Star Wars game to feature gay relationships--but only on one world

Same-sex character romances will finally be added to Star Wars-themed online world The Old Republic—but on only one of the massively-multiplayer roleplaying game's worlds.


    1.  To be fair, another way to describe what they’re doing is this: They’re putting out an expansion, there is same-sex relationship stuff in the expansion, but they’re not going back to redo the older content in order to add it to pre-existing parts of the game. 

      Of course, that doesn’t look as pretty on a headline.

      1. To be fair, another way to describe what you’re doing is this: Apologism for bigotry. The game came out in 2011, not 1981 or 1991 or 2001. There’s absolutely no excuse for not including it in the first place. Except the excuses that you make for them.

        1. You’re right, in the same way that there’s no excuse for every company not to include playable characters of both genders and romantic interests across all forms of sexuality. Yet I see Bioware, which is at least making an effort, called out for this stuff far more often than any other studio. 

          Is that what you’re saying? That there’s no excuse for any game to be released without playable characters of both genders and same gender romance available for all of those characters? If you can’t do that at release, either due to time or budgetary constraints, you should just never release the game?

          I would prefer that every game be released with all genders and sexualities included as playable characters, and I participated in the campaign to get more same-gender romance options in Mass Effect 3, but I also understand the kind of prioritization that happens when a game is late and the budget is tight. Often features that devs feel are important end up getting cut as a game gets closer to launch.

          1. The way that they released it relegates LGBT people to a status known to popular culture as And The Rest.  I do not accept being accorded second class status, and there will be new assholes torn when it happens.

          2. I understand your concerns with this implementation. Would you prefer they take the route of 99% of video games and not include it at all then? I’m seriously asking this question. Most of the time, games make no effort to be inclusive in any way, so there are no stories. A game tries to do it but doesn’t have the ability to implement it as well as would be ideal, and there is a story.

            Would you prefer they not do it all if they can’t do it in a manner where everything is the same? Is it better to leave it off altogether, like the vast majority of video games do, than to put it in unequally?

            I have to make similar decisions all the time, about female characters. In general, I prefer games that actually attempt to acknowledge that women exist in their world to games where you never see anyone female. I’d rather see a badly-implemented but well-intentioned female character than no women of any importance in the game at all, but maybe you feel differently.

          3. Isn’t it less work to design it so that anyone can enter into a relationship with anyone else?

          4. Have you played the game in question? Have you played other Bioware games?

            I play a lot of Bioware games, and one of the things I like about them is how they often go out of their way to provide opportunities for same-sex relationships. SWTOR was a major failure, but it comes on the heels of Dragon Age 2, which included multiple same-sex options for both genders.

            In SWTOR, romantic scenes are comprised of lengthy dialogues in complicated conversational trees. Characters are then portrayed in cutscenes doing things like looking into each others’ eyes, kissing, etc. Pretty standard Bioware stuff.

            The thing is, some of the dialogue is pretty context-sensitive. I didn’t make it through many of the romances in this game, but in another bioware game (Dragon Age 2), a bisexual character will compare you to his old boyfriend if you’re a male, and he won’t if you’re a female. Your player character has a voice, and they’d have to record all the dialogue twice. Voice acting is expensive.

            If you want these conversations to make sense for both genders, they have to be edited for gender neutrality, or some parts have to be rewritten so they make sense (things like “I’ve never known a woman like you,” or “You’re a handsome man, Hawke.”) You’d also have to make sure that the “rigs” matched up properly in the cutscenes – a tall male looking into a female character’s eyes might look like he’s staring at a male character’s neck, unless the rigging for the scene was adjusted. A female character reaching out to touch a male character’s shoulder might find that animation not matching up quite as well on another female’s frame, leaving her hand sort of floating off in space vaguely above her lover’s torso. All these things take time.

            In the days before voice acting and rigging for every single scene in a game, it was pretty easy to just find-and-replace every “woman” for “man”. With voice acting and rigging, it’s become a lot more difficult. Bioware also has much more elaborate romantic scenes than most other game companies (they’re kind of famous for it,) so there’s more work to do.

            Most of the time, Bioware is able to put in the extra work and make same-sex romances available. In this case, they weren’t able to, and from everything I’ve read they felt bad about it.

          5. Have you played the game in question? Have you played other Bioware games?

            I prefer to pursue my same-sex relationships in the alley behind the 7-Eleven.

        2. I’m pretty militant when it comes to gay rights, but the rage is miss placed here. Bioware is easily the most progressive publisher out there, ensuring that gay relationships are always in game. TOR was the exception. They start the process of fixing this and NOW people are pissed, when they are starting to fix their otherwise stellar record?

