Flashpoints: SWTOR’s Instances?

Flashpoints sound fun.  There’s mildly informative interview from Gamespot and a little more informative page up on the SWTOR site about these, for lack of a better word, instances.  Here’s what I got out of the two sources of info:

1) Instances

2) 90 min – 2+ hours based upon your desire for completion.

3) Story driven augment by…

4) Choice driven ~ your choices make it play out differently.

5) Low, middle, and high levels.

6) Good loot

I found the length of time for completion most interesting.  A good story-driven level of any game can pass the time without you realizing it’s 3am and you forgot to eat two meals.  A poorly designed one will have you shifting in your seat and glancing at the clock wondering how much longer you have to endure before you can go get a snack. 90 minutes as an average length is pretty long for anything but a really well designed level — let’s hope.

The idea of them being different based upon choices could be a nice quasi-long term design choice.  We can’t expect it to be a totally dynamic experience since it’s obvious that eventually you’ll figure out the 3-4 different ways it can play out, but it sure beat a 100% linear path. If nothing else, it will hopefully be a more cinematic way of presenting the instance idea.   Anything to change it up, if not get rid of instances completely, is okay with me.  I’m also in favor of anything that adds to the journey, especially when SWTOR sounds like it won’t be much of a destination game.

SWTOR looks like it wants to cater well to the individual.  It’s been discussed here at length how companions and content design are making the game a singleplayer experience in a multiplayer world, but Flashpoints are balanced for four player groups which contrasts nicely with everything else we’ve learned so far.

  • It’s weird because I have very mixed emotions for TOR. On the one hand they seem to be doing alot of things that compliment the style of game they are making. On the other hand I’m not sure it’s the style of game I want.

    BioWare is the master at the illusion of choice, like the old “Choose your own adventure” books from my childhood. You have a few options, which lead to other options, but in the end nearly all choices reconnect for a very limited amount of endings.

    TOR will be a very good single person RPG with some very fun small group content. I don’t see it being any sort of long term threat to the MMO market though.

  • I completely wrote off DCUO before trying it thinking it would be one way and it turned out to be another. I’ll be more open-minded about SWTOR now until I try it.

    The MMO market is becoming whatever people want it to be now. DCUO added “short and sweet” to the list of MMO definitions.

    WoW added “accessible to everyone” and it became the norm, even though for 6+ years there was nothing like it.

    Maybe SWTOR will add something that takes off.

  • I am approaching KOTOR as a BioWare/Star Wars Single Player game which will therefore be good. The MMO side of it will be a secondary concern/bonus for me.
    When almost everyone is Jedi or Sith swinging Lightsabers about they will be completely trivialised and the mystique will be gone: much like in the abysmal prequels.

  • I want them to announce that there will be Swoop Races that everyone can participate in. These Flashpoints do look fun.

  • So essentially, like the “alerts” from DCUO, except they last longer with varying progression paths?

    Works for me.

  • @Gali: That’s the impression that I get, but for some reason I’m thinking a lot more story and less “stage” feeling that Alerts have in DCUO.

  • I hope the “instance” will die a slow miserable death some day…to me it just seems like a crutch for poor game design and lack of technological capabilities…

    I am waiting for the day some DEV announces that they will offer dungeons that are not instanced and that they offer dynamic content which any number of players can participate in. He will make it sound like they were the ones inventing this non-instanced dungeon! Year 2025, here we come!!!

  • This sounds really cool – one of the things I’ve been dying for in a MMO is the ability to choose what path to take and have it actually make a difference to your experience. WoW doesn’t have that, EQ2 had a minor attempt at it which was just a flavoured way of saying, “Accept quest”. This looks good.

    My main worry is what happens if people don’t have the time to commit to that ‘flashpoint’? Are they going to be able to save their progress, almost like a WoW raid save? Or Nektropos Castle save (earlier in EQ2, dunno what it’s like now)?

    Hopefully Bioware comes up with something to handle that.

  • @Argorius: That stuff has already happened. I’ve been saying for years that we’ve regressed. We went from open-world dungeons where there is dynamic player interaction to these instances encounters.

    @SmakenDahed: I would bet that it’s not savable, but it would be cool if they were.

  • Two thoughts:
    1. How long before they make the cut scenes skippable? Or get annoyed by “gogogoggoog!!!!!1111111” from someone who has seen it before?
    2. Who makes the choices? The group leader? What if he makes a choice that I don’t like? Or takes a path to an ending that I dont want?


  • Truth be told, this is looking more and more like a normal MMO all the time, I think the story stuff they’ve been trumpeting has been oversold, it seems like normal MMO content with maybe a few quest “trees” rather than a straight quest “line.”

    This actually makes me more interested though, not less. My biggest complaint about SWTOR has always been that it looks to not have lots of normal MMO stuff, but maybe they are moving more in that direction all the time. If they are, I’ll be more likely to try it out.

