Tobold's Blog
Thursday, June 04, 2009
SWTOR hopes and expectations

I've been blasted by other bloggers for my blasphemy of expressing the opinion that SWTOR might possibly be not the second coming of Christ. People pointed out Bioware's good track record with RPGs, as well as promised features like complete voice-over and better storytelling. I am totally convinced that Star Wars: The Old Republic could become a very good MMORPG. I just don't think it will magically solve all the problems of limitations of the genre. To make this a bit more clear, I'll list a couple of features that I would *hope* to see in the ideal Star Wars MMO of my dreams, and compare them to what I *expect* Bioware to actually deliver. We can discuss in 2 years which version turned out to be closer to the truth.


Hope: I hope for epic stories being told in cutscenes, my character being part in them, and my actions influencing the outcome of each of these stories. Each story should span several subtasks, but constitute one larger heroic task overall.

Expectation: I log on my very first character and find myself on the world of Tatooine. A few steps away from me is an NPC with a glowing symbol floating over his head, identifying him as a quest giver. I click on the NPC, and he asks me to go and kill 10 womp rats. The only major difference to WoW will be that he asks me not only in a tldr text, but the text has a voice-over. Initially I can't start the quest without having listened to the complete length of the voice-over, but after a storm of protest from the players this is being changed in the first major patch.


Hope: I hope for a completely new, never seen before combat system, which is not too twitchy, but a lot more interactive and tactical than current combat systems.

Expectation: Combat will consist of an auto-attack plus special attacks launched by the player clicking on a hotkey button, or pressing its keyboard shortcut. But the animations of each move will be very nice.


Hope: I hope for interstellar trade, in which various resources have different abundance or can only be found on certain planets. Every planet his his own separate market, so resources that are more common in one region tend to be cheap there, but expensive in other locations. This enables players to make a profit by shipping goods from one place to another. Some goods are even illegal, and can only be transported by smugglers in specialized ships. Auction houses are anonymous, use a blind auction system, displaying historic prices, but not the exact pricing details of each players goods offers.

Expectation: There will be only one auction house connecting all planets, with a clearly visible minimum bid and buyout price for every item on offer. There will be a smuggler class in the game, but there will be no actual smuggling involved in the economy, smuggling will only exist in the context of quests.

In short, I expect SWTOR to be "WoW in space", with some improvements, but no revolutionary changes to the MMORPG genre. Feel free to call me a cynic now, and point me back to this post and laugh at me when SWTOR comes out and proves me wrong. Or feel free to worship SWTOR based on nothing but hope, up to the point where it comes out and proves me right, and then start ranting about how disappointed you are.
The story part is the part I'm guessing you'll be most wrong with when the game comes out (from the little I've heard of it, I haven't actually played any related games to this one)

My main reason for guessing more complex story interaction is the apparent similarity of story descriptions in this game to guild Wars, where the missions are generally more complex than "kill 10 rodentss". (the quest also tend ot be csomewhat more complex as well.) If nothing else, it certainly is possible to tell a cutscene story that is more interesting than "I have a problem, please kill 10 beavers and talk to me again".
I think you should give STO more blog time, only fair and all ;).
The inside sources are whispering that it will be something like Diablo 2 multiplayer.
Not a MMO at all.
A question, Big T: Have you played KOTOR 1 or 2? I'm not trying to insinuate anything here, just honestly curious.
The storytelling will be more like your hope. Combat will be like your expectations. The economy will be lower than your expectations.

I think the game will be very much single player oriented despite the fact it's an mmo. Aside from the story telling you won't see anything new. The game won't have the qualities that I look for in an mmo, but it will still be successful subscription wise due to the ip. Those are my predictions.
Have you played KOTOR 1 or 2?

I played KOTOR 1, but not 2. I do recognize Bioware having a great expertise in *single player* MMOs. I'm just questioning whether that is directly applicable to MMOs.
Frank is right, the combat is already at your expectation, according to previews from E3.

Story will bet better than your hope, if KotoR is any indication, and is something they've delivered before.

I have no idea how the economy side of it will be, and I wonder if they'll even have crafting. That aspect we have no info on.

