Reviewing Double Fine’s Trenched actually gave me trench foot! Okay, maybe I didn’t actually get trench-foot (which is nothing to joke about), but I did have such an amazing time playing Trenched that I didn’t move away from the television for a few days. If my feet had in fact been soaking in disease infested waters, I for sure WOULD have gotten trench foot, or as I affectionately call it “The Foot”.
I’m not gonna make up any excuses as to why I started playing Clone Wars Adventures. Like many of you, when Star Wars is written on a box of anything I’ll pick it up and take a look at it. Clone Wars Adventures is an online mini-gaming community set in the theme of the animated Clone Wars series provided by Sony Online Entertainment (Station). The primary business model is a freemium game so I knew what to expect. This isn’t going to be a discussion of the merits of micro-transaction games (see my mini-thesis here), but rather a perspective on managing expectations and putting yourself in the shoes of the target demo. You might just be surprised.
At its core CWA is a glorified collection of Star Wars themed puzzle / mini games. There’s also a virtual community where you can customize an avatar, make friends, and decorate your virtual living space. Aside: Seriously, Sony, what’s your deal with virtual living spaces, maybe if the PS3 launched directly into Home I’d consider it, but otherwise my virtual futon is collecting virtual dust in my virtual apartment.
I originally participated in the CWA beta for many reasons: it’s Star Wars, I played SWG, I’m tired of waiting for BioWare to send me a beta key for ToR, and it was free. Once the service went live I knew I wasn’t going to pay a subscription or micro fee to gain access to the paid content so I let it go. Fast forward to earlier this year — I spotted a starter kit for the game at Target which included a 90 day pass, some in-game currency, and a (physical) Yoda bobble head figurine — marked down for a modest $9.99. Considering that the bobble-head would have been $7-8 in the toy department anyhow, I thought, “what the heck… after 90 days I’ll still have the Yoda toy.”
My first impression of the “full” experience was that there isn’t much to do here. There’s a small environment to explore, and a handful of games to play. You buy clothes and gear for your avatar, which really has no presence in the mini-games anyhow, and you can chat with other Star Wars fans. There’s also some staples of MMO’s as well: avatar discos, bizzare emotes, and saber flourishing. Here’s the catch: even with a paid account you don’t have access to all of the content. Some of the mini-games and avatar content require you to enter codes packed in with action figures, or log in on a certain day. “What a rip!” I thought, but in that same moment I figured it all out…
And that’s where I learned to manage my expectations for this game. It’s not an MMORPG by any stretch of the imagination. Duh, this game was made for Kids. Put yourself in your 10-year-old-self’s shoes. This game doesn’t start the Clone Wars experience, it expands it. You go to the store, buy a Star Wars action figure. The package contains a code, which you enter into this game, which unlocks that character’s outfit for your avatar. Or, let’s say you watch the Clone Wars on TV, where there’s an episode depicting a huge battle. Pew Pew Pew… awesome! Go to to the store, buy a clone trooper, enter the code into the game and Blam-o! Now you’re fighting that same battle in CWA. Brilliant.
Sure, it’s an awesome way to make money, but so was SWG — and so will be SWToR. Just think if you had something like this for your GI Joes or Transformers. Remember how excited you got to pull out that red sheet of plastic to decode the back of the Transformer box? Why do you think each figure included a giant poster with a figure checklist at the bottom? You’ve just gotta go with it. And, yeah, you can play similar mini games on just about any website these days — but if you’re going to do that why not do it in a Star Wars environment?
Although this game is targeted toward kids, I suspect that there are plenty of older kids online as well (judging by some uninspired avatar names). So yeah, it may not be for anyone that is going to read this, but it is Star Wars — right now, that’s just about all I need to fill the gaps in an otherwise busy day.