This is clearly BioWare Austin’s revised philosophy as BioWare’s Executive Producer for Live Services, Jeff Hickman, has pointed out in a recent interview with Zam.com. Lets face it, BW has become notorious for offering up big promises of things ‘coming soon’ but for the most part it’s been a bad case of over-promising and under-delivering. It look like this is changing – hopefully.
While his responses include the usual soft peddle and PR spin where he tries to paint the move of offering a F2P tier as a considered move that’s part of a larger strategy guided by keen observation of the market place (as opposed to the market pushing them towards a cliff), he also offers some interesting morsels that will appear to hint at better days to come for the struggling MMO.
The first thing to mention is that Jeff Hickman overall sounds like a man who wants to make things right. If that is reflective of the general attitude in Austin then good things might be about to happen. There had been fears expressed by some that EA/Bioware might just throw token resources at the game to keep it ticking over but not put any great effort into re-energising it. However it sounds, to me at least, that a shift in focus and attitude has occurred and with it some actual progress.
The six-week update schedule, if they stick to it, should be achievable especially since they’ve already got a significant amount of content mapped out and built ahead of time according to Daniel Erickson. DC Universe Online manages updates roughly every month, so lets consider this a likely eventuality.
Now, onto Space combat. While many are vocal about this being an irrelevant and seldom touched part of the game, recent figures indicate that it’s popular. While Hickman confirmed that hard mode missions would be available, he was decidedly evasive about any other developments saying only that there was a dedicated space team working on ‘lots of interesting things’. Granted that smacks of ‘coming soon’ but in the overall context of the interview it sounds more substantial to me. Apropos of nothing? Maybe, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say I think this sounds promising.
Then of course we have the much derided Great Acquisition Race. While many found this frustrating and far too short-lived, Hickman said it was full of foreshadowing and hinted at where the story was headed. Again, this at least confirms that Makeb, as a class-generic zone isn’t all we have in store. There is more story to come and for many of us, that remains the main attraction of the game. Once again, it sounds hopeful.
Granted, there’s nothing rock-solid here and SWTOR has plummeted from keenly anticipated WoW killer to being written off as ‘a miss’ in the last EA earnings call. But this may be a blessing in disguise. Perhaps now that internal and external expectations have crashed, the game has a little breathing space to consolidate, reappraise and rebuild without the intense scrutiny and pressure. Perhaps there’s less need for the vague promises that gamers always assumed were directed at them but were merely coded messages to the stock market. Those messages caused most of us a lot of frustration and while I thought I was beyond believing or caring, this interview still leaves me oddly hopeful.
Even with so much else in the market right now, SWTOR can still turn things around. It will never have ten million subs but it can find its niche. SWTOR still has a lot to offer and under the right leadership there’s no reason it shouldn’t continue to develop and mature into a game with a substantial, stable player community. With luck it might even evolve into the game it was always intended to be before EA pushed it out of the womb prematurely.
[Image via Free Images Archive]