People are excited about this game because KotoR was already an offline MMO, and even if this is a monthly subscription KotoR, it will be worth it.
SWTOR is going to be one giant AOC starting zone (arrgh the name escapes me, starts with T).

Not that theres much wrong with that!
Ah welcome to the cynicism of the jaded MMO player.

Pull up a chair and pour some coffee, you're among friends. ...Or at least enemies that won't kill you immediately.
You can quote me on this after release:

Storytelling: Your expectations are too low, probably inspired by lack of innovation in MMO questing since WoW. Expect storytelling on the scale of KOTOR, in the style of Tortage, i.e. the story is effectively single-player.

Combat: Your expectations are again too low, though possibly only slightly. They've already announced a Tabula Rasa style cover system, and none of the revealed classes sound like they fit comfortably into the holy trinity paradigm. Expect something with a distinctly different flavour to WoW.

Economy: Your expectations are probably about right on this one!
I am with Tobold. Experience in telling single player stories does not translate to telling similar stories in MMORPGs at all.

MMOs need story and atmosphere IMO. But can this be delivered in Baldur's Gate style?

With cutscenes using the ingame engine? WOTLK already did that (Wrathgate e.g.), and it was really a great cutscene.

But in the end, it is not much more either! Jeff Kaplan already pointed it out, when people are playing they do not want to READ a book, I am sure they also do not want to HEAR a questgiver babbling for too long.

So, how does Bioware create atmosphere and background story? How about the quest system? Can an epic story really improve rather mundane K10R tasks?

I do not want to bash Bioware, but nobody, including Blizzard, has found the holy grail in this regard so far.
Hehe, all very very true :)
Apologies for repeating myself but you do know that EVE has a superb trade system where you can make a living buying stuff in one region and shipping to another where prices are higher.
I have hope, but to be realistic.... in my experience BG2 was the best game in their history. I tried Jade Empire and Mass Effect, but could not be bothered after a while.
I don't think it's a problem of the developers, but more of the players state of mind.
Once you know the drill of a certain type of game, it's becoming more abstract than you actually want.
What I mean is, how many actually see the story behind a certain boss-kill and feel being in that epic story.
For WoW I felt my greatness with Ragnaros. he meant something to me. He was the evil, bad guy and just needed to be killed.
Onyxia was a misunderstood dragom imho, but we had to kill it anyway.
It was a brilliant idea to have your sword forged with the breath of Onyxia. I felt sorry but at the same time happy to get my sword.

Nowadays I just kill bosses for loot, which is wrong. kill bosses for an emotional reason, not for something he can drop.
erm, what I forgopt to mention. I hope that bioware manages to create epic story arcs without having to click through many dialogue-actions which is totally getting me outside the story.

Perhaps it's time to actually make the microphone work for a change.
My only real concern is how much was cut, especially from KOTOR 2, to push these games out of the door on time.
Sounds about right.
Bioware will probably be happy if the few inovations they DO implement actually improve the game.
Hi everyone,

Just dropping in for a few reasons.

First - congratulations on the blog. Lots of good points about SWTOR. Hoping your hopes will be realised - especially re combat, smuggling, auction houses...

Second: I've started my own blog for PC games - and I'd appreciate it if Tobold was interested in exhanging links...Cross promotion and all that. :-) I might refer to this blog in the future - it's pretty good stuff. That's good for me - and I expect it would lead readers to this blog as well...

Finally - you're all welcome to visit my blog - here:

At the moment there are articles on SWTOR, and my personal history in computer gaming. (back to the days of me and my Apple //c. :)

Good writers with a strong background in PC gaming are welcome to approach me with ideas for articles.

you can reach me at:
I love a good story arc, and I hope TOR delivers in some aspects on that, but I cant help but wonder in a massively story driven experience, how one breaks free from the "ride on rails" philosophy that Dr. Bartle explained in a thread here not long ago?

Being story driven tells me that the game is going to be PvE centric(at least during the levelling phase), so it would seem that Bioware is targetting the casual, tourist gamers more than the hardcore crowd.

I too have been hearing the same type of rumors about the combat system that Dobermann alluded to in his earlier comment, so either they are going to be making a serious combat system switch for the end game phase of the game, or the distance to -that- endgame is going to be VERY short indeed.
Well I will say you are being very cynical and jaded but......

