Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
SWTOR hype

I am looking forward to one day playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. But I think the hype machine for that game is running hot far too early in the development cycle. And that is going to bite Bioware in the ass, excuse my French.

Just have a look at the latest SWTOR news: There is a new cinematic trailer out everybody is drooling over. There is so much excitement about this trailer, that people are willing to overlook two minor details: This isn't how the game is going to look, and this isn't how the game is going to play. In fact, the trailer could have been a trailer for any other Star Wars product and nobody would have been any wiser.

The other news is about some paragraph in some legal text on the Bioware site that says that if you draw any fan art based on SWTOR, the rights for that art belong to Bioware and Lucasarts, not you. Well, doh! Did you think you could get away with drawing Star Wars "fan art" on T-shirts and selling them? Do you think you would get away with drawing "fan art" murlocs on T-shirts without Blizzard coming down on you like a ton of bricks? It is not because you drew that jedi, sith, or stormtrooper yourself that Lucasarts is suddenly losing all rights on jedi, sith, and stormtrooper images. Because anyone looking at them will identify them as being "Star Wars". But the real problem is that if a paragraph in the EULA is the most interesting thing to discuss about a game, something is seriously wrong.

Sure, marketing is important, especially if you want to expect millions of copies of your game. But timing the hype is an essential part of that marketing, and Bioware is doing it wrong. Didn't they learn anything from Funcom and Mythic? Do they really want a game hyped through the roof long before we even know anything about gameplay, raising incredible expectations that will be impossible to fulfil? This sort of marketing leads inevitably to disappointment. While you might get lots of players to buy your game in the first month, you'll only lose them a month or two later. And you'll be sitting on a bunch of underutilized servers, with the blogosphere vultures circling around any news that you had to merge some of them. This is not healthy from a business point of view.

So could we please slow down the hype machine and get really excited about SWTOR when, lets say, the open beta starts? Otherwise we'll all be burned out by excitement over trailers, concept art, developer interviews of how great they are, and legal paragraphs, before there is actually something that can be played.
I have no idea how KOR will turn out as an MMO, but I'm excited to play it just from a single player story point. Bioware is emphasizing the story, they haven't mentioned any new or innovative mmo systems other then the story. And if Bioware knows one thing its how to make a good single player RPG. So I'm fully confident the game will be a blast to play (level up?) at least once, but as for having any type of longevity... who can say.

So I guess what I'm saying is I'm treating it less like an MMO right now, and more like a single player rpg you can maybe play co-op?
Hype has always been bad in my opinion. The first and perhaps best example I'm thinking of here is Black & White. It was a decent game, but it was so overhyped that a lot of people were very disappointed when it didn't live up to all the expectations in much the same way as you are describing.
Hype can be - and usually is - a bit of a killer, I agree.


This is Bioware.

You can't compare them to Funcom or Mythic for sheer quality of output, storytelling, immersion and gameplay. You just can't. Even though this is their first MMO, the chances of it failing badly ala Conan are much lower.

At the moment, Bioware are very much like Blizzard pre-WoW. Hugely respected for their games, a name synonymous with gameplay, who are now branching into a new field with a known, existing, well planned IP.

So, all in all, fingers crossed 'cos DAMN I want it be good.
I expect SWTOR will be the first MMO for a huge amount of people so usual hype rules don't apply, they just need to be dragged in kicking and screaming (or not if the hype campaign does it's job).
I hold Bioware in high esteem and thrust that they will create a good game. They're on the tops of my favorite developer lists together with names as Blizzard & Valve.

This is not the first marketing mistake Bioware made these days. Check out the Dragon Age trailer. It has hard rock music which doesn't fit at all with a medieval fantasy setting. Besides that it shows nothing but nudity scenes and gory violence. And that to promote their spiritual successor to Baldurs Gate? Seriously?
You summed up my thoughts about the trailer, it is all hype and ZERO information.

@Xash: I agree that Bioware knows how to tell a story and how to make single-player games.

But telling a story in MMOs is an entirely different beast.

Walls of text - too long, nobody reads them. Wall of text for simple kill quest - just skip it.

