Star Wars Galaxies 3: SWTOR

As I wrote on the forum I wouldn’t bet today any money on the success of the Bioware MMO. It’s not about the announce/denial of the game being based on RMT, which again may be ascribed at the difference between “being official” and “being true”, it’s that there are only reasons to justify skepticism.

The horrible art style is the 1# reason why I’m skeptical about this game. From the first screenshots released a while ago, to this new video I simply think it looks terrible. I’ve looked up their art direction guy, Jeff Dobson. It all makes sense: he comes straight from Star Wars Galaxies, another game that I thought looked like ass. Plus this video has also crappy and jerky animations to make it worse.

2# reason that justifies skepticism: the game is built on a bunch of unproven third party middleware. From the graphic engine to the server, they are using third party tech. And it’s third party stuff that has never been tested on a *real* game.

3# reason: no good ideas at the foundation of the game. These are some of SWG guys who believe that the main flaw of SWG was that it wasn’t heroic enough. So they make this new game. They give everyone a lightsaber and a single player story. Nope, the main flaw of SWG wasn’t not being heroic. SWG flaw was that it had, simply put, bad gameplay (just think of the combat system). Giving everyone a lightsaber (as they tried to do with NGE) didn’t help the game in any way, if anything it pushed away those few who liked it. So the Bioware guys stick to what they do: single player storyline. Which doesn’t answer the most simple of the questions: why a MMO?

Bad art, unproven tech, no ideas that develop the innate qualities of a MMO. I just don’t see anything that is worth looking for in this game if not the big names.

Bioware is known for the good stories, so it made sense for them to stick to what they know. But again, why a MMO? Either you do as Blizzard and change the face of your business and welcome a dramatic change to adapt to a wholly different genre, or you stick to what you do already: single player games.

The main problem is that no one likes to read online, especially in multiplayer. Everyone has innately different speeds to immerse himself in a story. The very last thing you want is that every player in a group is stuck at different stages, while other wait someone else to finish reading and make his choice. You have played WoW, you should know very well that even the small text in the quest window sometimes feels too much. Online games need a different pacing, and in particular they need to use their potential to the fullest, not to the minimum. This Bioware game is attempting to do a MMO through a style that is inappropriate to it and that doesn’t use any of the potential.

Sure, you can add voiceovers, branching dialogues and ramp up the interaction. But this increases exponentially the costs and the time required to develop content. At some point the game has to launch. At lighting speed players go through all the content and surpass the speed at which that content is done. Moreover, to avoid boredom the content has to stay fresh, and its freshness is proportional to all the possible interpolations (variations), so limited by an engine.

What I’m saying is that this model is suicidal, simply because it can’t realistically work in the longer term. Assuming, of course, that you expect this MMO to have a longer life cycle than the average single player game.

Maybe you can reduce the odds by adapting the business model, like making players pay for smaller content pack (which is why I say there may be some truth in the RMT announce by changing the perspective). As Guild Wars, you won’t be scared if players leave, as long they return when you’re done developing content overhead. But this just seems a hopeless and pointless battle to fight, when instead what makes sense is simply to EMBRACE the potential there’s in a MMO and that still all the major companies are scared of.

My opinion, of course.

Want something to look forward with slightly more hope (at least till they don’t sink those hopes)? I’m waiting to know more about Guild Wars 2 and that side company to Bethesda, Zenimax Online. Something good may come out.

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