Tobold's Blog
Monday, May 02, 2011
What do you expect from SWTOR?

I had an interesting discussion with dwism on Buzz, after having linked to the extremely negative Bit Gamer preview of SWTOR. The question was whether such negative reviews are coming from too high expectations. And that is true for many MMORPGs, not just SWTOR.

MMORPG previews and even reviews are often full of hype. If somebody reads Darren's description of Rift as "the “Jesus” game you guys have been waiting for the last 5 years" and fully believes that claim, it is possible that he will end up disappointed. But if he believed something along the lines of "Rift is somewhat similar to WoW, but with some improved features", he is far less likely to be disappointed by actually playing the game, and might enjoy it far more.

The same is true for Star Wars: The Old Republic. My personal belief from various preview is that SWTOR will be somewhat similar to WoW in gameplay, with the added advantages of the Star Wars setting, and complete voice-overs. Assuming that I stay away from WoW and WoW-like games until SWTOR's release, I might actually be having fun in SWTOR. Even if, or maybe *because of*, I expect the voice-overs not telling stories much more involving than "kill ten womp rats". If you expect "kill ten womp rats", and you get "kill ten womp rats", you aren't disappointed. If you expect SWTOR to be the "Jesus game", or expect story-telling to be as good as in Knights of the Old Republic, you are more likely to be disappointed, and in consequence not enjoy SWTOR as much.

So I'd like to know what your expectations are for SWTOR. Do you think it will just be "kill ten womp rats", and would you be happy enough with such a game? Or have you set your hopes much higher?
I expect SWTOR to be exactly that "kill 10 rats" . The voice overs has been done in Everquest 2, and just like quest text, you will eventually cut it short.

I will most likely play SWTOR to the level cap and enjoy it, just like anyone who is into Call of Duty [FPS] or FIFA [Sports] will enjoy playing the exact same thing with better graphics every year.

I however think Bioware is fooling themselves if they think players are going to subscribe for lengthy periods. That is something i don't expect from the "type" of MMO they are pushing out, it will be a 2-3 month thing with the bulk of the players killing their 10 rats before the free month is over.

That itself i don't consider a "failure" anymore, and i'm treated it as the "standard" for new MMOs..that way i'm quite happy to "finish" my MMO after 3 months and move on [like any other game] .
I agree, and am on the same line as you in regards to my expectations to swtor.
And I am looking forward to it! I loved 'The old republic's universe, I loved WoW, as long as Bioware ups their game mechanics so that all classes are on a level playing field (unlike their single player games), I'll be thrilled, and will most likely have a grand time in that game.
What bothered me about that preview from bit-gamer, was that the things they where bashing on, where either things I do not consider important in a closed beta, like Respawn rates or things where I did not really see a need to be critical (like them being upset that ranged classes where standing still at range to shoot mobs). That made me take their statements that *where* important (like the lack of uniqueness and the un-involving story) with a huge chunk of salt, simply because most of their gripes with the game in it's current form where non-issues.
For SWTOR, I expect a badly-executed, unfinished WoW-type game. There will be a few interesting ideas, and it is _STAR WARS_, but it will take several months of patches to get everything working. Content releases will be infrequent, and break about as many things as they fix.

Quality in these games is not, ultimately, about the details of the design decision. It is about the engineering competence (or otherwise), that goes into making them, and the economics of whether it's worth keeping that talent working to extend the game, as opposed to develop a new one.

MMORPG development isn't at the level where you can pick a car because you like the colour and just drive it away knowing it will work well. It is more like buying a second hand car: you need one where the engine and brakes work, and will keep on working.
I think it's just going to be missing too many of the finer features that stable MMOS can boast about (but never do). It's the little things, not the headline features, that make the game. Killing ten rats with green fire is different from killing them with blue fire.
SWTOR will be an enjoyable single player game of extraordinary length.
I'm looking forward to playing a "new" MMO, and having a sense of exploration and newness that always comes with a new game. Whether or not I play at the endgame will depend on how good / inclusive it is. But I know that I like at least the levelling parts of these games, and I never played a sci-fi MMO with a good backstory and universe. That's another part of the appeal, I generally prefer a sci-fi setting to a fantasy setting, in my reading and film watching.

