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Role Playing (Games) Star Wars Prequels Games

Why BioWare's Star Wars MMO May Already Be Too Late 328

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-find-your-lack-of-faith-disturbing dept.
Since the announcement of Star Wars: The Old Republic, many gamers have been hopeful that its high budget, respected development team and rich universe will be enough to provide a real challenge to the WoW juggernaut. An opinion piece at 1Up makes the case that BioWare's opportunity to do so may have already passed. Quoting: "While EA and BioWare Austin have the horsepower needed to at least draw even with World of Warcraft though, what we've seen so far has been worryingly conventional — even generic — given the millions being poured into development. Take the opening areas around Tython, which Mike Nelson describes in his most recent preview as being 'rudimentary,' owing to their somewhat generic, grind-driven quest design. Running around killing a set number of 'Flesh Raiders' in a relatively quiet village doesn't seem particularly epic, but that's the route BioWare Austin seems to be taking with the opening areas for the Jedi — what will surely be the most popular classes when The Old Republic is released. ... the real concern, though, is not so much in the quest design as in BioWare Austin's apparent willingness to play follow the leader. Whenever something becomes a big hit — be it a movie, game or book — there's always a mad scramble to replicate the formula; in World of Warcraft's case, that mad scramble has been going for six years now. "
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Why BioWare's Star Wars MMO May Already Be Too Late

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  • by Bram Stolk (24781)

    Red dead redemption in SW skin will do very well.

    • Except that wouldn't be an MMO.

      There are Star Wars mods for GTA:SA, don't know about GTA IV (which uses the same engine as RDD).

      • Except that wouldn't be an MMO.

        Now you're getting somewhere. All these comments and not a single one actually says the truth - they failed as soon as they decided to make an MMO. They have said there is enough story for KOTOR 3-12. You know what would have made more money than this MMO? KOTOR 3-12. If Bioware wasn't releasing other cool stuff I'd be even more pissed that they trashed the best Star Wars-licensed games ever.

        • by stjobe (78285)

          No, they failed when they bought up Mythic to get some MMO-experienced developers for SWTOR. Mythic, for chrissakes! The ones that made the oh so popular Warhammer Online, which has lost 90% of their release subscribers in the two years it's been out.

          WAR is a lingering niche game in addition to being a bug-ridden, unbalanced, gear-dependent PvP mess with some of the worst developer/player communications I've ever witnessed.

          It's not boding well for SWTOR...

  • Tabula Rasa (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bensam123 (1340765) on Wednesday January 05, 2011 @06:45AM (#34763698)
    This is why Tabula Rasa was so amazing when it came out, but suffered from poor advertisement and development direction. Even the team for it didn't know where they were going to go with it and openly admitted it.

    Everyone wants to be the next big hit to take down WoW so if they go that path they're going to be compared and scrutinized against something that is entrenched and has an army of people backing it. It's quite sad that one of the best games as far as MMOs go was killed off early and left for dead (by politics between NCsoft and Richard Gariott no less). Whoever thinks sending themselves into space is a good advertisement for a game should at the very least have their motives questioned.

    CEOs point at a metric and say 'make it earn money like that game', developers just 'baaah' and follow suit because they just want their paycheck and their name on a product no matter what it is. Unfortunately the gaming industry is a chicken and the egg. You can't get money without a name, you can't get a name without a good title, and you can't make really hit titles without money. Either the old generation needs to die off and the internet savy need to take over or someone with really good business sense needs to step into the video game industry or things will die more so then they already are (I wonder if Google wants to start a gaming business...).
    • by Shivetya (243324) on Wednesday January 05, 2011 @07:06AM (#34763784) Homepage Journal

      It was just as grindy as all other games.

      What the real problem in these games trying to follow World of Warcraft is that they usually take aim at the previous generation of WOW. As in, Blizzard keeps moving WOW forward. The change the mechanics, the reinvent classes at times, they even change their world completely. They haven't stood still. Yet each time I see a new WOW killer come along it is aimed at WOW from three to four years ago claiming great new features which just btw, happen to be in the current WOW or are very similar.