          Lots of games fail where Bioware hasn’t. Are there ANY MMORPGs besides TOR that offer any gay content? The time to be pissed was when Bioware first released TOR and trashed their otherwise good record, not when they start taking steps to fix the problem. This sort of overblown out of context reaction suggests that they would have been better keeping it hetero only, instead of starting to fix the problem and risking getting lampooned after the fact.

          Bioware is literally the best ally we have in the video game industry. Eating them alive when they start to fix a momentary slip is just dumb.

          1. I’m pretty militant when it comes to gay rights…

            This sort of overblown out of context reaction suggests that they would have been better keeping it hetero only…

            You could have saved space by just calling us uppity.

          2.  From the language Rldan uses I think they’re part of the “us” you refer to. Their comment is about the Timing of the outrage, not it’s existence

          3. I’m not calling you “uppity”.  I’m saying you are engaging in a serious case of friendly fire.  BioWare is as progressive as they come.  You literally can’t point to another video game company that has done more for putting real gay characters into their games and letting people play their hero as gay.  It is cute that the Sims allowed for gay relationships, but for them, it was just a matter of not putting a gender restriction on.  Other companies have allowed some mindless gay relationships with mindless NPCs.  BioWare writes entire thoughtful romances with specific scripting and movements for each and every character.  They didn’t just flip a switch to put gay characters into their games, they produce a custom scripts and give them their full attention and flesh out real people.  They have done this with every single RPG they have released in the past decade, with the singular exception for TOR.  There is literally no other game company that even begins to have that kind of record.

            BioWare was rightfully lampooned when TOR came out, and it wasn’t because they did something radical.  They did something normal for the video game industry and people were rightfully disappointed.  World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings, and all of the other MMORPGs are gay free (in terms of written story) and make no headlines.  TOR made headlines when it came out with only hetero relationships because it was unexpected from BioWare.  They deserved every drop of criticism that they received and anything lampooning them at the time I would have agreed with fully

            Now they are fixing the problem and NOW you choose to pig pile on them when they are fixing their one failure in a long history of trail blazing?  They have a failing game on their hands and despite that, when they release their expansion they throw in the extra money to include that extra content, and you are pissed off because they didn’t revamp the entire game while they were at it? 

            You firing with both guns at an ally.  BioWare is a consistent ally that fucked up once, and are fixing their fuck up by making sure that all future content includes the same sort of progressive content that all of their other games have.  The time to be pissed was when they released TOR, not when they belatedly started to fix the problem.

            I’m not calling you “uppity”.  I’m calling your ignorant for blazing away at consistent stalwart ally for fixing their fuck up.

            Also, save me your “us” shit.  I am “us”.

      2. “To be fair,” they seriously dropped the ball when they made the game in the first place.  Having worked on MMOs, the one game in which we decided to codify relationships within the game, our automatic assumption was that gender would be irrelevant to whom people might be having relationships with.  It’s absurd that they couldn’t figure that out.
        Also, “another way to describe what they’re doing” is that they’ve built the game (with everything voice-acted) such that it’s impossible to make significant changes to existing content.  Thus making their failure to get it right to begin with doubly inexcusable.  (On top of that, they promised something that they should have known they couldn’t deliver.)

      1. Also, much of the star wars galaxy specializes at the planetary level. There are farming planets, textile planets, city planets, crime planets, temple planets, and yes, ghetto planets. And now a gay planet.

    1. With the kind of naming that brought us General Grievous on Star Wars side and the world of Thedas (THE Dragon Age Setting) on Bioware side, I suspect it would be planet Gaysex.
      (Actually, it’s Makeb. Which can actually be read as an abbreviation of “MAKE out, Bisexual”.)

  1. What the separate-but-equal frack? Seriously? I mean, yes, there’s nothing legally or otherwise keeping them from doing this (let’s keep in mind that this is in fact a game), but they didn’t think about how this would sound?

    Edit – OK, I can understand the reasoning behind this (see plenty of other comments above and below). Sucks for TOR that it reads the way it does.

  2. They probably don’t have the money to go back and re-record a BUNCH of dialog in all of the old content of a game that is losing piles of money.

  3.  After the Gungans, the Trade Federation, an the Toydarians (as represented so exquisitely by Watto), you think Star Wars has any social sense at all?  You assume too much.

  4. This vaguely reminds me of a video game I never got a chance to play called “America”. You can play as Outlaws, Settlers, Mexicans or Native Americans. Each character type has special abilities or weaknesses. Apparently to balance things, the makers decided that Native Americans are the only ones that can swim.

    1. the makers decided that Native Americans are the only ones that can swim.

      I guess the designers aren’t old enough to have suffered through six months of Running Bear being incessantly played on the radio.

