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The Cost/Fun Ratio of SWTOR
by Gerald Belman on 08/07/12 05:11:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

It is tough to admit when you are wrong - but you need to (at least to yourself) if you ever want to learn from your mistakes. And if you are man or woman enough(see I don't discriminate) to write an extensive blog post on the subject - then more power to you. We need more mistake admitting in our society:

Hem, Cough, Bad Idea, Cough
Curt Schilling - Scott Brown

I bet shortly before the release of SWTOR that it would be a very successful game. I bet with my own money - buying a small amount of EA stock - to put in my portfolio.

It turns out that I was quite wrong about the game - It is in fact not a very fun game ("fun" meaning whatever you want - only a sith deals in absolutes!)

The peak estimates of subscribers seems to be right around or below 2 million subscribers - that was quite a feat. But ever since it reached that peak - subscribers have been quickly falling.

It is important to understand why the game was not as successful as was expected so that we (meaning me and other proponents of the game) can make better predictions in the future.

Here is a list of ten reasons:

1) BioWare could not keep up with it's content delivery: One of the things that was promised to early players of the game was that content would be updated VERY quickly. People were worried about the lack of a good endgame - and it turns out their fears were true. It turns out voice acting and good graphics takes a lot of time and investment and you can't just pump out expansions as quick as WOW can because it takes a lot more time to do all the things SWTOR was dependent on doing. This coupled with the fact that the game was too easy and people sped through the content too quickly.

2) Voice acting in an MMO was a novel idea but ultimately doomed to fail: People play MMO's to be social - otherwise you would just play single player games. Relying on voice acting for your game's storyline and plot kind of just makes your game a single player MMORPG - kind of a contradiction - and totally unnecessary.

3) Many of the standard quests and dialogue are boring WOW type quests: I've watched several play-throughs of the game and I can barely stay awake. It is the same crap over and over again. It is honestly like watching Star Wars: The Soap Opera. I even went back and played the original KOTOR and I might anger some KOTOR nerds for saying this but - that game is boring - even by 2003 standards.

4) The game takes itself way too seriously - and not in a good way: I understand now why WOW has such a goofy art style - the technology limitations - the lack of physics - the mentally retarded AI - the constantly firing republic trooper defending his base for all eternity - makes everything look ridiculous anyways.

5) Ilum - plus no reason for world PVP.

6) Space combat was added on as an afterthought - It is a single player mini-game. Basically every MMO should look to EVE online for inspiration about how to do space combat as it is by far the best implementation of the genre in an MMORPG environment. And the immense speed and unpredictability of space flight makes a physics based space combat MMO unfeasible. So they should have copied EVE and other more strategic space sims more.

7) Light sabers don't cut peoples' arms off with one fell swoop. It's amazing how many times you can hit someone with a light saber before they exhibit any kind of physical damage.

8) The marketplace apparently had a lot of problems with loot acquisition exploits - and the less people that like the game - the more the in game currency gets devalued. So this is more a symptom then a cause I think but I included this in my list because I was stuck on 9 reasons and had to find a tenth.

9) The server "consolidations" were not handled quickly enough - and it hurt what little social interaction was left in the game for those remaining players who got stuck on depopulated servers.

10) And the tenth reason SWTOR was not successful - it should have been KOTOR 3, 4 and 5.

Hindsight is 20/20 so my real question is: Should proponents of the game (including myself) have known it was going to fail? The answer appears to be yes. My respect for Bioware has been diminished - I personally don't find their games as entertaining anymore as I would rather just watch a movie or read a book. I prefer the "show don't tell" method of storytelling in games - not the "tell don't show" method of SWTOR and many other MMO's. (Optimally you would want to do the "show and tell" method but that just sounds like something you would do in kindergarten and is thus stupid. Please forget I mentioned it.)

So I guess the real reason the game was not so successful was not that the game was not "fun" but rather that there was not enough "fun" things to do in the game to keep paying a monthly subscription. A game's financial success is determined by a cost/fun ratio. And SWTOR's cost/fun ratio was just too high. 

Now I want to list the reasons the game was good just for balance's sake - because there were some fun things about it.

1) Everyone likes Star Wars.(well not everyone - at least all 8 year olds - but you get my point)

2) The main storyline quests were superb.

3) The cinematic trailers were awesome.

4) The cover system was implemented well.

5) Small battleground PVP was relatively good.

6) The graphics and graphical detail are better than 99% of the MMO's on the market.

7) The blaster deflection of light sabers was well implemented.

8) Every player having their own spaceship was a good idea and well implemented.(except that you can't actually fly it, except into asteroid clusters and spaceship debris fields for some reason).

9) The companion system is unique and well implemented.

10) The music is the best of any MMO in my and many other peoples' opinions. 

Can you think of anything I missed, good or bad, about SWTOR?

 

 

 

 

 


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Comments


Dan Rosenthal
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Yes. During the long run-up to the game, the producers repeatedly told us "Combat is going to be fast paced! You're going to slay through trash-mobs like whoa! It'll make you feel heroic!"

That lasted for literally about 10 levels. At that point, it turned into your typical MMO "what's my best DPS rotation" min-max fest. I thought the game was supposed to avoid that. Trash mobs taking 20-30 seconds to kill. Packs of elite mobs everywhere making things even slower.

I honestly felt lied to. I didn't feel heroic. I felt like a schlub playing everquest grinding rats and that despite being portrayed as a super-spy agent, or a god among sith, I was incapable of beating up natives armed with primitive weapons in anything remotely resembly an expeditious fashion.


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