Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of The Darker Side of Life; the SWTOR-RP weekly column where we discuss the prevailing RP issues of the day and take your opinions on them. For the past several months, I've taken your suggestions on topics from a wide variety of categories. Some of them are fairly static, others like our discussion on companions in roleplay were predictions, done before the launch of The Old Republic, based on what we knew about the game at that time. In this week's article, we're going to revisit several old topics with fresh opinions, both from old members who may have read the originals when they were first published, and fresh faces who have joined us recently, all to answer one question: how has the launch of The Old Republic changed your opinion on roleplay? 

Companions aren't the only thing we'll be discussing though. Server communities was another hot topic we touched on. Many players voiced their opinions on separate servers for timezones, or RP-PvP, or even keeping everyone together. Now we'll look into how things have turned out in the first month of the game. Combat solutions, the classic dice, duel, and the emote debate can never truly be settled, but it varies by game depending on how the players feel about the options a developer provides. Lastly, we'll touch on a more recent topic, being our discussion of RP hotspots and how players are using or abusing them. Join me in this very special edition of The Darker Side of Life as we take a trip back and look at how getting to play The Old Republic has changed your thoughts on roleplay topics, if at all.

They were just giving them away, I swear!

Mai Cash: I absolutely thought it was brilliant when on the second day of pre-launch play, I interacted with a Republic roleplayer who had named all of his companions differently than their given moniker so that he could utilize them in RP. Just as the class story line is there to be used and molded and somewhat borrowed from in order to build a unique character concept, the companions themselves can be modified slightly (via names and IC'ly given personality quirks) to involve them in your character's role play. I believe in using the tools we are given, and BioWare has given us such a diverse toolbox to work with. Ignoring the companions in roleplay is a person's prerogative, but should they aid me in furthering a story or help me in placing a plot point, I will not refuse to use them.

Obran: My opinion is companions are not for roleplay. As everyone has the same companions, it's just too much hassle trying to explain away why they're not Khem Val or Jorgen, etc. This hasn't really changed and it seems most people I play with agree, not mentioning their companion at all in IC conversation.

Companions in roleplay. This one seemed like a fairly open and shut case at the time. Each member of a class is followed around by the same group of companions, so wouldn't using them together cause mass confusion? Several people suggested that we could just use them as different NPCs, but at the time there weren't many customization options available. If they looked the same, what would it matter? And even a different colored Khem Val is still the same giant monster. Since beta, though, BioWare has introduced many new customizations, and not just the ones for the starting companions, but a few for higher level ones as well. There are also Collector Edition and Security Key options for the starting companions that look markedly different from their original appearances, more than just a different coloured Vette. It stands to reason that as time goes on, BioWare will continue adding more customization options as well. 

It seems as time goes on, there becomes a more reasonable argument for using companions as random NPCs. I've used Talos Drelik as a secretary once for a moment. It seems that's where the middle ground is, using them in special circumstances as flavor, but not as a major part of RP. I will say though that I did see a Chiss fellow using his ship's droid as a protocol unit to translate for him, as he didn't speak basic. It was a bit cumbersome, but ultimately memorable. Even the droid was just a bit of flavor that person was adding to his character, and I haven't once yet seen anyone using a companion as an extra thug to try and be able to pull an "I win" card in a fight. I'd like to believe we're just that mature, but I know it isn't true. Players have found a lot of great ways to use companions as flavor in RP, and as long as it doesn't get out of hand I think it's going great so far. 

An empty cantina benefits no one...except the Wookiee

Kerri Knight: Lord Adraas, being the unofficial "US RP-PvE Superserver" (tm) obviously has a lot of activity going on. The nature of my characters makes them not so suitable for hanging around the fleet and faction homeworld cantinas. What I have seen from the Yocola Tonka is that a range of interests does exist for people who want to portray characters that are not die-hard loyalists of their particular faction. There are "dissenting loyalists," the disillusioned, the mercenaries and of course the entirely neutral.

Mishka Kalrook: My server community on Shien seems alright so far. The economy has been pretty reasonable on the Republic side so far, and as time goes on I am starting to encounter more random RP here and there. Because of the insistence of Lardass server being the Mecca Server, there isn't to my knowledge a great deal of organization between guilds and such yet. The server does have a good sized community though, and outside of all that, I feel it's too early to say yet.

Server community debates were one thing I didn't really stay neutral on. I said over and over that we should work to consolidate onto one big RP server. There was a lot of disagreement, people worried about queues and time zone issues. Queues were one thing BioWare handled very well, and by the time the game was a few weeks old, there no longer were any on RP servers. And as of the time of this writing, no RP server is within danger of hitting its maximum capacity where BioWare can no longer up the limit to shorten a queue. 

We went ahead and formed two megaserver parties on SWTOR-RP, for the US and EU. The US group chose Lord Adraas, and the EU team chose The Progenitor. While both of those RP servers got a major boost, and had the longest queues, other servers have cropped up strong and healthy as well. Shien for the US and Trask Ulgo for the EU have come in as close seconds with strong and healthy communities of their own. The RP-PvPers, having less choices, filled their servers out extremely well too. There are some hard feelings left, but overall I'm proud of everyone and how we got through launch together. 

The thing I worry about now is Australian servers. I've gotten to know many Aussies on Lord Adraas, and I hope they'll stick around there and on other servers too. People who come from World of Warcraft know the damage to RP communities it could cause when Blizzard opened up a new RP server. Even if you're not an Aussie, but just thinking of going from one US server to another, hold off and wait a bit. We've got a chance to build several strong RP servers instead of just crowding into a few now. I must admit I'm rather amazed by it all, but the amount of hard work this community puts out is just incredible. I just wish they whined about graphics less...

