The big news for SWTOR this week was the 2nd round of layoffs at BioWare and the exit of Executive Producer Rich Vogel.
I break down what’s happened to SWTOR from a business perspective and the gamer’s perspective since the game launched.
Was story truly the 4th pillar? Did BioWare over-develop storyline class quest and leveling content to the point of neglecting endgame content? Was the game launched too early?
Let me know what you think.
P.S. I am so relieved that the two-day twenty person offsite I led is over. We had a great time and covered a lot of meaningful ground, but it was a huge effort to put together, so I am thankful to take a breather and get some gaming time in this weekend.
UPDATE (2012/07/21): Must-read article by Emily Rogers on the rising costs of game development, which aligns nicely with what I discussed in the video about SWTOR:
I totally agree with Emily , and if you’ve been following me on GAMEBREAKER or social media, you know that I’ve often talked about how games follow the same pattern as movies at release:
1. a lot of games bust, never recovering the costs to produce them.
Same thing happens in the movie industry, where maybe 1 in 10 movies is a blockbuster which carries a studio and offsets the costs of the other 9 movies. But in the gaming industry, one failed game can kill a studio. E.g. MMORPG development apparently drained 38 Studios dry.
2. after the initial burst of launch purchases, the rate of new customers acquired is often more than offset by the loss of existing customers.
Same thing happens with the movie industry at the box office, where after a short period in the sun, movies ticket sales quickly plummet (and then the movie leaves the theaters and enters the the retail / online distribution part of the lifecycle). For games, there is a very limited 2nd-life distribution channel (e.g. reduced purchase price on Steam).
UPDATE (2012/07/25): a poster on Reddit who claimed to have worked on SWTOR for a year had this to say about my video:
Throw away account of course, I’ve worked on the game for at least a year.
I’d have to agree with just about every point made by taug here.
One thing I don’t really agree with though is if the game launched with 1.2 that it would have made much of a difference.
Most people quit because their class story ended. Group finder, a less buggy and more feature rich GTN (It DID always worked..), the extra warzones and operation content I don’t think would have really kept these players.
I know there were plenty of hard core raid players that left before 1.2, because they blew through the Operations, I’ve actively played the game since beta and release and was there to see that go down, but those weren’t the majority of the players who left.
Before I started working on SWTOR, I’ve always been a huge MMO fan. Personally, my favorite MMO’s were the community based MMO’s like UO and SWG. I enjoyed and played WoW, but I had a feeling we were headed in this direction, just from my own feelings and years of being part of various other MMO communities. There was obviously a lot of people, myself included, who were dissapointed in a WoW with Lightsabers game.
Ultimately, if you are going to use the WoW gameplay model, you need a good reason for people to play your game vs. just playing WoW. The fact is, unless you can at least offer all the good features WoW has already established, why should they play your game w/ less features? Lightsabers? Well, that’s not good enough for me and I’m sure many other MMO gamers probably felt the same.
I’m proud of the product though and I’m proud of the work I’ve done and I am still actively playing :) If anyone has questions I’ll do my best to answer, but I’m not going to break any NDA’s and I’m not going to reveal my identity or what I’ve done or might be working on now.
Also, as far as EA pushing the release, I honestly have no idea. Those decisions are made high up by people I never deal with or talk too, so if that was the reason OK, but from my perspective, most of the fault on EA should probably stop there.
Also, I believe we had one of, if not the biggest MMO launch to date and arguably the smoothest as well. I felt good about the launch of the game personally.
Also, if anyone wondered, yes we developers DO read your comments (some of us anyways). Yes, pretty much since release I’ve been personally aware of probably all major bugs in the game, including the ones plaguing end game content as our guild had to deal with them as well. I’ve engaged in multiple arguments/discussions about class balance with people on this board on my main reddit account. One thing for me personally, I almost never read the official forums. 99.9% of my community insight and interaction has come straight from this subreddit, of course I’m not always in a position to act on things.
Fun side note, it’s pretty cool, for me anyways, to be able to play an MMO I enjoy and listen to all the bitching at EA/BioWare going on in vent/mumble when we wipe to an operation boss because of bugs/glitches. I’ve certainly built a strong perspective for what MMO developers go through and why these things happen :)
Cool video Taug, I’ve seen I think one other video of yours on a SWTOR podcast and your insights are very well thoughtout and fairly accurate.
If you liked the Dubstep track, check out Jakk’s channel and tell him Taugrim sent you: