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:
Very good analysis. Being one of those players that left the game for just about every reason you mentioned, I have to agree. If the game had launched with the 1.2 patch, I would probably have kept playing for a long long time.
This is pretty much what I’ve been saying since the game launched. I was intrigued with the storyline element, hoping that it would make the leveling process more fun. It actually helped make it less enjoyable. After a while, the novelty of having every NPC have a conversation with me wore off and it just got annoying.
I also can’t say enough how much I agree with you about Horizontal Scaling. I’ve been talking about the fact that the MMO industry isn’t growing anymore. It’s shrinking, and I believe it’s because people are burned out on the idea of “doing it all over again” with leveling, gearing up, etc.
Also, the longer a Vertical Scaling game runs, the harder it is for new players to break into the game. They now have to level to max, then gear up through a number of content tiers. This is a daunting task for many new players and is a barrier to growth in the MMO Industry.
There’s clear lessons to be learned by the launch and decline of SWTOR. So far, ArenaNet seems to be avoiding the majority of the issues that SWTOR had at launch (but we’ll see how that goes when GW2 actually launches.)
I fully agree about the story and NPC conversations. The personal story wasn’t too bad, but every single quest being that way was only interesting for about 10 levels. Because the game followed the same old model of having quest hubs with many quests driving your leveling, it just became too much “talking”. Regardless of how well done the voice acting was or the actual quest itself, I just wanted to skip through the conversations unless it was tied to the class quest. With only 2-3 hours to play a night, I didn’t want to spend 30-40% of it in quest conversations…
Yes, other Bioware games have fully voiced quests (Mass Effect series, etc…), but those games are not based around massive quest hubs and leveling up to “endgame” like an MMO. While yes there were still some ME quests I skipped through conversations, most of the time it was still interesting because there wasn’t so many of them that it became annoying.
I also don’t think the conversations played well in a group environment. They did the best they could letting random numbers determine who talked, but the fact is not everyone cares or wants to see it. My wife and I leveled up together 100% of the time and we were already tired of the conversations in a group environment by level 20. The only time it was enjoyable was again during the class story quests.
At the end of the day, it just felt like they invested way too much money and time into these voice actors and conversations for regular every day quests. I think it probably would have been totally fine for me if they had only voiced the class story quests and done all the rests with text.
Yes, they spent too much time in voicing the quests and not enough in the game mechanics, polish or end-game content. They banked that people would be satisfied with the game enough to want to do it again.
GW2’s leveling experience is a good one to me. Only personal story is fully voiced with a cutscene. That makes the story feel more important. Also, the questing system feels less like a chore you do until max level (when the “real” game begins) and more like part of the overall experience. The only real chore in GW2 is leveling up your weapon skills, but even that is fun in most cases.
I don’t think that the MMO industry isn’t growing anymore, but I do totally agree that people are burned out of grinding, and that it creates a significant barrier to entry for newer players for a given game.
Awesome vlog…you have a knack for explaining complicated things. Thanks!
The 4th pillar was a lie in the MMO space. The 4th pillar has very little replay ability and the emphasis on rolling alts was very apparent in swtor. Which is a laughable game design choice and that guy needs to be laid off.
He probably was…
I think it’s possible to do story in a different way – where you have stories which are about world events that players can participate in. I.e. more like replayable missions or large-scale quests.
That might be a more scalable way of doing it.
I think the cinematic voice overs should have been reserved for important content such as your class story, planet story arcs, companion stories, etc. The side quests could have easily just been text quests. That would have helped to alleviate some of the load developing the story no doubt had.
GW2 posted profession/class buffs and nerfs that will be in effect at release. Warriors and Guardians got hammered. Rangers got buffed. Please comment!!
I’m inclined to agree with this entire vlog. Very well put sir.
I’m really enjoying your input into just about anything Ed, but can you do it without that annoying “music”? Or put up two versions?
I’m going to have to sort out what kind of music (or none) to include for vlogs. I don’t want to aggro a portion of the audience, which is what happened.
Taugrim is THE voice of reason in the mmo space!
The thing is Ed, we were telling BW this during the 3 yrs of pre launch forums. Perhaps it was too late to change course at that point, or perhaps they just wanted to listen to the biodrones shouting down the “doom and gloomers” as everyone with legitimate concerns were termed.
Whichever scaling model a game takes, they should all be designed from an “end game” emphasis imo if you want it to last more than 6 mos. The ironic thing is that BW themselves said they recognized how important the “elder game” was to mmo longevity and that they had a robust system in place .
I also think the game engine had a lot to do with the restrictions on the type of content, and ultimately success/failure of their game. The Hero Engine was a very poor choice. Perhaps it was chosen (in part) due to budgetary issues over more capable engines, but it severely limited their ability to deliver on massive open world pvp (more than 16 players on screen at once resulted in severe lag); as well as any other type of large scale player-to/with-player activities.
Anyway, what a huge disappointment. I take no pleasure with being “right” about seeing my reservations with the game validated with what’s going on now with the game and BW/EA. This is a lose/lose situation for them as well as the consumer who wanted to play a SW-themed mmorpg made by a solid dev for years to come.
i just want to mention, same story happened with Warhammer Online and EA. Mythic had to release the game to early and the game couldn t reach its full potential. Same story with SWTOR now. If you look at the quality and content, that Mythic had done with Dark Age of Camelot back in 2001 as a indepedent developer, its really sad to see, what the business side does to the mmo market.
I think some EA-owned subsidiary studios have struggled with huge game launches for different reasons.
In the case of WAR, Mythic overhyped a game on RVR, when the game server and client couldn’t handle it on any meaningful scale. That, plus some very noticeably bad class balance issues (Bright Wizard), too much content that was buggy, and not managing expectations such as the cuts to 4 of 6 capital cities before launch.
WAR had so many issues with stability, at least for me as I was getting multiple random CTDs a night even a year after launch, that they literally launched a year too early.
In the case of SWTOR, as I said in the video, it was investing too much story, in particular during the leveling process to the extent that endgame content wasn’t sufficiently developed.
I really don’t think the early release was the problem. The concept, plan and direction was all wrong. Releasing late or early would not have made a difference. They did not do their research, did not look at why games failed, what gamers liked and disliked.
I think questing is dead. It’s a grind that for a moment seems interesting but once over while reaching max level often leads to disappointment.
FWIW, this poster who claimed to have worked on SWTOR for a year agrees with you.
My hope is that EA decides to maintain the upfront cost of purchasing the game sans the monthly fee. Is it possible, at this point, for Bioware to implement a “horizontal” system, whereby they add level adjusting? Perhaps they have some foundation to do this with the bolster mechanic that’s currently in 10-49 PvP.
In my experience, the game hasn’t really fit the subscription model. Specifically, I love going through the stories, but doing them one after the other burns me out. So it’s nice to play through a character, do some endgame content, then take a break. But it’s also hard to stop playing mid-subscription, and justify it later when I resubscribe.
