I have personally seen a marriage end over the amount of time a spouse spent playing World of Warcraft. (No it wasn’t mine. Thanks for asking.) Famously, a Sorth Korean gamer played an MMORPG for so long without rest that he keeled over and died. Those are the extremes which demonstrate how addictive these games can be. Nevertheless, for those of us with a modicum of self control, an MMORPG is the digital equivalent of a bowling league.
Veteran players of MMORPGs have a term for spending hours in-game earning experience points and chasing levels. It’s called grinding. Indeed, that is what it felt like in Galaxies, a mindless obligatory grind. Quests were bland tasks with no real context or effect on the world. The player essentially had to provide their own context, their own reason for doing whatever they were doing. In this way, again, art imitated life too well. Left to find a motive for hunting space rabbits, I found I had none.
The greatest innovation of The Old Republic is its focus on character and story, which provides context to what would otherwise be a grind. The game is fully voiced. Every single character the player encounters has a story to tell, a reason for being where they are, and a motive for sending the player on a quest. Each of the eight character classes which the player can choose from has a unique story arc for that class. Players also get companion characters to interact with, fight alongside, and send on missions of their own. These story and character elements provide a stronger motive for pressing on than a simple level grind. The game’s developers claim that each class has up to 200 hours of game content. With eight classes in-game, that translates to 1600 hours of potential entertainment at launch.
Of course, the game is far from perfect. There are glitches and deficiencies which, depending on the eye of the beholder, range from unfortunate to frustrating. To the developer’s credit, much has been done to address complaints through software patches. In addition, a forthcoming major patch will add a significant amount of content to the game. Such is expected with subscription-based games.