50 MMOs in 50 Days #44: Star Wars: The Old Republic

Last played: 2012
Experience: Very Extensive

In my “beta review” for Star Wars: The Old Republic, I wrote that all the cut scenes and drama were neat, but I wondered if if they would be enough to “slow down” MMO players or if “we’ll see level 50 Jedi and Sith prancing around within a week of the game’s launch, wondering why the endgame is ‘so weak,’ regardless of whether it is or not.”

I overestimated SWTOR players, but only slightly. It took closer to three or four weeks, and BioWare was shocked – shocked! – that it happened.

As for me, I liked the cut scenes and story on some planets (Tatooine), disliked it on others (Taris), and generally ran out of enthusiasm in my early 40s, getting a real “Are we there yet?” feeling after another two-minute conversation that eventually boiled down to “kill 10 rakghouls and bring me their brains.” The “why” didn’t really matter, though I assumed it was FOR SCIENCE!

Screenshot_2012-04-03_21_32_07_468000Overall, I thought SWTOR was a solid, if unexciting game, a lot like Rift in the “WoW, but something slightly different” mold. When you combine that with the world’s biggest sci-fi license, that’s enough to see you through. Well, almost enough… I really didn’t think it would go F2P as quickly as it would, but a rushed launch and the desertion of millions of early adopters will do that to you.

But does innovation really matter? I’m not going to get too heavily into “vocal minority” talks here, but it should be clear that the people who follow gaming websites, read/watch all the developer interviews, hang out on forums/Reddit/blogs/etc., are a very small part, and very discerning part, of a game’s audience. I wouldn’t go so far as to say other players are clueless lemmings, but I think it might be fair to say that they’re a lot less picky about their MMOs.

I mean, look at all the grindy, repetitive MMOs out there and how successful they are. I even saw a person make a forum post the other day specifically asking for advice in picking a grind-based MMO. To me, that’s incomprehensible. It’s a little like spam e-mails – we still get them because someone obviously is replying to them and making their senders money. If they didn’t, they’d stop sending them. So, all these “dull” MMOs must be doing something right, even if that’s just refining their grind formula and putting on a sufficiently pretty skin.

In SWTOR‘s case, there are still a lot of people out there who just want a Star Wars MMO, and provided it’s not a total piece of crap, they’ll play it. It doesn’t have to have dynamic content, hardcore endgame raiding, ranked PvP, or any of that. I’ve always maintained that SWTOR would do just fine, even when others said it would fold after a year. Every game needs something to set it apart – sometimes that’s fancy gameplay, but sometimes just having a big name will do the trick.

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4 Responses to 50 MMOs in 50 Days #44: Star Wars: The Old Republic

  1. I could never enjoy SWTOR, I wish they’d just make Knights of the Old Republic 3 😛

  2. Just want to say that iggplay is a big fan of star wars.

  3. I was never that big on Star Wars, and my feelings on Bioware are somewhat mixed, so the SW:TOR hype never really touched me, but I’m still a bit saddened by how things turned out.

    It’s not that bad a game, really. The quests are kind of tedious, but I’ve seen worse. It’s pretty derivative, but again, seen worse. I did think the class design was very interesting, and the story-telling’s pretty solid — I enjoyed the dichotomy of trying to play as a halfway decent person in the Sith Empire. I wouldn’t have minded playing long enough to finish a class story or two, at least.

    But that business model is appalling. It’s probably not the worst implementation of F2P ever, but it’s certainly the worst I’ve experienced firsthand. I mean, I don’t mind paying a little cash in a free game, even one I’m not super jazzed about, but not when the entire game is essentially screaming “PAY UP NOW YOU FILTHY FREELOADER” 24/7.

    Against all odds and all logic, it does seem to be working for them. My suspicion is that the vast majority of their revenue comes from whales who both subscribe and pay into the cash shop, and that the number of people playing on free accounts for any length of time is actually quite small. But I don’t have any numbers on that, so who knows?

    Regardless, this is one customer they’ve lost for good. I may be an eternal apologist for free to play as a model, but even I have limits.

    Shame. I really was starting to get into my agent’s storyline.

    • jasonwinter says:

      Yeah, I haven’t looked back at it since it went F2P, but I’ve got a friend who plays it with his wife (both big SW fans) and they love it. And while he’s not bad, he tells me stories about some of the whales he encounters, and it’s sad/amusing. SWTOR is probably the closest thing there is in the mainstream MMO industry to an exploitative F2P mobile game.

      But, as so many of those are popular, so is SWTOR, so does it matter? Does all of us saying “You can’t make a game like that! It’s terrible!” just fall on deaf ears when the makers know they have a property that’s popular and don’t give even the slightest fuck about how many “industry experts” are made unhappy by the payment scheme? Probably.

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