It enables you to find a whole host of like-minded people with whom you can debate your views or beliefs, and the disagreements - whilst sometimes unpleasant - can still lead to interesting results. The support networks can also be absolutely incredible.
However, something sometimes happens which people can't keep quiet about. This more often than not leads to a commendable response to keep things quiet, but sometimes these best-intentions backfire if the responses are handled in a certain manner.
One such instance of this is the response to apparent leaks regarding a Story development in SWtOR. I myself have no idea what this is; I don't enjoy looking these things up.
However, the response to the leaks has led to me getting some idea of what's up.
Whatever the leak is, it's big. It's led to people forming private groups in which to discuss the news and even encouraging encrypting messages. Elsewhere, the reaction from people in the know has been summarised as the equivalent of "No More Ops" but for Story Players. Bonus points to this last one for the person who responded that they were "effectively done with SWtOR" because of the truth.
I'm something of a puzzle-solver, as it's something which I've picked up due to my family also having an interest in it. I'm definitely not the best, but it has led to an annoyingly-incessant curiosity all the same. So when I see all this hullabaloo, rather than ignoring it as I should, I can't help but get to the bottom of it.
Fair warning: As the title implies, whilst as I say I have absolutely no idea what the correct answer is, I would advise staying away from this post if you have any fear whatsoever about spoilers, since as usual I will be posting an over-long hypothesis and coming to my own answer(s).
I'll address that latter option first because it's not really that long a list.
The most popular theory prior to and shortly after 5.2 was that the Traitor would be connected to Darth Malgus. He's a popular character who many people wish was back, and the fire has only been fuelled more by TYTH referring to this individual as "THE BETRAYER", which Imperials such as Darth Ravage would later call Malgus by. Similarly, Blur Studios produced an extra "deleted scene" for the Sacrifice Trailer showing Arcann and Thexan delivering Malgus frozen in Carbonite to Valkorion.
Malgus would certainly warrant the general reaction. As I say, he's popular and so many people want him back. However, even if the people who didn't want him back pooled all their voices together, I don't quite see the negative reaction we're seeing in this case. Leaks say that Malgus is definitely coming back, so people are considering quitting the game - or at least its story - over it? Possible, but not very plausible.
There are so many organisations and individuals who could potentially return besides Malgus, of course, but only one individual would warrant a response of a similar size. It would also warrant the negativity as well.
I'm referring of course to BioWare's Star Wars poster-boy Revan. Immediately I know people will be shuddering at the prospects of him being brought back and made the villain again, especially after he was handled in such a controversial manner the last time they utilised him. Even BioWare are somewhat aware of this; heck, they actually killed him off to prevent him from ostensibly being an issue again in the future.
Whilst this would certainly cause both of the reactions alluded to above, I just cannot see BioWare being so foolish as to make Revan the villain again. Just let the blighter stay dead.
So if it's not who the Traitor is aligned with, but rather the Traitor themselves, who could it be?
Immediately we must eliminate many people from the running.
Arcann, Elara, HK-55, Jorgan, Kaliyo, Koth, Quinn, Senya, Torian, Vette, and ZO-OM are all out since they can all be killed, kicked out, or even not recruited in the first place. Whilst I hope they give them lines for people who didn't kill them or kick them out in future story content they are obviously ineligible for something that requires a certain character to be present for all persons.
Similarly, all of the Alliance Recruits are out, because it's possible that players discovering the Traitor's identity have never recruited any since they're all optional. Additionally, they've literally never mattered in a Story update where the most they get, if anything at all, is a mention. We've had some merely appear in Chapters and Cutscenes, but never have they done anything of worth, and - sadly - nor are they ever likely to.
As such, there are only eight people left in the running.
As much as a Voss such as Sana-Rae would be an ideal suspect, I don't think it will be any of the Alliance Specialists. They're more game-functions than actual characters and removing any one of them before the rest will of course break the Alliance Crate system on characters who evolve past their eviction. Not ideal, and none are really worthy of either of the reactions given by the community.
The only returning Companions we definitively have left now are Gault Rennow and T7-O1. Whilst I've written before about how I wish T7 had more things to do, I sincerely doubt they'd make him the Traitor given how chirpy he is. Gault, on the other hand, I did mistrust initially, since I can see him selling on Alliance data without realising exactly what harm it would do.
Again, however, I'm eliminating them from the proceedings because neither are sadly popular enough to get people talking.
So, who's left? Only two.