Also, where are the announcements for an entire WvW planet, or even the return of Ilum? Did world PvP get laid off too…
Well, they certainly need to re-evaluate their approach. 10-49 PVP was one of the best experiences in SWTOR, and the replayability was incredibly high.
The issue for me now is that even if I were to play a bunch of classes in 10-49, what I don’t believe is that the experience at 50 is one that I would enjoy.
Here’s my problem. I agree the game is not perfect and that there were a lot of mistakes made as Ed says. I still love the game. I am having a blast after the transfers with group finder and find my self not having enough time to do all I want.
To Ed’s point about World of Tanks and Leaue of Legends I am just having a ton of fun in SWTOR right now. Never really stopped. I work odd hours so when I get unholy mad about a second maintenance during the week it shows me how much I want to play. Nothing out there is tempting me away, even GW2, the art style gives me a headache.
I understand where people’s frustration sets in and I think If I had the time I want to put in I would have burned out so my limited time helps me there. Not to say I haven’t done content. I have tanked everything except for HM EC and am about to have my 3rd 50 with a lot of alts in the 20 to 30 range.
Sometimes I feel that we as gamers sometimes don’t just play the game and instead look for ways to be critical. Look how much game hopping there is. i am the third guild leader for SWTOR and the other two have hopped and hopped and hopped to games, never settling down. It’s their money and time so they absolutley should spend it how they want but if you are constantly game hopping isn’t the blame partly to be on us fickle gamers? I enjoy Ed’s approach from looking at the business model and giving reasons to things are failing from people’s view points but sometimes we have to just stop and smell the roses…..
The game isn’t all bad. There’s plenty of good in there, but what’s good isn’t anything you don’t get from other games (except the voice acting). The Dungeons and Raids aren’t anything special. The PVP is overly repetitive (ugh, another huttball match!). Dailies aren’t at all fun and tend to be grindy.
The only things SWTOR has going for it is the voice acting during leveling and the fact that it’s Star Wars. I can find better raids with harder content in Rift. Solid PVP with a lot of variation in WoW and an epic storyline in GW2.
Fickle? Maybe, but why shouldn’t we be? We pay money to play these games. Why shouldn’t we want the most for our money? Should we be complacent? I don’t think so. If Bioware can’t deliver the game we were promised at launch or soon after, why shouldn’t we go to a another game that might?
This is exactly what Torial meant by game hopping and the problem we have had with swtor. We want raids, Rift. We want pvp, WoW. We want story, GW2. We put the expectation on SWTOR to be all those things. When it didn’t happen, we yelled “Epic Fail”.
So much expectation on this game, it was bound to fail.
I still play and love SWTOR. I am an altaholic, so it fits my playstyle for now. I also injoy the focused pvp. (din’t play enough for it to have gotten repetitive).
SWTOR has all those things, but does none of them well. The only thing it did well was voice acting. The leveling experience in other games is far more satisfying (at least to me) and other games provide different elements at a higher level than SWTOR does. If the game can’t provide something worth paying for, I’m not going to pay for it. Why should I?
I’m going to go from game to game until I find one that fits all or most of what I desire out of an MMO. WoW used to provide that, but I stopped enjoying it after years. Rift does a pretty good job at PVE content, but I’m missing balanced and competitive PVP. SWTOR offers neither of those things better than WoW or Rift. So, I’m not going to waste my time on it.
You enjoy Alts, where I don’t. So the legacy system has no value to me.
Call me fickle if you like, but it’s my money to spend. I don’t care to play the game just because I’m a Star Wars fanboy. Bioware/EA needs to offer a much better package to compete with the likes of WoW, Rift and soon GW2.
I can see what you mean and I truly beleive if you are unhappy with the product take your money elsewhere and be happy. I can also see people who don’t alt having limited options. That being said this game was really setup for people to Alt. Multiple story lines and legacy prove that. My highest level empire toon is 11. I have a whole game I haven’t even played yet.
I didn’t mean to offend about calling gamers fickle but it’s kinda the truth. It’s like we’re on this mystical journey to find the perfect MMO, and it’s always the next one, not the one we’re playing now.
I have seen people saying this game should have been given a year more deveoplement. I don’t personally think it’s been that bad and I would have rathered played this then the other games on the market, even in this extended beta. I hope they make the changes needed to bring back people but only coming back to have fun, that’s my only criteria for playing an MMO.
Yeah, I just hate this MMO hopping trend, which is enforced by many gaming sites hyping the crap out of games that are not even out yet and we have no idea how good they will be.
I’ve been playing GW2 this weekend, the first few in PVE were a carbon copy of Warhammer Public Quests, I mean an exact copy anyone that played WAR has to realize that, now supposedly PVE is “meaningful” and “horizontal”, however my server, Gates of Madness, was completely dominating the other two, so it looks like Population Balance is gonna be an Issue here too.
I am really really glad to hear you are still loving the game.
I wasn’t sure what people would think when I posted the video, but I wanted to share my insights on what happened to see what people think.
I can’t speak for other gamers, but I will say this: I would love to be able to play game(s) indefinitely.
I wanted RIFT to succeed and for SWTOR to succeed. Partly because I really loved innovation that they brought to the industry. Partly because I respect and like the people from the developers that I met. And because on a much broader scale, we *need* there to be success stories in the industry.
Every studio that tanks like 38 Studios is going to be scare off potential investment in game development, regardless whether 38 Studios mismanaged their finances or not.
The label of “fickle” is often applied to gamers when they complain about issues for a given game. You guys who read my blog know that I spend the majority of my time playing one game at a time. I don’t chase FOTM or very popular titles. I never made it through the LoL tutorial. Aside from GW2, I haven’t meaningfully played any of the big recent titles at or after launch this year: no DayZ, no TSW, no TERA at launch, no SMITE, etc.
It’s not that I don’t have an interest in these games – I do. But given my FT job, I spent time now in the game(s) that really matter to me and where I have hope for long-term enjoyment.
League of Legends is not horizontal, to get a page full of Tier 3 runes you need to win about 100 games, and if you want to play different roles you are gonna need several pages with different runes, so make that a few hundred games you need to grind. Admittedly you can pay for a booster and that makes it much easier, but you just can’t call LoL horizontal.
Now the good thing about LoL is that when you get all your Tier 3 runes, thats it, you dont need to grind anymore to be competitive you can spend your IP to buy new champions, what happened in SWTOR is that we busted our asses to be Battlemaster and then they introduced War Hero, which for me it kinda sucked.
I stopped watching The Republic long ago, it seemed to me almost nobody in the panel had any genuine interest in the game or no longer played it, but I really like your TaugVlog series and I hope you continue it.
Thanks for sharing your insights on LoL.
Your points make sense. The thing about LoL is it sounds like after a point, you’re done leveling. The endgame is not a grind. That’s the key part of a horizontal system. Long-term is not built around grinding but rather simply being able to do what you want.
