Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
 
KOTOR 3

If you buy a MMORPG, chances are that you expect a very different experience from what you would expect when buying a single-player game. As a result you'll often hear people saying that you can't compare MMORPGs to single-player games. But what if we throw this convention overboard? How would Star Wars: The Old Republic look if compared to a single-player game, how would it do as a hypothetical Knights of the Old Republic 3?

The big difference between single-player games and MMORPGs is obviously the number of players. It is possible to notice the existence of other players in SWTOR: In the first week of the game there were queues caused by other players, SWTOR has a certain amount of group content, and you might see other players killing "your" quest mobs at some occasions. But it is totally possible to play SWTOR as a single-player game: All the group content is optional, and if you see other players in game you can simply imagine them being NPCs with a weird AI.

So how good a value for money is Star Wars: The Old Republic when you actually were looking for a single-player game, for KOTOR 3? I would say it is holding up surprisingly well. You might niggle about the stories in SWTOR casting you slightly less as the savior of the universe than you would have expected from KOTOR 3, but otherwise the single-player experience comes very close to what you'd expect from a Bioware single-player RPG. There is a big main story quest, numerous side-quests, a typical Bioware mix of dialogue and combat. There is even a space combat mini-game thrown in for free. If you buy SWTOR, play one character to the level cap within 30 days, and then uninstall the game, you will have gotten good value for money compared to typical single-player games.

If you level a bit slower, or want to play through the game a second time, then of course SWTOR becomes more expensive than a single-player game. Nevertheless a second play-through is probably still good value for money if seen as a single-player game. You just need to choose a character from the other faction, and get a completely different main story line, and different side-quests as well. Even combat might be somewhat different if you chose a class that isn't the mirror image of your first character.

But while a second play-through might be better in SWTOR than in most single-player RPGs, replayability goes downhill from there. With your third and fourth character you will already have the same side-quests as your first or second character, and pretty much the same sequence of planets. Your fifth to eighth character can help but have the same abilities as your first 4 characters, or mirror images thereof. And after having played through 8 characters, you have probably seen every dialogue in the game. As cost per month remains the same, but your experience becomes less unique over time, at some point you'll probably think that it isn't worth it any more as a single-player game.

Personally I took a 3-month subscription for SWTOR, and I'm pretty confident to get value for money over the resulting 4 months in terms of single-player experience. But I will look long and hard at SWTOR at that point to decide whether I would want to play the game longer than that. Because in those 4 months I will not only have pretty much exhausted the existing single-player part of the game, but also the part of the multi-player experience I am actually interested in, that is playing through the small group content once. And then it's down to a rather typical long-term experience with a rather typical MMORPG: Repeatedly doing the same small group content, or repeating the same large group content every week, or doing repeatable quests, or doing PvP. Some people like that sort of repeating content, but I am not too excited about it. Let's do this again and see whether I can squeeze 3% better performance out of myself? I'd rather not! I don't give a damn about continuous improvement of my performance in video games. Especially not in the type of game where your improved performance only makes you better for this ONE encounter, and is of no use for the next one.

I can recommend Star Wars: The Old Republic as a single-player game. If you were waiting for KOTOR 3 and were unhappy that it might never be released, SWTOR is a viable alternative. If you don't mind paying twice the price for SWTOR than KOTOR 3 would have cost you, you can probably get 4 months of good single-player experience out of SWTOR. And that is it. Afterwards you would have to pay for a multi-player experience. Which might or might not be better than the multi-player experience other games are offering, but is probably rather similar. If you liked SWTOR as a single-player game because of the great story and dialogue, the multi-player experience will have far less of that; and it will play VERY differently from the single-player part, will presumably be a lot harder, and in any case be a lot more repetitive. You will need to see whether that is something that interests you.
Comments:
Just out of curiosity Tobold, have you tried playing it as a "two player" RPG? Was considering playing it with my girlfriend...doing a Counselor/Knight pairing or something similar. Do the story quests let you bring other players along?
 
I would say that SWTOR works rather well as a two player RPG.