Lana Beniko and Theron Shan.
Immediately there are several problems with both of these characters. They both helped create the Alliance, at least in theory, way back during the Revanite Crisis and as of Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne are the Alliance Commander's most trusted aides. There is thus little reason to conclusively believe why they should betray the Alliance based on their history.
Even certain decisions aren't helping matters. Lana has agreed with both Light and Dark decisions in the past, whilst Theron is most assuredly Light-Sided. Thus it's hard to see Lana having a serious falling-out with either Alignment and whilst it's potentially easy to see Theron abandoning a Dark-Side Commander, it makes no sense at all for him to abandon a Light-Side Commander.
Additionally, it is worth noting that a lot of the positions the Commander finds themselves in throughout the Story are largely because of Lana and/or Theron advising them what to do; whilst the Commander made all the decisions at the end they almost-always wouldn't have needed to if they weren't following this advice in the first place. The monster they're facing is potentially one of their own creation.
If you were deeply-invested in the Story and you learned before it went live that the character who betrays the Alliance will be one of your closest supporters, one of your favourite-ever characters, and potentially even the object of your character's affections, what would your gut reaction be? Multiply yourself and your reaction by however many people you believe are similarly-invested and translate their reaction across to Social Media.
Would it not warrant a serious move to prevent the news from getting out? The news certainly wouldn't be well-received in the slightest, since Lana and Theron are sickeningly popular. Both the general reaction and the negativity the leak has been receiving would thus be perfectly warranted for either of these characters.
This would also be the first instance (at least superficially, depending on the plot) of BioWare deciding to end a romance in SWtOR outright rather than it be based on a Player-based decision somewhere along the line. This in particular is something which I believed wasn't possible because of how infuriating it would be to be on the receiving end of it, and again the reactions fit beautifully.
I just don't see either Lana or Theron making any sense story-wise as a suspect, and that's why in a previous discussion post I outlined them both immediately as above suspicion because they were just so prominent in the Alliance and the Story as a whole. Based on the reaction this leak is getting, however, I just can't think what else could connect the dots so succinctly.
The worst bit about it is that if it truly is either Lana or Theron then their betrayal probably won't even be a real betrayal. They're probably betraying the Alliance to infiltrate the people who are the real villains and working to destroy them from the inside and oh look it's this overused plot thread again. Bonus points if this does happen and our characters take it absolutely seriously.
They'll probably also work in the plot-thread whereby the Traitor was known to be an inside-agent all along and is put in a trap where you find them helpless and either they get sacrificed or someone else of import dies in their place. Because if you're going to reuse plot threads that for some reason never die when they should, why not go the whole hog and throw all of them into the mix? That won't make your story predictable at all.
Seriously, do none of the universes in which these stories happen have popular culture where these plot threads are used? Ever?
If I had to hazard a rough guess as to who it would be of these two (it's exceedingly unlikely to be both of them since players still need someone very close to them to confide in), I would say... Theron. Simple reason being that we've already seen Dromund Kaas, and Theron's theoretical betrayal would enable us to finally visit Coruscant in the Story to see if we can get on the good side of people who know him well and potentially even better than we do. Thus, they could reintroduce Satele (and Jace if he's still alive) and maybe take the opportunity to bring in some other characters from SWtOR's own additional material.
If only there were three specific individuals who we know to still be alive, have had a history with Theron Shan, and who have yet to be introduced in-game...
By contrast, what could they do with Lana of this nature? Not a lot. As I say we've already been to Dromund Kaas and I don't particularly want to go back so soon. Additionally, there aren't as many pre-established characters they can bring back, since Lana was the only known Sith Intelligence Operative outside of Cipher Nine and maybe Raina Temple if she succeeds in graduating despite the stigma against her parentage and isn't thrown out or reassigned. The Keepers and Darth Jadus were all Imperial Intelligence, and whilst their insight would still be invaluable, they wouldn't know Lana as well as we do.
That said, I am actually really interested in meeting whomever Lana's mentors were, if they're still alive. Would certainly provide a means to get to understand her a little better, since we do already have this with Theron thanks to the comics. Of the two, he's infinitely the better-established, and whilst this does create a shedton of potential it does leave Lana looking a little barebones in comparison.
Also, should it be considered a telling sign that the person who announced that they were setting up the aforementioned spoiler-discussion-private-group is someone who has styled themselves after Theron himself?
