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3:57pm on Sunday, 15th April, 2012:

Bottling It


A a Bioware game, Star Wars: the Old Republic was designed with story at its heart. It attracted experienced players on that basis, and newbies on the basis of its intellectual property. There are people playing SW:TOR who have never played an MMO before, and there are people playing it who have but were looking for something different.

Following patch 1.2, there are going to be fewer of each.

SW:TOR could have evolved in one of two directions. Either it could have stuck with its storytelling genesis and added more content in the levelling game or it could have regressed to the MMO norm and added more endgame content. The former would be saying that story was indeed paramount and when you reach level 50 you should be wanting to level up new characters because that's where the fun lines. The latter would be saying that you may have got this far for the story but the story is now over and it's a different game from here on. The only real question I had when I made level 50 for the first time myself was whether Bioware was going to be true to its storytelling ideals or give up on them. As patch 1.2 approached, it became increasingly apparent which way the wind was blowing: towards the MMO norm.

Sure enough, when the patch finally came out last week, that's what we got. New content at the endgame, plus a legacy system that helps you get through the levelling game to the endgame faster. No new content for people as they level, just ways to speed through it plus a bit more to do at the end. Come for stories, then when they're done spend your time learning to dance.

People who came for stories may well stay for the endgame, but many won't. If they like story and there's no story except the "will I win that once chance I have this week of getting my tier 3 headpiece?", well that's problematical for them. If they came from another MMO and find that all they're doing at the end is the same as they were doing before except with lightsabres instead of 3m-long swords, why did they bother? They might as well not have left WoW. Again, that's problematical for them.

Which has the better story, SW:TOR or WoW? Well SW:TOR. Which has the better endgame? Well, WoW. Why does it make sense, therefore, for SW:TOR to make the game be all about the endgame?

Bioware had the chance to put their story-based philosophy on the line and give us something different, but when decision time came they passed. Oh well. So now it's just another MMO, then.

I think I'll keep my subscription going for a little longer, in part because my guild just lost half its geared healers (including the guild leader) following the disappointment of 1.2 (there are only 3 of us left now), in part because I want to support Bioware's stance against mad people, and in part because I know some of the designers there and want this game to succeed. The writing is on the wall, though...

Referenced by May the Force be Without Me.

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Copyright © 2012 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).