Just make sure to take two different classes. Because the story quests let you bring other players along, but only one of them can finish his class quest in an instance. If you play two characters of the same class, you need to run all class instances twice, which would be annoying.
 
'll concur with Tobold about SWTOR being a great two player RPG. I've been playing alongside my wife since launch, with the pair of us levelling together.

As Tobold suggests, picking two different classes is essential in order to get round most of the story instance locks. Having complementary crew skills is also helpful, though not essential.

The result is that all 2+ Heroic quests are now within reach, making more XP and quest rewards available . 4+ Heroic quests are more challenging, but if you have the time and patience can be rewarding to complete as a duo. It also means that challenging solo quests are much less frustrating.
 
I wonder whether any MMO would play out any differently for you, Tobold. What type of virtual world game do you think would entice you to play for more than 3 months worth of subscriptions?

(When I think of games I'd play for long periods of time, a lot of them would be casual games that I might come back to occasionally. Or possibly some of the card based games, I do like the MTG game a lot, given that I've never actually played it with another live player yet.)
 
How about a MMORPG without a raid endgame? How about a MMORPG in which leveling takes 2,000 hours, and not 200? How about horizontal expansions instead of vertical ones? How about a MMORPG with a combat system based on a trading card game?

I find it really sad how the dominance of World of Warcraft has led so many people to believe that the way WoW does it is the only possible way to make a MMORPG.
 
But you didn't really like EVE, which is far closer to what you just described. It's easy to think of ideas for games with no levels, but would you (as in the general you) play them?
 
@Tobold: an MMO with a leveling time of 2000 hours? Been there, done that: Ryzom. The result? 20 active players per server. The reason? It's impossible to find people you can meaningfully group with (meaningful means: "not looking at them one-shotting everything").

If there's one thing MMO must do is to kill levels completely, so that everyone can group with everyone from time 0.
 
I reject the notion that all games without levels have to be about ganking and betraying others. I would play a game without levels. And there are even ways for games with levels to enable people to play together, with a good mentoring / sidekick system.
 
So SWTOR is a massively multi player game that you can play for a few months and then move on satisfied. I think that is a great development and I would love to see this become the new trend in mmorpg games. I personally have lost all interest in playing the same game week after week for several years with most of that time spent grinding. I want to play short content filled games but I also like having other players around while I do it.


The only downside to this is that Bioware spent so much money developing SWTOR they probably need people to stick around longer than three months just so they can break even. If SWTOR loses money then this promising trend may never take off.
 
The Secret World will be trying the no levels thing, and has three leveling paths based on faction, so we shall see whether it's easier for players to group up and play together without overlapping content overmuch (though it purportedly has a heavily gear-based system that screams "raiding endgame" to me).

There's also GW2 that will have the sidekicking/level scaling options, and jettisons the raiding endgame.

Both of these feature storyline as a feature, though of course not to the fully-voiced, Mass Effect-style dialogue option extent of SWTOR, but I feel these are the more interesting upcoming options if one were pursuing a themepark MMO that approaches content slightly differently.

Oh, and both feature somewhat of a deck-building approach to combat as well. I can't wait to see what you think of each of them if you give them a try.
 
You are right on the money Tobold.

I reached level 50 yesterday on my first character and was quite thrilled with the ending of my class quest and the last planet storyline (Corellia for me).
Overall, since I was "ahead of the pack", there was never more than 3 or 4 players on the planet I was on so it's fair to say that I experienced SWTOR as an almost pure single player KOTOR 3. I grouped occasionally to do Heroics, but that's pretty much it.

And so I reached 50...The KOTOR feeling disappeared completely to be transformed into a pure WOW feeling:
- headbutt dailies as fast as possible for commendations
- zoom through normal and hard modes for gear
- Queue for PVP a lot because well..there isn't much else yet.


It's quite nuts how different the feeling is now and to be honest, all I think about it making another character and never playing my 50 again...And the only thing preventing me from doing just that is that I don't want to have hundreds of players in the zones I play in....

