SWTOR could be cool but I have a few reservations

  • Post author:
  • Post category:MMORPG

Now that the dust has settled and the bazillions of blogs and media sites out there have covered SWTOR’s big unveiling, I thought I would share a few of my thoughts on what I’m seeing from their official site.    First of all, the game looks like it will be the classic Good vs. Evil, Jedi vs. Sith, faction based game.  On one side it looks like the Jedi and the Galactic Republic vs. The Sith and their Empire.  I think this creates a perfect opportunity for some player vs. player interaction and hopefully Bioware won’t disappoint by coming out and announcing that players won’t be able to interact or pvp on at least some grand scale.

Looking deeper at the factions, it appears that this won’t be just a Jedi game.  “Choose to be a Jedi, a Sith, or from a variety of other classic Star Wars roles, and make decisions which define your personal story and determine your path down the light or dark side of the Force.”  Okay, so you can be a Jedi or… something else.  Maybe a droid type (IG-88) or a Mandelorion or something cool like that.  Perhaps large blaster users, small pistol blaster users, some melee (vibro blade) users or something like that.  There is potential, however let’s think about it for a minute.  JEDI are in the game.   There are going to be a TON of Jedi and that means, if Bioware is on top of their game, that they’ll have multiple types of Jedi.  I’m predicting a Force caster, Force Healer, a Force Saber user, etc.  I would be suprised if Bioware is able to pull it off and make the other classes/types interesting – possibly the biggest pitfall ahead of them.

Bioware is saying that this game will differ from other mmorpgs by introducing what they call a fourth pillar of Story telling (The other three being Exploration, Combat, and Progression).  This can work very well for a game as seen in LOTRO.  The downsides are obvious to me as being a lack of gameplay substituted by an attempt at over-immersing the player in the story.  Avoidable if not done intentionally.   There is also the companion character system that could have some good potential but I would hope it doesn’t replace the need to group given Bioware’s statement in the FAQ that some stuff takes groups but “the majority of the game can be accomplished by playing alone”.

My last reservation that I’ll touch upon briefly is the game world.  I’m hoping for something wide open and sandbox feeling.  I’m not liking how mmorpgs of late have become all about tiers, redundant instances, and streamlining.  It’s killing the feeling of playing a character in a big immersive world and its destroying a large part of what makes these game enjoyable.  If they can pull off massive cities and interesting landscapes with the only transportation being between planets then this could be one of the greatest mmorpg game worlds ever.  However, by the look of the graphics, for some reason, I’m starting to think they’ll be going the route of “mass appeal”… hopefully not.

It’s very, very early in this game’s development and all of this can and more than likely will change.  I’m hoping that some part of what I felt when playing SWG will return when I play SWTOR but that might be putting too much stock in ‘hope’.  This will be one to watch.

  • I agree that above all, I’d like to have a huge world to explore.

    Exploration and discovery are hard to cater to, it takes a lot of art and development time, so it’s the most neglected yet arguably the most popular aspect of MMORPGs. Somewhere along the line MMORPGs stopped being treated like virtual worlds and a dozen other reasons have been given but let’s face it, it’s just easier to create something smaller.

  • Yep, it’s easier to create something smaller and within that smaller space give the players what they want faster. It’s the “I want it and I want it now” attitude. I’ll be writing something on this later today or tomorrow. This attitude is killing the industry. The vast majority of players are expecting less and less from developers and it’s allowing developers to cut corners and take the easy route of creating their games smaller and more streamlined.

    We’re seeing this as one of Warhammer’s biggest problems right now. The majority of the players “want it, and want it now” so they’re doing scenarios over RvR. What happens as a result? The spirit of the game, the foundation of what the game is supposed to be about, has been trampled and now little to no open-world rvr happens and the players sit in warcamps queuing for the same scenario all day long.

    I’m going off on a tangent here, but I think if the players expected the larger and more detailed world then the developers would have to go the extra mile and make it that way.

  • I only want to know one thing at the moment – will there be an OS X client? A real one, not VMWare or Darwine or whatever?

    I know that’s not a concern to the majority of your readers, but it’s one reason why Blizzard is still getting my money at the moment – they actually want me playing their game.

  • I’m with you. If Bioware can recreate the impression of a vivid, breathing world like SWG originally was, then I’ll be their biggest fan. But I worry that they’ll make the gameplay too linear and too dependent on their own fixed narratives.