Indeed, SWTOR as a story-driven game, where the endgame IS the story – ie., when you’re done with a class, you “should” start a new char. This in as of itself failed for two reasons; firstly, gamers grow attached to their character (and even their story) and dont, on a whole, want to have a slew of alts. Second, the secondary, repeated quests naturally got old fast. The legacy system of gaining extra XP for activities of your choice, eg. class quests, might have helped a little bit in this regard, had it been in place from the get go.
Apart from that, this conception was flawed. Players want gameplay, and games without bugs. Ops were bugged almost to the point of unplayability, world pvp was touted but failed pretty bad, etc. Indeed, they should have spent more time on the rest of the game, instead of the 80% story and voice.
Still, imho it’s a great game, with clearly the best PvP of any current MMO, despite inevitable balance issues.
Cross-server ranked with solo queues should be pretty cool, esp. with solo queueing for large player/team pools, is what my hope is pinned to :)
Story is an excellent concept, but it should be a complement to excellent gameplay and content, not compete with them for developer time.
It’s a tough problem to solve, really.
It was released too early and I believe it was pressure from EA. The game is a lot of fun now. If you played it now, you would see how much of an improvement since launch Bioware has made. As far as story goes, it does make leveling more interesting. With the legacy perks giving you the ability to focus more exp on whatever way you want to level, you can skip a lot of the side quests and just do what you want to level. You could always skip the dialogue anyway.
It was just released about a year too early. All this game is really missing is incentive to World PvP.. It is fun and exists now on Prophecy of the Five, but not to the level it could with incentives to do it.
PS – You don’t have to be spoon fed everything to make a game fun.
do you think swtow will comeback
Do you mean reach the peak level of subscribers, which was ~1.8MM?
That would be difficult, given that my guess is that SWTOR would need to more than double the number of subs they have now to get back there.
What the game needs to find is what it will take to level off the drop in subs, then gradually build up again. It’s like turning a company around that has some great IP but has struggled for whatever reasons.
Excellent synopsis. This mirrors my own thoughts and feelings about SWTOR. It’s a shame, really.
Honestly? I think it’s all to do with hype. There was huge hype going into it, and everyone and their mother was expecting a fully polished game with features out the wazoo and a never ending story to go a long with it. Let’s face it no MMO now or in the future will be able to hold up to the expectations people have for new MMO’s.
Why? Because as MMO’ers, and people in general, we are generally spoiled, impatient, nitpickers who spend the majority of our time looking for what’s wrong with things rather than what’s right. We want it all now and we want it all to be perfect. We’re entitled right? We’re paying almost twenty bucks a month! Dear God I could have had lunch at Denny’s instead :P
Case in point, 2nd round of lay offs is the big news. Why? Because if they are doing lay offs it means they either don’t have enough money to keep paying people or are giving up on the game. That’s what the majority wil assume. Me personally? I’ve had to lay people off, very rarely is it for the obvious reasons. Sometimes you just have too large of a team, sometimes it’s more efficient to do it with less. I don’t know why they did lay offs, and I’m not big on speculating personally.
That’s the problem, today it’s all about hype and speculation, and people buy into the hype and speculation whether they realize it or not. If your set up on a blind date with a young lady who has a reputation for being an air head, whether she is or not, you’re likely to find her an air head because you’re looking for that. Self-fulfilling prophecy and all that.
When you read about the lay offs, or intentions to go to free to play or whatever it is, you’re reading opinion, speculation, hype. A CEO makes a brief one line statement and it spawns ten paragraphs of speculation. Sites like TOR Status that estimate populations based on server sizes (although they don’t actually know how many people makes a server light/heavy, etc) and others will look at that site and spout “facts” about increases or decreases. Nevermind that mid terms, or that an entire region of the US is largely without power, nah it’s gotta be related to this or that. If you try hard enough you can rationalize anything. It also happens that there was a recent population decrease at the same time as Paris Hilton started feeding her dog a new brand of food, it’s very possible the dog has some control over TOR. Mental telepathy? Perhaps the dog is crapping more increasing the growth of the grass and the resulting 0.000001% more oxygen is making people go outside! Who knows! Discuss! :P
So at the end of the day you have to decide what kind of MMO player do you want to be. Do you buy into the hype or buy into the game?
Personally I buy into the game. I still play TOR just about everday, and every month of play I like it more and more because it keeps expanding, like an MMO should. New features, new content, new changes to this or that. Are all of them what I’d like them to be, or as quick as I’d like them to be? Maybe not, but in over a decade of MMO playing I’ve never found a game that could live up to my expectations. Play the game, like it, or don’t like it, but base your opinion on your experience, not what someone else says, or what the latest hype is. Until the day I stop having fun, I’ll keep playing and leave the worry to others.
Personally I see a strong game with a loyal base that’s plenty high enough to support the game’s growth. I also see a very large and loyal base of hypers, so in the end who wins the war? The players or the hypers? Hopefully the players, not just for TOR, but because they are the ones actually playing and enjoying the games.
I think it depends.
I didn’t play SWTOR in Beta and at launch because of the hype. I played it because I really enjoyed it. For me personally, the areas that I really care about – World PVP, game balance, and not having to grind – have taken a turn for the worse over time instead of getting better.
The inherent risk with any sub model is you remind your customer every month that they are paying you.
And it’s worse when the developer comes out and says “we want to make the subscription worth your money” which is what BioWare has said in the past. That’s lack of expectation management.
I have been through the layoff process as a Director at a company with thousands of employees. We had to cut 70 of the 160 in the Technology group in the office (San Francisco) that I was the lead for. It sucked.
I can’t emphasize that enough. IT SUCKED.
To have to do it twice in two months doesn’t look good. If you need a significant staff reduction, you do it right, you do it once, so that you don’t end up having to do it again unless the business context shifts.
Yeah basically why our Guild left when it did, Lack of Endgame, Lack of Balance, Lack of Cross Server, Lack of Competitive PvP, Buggy PvE.
Also Heard the News about your new show, sounds great, I LOVE theorycrafting, and I miss Tamgros, had the most fun dueling him back on Ilum/NarShadda.
Did You guys end up deciding on Dark Haven? We decided on Sorrows Furnace.
Also just a small opinion, keep music too game footage, the music makes me want too go too battle instead of listening too you talk for very long.
Anyone liking this article is seriously out of line and have placed themselves among the multitudes that sit on their asses not playing the game using articles such as this to justify why they aren’t playing the game. Most of the crowd these people are setting themselves amongst are playing WoW or not playing anything. You do realize that don’t you?
This article is utter bullshit for a multitude of reasons. The biggest reason is: FLAKY GAMERS. So called, “gamers”, these days are spoiled little brats that want their cake and eat it too. There was no way SWTOR could live up to their expectations no matter how good it is. Because of this, they already wrote the game off. These same people claim WoW is sooooooooo great when WoW was SIGNIFICANTLY worse than SWTOR at launch. Do they forget that WoW did not even have a group-finder until mid-way through WoTLK?