Quite a predicament as you can imagine :)
 
I too am waiting for an mmo as you describe Tobold: no raid-only endgame, horizontal instead of vertical character levels, not heavily gear dependent and all playstyles equally rewarded. One day...
 
I really like the idea of an MMO that uses a CCG type approach to combat honestly. Maybe I need to write up some ideas sometime as a design document for fun.

Say you have a deck of abilities that refreshes. Either in replacement of equipment, or in addition to, bosses could drop new cards with abilities for each class. There would of course be no easy optimally efficient rotation that someone could memorize because of the random element of drawing cards, but you could of course use deck-building to set you up in a position to maximize what you can do at any given time just like you can in CCGs.

There is no real drama over respeccing because you could just build different decks for different purposes.

Tons of different customization options since you can have quite a bit more class abilities than you use at any given time, and each person can control the relative prevalence of certain abilities in their deck so there are lots of unique combinations possible.
 
Hi Tobold. If what you say is true and if a mojority of people reach this same conclusion, then does this infer that Bioware's business plan was to get 1-4 months out of people and then have them leave?

Surely Bioware had thought through this same process. I guess I'm having difficulty in understanding what Bioware actually has planned for SWTOR.
 
Sad you still say that about eve tobold. Can you really cling to that in the face of so much evidence and cold hard facts? For example the most clear proof you are insane to say that (let's assume you don't really believe what you are saying - you aren't a fool) is that the vast majority of players don't enter 0.0 space ever.

Just because you "proved" eve was like that by retardedly going into 0.0 territory in a starter ship, doesn't mean the game is like that. Especially when you consider you knew beforehand you would be in essence invading the territory of pvp alliance who are obviously going to shoot intruders on sight. As in you look like every other enemy spy to cross the border.

If you don't suicide yourself then there is no reason to think or say as you do.

I think a sandbox game where you only get ganked if you are a complete idiot makes a lot of sense.

To be clear, the betrayal you speak of gets a lot of publicity.,,for good reason. Its rare and exciting and not something average players are a part of. It's like the betrayal and corruption in major corps in real life...does that mean society is based on betrayal? Or ganking because sometimes rarely a person gets shanked in the bad parts of town?
 
Nice summation, and I agree, I'm taking the same approach. Signed up for 3 months, plan to get a lot of good gaming out of that time, but don't know whether it will last beyond that. Honestly though, I don't really expect it to. There are so many games out now and I have so little time that devoting more than a few months to an MMO results in me missing out on too much!

"I find it really sad how the dominance of World of Warcraft has led so many people to believe that the way WoW does it is the only possible way to make a MMORPG."

Unfortunately, the reality seems to be "it is the only possible way to make a MMORPG that makes big bucks".

Most of what you described would be "niche" games, and in fact I'll bet you could find examples of each of those things available somewhere right now. You've just never heard of them.
 
"Repeatedly doing the same small group content, or repeating the same large group content every week, or doing repeatable quests, or doing PvP. Some people like that sort of repeating content, but I am not too excited about it. Let's do this again and see whether I can squeeze 3% better performance out of myself? I'd rather not!"

To be clear, you are arguing against the standard MMORPG "end game." At this point, there is no reason to think SWTOR is any better or worse in that respect than WoW or any other game.

Is it safe to say your days of playing WoW for years are behind you, and you do not currently see any MMORPG you could play for more than 3-4 months?
 
I think a sandbox game where you only get ganked if you are a complete idiot makes a lot of sense.

You are insulting people while showing a complete ignorance of the facts. How is being ganked in safe space during Hulkageddon being an idiot?
 
Sometimes, reading these "single-player-MMO" comments makes it seem like I'm playing a different game altogether.

It's really a fairly social game. As you've observed, questing is peppered with 2+ and 4+ heroic zones, encouraging grouping. It does not yet have the anonymising idiocy of LFR/LFD, which means people do seek out servermates to accomplish things with, build reputations in warzone PvP, etc. Guilds are thriving.

I'm not the greatest fan of raid endgame, either, but I do intend to get into it. TOR does an excellent job of making one really like one's character and increasing his power and 'life experiences' in the usual MMO ways is quite rewarding.