So I expect a pretty plain vanilla MMO in an interesting setting, and anything extra is a bonus.
I expect a somewhat buggy WoW-Clone that matches about the standard of early Wrath-WoW, but is missing a few features. It will play in a Universe I personally don't like anymore and tell stories that are even below the already not very good Star Wars books in quality (because I doubt they will hire award-winning authors to write their questlines).
Oh and the NPCs will have actual voices to tell you what you neither wanted to hear nor wanted to read: To kill ten rats.
Nothing I've heard about SWTOR has sounded good from day one. I expect it to sell 2-4 million copies and have near empty servers a month later.
I plan to play SWTOR as if it were a single player game, taking in the story in a very leisurely way.

I'll certainly stay subbed to my "real" MMO at the same time.

I saw a video interview with one of the devs responsible for story about a year ago. He gushed enthusiastically about the stories then they asked him what players should do when they finish a class's story. "Oh" he said with a big smile, "you'll be able to roll an alt and play through a new story".

They asked him about warfronts and he said rather dismissively "oh it'll be what you're familiar with". Then they asked him about crafting and he said "oh, well it's kinda like WoW, all what people are familiar with and like".

Now I appreciate he's not the guy working on those systems but it was really rather alarming. He seemed very dismissive of everything that wasn't story.

@Kiseran Some SW books were excellent. How can you not like Admiral Thrawn?
I quit WoW about four months ago. It was an amazingly fun time and the longest, by far, I've stuck with a single hobby. But this hamster could only stick with that treadmill for so long, and finally I just got tired of it. Who knows, might go back some day.

I don't expect SWTOR to last nearly so long, I started WoW from release. I'm expecting a BioWare style rpg with some additional co-op features. Which has the potential to be fantastic, I'd kill for a co-op mode in Mass Effect.

I actually do expect the storyline to be as good as KOTOR. It had better be, I don't buy BioWare games for the graphics.

I usually get about a month or two out of a normal BioWare rpg. I'm figuring six months for SWTOR, but hey. Maybe they'll prove me wrong.
I've said for a very long time that hype is bad, and here's a prime example. To expand a little bit on that I think that you of course need a little bit of previews and such to create interest in the product. But overexposing it will have negative effects because of too high expectations.

The first game where I really noticed it was with Black & White. It was really a nice game, but all it's features were so overhyped that your expectations were going through the roof if not the clouds. When the game was released, yes most of the features were there but they didn't take the expected form so most people were really disappointed, me included. I learned to like the game over time on it's own terms but it really wasn't the same as it could have been if it wasn't so hyped.

Another good example is WAR, with Paul (Bears! Bears! Bears!) Barnett as it's front figure. It's still a nice game in my opinion but it wasn't as good as the hype suggested.

So nowadays I try to disregard hype as best as possible. I'll look at some previews and such but try not to get my hopes up too much. It has helped a bit with my hopes I must say.

Regarding SWTOR in specific I'm trying not to get my hopes up there either too much. I'll most likely enjoy the leveling game at least moderately in any case but it would be nice if it had some new features compared to WoW for example. But what almost always breaks the game for me nowadays is the end game. I need something else than just a raiding end game. If it just has that I almost always tire after reaching the level cap. I would like some kind of PvP campaign similar to the one in WAR but but most games just have BGs and unplanned open world PvP. Add to that that I don't like when MMOs are usually too gear based so that a newly dinged max cap character don't have a chance in PvP and I tire fast with that too.

Personally I need a MMO which has some really nice gameplay which is quite a bit different from the standard games out there today. But I would settle for a game with similar gameplay and nice end game PvP that isn't too gear based at least for a while. Otherwise I'll just level up a character and then just play it less and less.
RIFT is about as I expected, but I was careful to not get carried away by the hype.