I would definitely prefer the Traitor to be someone other than Lana or Theron. As I say, they're just seemingly two of the most immovable and staunch supporters of the Alliance, especially as they helped create both it and the foothold of its Commander, and it would take a lot of work to justify it 'correctly' so that you can believe either of them betraying both Alignments.
That said, could it realistically be anyone else? In terms of shock value, nobody - other than these two - who is a part of the Alliance really stands out unless they happen to be connected to someone of previous importance. Even then, the most-likely candidate for outside-assistance, Malgus, has already been an enemy, so whilst it would be nice to see him again it would feel very stale to go up against him once more.
Not that I'm implying that SWtOR's stories have never used stale or overused plot threads to begin with or anything...
Indeed it is the point about Alignments that really makes me think that the betrayal will be false if the Traitor really is either one of these two. Lana wouldn't take many decisions so seriously that it's the final straw for either Alignment, whilst Theron would definitely not completely abandon a Light-Side Commander due to their decidedly-more benevolent outlook compared to a Dark-Sider.
Plus, and this is worth remembering here, they're both spies. Imperial Agents should know about infiltration to deceive, and we've seen Lana pull her own deception on Theron by letting him get kidnapped by Revanites. Yet I'm betting anything that when the reveal comes Lana/Theron and Cipher Nine will just completely forget the necessities of spywork and be as stumped as a toddler by a shiny object no matter who the Traitor is.
Also, you just can't work in a choice to this situation; whomever the Traitor is has seemingly been plucked at random and had this story spun for them apparently just because BioWare wanted to be edgy and include an attempt at a dramatic twist in their storyline. Nothing we could have done could have changed the course of the story, as the story has made whatever that decision is for us.
Ultimately my final issue with either of these characters being suspects is that if proven true, the Story will be advancing with Lana or Theron at the helm yet again, and their over-prominence has infuriated me no end since 3.2 reunited them on Ziost for the barest skeleton of a justification. The day they disappear from SWtOR forever will be a day worth celebrating, even though it's sadly more likely they'll both go down with SWtOR rather than before it.
This really does raise an interesting point of how far one can go when discussing spoilers safely before you ultimately go too far for some people.
Of course, this wouldn't be an issue in the first place without Data-Mining revealing the answers long before they were supposed to be made known. It helps with several other 'big' outcomes in SWtOR that the outcomes have been hinted at beforehand, either in-game (return of Revan) or by the Developers (redeeming Arcann), so when something designed to shock and surprise is leaked, the response is thus far bigger.
Admittedly, you can't account for people like myself when warning people of spoilers, summarising reactions, or even making a vague reference to the matter. Given enough hints (emotion in the summaries and reactions has been the biggest clue to me, since the answer is not only shocking but it's also infuriating), somebody somewhere will always be able to come to an answer even if it's completely incorrect, and this is ultimately preferable compared to someone being given free reign to spoil everything willy-nilly.
That's ultimately what I hope my answer is: completely incorrect. I've been wrong with my hypotheses so many times before and I honestly want this to be yet another instance of that. I certainly don't want to have come to the correct answer and thus spoiled it for myself, and more importantly everyone who has read this far, partially because of people trying to prevent spoilers.
After all, I made a post a while back focusing on the gender of the hooded individual seen at the end of 5.2 and how as a result the Traitor could only be female. It's more likely that she was just a proxy, probably someone who we'll see in the next Flashpoint as a boss to quickly close this particular plot thread, designed to provoke such a response and nothing more serious. My newest hypothesis is probably just as crazy and over-thought as this one was way back when.
Whomever it is, I can only hope that the betrayal is handled well. If it's 'serious' then I hope that the Traitor doesn't get second-thoughts and sees it through to the end. If it's a ruse then I hope that that story isn't as predictable as it has the potential to be. If there's something else involved, then, well, I hope it's an enjoyable twist rather than a twist for the mere sake of there being a twist.
Meanwhile, I should probably get to creating that Galactic Antics Bingo Card I alluded to in another post. This particular post has overlong hypothesis based on not a lot of evidence, moaning about Lana and Theron, self-criticism, griping about overused story concepts, and a mention of the potential to introduce more book characters.
Hey, at least I hadn't given Madon an unnecessary mention.
To end on; final plea which I've made before on topics such as this but must make again.
If you do know what the true answer is, please keep it to yourself. Let this be a crazy hypothesis if that's what it actually is, and if there is any semblance of truth in what I've guessed then please refrain from confirming any single aspect of it.