I understand why and don't blame you. I may not be quite as cynical as you but I don't view SWTOR as the second coming either.

The main thing i want from it is good storytelling and THAT at least I know Bioware is good with.

There is apparently a small demo at E3. I saw a couple articles on it already and they all pretty much said the storytelling was good and that it branched. The example they gave (they were playing a Sith) is the first run through there was a disobedient captain that they decided to kill, later in the mission an inexperienced captain took over and failed ot shoot down some incoming Republic ships which meant the player had to deal with the troops that came on board. Second run through they didn't kill the captain and he shot down those same ships which allowed the Sith player to concentrate on killing the Jedi he was after.

Not much was said on th eocmbat but it pretty much sounded like what you described.
Although i dont play a MMORPG at the moment and dont plan on doing so any time soon, im still interested in current developments and future hypes (so im still following your blog:). Maybe even more so than in playing the game itself...

After the spectacular failures (sort of, at least in meeting expectations) of Conan and WAR i would assume less people will fall in the hype-trap. Its just best not to expect anything revolutionary. That said i think you are quite spot on in your predictions. Companies tend to at least mimic the most popular entry in their branche. Its just a matter of sound business sense; straying too far from the middle of the road is risky.
Everyone is quoting Jeff Kaplan about quest descriptions, the issue is that people don't want to read it, the just don't want to read about stupid stuff.

Some writing is interesting, some is funny. It's important to find the sweet spot, of the quest summary (Roc wants you to chop down 10 trees in Crystal Lala forrest), and the multi paragraph they have before that.

More natural dialog might lend itself to be read/heard more so than current quest descriptions (which is a very binary dialogue).

No, I don't want to read a book, or wade through 3 paragraphs of bad writing to get to the point. I DO want the mission/quest to be put in context, and have the goal outlined.
A co-worker of mine who saw two articles about this game might as well be standing on the corner with one of those giant cardboard signs hanging around his neck claiming the greatest game in history is about to arrive.

As for myself, I'm not falling for any of the BS hype. AOC made some bold claims and failed to deliver. Warhammer, while more polished than AOC, still failed to deliver whenever more than 20 players were onscreen at once.

I think it will be interesting to see how many of your predictions end up being correct. Bioware has a long history of engaging storylines, so you may end up being wrong on that account, but the other 2 predictions will probably prove correct imo.
Just curious, but have you ever made a list of ideas/concepts that you would consider to be "revolutionary changes to the MMORPG genre"?
Mythic had a great rep too before WAR. They also made many of the same promises. You can promise the world, and even if you have delivered great things, they're on a time and budget now, things will always get cut.

Watching the developer interviews was like watching the exact same interviews about WAR and AoC.

I'm still looking forward to it, but only someone completely naieve would believe everything in those interviews. NOt because they are lying or overhyping, but that's just how big projects work.
"Once you know the drill of a certain type of game, it's becoming more abstract than you actually want.
What I mean is, how many actually see the story behind a certain boss-kill and feel being in that epic story."

yeah, in WoW the most moving events of the game to me were Escape from Durnholde, Hero of the Maghar, Defense of Darrowshire, and the song of Sylvannas/Journey to Undercity. All lore heavy story heavy quests, not the meat and potatoes of the actual game.

Blizzard can do some great storytelling, but it's not the central focus. And once you've done it then it's over and you need more.

That is the other problem with content: for people that like story and all the things promised, there is never enough content. That's why we have all the filler crap to begin with.
I just want to say that I am perfectly fine with TOR being "WoW in space." If they pull that off, then I am already sold on it. However, if they make any moves beyond that to mix things up ... all the better, and Bioware's pedigree does deserve a measure of respect, I believe.
Since mmo kotor being based off of wow is a forgone conclusion, I think it might be more likely that characters will start off more a WoW Death Knight.
I respect a healthy dose of realism in dealing with new games, but simply based on Bioware's past performance and resume, I think your cynicism is a little harsh for this early in the game, especially given that they've already announced through the E3 demo that there are no "auto-attacks," instead opting for a more interactive, combo/action point system.
you might want to check out this hands on article.

Apparently they actually did change how quests work somewhat. I'm guessing your expectations are still correct for combat and trade though.
I have followed your link and read the article. It presents inovative things for an MMORPG, but 2 things bothered me.