SWTOR, I don't have a terribly good vibe about. I'll help them deal with their initial rush by not picking it up.
Oh, there's one thing that I really would have loved that they would have skipped entirely for SWTOR, the holy trinity. Come on, isn't it time to scrap that crap soon and come up with some new ideas?
I expect superficiality -- good graphics, great sounds, and thin gameplay -- which I why I won't buy it.
not every review was so negative: the reviews of the 2 day preview event from both Rock Paper Shotgun and Ars Technica were much more enthusiastic.

i've never heard of the site that was bagging TOR in that review; on the other hand i trust RPS and Ars to give reviews in line with my own experiences, and on the basis of that i'm actually a lot more encouraged about TOR than i was previously.

it seems to me - and i say this as someone who has never heard of the site that was bagging TOR - that a bunch of 'other-MMO-fans' have hit upon one negative review from a little known site, and ingoring the much more positive reviews from larger, more well-known (to me, that is) sites.

and that, really, is just your typical, myopic 'your game sucks! my game rocks!' cheer-leading rubbish that MMO blogging is sadly well-known for.
@Stabs: I read.. a lot. Over the time I have grown rather demanding when it comes to books and stories. Thrawn is a good character, you actually learn to like him even if he clearly is one of the bad guys. However he is just one character in a universe that contains just too many black and white and not enough grey for my tastes. I like my books complicated. Give me 10+ characters (without a single one clearly being the main character) who are all morally ambiguous, stand on different sides, some trying to do something good with all the wrong tools, some clearly evil but still not shy to do something good once in a while just to shock their surroundings..

Martins "A Song of Ice and Fire" made me a happy little clam. Compared to stories like that Star Wars as a whole simply can't hide the fact that it is just a fairy tale in space ;)
The comments here don't line up with previous expectations for SW:sRPG. Now maybe it's just a different group of people talking, or maybe the expectations are rapidly shifting from jesus MMO to 'WoW in space'. Pretty dramatic shift IMO.
My expectations for SWTOR? They are the same as for DCUO and Rift, both of which I have enjoyed: it is released.

That is about where my expectations end and maybe why I wind up enjoying these games while others see them as clones or complain about sucky UI's. I take them as they are. If I enjoy? Good. If not? That's fine too.
I expect it will be wow with lightsabers. I will play it because I'm a fan of the universe that it is set in, and it will be my primary mmo. I can see wanting to play through several different classes. I'm sure it will have bugs, balance issues, and server issues, just like every other mmo I've played.
I love WoW, I love Bioware in general, and I love Kotor in specific.

I expect big things from it, but on that note, I also expect to judge it against kotor. I will go in expecting a good story, good voice acting, and at wow quality gameplay, though I understand it will be new and have all the pain that implies. I remember well the days of loot lag in wow.

So basically nothing revolutionary, just wow and kotor mashed together. That would make me very happy.
I also haven't really read much into the game. I maybe watched two of the bioware videos on the game, and couldn't tell you what either of them were about at this point. My only experiences are basically blog posts and blog comments, and those mostly go in one ear and out the other shortly.

My stance has always been it will get here when it gets here (Thank you Blizzard for instilling patience in me if nothing else) and my thoughts of the game are pretty much identical to when it was first announced.
I expect it to WoW what Rift was to WoW. Instead of “Rifts” it’s going to claim story as the “We’re not in Azeroth anymore” justification to get subscribers. I use to love Star Wars. I had all the games growing up, the action figures, the comic books, however Lucas Arts destroyed my love for the franchise by letting anyone license a shitty product and slap their name on it. I didn’t buy Kotor when it came out because of this bad taste. I eventually got it when it went on sale on Steam, played it for 45 minutes and didn’t like it.

I genuinely hope this game fails, badly. I don’t hate EA or the people who work there; however I really believe this is one instance where a game failing will help the genre. A message needs to be sent to developers and producers that this shovelware crap won’t cut it.
Most of the comments in the preview suggested that the "third pillar" was either lacking or got in the way of gameplay.

I was hoping for epic stories and a sense of SW universe.

I'm now not convinced the SWTOR engine has been designed with this in mind.

Expect flamewars on launch.
I expect SWTOR be an interesting evolution on the themepark MMO concept. I expect it to advance the genre from WoW at least as much as Rift did.

I do expect SWTOR to be polished and largely bug free. If it's a buggy piece of junk at release I'm going to be far more disappointed than if the game itself is merely mediocre. I expect better of Bioware than that.

Like many others here, I'm content to consider SWTOR an online single player RPG. If grouping ends up working well, great! If not, I'll play it until I've "beaten" the story, and then stop.
At this point, all I'm really expecting is an online/co-op version of KOTOR. KOTOR was great, but it was buggy and incomplete. That's about what I expect from SWTOR now. And I think we are starting to see the influence of EA on Bioware. Between Dragon Age 2, and now the rumblings about SWTOR, the "mass production" mentality of EA is taking its toll on Bioware's creative process.

