I'll say it right away: This post has nothing to do with Episode II. Sorry if you came here thinking that it would. The title was just too appropriate not to use.
A long time ago, I saw a video on YouTube that was bashing SWTOR pretty badly. I can't find it anymore, but it was very straightforward really. The video-maker was running around the Imperial agent/bounty hunter starter area on Hutta and accusing Bioware of being lazy and of having created a dead and uninteresting world. His evidence? The NPCs in front of Nem'ro's palace were all the same. Not literally all of them of course - but as he was walking around, he pointed the camera at various citizens that were strolling around the area, talking to vendors etc. and there were indeed a lot of clones among them. The guy sounded so bitter and hateful that I found it easy to ignore him and to dismiss his criticism. After all I had already been playing the game for a while by that point, and I'd never noticed anything like that. I figured that it was probably footage of placeholder NPCs from beta or something.
I kind of forgot about his whole argument until late last year, when my guild was getting really into conquests. Initially, one of our main sources of conquest points was grinding low-level heroics on multiple alts, which worked particularly well on Nar Shaddaa. As I was mindlessly killing the same mobs over and over again, multiple times a day and for several days in a row, I couldn't help but get a closer look at them. Since they were low level compared to my characters, they posed no threat and combat required no real attention. So instead I started to notice... similarities.
The thing is, to a certain degree I honestly expect lots of mobs to look similar. In SWTOR, we spend a lot of time fighting enemy soldiers of a certain faction or another, and it's no surprise that people in uniform or heavy armour all look kind of same-ish, especially when you're more focused on selecting the right abilities than on inspecting them up close.
But as I was grinding those heroics on Nar Shaddaa, I started to notice things that looked a bit odd to me. For example the [Heroic 4] Mandalorian Rage requires you to kill a lot of Mandalorians from Clan Sharratt. Especially when they have a helmet on, it goes without saying that a lot of them will look the same. But I noticed things like that all the mobs called "Clan Sharratt Vanguard" were female Zabraks with red skin. That's a rather striking look, and when there are two of them in each pull it looks rather odd.
A similar thing caught my attention in the [Heroic 4] Lab Animals, where you fight some bad guys called Xenobi. The Xenobi thugs were all body type one (or two, not sure now) with short hair so not particularly eye-catching, but the ones called rangers were all body type three and had that wacky haircut that Corso Riggs comes with by default. All of them. It was slightly disconcerting.
After that I started to notice the same pattern pretty much everywhere I cared to look: Bioware would make a bunch of different mobs with different names and mix them up in larger mob groups, but every mob with the same name would look exactly the same. I won't pretend that this bothers me very much, because most of the time when I'm in combat I'm busier with focusing on my survival than on inspecting the facial features of some random NPC, and I rarely go to low level areas to mow down mobs that can't really fight back (that heroic grinding for conquest purposes was definitely an exception). But every so often when Bioware gives one of these generic mobs a more striking look, with an unusual skin colour or a funky haircut, I notice it again.
I even went back to check on Hutta, and the YouTuber whose name I can't remember was actually right. That same NPC is still there, playing a whole plethora of roles in front of Nem'ro's palace.
I'm just wondering: Who else has noticed this? And if you have, does it bother you? I'm kind of thinking that in theory, I would like a world where no two NPCs look the same, but I'm not sure how much additional work that would create for the artists. I'm kind of doubtful it would be worth it, when even long-time players like myself can take almost three years to actually take a close enough look to notice.