Rakghoul Morality

From Rakghoul Morality

I’ve been playing a lot of Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR). Very brief impressions:

  • Yes, it feels like a single-player RPG. A Bioware RPG. Except that… once in a while some jerkface loots a chest that you’re fighting an elite mob for, and a lot of the quests are impossible to solo unless you come back totally overpowered.
  • But surprisingly, that it feels like a single-player RPG is actually very, very engaging. The single-player-ness comes from Bioware injecting narrative decisions that let you *actually* role play if you want to. There’s definitely enough content in SWTOR for someone to write a dissertation analyzing the branching dialog using Jim Gee’s idea of the projective identity. Of course, some of these decisions are tied to light side/dark side points, and if you don’t stick with one side or the other you’re gimping your character since there are vendor rewards for very light or very dark characters.
  • But you can also hit escape before a conversation is over, so you can restart the conversation from the beginning to see all the various routes and branches the dialog can take. This is actually a pretty good thing, imho, letting you continue to project an identity for your character whilst also letting you ultimately make the ludic/rational choices.
  • Personally, I found myself pausing at these story choices (which basically are the familiar dialog options found in other Bioware games, most recently the Dragon Age and Mass Effect series) and reflecting on each branch as I explored them, eventually picking ones that I thought matched my character most. In many cases–and I’m not saying this is true for other players–I made role play choices that gimped me. These were difficult to make, and I like having to make difficult choices in games.
  • It’s almost as if Bioware listened to me when I wished that WoW had dialog and story choices!
  • It feels fresh enough to be very fun at times. Spoiler alert: For example, one of the early Flashpoints (ie, instances, where you have to group up with others to go through a scripted, personal mission) included shooting turrets at Starship Trooper-like alien bugs and, later, hitting switches on a set of platforms in a particular order like in a puzzle-based FPS while fighting robots with knockback. And yes, they can knock you off the platforms to your death. For some reason, this was hella fun, figuring out the puzzle with only 3 people instead of 4, and dying over and over. Death was fun! We didn’t read strat guides or watch YouTube videos for how the fights went. We just played… playfully played.

So there you go. A MMOG that emphasizes story and is new enough that it brings out the playfulness in me. Castronova be damned. I like this game. At least for now. Who knows if this will last. I mean, look at my first post about WoW, for christsakes! 🙂

Anyway, one particular quest line on Taris struck me as interesting in how NPCs could have depth in their own personal morality and value systems. Spoiler alert: Below is the photoset of Cera and Garthe. They were part of a research team that got attacked by rakghouls (think, space zombies). While looking for the team, you find out that Garthe was graverobbing on the side. After that is resolved (here I chose to expose his deeds to his partner–light side choice), you’re asked by Cera to analyze rakghoul DNA and figure out that the rakghouls are hanging around their ancestors’ burial grounds, which gives evidence of their sentience or that at least they still feel familial bonds. Garthe then takes on the moral high ground, arguing that they can’t use this information to kill the rakghouls more effectively. They’re more than just mindless beasts that want to eat your brains!

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