Star Wars: The Old Republic – Bioware’s Rocky MMO Relationship Continues with Gay Ghetto Concerns

Renowned for their attention to storyline, Bioware's pedigree continues to struggle for purchase in the MMO arena as they come under fire for including & segregating gay relationships in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Development studio Bioware is renowned for its broad-minded approach to gender and romance in the storylines of its games. The sci-fi adventure series, Mass Effect, first broke new ground in exploring the complexities of relationships, with options to make the main character male or female and to pursue a romance with a member of either gender or even another species.

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Although Mass Effect and its two sequels met with wide critical acclaim for its narrative development, characterisation and emotional involvement, Bioware has found applying the same formula to the MMO market significantly more challenging.

Massively Challenging

Star Wars: The Old Republic embraced the involved storyline principles that made Mass Effect so successful, but the strategy was found to have a limited shelf-life in the massively multiplayer market. Whilst engaging, the storyline-led experience of SW:TOR came under criticism for being an unhappy fusion of a single-player RPG elements and dated World of Warcraft inspired gameplay.

The resultant drop-off of subscriptions led to a fundamental change in payment method and the traditional subscription was replaced by a micro-transaction freemium model.

Now SW:TOR’s first digital expansion, Rise of the Hutt Cartel, has come under fire before it has even been released. The new content includes a level-cap increase to 55 and new story-driven missions, largely based around new content involving the Hutt Cartel and the planet Makeb.

Not All is Fair in Love and Star Wars

But none of that is the source of the controversy, it’s Bioware’s handling of the forthcoming introduction of same gender relationships which seems to have upset some folk.

Whilst there was predictable outcry from the usual horde of internet bigots, the decision to restrict the exploration of same-sex romances to a single planet has raised protest from the other end of the spectrum too. According to Games Industry International, there have been claims of segregation and even exploitation as customers are required to pay to access this new content.

Executive producer Jeff Hickman explained the situation to the SW:TOR playerbase in a recent blogpost;

“I realize that we promised SGR [same gender relationships] to you guys and that many of you believed that this would be with a companion character. Unfortunately, this will take a lot more work than we realized at the time and it (like some other pieces of content we talked about earlier in the year) has been delayed as we focused on the changes required to take the game Free-to-Play. As we have said in the past, allowing same gender romance is something we are very supportive of.”

I can’t help feeling a little sorry for Bioware. Being forced to make compromises to their proven formula, either due to genre or politics, seems to be causing them no end of grief.

Rise of the Hutt Cartel will be available for download in Spring 2013 for $9.99 (subscriber price) or $19.99 (regular price).

Source: Games Industry International
Source: Star Wars: The Old Republic

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Image: PC Gamer


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Author
Mat Westhorpe
Broken paramedic and coffee-drinking Englishman whose favourite dumb animal is an oxymoron. After over a decade of humping and dumping the fat and the dead, my lower spine did things normally reserved for Rubik's cubes, bringing my career as a medical clinician to an unexpectedly early end. Fortunately, my real passion is in writing and given that I'm now highly qualified in the art of sitting down, I have the time to pursue it. Having blogged about video games (well, mostly EVE Online) for years, I hope to channel my enjoyment of wordcraft and my hobby of gaming into one handy new career that doesn't involve other people's vomit.