1) « Beneath this umbrella is an epic class-specific story as well as a few serialized mini-arcs which include a ton of tied-together quests and instanced dungeons. »

Well I hope alot of it is instanced else we'll have only Bounty Hunters hunting a specific rat in a certain area trying to reach quest objectives. If things like that happen, I find it a big turn off.

2) « Daniel Erickson, The Old Republic's lead writer, explained that the game's quests are so linked to a player's personal story that no one quest will be embarked upon by two different classes. Or, in other words, two characters from two different classes won't receive any of the same quests.»

What more can be said other than: Hip Hip Hooray for single player games !!
Yeah... based on the hands on article, it seems that "personal story" is the main attraction of the whole game (At least the leveling bit), but doesn't seem like a viable style of MMO to me personally.

An example I can think of is based the story on the "disobedient captain."

What if one of your group member chose to kill it, and one decide not to, would they STILL be able to interact with each other? or will they be sent into different "phases" (i.e. one with the rookie captain, one of the original captain capable of shooting down enemy ships) of the game and see two completely different things/fight different enemies?

Story centric is good and all, but it seems to me that once you made a choice, the consequences from it would simply make this game not multilayer friendly (at least for grouping). Because the whole "you have an effect on the story!!" are usually presented by how your character affects the environment/NPCs as a whole, and yeah... do people simply see different things from each other?

Once you've finished leveling, where would your character be to the rest of the world? Does he stuck in the story world he created? Can he still interact with NPCs that he had killed (but other didn't?)

To me, it seems SWTOR would be best made into a Diablo style of game, where you advertise what "phasing event" you want to complete and try to get people into the same event as you.
For the record KOTOR 2 was developed by Obsidian NOT Bioware. It also had significantly more bugs than the first due to it being rushed out.
If the outcome of your decisions is irrelevant (the world will be the same regardless whether you save the orphan or kill the kitten) then storytelling is just as irrelevant to the fate of the game. It will be gameplay that matters most.
If Tatooine is a starter zone, if it is even in some way, shape or form tied in any major character development arc, I'm going to pass on that one. That planet has always been referred to as completely backwater but featured in every trilogy and every bloody SW game made so far.

If you start having thousands of jedi or sith wannabes born on that piece of sand, forget about it. That would be a clear sign that the story telling is broken from the first second after character creation.
@D "Just curious, but have you ever made a list of ideas/concepts that you would consider to be "revolutionary changes to the MMORPG genre"?"

If just anybody could sit down and make such a list then the ideas on it probably wouldn't be revolutionary.

Revolution/innovation rarely comes from the audience. Most customers simply want the current system refined in a few places. Change is disruptive, but a revolution requires change.
I would think a story driven WoW in space is great. Being as good as WoW is a great compliment. Everything is adds is a nice bonus.

And giving the quest texts in spoken dialogue. I'm the kind of guy who clicks through all quest texts and just want a big arrow "KILL HERE" on my map while playing WoW. But if the quests are given in a way such as Kotor or Mass Effect I'll be glad to listen to all of it.
"Or, in other words, two characters from two different classes won't receive any of the same quests."

Sounds to me like the kings of single-player CRPGs are hard at work creating a single-player CRPG where you can chat to other players while you play.
@tagn "If just anybody could sit down and make such a list then the ideas on it probably wouldn't be revolutionary.

Revolution/innovation rarely comes from the audience. Most customers simply want the current system refined in a few places. Change is disruptive, but a revolution requires change."

That sounds like a cop-out to me. It's sort of like the art critic that can't say anything except "I know it when I see it."

I asked Tobold for such a list originally because I am genuinely interested to hear if he has any thoughts on this. Surely, given the amount of time he spends playing, reviewing, and thinking about games in general he would have a few ideas.
I agree with you 100% mate, a polished WoW in a Star Wars skin, with a decent sotry arc is what this game will be. Sandbox games are too'niche' for the game designers out there, they want liner progression, and with it comes all of the flaws that exist in this genre at present. This will be a good game, it may even be a great game - but it will not be what some of the people on the community forums go on about.... not by a long shot :(
Post a Comment

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool