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Making SWTOR Not Suck – Ending the MMORPG Launch Curse

Posted Wed, Jul 28, 2010 by Savanja

BioWare announced this last week at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con that Star Wars: The Old Republic would contain space combat. It came off as sort of an afterthought leading many to believe that space combat will be very limited and managing to disillusion another faction of players who had hoped they could pew pew their way through space. With every announcement made and every trickle of information that comes in, public perception and popularity fluctuate as rapidly as the stock market but is it the tiny details that will determine if SWTOR will sink or swim?

Assuming BioWare doesn’t totally muck up the little things, it is the big features and concepts that will win it (or lose it) for the latest Star Wars video game incarnation. What features will SWTOR need to have in order to succeed? The MMORPG industry has taught us some very valuable lessons, keep reading to find out what they are!

End of the Line

Looking at every flop that has happened over the past several years, we can see a glaringly big common factor: lack of end game. Nothing kills a gaming buzz faster than plowing through early and mid levels (and enjoying them) than to find out when you hit the top one-third of the game that there just isn’t anything to do!

Space battle is a good idea but will it add enough variety?

It feels like a rookie mistake. It is as if every development company thinks that their lower levels will be so engaging that somehow no one will make it to cap until the devs have had time to squeeze out some additional content. Let me say right now that NO game has been so amazing with their story and new player experience that I’ve actually taken extra time to read through all the dialog and follow all the paths of progression before aiming for higher levels and BioWare, your game won’t either.

BioWare is known for their compelling storylines and intriguing characters, but I promise that a good portion of the gaming community has quickly clicked through character dialog in KOTOR and just looked up the walkthrough. Fail on end game and the most dedicated and passionate of players will be out the door before you’re done adding up your launch sales.

A Journey worth Making

Gamers are a demanding lot, aren’t we? Not only do we want something to do when we get there, but we also want the trip to end game to be full of excitement, fun, and wonder.

Character progression is a tricky thing but common mistakes can be avoided by just remembering a few things:

  • People play their new games a lot. That means the first several weeks of consistent content needs to be very full. Think you have enough missions for the avid quester? You don’t. Add more.
  • We will make a dozen characters before settling down with a favorite one or two so if there isn’t variety in early content, compulsive altoholics will be clawing off their faces after playing through the same twenty levels every single time they start a new character. Save us the gore and plastic reconstruction bills and just give us something new to do while we are trying to make up our fickle minds.
  • We’re not dumb. Having a single linear path of progression makes me, and many other esteemed gamers, cry. Especially after the initial learning levels, the world should open before us and give a sense of never ending possibility, not a straight path and a glowing line telling us how to game. Scarily, I have seen less open world feel in many of the newest AAA releases than I have in Toon Town. If a 6-year old named “Captain Messypants Fartburger” can manage to stumble their way through an open world, I’m pretty sure we can too.
  • Kill ten rats is so last decade. It is not only about the number of missions, but it is also about the quality of those missions. A fair amount of “Fed-Ex” type quests are okay to point the way to more content. For the love of Yoda, could we please not place me and every other Sith Warrior in a teeny area fighting over teeny creatures that spawn once every ten minutes when we each need eleven billion of said elusive creature? We know you guys are more creative than that.

Staying True to the Genre

I need lots of "MMO" in my MMORPG.

BioWare doesn’t make MMOGs. Yeah, yeah we know.The point that BioWare is completely unversed in MMOG creation has been made and refuted on our own forums numerous times. The little bit of info that Blizzard Entertainment was also a new comer to the MMOG genre prior to World of Warcraft proves that you don’t have to be an MMOG veteran to make a popular game. I’m not willing to write off a game simply because of a studio’s lack of experience in this one arena, but it does tend to make some nervous. We know BioWare makes great games, but what if there is a distinct lack of MMOness in SWTOR? Yeah, it will pretty much ruin the game but they may not realize it right away.

My theory is that SWTOR will garner attention equal to or greater than previous BioWare Star Wars titles pushing it beyond the initial sales that we saw for Warhammer Online which landed an impressive box sales count of 1.2 million at launch. Fans of The Old Republic series alone would be equal to that but never discount the power of the MMORPGer. While many KOTOR fans may be okay with a single player RPG that just happens to have mutli-player components, they won’t keep paying for it for long and the MMOG fans will be needed to keep the game afloat over the long term. Launching without a grand focus on massively multi-player gameplay would be a fatal mistake.

Am I Having Fun Yet?

What makes a game fun? Other than the points previously made, there really isn’t a tried and true formula that makes a game fun. I want a meaningful purpose, a feeling that I’m valuable to the game world, rich interaction, plenty of amusement, and a variety of things to choose from to occupy my time. Easy right? Wrong! I want all of these things for every single level, in every single zone, for every single moment I play the game and with years of development and millions spent creating with some of the best developer talent in the world, it darn well should be there!

Star Wars: The Old Republic has all the basics that can make a game: a hotshot development studio, a strong and well known intellectual property that naturally inspires gamers, and a potential playerbase that is just begging to be blown away by the next major MMOG title. As many fallen games have proven over the past several years though, having that golden combination is not all it takes. BioWare, listen to your playerbase. Everything that you need to know about making a successful game is right there if you pay attention!

You’ve read my list of demands, do you have your own wish list that will make SWTOR the game for you? Let us know what features will win you over and what would destroy any hope of gaining your monthly subscription by joining the conversation on our SWTOR forums.

GG_25_02

I really don't understand racism in the real world. People are what people are, regardless of skin pigmentation or where their ancestors came from. There's really only one real-world race - the Human Race - and I loathe everyone equally.

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