Image via WikipediaBioWare's plan to help the LucasArts empire strike back. Not that long ago, in a galaxy not very far, far away, the massively multiplayer PC game Star Wars Galaxies found itself spinning aimlessly into the depths of infinite (cyber)space like Darth Vader after the destruction of the Death Star. The millions of fantasy-hungry online gamers that LucasArts and Sony Online Entertainment assumed would flock to Star Wars Galaxies like Womp rats to cantina trash had turned their backs on Wookiees for a world of Warcraft instead. While WoW boomed, Galaxies limped along like a rusty old bucket of bolts.
The short of it is that Star Wars Galaxies just wasn't fun enough. It was a needlessly complex affair that bogged the player down in micro-management instead of thrusting them into swashbuckling adventure. Hundreds of game-breaking bugs didn't exactly help the cause either. Subsequent updates and expansion packs rectified many of the problems, but the rebellion had already won and subscribers had punched in the hyperdrive en masse to escape to other worlds. Though the Galaxies servers are still running to this day, you'd be hard pressed to find much of anything going on.
However, there's no need to go crying into your blue milk just yet. There is indeed a new hope. Star Wars is set for a massively multiplayer reboot in the form of Star Wars: The Old Republic - a brand new MMORPG in development at BioWare studios.
Proven masters of the computer role-playing game, BioWare has its logo stamped on classics such as Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Mass Effect, and of course, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Can they turn their impressive storytelling talents to pulling Star Wars out of the digital Sarlaac pit?
BioWare claim that a typical online game is built upon three pillars: Exploration, Combat and Progression. What they plan to bring to Star Wars: The Old Republic is a fourth pillar of Story. Players will be faced with ongoing moral choices, be accompanied by artificial intelligence-driven companions (such as sidekicks for Smugglers ala the walking carpet himself) and be immersed in a fully-voiced world (which is surely a first for any MMORPG. You can see a five minute preview of this here.
The Old Republic will hopefully deliver the high-action and space opera spectacle that one expects from the Star Wars license in massively multiplayer form. But will past Star Wars subscribers scarred by their Star Wars Galaxies experience be willing to return to that galaxy far, far away and resume their roles as bounty hunters, Sith and Jedi? Do or do not. At least there is a trial.