2nd, this so-called notion of “horizontal scaling” MMO’s is crap for a game such as SWTOR. Horizontal scaling MMO’s might as well be “Words With Friends”. Yes, they can be fun, but lack any and all depth and are fairly mindless. COMPLETELY not suitable for an MMO.
People bitch like whiney little brats about end-game content. These same people fall into two categories: 1. They bitch about every MMO’s end game content 2. They don’t even scratch the end-game content they are bitching about. My brother barely even touched end-game in SWTOR and falls into category #2. Seriously, he made it to 50 and in a couple weeks quit the game.
I wish there was a HATE button on Facebook, because this article is not true and I hate it. Do you really want to be among the flakey ass gamers who cause SWTOR to fail? Seriously, the world will not be better without SWTOR. Everyone will see that when they say, “Boy, I miss a story-driven MMO like SWTOR….It really wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be…” People SUCK and people RUIN this game for all of us.
You don’t get it.
I want games to be massively successful. Because more success stories = more investment = more game development = more choice for all of us.
Case studies like 38 Studios and SWTOR will not help the industry. Rather the opposite is the case: they will reinforce the perception that MMO development doesn’t make financial sense.
It’s important for both gamers and developers have *clarity* on the mistakes for a particular game, or developers will continue to repeat them.
This is most tiresome, trite, and inane argument used by gamers.
Blame the customer, not the company!
Can’t you come up with something at least mildly insightful?
TSW and GW2 are both built on horizontal scaling, and they are MMO’s.
If you don’t like the model you don’t like the model. But there are very strong benefits for horizontal scaling for both the gamer and the developer.
I haven’t stated any deliberate or intentional falsehoods.
You’re welcome to hate the article, that’s the whole point of having discussion, and even though you are trolling, why I will allow your comment to exist on this site.
There’s a much higher likelihood that my net contributions to SWTOR have had a largely positive effect on the game not the reverse, per
1. the guides and mechanics explanations that I have freely provided to the community
2. the hundreds of hours of advice that I have provided to other SWTOR players
3. the hundreds of thousands of SWTOR YouTube views on my videos
4. my hosting on GAMEBREAKER
People like you neither help the gaming community nor the developer and resort to attacking other players without contributing anything meaningful to the discussion.
Taugrim has made many contributions to the PVP community in swtor, the first few months I played a ton of hours but I’d usually take a break to watch his stream. Having him as a part of the community was great even if he’s not gonna play anymore.
That doesn’t mean that I agree with everything he says, he keeps calling Guild Wars 2 and League of Legends horizontal games, they sell XP boosters for crying out loud, that’s as vertical as it gets.
Releasing Swtor a few months later wouldnt have matter, the list of demands from players was gigantic, addons, macros, better ah, 3D space combat, mini games, meaningful open world pvp, guild progression, day/night cycles, swimming, more endgame content and harder modes and Im sure Im forgetting a few things.
Anyone could go ahead and say “Im quitting the game because it doesnt have X, Y and Z” and Bioware was releasing content at a very slow pace, instead of improving on Ilum, they removed it and then they delayed ranked warzones, that pretty much killed the PVP community in my server.
On the topic of the XP boosters, it’s not as “bad” as people make it out to be. You get double XP from killing mobs. Killing mobs is about 5% of your XP gain. You gain most of your XP from Dynamic events and Renown Quests in PVE and WvW objectives in PVP. Doubling your XP gain from kills for an hour is really minor.
I missed where I was obligated to play a game to make it successful whether it was fun or not. Its a game, its my money and my entertainment. If its fun I pay and play, if its not I don’t. The obligation is on the developer to provide not for us to suck it up and pay/play anyway so that they can continue to do a poor job.
Jerry doesn’t get it.
The gaming industry is the only one I’ve ever seen where gamers blame other gamers when a product or company fails.
you’re right there, Chaz. too many missing features/content, poor decision on space combat (reducing it to a mini game developed by a third party) and too slow on fixes/new content release. far too much focus of resources on the pve leveling game instead of putting more emphasis on what is actually going to keep players around for the long term.
for the troll, don’t blame gamers for “mmo-hopping”. if mmo devs don’t want to see their players leave their game then they shouldn’t be releasing their games in a beta state (which has been an ongoing theme for years). they’ve created the culture, not the other way around.
Usually the major powers in any industry are always going to be the most conservative. The fact is that they were incredibly successful and got that way by doing things the old way. They had no real pressure until recently to make major changes in their models.
Remember when the game industry started, limited content with high replayability was the standard. That was the core of the arcade game. But with the development of the console and the reach of the PC, that was changed into a physical product model similar to movie production where higher initial excitement factor were deemed more important than replayability in order to move more copies.
With the advent of broadband internet, mobile devices, and all the goodies that come with it, the industry will be readjusting once again.
For what it’s worth, I still think that this game will be able to persist in the market. I think TOR has some good things to offer. Regardless of cutbacks, there’s still content being made and as things expand, I think it could still be very exciting. The question now becomes the rate of expansion.
At the end of the day, my MMO time is going to be spend between TOR and Guild Wars 2. And I don’t think that I’ll regret that. I’m not really willing to join in the chicken little chorus. At least Taugrim’s analysis is predicated on some insightful notions.
Do I think this is a a big “WTF?”. No, I don’t. I think that TOR suffered from the hype around it. And I think this is a systemic issue with any new MMO upon release. I think it won’t be as niche as something like TSW and will still maintain something of a presence. Recent changes to the game have largely been beneficial
(Got cut off. Odd.)….. I think my main point, perhaps over idealistically, is that we see a growing diversification in the market that allows a lot of good games to exist. I think TOR’s a good game. GW2’s done well by me in betas. I think TSW, while not stellar, appeals to a crowd that could really bring life to the game. RIFT’s getting big expansions. Elder Scrolls is coming eventually.
My hope is that this diversification helps the market and really helps the players. I think TOR’s at the best place it’s been, in terms of functionality. For whatever that’s worth in the conversation about the sheer cruel business realities at BioWare Austin or in the industry as a whole. And I also think (or hope, at least) that we’re going to see a thriving market where lots of fun, exciting games can sort of coexist. MMO talk tends to bring out a lot of competition about what’s better and what’s, for lack of a better word s**t but I don’t think that’s the way to look at it. It is much better to look at the market, see all these cool things, and get excited. TOR’s part of that. So are a lot of other games. In the longrun, I hope we have a market where there’s room for a lot of different experiences.
The objective of my video was not to predict the death of SWTOR.
What I was pointing out were the causes for how SWTOR got into the current situation. It is what it is. I don’t think it’s possible to argue that from a business standpoint, the game is on steady ground.
SWTOR has innovated in a lot of ways. I absolutely loved 10-49 PVP, the warzone design, the Resolve system, and the epic feel of combat.
Must-read article by Emily Rogers on the rising costs of game development.
I totally agree with what she wrote, 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
2. after the initial burst of launch purchases, the rate of new customers acquired is often more than offset by 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).
Great stuff as usual. Its so refreshing to know there are intelligent, reasonable gamers like taugrim out there.
I find it interesting that so many swtor players left the game to play SWGemu, which is essentially a horizontal scaling game. That is all.
Actually thats not all. Do you think we’ll see a resurgence of the sandbox model(or variant) ? It must surely be more cost effective than themeparking. And it seems to me a creative team could bring some fresh ideas to the genre, not to mention new tech. Essentially putting the players in charge of developing content (devs provide the tools of course) is a smart business decision. I suppose the big question is, can a sandbox game ever be more than niche?
I’m not sure if it *has* to be.
yes the game was released too early. Had 1.3 or so been the actual launch (1.3 has group finder, RWZs and transfers), it would of been more in line with other MMOs on the market thus keeping more people. the only thing ToR lacks now is cross server, dual spec, real world pvp and some other things. so if 1.3 now had been 1.0 then by the time we got to the new “1.3” 6 months later, it would of been in great shape. why? because they could of been spending that 6 months making content / new WZs etc instead playing “catch up” as u mentioned in ur video.
i understand the pressure they were probably under to get the game out, especially since it was christmas time. i will say, i still like the game. i find it fun and i play it here and there. but it’s sad cuz all my friends are gone from the game.
another issue was they had empty servers for waaaaaaay too long. i mean i was on the fatman since launch and by beginning of march or so is when i noticed an influx of new players on the server. they would be talking in general how “i had to reroll here since my server is dead”. that was a common phrase heard for the next several weeks as more and more players rerolled over.
as u mentioned, alot of people just quit rather than reroll. i know i wouldnt want to regrind lvl 50 on a new server, regrind datacrons, regrind professions, and regrind pvp gear. not to mention alot of their friends probably quit too. so there wasnt really any motivation to stay. i sure as hell wouldnt pay 15 a month to be alone on a server. had servers xfers came out in april (with 1.2), that may of made a difference.
the replayability of the game is weak. other than the storyline quests, the quests suck. most people i know on their 2nd play thru just spacebarred everything except story. the first couple planets they are ok but as u get higher up, u seem to get fewer quests and the objectives are crazy spread out over a huge map. i remember all this down time traveling to do 1-2 quests. i wish hubs were more streamlined and had more than 1-2 quests at them.
i hope companies continue to make MMOs. i love them. i can also see why investors would say no though. my opinion to help all future MMOs is the “WoW” model of gaming has to go. they need to STOP TRYING TO COPY WOW! i hate that. even d3 tried to copy things from WoW and D3 is having issues 2 months post release.
I thought the story pillar was a fantastic addition. It did make leveling enjoyable, but I will say it was a little more than tedious doing the same content again when you knew the story. I would have also liked to have seen the choices have more of an impact, but that might be a little too ambitious for a MMO.
The thing about being a pillar though is that its function is to support. The story didn’t really support anything other than the leveling process. Basically, BioWare’s pillars didn’t have a roof (end game) to support. Story was more of an obelisk, than a pillar.
If I had to point to a culprit, I would say it was a mismanaged community coupled with a lack of infrastructure within the game. Way too many servers got opened at launch. The lack of server specific forums was also a huge mistake. You can’t build a server community when you have those players being redirected to using fan sites, which only divided it even more because not everyone was on the same fan sites. The server group forums were too little, too late. Now BioWare is going to open up server specific forums because they said it’s manageable, which just goes to show that not only did all those servers spread the community too thin, but they also cost the players server forums.
Then there was the lack of infrastructure in game to support building a community. A group finder was necessary due to how fractured the world was and how thinly spread the community was. The annoyance of trying to group for pvp and having to constantly reform after a match. Not being able to queue against other full teams can also be considered an issue. Not being able to add friends unless they were online was also another issue. Even the RP community weren’t given the simple things to help them. Group finder with a scattered player base was probably the big issue, but there were just so many little issues that really started to add up.
I wouldn’t say the game was rushed, but that their priorities were in the wrong place. I think it would have been much better if they launched with a lower cap and focused on fleshing the game out instead. Coupled with the complete lack of attention paid to the community pillar is what I think ultimately did them in. We’ve all played a game before where its had its issues, but we stuck around for the friends and the community. Unfortunately, BioWare just didn’t create the tools or provide the means to foster a healthy community, not to mention how reluctant they were to even have them provided in the first place.
Really excellent points about Grinding vs Vertical Scalability vs Horizontal Scalability. BioWare took some big risks by building a game that was essentially none of the above. They eschewed the idea that players want anything grindy or repetitive, and as a result, they cut out a major amount of the time to play that most MMORPGs have built-in. In doing so, they succeeded in making the time spent in game MUCH more fun than other MMOs. However, by culling all the worthless time-wasting activities which made other games frustrating, they cost themselves all the money which developers like Blizzard have made on grindy, repetitive content. Where BioWare lost out, was in assuming they could make a profitable game without at least one of those elements.
It seems they were driven by the urge to build a game which was what the players said they wanted to play, rather than what actually draws players in for the long haul. (It is the chopping of each vegetable which makes the meal enjoyable, even if the chopping of the vegetables was annoying). Unfortunately for BioWare their commitment to being responsive to players, hamstrung them from producing a profitable game. Consumers are willing to pay an up-front charge for “the largest voice over MMORPG ever,” but they won’t pay subscription fees for it. Rather, BioWare should have put a higher percentage of development investment into the long term strategies, and less into the initial shock value of the game. Their extreme focus on the fantastic leveling 1-49 part of the game demonstrates their experience as a legendary single-player RPG developer, it does not however translate into MMORPGs because the overwhelming amount of time(=MONEY) spent in MMORPGs is spent on characters after they reach level 50. This is true no matter how cool level 1-49 was, and no matter how much time you want to spend rerolling new alts.
SWTOR chose the WRONG GAME ENGINE. More than 30 people in one zone created a fps slide show. So that killed any mass scale open world pvp. The engine also could produce very low fps in warzones for a significant number of people. Also for some people’s setups the client would crash repeatedly. These types of fundamental problems related to the game engine and graphics probably made great numbers of casual players unsub immediately.
SWTOR also had many little (but significant) problems with the lack of a guild bank, lack of guild functionality for guild masters and an awful interface for the auction house. While these types of problems are not a concern for the casuals they were a big PITA for the hardcore players. For the hardcore players these defects are like rocks in the shoe of a daily runner and eventually even the hardcore will tire of them. Problems like these and the lack of endgame content made the hardcore players leave.
Another contributing factor was the HORRID customer service this game had. It was so bad I have pledged to not give EA any more money.
And that is how you can lose subscribers so quickly.
You bring up a great point – I experienced the FPS issues.
I don’t know whether it was the base game engine or the degree to which it still needed customization and tweaking.
I really do not think waiting to release later would have made any difference. I don’t think fixing the bugs would have made a difference either. The issue is end-game. I don’t know what EA was thinking. They borrowed from old MMO’s with healer, dps and tank models. They were not innovators. They did not bring new concepts to the game. I don’t even think they even played MMO’s. I really had high hopes for this game and it was a great disappointment.
