on Tython that can pass for Nazzri in RP, so any of my Jedi guildmates (at any in-game level) and I can move our FRP in-game with no problem.
Coruscant and Drumond Kaas are both huge and sprawling. Coruscant, in particular, has a vast expanse of walkways and spacious areas that will inspire a lot of first-person view gawking at its sheer titanic magnificence. While on Coruscant, I found dozens of remote, secluded or out-of-the traffic lane areas that can serve as RP stages. I spent some time in a remote corner of the Republic Senate concourse just enjoying the view. There were scores of off-the-track areas here to explore that I could see as perfect RP zones where you’ll be free of “griefers” and the like. Need an interior location for your RP scenario? No problem. Every planet and station I visited has endless possibilities for hiding out and planning that back-stab, advanced operation, or friendly rendezvous.
Want to RP into a Flashpoint? Easy. While I worked out my Jedi character on Tython, two friends worked in tandem on Ord Mantel, bringing up their trooper and smuggler characters. A few levels later we all met on the Republic social hub, Carrick Station. It was easy to bump into each other in-character in one of the side corridors near a trainer. And, it was easy to weave the story of the Esseless into our narrative before jumping into the Flashpoint. While we played through the Flashpoint OOCly, we could easily see where you could actually pepper the scenario with RP if you wanted. There were places where you could choose not to advance, pause for a moment after the battle and RP a bit while re-buffing or healing. Failing against a boss kicked you out of the scenario, but after regrouping and re-supplying, you and your party could jump back and and pick up where you left off as long as you didn’t break group. This was both good for keeping the Party channel alive with OOC tactical chatter as well as IC strategic chit-chat.
How about blending PvP into your RP? Is it possible? I can’t say from personal experience, but I can tell you what I witnessed and it thrilled me with the RP possibilities. While on Carrick Station, someone sent me a request to “duel.” A click of my mouse and the invite was declined (I was too busy exploring and, as you know, I’m not a PvPer). At first I thought it was a random invite into the PvP queue. A few moments later, however, and I realized it truly was an invite for a one-on-one same-faction duel. On one end of a corridor I caught a glimpse of a lightsaber ignition and a grenade detonation. Two individuals had apparently gone into “duel mode” and were fighting right there in the station while a group looked on. Now, from what I could see, no one else could interfere, and the two combatants could NOT harm or bother the other player characters. The duel was over in moments and both characters went back to what they were doing — the victor treated to a smattering of emoted cheers by the others. Could this be visually distracting if it happens near your private RP? Only if you let it. Could it actually physically bother you–like damage your character through the collateral damage of a blaster shot or grenade explosion? Nope. Not unless you’re actually in the duel. I’m looking forward to trying this mechanic because I could see it playing into RP scenarios rather slickly. Two bounty hunters vying for the affection of the same attractive Twi’lek. A smuggler and trooper draw weapons on each other after one accuses the other of cheating at a game of chance. A Jedi Master trains her apprentice with a “spontaneous” joust. Yup, it’s all possible.
So, bottom line: Is Star Wars: The Old Republic a good vehicle for RolePlay for anyone seeking character immersion in the Star Wars universe? In a word: Ohhellyes!
I’m sure I hadn’t even come close to covering all the possible bases when it comes to RP in TOR, but for those of you wondering if you could do this or that or the other thing, I hope I got your blood pumping just a tad more as the long-anticipated official launch is just around the corner and the huge stress-testing beta weekend looms even closer.
I look forward to hearing your own RP stories and running into you in-character when the game launches. Until then, May the RP Force be with you!
Final word: Please keep in mind that everything I’ve told you is subject to change. I hope most of it won’t since it’s just about perfect where RP is concerned, but it is still BETA for another month, and it’s possible the technical points within my review will be moot by the new year. Also, keep in mind that MMOs are ever-changing, and the Star Wars universe is a huge toy box of goodies for Bioware to play with. I’m sure more epic awesomeness is just around the corner. In the meantime, be patient, be cool, keep in mind it’s still beta, and enjoy the game.
MJ is the editor of swtor-life.com and the RolePlay columnist. ((The RP XP with MJ)) can be found right here every Friday. Follow him on twitter @MJswtor, or contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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