BioWare and Lucasarts timed the release of their official “sneak peak” at the “gameplay footage” for SWTOR pretty well. It follow marketing’s panic attack after John Riccitiello goofed and revealed that the upcoming MMORPG would be utilizing some form of microtransaction system. I won’t bother turning this into a post about my feelings on RMT/Microtransactions (RMT = fail) but instead focus on what I saw during the footage and what I heard the developers/producers say.
First, let’s look at the graphics, animations, and the overall appearance. BioWare’s own words are “stylized realism”. I actually like it. Lucasarts seems to be going this route with the Clone Wars stuff. It’s a smart decision to go with a graphics style that will last. Stylized graphics are an easy way to sorta immortalize your game or make it still look nice years and years after it comes out. It’s like looking at EQ2 and WoW. In 10 years WoW will still look like WoW, but EQ2 will look weird because it’s mimicking realism and graphics trying to mimic realism will get better. Stylized graphics are nearly timeless and realism is always short lived. The animations looked a bit stiff but it’s alpha and forgivable. The combat animations and fights looked pretty neat and I can forgive the “zomg lightsabers that don’t cut people in half” stuff because, after all, it’s a game. I would love to see blasters in action and animations against things that aren’t scripted Jedi fights though.
Notice the choice of words during the video. They’re really wanting to push SWTOR as the next best thing from BioWare and Lucasarts’ Star Wars. They’re also wanting this to be a huge entrance into the online gaming scene. “Scope” was a selling point – as it should be after the RMT debacle. Words like “deeper” and “broader” are being used in reference to the world. Story is also being emphasized and I think this is where they’ll make or break their game as they set out to distinguish themselves as a new face. I’ve been burned in the past by believing new features will be truly new as advertised, so I’m a little hesitant to get sucked in by the hype of their story system. Putting story at the forefront of the experience where every one of your decisions is “impactful” to your end-goal and character progression sounds great. Let’s see it in action.
They’ve come out and said that combat will be fast pace and action oriented. That’s a good thing, given what we’re working with here. Lightsabers being slow to the point of turnbased skill selection would be a yawn-fest. That’s not a liscense to go where Age of Conan went with combat though. I hope that we see a lot of reactionary animations and moves from characters in response to other player’s abilities. This would be a good way to get the combat looking active yet at the same time manageable. Working auto attacks into a sort of flourish could work.
Playstyle was only touched upon in one sentence. Like all games try and do when advertising their game, they’re trying to appeal to everyone. Yeah, never going to happen. The game will have a target audience and an inherent style; the casuals, the hardcores, the accisibilitites, etc. If I were to take a guess here… I really think that SWTOR will not be a PvE treadmill game whatsoever like WoW and I’m almost positive that there will be little to no PvP design (afterthought style). I’m actually expecting a Guild Wars type game here folks. I think it’s going to be that “jump in and jump out” type play with a lot of storyline incorporated – perhaps like LOTRO did but better. Add in the “rumored” *cough* leaked *cough* microtransaction news and it only confirms the potential for a shallow experience. If the game world turns out to be immersive and the scope enormous while somehow achieving quality gameplay, then we’ll see a success. AAA, however, may be questionable. I think it only holds the potential right now in name/brand recognition. It’s a Star Wars MMORPG made by Bioware – c’mon, of course it’ll be popular (and even moreso since they’re constantly plugging KOTOR).
The real test will be in a few months when more information is available. I’ll ask myself the following question to decide if I’ll get the game: “If this wasn’t a Star Wars game and it wasn’t made by BioWare, would the game stand on its own merits?”