Even the best story does not work if it is poorly told. And I am not sure that lengthy cutscenes and dialogues can achieve this.

Some say let players create their own story by playing the game.

I believe that, too - I cannot think of a way to tell a proper story in MMOs without losing replayability. It also has the problems that MMOs are open ended, and can we really expect to have never ending stories in MMOs?

Jeff Kaplan said that people do not want to read novels in MMOs, and I agree. I do not say nobody wants a story, but right now nobody seems to have found the holy grail of telling stories in a way that works for MMORPGs.
I don't think anyone believes that the game will look like the trailer.

It is more like a movie trailer. It sets up an amazing story that I personally want to get into. That is the hype for me at least.
What if, instead of being disapointing, TOR happens to be the greatest MMO ever made? Why do old school blogger need to be so negative about a game that is not already out? I think that you hade so many deception you lost sight of the WoW killer being actually on the shelves someday ...and TOR could be it :p
I loved the trailer, but you're right about the dangers of hype, Tobold. The question is: can this hype be avoided given the expectations associated with both Bioware and Star Wars? I suspect not, so they may as well roll with it. Now all they have to do is produce a game that deserves it. That's the tricky bit.
Hype bugs the crap out of me. I just try to ignore it all.
I'm starting to wonder if I'm the only one who took the trailer not so much as hype but as Bioware needing to release something at E3. Which they did. And now we can all get back to waiting patiently for the beta announcements.
What if, instead of being disapointing, TOR happens to be the greatest MMO ever made?

That is exactly the problem of hype: SWTOR could be the greatest MMO ever made and *still* end up disappointing those who believed too much in the hype.
Hype works for one-off consumable products like movies and console games. After the purchase, it doesn├Ęt matter what the customer thought about the product because the vendor already got his money!

MMOs are different. They are a long-term service often necessitating lifestyle change, akin to going to the gym. Such marketing should be consistent and pervasive, yet subtle. Blizzard does this well. The keep a steady message out there extolling the benefits of playing, not features. ie. 11 million players! How can they be wrong?

My message to Bioware would be not to fan the flames and get a LOT of people on the beta, then quietly release and act like it has always been the greatest product out there.
Personally I don't know if I'm all that excited about playing a first person PC game in MMO guise. I love the idea of a new Star Wars MMO, but that's just it; I want it to be an MMO, not a F.P. that just also happens to have a few thousand others playing it too. What's the point?

In regards to the hype they are playing a very dangerous game, I agree. The release isn't imminent and with our fickle society, they run the risk of peaking interest too early only to see it wane precisely when they need it the most. Not to mention the run the risk of giving people opinions about the game that might not hold true and thereby disappointing the customers they will rely upon later.
"SWTOR could be the greatest MMO ever made and *still* end up disappointing"

Is it so impossible for a game to stand up for its hype ? Is it impossible for a game to produce such outsanding game experience that its hype merly grasps its full potential? I choose to be a beilever and I won't let this general "MMO hype blues" take down my hope for a better virtual world.
I try to enjoy hype for its own sake, it's kind of a work of art.

The trailer looks great. Maybe it'll have some loose connection with the eventual game ... ;)
Tobold said, "And that is going to bite Bioware in the ass, excuse my French."

That's funny. I thought it was only Americans that spelled arse "ass", or is it only the English (& Aussies, Kiwis, etc) that spell it arse ;)
I do remember predicting sometime around January that "bioware will release its rabid fans" (or something along those lines) (I think I predicted it for the summer, but could just be imagining that part.)

It does seem in general that players who respond to most computer game hype or other such marketing tend to be more emotionally involved, or otherwise have difficulty detaching themselves from the computer games, and seem to make a lot of playing decisions without really thinking things through. (Or this could just be how marketing in general works.) It does seem that these types of players are difficult to predict, they may ignore some bugs, but will get annoyed because some bit of graphics isn't right, or something else along those lines, and will be most likely to jump off for some other game.