And, let's face it: few of us stick with games for years solely out of a sense of enchantment by game mechanics. It's usually a matter of being ensnared with social connections - good content munched through in the company of friends. I expect that the stellar (no pun intended) IP, the critical mass of early subscribers and solid if not revolutionary gameplay will make that happen for many of us.
 
@Tobold
"How about a MMORPG without a raid endgame? How about a MMORPG in which leveling takes 2,000 hours, and not 200? How about horizontal expansions instead of vertical ones? How about a MMORPG with a combat system based on a trading card game?"

So we just ignore the commercial success of WOW? There's this little thing called a free market that is saying that players (like me) want a completely different game than the one you "how about".

@Tobold
"I find it really sad how the dominance of World of Warcraft has led so many people to believe that the way WoW does it is the only possible way to make a MMORPG."

Welcome to the real world Tobold. If you need a round thing to make a cart more efficient you don't "reinvent the wheel".

If you do you DON'T GET FUNDED. And since you need about 150 million big ones of someones FUNDING... well I guess that means you have to NOT reinvent wheels.

But we have had this conversation before and I remember that you ignore market reality... no matter how compelling.
 
How is being ganked in safe space during Hulkageddon being an idiot?

Well, if you go out in your hulk or retriever during said notorious event that is well publicized without any kind of scouting, safe spots that your'e aligned to, or other safety precautions, then yes, you are an idiot. EVE is not a game in which you can blindly run about without any sort of situational awareness, but it is neither a gankers paradise that you seem to think it is. Even when I was in hisec space mining or doing missions I always took the most basic precautions such as keeping an eye on local, having a safespot bookmarked and making sure I was aligned to it, being aware of my surroundings. The danger of being ganked was part of the fun, like that trepidation you feel going around a corner in Doom not knowing what's going to jump out at you, or what sniper with his AWP might be waiting for you just over that wall in Counter Strike.

CCP had the brilliant idea that the players are the content, that several hundred thousand people playing together in an emergent game system could provide many thousands of hours of content that the best writers and programmers never could.
 
@Goodmongo
"If what you say is true and if a mojority of people reach this same conclusion, then does this infer that Bioware's business plan was to get 1-4 months out of people and then have them leave?"

I believe this to be the case. The business case sounds to be based around retention of 500k end-gamers who are also buying cosmetic addons via RMT.
 
@Angry Gamer

"There's this little thing called a free market that is saying that players (like me) want a completely different game than the one you "how about"."

There is also a market of players (like me) that want something far closer to what Tobold is describing (that makes at least 2.... as for whether there are more, well, I guess we'll see ;)). And when last I checked, a game like Guild Wars 2 wasn't terribly lacking in funding.
 
so tell me one MMO where if you make second or third character you don't do the same quests, you don't go to same zones...ONE.

At least swtor offer an epic leveling experience for your first/second characters while other MMO's are boring from the very beginning...

there are so many heroic quests to play with groups..a lot of flashpoints to do, world bosses, farming elites/resources...can you please tell me what other MMO's have and swtor don't have in order to "flag it" as a single player game mostly?and not only you, I hear this a lot the last days..

Is it so bad that an MMO game can also offer an epic single player experience??
 
My issue is the lack of a Mac client at launch, so unlike Blizzard...
 
Im looking forward to Guild Wars 2 as it is closer to what I would expect from an MMO. Lets hope they can deliver.

I with Tobold here. I dont want end game raids (to be the end-all). Give me choice. While I prefer to the idea of leveling up over 2,000 hours. Its the journey that is fun, not the ending. But wouldnt want to rule out players who sincerely enjoy game raids.

How about a dual XP system? For us who like to level make leveling based on what you do. Use your sword alot sword proficiency grows, etc. For 'raiders' give them a hard number level. This way the raiders can level out and go on raids, while the levellers can continue by learning new weapons, etc to improve.

I actually would love to find a single game that has enough content and excitement to keep me engaged for years. Allowing to really get involved with my character development, that I can play casually on my own time.
 
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