Saturday, June 29, 2013

Pay for Gay

A Bioware MMORPG based on Star Wars should have been a no brainer of a game for me. That's taking three things I like and shoving them all into one package, and then adding a free to play option, which I guess adds four things I like together since I'm kind of a cheapskate. I have fond memories of playing the Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) games when I was a kid. I like Bioware games in general. I even like MMOs. And when the game was released a couple years ago, allegedly it was going to have same sex relationship options!

That's pretty much where the excitement ends.

I'm no game reviewer, so I won't go into the particulars of what I like/dislike about the game itself. Plenty of professionals have already done that and done it well enough that they don't need me amateuring up the joint. I am going to address the same sex relationship promise that was kinda, sorta, not really delivered on this year. It seems appropriate in light of the recent DOMA and Prop 8 decisions. The news here is good, but what about long ago in a galaxy far away?

Rainbow lightsabers would go a long way with me.

Forget the promise of same sex relationship being in the game at launch. Didn't happen. Not even close. Not even a little (maybe the tiniest amount if you hunted like a Fett and have an incredible imagination). The developers were very sorry and promised to get them in later.

Years passed and nothing happened. And I don't just mean the same sex relationships didn't get put into the game, although they didn't. I mean NOBODY that worked anywhere near SWTOR would even talk about it. No updates, no comments, complete radio silence. A same gender relationship thread on the official website reached into the thousands of posts without ever being commented on by a developer.

I skipped the game at launch. I was excited about the possibilities, and then I was ticked when I was essentially left out of the only unique aspect of the game. It's an MMO, and the only real difference between it and any other MMO at launch was the inclusion of an interactive storyline and character relationships...that I wouldn't be able to participate in unless I was going to fake straight. Bioware has been pretty inclusive to LGBT gamers to this point (which I outline here in part) so it irked me enough to skip the game entirely.

Then came free to play (F2P). Apparently I wasn't the only one to skip the game. I doubt the reasons I skipped it were the predominant ones everyone else had, but whatever the reasons, people just didn't play SWTOR or if they did, they didn't play very long. Good launch subscription numbers, dwindle, dwindle, dwindle, almost gone. So then came the free-2-play option. I figured I'd try it at this point. With F2P at least I wasn't paying to be excluded. And this is when I saw the scope of what would need to be changed to include a same sex relationship after launch. The story in SWTOR is huge, entirely voice acted by some fairly notable names with recognizable voices, and that's when I gave up on the game entirely. Game designer was my original dream job before I ended up being a writer. I have a decent concept of what would be required to add a same sex relationship into the game on par with all the others and I knew they didn't have the resources or the inclination to go through with the massive undertaking.

Recently, they released an expansion called Rise of the Hutt Cartel where they added a planet with some same sex relationship content. Here's where the pay for gay comes in. It's a $9.99 expansion for subscribers and a $19.99 expansion for F2P. Yep, if you want the same sex content promised at the outset of the game, you had to wait several years and now pay extra money. There's also other complicating factors that made it unappealing for me aside from the slap in the face of the price tag. The game is split into light side and dark side, and apparently lesbian relationships would be on one side while gay relationships would be on the other. My highest level character (which matters since the content is WAY down the line from the start of the game) was on the wrong side to access the lesbian content. Pay extra, start over if you're on the wrong side, have the content remain on one tiny planet...nope, not gonna participate in that nonsense.

As a funny side note of how stupid Fox News is, they released an "article" on their official website (which looks like a poorly formatted blog) where they refer to Makeb (the planet in the expansion) as the "gay planet." And, despite the fact that there is very little evidence to support the claim, they say that the gaming populace was largely outraged at the inclusion of gay content! I guess Fox News has to take the bigot/racist/sexist side of an argument even if it doesn't exist or is a tiny minority. Oh sure, the Family Research Council (frothing at the mouth homophobic fringe group) hated that SWTOR included this tiny scrap of nothing for the LGBT community, but they aren't gamers. Really FRC? You don't like the gay content in an MMORPG? Which server do you play on? I'm looking around for a character called Bigot Fett or Sith-for-brains, but I can't seem to find you in the game.

Maybe it's the DOMA decision. Maybe it's the Prop 8 ruling. Maybe it's a matter of my time being more valuable now than when I was in middle school playing KOTOR. Whatever the reason, I'm just not interested in being treated like an afterthought as a gamer anymore.