Monthly Archives: September 2011

SWTOR: Why the Character Name Matters

What’s in name? Why does it matter?

In late December, I will create my characters in Star Wars: The Old Republic. While it’s easy to decide the character’s appearance, the name is a whole other issue.

The name is the key identifying feature of the character.

Selecting a character’s name in a MMORPG may not sound like it matters, but that is how people identify you. In past games, I never put much thought in the name. I usually chose names based off book characters. Even doing that, I still debated about the name.

With Star Wars: The Old Republic, I intend to make up the names beforehand. Instead of selecting a name from a book or movie and changing the spelling, I plan to come up with original names. That being said, I want these names to fit Star Wars. For example, my Chiss Imperial Agent will have an appropriate Chiss name, not something more appropriate for a Corellian nerf farmer. You don’t need to know that Malgus is a Sith to know he’s evil; his name says it all.

For role players, the name is even more important. It acts as part of the character’s story. Many role players create a back-story, personality, traits, history and other facts. While I am not a role player, SWTOR caters to RP players in addition to the regular gamer.

The ability to select exactly which response to a quest fits your character makes the character more customizable. This, along with selecting the right name, makes the character feel more like it’s “yours.” In “World of Warcraft,” as much as I enjoyed my character, there was nothing about her that made her feel “different” from any other undead arcane mage walking around Orgimmar. That I can select how moral my Imperial Agent or Jedi Knight is adds something extra to the game.

And there is certainly some irony to making a “dark side Jedi” or “light side Sith.”

These factors play into the naming decision- along with what I want people to call me in chats. I’ll pass on Boss Nass.

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Filed under Star Wars, Star Wars The Old Republic, SWTOR, TOR

Star Wars: The Old Republic to Launch Dec. 20

Star Wars and gaming fans rejoice. Star Wars: The Old Republic is coming out Dec. 20 (North America) and Dec. 22 (Europe).

Finally!

In addition to the release dates, the monthly subscription fees were released.

•1 Month Subscription: $14.99 (£8.99/€12.99)
•3 Month Subscription: $13.99 per month (one-time charge of $41.97/£25.17/€35.97)
•6 Month Subscription: $12.99 per month (one-time charge of $77.94/£46.14/€65.94)

The rates fit in with World of Warcraft, the biggest competitor. The one, three or six month options are very reasonable. I am more willing to pay the six-month fee for the lower price than a year’s worth of fees. I imagine that the three-month plan will be the most popular.

Sounds like a great early Christmas present for everyone!

Check out the official forums announcement here: SWTOR Release Announcement.

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SWTOR: The 2011 Release Date is Still Possible

The SWTOR community is atwitter tonight. During an EA investor conference call, Eric Brown was asked what could cause a possible delay. He told the crowd that if beta testing didn’t go as planned then it could be delayed to the March quarter of the 2012 fiscal year.

Before that, he said:

In terms of timing, again, we haven’t given a street date yet. We won’t do so for some time, possibly at our next upcoming earnings call towards the end of October. We’re in beta testing mode. We’re expanding the scalability of the testing. It’s not about working to complete content. We feel very good about the content. That’s ready to go. It’s about tuning the game to make sure, for example, we can get the level of concurrent users per server cluster that we want. That the response time is what people would expect. So the factor, just to reiterate what we said last earnings call about timing, we expect to ship Star Wars by the end of this calendar year.

Somehow, many members of the SWTOR forums missed Brown’s statement that they were still looking at the calendar 2011 release. Instead, people are freaking out about the slim possibility that the game BioWare and EA could delay the game to 2012. Yes, a delay is possible, but don’t forget that 2011 isn’t out of the equation.

The game also has it’s official rating: Teen.

It’s easy to focus on the negative, even if it comes from a hypothetical question. Fans have been jerked around with this game for years. The constant promise of release windows that end up delays chip away at fans excitement for the game.

Instead of diving into a fits of nerd rage and canceling the game, take a step back from the computer. Read all of the information before reacting.

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Expectations and Nostalgia: How They Hurt the Prequels

“Did you like the prequels?”

Every Star Wars fan is asked this question at some point. The prequels are a highly debated topic. Many loathe the new movies; some refused to watch them a second time. Others think they are fun and exciting.

The prequels had factors stacked against them before George Lucas begin filming. Expectations and nostalgia killed any chance of the movies total acceptance by longtime Star Wars fans.

Expecting the Impossible
Fans spent years imaging how Anakin Skywalker turned into Darth Vader. Why was he “more machine now than man,” as Obi-Wan told Luke. Who was Leia and Luke’s mother? How did Vader not know about the twins? Why did Leia go to Alderaan and Luke Tatooine? How did the Jedi die out? What were the Clone Wars?