  5. Read twice, report once.

    Same-gender relationships (SGRs) have been a commonly requested feature in TOR since its launch late in 2011, and executive producer Jeff Hickman apologized in a recent blog post that it is “taking so long to get in the game.” But despite earlier promises that such relationships would be possible with the “companion characters” that serve as semi-permanent sidekicks for players, Hickman noted the feature will initially be available only “with some NPCs on Makeb.”

    Bioware and EA refused a request for further comment on the matter, but Hickman’s post suggests that technical difficulties and the amount of work needed to retrofit existing characters for SGRs are to blame for the feature not being more widespread initially. Back in June, former TOR community manager Stephen Reid said that same-gender relationships were pushed from a launch feature to a post-launch addition because of “the design constraints of a fully voiced MMO of this scale and size.”

  6. To be fair, the Star Wars universe is littered with single-purpose planets. There’s a planet that only eats Millenium Falcons, ffs.

  7. Lol, talk about a storm in a teacup…
    I, for one, welcome the abysmal failure of “games are wannabe movies” concept as exemplified by SWTOR. No game is ever going to be as good as a movie in being a movie. Hence sacrificing gameplay in order to make a game movielike is doomed to failure – the result is a bad movie AND a bad game. What a pity, all that money and talent could have been spent on a lot of good movies and a lot of good games… Am I the only one who wishes Bioware would finally stop arsing about and start doing what they always really wanted to be doing – movies?
    As for this “controversy,” they are not fooling anyone. Cheap controversy on the cheap to get a few links to their fail of a game. Oooh… same sex romance in some pc game. Who the f… cares? It’s so last century… like the whole SW franchise, incidentally.

    1. Oooh… same sex romance in some pc game. Who the f… cares?

      LGBT people care. Are you straight?

      1. My point, which I thought obvious, wasn’t that LGBT people shouldn’t be represented in video games or culture as a whole, which they obviously should,  but that the whole thing is a blatant cheap exploitation gimmick designed to create some buzz around a mediocre game that failed to live up to its expectations on so many levels.

    2. You’re missing out on one of the major benefits the medium of games has over the medium of film: the ability to chose and shape your own avatar.

      When are we going to see a major blockbuster motion picture where the main character is a lesbian POC who saves the galaxy with the help of her eternally faithful alien girlfriend? When are we going to see a fantasy epic where the main character is a gay dwarf from the wrong side of the tracks who saves the world with the help of his sarcastic elven boyfriend?

      This is what games can do that films can’t: games can create stories where the characters aren’t static. They can provide a way to give everyone the ability to be represented as the main character of a story. Both of the scenarios I describe above are possible in existing bioware games, and there are blockbusters that tell similar stories… but the main characters of the movie version of those stories are almost always straight, and quite frequently male.

      There’s controversy here for two reasons: there’s anti-gay controversy every time Bioware puts gay romantic characters into a game (which they’ve been doing for decades) and there’s controversy whenever they fail to live up to the precedent of equality their own studio has set (like with SWTOR).

    3. I care.  I’m gay, and I play video games.

      I’m assuming you are heterosexual (because most people are), and if you are, you probably don’t have an idea of the power of the representations of “how to be” given to us by our culture and society, because I would be willing to be bet that you conform to these representations to at least some degree: they are essentially background noise to you because they affirm your identity.

      Now, imagine if you didn’t see representations of people who acted like you, or thought like you, or had the feelings and desires that you do, that the representations you saw implied that you felt something that no one else did, were something that no one else was, or at least felt something not worth depicting.  That is kind of how it is to be gay, though things are getting a little better now.  When I was growing up, the only representation of gay men I saw were those that were dying of AIDS.  So, to me, being gay meant that I was going to die; it made for a very lonely and nervous adolescence.  I got over this idea eventually, but it still took me a very long time to find the courage to even kiss another man.  Now, I can see some out actors, gay characters on television shows, and connect with people like me through the internet and social media.

      Things like the option to have same sex interactions in video games may not seem like a big deal to you, because you have many representations that affirm your (again, assumed) identity as a heterosexual individual.  But it means a great deal to me, and to other gay people, especially young gay people who might not have choices in the types of media they are allowed to consume, because it is an opportunity to see and be reminded that we are not alone, that there are others like us, and that we do have a place in this world.

  8. I still want to know why my Twi’lek smuggler cannot romance her Wookiee companion.  We’re both humanoid aliens, he’s just hairier than the other options.  

  9. I saw this as a comment on another site (paraphrasing, and I am not anti-gay) : wouldn’t this cause a problem with religious people objecting to the content of the game? I could see some parent finding out about it and immediately demanding that the game is to be deleted…

    1. I’d assume that that’s not a major concern for Bioware – out of their last 8 games that included romantic content, 7 of them included same sex content. When they say it was cut from production because of time, I believe them.

