Written by | Posted November 13, 2014 – 12:30 pm A Girl and her Dog

The morning of the all hands summon to the Blasted Lands, Aely went for a walk. The late fall air was clear and cool, and leaves crunched under their feet in the less-traveled parts of the streets. She and Roger took the long way around Old Town, south through Tanner Circle and down Bulwarks, across […]

filed under Feature, Roleplay
There’s No Place Like Home
comment 6 Written by on January 27, 2012 – 7:25 am

I was reading a post the other day from Ask a Jedi, about how his characters in other games had places that felt like “home”, where in Star Wars they kind of didn’t.

It’s a good post, and an interesting one in terms of game design.

In WoW, each race has its own “flavor” for the first 10 levels (especially now that Gnomeregan and the Echo Isles are complete). You really have a very specific feel and lore that helps set up who your character is. You’re level 1, and you feel like it. There’s even a quest that welcomes your character into the “fold” of your class, sent as a note from the trainer. This adds a lot to the feeling of “home”, as does the fact that each race has a city (or a chunk of a city) as their main base and political capitol.

Star Wars has chosen to have the entry points be synchronized by class, and have two classes share each starting zone. I’ve only played through Tython at this point (twice…), but the lore and the quest text are set up so that you’re already an accomplished force user when you begin. It’s not so much a feeling of learning something new as it is furthering a profession you’re already an accepted part of. The smuggler intro text also fits this mold.

Plus, since Star Wars isn’t about the various races, but simply about being part of the Republic or part of the Empire, there’s only one major “city hub” per faction. It’s not seen as critical in the progress of the game whether your character is a Mirialan or a Zabrak or a Human. You’re part of the Empire/Republic, and that’s where your major story-based allegiances lie.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t do your own thing. I ended up creating a backstory for Aely that tells me about who she was before she began Jedi training, and well before she ended up on Tython. I needed her to feel like she had a “home” – and to some extent not being able to have that home be in the game is a little sad. Even though “loss of homeland” is a big part of her core character in both games, it was easier when she can still go to the ruins of Lordaeron than it is when she’s just from some now-wrecked outer-planet moon somewhere.

I’m inherently looking for that feeling of “belonging” on Ana’leth and Annata as well, especially since Annata is a very neutral minded smuggler type, who isn’t extremely pro-Republic. Having her be part of the Coruscant Trade Company will hopefully help. Maybe that’s one of the benefits of RP guilds in Star Wars – they offer a place to call “home”, even if it’s just a cantina somewhere or a particular ship. For me, there’s always places in the game that feel like they’re “mine” or part of my characters after awhile, and I’ve not yet felt that in Star Wars.

I’ve also seen some arguments (in a similar vein) that Warcraft has the feeling that the whole planet, the whole world is -thisclose- to falling apart. Everywhere you turn, there’s wars and disaster and marauding giant bugs and zombies and who knows what else. Usually the comparison is that the Star Wars Galaxy is HUGE, and you only fight on very small portions of it, which implies that the other parts of the galaxy are relatively stable, and that average people live average lives doing whatever it is they do.

I don’t think this is entirely a fair comparison, because a farmer wanting you to get rid of the wolves that are stealing his sheep is not the same level of conflict as is, say, a zombie invasion, and having the farmer there in the first place is world-expanding. Presumably the farmer is there being a farmer, and just picks up the outside help dealing with wolves when he needs it.

Plus, in Star Wars, you don’t get to SEE the other places in the world. The peaceful areas are only implied. Aside from cantinas, there’s not a lot of open world that’s available for RP. Admittedly some of that may be because I’ve just dug myself out of Coruscant, which was NOT my favorite place, but the zones so far in Star Wars feel very focused – there’s not a lot of sprawl with pretty vistas to admire. Not much stopping to smell the roses, if you will.

The two comparisons seem, in my mind, related.

They’re both about the level at which the game sucks you in on a character level – not by creating a pressing and demanding storyline, but by making your character truly feel like they’re an inherent part of the world. That they belong – not that they’re important (those are different things).

Having your character feel like they have a place in the game to call home adds to that feeling of belonging. So does experiencing both the big conflicts and the small ones that create depth in a world.

What sorts of worldbuilding helps your character feel like he or she belongs or has a home? Does it matter to you at all?

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6 Responses to “There’s No Place Like Home”

  1. Well, things to get more vista-y and stop and smell the roses-y once you leave the core planets. Places like Alderaan (though we know its far future fate) and Hoth and even in some ways Taris (though many people hate Taris, it’s kinda cool to look at) definitely have the vista views.

  2. Glyneth >> That’s encouraging! I’ve just pulled my ship up to Taris, so I’m hoping things get a little prettier and more immersive.

  3. Actually, nearly every planet beyond the core worlds has vistas. Courscant and Nar Shaddaa are very industrialized and built up, but Nar Shaddaa also gives the impression that it is huge, just from you having to taxi to really get anywhere

  4. I actually feel a lot more immersed in SW:TOR than I ever did in WoW – and I was never an RPer in WoW, though I’ve been involved in (very immersive) tabletop RPGs for decades. For me, the key difference is that SW:TOR allows choice – I can choose how to respond to any given NPC, and my choices often lead to different outcomes. I’m not actively engaged in RP as a social activity in SWTOR, but having the quest choices available mean that I’m pretty much constantly RPing Siha in my head as I play. :)

    I do get what you mean about the sense of ‘home’, though, and I suspect that that will (hopefully) come with time.

  5. You know, I hadn’t thought about it until I saw this, but there really isn’t an analogue to, say, the weirdo gnome in the mountains above Stormwind in SWTOR (or, if there is, I haven’t found it). At least for my trooper, I’m being sent places because Things Have Gone Wrong, so what NPCs I do see tend to be quest folks. There are still the random NPCs in the quest hubs/major cities, but just having an open world NPC who serves no real purpose? Not so much.

  6. I feel just the opposite to this. Since WoW and other games don’t generally offer player dialog choices in their quests, you are free to immerse yourself in your character and reply in your head how you see fit. SWTOR makes you pick from 3 choices that I feel in many cases are rather obtuse and in most cases aren’t what my character would say at all.

    By Darth Todd on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

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