That said, I'll probably buy it, and play it through to finish at least one of the vaunted "class stories." After that, we'll have to see.
I expect it to be mostly single-player story focused with options for multiplayer, but not required. I expect people to want to play it more for the story and Star Wars setting than because it's doing something new and great to advance the MMO genre.
I miss SWG pre-CU.

I really wish SWTOR is SWG pre-CU with the story telling power of Bioware (quests, epic instances)
but I fear that will not be the case
The Rock Paper Shotgun preview got me enthusiastic.

I'll definately play it. But for months? Or years? I doubt it.
"The comments here don't line up with previous expectations for SW:sRPG. Now maybe it's just a different group of people talking, or maybe the expectations are rapidly shifting from jesus MMO to 'WoW in space'. Pretty dramatic shift IMO."

Yeah, real dramatic, I guess waiting for the Messiah game has caused the faithful to get restless.

I blame Star Wars fanboi-ness for this disconnect. You cannot commit 200+ million of investor money without promising BANKABLE gameplay dynamics with heavy influence from Wow.

It was always going to be Wow in space. It was never going to be "insert X religious gaming experience here".

Yes Bioware never tried to set expectations. But with 200 million and change, who thought it would be mediocre? Certainly Bioware didn't think it would be average. But as the steady grind of actually executing to a vision wore on... well you have to start growing up actually complete things AND... yeah it's not so special.

I tried to warn ya... I really did when you all were at the "it's gonna be absolutely fabulous" stage.
"SWTOR will be an enjoyable single player game of extraordinary length."

This sums it up perfectly for me. I expect to play it through and then be done with it. This may take longer than the free month, or it may not.

And it might very well be an excellent game that I'm glad I bought and played for a month.
"the “Jesus” game you guys have been waiting for the last 5 years"

By the way Tobold Rift IS the Messiah Game and you should rename yourself to Thomas...

;) topical for the season I believe

John 20:24-29
Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
The real question to me is, if you want to produce a game where the gameplay is "Kill 10 Rats" is Star Wars a good property to match that with? Star Wars on the big screen is space opera, with swashbuckling action and fighter based combat. If tell me you are making a "Star Wars" game and give me "stand in place, push button and do a few hit points of damage with my lightsaber" then I'm going to be disappointed, yes.

When I showed my son the review, what he twigged on was that unarmored people were not killed by lightsaber hits. "Epic fail" was his knee-jerk reaction. Not because of comparisons with WoW, or because he's looking for a specific MMO, but because if you give him a game set in "Star Wars" then he by golly wants his gameplay to be like the movies.
I'm not expecting anything really ground breaking. The voice overs will be interesting the first week, then you will see people on the forums asking how to bypass them faster.

I am personally not that interested in Star Wars or Bioware (Have never played a single game from them)in general. I have no doubts the game is going to release with huge fan faire, but imagine it won't be too long before there will be a big drop off as people realize they are playing WoW in space WITH VOICE OVERS.
Apart from yet another source of sycophancy for peoples ego's, what can it actually do?
I also feel that, after looking around, it's pretty clear that review is anomalous, and while other reviews happily mention the flaws, this review you linked treats the flaws with even more disdain and insults even the good parts of it.

This review was fairly obviously made to draw attention. It goes against every other one, and as a result, it has also generated a lot more comments and (more importantly to them mabe) a LOT of hits.

It isn't a fair review.
"SWTOR will be an enjoyable single player game of extraordinary length."

...and if they would sell it that way, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. Selling it at a sub game just insures that I won't buy it.

I can see some arguments for why RIFT works as a sub game. SWTOR seems more like a GW game in the first place, to me, so it should be sold that way.

I argued this a long time ago, and I stand by it.


I don't think the game will be a revolutionary metagame-changer, but it looks like it should be at least fun.
KOTOR and KOTOR2 are solid storyline over a 20-40 hours of playtime with little padding. Judging from the preview, SWTOR is a mediocre story over a standard 100-200 hour MMO playtime. I suspect that the story may just take a while to pick up, and the previewers were merely getting frustrated with how long it took to experience story progression - what would be an appetizing little prologue in a single player game becomes a momentum-dissipating grind once conventional MMO conventions are applied.

