One year ago we were promised by BioWare Austin that there would be same-sex romance options in Star Wars: The Old Republic. One year later, we still wait. Admittedly, there have been some departures from BioWare Austin, and some firings, but the one thing that has been constant is both the constant explanation that same-gender romance arcs or SGRAs were on the way, and the relative ghettoization of the LGBT Community on the TOR boards.
Yesterday, BioWare announced the impending release of their first expansion, which comes just a little over a year since the game was released. They appear to be following the old EverQuest model rather than the World of Warcraft model. That is, they appear to be releasing smaller, less expensive game expansions at a faster pace like EQ than the larger, more expensive and slower paced expansions of WoW.
The question is, will this have SGRA’s? There have been a couple of whispers about the new content having them, but at this point, it has been a year and it is getting harder to hope for this happening.
While Star Wars: The Old Republic could be considered something of a debacle over all, what with the shift to Free to Play and a bunch of other problems that BioWare- Austin has had to deal with, the situation with SGRA’s takes the cake.
To begin with, BioWare-Austin has shoved any and all discussion about SGRA’s off into one thread. Any attempt to discuss the issue anywhere else is either shoved into that thread or deleted. While BioWare has claimed that this is because of the risks of flaming bigots attacking the LGBT Community when they discuss these issues, and to keep things consolidated, the feeling is more that we have been shoved into a little ghetto to be forgotten about. Yeah, abusive posts often disappear, but so do posts that are critical of BW-A.
Then there is the silence. Over the last year, we have gotten a couple of statements telling us that BW-A still plans on making SGRA’s at some point in the future. The problem is, they will not give a time line. While they claim that writing these stories is a long and involved process, the reality is that writing is not difficult, and while yes, there are things that need to be fixed, the existence of opposite gender romance arcs in game already feels insulting to many of us LGBT gamers who have come to expect more from BioWare.
That is the real key here. Both BioWare and EA Games are well known for their LGBT inclusiveness. While that inclusiveness often happens at other BioWare studios, it is not an excuse for how the LGBT Community has been treated by BioWare with regards to this particular game. EA Games has a history of LGBT inclusiveness going all the way back to The Sims 1: Hot Date. In Sims 2, they included civil unions, and in Sims 3, same-sex marriage. BioWare has a number of titles out where same-gender romances are available. Are they perfect, no, but they are there.
It feels as if both BioWare and EA Games have slipped backwards on the issue of SGRA’s. The decision was made to cut them because of fears of having development time get pushed back, but now? What is taking so long? I wrote to three of the community managers to try and get an answer, and so far, nothing.
The Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion is coming next year. The early sale is already up. The thing is, why bother buying the expansion if SGRA’s are not included. I would prefer to spend my money somewhere more inclusive and less reeking of latent bigotry than at Star Wars: The Old Republic.