Fans imagined epic conclusions and expected something more amazing than they could fathom. George Lucas blew the minds of moviegoers in1977. He’s next three movies had to do the same, right?

If you look forward to something for too long, it can become so mentally amazing that the reality can’t touch it. This happened to the prequels. Fans built them up so much that it was impossible to please them. When something you expect to be perfect falters, those faults seem worse than usual.

The prequels have faults; so do the original trilogy. These faults, however, can be overlooked because the story of Star Wars is so strong. I can overlook some of the instances of weak dialogue in “A New Hope” because Luke, Han and Leia’s journey is so engaging. I can forgive Anakin’s awkward dialogue in “Attack of the Clones” in favor of the story. In addition, in Anakin’s defense, people in love usually say silly things. Not everyone is a poet.

Clinging to the Past

Sometime between the releases of “The Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones,” my aunt told me that “A New Hope” would always be her favorite and the best Star Wars movie. She said it was because of what Star Wars meant and how it changed movies. Many of us have fond memories of the OT. Some feel like we cannot enjoy the prequels as much because of this. This mentality is fine to have, but it does make it harder for the prequels to take a larger space in our hearts.

Nostalgia is another reason why some people won’t purchase the Blu-Rays or Special Editions. No, I don’t like that Greedo shoots first now or that Vader says “Nooo!” in “Return of the Jedi,” but the movies look so much better.

Some changes are fine, like fixing errors and effects, but it’s when the story is altered that fans cry foul. We all know that Han Solo’s character was changed when Greedo shot first. We all fell in love with Han as he was. He didn’t need that alteration. In regards to the Vader “Noo!” I am surprised that Lucas added that in. It goes against “show, don’t tell.” By having Vader verbally react, it takes away from the drama of the scene. While I don’t agree with these changes, I’ll still watch the Blu-Ray version.

It will be interesting to see what those who saw the prequels first say about the saga. These people are no less fans than those who saw the OT when it first hit theaters, or those who became fans from watching the or with their families later in. Star Wars needs a diverse group of fans to stay alive.

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9/11: Ten Years Later, We See the Light

Where were you on Sept. 11? Most of us have been asked that question. Some tell a story about trying to contact relatives while others say how they knew the world had changed. My story contained no profound observations, no reflections, no reactions. It wasn’t until I stopped to think about it today that I understood how life changed that day.

I was a freshman in high school home sick with a nasty case of the flu. No one told me about the attacks. I saw reruns of the towers burning on almost every station later that morning. I couldn’t grasp what had happened. My mother came home and told me that it was horrible and life altering, but the message didn’t click. I acknowledged it, but it wasn’t until that evening that I began to realize the gravity of the situation.

My mother kept the TV on the Disney Channel that night if my siblings or cousins were in the room. They were all too young to see the footage at that moment. The station never said what happened, but the shows’ stars would come on and encourage kids to speak to their parents about their fears and confusion. She was sheltering my siblings and cousins until she and my father could discuss how to talk about it. The private elementary schools they attended left it to the parents to break the news. I was told not to discuss it until they had explained it.

Life did change after 9/11. Security was tight everywhere, even in my small Indiana town. Everyone was afraid and there was no real joy in the world. A constant heaviness filled the air. Even if no one mentioned the terrorist attacks, it felt like the topic was lurking in the shadows. Unmarked mail was items to fear. There was talk of war, of death. The world was suddenly a dark place. I hadn’t felt that nervous since the Oklahoma City Bombing.

It felt like we were on the edge of disaster. It was as if the world was on a plate balanced on a needle and the plate was crooked. One more move and it would fall. I hear about the war on terror every day at school on the “Channel One” show, yet didn’t understand everything going on. With every report of a car or suicide bombing, I felt like destruction was coming closer. The terrorists proved that they could and would come onto American soil. We all feared it would happen again.

In 2003, Columbia exploded, adding to the feel of doom. Each disaster piled up, further tipping the plate. The earthquake in Indonesia and Hurricane Katrina brought the feeling that nature itself wanted us to die.

I don’t know when life changed. I can’t point to a day or month and say that’s when the world seemed a little brighter.

Ten years later, I can finally say I understand. I under what that day meant. I understood how life changed. It’s only by looking back is it possible to see the whole picture. As Americans, we should view images of the memorial. We should observe a moment of prayer, silence or reflection for those who died that day. Each one is a hero, as are the ones who were injured or escaped. The families affected deserve our prayers. We can mourn and be thankful.

And we will never forget.

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Abeloth: the antithesis of a good villain

Palpatine was cunning, sinister, manipulative and a servant to the Dark Side.

Thrawn was a military genius who studied his enemies to know how defeat them effectively them.

