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EA, Bioware fire-fighting reactions to SWtOR's 'gay ghetto' planet

Taking flack for both introduction and segregation of same-sex romance

EA and Bioware have come under pressure from both sides for the introduction of same-sex relationships to the Star Wars MMO The Old Republic.

The new options to romance "companion" NPCS will be restricted to one planet, itself part of the content only available to paying customers rather than those taking advantage of the game's free-to-play sections, upsetting both those who campaigned for and against their inclusion.

Same gender relationships have been on the cards for the struggling MMO for some time, but their introduction was delayed by the work necessary to convert the game from its original subscription model to free to play.

Now, the option to become romantically embroiled with NPCs who share your gender will be introduced as part of the Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion, coming later in the spring. However, even once that paid-for update hits the servers, players will only be able to engage in what the developers shorthand as "SGR" (same gender relationships) on a single planet: that of Makeb.

Whilst Bioware has a good track record of offering non-heterosexual romance options in its games, attracting the ire of religious and homophobic groups for the inclusion of SGR in the Mass Effect series and its plans to do so for Star Wars, the decision to restrict them solely to Makeb for the time being has upset many who had campaigned for their introduction. As a result, Bioware and EA have been accused of marginalising, ghettoising or segregating non-heterosexual romance.

Although it represents a marked improvement on the views of same sex relationships expressed in any number of games historically, the decision to put these options behind a paywall instead of adding them to existing areas has also attracted accusations of exploitation - arguing that EA is trying to squeeze what cash it can from those players who wish to engage in the new romances.

On top of that, Bioware's forums are also ablaze with the fury of those Star Wars fans who feel that homosexuality has no place in the fictitious universe, calling for a return to intergalactic family values, albeit ones which are happy to allow inter-species coupling, genocide and the ruthless pursuit of absolute power at any cost.

In a blog post discussing the game's developmental progress, executive producer Jeff Hickman addresses the issue.

"First of all, I want to apologize that this is taking so long to get in the game," Hickman writes. "I realize that we promised SGR to you guys and that many of you believed that this would be with a companion character. 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."

However, Hickman also raises hopes by vaguely intimating that there are plans for a wider introduction and integration of SGR to the gameworld.

"I want to reveal today that we are adding SGR with some NPCs on Makeb and do intend on pursuing more SGR options in the future."

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Dan Pearson