Wednesday, 24 March 2010

SWTOR: a dated development plan

Bioware seems to have made end-game a minor priority.

They have heavily emphasised story and one of the developers (admittedly a storyline developer) suggested in one of the hype videos that what you should do after playing through a storyline on one character is play through a different storyline on a new alt.

One of the recent developer video interviews suggests that the end game isn't really ready yet.

"What's the end-game going to be like?
Jake Neri: Hmm We've heard actually the last couple of days a lot of people have been asking about end-game. We haven't talked too much about that yet. We understand people want - and we need to have - an end-game. I think as time rolls on at we'll be bringing a lot of information about what that end-game will look like. I think the main thing that people can go away and rest assured is that we understand the need to have a compelling end-game."

That doesn't sound very ready. Look at his body language and the number of times he says "um" at that point of the interview. He doesn't seem comfortable with the question.

Now if it's not ready yet (about a year from release) then it won't be a substantial part of gameplay.

This is actually pretty similar to WoW's development. WoW at release just had Onyxia and Molten Core as raids which is just a dragon in a big room in one case and a genuine raid instance with some relatively basic boss encounters in the other. Not anything modern WoW players would really accept as an end game.

The problem is since 2004 the audience's tastes have changed.

In 2004 people expected a slow levelling game with raiding being a niche activity for a self-selecting hardcore.

In 2011 people will be expecting to power through the levelling up game then farm accessible raids.

I think they are using the 2004 WoW model as a guide to putting a game out and I think it may not suit the modern market.

Then again Blizzard are also using the 2004 WoW model for their planned re-invention of WoW (oh look, you can level up in revamped Stranglethorn Vale!). (Very much in the WoW expansion tradition of spoiling the competion: 2007 a hardcore raiding expansion released against Vanguard, 2008 a goth rvr expansion released against Warhammer, 2010 a level-up storyline expansion released against TOR). So 2011 may be a very interesting year for MMOs. Especially if large numbers of players reject both Cataclysm and TOR after burning though the level up content in a month.

Will we see subbing to a MMO for a month or two then abandoning it until the next expansion become the norm?


  1. Yup, even Blizzard tries to bring back the levelling game with Cataclysm.

    I think the endgame obsession has to end. Or shall SWTOR become WoW in space. An abandoned world with some holes in the ground at the end of the latest zones, the contemporary raid content.

    I wonder how they want to bring story to a MMO, it sounds to me like Dragon Age and Mass Effect as MMO version. Which makes me wonder if this will really work.

    But I think they could headshot themselves if they try to cater to the audience. The game must be good enough to suck the audience in, not trying to gauge what the gamer wants - they usually don't know it themselves.

    Daily quests, faction reputation grind and raiding - I have enough of that. My hope is Guild Wars 2 will do better than that. If they don't want to make a game for MMO veterans, maybe they should create a social facebook game? ;)

    I think you hit the nail on the head with your final question, MMO content hopping might be the result. Maybe we need more pay for content than pay for time models.

  2. "Maybe we need more pay for content than pay for time models."

    I've harped on this for how long now? I've even cited SWTOR as one of the best places to sell content rather than time, something that only Guild Wars has seen big success in to date. Their "every class has a story" and emphasis on storytelling runs counter to the endgame treadmill in the first place. Stories that don't end just wind up sucking more often than not.

    The subscription model of the "endgame" has to end. The endless treadmill at the endgame is sucking the soul out of virtual world game design. It's fine by itself if you just want a loot treadmill (make World of Raidcraft, already, and let us raid out of the box), but it has gutted the storytelling and world design potential of the genre.

  3. You just inspired me!

    The "pay for content" instead of time based subscription idea you are harping on for ages by now (your own words ;)) might be the solution for the latest EA/Bioware claims regarding SW:TOR.

    There is this "SW:TOR needs 1-2 million *subscribers*" thing in the news at the moment, and I was a bit worried.

    But with a pay-for-content and not time based subscription model, this could work. I could also imagine a small "trial" client that allows you to play the first zones of the game. You could then decided to pay in full and import the char to the full game if you liked it.

    This model might guarantee more players and more income than the standard "15 bucks" per month idea.

    And give devs an incentive to work on more regular quality content additions, as this would be how they make their money.

    After Allods made a lot of people wrongly blame the F2P micro-transaction model instead of the greed of gPotato, this could be a chance to show that "downloadable content" / DLC could be an alternative to the classic item shops.

    Bioware has already done this with Dragon Age and Mass Effect. I think they need to figure out the right price point and effort they put into the product. I was quite disappointed with most DLCs I had so far, be it Fallout 3, Dragon Age or whatever game. Mostly they introduce imba weapons and gear as carrots that make the game very simple. But apparently people are more likely to pay for such things than for a good story. xD

  4. I'm pretty sure they'll expect us to pay for both.