I think that SWTOR should have been their second MMO. The problem is they didn’t learn from the mistakes of other games. They only sought to mimic what was successful, and in some places they did well, but in many others, they fell flat.
Like in all art, there’s some items that while hit many of the technical marks of what should make art a masterpiece, there’s just something in some pieces that allows it to speak to people and take on a life of it’s own. An X-Factor. To me, in the world of MMOs, SWTOR simply doesn’t have it. There are so many little elements that even if they improved on all the technical aspects of the game as they have, it still wouldn’t feel right. The game world feels static. The story, while epic, starts to feel dead and recycled (reruns) when you do dalies and dungeons.
I wanted to feel immersed in their game. Finally, an MMO that gives me the Star Wars experience I’ve been looking for! Except, I wasn’t immersed in the conflict like I had hoped. But that’s just my experience.
regardless what opinions people may have of gw2, it still has the best pvp structure upto date. I think the pve is cleverly masked but still is somewhat a grind just a more fun way of doing it i suppose. Arena net will no doubt improve the pve overtime (still think dungeons need some work) as for pvp it will get better and better i have the feeling arena want to heavily invest time and effort into making gw2 pvp a proper E-sport.
End of the day how can people complain…NO SUB, one off payment and the access to quality and content is mind boggling. Beats any other mmo dev hands down.
Agree. There is a lot of duplicity out there with TERA and RIFT. These games require a heavy investment in time and grind. I played WOW for 7 years. It was such a grind but at the time there were no choices. I like everything about GW2. Every turn there is a surprise,lots of options. I can’t wait til launch
The #1 reason I won’t play TERA is it’s grindy. I don’t want to level via PVE to level cap, I’d rather go pound sand.
And it lacks the rich PVP contexts that GW2 has. I really respect some of the folks I’ve met from En Masse, but I TERA doesn’t have sufficient appeal for a PVP fan like me.
In today’s MMO market a game has to meet, exceed, or go in a completely different direction than its predecessors at launch to be successful. SWTOR did none of the above. Releasing a game with the lack of polish that SWTOR had showed a horrible lack of foresight from who ever pulled the trigger on its release. To expect players to go back to a set of game features from ten years ago is like selling someone a 10 year old car for the price of a new car and expecting them to be satisfied. It ridiculous and defies common logic.
I wanted SWTOR to be great. I think the combination of Bioware and the Star Wars IP for an MMO had everyone excited. So it did generate a ton of hype around the game but as Taugrim described it seems like all the money was spent on story and voice overs. It seems like all they did for abilities and class mechanics was borrow from WOW shift the classes around and paint on Star Wars skins. Their one innovation was voice overs through all the quests and even that was just going a bit farther than Age of Conan did they had full voice overs from levels 1-20.
MMO’s as a whole have gone in a wrong direction and it goes all the way back to Everquests success in my opinion. Ultima online gave birth to two games way back in the day Asheron’s Call and Everquest. Asheron’s Call was a totally open world, skill based rather than class based, the gaming world was enormous, and the PVP combat was twitch based rather than hard target locking. Everquest was class based, it had elves, dwarves and other creatures out of Tolkien lore, it had large boss raids, and more in depth questing. In the end Everquest won it was much more popular so all the subsequent games that followed used the Everquest formula and it has continued until now for the most part. Everquest was not a bad game I actually played both and enjoyed both. Everquest was far more open than the theme parks we see today. But the MMO industry has been saturated with this gear grinding game mechanic for over 10 years now and it is time to change. I think people are tired of the same thing rehashed over and over again. I think SWTOR may end up being the nail in the models coffin or at least open up the industry to other ideas.
I don’t think that a new game at launch has to be wildly innovative – it just has to avoid the design flaws that have persisted across games for years.
That said, I totally agree with you that the game was not ready (for the masses) at launch. It was good enough for me to be willing to pay to play, but for a lot of people, the atypical and rigid UI and animation issues were too much for players to tolerate.
Very interesting analysis, esp for me as I did not play EQ, UO, or AC.
You hit the nail on the head – the industry needs to move past the concept of grind-based content. It’s a horrible experience.
I love your analysis at the end that describes how gaming firms (with notable exceptions) have fallen behind the curve philosophically compared to the rest of the tech industry. The only challenge I would made to that assertion that it isn’t just tech companies that have left gaming giants like EA, Bioware, Activision, 2K behind but the entire private sector (and the public sector is rapidly catching up). Clearly, there is variance between sectors, you can’t iterate a car, book, or movie in the same way you can iterate software, but the fact remains that the gaming industry is stuck in a pre-millennial mindset and until they get out they will continue to see fewer profits for comparatively more effort.
D3’s (rumored) rise and fall is a great example of the “vertical scale” failing.
EA’s stock report today barely met expectations. Stock was at $25/share just before SWTOR release has plummeted to $11/share today. EA cited the sharp drop in SWTOR subscriptions.
There is no doubt in my mind that direction and a lack of innovation was the root cause of SWTOR dismal performance. I agree with much of what has been already said. Today, you can not follow what was done in the past. You have to find your own path and take some risk. That was something EA/Bio-Ware was unwilling and incapable of doing.
Yea, I was very surprised by things that I heard technically from some of the sessions at GCD 2012.
I assumed incorrectly that the gaming industry was up-to-speed on the methodologies and practices that other industries started to adopt a decade ago.
I can give two clear examples:
1. the lack of (automated) regression testing, which is why new patches of games break existing functionality, even things that would be relatively easy to automate and test – e.g. tooltip values, gear values, set bonuses, etc
2. the lack of awareness on the criticality of working across disciplines together, as opposed to working in silos and “throwing stuff over the wall” to other groups. You have to integrate your work even from concept, not way downstream in development and testing.
I have to agree with Ed’s analysis, i have the same thoughts for SWTOR too. I also agree with the comment about the game’s engine, it was a very poor choice.
I started playing SWTOR preordering it along with a premade guild of around 40 friends since December eager to be in this game for a very long time. We all had fun at leveling, made some fun guild events and did many successful raids but after 1.2 it was hard for us to find a reason to log in and play. Aside from the buff legacy all the other perks were meaningless and costly and the game’s crafting and economy was badly designed too, that is another point worth mentioning on what SWTOR did wrong.
So our guild dissolved and we canceled our subscription.
Many of us went to LotRO. While it is F2P, and evolves vertically, with a hell lot grinding it is still rewarding because you always have something to do, and when you do it, you most often get useful rewards. Turbine’s F2P system might not be perfect but it works and works well, i wonder how they make it work in SWTOR but that is another huge topic.
SWTOR was supposed to be a game in space but you do not get quite that feeling. Many ex SWG players said that this game’s strong point was the space battles, a feature we expected having in SWTOR but we got the boring rail shooter instead.
You do not get the feeling you are in Star Wars space, in this galaxy far far away, even the planets feel like huge rooms, no change of seasons at all no day/night cycles, the feel static.