The Yuuzhan Vong slaughtered billions of innocent lives in the name of their gods.

Abeloth throws temper tantrums.

And she’s considered a villain?

Random House recently released the blurb for Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse by Troy Denning.

But victory against the cunning and savage Abeloth, and the terrifying endgame she has planned, is anything but certain.

Doubtful. She’s as terrifying as a butterfly.

Abeloth’s general lack of being an effective villain hurts the Fate of the Jedi series. Based on the little we know about her, her only motivation for her acts are being crazy, destruction and wanting someone to love her. None of these characteristic is used in a way to make her a solid villain. The desire to destroy is not engaging when there is no concrete reason as to why.

Abeloth had some potential. With the ability to control minds, she could have been an interesting threat. Aaron Allston was the only author who used her ability to make the young Jedi snap in a productive way with Jysella and Valin Horn in Conviction. What was the point of making a bunch of wacko Jedi if only two did anything? Yes, I understand that they created upheaval, hurt the Jedi’s reputation and pushed Luke and Ben towards the “Lost” Tribe of the Sith, but so much more could have been done with them. While she does use her mind to conduct some manipulation, forcing the Sith to do what she wants or taking control of a government (been there, done that) is hardly as shocking as turning Jedi the Maw Jedi into her uncover agents.

Abeloth’s appearance also destroys her chances of being a memorable or capable villain. When she falls into her temper-tantrum episodes, her face melts like wax. You know, like the Nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. In addition, she has tentacles, star-like eyes and a mouth wide enough to rival Pac-Man.

What the hell?

While her appearance does allude to her “unknown” aspect, it makes it difficult for readers to envision her scenes. When I read, I imagine what I’m reading. I can’t make a clear picture of Abeloth in my head. It’s distracting.

It’s difficult to explain Abeloth to someone who hasn’t read the series. She’s an usual being, but not trans-dimensional like the infamous Waru. She can do something to a being’s mind, but hasn’t exploited this characteristic to the fullest. Her motive seems to be only destruction. There’s nothing about her that makes you want to know why she exists.

And she looks like someone partially melted the Kraken and threw two large shiny diamonds in the mess.

She’s certainly no Thrawn.

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Filed under Expanded Universe, FotJ, reboot, Star Wars

The Nostalgia Effect: Why it’s making people want an unnecessary reboot

Ah nostalgia. It makes it possible to forget the unbearable heat and long lines during a childhood Disney World vacation. It makes memories more pleasant and adds to the overall appeal of corny kids’ shows and lame music. It makes it possible to ignore bad acting for an amazing story.

Nostalgia has a dark side. It makes us believe things from the past are better than they really were. This belief can lead to stupid decisions.

Like rebooting the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

After the publication of a new Star Wars book, someone calls for a reboot because he didn’t like a particular event. More often than not, this comment is written in a fit of full-out nerd rage with no real argument as to why the reboot is “necessary.” With the recent release of Fate of the Jedi: Ascension by Christie Golden, I feel it’s necessary to bring up this frequently debated issue yet again.

Think about what would happen if the Expanded Universe were rebooted. No more Jaina, Jacen and Anakin. Ganner’s amazing death scene? Never happened. Chewbacca dying by a moon landing on him (which was the only way he could go)? Gone. Peace between the New Republic and Empire? Forget about it. Jedi Academy? What Jedi Academy? No more Pellaeon. No more Thrawn. No more Mara Jade Skywalker.

Well, what if the reboot took place after the Thrawn trilogy?

But I want Kyp Durron! a group of fans scream.

Okay, well, let’s keep it up to the Thrawn duelogy.

What about Tahiri, Raynar, Tenel Ka, Jagged Fel, Valin and Jysella Horn, Syal as a starfighter pilot…

You see the problem.

It’s impossible to erase the Expanded Universe. Many argue that the books went downhill after DelRey took over publication. Plenty of subpar books were published under Bantam. Bantam-era books are generally softer, less risky and lack suspense. While these aren’t bad characteristics, it makes them rather repetitive. The Empire attacks. Luke, Han and Leia come in to help. Something somewhat scary or bad happens. Luke, Han and Leia succeed. The end.

It’s easy to find fault in a book. When a poorly written story comes along, it stays fresh in fans’ minds until something better comes along. This feeling of dissatisfaction makes fans clamor for familiar tales. For example, if Timothy Zahn’s “Heir to the Empire” was the first Star Wars book someone read, she may feel like it was the perfect story. Nostalgia.

Cleaning the slate doesn’t work if the editorial staff makes poor decisions or untalented writers are permitted to publish books. Wishing for the stories of the past hinders the hope for great storytelling of the future.

And do you really think that our favorite authors will want to start over? Would you want to abandon the characters you created?

I think not.

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