I hope SWTOR fails hard. It used to be that my desired outcome for SWTOR is that it fails, but that it fails modestly so that I can pick it up for cheap after a few months and play through it as a single player game. But I'm beginning to suspect that this may actually not be fun, because of how grindy a themepark MMO can be, and how the grind compromises the storytelling effort. Also, there's the subscription cost to consider, I doubt I can experience a themepark MMO to conclusion in one month if it's conventionally grindy. So my new desired outcome is that SWTOR fails, and fails so epically that EA shuts down the servers and eventually cannibalizes the content as a slapped-together single player game in an effort to recoup some of their losses. That way I won't need to pay a subscription to play all 8 storylines and can use cheats to bypass some of the grind.
I have zero expectations from SWTOR since the very first time the CEO of bioware stating that they will add a new 4th element to the genre and he called that the "Story" element. I stopped reading the announcement article of SWTOR (that was few years ago) and I knew back then it will fail.

It will fail and that's a hard feat to do because it's based on StarWars. It will retain more subs than Age of Conan just because of the IP but it will never be a success.

Then MAYBE everyone realize that MMORPGs are not about stories or "kill 10 foozles".
I have a solid 5-man group I play with. Myself, two brothers, and our mutual friends. I am going to schedule time for us all to play, regularly, through the story together. We will all have alts so that the frenetic power-gamers of the group can race ahead to level-cap without destroying our cohesion, while the more glacial of us don’t feel left behind. It will be a social thing – co-op Mass Effect meets KOTOR. As per usual, I will tank for my friends, and I will do so whilst carrying a bright red lightsaber and dressing in black armor, looking like the biggest badass in the universe.

And for my solo alt, I will play a republic trooper. One who I will, by preference, play as much solo as I possibly can, so that every single possible dialogue choice will be spoken by Jennifer Hale. Because by God, Commander Shepard always has been and always will be a woman.
By the way Tobold Rift IS the Messiah Game and you should rename yourself to Thomas

I think the relevant bible citation here is the one about the golden calf, with you Israelites worshipping a false god.

But I'm quite open to a discussion of what it would take for a game to REALLY be a Jesus game. I'd say it would have to be significantly different from a level- and quest-based, holy trinity hotkey combat game. Neither Rift nor SWTOR offers that. The closest I've seen up to now is Glitch.
My expectations continue to be ratcheted down.

Yet I would like a MMO to play for a couple of years now that WoW has self-destructed.

THe only positive thing I read was that Zoxy was going to quit his WoW gold blog when SWTOR comes out to focus on it. Maybe the crafting in it will be decent; I bet not but hope springs eternal.

"But I'm quite open to a discussion of what it would take for a game to REALLY be a Jesus game. I'd say it would have to be significantly different from a level- and quest-based, holy trinity hotkey combat game."

Was WoW a messiah game when it came out?

Most people view it as an evolution of MUD>UO>EQ.
Each game offering a few more features and a bit of polish.

So maybe Rift (which I haven't played) is the next step.
So maybe Rift (which I haven't played) is the next step.

I played Rift, and I would completely agree with saying that it is a step in the MUD>EQ>WoW evolution. Unfortunately such a statement is considered to be "Rift-bashing" by some overzealous fans who are trying to sell that game as the "Jesus game" which it definitely isn't.

Neither Rift nor SWTOR question the fundamental gameplay common to so many MMORPGs from EQ to WoW and beyond. They just put that same gameplay in a new virtual world, add a couple of features, and hope that is enough. But for many people, it simply isn't.
I think SWOTOR will be a WoW clone with voice and better writers.

I think that some people are being a bit too dismissive of the voice factor here.

I can think of a couple of WoW quests that, were they voiced by good actors they would still be remembered and people would create alts just to do them. I'm thinking for example about that small quest line where we take a medallion or something to a grave on a cemetery in silverpine forest.

I also expect the fluff to be kicked in the nuts for right now I cannot think of how are they going to prevent having 15 to 1 ratio of jedi's in relation to the rest of the classes.
I expect SWTOR to be a co-op single player game with a sub with a wow feel...definitely not for me.
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