Ahh, Space combat...
Part of me is in love, yet part of me cannot help but fear.
My fear is born of a gut feeling - a gut feeling which is warning me that, though these events may seem 'epic' and 'cinematic' on video - They will in fact be mundane and droll when playing them.
It seems to me as though the on rails space shooter Bioware has presented, could fall prey to a visual disconnect between what is happening on screen and the player's control input. In shooters you pull the trigger on your controller when you fire a weapon because that action reinforces the visualisation on screen. In this flying game it almost feels like the ship is a glorified mouse cursor due to the input method.
I wish that it had been more focused on the ships themselves rather than disconnecting the player from their character and placing the camera outside the ship.
Think about it - in the films the action always takes place in the ship as well as outside it. in the films, the companion flies while the main protagonist defends the ship or vica versa.
In Episode 4 Chewie flies the Falcon while Han and Luke blast tie fighters.
In Episode 5 Han flies the falcon while Chewie and C3PO tend to the hyper drive.
In Episode 6 Han sweet talks the Imperial Officer while Chewie operates the lambda-class shuttles's controls, Ackbar shouts orders to his bridge team while he directs rebel fleet.
It's all in the ship.
Part of me really expected space combat to take place from within a cockpit or a turret. It doesn't make sense from a cinematic standpoint to place the camera behind the ship. It relinquishes the urgency and epic nature of the battle unfolding around you. If you were in the cockpit dodging through debris and enemy fighters as Republic and Sith capitol ships exchanged volleys of fire around you - you would feel completely involved and awestruck by the action. But by taking the camera out of the ship, it loses its epic nature. Imagine Luke's trench run had it been shot completely from behind his ship - it would have been devoid of any sense of awe or scale. That is what Bioware risks by pulling the camera out of the ship, a disconnect of input from player to action and a disconnect of story from the character driven narrative on planets to suddenly; 'galaga-esqe shooter time' when in space.
All games need a unity of experience. If you build a 3D, character based, single player RPG you don't completely throw that away when you move to a different section of the game - doing so only destroys the immersion of the game world and fosters a disconnect between player and story - because the game has betrayed its own rules and betrayed the trust of the player in the reality presented. I want to get in my ship and never be pulled out of it until I disembark. One of the great failings of StarTrek Online was that you never got to be Picard in control of the Bridge - you were just a ship.
I should be able to partake in a space battle without ever really losing my avatar - he should sit down at the turret or flight controls and take over, the camera always remaining focused on my character, my story, and my role in the battle unfolding around me, not some generalistic overview of the battle presented by a camera randomly hovering behind the ship that I'm flying.
I fear that being forced through an instanced tunnel shooter may transform The Old Republic into a more sharded game than it already is:
The epic scale of the Starwars universe already forces each planet onto its own 'instance' like area. I worry that a system of transportation which has such a disconnect from the ordinary flow of the game could really 'shard' the experience - I hate to draw the obvious parallel - but it exists: In World of Warcraft a lot of the appeal of the general questing experience is born from the expansive 'living' nature of the questing landscape. Sure sometimes it sucks that a million people want that same drop as you - but the fact that I can walk from the north of a continent to the south without hitting a loading screen is so impressive - and lends so much realism to the fake digital facade of the game - that you don't care. No doubt there are downsides to piling every player into one continent which does not 'instance' and shard the player base - but the advantages to the realism of the world far outstrip these minor grievances.
The last thing I want is for The Old Republic to ship with an APB-esque instanced model. A model where the community is split based upon how many people can be held in a given area-instance at any one time. That is what killed APB - sharding transformed it from a viable MMO to an underwhelming multiplayer shooter.
I don't think we've really heard anything on how the Universe is united from the developers. How do I get to Coruscant from Tython?
It will be in my ship, for sure - but how do I get there? Do I have to fly through asteroid fields? Will I be randomly assaulted by enemy ships?
If so; awesome - just do it right. I want to trust you, Bioware, but you gave me the Mako and Planetary scanning in Mass Effect. Please do it right.
Having said all this, there is no doubt that the trailer released was all kinds of bad-ass. I just worry how that visual aesthetic will transfer to rewarding, engrossing, replayable gameplay as there is no doubt that a disconnect will exist between player and action due to pulling the camera out of the ship and the instanced nature of space gameplay.
Anyway, I can't wait to group up with all you Mos Eisley Radio fans in game eventually - this game should be sick