Personally I don't know if I'm all that excited about playing a first person PC game in MMO guise. I love the idea of a new Star Wars MMO, but that's just it; I want it to be an MMO, not a F.P. that just also happens to have a few thousand others playing it too. What's the point?This is the sort of thing that has never made sense to me. Why assume a game cannot be fun to play if it does not fit exactly into an expected category, but rather combines features from different games? Other types of games seem a good place to look for ideas that could improve a particular type of game, and these ideas will already have been tested somewhat.
It would be nice if they could add server capacity instead of just "realms". Though it would be difficult if that meant throwing another blade in, there'd be lag between the blades. Unless it's a heavily instanced world like COX.

But then you could just stick more people in the same realm. Though that would mean the surrounding countryside is devoid of wombats and boar-wombats so you won't be able to level up.
I have to disagree with one thing you said, I think this is exactly how its going to look just compare the screens they released to video this looks like a very good machinima video. There's also one very big announcement everyone is missing this will be the world's first fully voiced MMO.
I just don't buy this basic premise -- the hype kills the game. It's not the hype that kills the game. It's the game that kills the game. AoC and WAR didn't "not reach expectations" because they were overhyped. They released games that weren't at level of polish they should have been. AoC was a crashy, buggym, P.O.S. at launch, and WAR was a mundane, bland, mediocre experience peppered by some decent PVP. Both have gotten better, but neither launched the game they should have.

Look at the hype being generated by Starcraft II. Look at the hype surrounding the release of a single piece of concept art for Diablo III. But no one's clamoring about how they're overhyped, because pretty much everyone believes that whatever Blizzard delivers it will be stellar. And they'll be right.

Marketing your game early certainly runs all kinds of risks, because funding changes, game features change, hell whole design premises may change. But I don't believe there's any such thing as too much publicity, or bad publicity.

You have to deliver a damn good game, regardless of what you've promised.

I would not connect hype and tourists. The tourists are going to be there whether you hype a game or not, and regardless of what Bioware puts out, it won't be WoW and the initial spike will fade. How much it fades is the question.

SWTOR has a few uphill battles to overcome. Some will view it as a sequel to SWG (not even close), some will view it as the next WoW (doubtful), and some will expect a Bioware single player RPG with a monthly fee (possible, and ultimately disappointing to the MMO crowd)

Anyway it goes, Bioware is going to disappoint someone, and that combined with the tourists leaving will result in negative press (even if the game is actually a solid title)
>>Some will view it as a sequel to SWG (not even close), some will view it as the next WoW (doubtful), and some will expect a Bioware single player RPG with a monthly fee (possible, and ultimately disappointing to the MMO crowd)

In the end it doesnt matter what people expect, as it will all come down to what is actually delivered.

I admit, the trailer was nicely done and elicited a "WOW!" response from myself after watching it, but I do agree with Tobold that delivering something with this much "punch" early on could backfire for Bioware if the gameplay doesnt deliver. Building a good Machinima video these days isnt that difficult, and now that the momentary "wow" factor has worn off, I'm still left with plenty of apprehension.
Is it so impossible for a game to stand up for its hype ?

Yes it is. Welcome to the real world. The problem with hype is that it is built on everybody's hopes and dreams, not on announced features. So if we both hope that SWTOR will be the greatest MMO ever, but for the greatest MMO ever means PvE centric, and for you the greatest MMO ever means PvP centric, one of us *has to* be disappointed.

There's also one very big announcement everyone is missing this will be the world's first fully voiced MMO.

We didn't miss it. See Broken Toys, we just remember that EQ2 made exactly the same promise in 2004.
Those EULA's are getting more and more ridiculous and we can thank Blizzard/Glider debacle for that.

What next:

"Should the player ever writes a chuck norris joke on the general chat he will then owe the company 5000$"????
It's not pre-launch hype that bothers me. It's the way that companies do it. Like promising features long after they know they won't be in at launch or not telling the community that you cut four of the six cities and 4 entire classes six months ago in beta.
I really try to stay away from even reading much about these games until they are ready to be released. Why get excited over something that may be two years away still?

Further, some of these games never even make it out. Mythic canceled their Romans in Space game, Microsoft canceled at least two or three MMOs, etc.