  10. I don’t consider myself “a gamer,” and I generally feel left out on gamer threads on Boing-Boing and other fora when games come up. But I feel compelled to bring up the one game I play fairly regularly: The Sims 3. Now, I know that The Sims 3 is the biggest selling computer game in history. I know that I can read a gaming thread where some wag will make a joke about “running around in circles and peeing his pants,” and everyone gets the joke, even if they won’t name the game.

    You’ve all played it; stop the charade. Even if it reminds you of playing House with an 8-year-old, we all know you’ve all played it. So let’s lift the Cone of Silence.

    And here’s the thing: Every issue with race, gender, and sexuality in gaming was resolved by The Sims years ago. Same-sex Sims could get married when Sims 3 first came out, and if you’re more happy cruising the bookstore/theater/grocery store for rough trade, you can do that, too. Or you can play as a 1950s housewife happily spitting out babies. The game doesn’t care.

    Remember Big Jaw Guy in Sims 2 went viral? That wasn’t some kind of subversion of the Sims — that’s one of the ways that the game is played.

    I call for a moratorium on pretending that you’ve never played The Sims in online fora, and start talking about how it’s high time that the race, gender, and sexuality things that The Sims does well should be incorporated into combat, survival, and role-playing games.

    1. I remember reading an interview with one of the designers of the original Sims and the interviewer brought up the same-sex relationships. The designer rightly pointed out that one would have to add logic to prevent same-sex relationships. And why bother? Let the player do what the player wants.

      You can argue that it is more work with narrative-driven games, but for something on the scale of an MMO, for heaven’s sake, you’re already creating such vast swathes of content anyway that a few extra lines of dialogue here and there (or just writing the dialogue to be gender inclusive in the first place) is surely worth the few extra bucks of recording budget.

    2. The problem with this logic is that implementing same sex relationships in The Sims is significantly easier than implementing same sex relationships in a game with voice acting (and voice acting is just one factor out of many, but it’s the easiest one to explain to a non-dev.)

      A lot of people seem to assume that SWTOR is just like The Sims; that it’s “less work to design it so that anyone can enter into a relationship with anyone else.”

      Once voice acting and interactive dialogue comes into play, it’s no longer less work to do that. For the Sims, Antonius’s assumption is correct, and it’s less work to just not restrict it. For anything voice acted, it’s more work… just in terms of total hours in the recording studio (there are other ways that it’s more work too, but I’m focusing on one thing). I’m not saying that the extra work isn’t worth it, or that more games shouldn’t put that extra effort in… but when making your complaints, I think it’s important to realize the difference between those two situations.

      I’ve played the Sims, I’ve played the various Bioware games where same sex relationships are available, and I’ve played SWTOR. I prefer the Bioware games where same sex relationships are available. At the same time, I recognize that, in games with extensive written dialogue that has accompanying voice acting, putting in same-sex relationships is more work, not less.

      Do I appreciate it when they put that extra work in? Yes. Do I think they should do it in every game? Yes.

      Am I a little sympathetic when a studio says they wanted to put it in but didn’t have the money or time before launch? A little.

      1. Immuh rant, K?

        I’ve put hundreds of hours into Bioware games, going all the way back to Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire.
        TOR (The Old Republic) to me is a watered down version of the good stuff. I play it here and there, but it doesn’t envelop my life for weeks at a time like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, etc. did.
        Even for TOR, you’re totally right about how implementing a same sex romance would be a lot of work. And therefore money. Bioware has shown before that it has limits on what it will do for the fans (i.e. ME3 ending).

        Still, the development timelines for ME3/DA2/TOR HAD to coincide, I can tell that without even looking. So why didn’t the TOR team get the memo? Why didn’t they know this was just a standard thing no matter what game they’re making. I’m taking this for granted (somebody correct me if I’m wrong), but why weren’t there gay/lesbian companions from launch? Even if they only romanced with one sex/gender/whatevs, why wasn’t that included?

        Cynical me figures it never really came up because this was supposed to be a game for the masses – to get a slice of that WoW pie. Now that they’re losing their asses they’re grasping at straws.

        I played the TOR “trial” (play to level 15) before and had a lot of fun. Then they crunched all the servers together and I quit. I started again recently, and now that they’ve gone “free-to-play” (bullshit!) so much of the fun has gone out of it, unless you pay monthly. Add on inability to sprint, inactive chars, and the Cartel Market and all the other annoying shit you now can’t do, who is going to have fun enough with F2P to want to subscribe?

        Come on, Bioware. We want to feel the love.

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