SWTOR: Grinding The Gears

There’s nothing so embarrassing as trying to go up a hill in the wrong gear. You can hear the engine struggle and have to endure the amused smiles from passengers in other cars as they bomb past you. Unless you are a complete idiot, you will change down gears.

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]

Comments

  1. Content updates every six weeks is cool. But, I honestly hope that BW doesn’t forget about the fans who want STORY. I could care less about another Warzone or operation. I’m waiting for Chapter IV of the class story.

    • I agree with you. I hope that chapter IV is released to coniside with the new planet, Makeb and it can’t come quick enough. Though I will say I can’t wait for the new operation.

    • I don’t know if you’ve realised this or not, but story is what killed the game. Most MMO fans couldn’t care less about story and, for those of us who did, the story didn’t actually affect the world. In some cases, it was absolutely stupid. They wasted so much time and effort on story and voiceovers. GW2. by comparison, has done much better with less story and voices, yet has still told a great story between levels 1-80, where you care about companions (who get killed off!) way more than you ever did in SWTOR. ArenaNet has totally schooled BioWare on how to make an MMO.

  2. I just want confirmation, one way or another, whether or not there will ever be same-sex romances. Given that the game has been out for months and there has still been no word, it’s fairly obvious there won’t be, and I don’t understand why they can’t just say so instead of pretending like they’re “still working on it” eight months later.

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