Previews are like game porn, just getting you all hot and bothered for something you can't have.
As for the hype on SW they are probably doing it on purpose in order to fight the SWG/NGE negativity that sticks to the SW franchise. MMO player or not, SW fans are probably aware of the previous game and how much it sucked.
I d'led Star Wars: Galaxies trial over the weekend and it absolutely took my breath away. It's been 4 years since I played it. The blaster shooting, the rescue by Han and Chewie, the music, shooting TIEs from the cockpit made me immensely nostaligic.

I got to level 5 then realised that to progress any higher would require months of grinding in a game few people still play but the Star Wars factor is huge for me.

I will definitely play SW:TOR and no matter how buggy or RMT based it is I can't imagine even considering dropping it before max level.

Why? One glimpse of the hype machine over at Bioware and one trip down Memory Lane over at Sony.

Whether hype is good or bad it certainly works on me for this product.
"There's also one very big announcement everyone is missing this will be the world's first fully voiced MMO.

We didn't miss it. See Broken Toys, we just remember that EQ2 made exactly the same promise in 2004."

Erm, EQ2 made that promise and broke it. It is still possible to be the first fully voiced MMO.

I don't see how the failures of another game relate to SW:TOR. They may or may not make the game with voice for every NPC dialogue but if they do they will be first. And they're not doomed to failure just because EQ2 didn't manage this.
All I have to say...low hype = AWESOME..

Why? I still think of Guild Wars 2 every week (at least once), and do we hear ANYTHING?

Aion - Hardly anything.

When they launch, I think they will be stable, well done games that will pull in a decent crowd.

I think Bioware is awesome, and I think TOR will be good. But, it just will not be able to match the hype.

BTW: OMG I want Guild Wars 2!
>>MMO player or not, SW fans are probably aware of the previous game and how much it sucked.

They are aware. The biggest mistake I see people making right now is comparing past RPG's(and their success rates) with MMO's. SO far Blizzard is the ONLY company to be able to pull off the marriage of the two. Can Bioware do it? Time will tell I imagine.

But I do know one thing, There was pretty much no pre-hype on Blizzards part surrounding WoW, not that I remember seeing anyways. SO for Bioware/Lucas to be hitting the hype machine this early tells me that they are indeed trying to overcome the negativity surrounding SWG and what happened to that MMO.
I reflexively see hype as overcompensation for lack of substance. This applies to games as well as other things, as it happens.

Let the game speak for itself, and people will come if it's any good. If your business plan is built on early adoption and huge sales spikes to make revenue targets, there's probably something wrong with the game's longevity.
Hype is just hype, everyone who's been burned by Conan and WAR should know better than to trust any marketing speak. Or if they don't well then they deserve what's coming to them.
"Should the player ever writes a chuck norris joke on the general chat he will then owe the company 5000$"????
Now that's a feature I *would* like to see...
I don't think its possible to satisfy the legion of Star Wars fans, and MMO fans. Hype or no, there will always be those who will critize the game no matter what they do.
To me, most of the fun in dealing with new MMOs comes from following the development and distinguishing hype from quantifiable content.

I made my extended comments here:
I trust Bioware, and more importantly, I ignore hype completely. I won't start paying attention to the MMO, in any way beyond acknowledging it's existence until, say, alpha news starts appearing.

I just don't buy into hype. I don't fault companies for drumming it up, simply because they think it helps them and it doesn't affect me in the least so....
To date Blizzard is the only game developer that I know of who has successfully made the cross-over from making RPG's to full blown MMO's. I also dont remember any major hype surrounding the release of WoW. For Bioware to be pushing this game so hard, this far from launch, -will- inevitably cause a metric ton of speculation among MMO players.

Already I'm seeing posts around the blogosphere questioning whether or not Bioware can introduce a combat system that will allow a Jedi -and- a Sith to combat proper without some kind of nerfs to limit their already well established abilities.(Flashbacks of the NGE and SWG come to mind here.)

Plus, with the announcement that TOR is going to be "story driven", many a hardcore players are already cringing in the face of a forced "rail ride" experience.

