Will this holiday mark the beginning of your journey into Bioware's sprawling MMO? Our extensive beginner's guide offers simple tips to help get you going.

Trying to offer advice to potential MMO players is tricky, since there's such a broad spread of experience and background in the genre. For many players, The Old Republic is the next in a long line of MMO love affairs. In fact, you've probably been researching the ins and outs of The Old Republic for months. We figure you're doing pretty well on your own. Move along. These aren't the droids you're looking for.

However, The Old Republic is likely to attract some new players into the mix, many of whom might have only dabbled in previous MMOs, or never played an MMO at all. Whether you love Star Wars movies or BioWare RPGs, playing The Old Republic might be daunting. Worry not. We've gathered our best selection of simple tips to help get you started.

The First Steps

First things first – you need to think about a few things before you get started. If this is your first MMO, that might be unintuitive, but a lot of your play experience is going to be dictated by your early choices.

The first of these decisions is your server, which should be influenced by three factors. First, and most important, where are your friends going to be playing? Second, what style of play are you looking for, PvE (player versus environment) or PvP (player versus player)? Remember, you can still engage in player versus player combat on a PvE server, but only when you opt in. Go on a PvP server and there's always a target on your back. Third, consider server population – in general, all others things being equal, head for a server with a lower or medium population, and you'll avoid those inevitable server queues.

The other big decision in front of you is which faction to play. Again, make sure and coordinate with your friends. You won't be able to group up with someone from the opposite faction. Whether you go with the Imperials or the Republic, your character can go down the light or dark side path or choices no matter their faction or class. That said, the Empire is ultimately a militaristic dictatorship led by a horribly evil emperor. The Republic is a democratic collection of many equal races. You do the math; Republic players generally work more with traditionally "good" guys, and vice versa. That said, playing an evil path in the otherwise friendly Republic is pretty amazing. Likewise, playing an Imperial officer or Sith resisting all the evil around him in order to the right thing feels pretty darn heroic.


Starting A Character

The other thing you should think about before you actually dig into the game is your character class. More than other MMOs on the market, your choice of class will dramatically affect your game experience. Each of the eight classes has their own storyline, not to mention their own set of powers. Our recommendation is to consider the Star Wars fantasy that most appeals to you, and go for it. Are you a Han Solo fan? The Smuggler is your best option. Darth Vader is the best? The Sith Warrior should fit the bill.

If you're more of a mechanics-focused kind of guy or girl, you'll also want to consider class role in your choice. The important thing to understand here is that your class role will be determined at level 10, when you choose your advanced class. In effect, the game has sixteen distinct advanced classes, and these subgroups will speak to your abilities, gear, and what you can contribute to a group.

While the full picture is a little more nuanced, here's the short summary:

Bounty Hunter (Mercenary): Damage, Healing; Cool Flavor Feature: Dual blasters, missiles, and a jet pack are a deadly combination

Bounty Hunter (Powertech): Damage, Tank; Cool Flavor Feature: Crazy tech armor for the win

Imperial Agent (Operative): Damage, Healing; Cool Flavor Feature: Stealthy up-close assassin

Imperial Agent (Sniper): Damage; Cool Flavor Feature: Kills from afar

Jedi Consular (Sage): Damage, Healing; Cool Flavor Feature: Force powers to blow away the opposition

Jedi Consular (Shadow): Damage, Tank; Cool Flavor Feature: Double-bladed lightsabers look sweet

Jedi Knight (Guardian): Damage, Tank; Cool Flavor Feature: Unyielding melee powerhouse

Jedi Knight (Sentinel): Damage; Cool Flavor Feature: Two lightsabers are awesome

Republic Trooper (Commando): Damage, Healing; Cool Flavor Feature: Assault Cannons!

Republic Trooper (Vanguard): Damage, Tank; Cool Flavor Feature: Holds the line against any attackers

Sith Inquisitor (Assassin): Damage, Tank; Cool Flavor Feature: Darth Maul-style double-bladed lightsaber

Sith Inquisitor (Sorcerer): Damage, Healing; Cool Flavor Feature: Force lightning!

Sith Warrior (Juggernaut): Damage, Tank; Cool Flavor Feature: Rage-fueled berserker who can take anyone's punishment

Sith Warrior (Marauder): Damage; Cool Flavor Feature: Two lightsabers at once

Smuggler (Gunslinger): Damage; Cool Flavor Feature: Two guns, Old West style

Smuggler (Scoundrel): Damage, Healing; Cool Flavor Feature: A piece of technology for every occasion

QUICK TIP: Tired of picking up loot? The options menu lets you set items to auto loot, or to combine all the nearby lootable bodies on your first pick-up.

QUICK TIP: Datacrons are awesome, and you should look for them. Keep an eye out for hidden paths that have no clear quest objectives connected to them. Follow those paths to their conclusions and you might find one of the hidden datacrons. There are a few of these on each planet. Not only do these handy little boxes give you an insightful snippet of lore, they also offer a static, permanent bonus to one of your attributes.

[NEXT UP: What stats are important for your class?]