Making ‘Star Wars: The Old Republic’ in Tumultuous Times

How aliens, Jedi, and BioWare's MMO can help us through

It's times like this, when the world feels like a very uncertain place, that a journey to outer space seems the most appealing. For those of us that can't afford to move to a Martian colony, there's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story coming to theaters December 16th. Sooner still is the upcoming expansion for BioWare’s long-running PC MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic. Titled Knights of the Eternal Throne and due out December 2nd, the expansion continues the MMO's long-running story, picking up where last year's expansion Knights of the Fallen Empire left off with both Galactic Republic and Sith Empire forces facing off against a new enemy known as the Eternal Empire. The Old Republic's creative director Charles Boyd sees some parallels with the saga he's overseeing and the real world.

"So much of sci-fi over time is like , 'oh, we have green people in this story who are marginalized and have bad things happening to them,' and you might draw conclusions from that that are relevant to your life," he told Glixel. "It's a really great chance to be inclusive and open-minded and hopefully help people learn more about themselves. It's dealing with aliens and lasers, but this is relevant to me."

Knights of the Eternal Throne is about serious family drama and being an intergalactic boss. The expansion introduces a feature called Galactic Command – a reward system based on your power and influence – and lets you try your hand at ruling the galaxy. You'll earn those Galactic Command experience points by completing in-game activities, and this in turn levels up your command rank, yielding loot crates as a reward. Significantly, players will be able to earn points and increase their Galactic Command rank from any activity in the game, so it doesn't matter whether you're raiding or playing solo, you'll always be able to progress. We spent a lot of time shooting things and running around in a walker (which you can see in the video above,) which seems like it counted.

Boyd has worked on the MMO for 10 years now. He's so knowledgable about the franchise that he's the one they ask to do the Star Wars trivia questions at work events – the last time he wrote some, they got rejected for being too difficult. For him, a lifelong fan, he sees the very core of Star Wars as a story about family conflict. "It's not just a giant space epic with all these technologies and aliens," he says. "It's also a very personal story about family, or trust, or about becoming who you were always meant to be, or who you thought you were always meant to be," he says.

The studio, a nest of Star Wars obsessives, is hyped about this year's movie. If nothing else it will send a wave of new fans to the MMO and give the team new areas to explore. But no, says Boyd, they don't get a sneak peek.

"I know nothing until I go into the movie theater just like everyone else," he says. "We work very closely with Lucasfilm and Disney. They review all of our storylines, and they give us lots of great info and tips. They won’t tell us if we’re getting too close necessarily, but I think that helps balance it out and make sure we’re not stepping on each other’s toes."