The Wrong Revolution?

MMORPG is a stale genre in many respects. Leveling, crafting, gathering. It’s all very familiar – electronic Dungeons & Dragons®. So when a new one appears we all hope that it’s got something new to offer, something improved, perhaps revolutionary. SWTOR promised this with the ‘fourth pillar’ of story and voice. It’s definitely made the leveling process more interesting and immersive so long as you don’t mind having your character and path heavily defined for you. But once you reach endgame this fourth pillar effectively vanishes, leaving you with the same ol’ tripod – a notoriously unstable configuration, particularly if the legs are different lengths.

Which is why two recent MMOs have got me thinking about whether BioWare really chose the right thing to pour so much time, energy and money into. I’m talking about Tera and Day Z.

Tera was launched in South Korea in January 2011 and in North America May this year. It runs on the time- tested Unreal 3 engine. Unlike SWTOR, the producers (Bluehole Studio) have made no attempt to reduce grind or draw you into a rich compelling story. What they have done is bring a third person shooter-style aiming system into an MMO, along with distinctive play styles and strategies for each class. I don’t need to tell you that this can remain fun and interesting long after the leveling process ends. Despite a total lack of innovation in most other areas, many admit it’s still damn fun and compelling. People want to try new classes because they each offer a something substantial and distinctive, not just different animations and light effects.

Day Z is completely different. A mod for ARMA II (plus its expansion Operation Arrowhead), Day Z runs on the propriatory Real Virtuality 3 engine and throws you into a zombie infested, post apocalyptic landscape (254 km.sq). You have some basic supplies, a weapon and zombies… so many zombies. Scattered about this enourmous landscape are fellow players who may help you, or just as likely kill you for the pittance in your backpack.

Every step you take, every choice you make has real consequences, it’s all about survival. But it’s not for everyone. There’s no crafting, no slick UI, no map (you WILL get lost… alot) or any of the plush velvet luxuries that many MMO players now demand. There’s no attempt at plot, but there are plenty of stories – all tales of player’s experiences – some are intense and no wonder. It’s just you, your wits and a little blind luck. This is a brutal, unforgiving place and it’s massively popular. So much so it’s pushed ARMA II sales up, even to the top of Steam’s sales chart. Not bad for a product still in alpha.

So where does that leave us? In fairness to BioWare, the world has changed a lot since SWTOR was conceived in early 2008. Back then K.Rudd had just apologised to the Stolen Generation and the Global Financial Crisis had yet to start biting. The world has changed a little since then, but not within SWTOR’s masterplan it seems, although that may change very soon. Only time will tell if the ‘fourth pillar’ was the right move or just a footnote in MMO evolution.

The real question is “where to from here?”. Maintain the ‘fourth pillar’ by continuing your personal story? Desperately add extra content for endgame? Re-examine the current market and make some hard choices? In all honesty, since it’s hard to tell what resourcing EA/Bioware have available for SWTOR, it’s hard to say – especially after the Austin studio lost somewhere around 120 fulltime staff (as best we can tell).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sick of the game, nor am I downhearted about its future, but I’m not going to gloss over existing problems. I believe that, with the world economy and reduced staff resources, BioWare need to decide who their core player base is and focus on improving the game for them. They will lose players but they’ll certainly gain many others.

In the meantime, we’ll just have to sit back and hope we see more openness and transparency in BioWare’s communication with their fans. They should remember that, like your character has a health bar, any business has a trust bar and that SOB drops fast and recharges very, very slowly.

Comments

  1. Finally I sense some realistic assessment here. There is so much about SWTOR that I loved, but I’m done. I guess as a single player game…it’s not Bad! I think it needs to go free to play now.

  2. Glen1369 says:

    I love the game, i hope they add some descent endgame content to keep things interesting and challenging.I dont mind paying a sub if it keeps improving

  3. Swtor was great, unfortunately when you hit lvl 50, things get boring quick…  Yes, I agree with David ”needs to go free to play now” 

  4. Some suggestions: New Races, New Classes, More Voice Over Work, Level Cap Raised, Player Housing Planet, Television Based Marketing Campaign and Ewoks.

  5.  Eh after ditching themeparks for sandboxes, then coming back (as there were absolutely no decent sandboxes), i’ve decided Im feeling pretty meh about SWTOR. Cleared all the available content, and we didnt do it no lifing – 2x 3 hour ops a week.

    I think we gotta face the fact that if this game wasnt Star Wars themed, it would be pretty dead.

    I might continue into rated WZs, but I really havnt logged into the game for 3-4 weeks. Urgh! Embers of Caerus is my next big hope.

  6. I don’t get much time to play, so I’ve been very slowly making my way through the storyline for the smuggler class – and I’m having a blast when I logon.

    I haven’t reached endgame on any of my characters yet, so I can’t comment on available activities post level 50. By the time I hit level cap hopefully there will be more on offer.

    I really like this game, but I wish the graphics were better. I like eye candy – it plays a huge role in immersion. For those of us with high-end rigs it would be great to be able to ramp up the graphics settings.

    •  ^^ this. I’ve a few toons now and absolutely love both the class and world stories. I’m not a big MMO player and I don’t burn through content so there is still (for me) many many hours ahead. I can’t speak to the issue end game players are having but I’m just about to get my main toon to 50 and we’ll see what all the fuss is then.
      I’ve a few people with lvl 50 toons in our guild and I haven’t heard them complain much just yet but I guess I’ll have to ask them what their concerns are, but maybe we’re all just having too much fun running through Flash Points and helping other people with Heroics and such?

  7. Theblackewok says:

    SWTOR was too slow to implement Groupfinder, why wouldn’t they release it at launch when other games all ready have this in place that people obviously enjoy? bad marketing call.  Dual spec does not exist yet, bad idea again.  The point I’m trying to make is they should be looking at what works with other games that are keeping people playing them and duplicate those concepts..

  8. Would you fuckoff with your shit articles Potter.

    • Roonerspism says:

      Such a thoughtful and articulate critique. I look forward to future pithy contributions.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Tuesday – Server transfers – Free to play for SWTOR? – MMO mechanics that SWTOR should copy: Tera and Day Z – Wide-ranging ramble about SWTOR, end-content, hitting level cap – Ceasing of Oceanic Guild […]

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