Star Wars: The Old Republic embraces same-sex romance

Hey there, sexy Sith. BioWare finally sets a date for its struggling MMO to get long-promised same-gender interludes, but don't hold your breath waiting for that smuggler-on-Wookiee action.

Players can choose different dialogue snippets, from straightforward to downright come-hither. Screenshot by GameSpot

Same-gender romance will soon be in the air in Star Wars: The Old Republic, meaning your Jedi Knight or Bounty Hunter will have more opportunities to get some lovin' in the online game.

To date, characters' romance options have been limited by class and gender. But in a blog post today, Jeff Hickman, executive producer of the BioWare/EA title, revealed that that's shifting come spring -- to an extent.

The upcoming Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion pack, he said, will make it possible for players on the new planet (called Makeb) to flirt with same-gender non-player characters, created by BioWare to give quests, sell items, and otherwise move the story forward. Players will not yet, however, be able to put the moves on same-sex companion characters, the NPCs that accompany them on their intergalactic escapades as a major plotline piece.

"I realize that we promised SGR to you guys and that many of you believed that this would be with a companion character," Hickman wrote, addressing the likely disappointment among many advocates of same-gender romance in the game. "Unfortunately, this will take a lot more work than we realized at the time and it (like some other pieces of content we talked about earlier in the year) has been delayed as we focused on the changes required to take the game free-to-play. As we have said in the past, allowing same gender romance is something we are very supportive of."

BioWare previously included same-sex relationships in games including Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age, a move that led to some backlash.

Romance in Star Wars: The Old Republic, for those who haven't played the game, isn't just roses and candlelit lightsabers. It can range from a suggestive (and amusing) dialogue interchange to a digital liplock and fade to black. The companion romances already in SW:TOR can take most of the game to complete, and can be scuttled by a wrong dialogue choice or a turn to the wrong side of the Force.

Not surprisingly, players can become highly attached to their virtual companions. Players have been asking for same-gender romance in the game for months now, with lengthy threads devoted to the topic on SW:TOR official forums.

Earlier this year, BioWare explained that SGR would make an appearance in a post-launch update to the game, rather than at launch, due to design constraints of a fully voiced massively multiplayer online role-playing game of the size and scope of SW:TOR.

First revealed in 2008, Star Wars: The Old Republic launched just over a year ago to generally favorable reviews. It sold 2 million copies in its first three months, but subscriber numbers fell, and BioWare added a free-to-play option .

While most responses to today's announcement from readers of CNET sister site GameSpot took a joking tone ("Just promise me there will be man-on-wookie action"), many used it as an opportunity to lob general gripes about the game. A few did have strong opinions on the actual matter of SGR.

"It looks like EA is trying to push some sort of homosexual agenda and trying to gain publicity by doing this," one GameSpot commenter said. "But this is totally pointless. Nobody cares."

Judging, however, from player pleas on game forums that go back months, many do in fact care.

"I think BioWare and EA have done a great job of making same-sex relationships in games a standard instead of an anomaly," wrote another GameSpot reader. "I don't consider EA as a totally benevolent entity, like any other corporation, but I think they must be lauded for what they are doing right."

In November, meanwhile, Square Enix said it's considering allowing same-sex avatars to marry in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. A decision has yet to be announced.

 

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