  • I think a big determining factor regarding world size and layout will be whether the game is PC only, or PC + consoles. If they go the latter route, they’ll have to do relatively small zones with loading screens due to the memory limitations of consoles. I don’t know what the size limit is on current gen consoles, so maybe this isn’t as big an issue as with previous generations, but I can’t think of any games I’ve played that didn’t involve distinct ‘areas’ and loading screens.

  • @Keen: It’s a good tangent, especially while they’re developing this thing.

    I don’t know about you, but for me the “massive” part of MMORPG isn’t about the number of players in a party / raid / warband, it’s more about the size of the game itself. “Epic” is the size and scope of the world, the lore, the landscape and yeah the population within it.

    In fact, I’d rather feel small within it, not part of some zerging army but the classic little group of adventurers facing a big and mysterious world.

    MMORPGs lately just haven’t been massive by my expectations.

  • Yeah – you have powerful Jedis – the “ueber” character and then potentially other non-Jedi classes? Obviously they will have to make these classes as powerful as Jedis…doesnt that leave Jedis as kind of meh?

  • There’s that, and the fact that having an mmorpg with Jedi raises the question… will these Jedi have to kill 10 womprats? Gathering 5 pouches of herb for the potions? or will Bioware take the game’s pve to a new level and start you out doing things a Jedi SHOULD be going. It’s going to be interesting to see how they manage creating the sense of character progression. There’s always Padawans, etc.

  • I’m so incredibly tired of the gather (insert #) or kill insert (#). I’m far more interested in the concept skill based systems where the more you do and/or use skills they grow more powerful. It eliminates the need to put some of the more annoying quests and well… all quests. The only reason for quests would be rewards and to motivate players to go to specific location and manually increase their skills.

  • There’s this whole “good guy in a bad place” concept where you can play a bad guy in the good guy area… It sounds ambitious and ripe for underdevelopment.

  • Please God NO MORE CLASSES. I truly hope that Bioware will not introduce differentiation through classes but rather through skills and choices. I am so tired of forced roles in MMOs. Of course it goes beyond that. I tired of much of what makes up MMOs. From classes to quests to the leveling treadmill.

    I say classes must die, quests as the ubiquitous means of leveling and levels themselves all should die die die.

    I hope Bioware can really pull something off with the focus on story but I hope they do other elements right and work on having players interact with the story and meaningfully affect their world. Someone finds a true quest, it is theirs and theirs alone. If they kill an named NPC, it stays dead and the story is changed surrounding it.

    I know this won’t come to pass from a commercial entity as innovation is dead in the gaming sector but I can’t help expressing myself as I am completely disappointed in every single MMO out there.

  • CLASSES: I don’t think that they could make a SW game without classes… unless everyone started out the same and based on your actions, etc, you become what you become. But then it would be like, to become a Jedi you have to explore the bottom of this ancient temple and talk to the guy, or a bounty hunter needs to do a mission for the guild.

    but that’s still classes, just not forced upon character creation.

    I don’t think that SW lends itself to be a skill based leveling system where everyone can do everything and allocates points to it. I bet it will be more or less similar to the D&D style of the single player KOTOR games.

    EXPLORATION: about it being a key part of the game, i think Star Trek online was talking about how they are gonna have some kind of algorithm in the game that will constantly expand the universe without any real added work (other than polishing I would assume) from admins. Perhaps something of that sort could be used in this game.

    CRAFTING: I kind of assume this is going to be in game, and I hope that it will combination of what we have in the market today. For instance, i really like warhammer’s system of butchering and scavenging as gathering professions (in addition to your standard mining, woodcutting, whatever) but the key is that the items you make should be useful. Every game I have played the equipment made by crafting is very involved to make and doesn’t last too long before it is replaced – thats why potionmakers and the like are always so much better, because they are constantly in need of resupply and there are no adequate substitutes.

    ok I’m done now.

  • I can’t wait for this game to come even without knowing virtually anything about it. I can say if SWTOR isn’t what I hope it is, I’m probably done with MMO’s as the more streamlined/dumbed down for mass appeal approach is boring to me.

    I really hope the customization seen in the KOTOR games previous makes it into the game. This is almost a game breaker for me if it doesn’t. I’m sick and tired of playing MMO’s where my character is exactly like everyother . The first MMO I truly started to play was Anarchy Online, and I’ve been longing for something even remotely close to that level of customization available to players ever since.

