An In-Depth Look at Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures @ E3 2012
- By: CM Boots-Faubert
- Posted 3rd Sep 2012
The Star Wars franchise can best be described as a multimedia empire, considering that from its humble beginnings on the silver screen on May 25th, 1977, when the space opera was introduced to the world as the first of what would end up being a total of six films, launching a marketing juggernaut that spanned action figures, underwear and pajamas, curtains, bedding, toys of all kinds, scale models, books, fan-fiction short stories, cartoons, animated films and TV shows, comics books, the list goes on and on, and that was the result of its first life -- there was a long gap between the first three movies and the second three while film tech caught up with the needs of the story so that it could continue to be told, and in during that gap the franchise took on another life as video game after video game was released to relive, extend, expand, and complete that universe, its characters, and the stories that naturally spawned from it.
The fact that the story was essentially a retelling of Shakespeares Hamlet, complete with common threads like the ghost who ends up playing a vital role in the story, the quest by the son to avenge the father's death, and a plethora of other similarities but also a lot of differences because, really, George Lucas did not set out to create a space-opera version of the story, rather he created an homage to Hamlet but did so by imprinting it with his own characters, his own plots and subplots, and his own wry sense of humor. It resonated with its audience in much the same way that Hamlet did in its era, and propelled George Lucas into the realm of Rockstar fame in much the same way that Shakespeare was elevated, though arguably Lucas had a much larger following than the Bard.
Ironically there is every likelihood that the Star Wars saga will secure for George Lucas that measure of immortality that is enjoyed by great literary figures -- though we can only hope that in the distant future his creations will not be subjected to the indecency of "re-makes" by lesser directors and actors who would no doubt attempt to imprint the stories with their own identities. I shudder at the thought.
I mentioned that the saga and franchise enjoyed two renaissance periods, and clearly it did. The first, in the 1970's and early 1980's which revolved around the first three films, followed by a significant gap of time in which they slowly faded into the subconscious, only to be thrust back into the limelight with the release of the first of the last three movies, which triggered the second renaissance, which drew to it an ensemble case of actors who did full justice to each of the roles, and suddenly we discovered that there was far more depth to the character of Darth Vader than we could ever have suspected.
Before we continue with this theme, I hope that you will indulge me in watching the video embedded below, which is itself both an homage to the stories, to the creator George Lucas, and to the brilliant man who created the music that was itself practically a star in the film: Star Wars (John Williams Is The Man) a cappella tribute medley song by Corey Vidal and Moosebutter, themselves brilliant in this performance and creation. You can hardly find fault with it or the message that it sends and tells, which is the basic strength behind the fan fascination with the movies and story, and the stories themselves, all celebrated with the music.
The Clone Wars...
It should come as no real surprise to any fan of the movies and the stories, and in particular to those who consider themselves to be lore-masters, that the events of the Clone Wars played a significant role in the prequel story, that it was so strong and important an element that it would receive its own immortality in the form of an animated television series called, appropriately, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. It should equally be no great shock that the animated TV show was popular with fans to the point that it spawned its own homage in the form of a game-like online virtual world, called Clone Wars Adventures, in which the players could create and customize in-world avatars and then participate in a wide variety of Clone Wars themed mini-games and activities. Naturally that incarnation of the story was created in parallel to the television show, with new content being added as each of the episodes was first broadcast, keeping the virtual world in parity with the fantasy that appeared on televisions everywhere! That was an early example of how traditional media and new media could be used in conjunction with each other to create something bigger than they each were by themselves, and this was just two short years ago in 2010 mind you!
The Clone Wars Adventures -- The MMO!
While the initial web-based virtual world The Clone Wars Adventures fit a niche, and allowed younger gamers the opportunity to indulge their fantasies as part of that story, adventure, and world, the feedback that was generated from the residents in that virtual world spoke clearly, expressing their desire for more. Lucas Arts, the creator of all things Star Wars has a long-term relationship with the interactive online gaming entity that is part of the Sony Empire, so it is no wonder that when they went to Sony asking for a more complex revised take on that virtual world they the company willingly rolled up its sleeves and got to work.
At E3 2012 Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) delivered on the its promise to make that virtual world a more exciting place when it unveiled its expansion to the Clone Wars Adventures MMO, offering a presentation, briefings, and hands-on taste for the newest bits of its Free-2-Play creation, which was created to be an interpretation that remained faithful to the unique animation style and spirit of the original television series and web-world. The new content was flogged through the very brief but action-packed E3 2012 Trailer (embedded above) that simply sizzles with vignettes of the MMO experience, assures one and all that they know what they are doing.
Joining the preview and hands-on demo of the new game content was a demo of the new Clone Wars Adventures Assault Trading Card Game, and then Sony described the new elements of the free-to-play game as action-packed content that will allow the players to live out the thrills and excitement of the "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" animated TV series -- and combat -- in a much more intense and personal way.
The fact that the Clone Wars Adventures MMO was created from the start as a Free-to-Play game whose revenue stream largely came from the purchase of special outfits, items, and accessories through micro-transactions using Sony's "Station Cash" (The SOE virtual currency that is used by its other online titles) means that gamers are able to invest as much or as little money and time in game play as they are comfortable doing.
In view of the implied relationship between the approaching release of EA's hardcore-oriented MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic, which launched in December, and the decision to close down Star Wars Galaxies, more than a few fans of The Clone Wars Adventures were vocally concerned that EA's entry into the MMO stage may have a decidedly negative impact upon TCWA, but those fears were never realized -- in fact according to TCWA Senior producer Todd Carson the game not only did not feel any effects from the launch of EA's game, but has been growing stronger since. Part of the reason for that may very well be the fact that the two games draw from completely separate and different groups of gamers in the gaming community, with EA's game appealing to older hardcore MMO players while TCWA traditionally appeals to younger fantasy-oriented gamers.
The ever-changing and evolving world of The Clone Wars Adventures saw many additions in 2012, starting with the return of Darth Maul, expanded combat abilities, new zones, and new challenges, adding experiences that previously were more common to the older MMO's like holiday events, the most recent marked by the May 4th, 2012 celebration "May the 4th Be With You" in which games who logged on to the game received a bonus of 40 booster points just for logging on! In addition to that, there were special rewards on offer including a code for the rare Nelona Dual-Bladed Lightsaber that could be had over at the game's website, and a special Jedi membership rate of $1.99 for the first month for new registrants, giving players access to VIP areas, a special deluxe house, and other in-game content (the stuff that is not part of the free-to-play elements of the game). These developments are seen as the game maturing, and it seems that it truly is.
The release of game codes for new items is not a fluke (watch the video embedded above to get a sense of the spirit with which the dev team approaches that subject) and in fact there are a number of codes that have been released that offer discounts, free play periods, and other items.
What we saw at E3 -- and what we have seen since the expo -- suggests that the world within the web browser-based interface that is The Clone Wars Adventures is about to grow far more immersive than it has ever been, and that is good news indeed for gamers! With the new content rapidly approaching gamers who have yet to carve out their place in the world of TCWA may want to get started now, because much of the content that is incoming will be better experienced on a more experienced character...