There were MMOs and then there was SWTOR.
Confession time: Hello group, my name is Julie and I’m no big fan of MMOs. No fan at all, to be honest.
Seriously. I’m not. I know I know – but the fun! And the stories! And the possibilities!! And playing with others!
And yes! I can totally understand how that’s fun! I had my run-in with Guild Wars 2 and I really liked the concept art and the scenery and I did some fun quests with friends. I quickly stopped playing, though, because the world was too… much, design-wise and the story just didn’t catch my attention.
Then I started SWTOR with three different characters because I always was totally amazed when Anna talked to me about the story. I didn’t play more than one hour per character or so, though, before I was bored and, worse, annoyed.
For me, gaming is about immersion. It’s about getting into a character, into a setting, immersing myself in a world, in lore, falling in love with the romances, being a hero. And I mean really being a hero. That’s why I prefer role-playing games over shooters or action adventures, even though they do have their merits: I tend to strongly identify on one level or another with the character I play.
While I really enjoy games like Half Life, Tomb Raider, Left for Dead, Assassins Creed or The Last of Us, it’s the RPGs that stay with me and make me want to fall in love with the characters all over again. It’s the RPGs that I play the most hours and that are most intense and with which I spend time with even outside of actually playing the game by writing stories about my OCs or reading up on lore or speculating etc. – due to the intense immersion I ideally experience.
And that immersion just doesn’t happen with MMOs. Not easily at least.
Most of all because of the other players that keep “appearing” in “my” game, often even with the same companion.
While it is in theory lovely to experience a “living” world with more than stationary NPCs, in reality it just completely throws me out of the game and the in-world-experience. This is largely due to the fact that the other players also, of course, play the story and thus everything I do (destroying enemies or equipment or repairing something or…) reverses shortly afterwards. I just don’t see and feel what my character just did. I might have just saved that entire village – five minutes later it’s under attack again. Enemies keep respawning, landscapes keep burning. The worlds do not reflect what my character does, it never changes. The game does not show me what happens. And often, when I come out of a cutscene, another player is standing there with that yellow “I’m in a cutscene” bubble above them.
The worlds are also mostly just too big for me. Great for experiencing largeness, emptiness or something like that, but just so DAMN annoying to travel from point to point. Which one does permanently. “Go from the right side of the map to the left, then to the middle then back to the right. Next mission at the bottom of the map.” Ugh.
The tutorials aren’t very good in my opinion and as a completely new player, most MMOs don’t do a very good job at explaining the How-Tos to newbies like me – and there is a LOT you can do. But how exactly and why and if you really need it for the story… the game certainly doesn’t tell you.
I just couldn’t get it going for me. I didn’t feel it. Didn’t feel the game, the events, the characters. MMOs scream “I’M A GAME” at every corner and thus I had no immersion whatsoever.
And then, Knight of the Forgotten Empire happened.
Anna and another friend of ours kept telling me about the amazing story and that it’s basically the “most single-player part of SWTOR” with a lot of cutscenes and loooooads of character development. And so I said: “Okay, I’ll give it a try. If it’s so single-player like.” Because the world of Star Wars is awesome and I love the lore of Jedis and Sith and just – it’s Star Wars!
I created a Level 60 character (one-time boon) and started the story. And what can I say? It’s the most single-player part of SWTOR 😉 The first few chapters I didn’t encounter a single other player and was drawn deeply into the story. By the time the MMO-like part started (in Chapter 9), I had developed an interest in the events and the characters and, even more important, had developed an interest in the story that happens BEFORE KOTFE. Especially since you meet the characters in the personal storylines already.
I decided to go back to the character I had played the longest, a Jedi Knight named Jiune whom I had played to Level 27 before losing interest, to experience her story after all. I even thought about creating a completely new character but just didn’t want to bother with the first levels again. And suddenly, it was there. The feeling. The story. And I was hooked.
Maybe it was because I was already halfway through Chapter 1 and the story had picked up pace. Maybe it was because I could try out a lot of things in the “single player mode” of KOTFE. Maybe it was just my approach of “just ignore everything apart from the storyline” but SWTOR now has me in it’s claws and I’m pretty sure it won’t let me go – not until I have at least finished Jiune’s story. There are still many parts that annoy me and MMOs probably won’t ever be my favourite thing to play but at least SWTOR got me. For now.