I dont buy into hype myself, and more often than not I see it as a method to make up for known shortcomings as realized by the developer.

As always, time will tell. Let's just sit back and watch and see how effin crazy they get with the hype machine as time progresses.
The problem with hype isn't that YOU don't fall for it. It's that commentators, players outside the beta, the press, etc, create it in the first place, creating some imaginary game experience that doesn't exist.

Unless you walk into a game expecting it to be terrible, the treatment the game has received leading up to its release is what you are going to expect from it. And if bloggers, the press, fanboys, etc, are all saying it's going to be awesome just because...then you are may not be falling for the hype, but you're creating it yourself.

Even reading comments here from people who aren't falling for the hype, but just can't wait to play SWTOR and who think it will be excellent goes to show my point. Even if you aren't writing poems about how awesome you think SWTOR is, the hype surrounding the game still plays a factor in what you and others expect from it.

And if the hype becomes blatant enough, it inevitably leads to a good number of people expecting the world and getting a rock, regardless of whether the game is "good" or not.

It's not that the hype of WAR made it "subpar" as a game. It's that everyone expected it to be immaculate and possibly a WoW-killer...when clearly it was not.

And don't forget, game companies aren't ran by computers who decide when the game is finished. Humans decide when to release a game...and most of the time you want to "strike while the iron's hot".

Creating hype over the game could possibly lead to it being released early to cash in on whatever percentage of the game is actually finished.

Creating hype is bad. Regardless of whether you "fall for it" yourself. Don't be a part of the problem.
I am laughing pretty hard at the "this time it will be different posts".

I agree with Tobold here. Hasn't anyone learnt the lesson?!

No matter if it really is the best MMO ever there are going to be some dissappointed people as teh game cant be everything to everyone (eg it might be great PvE but its PvP could be limited in scope like WoW).
This is total nonesense ! Why does a games needs to be either PvP or PvE oriented ???

I still beleive it that a given game can be good on both grounds... This whole theory that a good PvE games will certainly disappoint PvP lovers and vice versa is totally unfunded and fundamentally wrong.

What the heck, a game can offer amazing experiences in both fields and still bring new stuff like an even more developped economy or larger realms and universes.

I think that a lot of people did not get their "post WAR honeymoon identity crisis" and/or their "WoW divorce with 12 kids aka alts".
Its sad to see such a large chunk of the community stuck in these premade models based on past experience whiler I am sure that future MMO success will be totally based on innovation... I just hope that the devs are aware of this thats all

Although its POSSIBLE for a game to be great in PvP and PvE the reality is that with limited resources (even $200m is limited resources) its hard enough to get even one right, yet alone both.

I would argue its unrealistic to even attempt to make everyone happy when developing an MMO. Stick to your strength IMO
Did I miss something here?

All they did was release a cinematic trailer.

The most ambitious "touting" of the game by BioWare itself has been the fully-voiced promise and the prospect of adding Story as the "fourth pillar" of MMO design.

BioWare can't control hype generated by the fans.

What should they do, "dial down expectations" like politicians before an election?
But I do know one thing, There was pretty much no pre-hype on Blizzards part surrounding WoW, not that I remember seeing anyways.

Are you saying that there was no hype surrounding WoW before release? WoW was perhaps the most hyped MMO at least up to that point. It's actually possible that WAR surpassed it but that's just a subjective opinion.

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "on Blizzards part" either. Yes, they released some stuff now and then which certainly influenced the hype. But Blizzard hardly had to fuel the hype much because the fanbase handled that pretty much by themselves.

WoW is probably the game only game that didn't suffer that much from hype backlash. Despite having a few bugs at launch (remember the loot lag which is still to this day present at times?) and heavy queues it was pretty well received at launch and just grew and grew after that.
I agree with Animagis on this, the biggest hype thing is the fully voiced aspect. I checked out the site, and the video clips of ingame attacks, makes me wonder how easy it will be to kill people (looks like all the attacks "one-shot" the opponent). But one thing that makes me feel better is that KotoR was so well done, AND played much like a MMO already (except you could pause and issue commands). I feel that if it plays like KotoR and I have just myself to control in real-time, that the game will play well.

