Hello! I’m Alice Wilkes, based in England, and I’m joining the TORWars team to bring you weekly updates on the social side of Star Wars: The Old Republic. In the Social Points column I’ll be focussing on guild management and the wide range of social aspects of the SWTOR community.
It’s finally over! The official Star Wars: The Old Republic Guild Pre-Launch programme has reached the deployment stage and qualifying guilds are frozen, just waiting for launch. For many busy guild leaders the long hours of reading applications, posting in recruitment threads, balancing classes and roles and generally trying to settle in new guild members is over. Well, until launch that is! Now is the time to get the guild website tidied up, add finishing touches to guild policies and rules, check that the voice chat server is still working properly and see how everyone gets along. You can almost hear the sigh of relief from users of the official SWTOR.com Guild Hall forum, which last week was all but washed away in a tidal wave of last-ditch recruitment calls for those elusive pre-orders. Many didn’t make the final cut and have gone away empty handed, unable to even join a guild until launch.
Looking back on the mad recruitment frenzy of the last few months, it is fair to say BioWare has employed a very successful tactic to keep everyone busy until they’re ready to let the eager masses through the door. By encouraging a complex community to form months, if not years before SWTOR is released, BioWare has effectively sold us the sizzle while we’ve been waiting for the steak. The community they have encouraged has to be seen to be believed. Micro communities and guilds have grown like mushrooms in the dark; making plans, writing back stories, dissecting every new bit of information together, sometimes agreeing, more often arguing bitterly – but all eagerly waiting for launch. Part of this community growth is down to the long build up – the delays, the rumours and the complexity of the pre-game guild system, all of which have contributed to the drama and suspense.
While we’ve had nothing to do but talk about it, a lot of us have been making friends and forming connections. It has given us the opportunity to find like-minded players to scheme and speculate with and people have been getting to know each other, building guilds and creating role-play backgrounds and stories. Now, unlike most new games (with the notable exception of Guild Wars 2 perhaps), the SWTOR community is already a few years old and going strong. From the extensive build-up through to the recent successful Beta it is impossible to deny the vibrant community BioWare has cultivated around SWTOR.
In addition to the guild Pre-Launch system there are other factors that really encourage people to cooperate and play together in order to get the best out of the game.
One good example is the Social Point system which rewards players for grouping together in quests, allowing them to accumulate points that can be spent on cosmetic, vanity and group use items. Social Points are awarded for participation in conversations as a group where players can ‘roll’ on answers. More points are awarded to those who select the winning answer and increasing the size of the group increases the potential points gained. Therefore cooperating on a difficult quest with another player rather than just taking your favourite companion can be rewarding.
Then there’s the crafting/Crew Skills system. Unless you want to level two characters together you’re going to have to rely on trade or cooperation to get the most out of it. This is ideal for guilds and even alliances who want to pool their resources.
Huttball is another great example of a community-minded innovation in SWTOR waiting to happen. While many MMOs have various battlegrounds, Huttball could raise the stakes by allowing spectators (a possibility rumored but still unconfirmed at this point), something that was popular in Guild Wars. This may encourage those who don’t usually participate in PvP to still become involved in the experience and have some fun with it whilst rooting for their guild mates. The chance to see how the top guys do it would be an added bonus, and it is clear that SWTOR is a game in which PvP may become a lot less intimidating and more accessible.
The recent Open Beta weekend over the 25th-29th of November was, for some, the first chance to play together as a guild and community forums are generally becoming more active as the countdown continues. Players who signed up for pre-orders and made their guild alignment choices months ago are flooding back to guild forums, getting to know the people they’re going to be playing with and swapping information, rumours and back stories.
I’m going into this with a guild myself, so for me part of the fun will be finally getting a chance to play with all the people I’ve met while waiting for this damn game to come out! It doesn’t really matter to me whether The Old Republic is a mind-blowing break from the norm or, as some Beta experiences suggest, a standard MMO with a few funky new twists; I already know I’ll be playing for years to come, because at the end of the day it’s the people that really make it for me.
I’ll say one thing for Bioware – they know how to put the ‘multiplayer’ in MMO!