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Reader Comments (72)

Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 4:11PM chauncy said

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On the companion thing...

A possible alternative would have been to have the option to kill certain characters, but should you do so they would be replaced by a droid with mirrored abilities. Obviously you'd lose out on the companion quests and banter, but your character wouldn't be gimped and your choice would have meant something.

However, if a later content patch brings out companion-specific stuff then you'd also lose out on all of that too, because your buddy would remain dead. And I can see a lot of people bitching about that too "We missed content because of our decision!" Okay so maybe BioWare makes content for this replacement companion too. And now you're increasing development time and resources needed.

So who knows what the perfect solution for everybody would be. I think I'm okay with unkillable companions at this point.

Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 4:25PM Cyclone Jack said

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Enjoyable read, Larry.

For losing companions, I will agree that this is something that should be available. However, this does not have to be a permanent loss (ie: don't kill off the character). If their views stray too far from the player's, then they can confront the player with the possibility of said NPC leaving the PC's group. This opens up two additional branches. The first would allow the PC to return to the NPC and convince them to rejoin. The second would be the NPC finding the PC later in their journey to see if they can reconcile their differences. This allows the PC to remove characters that they dislike for whatever reason, and it allows PCs to undo the decision of removing an NPC from their party. For those 'hardcore' players, create an option (in the Options) to disable these two branches that can be flagged an unflagged.

While I enjoy the light/dark choices we've seen in previous BioWare games, I cannot see how these would have any real bearing on the game or on my character. A Jedi that plays as the darkest character out there will never be able to go Sith, so why should I care where I am on the 'morality wheel'? This, to me, is a huge area where BioWare dropped the ball.

When you combine these two choices, you open up a number of possibilities for your characters, as we have seen in KOTOR. Your morality determines whether or not you protect the light, or serve the dark, and in turn can determine which characters follow you. This would allow a light player to go dark and lose a companion (while possibly gaining another), then have the player go back to the light to regain their previously lost companion.

Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 4:36PM Sylivin said

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I have to side with Bioware on this. A story-based game has to have choices, but with a single player game you can explore multiple choices and reload your game to pick a different one if the conversation didn't turn out as you expect. In the Old Republic, the cancelling out of a conversation in the middle to change your choices might seem odd, but as the question asked: What happens if I get disconnected halfway through? To put it simply - MMOs are not single player games. Like it or not the technology forces changes to the usual Bioware format due to the unique conditions that an MMO is required to do.

As for the companions, this is another MMO constraint. If all companions did was spice up the single player missions of the game it might be fine to kill them off permanently. However due to gameplay reasons (Crafting, missions, pvp, etc) this is simply not possible. Having to restart an entire character from the beginning because of one wrong conversation option would be, quite simply, not fun.

Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 10:29PM Larry Everett said

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@Sylivin

I actually agree that your story choices should make one character better than another, in the broad sense. But there are other ways to not gimp a player, yet still allow companions to be killed or them leave you.
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Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 4:58PM DarkWalker said

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The problem with hard choices in a MMO is that the character is not a throw away one that you just use once and discard at the end of the story.

In a single player game, you go for perhaps a few dozen hours with that single character. Even if you don't consider the possibility of saving and loading, doing a bad decision is not that big a deal.

In a MMO, the character is most likely for keeps. In TOR's case, it's apparently a couple hundred hours just to finish the main story, plus whatever time you sink into end game progression. Doing a bad decision, and more so a bad decision that cripples the character in any way, becomes a much bigger deal.

Due to this, it's much harder to make players accept the consequences of bad decisions in a MMO. Worse, in a single player game, players could always cheat or abuse savegames in order to change their options, and both of those will (obviously) be unavailable in a MMO; so even if the character was a throwaway one, it would already be harder to convince the average player to put up with bad decisions in MMOs.

I see three ways to "fix" this problem:

- Don't have truly important decisions - or, at the very least, absolutely prevent the player from permanently handicapping himself. this is the approach GW2 has taken (there is no way to gimp the character through story decisions, and every choice is roughly equivalent, with mostly cosmetic differences), and, apparently, also TOR. Most other MMOs are worse, though, in that they don't actually have any choice.

- Make the consequences of every important decision undoable. This could be done by allowing a kind of "new game +" (i.e., play the main quest again with the same character, redoing the important decisions), by having special quests to undo the bad consequences of the player's choice (not necessarily undo the choice itself; after killing a companion, you might go in search of a new companion to fulfill the same role, for example), make the quests that involve the important decisions repeatable (i.e., let the player undo the decisions themselves), etc. Players that want to experience a consistent game with meaningful choices can just refrain from using those resources, while those unhappy with some decision can alter the outcome.