  • @Keen: I know – my comment was more of the sarcastic nature

    I read a interview with one of the Devs (from either DCUO or Rift) and he gave his background and explained that WOW was his first MMO and how he loved it. That made me realize that as time goes by the chances of getting another old school MMO are seriously diminishing as some/many of todays and tomorrows DEVS started in WOW and see this as the industry standard and maybe the only way to do things? For instance, I have no clue about games like Runescape or anything that came before UO since I never played them…those guys may not have a clue about games like UO, EQ, AC, DAOC.

    In a sad way, if we want another MMO that draws from some of the old and fun MMO mechanics, we really have to hope for someone who was experienced them to get his idea past a bunch of probably skeptical people or we can wait for the next Richard Garriot or Mark Jacobs (and team) to reinvent the freaking wheel…

  • Not sure I like the idea of 90min+ instances. Instances in WoW work because they are short and (even then) you can still swap in and out players via the Dungeon Finder. Persistent dungeons in older games like EQ worked because you could crawl for hours and again, swap in and out players. How’s a story driven instance going to work if someone has to leave half way through?

    Gonna be interesting to see anyway 🙂

  • I don’t know how you can win a long term playerbase with an intellectual property that has at its core iconic heroes. I include LotRO, all Star Wars games, all Star Trek games, and all comic book action games in this.

    All of these games have iconic heroes that everybody wants to be. But the game can’t make everybody Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader so…big fail eventually.

    The rest of the games have your run of the mill Elves and Orcs, but nobody really expects to be the most famous Orc of all time cause there isn’t really one.

  • The above description reminds me of City of Heroes / Villains Taskforces / Strikeforces. They were highly instanced mission strings around a central storyline that scaled to the number of players involved.

    I also expect the choice aspect to be more limited to dialogue choices and that the ‘best’ reward paths will be quickly charted though.

  • Keen
    Is it any reflection on the lessening of interest in this game that this posting only got 17 replies (5 of them yours) in over 3 days of time?

  • That would be one conclusion you could draw from that observation. Here are a few others:

    1) Post went up on Friday and people frequent websites far less on weekends.

    2) The topic is not one where people form strong opinions and then vehemently try and defend their position.

    3) It’s hard to really discuss anything unless you’re as deep into analyzing every little piece of new’ish information that comes out. The most people can say is “hmm sounds like that’s what it will be” or “hmm probably gonna be like this”. Lots of “hmmms” leading to…

    4) The subject is still rather unknown while at the same tine being talked about quite a bit. We know SWTOR will be instanced. At this point, this information and subsequent post is looking at one piece of additional information that we have which might add to our understanding.

    To sum it up: The post wasn’t interesting anyway. 😉

  • @Jay
    More than likely it just isn’t a controversial topic. On the other hand Keen’s last post… well that one spun out of control rather fast.

    @Keen/post in general
    I think most people are simply in a holding pattern for TOR. Everyone wants it to be good from what I can tell; they just don’t want to get sucked into hype.

    Star Wars has a HORRIBLE track record with video games; KOTR being the one exception, arguably Galaxies depending on when you played. Lucas Arts has been selling the Star Wars IP piecemeal for 20 years trying to make a buck. They have zero quality control.

    BioWare is very good at making single player games. I think that is honestly the only thing holding the MMO community at bay from eating TOR alive. They hyped their 4th pillar to death though and it received very harsh criticism. I think BioWare is trying to advertise some of the more MMOish features now. Which is a very good idea.

  • @7 sounds like you want Vanguard’s “Advanced Encounter System” that never seemed to make it past being an idea on paper.

  • How are your adventures in DCUO going? I recently hit 30 on an ice tank and having a blast with duos and hardmodes

  • @jay

    I just got invited to the Rift Alpha for some reason I can’t fathom, and I still can’t login for more than 15 minutes without needing to log out. I’m hoping it’s just me knowing they are gonna be wiping my character soon, but the back of my mind is telling me that first 17 or so levels is not that fun to replay.

    Well I preordered, so I’m gonna figure it out soon, but it’s not really high praise that I don’t want to login at all and it’s not released yet.

  • @Disguisednamehere
    Maybe i am just hopeful and being stung by other games that were released unfinished, but i am optimistic about Rift.I am playing defiant at launch and have not leveled one above 10 so that side will be new to me. I have guardian toons to 20.
    It is worth 59.99 plus box cost to get 7 months to try out. Smooth game, love the soul system, can’t comment on pvp because i prefer open world to warfronts, and didn’t experience any.
    This game could be just a bridge to GW2 or my new game. If i get 6 months enjoyment it will be worth it.
    DAOC 2 isn’t coming to save the day so this will do, and so far so good.

  • @Epiny

    “They hyped their 4th pillar to death though and it received very harsh criticism.”

    I gotta ask, when and where did the backlash to storytelling happen?

  • @Drew
    Many blogs have been saying that a game base on story telling will fail. Also the rumors about the voice acting budget got a lot of bad press.