    One of my buddies who is going to be watching the game as well is worried about PvP or lack there of. Currently right now I’m a firm believer there will be PvP, Star Wars is made for players to PvP if you allow them to make Jedi or Sith. However since LOTRO has been introduced I can see how he might be a little wary of not having PvP even with the amazing potential for it. I’m leaning on the fact that this EA/LA behind it and they want money first and foremost. No PvP is a gamebreaker for many people, so I think they’ll do an honest attempt at it unlike Turbine.

    The world? I REALLY, REALLY hope it’s all massively open, save traveling to other planets, which could be changed with space travel in an expansion. As much as I love the KOTOR games, having a mostly linear path here would suck. The other big thing I’m hoping for with the world: Actually being able to affect it! I’m sick and tired of playing MMO’s in a ‘persistent world’ yet it hardly changes (if at all) from when I logged off to back on. Players should be able to take over stuff, and meaningful stuff. Mythic started on the path with WAR, but I’m really hoping someone can take it to another level.

    So TLDR version:
    – Class customization (allocating skill points/picking skills) is very important to me.
    – PvP or lack of is very important, no PvP won’t stop me from getting it if it looks good, but it won’t keep me long after I completed the story.
    – World needs to be massive and open, non-linear and players affect the world.

    I looked at the screenshots, and for a really early build I have to say I’m pretty happy with what I saw. It will only get better. So anyway, this wait is going to be oh so much worse than the WAR wait for me.

  • Nice words, my late MMO experiences were all of the same sort: try to reach cap to grind with others, realize that people reach the cap unselected/uneducated to massive multiplayer play (ignoring things like respect, maturity and so on), then unsubscribe the game.

    I’m a bit worried about a lot of newer massive games are just reverting to lenghty boring single player experience, more than massive experience with lots of player interaction.

  • I’m reeeeally looking forward to it 😀 I loved the KOTOR games, and if that’s the direction they’re going for, it will be really interesting.

    As for classes, in kotor there werent really any classes to speak of. Everybody started out pretty close in terms of gameplay, and then gained skills, through quests and various thingies that added to your skills. And if I remember correctly, being a sith or a jedi was really more of a mindset in that game. Not only, but it was easy to cross the line.

    And about the 4th pillar of storytelling, I think they can pull it of. The thing that I probably liked the most about KOTOR(tho I didnt realize until now) is that you feel like you control your future, even tho it is a pretty much set questline. If they manage to do that in an mmo, it would be great.

    I love pve. and I also love pvp! And I want both damnit. In one game!

  • // JEDI are in the game. There are going to be a TON of Jedi and that means, if Bioware is on top of their game, that they’ll have multiple types of Jedi. I’m predicting a Force caster, Force Healer, a Force Saber user, etc. I would be suprised if Bioware is able to pull it off and make the other classes/types interesting – possibly the biggest pitfall ahead of them. //

    Keen, have you ever played a game developed by BioWare before?
    I’m quite sure they’ve got some good solution upon this one, they aren’t so stupid that they are unaware of this potential issue so I’m more than confident about Bioware having some sort of genius plan on how to sort that one out 🙂
    After all, Bioware hasn’t really made any bad games? Ever? They even managed to make a rather good Sonic RPG to the Nintendo DS!

    // Bioware is saying that this game will differ from other mmorpgs by introducing what they call a fourth pillar of Story telling (The other three being Exploration, Combat, and Progression). This can work very well for a game as seen in LOTRO. The downsides are obvious to me as being a lack of gameplay substituted by an attempt at over-immersing the player in the story. //

    I can’t really see the problem?
    This is going to be a MMO(RPG!), where almost every other mmo-games out there have more or less completely ignored to make a somewhat decent storyline I’m more than convinced that Bioware will do the opposite, they will emerge the history so deeply into the game that it will be the first mmo worthy of the “mmoRPG” tag.

    If you don’t like the idea of lots of RPG-elements and deep storyline this isn’t the game for you, then Bioware isn’t the company you should buy any games from. If you want the typical buttonmashing without any real storyline kind of mmo you’ve got lots of other options out there.

    // My last reservation that I’ll touch upon briefly is the game world. I’m hoping for something wide open and sandbox feeling. //

    Yeah, lets hope Bioware go for somewhat open-world.
    Something like World of Warcraft which isn’t really instanced at all, with real-time travelling etc.. would be the best! But if they want some decent visual on the game that’s going to be hard I’m afraid 🙁

    Lets see how it all turns out, Bioware is up there with Blizzard and Sports Interactive being one of the few developers that haven’t really made a bad game, EVER!
    Bioware barley rushes anything either, so unlike a few other mmos I don’t think this will be rushed, it has been in development for a few years all ready!