We both rolled a three, now what!?!?

Sriin Knroei: Absolutely not. I'm shocked Bioware has not included a /roll system in game. I'm told it may be in later. I sure hope so. Dice rolling is a completely impartial system that can help add a little dumb luck or chance to circumstances. It helps with perception rolls in a lore that is chalk full of six-sense sensory types that might otherwise metagame their way through information. Granted, I don't think Darth I-Know-What-You-Had-for-Breakfast will glean (okay, he might, glean implies a slow gathering for information over time) your social security number, but, he may get an impression that something is a little off. It's intuition from there. But that is up for both parties to decide in advance as well. You can never force your system of conflict resolution on another. I prefer to be reasonably accommodating.

MacButt: I've always been an emoter when it comes to RP conflict. Until recently I've had too crappy of a system to be able to duel properly, but even so, I don't take levels and gear into account for RP, so I don't consider dueling to be a fair judgment. If someone spends all their time online RPing and developing their character instead of farming PvP gear, it's not really fair to them when someone waltzes up and challenges them IC while wearing full Centurion gear. RP conflict should be settled with RP. I do miss dice systems for larger DMed events, but I'm not aching over it.

I said the debate on combat systems would never truly be settled and I stick by that. However, BioWare threw an unexpected twist at us that I don't think anyone saw coming a few months ago. The Old Republic has no dice or /roll system ingame. Not only does this make gambling mini-games harder, but it also completely precludes Dungeons and Dragons style dice dueling in TOR. No one is going to trust you to roll when they can't see it. So we're left with the two extremes: PvP duels and emote duels. 

As I've said before, duels favor the heavy gamers and kids that have an abundance of time to spend out grinding PvP gear. However this also makes it far in a way that some newbie at level 20 can't walk up to you and claim to be Darth Maul's ancestor and kick your teeth in. While emote duels may favor those who can't or won't gear up for PvP, they also favor the creative, allowing players to combine the powers of different classes into some unique concept, or even create their own powers and interpretations of attacks. Want to do a matrix-style dodge as an Agent? In an emote duel, you can. 

It seems like playing a bit of The Old Republic has done a lot to win fans for the PvP system though, as emote duels have been rare as I've seen and mostly confined to in-guild sparring or fights among friends. As opposed to Star Wars Galaxies where I'm from, and most players didn't trust the in-game combat systems enough for many fights, a lot of RPers I've talked to have been won over by TOR's PvP. Does this mean you have to PvP? No. I still believe firmly that the players should try to work something out like adults, but chances are if you're a PvP duel fan, things have been going well for you in TOR. 


Balkus: I've not really seen any such conflicts. The TOR game world is MASSIVE, and we've all got a lot of room to set up bases of our own. A lot of people use their own ships for RP meetings, or little empty rooms out of the way of other players if they need to. I've not seen anybody trying to lay claim to big chunks of questing hubs, or try to make themselves owners of whole fortresses yet. Undoubtedly this will happen on occasion, as you get players who want RP to be a massive power trip, but I think most realise that it's more about playing a character for whom life is a struggle, than a super-powerful dark lord of Hades these days. I have seen a lot of RP going on in cantinas, random political discussions, arguments, and business dealings. I've seen people questing together IC, and it's been great. There's a lot going on on our server right now, and it's hopefully going to stay that way for a long time yet.

Atreiyu: I've seen lots of roleplay. I've also had my own share of some private roleplay and story lines that are building up between my guild members and some other guilds we're allied with. It's pretty neat to see the ball rolling already. A lot of work needs to be done yet, but all in good time. As for conflict, I haven't seen too much yet. Nobody fighting over areas. Though I did pass by the cantina when running around selling stuff on the Imperial station (seems where all the action is at, Imperial side). I was rather amused, and even had to stop ICly to watch a fued going on at the bar counter. It was literally something out of 'Romeo and Juliet' where the Montague and Capulet households cross paths. Only in this sense, it was a group of Humans Vs. Purebloods.

Roleplay hubs is one I really want to hear back from you on. I could talk about the fleet cantinas, or the ships that most, if not all of you have seen, but instead I want to mention a few lesser known gems and hear back from you on your own little spots that you love. If you're looking for an office, the Upper Promenade on Nar Shaddaa has two side ones that are great for RP. The Datacron at the waterfall by the Dromund Kaas Starport is also a beautiful place to sit for a while and do some RP out in the open. I love the openness of the Dune Sea on Tatooine too. I randomly ran into someone who was RPing a lost deserter. That was fun. Tell me in the comments what you think the best hidden gems are.

We also discussed the issue of players owning and working at RP hotspots too. This happens in the cantinas and clubs of every MMO. As many of you know I work with Yocola Tonkla on Lord Adraas that RPs owning a part of the Slippery Slopes cantina there. So far we've managed to avoid any real issues by staying out of the way of people who don't want to be invovled, and just by providing random RP to anyone who walks in. Will it work for everyone? Who knows. I do want to encourage people to find a way to create events and use these RP hotspots to their fullest, like Kaemrys mentioned in the comments of another article about one of his guild members RPing a museum curator and giving tours. That's awesome. 

Well that's all for now folks. Now that I've run through the lists, we're going to have another topic vote on my wall on Monday. Be sure to check there often for the latest updates as well as @SebayaKeto on Twitter. The questions for next week's topic will be up shortly in the Darker Side of Life thread, so head on over there if you want to see what it is! Before you go though leave a comment and let me know if your opinion has changed on these topics. Perhaps they've stayed the same? Let's hear your reasons too!
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