Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thoughts on the latest SWTOR news

The latest SWTOR patch apparently contained some serious cluster fornication for PvP players. Level 50 players are now looking at crazy ques to get into the regular battlegrounds due to faction imbalance and the general lack of level 50 players on most servers. Meanwhile, in SWTOR's open world PvP area Republic players are getting stomped on most servers. Unverified reports put Empire / Republic ratios at 2.5 to 1 or worse on most servers. An error in the latest patch that allows players to camp the opposing faction's respawn points is salt on the wound. Things are so bad that Bioware is urging players to avoid Ilum altogether until they can get things fixed. Finally, for a few hours today some players magically lost the ability to unsubscribe days before the first round of automatic sub-renewals is set to go through. Ouch!

While this isn't exactly Bioware's shining moment, I think it's a bit early to start dancing on SWTOR's grave. A lot of bloggers have been predicting doom for the game for months based on development costs that EA has already stated are bogus. 500K subs, even if you need them for a solid year to turn a profit, does not get you very far north of a development cost of 100 millon. I also kind of doubt that most players care a whole lot about the PvP situation at level 50. If a most of the players that wanted to do PvP had hit 50 already, the long que times for PvP battlegrounds that players are complaining of on the forums would not be happening. Personally, my highest 'toon so far is level 32 and I have yet to set foot in a battle ground.

The strength of SWTOR compared to most MMOs is compelling narratives. There are at least two completely non-overlapping story lines, the Sith quests and the Republic quests, and I personally plan to see them both at least once. If I wanted to rush to the cap and do PvP or go raiding, there are clearly better games on the market for that. If I didn't find the narratives I'm experiencing compelling, well again there are other games with much deeper mechanics I could be playing. I predict that players who "get" the storylines and RP aspects of the game are the ones who are going to stick around. Those that were mainly hoping for a new shiny MMO endgame to grind in will likely be gone by this time next month. Only time will tell if the players left are enough to make the game a solid success.


  1. Trouble is the sub model, methinketh. I'm all for some more good TOR action, but one of the biggest points for a sub is to make people grind forever to get that sweet, sweet sub moeny. It sounds like SWTOR is designed to have an *end* in it, but that naturally runs contrary to the sub model. Conversely, if they want to hang their financial hopes on subs, they pretty much have to get that endgame grind down right. Sounds like they are having trouble there.

  2. @Tesh: this arc reminds me a lot of launch LoTRO. It had little end game to speak of when it launched and hardcores left in droves during the first month or two. However, it did well with more casual players and roleplayers, and ended up being one of the more successful sub based MMOs for a while.

    Of course that very example supports your hypothesis, given how much better LoTRO is doing as a FtP :-)

  3. We'll have to wait and see, but I don't think BioWare's focusing on grind to retain more than a small percentage of their players. Between the new content and the news that they had already recorded voice work for stuff not even developed yet, I'd say they're planning on a combination of playing alts to get other class stories and adding new story content to keep subscribers around.

    The "end game" PvP content is there but it feels like a side activity to me, just like the space combat.

  4. Perhaps the sub model isn't the best for this type of game. Time will tell. I am one of those who plans roling one of each basic class just to see the stories. I played each class in WoW just to get a feel for them, though not the cap.

  5. There seems to be some evidence that SWTOR is picking up players who are familiar with singleplayer RPGs instead of MMOs (if Richard Bartle is to be believed). That would speak to how the leveling game will be more important than the eventual (bog standard) endgame.

  6. @Blue Kae: I personally don't care much about end game grinding. I'm neither a raider nor a big fan of PvP (my odd stint of it the last time I played WoW excepted). If there was something usefull to do solo at the cap, that would be nice. However, I've yet to see fun solo endgame activities in any game apart from LoTRO. I'm not going to hold my breath.

    @Rowan: that's my plan too, lots of alts. I too have played every class in WoW at least to level 20. Exploring the feel of different classes is a lot of the draw of these games for me.

    @Anjin: sadly "bog standard" does seem to be a good description of the end game so far. However, I suspect you're correct and that for most players in SWTOR the endgame doesn't matter much compared to the leveling game.

  7. Players chew through content faster than it can be created, especially if you pay a lot of attention to voice acting and so on.

    Turbine's solution is to turn contnt into a profit center by selling it.

    Im not sure what Bioware's solution is