As for "on rail" story telling, I'm not a huge fan of GTA, I have no idea how those games progress, and Vanilla WoW questing annoys me, and I like how more "railed" WotLK quests are.

We won't be able to avoid hype on this, because any release they make will be huge.
Just commenting on the Dragon Age trailer, that one was intentionally dubbed as "violent" trailer, so what were you expecting.
But yeah, the music was a mess
Yes, we all know that only brass and pan pipes are music for fantasy mmo's.

Please guys, you still think heavy metal is the d3vil music? :D
The one thing that would really get my super hyped would be a clear cut example of their fourth pillar story gameplay. If they can demonstrate they can successfully marry persistent online multiplayer with meaningful story telling, and they can show that with gameplay footage, then yes, I will be incredibly hyped about this. Until then, meh.
"Please guys, you still think heavy metal is the d3vil music? :D"

Nah, I don't reject the genre at all, it just doesn't "feel right" for me in that kind of setting.
Of course it's personal preference =P
i hope bioware learned the lesson of AOC and WAR.. i hope they really cater for everyone and they implement easy-to-use UI / Macroing / Add-on just like WOW.

Like it or not, WOW is the defining mmo right now.

so here's my wish list :

- Unrestricted landscape eg i can go explore every nook and cranny.
- Add-on / Macro ability
- Simple and responsive UI
- Interesting Combat mechanic
- Clear story and direction for PVE leveling / questing
- PVP according to SW lore
- Vehicles / Mounts / Spaceship
- Solo and Small Party Quests
- Good Crafting system
- Wide variety of Fluff thing to do at every level
- put SW easter eggs everywhere
Normally I would agree with you. Hype should always be controlled and is often overrated... however Bioware really has no choice or control over this, in this instance, nor are they really doing anything wrong.

Anyone who believes a CGI trailer bears any revelence to how a game plays or how a game looks, especially a MMO, is just being really, really naive and/or dense.

See, Bioware isn't PROMISING anything that they just can't deliver on, yet. The only thing they are promising right now, really, is Story... and the trailer shows they are quite capable of that.

The reason Mythic and Funcom failed by hyping their game was because they promised certain fundamental things that later they failed to deliver on. That is what caused the backlash.

In addition to this, Bioware is dealing with an IP that just... well... CREATES it's own hype. It's unavoidable.

Also remember that the people who have played the demo commented that the combat felt smooth and was honestly VERY fun. Just because you personally haven't gotten your hands on it doesn't mean the reviewers are all lying. I recall many reviewers who got their hands on Age of Conan had TONS of complaints and worries back at various gaming events. That did not happen here. The most I saw that was negative was some people not liking the avatar faces and "stylized realism" look.

So far, if Bioware doesn't deliver on what they've promised (Story that has different choices and, full voice acting) THEN they will have made a mistake and are in deep... however, just releasing an awesome trailer and getting everyone excited? Honestly, if they deliver, there's nothing wrong with that at all.
I don't see why a single CG trailer is considered "over-hyping" by BioWare. Most games tend to disclose their presence first with an awesome CG trailer. And about the promises BioWare has made so far, they are all just a combination of what they have already done in their previous single player titles(with great success i might add), so i don't see any reason we shouldn't hold their word for it.

AFAIK BioWare did nothing to "hype" this game more than any other MMO out there. Its just BioWare's reputation, and their success with every game they've touched, caused people to believe that this could finally be the WoW killer. Its the legion of people wanting to see WoW overthrown finally that are hyping it up, not BioWare. Yelling at them can't solve it.
The thing is that Bioware got themselves into this. Trust me, they'll be the ones that have to dig themselves out of the ditch. Honestly; im not hyped very much for the game. The character graphics are bad, animations jumpy, blasters un-star wars. Although. I do think the environment is completely awesome.

Bottom line is that if Bioware keeps posting content and screenshots and movies at the rate that their going, everyone who is anyone will have seen what they are getting before they buy it; Personally I beleive hype wont be a problem because of this.
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