Christmas is almost upon us once again, and as this luminescent blue-white pearl which we call Earth continues its ageless pirouette against that infinite star-glittered backdrop of black satin, people across its circumference take time out of the hectic schedule of existence to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ; which, in this modern age, seems to consist of taking a list of the Seven Deadly Sins and seeing how many one can tick off in a single day.

An MMO launch should fit right in.

Star Wars: The Old Republic has begun its early access event. You may even have chanced upon this news already from some obscure remote corner of your social network, perhaps old Mrs Crumblejowls down at the corner shop, or in the pained synchronised barking of every dog around your neighbourhood. If you hadn’t heard about the launch of SWTOR, then you may want to consider the case that you are, in fact, deceased – confirm this by checking for your pulse, or seeing whether you can walk through doors without having to open them, that sort of thing. If you are indeed no longer of this mortal coil, you may need to recruit the aid of a small boy who can see dead people to sort out your terrible predicament, although be warned: he may actually be too young to successfully complete the registration of your SWTOR subscription.

Many have wondered at the timing of BioWare’s release of SWTOR so close to Christmas, but we must consider that for many this is also a time of remembrance of Lord Jesus Christ. Or Darth Christ as he is in the Old Testament. Strong in the ways of the Force: able to Force heal, move impossibly large objects with his will –such as the stone doors to tombs–, and return as a Force Ghost upon his death, he was a powerful Sith Sorcerer. He was also prone to acts of rage, such as destroying temples (Anakin Skywalker’s later tribute being considered tasteless and excessive). Lord Christ was also unusual in taking on many apprentices at once –up to twelve at one point– rather than the single Master-Apprentice relationship which is more common among the Sith Lords. Opinion is divided as to why he did this, but the most common assessment is that it was perhaps a show of strength on his part, demonstrating his complete belief in his mastery of the Force. Alas, as is always the way with the Sith, one of his apprentices betrayed him in the end. Of course in many of the depictions of him, Lord Christ is seen to be wearing a beard style more common to the Jedi than the Sith. Not only this, but he enacted numerous good deeds during his time, leading many scholars to question his true nature, and whether he may have in fact been a Jedi double agent.

Back to the seven sins. I think Gluttony is a fairly easy score, and thus isn’t a terribly high value on the Sin-o-Meter. Much like Christmas, the MMO family sits itself around the feast of new content and gorges itself to the point of bursting. And as with Boxing Day, there comes a point where the overindulgence strikes back, with players unable to hear mention of the recently released MMO without grabbing their mouth with both hands, cheeks bulging, and making a dash for the nearest bathroom.

Wrath is also in evidence, as people find themselves excluded from the early access, be it due to a lack of invitation, failing Internet service, or the inconsideration of Real Life, getting in the way as it does, like the cat underfoot that wants feeding as you’re trying to juggle pans of boiling water and molten fat as you serve the Christmas dinner. Envy goes hand in hand, with outsiders watching with green eyes those people who have spent months preparing themselves, and now put their entire life on hold for a day or more, so that they can play the game seventeen picoseconds after the servers have opened. It’s common knowledge in the MMO community, of course, that the experience is so much better when consumed fresh, and that most MMO servers go stale quickly a day or two after launch, whereupon the whole thing becomes pointless. Anyone coming late to the party will have to pick through the messy bubble and squeak of content which is left over. Of course it’s all about community at the start, being there at the beginning, sharing the experience; very much like the crowd at the January Sales is all about community, understanding and sharing with your fellow man.

I also imagine Lust is well covered in certain quarters, and that there are some keyboards out there that could really do with a quick run through a dishwasher to loosen the keys again, but thus far we’ve thankfully been spared the twitpic evidence of this.

Regardless of my cynical musings on the launch of a new MMO, congratulations must be made to BioWare for one of the smoothest launches I think I’ve ever experienced. It may have been a regimented and cordoned and corralled crush, like the queue to see Santa in a major shopping centre, but in combination with an incredibly strong server system, it seems to have worked like a charm. I can still remember fully half of World of Warcraft’s subscribers being unable to play the game for a day or two after launch because they couldn’t register their credit card details on Blizzard’s failing website; I should know – I was one of them. BioWare have learned from and improved upon that debacle by several orders of magnitude, and so I’m left wondering what it will do for MMOs if the actual game can do the same with respect to the current market leader’s efforts.

Posted by Melmoth at 11:31 am