This is Makeb. It's a gay planet. When I say it's a gay planet I don't mean that the planet itself is innately homosexual. Makeb itself is just a genderless, oblate spheroid of rock surrounding a sexy molten iron core, shuffled away in some dark corner of a far away galaxy. When I say that Makeb is a gay planet I mean that it is the only location in Star Wars: The Old Republic in which you can be gay. It's the one planet in the universe where flirtatious dialogue options will appear in conversations with similarly gendered characters. It's the only planet on which you can kiss somebody with similarly shaped genitals as the screen fades to black and "doing it" music starts playing.
That's very strange. Why have all the space-faring homosexuals been exiled to Makeb? Even weirder: why do players have to pay real money to visit this extraterrestrial homo-haven?
The answer is simple enough. All gay content is to be confined to one planet simply because BioWare Austin neglected to include any gay companions in the initial release of The Old Republic. They carefully and consciously created over 40 companion characters, 10 of them romanceable men, 10 of them romanceable women, while the rest presumably just stare sexlessly into space. They are all fully scripted characters, all voice-acted and, for some arcane reason we may never understand, all as straight as teen pop stars.
This was an oddly regressive move from a developer who, in previous RPGs, had created player controlled characters who can sling and wrap their sloppy crotch-meat around anyone who’ll have them. BioWare's Dragon Age invented the "herosexual" almost out of coding laziness, where you need only flex a greased bicep before a slew of pansexual male and female NPCs would magically appear inside your pants and start latching on to whatever organs they could find.
But for better or worse (in The Old Republic's case definitely worse: if you really want to keep your crummy, awkward romance scenes you cannot continue to create narrow-minded sex-fantasies for straight white men while feeling piously self-satisfied about including a modicum of sexable male characters for your female players — try harder or ditch the entire thing until we can all act and make games like grown ups) that’s what happened. Let’s file that under “whoops we forgot what century it was” and get back to Makeb, where men and ladies are having the kind of filthy sex they could literally only dream about on Tatooine.
BioWare, in response to demand from fans, decided to bring gay relationships to The Old Republic. They’re doing this in a paid-for update called The Rise of the Hutt Cartel, and including it as a new feature alongside things like World PvP and the ability to copy your character to the Public Test Server. However, the clinically acronymed SGR (same-gender romance) won’t add gay companions for new players. Nor will it turn any existing companions bisexual. Instead it will place some gay NPCs on this new planet of Makeb, meaning gay romances in The Old Republic aren't as developed as straight romances, exist behind a paywall, and are for high-level characters only.
BioWare's problem is clear. The Old Republic is remarkable for its vast amount of recorded dialogue, so even if EA haven’t already sacked all their actors and sold all their microphones, it would take significant resources and time to bring just one fully voiced gay companion into the basic, free-to-play game. The Old Republic's executive producer Jeff Hickman has promised a greater effort will be made at some point in the future, but for now gay players just have to make do with being relegated, which is probably an improvement on being totally ignored.
Adding gay NPCs to Makeb is a bizarre half-measure then, a jarring stop-gap that only serves as testament to an existing in-game sexual inequality. At worst, it suggests that BioWare don’t understand the concerns of those fans who want to play the game according to their own identities, that they see “SGR” as additional or surplus to the regular game rather than something that should sit quietly and seamlessly alongside heterosexual dialogue options from the outset. SGR shouldn’t be a feature. It shouldn't be a dirty fling on a remote planet. It shouldn’t be an acronym. It should just be.
And now BioWare have needlessly painted themselves into a corner by briefly forgetting that gay people exist and that they play games and that they’re almost indistinguishable from humans. It’s almost as if they should’ve chucked in a few gay characters the first time around and saved themselves a whole heap of trouble, rather than scrabbling to work them into the MMO by parachuting emergency gays on to remote planets.
Naturally, fans are disappointed that BioWare haven’t gone far enough in their promises to bring gay romance to Star Wars. Even more naturally, there are players grossly upset that BioWare have even taken this tiny step. They are angry and terrified people who were happy to subscribe to imagined heterosexual space-intercourse, but are now cast adrift in this horrifying and brave new world of tolerance and dialogue choices that let you wink at homosexual space captains if you really want to.
"Please, please, please Bioware, Lucasarts, and EA do not allow SGR in Star Wars The Old Republic. It will ruin the game and make a lot of people leave it. I'm only suggesting my opinion because I love this game so much and I don't want to see it go down the drain. As a subscriber, I'm asking all of you to change your mind. Star Wars is a family based story with nothing to do with SGR."
There are those who think The Old Republic shouldn't include SGR because the ghastly spectre of controversy will single-handedly destroy the game, and certainly not because they have some personal problem with it.
"Also got to agree with some of the posts on the sgr , if you cant get it right in the real world then dont stick it in the game , way to hot a topic to draw that kind of attention . I forsee thousands of parents deleting this game from their kids computers and others because their church told them to , Why go there ? is it realy worth it?"
There are also some oblivious straight men who not only believe that homosexuality doesn't exist in the Star Wars universe, but that same-sex relationships exist only between women and only for their own voyeuristic benefit.
"Yeah and SGRs make sense in SW universe?!?! Call me old fashioned and old, but I would rather see some good world PVP than my female powertech making out with Mako..."
Then there's the guy who probably encapsulates the anti-gay argument best. I'll highlight the phrase that most efficiently captures the sense of arm-flailing queer-panic ricocheting around this person's brain like a stray, rainbow-coloured bullet.
"Bioware has ruined Star Wars."
Maybe it's appropriate that Makeb has stirred up this much melodrama. Seeing it attacked so viciously by the few blinkered players who haven't had their backwards views censored by forum moderators actually makes me feel strangely protective of this little gay planet, even though in practice it's a terrible sort of gay zoo, a homosexual holding pen borne of BioWare Austin's old fashioned attitude and lack of foresight.
Makeb shouldn't exist in isolation as it does, but as long as it does it serves as a solemn reminder, offering sage universal advice to future generations of MMOs: put gay characters in your RPGs from the start or else you'll have to awkwardly work them into your game in a way that pleases precisely nobody.