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Why BioWare Deserves a Break

Posted on the 16 January 2013 by Findthebluekey @FindTheBlueKey
Why BioWare Deserves a BreakIf there is one thing the games industry is getting better and better at, it is serving up a near endless supply of controversy and chaos, missteps and misguided decisions for fans, journalists and developers alike to tear in to. One of the most recent additions to this column is BioWare once again finding themselves under fire for their MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic, most recently for the announcement of the ingloriously nicknamed "Gay Planet". In short, BioWare has long promised to add same-sex relationships into SWTOR, but until now has made little progress. Recently they have announced that same-sex relationship options will be available in their newest planet rolling out with their latest expansion, Rise of the Hutt Cartel. Now this has caused some righteous lash back from the community, and earned the newest planet of Makev its previously mentioned nickname.
But here's the thing. While I completely understand the issues people have with this issue, I think it's about time people gave BioWare a break.
Of course the arguments against this change are understandable, and the issues people take with it seem to be on the right side of justified, but I do think people are looking at this from the wrong angle. Though this addition is not perfect, it is an attempt by BioWare to make good on some of the promises it made long ago, a virtue not shared by many developers these days.
I do agree that the limitation of same-sex relationships to a single planet is both strange and easily offensive, ideally of course such a feature would stretch across the entire game, but what we're missing is the motivation behind this change. This is purely a decision of pragmatism, and one that I believe BioWare hopes to extend in the future.
The Old Republic is a title in trouble. It's financial viability is completely in question and I'm fairly sure everyone involved, including the players, are well aware of it's issues. The main controversy lies in the fact that same-sex relationships are not extended to the other, previously established parts of the game. But the sticking point is the number of hours it would take to go back over old content, add new animations, new dialog options, new voiceover work. It is a serious time investment.
Well, surely it's less work than creating an entirely new planet and having the dialog options be there? So why did they create the new planet instead? Because it was the only realistic choice for BioWare to make. Because of money.
Spending a large amount of man hours to roll back over old questing areas, old planets and old dialog trees will make it difficult to get a return on your investment. It's not something you can push as "New Content" on the expansion, it won't attract many old players back, and it wont convince current players to spring for the expansion just for the privilege. A new planet, with new quests and new characters, new adventures to be had? Now that is content you can market.
What I see is BioWare needing to protect its bottom line, otherwise The Old Republic simply won't be around long enough to see through their vision. What I also see is not a purposeful exclusivity of any same-sex relations, but rather a commitment by BioWare to allow for same-sex relationship options on all its new content. And perhaps going back over it's older content when stability is found.
Already, BioWare has taken enough lash back over what I can see to be a purely realistic decision. Though I would love every aspect of the game to be inclusive as possible, and as full of possibilities as it can, but some understanding has to be given for the restrictions of game development.
So maybe we can just give BioWare a break on this one, shall we?

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