As for PvP in SWTOR, i m not a PvPer but i really enjoyed pre 1.2 Warzones and played a lot with my squishy Gunslinger. After 1.2 and a few Warzones, there was no point for me to continue PvP.. This patch sealed the fate of the game.
Great job Ed, thank you!!
Thanks for sharing that insight and experience re: LOTRO.
Even if a F2P game is grindy as heck, at least if it is rewarding, players will stick with it.
Yep. The majority of my guildees were put off by the changes in 1.2. I miss the longer tactical fights pre-1.2.
Hey Taug! First of all, I really have always enjoyed you videos and intellect, you bring so very much to the MMO world, so I thank you for that. I agree with you for the most part, somewhat, I think. But there is a core set of issues that have not truly been dealt with, issues that certainly relate to MMO specifics, but more importantly, the marriage between an MMO and the SW license. There is a piece I wrote that has been published in comment sections all over the net, here are my thoughts. Any section where I slam the author, ignore, that was meant for the tons of poorly researched pubs that never even took the time to truly research the issues.
This article, like many articles Ive seen popping up, totally misses the major points as to why this MMO has crashed and almost burned. The latest bean counter version is that 40% of their exit interviews (which I took these surveys, several in fact, very poorly designed) say the monthly fee was the issue. In less then one year, EA and TOR’s senior management continue the spin machine and sadly, the media continues to buy it, unchallenged, hook-line- and sinker. The issues are absolutely NOT that their monetization model, or that they over reached on the use of the SW brand but rather, they did not leverage the SW brand anywhere near what they could have and should have. The solutions are not around some quick turn monetization model, the latest of which is F2P. Im sure some MMO F2P types will save this brand on a basic level. But there is a VAST difference between saving your butt financially and an MMO that has truly become all it could be. Almost 2M subscribers speaks to the hope that people had, where it is now, under 1M subscribers, has to do with fundamental breaches.
The bottom line, EA just doesnt get it on a multitude of levels and I see no sign that will ever change. If I had more time, I would take the recent interview that Ohlen (TOR) gave and rip it to shreds piece by piece. Why? Because he stated they always wanted to be an MMO first and foremost. Really? Is that why about 60-70% of the assumptions a player can make about what they will experience as “standard” among all MMO’s is still nowhere to be found in TOR? And, frankly, I blame Lucas Arts who twice now, has surrendered the Star Wars MMO licensing to firms that that are notorious for horrible service; SOE and EA. Bioware was a great call, but for whatever reasons, that was not enough.
Article after article by BEAN COUNTERS cite stat after stat, or make the issues about things that never address the CORE GAME MECHANICS and the GLOBAL ATTITUDE which better define the real truths behind the massive failure of this MMO. I cant imagine what all these hard working (many of them now laid off) devs and visionary managers must feel like to have something they cared so much about, shattered into pieces after years of work. So lets look at just SOME of those bottom line issues, randomly presented, as I did not have time to prepare for this article.
#1- The current mentality is to INVENT Star Wars content versus truly giving players/fans the Star Wars we know. When you constantly invent outside of a powerfully established context, you’re asking people to learn about and embrace your version of the cannon versus offering players the ability to enjoy fully, the SW experiences they want to play. The story arcs that Ive played, three in total, are very good, the best of any MMO or any other game and yes, very iconic. Some of the side quests score decently well, in this regard. But for the most part, this game is KOTOR on steroids and not even close to an SW MMO experience. Once you make it to 50 to include end game content, the game just falls flat on its face in terms of it being a SW license and as an MMO, plus they abandon the very thing they hook you on- story! And slapping up some typical MMO end game raids, one that has all the huge monsters they swore they would not delve into; going for the quick fix PvP and F2P crowds will save the break even point, but it will fall dramatically short of maximizing all of the wonderful things this game COULD have been.
A very good example of this mentality is the invented planet that they are choosing to launch, which is being marketed as an all PvP planet. They are obviously playing to the quick fix, heavy PvP crowd from which F2P will bode well with (for minimal cost), which has nothing to do with truly offering the Opus of Star Wars experience that they could have and even started to offer. Put another way, they way from which they have chosen to “fix” the game is a TOTAL FAILURE TO TRULY DOUBLE DOWN ON OFFERING A SUSTAINABLE STAR WARS EXPERIENCE that keeps a core base coming back for more and growing. Had they launched Endor or Dathomir as planets, well known and mysterious, highly desirable locations to explore and to “experience iconic Star Wars moments”- that alone, just launching one of those planets, increasing some options to explore, having good story lines, a Dathomir end game experience (talk about sexy? WOW!) that alone would have immediately resulted in more players and more revenue. Typical of EA, they’ve made all this about the statistics of MMO trends per very poorly structured exit surveys. They say 40% wanted F2P, essentially. As I know a lot about this area, taking marketing surveys, the way they chose to mine this data means the real number is more like 30%, assuming we have clean data at all. That means that there is 70% of their base (or former base) that felt another way. Again, Ive taken several of these so called surveys and they simply were not structured in a way to got to the REAL issues. Rather, they were structured very superficially around how to quickly monetize or more superficial game play fixes. Like I said, they just dont get it.
#2- If Im a Bounty Hunter and Im a level 50, I want to Bounty Hunt. Not gonna happen in TOR. If I am a Level 50 Smuggler, I want to smuggle, a Jedi Master- I want to work with the Jedi Council to go on important missions. NONE OF THIS IS AVAILABLE once your turn 50 in TOR, which is a HUGE STORY OVERSIGHT and has resulted in TOR leaving a ton of money on the table. A moment ago, I stated that had they launched a more iconic planet and opened up the gameplay framework, to allow for more exploration, they would have had a boon in return customers. Now lets add to that Level 50’s that can Bounty Hunt, be Spys, run missions for the Jedi Council, so on and so forth- and that number of people that would bring back and the core TOR population would soar. IS EA IN TOUCH WITH THESE TRUTHS ON ANY LEVEL? The answer as evidenced by all of their actions, is no.
You have a game that does a great job of drawing you in through their story arcs and BAM, your reward for turning 50 is ALL OF THAT goes away. Your companions have nothing else to say to you, at least the ones you’ve maxed out, thats it- your relationship with that NPC companion is, for all practical purposes, done. TOR wants you to (in fact, forces you to- if you want to enjoy companion perks) max out all of your companion’s XP. So if you had a blast with Kira, ALL THIS BUILD UP with her, you’re gonna get married, you secretly broke Jedi rules and then level 50 hits or whenever you max out her storyline, then nothing, you’re done, THE SILENT WIFE named Kira. From that point on she will only give you route, basic responses; basically, you have a talking test dummy.
How did this happen? How do you make those kinds of decisions? How do create a game so built around epic story lines and companion relationships only to then abandon all of that once a person hits 50? Again, this is a failure to NOT LEVERAGE THE BRAND ENOUGH versus leveraging it too much or any particular type of monetization model.
