Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Light Side vs. Dark Side Choices

One of the big draws for many playing Starwars: the Old Republic has been the extensive dialogue that allows the player to make choices moving you toward more of a dark side or light side persuasion. This has been interesting for me, but it seems that there are a couple issues with this system that are a bit, for lack of a better term, wonky.

First, when you start the game with a new character, you are forced to choose between a Republic or Imperial character class. These are obviously dark/light side aligned character classes, so it seems that some of this choice has been made for you from the very beginning. Yes, you do have the option of picking dark side dialogue choices while playing a Republic character and vice-versa, but for the most part the choices you have are still very much "light" in aspect.

Second, some of the choices you are given simply don't make sense. For instance (SMALL SPOILER ALERT) in the Trooper/Smuggler starting area, you are asked to recover some medicine that was stolen from Republic troops. After finding the "thief," you find out that it is a cat-lady (don't remember the race) that stole this medicine to help a community of poor refugees, one of which, a young boy, stands with her complaining about an aching head. Now, it seems that these medical supplies have now been stolen from the cat-lady "thief," and it falls to you to recover them. After recovering the supplies, you must decide whether to return them to the cat-lady and her refugee boy or to the original owners, the Republic troops. Playing a trooper, I decided that our troops needed those supplies, they were rightfully ours, soliders were dying, and while I felt for the cat-lady and her refugees, there had to be another solution besides theft. With this decision made, I headed off to the officer who gave me the original quest to return the medical supplies only to find that this was the "dark side" choice! How could returning an item that was rightfully owned be "of the dark side??" This made little sense to me. I can understand how helping the refugees would be a good thing, but to do it through theft and dishonesty didn't seem like a "light side" choice at all.


I really like the concept of dialogue choices that have an impact on your character and on how you play him or her, but I wish this could have been implemented in a bit different way.

First of all, have every character start without picking a Republic or Imperial side, and have the choices made move them toward one side or the other. I really don't understand the insistence on MMO's to have players pick a side and then to have no communication or interaction with the other side; this obviously doesn't reflect reality. I understand this may cause some issues in PvP, but simply allow players to choose the side they would like to represent in each battle or have PvP start only after the character has chosen a side based on conversation choices, etc.

Second, don't allow players to see the affect their choices will have until after the choice has been made. I know I can turn this option off, but I just can't make myself do so. I have compromised and put it on the "hover over" option to see which choice will cause me to go more to the light or dark side, but if this wasn't an option at all, I think players would spend a bit more time thinking through the consequences of their choices in every single conversation.

Third, have choices that make sense. Don't give situations like the ones I outlined above and then throw in the fact that they are dark/light choices. Make both of them light side, with more points given than the other, or give a third choice that is obviously dark side like maybe keeping the materials for myself or destroying them so no one can have them.

I think that if the dark/light side choices were done in a bit different way, they could have been simply amazing. They are good now, just not amazing.

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