- Make the end-game grind into an account-wide affair, so re-rolling just loses the player enough time to get the character through the main quest, without the need to re-do every end game grind anew. Perhaps coupled with an option to cruise faster through quests you already completed on any character. This would also have the side-effect of being a great incentive to roll alts.

Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 5:42PM Alluvian EstEndrati said

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The Illusion of Choice is a very apt way to describe it. After all, the game is a scripted one, your only choices in truth are those that have been lain out before you. The Illusion of Choice is where this line gets blurred (via immersion or something else) such that the player feels like they really do have a choice and their decisions matter.

BioWare has shown in their previous games that they are very good at projecting the Illusion of Choice. I think they are one of the best (if not the best) game developer to master this particular art.

Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 5:55PM Sorithal said

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Eh. . . chances are most players will care more about the gameplay and Star Wars feel over the choices you can make. It's not like they have an alignment system here (which... is a bit lame, since that would be so awesome to see an in-game alignment system where, at the least, your character/skills change somewhat based on your alignment), so the choices in the end don't sound like they'll -truly- affect your character outside of maybe the personal story quests or w/e that I thought I heard about.

And I kind of doubt player choices will have much of an impact on them in the future outside of maybe having quest givers or companions treat you differently. . . Which is kind of sad. Because it would be cool if there would be quests and such that would only be offered once you've done enough light/dark side choices and such.

Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 5:59PM (Unverified) said

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Seems like the solution would be to implement a "hardcore" mode where NPCs permanently die and you can't escape conversations (disconnections would be ok). Then provide an achievement, title, and maybe some sort of bonus to players who make it to level cap in hardcore mode.

Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 6:12PM FrostPaw said

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I believe choices should be permanent, class, companion, even talent choices. I believe if they make changes to your class you should get one free respec because those changes were unplanned when you made your original choice otherwise....man up and live with it.

Choices you can retract really aren't choices. Theres no point makng a choice if you can change your mind whenever you feel like it. It's the limitations of your choice that make your character characterful!

I think they should let you kill your companions, if you need a tank companion for gameplay nessecity and you killed your companion tank simply allow the player to construct a droid or hire a mercanary that fills the same roll albeit without a companion storyline.

Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 6:46PM Mystal said

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I don't believe that you can compare an MMO with a single player game. A "choice" to kill a companion in SWTOR has consequences that reach perhaps 10-20 hours into the future, and no further. Such a choice in an MMO may reach thousands of hours into the future.

In any case, I'm not sure that a choice that irrevocably gimps you is a very meaningful choice in the first place. Sure, it has consequence, but there's only one correct choice and that's not to make it.

Now perhaps Bioware could have introduced a Kaiden (sp?) vs Ashley type of choice into each story, where you had to choose between two characters who had little if any significant differences apart from gender.

Such a story climax might have been more dramatic, but would it be more meaningful?

I think that in order for the choice to kill a companion to be meaningful, players must first understand the consequences of the decision. Until they've spent hundreds of hours with their companions, they'll have very little idea which ones are most useful or interesting, and very little idea just how important companions are to many elements of the game.

Perhaps at some point in the future, say, in an Xpac, the player will be asked to choose one of more companions to sacrifice, in order to make room for new companions. At that point in time, the choice may be more interesting and meaningful. Until there is something to replace a companion though, and prevent a player from a one sided "gimp myself forever" choice, I don't think such a choice should be allowed.

Last point and then I'm done: Bioware DID allow companion death as a feature of the game. It was the default mode of play, because they had the same visceral reaction that many players and commentators have.

The fact that they removed it only after testing indicates just how lopsided that decision appears to be in the "negative" column. I doubt they would pull such an interesting feature if they didn't strongly believe, based on actual observation, that it was the overwhelmingly correct choice to make. Those who are on the outside looking in, accusing the developers or beta testers of being "stupid" or "wimps" are judging from a position of total ignorance.

Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 6:47PM Mystal said

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@Mystal Correction: "A choice to kill a companion in KOTOR, Mass Effect or Dragon Age 2 has consequences that reach at most 10-20 hours into the future..."
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Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 6:46PM (Unverified) said

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I'm totally with BioWare and the testers here. In a single player game, you play through a story for what, maybe 40 hours, and it has a definite ending. If you let Steve the Paladin die you can shrug it off, reset, keep him alive in a different playthrough, it's not the end of the world. Everything matters less because everything is impermanent - the story ends eventuallly, the choices can be undone or re-lived easily.