#3- Its friggin’ Star Wars! I want to explore and fully experience this cool world. Not going to happen in TOR. Ohlen stated in his article that they never meant to change the MMO experience, only to add story. Every MMO Ive played and I’ve played a lot of the big ones to include Galaxies – WoW – LOTR – Rift and others, let you truly explore the world you’re in. Rift even has a solid reward system for such desires with some fun perks. TOR greatly limits this to almost nothing. The zones, with a very few exceptions, are vanilla, small and full of restrictions as to where I can and cannot explore. There are few truly unique areas that blew my mind and captured my imagination and the ones that did, fell very short on my ability to interact with the environment. I thought Nar Shadda was rather impressive, but you can’t interact with anything there and as stated, nothing to explore. A friend and I were talking about the game Star Wars Galaxies. I shared a story about one day when I was zooming along, minding my own business riding my speeder on the high level planet (it TRULY felt like a planet) of Endor, on the shoreline of a lake there, when out of the blue I get knocked off my bike- which then blows up and I hear Stormtroopers telling me to halt. I look behind me and see two ships full of stormies unloading and coming after me. I popped up my chat for my guild and said, “you won’t believe this”. Seconds later, I was in a fight for my life. The “trigger” for this random event had to do with a system they deployed that tied in how many imp kills I had, both PvP and NPC, that related to my reputation rating. Folks, this was a random encounter that made my experience feel rather over the top real! I was on a SW high for days.
No exploring. No iconic Star Wars world events (think Galaxies and Rift). Nothing meaningfully Star Wars after 50. Very narrow control on skill trees with Hybrids being a big no-no. Next to no interaction with our Star Wars environments. But sure, the real issue is people having to pay a monthly fee. So very sad, given how awesome the game trailers were, give how awesome this game could have been.
#4-Rhakghouls- seriously? Fine, its a call back to KOTOR, so a little bit here and there. But to make that such a huge deal throughout? In operations? In your one world event? Do you people even understand what the attraction of Star Wars is all about- because it aint Rhakghouls! And although KOTOR has some great merits, people didn’t sign up for a KOTOR MMO NOR WAS IT MARKETED AS SUCH, they signed up for an EPIC SW experience! Give me a world event where Sith Masters or Jedi Masters suddenly appear on the opposing factions Capital Ships. Have a Call To Arms world event where I see twenty of my fellow players called back to the Jedi temple because its under attack. Give me iconic breathtaking and wide open SW worlds to not just fight in, but also to explore. THATS Star Wars!
#5- The general perception that Bioware and EA could care less has been a huge issue, regardless of all their press saying otherwise. They launched an economy that was utterly ridiculous in terms of all the costs for healing, repairs, transaction fees, etc.. They added and still have crazy costs for getting Legacy perks. Their tier based equipment and mod systems, which have been constantly changing rendering all your hard work useless, all made the game anything but user friendly. Then there is the Legacy system complete with a Legacy XP bar for perks that I need to spend a fortune to buy, but somehow that supposed to feel like something I earned? And If you bought the Collectors Edition, you really felt a deep sense of betrayal, of Bait and Switch. Sure, the shipped items with the CE were nice, but VERY CLEARLY STATED IN THE RAMP UP is that we would get a vendor that would be updated regularly with exclusive new items and content. Never happened. The in game benefit to having a security key was dramatically better then having bought the CE. When this tender issue was brought up endlessly, we kept on hearing the same, tired response. “Yes, we realize this is an issue but its down on the list in terms of our priorities.” In other words, we already nailed you for all that extra money so deal with it. That was a very dumb, very short sighted business move that alienated their most passionate customers. I could go on and on. Side quests, once Ive leveled to 50, I still have to waste my time on all the dialog when Im leveling a toon? I get that being important for a new toon’s core storyline quests, but all the side quests too? So leveling 3 toons MANDATES dredging through all the same side content again?
STOP spitting out statistics and STOP throwing quick fixes that will create a more superficial, less Star Wars experience. Give us the experience we paid for, the SW experience you marketed; give is Dathomir and bounties to hunt, things to smuggle, Jedi council meetings to attend that spark great adventures; give us back the companions WE WANT TO PLAY versus forcing us to level companions we could care less about. And in spite of what all the so called data TOR, especially EA likes to tout- the game will actually turnaround.
Where did you post your comments originally?
If you enjoy writing, you should get a blog setup, there are plenty of good free options, such as WordPress.com :)
I think part of the issue, if I can even call it that, is that BioWare’s competitive differentiator was their ability to create compelling story lines in games. I experienced that in Baldur’s Gate I & II.
The issue is that there is a significant shift transitioning from single-player stories to stories which would truly engage a larger community. The SWTOR class story lines by and large focus on the former but not the latter.
Well, from my perspective, it was clear that Ilum was one of the last pieces of content that was worked on. James Ohlen wouldn’t even entertain the most basic questions at New York Comic Con 2011, during the main SWTOR panel. And I know because I was the guy at the questions microphone asking about Ilum. They weren’t ready to talk about Ilum, or to have people meaningfully test it in Beta, because it wasn’t ready.
On a broader note, BioWare didn’t (and still hasn’t AFAIK) a way of providing a rich PTS experience, where players can do expected functionality such as copying their live characters to the test environment.
Player bounties was a frequently-requested functionality back in Beta.
As far as story oversight at 50 – I think you’re missing the point I made in the video. It wasn’t an oversight. It was an issue of scope bloat in the 1-49 experience, leaving not enough time to develop content at 50.
Games should create a sustained experience, not one for 1-49 and one for 50, especially when the former was much more compelling and engaging.
It’s not a brand issue, or a monetization issue.
As a long-time veteran of software and product development, the underlying reason is very clear: they had too much scope in one area (1-49) but not for the rest of the game. E.g.
– there wasn’t a character transfer at launch
– the UI was below parity
– Ilum was largely untested
– the test environment lacks basically functionality (e.g. character copy)
– there is as you’ve said a strong lack of story content
I do agree with you that a mistake is not focusing on group story line content. And by that I don’t mean Flashpoints and Operations, which are instanced and therefore separated from the world.
World dynamic events I think offer a much better experience.
Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I think, with a few minor exceptions, we’re saying the same things. Your background vs mine just has us focusing, in some areas, on different pieces to a broken puzzle. I thought your comments about Ilum, the lack of feedback from TOR, was revealing and spot on, but sadly, not surprising.
Thanks for the encouragement with regards to the blog. Like you, I have a robust business life which does include a blog. Primarily, I’m a niche management consultant that specializes in non-traditional business modeling. It just so happens that Im also a rather massive Star Wars geek and closet gamer. ;-)
I’ve been placing my comments in any and every comments section that I can find, wherein the author is just putting out drab statistics, versus thoughtfully dealing with these issues. The recent post by Time Magazine is my most recent comments add. Perhaps one day, all this will inspire change.
Regardless, you’ve been of great service to the MMO community! Best wishes for continued success.
Did you see the post on nerfs and buffs leading into launch? Warriors and Guardians got hammered. Please comment