    Bioware also got good communication with both EA Mythic and the developers of Star Wars Galaxies, along with LucasArts so they good people with tons of experience, if EA Mythic helps with the PvP-part, the Galaxies team with the crafting and Bioware do the history and major gameplay we’ve got a sure winner!

  • I feel a Star Wars version of Guild Wars is coming.

    Judging it on its own, I’m sure it will be decent. But sadly, I wanted SWG 2.0.

  • I agree on the sentiment here. The scope of this game is what will make or break it. Though I would rather see more than two factions or allow for player made factions/guilds/whaterver to control star systems (EVE). Also one giant server with hundreds of start systems and planets and stations to explore.

    Certainly worth keeping an eye on but after WAR I don’t think I will ever closely follow an MMO under development again.

    I wonder how they plan on squeezing into the fact that there are thousands of Sith running around. I swear Yoda said that there were always only 2.

  • Centuri:

    Darth Bane started the ‘only 2’ rule I think. Before that there were many Sith, but they were enemies and friends.

    Check out the Darth Bane books (there are two 😉 ).

  • I suspect that Bioware will make a successful game. The question will be, “is it a game that I will want to play for along time?” If it just another Level-Loot game then I am not sure how long it will keep me. Sure I can run though the story once, but unless it is completely different, I won’t care to do too many alts.

    Having the Jedi and Sith means there should be some form of PvP. But will it be meaningful and accessible?

    The interesting thing is so far I don’t see anything new or novel in this game. The Story based advancement was done in LotRO. Now, they can just do everything better, and that would be fine.

  • IGN’s been posting some exclusive info on the game, in case you missed it.

    The info’s vague, but there are some good nuggets in there… like that the player’s movement toward good or evil will be independent of his faction loyalty (Empire or Republic). And apparently companions were designed primarily with solo players in mind, though players will likely have them about at all times.

  • As another player who remembers fondly the pre-CU days of SWG, I’m looking forward to seeing what Bioware are intending here.

    Since I left SWG I have been roaming mmos looking for ‘that’ experience. One of the big aspects of that was the huge open world settings of SWG. The only game I’ve played so far that recreates this Vanguard. But, as has been said already, the modern mainstream formula for mmos is that instant hit, players (or certainly a large demographic of them) don’t want to spend ages travelling to get their xp. I would love to see this formula bucked, and a Star Wars themed game possibly has the pull to be able to manage it.

    If it turns out to be a guild wars/KOTOR style small but many zones even the pull of weilding a lightsabre won’t drag me there.

  • “I’m hoping that some part of what I felt when playing SWG will return when I play SWTOR but that might be putting too much stock in ‘hope’.”

    My sentiments exactly. People love to torch SWG at the stake, but some of the best moments I’ve spent in an MMORPG were spent in SWG. In the early days, we had incredible battles with the Empire just outside Bestine. The sandbox nature of SWG combined with players love of the lore lead to PvP without any ‘carrot’ necessary from the devs.

    I just seriously doubt SWTOR will have that ‘openness’ to the game design that SWG had, so i’m not getting my hopes up.

  • For SWTOR, I would like it to be a sandbox type of game, where people are not herded from start to finish. I dislike tiers or anything that says basically “Once your level 21-30, you go here. Level 31-40 you go over there”. I miss the old EQ1 open feeling honestly. I wouldn’t want SWTOR to be too big where I’m just running around for 15 minutes in a single direction just to reach my destination, that happened a lot in SWG back when I played that game.

  • Oh, and on another note.. I think all MMO developers strive for the “mass appeal”, since in the end it’s all about the money. Some people may not like SWTOR’s graphical style because in some distant fashion in resembles WoW, and they believe that they are doing that intentionally because of WoW’s success (to basically emulate it). I should point out that I do like the way SWTOR’s graphics look, at first I wasn’t a fan of the “cartoonish” appearances of MMO’s, but as time went on.. I prefer it that way depending on the game and how it’s designed. Cartoonish also equals timeless, because cartoon styled graphics don’t really age, yet high definition and realistic graphics do age. What was super awsome looking 10 years ago, basically sucks nowadays in terms of how it looks.