SWTOR is a totally different animal. Your story does not have an ending. You'll play through 200+ hours and will continue on through endgame FOR YEARS. You want every one of those 5 companions alive and crafting and adding to your story through every patch and expansion and whatever else comes to bear.

The fact that their deaths aren't part of your story don't make your story any less interesting or emotional or weighty. Randomly killing Han or Leia for shock value in one of the original movies wouldn't make the story better, it would be ridiculous and horrible and stupid.

And it's silly to downplay other story elements just to try to make a case about this -- "blowing the engineering crew that I just met 30 seconds before out the airlock is not emotionally impacting" -- really? Looking innocent people in the eye and watch them beg for their lives as you press a button that sends them to screaming death has no emotional impact on you playing a game? I don't buy that at all. Good story is good story, it doesn't hinge on whether or not you can kill off a companion.

Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 10:43PM Larry Everett said

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@(Unverified)

I have mentioned in other place what I think about the engineering crew issues, but that kind of beside the point here.

I honestly believe that blowing an engineering crew that my character had no connection to is less impacting than a companion that my character has shared some time with. A companion dying is 10 times more impacting, at least 10 times.

As for "endings" yeah, MMO story arcs do have endings. In this case about the time you reach level 50. Sure, there are other things to do after you've finished questing, but they are called end-game for a reason. As others have mentioned in the comments here there are other ways around the game mechanics of having lost a companion. Right now, I'm a fan of the hired mercenary idea. I think that would be kind of cool.
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Posted: Aug 3rd 2011 1:52PM Borick said

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@(Unverified) Jedi can face moral dilemma. They can be pushed to the dark side.

But it's cheap, trashy story to have it happen over a locked blast door. That's not a moral dilemma for a Jedi. Even a Padawan knows better.
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Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 7:20PM Mongo8 said

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"However, I do believe that as far as video games are concerned, that if a game developer is going to proclaim that its game has real choices, then the ending of the game should be quite different, depending on the choices made."

You said "the ending of the game". SWTOR does not have an end. MMO games do not end. You cannot "beat the game", because the game does not end. You cannot have meaningful roleplay (DM'd D&D games for about 10 years) in a MMO, because the game is shared and is not a single player game that has an end. I think too many people see this as KotR Online, which it's not. World of Warcraft is not exactly like the Warcraft RTS games. You can't kill the king and he stays dead, because WoW is a MMO.
As far as SWTOR, it was a choice between taking your ability to kill companions and such and hearing complaints about that, or not letting you kill your companions and hearing complaints about that. Far too many people are more worried about being denied the ability to do something than why they were.

Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 10:44PM Larry Everett said

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@Mongo8

See the above comment. The game can last for a long time, yes. But there are ends to story arcs.
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Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 7:25PM Mongo8 said

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FrostPaw said:
"Choices you can retract really aren't choices."...

"if you need a tank companion for gameplay nessecity and you killed your companion tank simply allow the player to construct a droid or hire a mercanary that fills the same roll albeit without a companion storyline."

So essentially you're saying that killing companions is a meaningful choice, but it shouldn't have any impact on the game because you can easily replace them with no hassle? If they're easily replaced, then how is killing them a meaningful choice?

Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 10:47PM Larry Everett said

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@Mongo8

I don't think that's a "no hassle" way of doing it. In fact, maybe I'm a bit of a sadist, but it would be interesting if player lost a key companion and had to pay in-game credits to hire a merc for every time he used him.
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Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 8:09PM Galson said

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Awesome write up. While I value Bioware's choice I also think this is what made KOTOR such a great game. So what if within your choice making of whether a character "lives or dies" it decides your path further on. By that meaning what if you were now your on a path where you would possibly meet a different companion that would join your crew now that your last one died. Or now you possibly lose the chance to meet that companion because your choice to let the last one live no longer allows you to meet this new one. I think it would be really interesting to implement something to that effect where you just have the ability to kill some companions through choice and yet still have a fair game play by picking up another one somewhere else down the line. Isn't that how a "Choice Path" would take you? Maybe by saving one companion now instead of being able to pickup another, the one you were suppose to have join your crew is now your enemy later on in the game and now your forced to fight him/her. I guess that in my opinion would be a great way to implement both. A question of mine is will you be able to pickup other companions as the game releases updates, expansions, etc or will only get those companions the entire game...

Posted: Aug 2nd 2011 8:10PM Oskari said

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@Fabius Bile

Wow...and you're not banned yet?

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