Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: EA) subsidiary and acclaimed video game developer Bioware is continuing its controversial -- or celebrated, depending on point of view --  tradition of featuring gay characters by introducing them into its massive multiplayer online (MMO) game “Star Wars: The Old Republic.”

The studio has already featured same-sex relationships in its other popular space opera franchise, “Mass Effect,” drawing ire and praise from gamers in equal parts. And now, “Star Wars: The Old Republic” players can expect the same, the game’s executive producer Jeff Hickman said in a state of the game address to kick off the new year.

“I want to apologize that this is taking so long to get in the game,” Hickman said. “I realize that we promised SGR [same gender relationships] 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,” he added. “We are adding SGR with some NPCs on Makeb and do intend on pursuing more SGR options in the future.”

Prior to the planned introduction of these so-called “same-gender relationships,” the biggest change that this relatively young MMO went through was to become free-to-play, a departure from the subscription-based model that typically funds MMO games of its stature. Hickman assured players and wary BioWare fans that the transition to a freemium business model had only strengthened the game since it took place in November 2012.

“The launch of the free-to-play option with our new Cartel Market has been an amazing event for our game,” Hickman said. “The game is incredibly healthy with an ever increasing number of players who are actively playing. Having said that, we know we haven’t gotten everything perfect, and we are still working hard to make The Old Republic everything you guys desire.”

“More than anything, we wanted to get folks back in and playing the game, and bring back the excitement and camaraderie -- we feel like we've made great strides over the last six months towards these goals,” he concluded. “All signs point to a very bright future for our game.”