      Throw in the one thing they all miss, WOW has two major focus points. It has the leveling system which interests many people with thousands of quests and a lot of lore and it has the end game. The prior does not inhibit you from getting to the later by any appreciable degree. You can blow right through the quest systems, even ignore the majority, and strictly hit top level and do the end game content. Which is where WOW shines. Their end game content is always good. Far too many up and comers have NPC BOSS mechanics that feel nothing more than just that Rat I killed twenty of but with ten times the health. It might have one new effect but for the most part its as dumb as the rats outside.

      What is happening at BIOWARE/EA is that I see "we have this great IP, hence any expense is justified" mentality which usually goes hand in hand with feature creep and never finishing a system to completely but having far too many incomplete ones.

      • I'm not sure how it was grindy at all. People complained about it not having enough grind and that they got to max level right away. They got rid of the grind by making it more like a FPS then a MMO, but they marketed towards the MMO crowd who wants a grind.

        It was anything, but a grind. You could've seen that by reaching the first control point. The style of gameplay and the rewards for participating in the world took a back seat to the actual gameplay, which it is as it should be.

        The ideology that the end
        • by BobMcD (601576)

          Stop thinking that WoW is the ultimate game that will ever be produced

          Isn't it, though? Games are made to entertain their customers and sustain their backers. WoW has done both to a degree that no other MMO ever has before - for years and years running. If your image of the 'ultimate game' doesn't include success then I humbly submit that your game wouldn't live very long.

          which is coincidentally as addicting as heroine and makes you very subjective

          Ah yes, I haven't seen the 'no true Scotsman' argument in quite a while. It's good to see the old tropes trotted out from time to time...

          Things can be fun without being really grindy. WoW keeps you addicted with stuff, good games keep you addicted with fun.

          While I'm inclined to agree with you, the developers at WoW clearl

          • by matrim99 (123693)

            Isn't it, though? Games are made to entertain their customers and sustain their backers. WoW has done both to a degree that no other MMO ever has before - for years and years running. If your image of the 'ultimate game' doesn't include success then I humbly submit that your game wouldn't live very long.

            By this reasoning, McDonalds must make the best hamburgers in the world, based on their corporate success.

            "The "best" anything is always subjective.

      • Sure it was a grind, but for the first time in MMO history, the grind was FUN! Grinding was like playing a round of base attack / base defend shooter. Against NPCs, ok, but still, it was a lot of fun to mow down rows after rows of enemies, trying to hold the base for as long as you possibly can. And all the while you earned XP, got "marks", got credits, found loot... not only compared to the grind of other MMOs this was heaps of fun!

        Grab a few friends, choose a base in your level, take it over and defend it

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          I had fun grinding Shattered Galaxy but not enough fun to pay

          • I had fun grinding Shattered Galaxy but not enough fun to pay

            SG was amazingly fun. I was in one of the big regiments (guilds) back then. I had almost quit when I got into EHJ, but it was a blast with a community. It isn't a "solo" MMO.

            Interesting note about SG in the context of the thread: there was no "max level" in the truest sense. There was a level limit, yes, but you could choose to refresh your character to level 1 periodically. Every time you did, you had additional stat points when you reach the level limit again. And there were, what, 3 layers of leveling, t

        • WoW just had a massive retooling to make the first 60 levels feel less grindy. For instance, a lot of zones now tell a story.

          I can think of two really good examples here. However, the one that was more memorable to me is Stonetalon Mountains (as Horde).

          1. You arrive in the zone on a caravan, after being inducted into Krom'gar's Army (as a Grunt, I recall).
          2. Rearm bombs and hunt down Alliance spies.
          3. Head to Krom'gar Fortress. Once there, burn down tents that make up the Alliance base in the area, while assassin
      • It was just as grindy as all other games.

        You have some interesting points about how WOW has some flexibility and good end game content. But I think the above quote hits the mark. Boring grind is what IMHO kills the fun in most MMORPGs. A game that wants to be successful needs to get around that. Some possible ways to do that:

        -Lots and lots of developer-generated, original quests. Problem: That approach is EXPENSIVE

        -Make PVP a way of leveling, as it tends to be less boring. Problem: Will probably be exploited by all kinds of leveling services, comm

        • by BobMcD (601576)

          -Make PVE more interesting. There has been some progress with giving players skill combos or allowing them to take cover, which gives more tactical options. But ultimately this approach needs better NPC AI, which is a difficult field.

          Cata has taken a shot at this, by the way. The sorts of things that one used to only find occasionally on a new boss have crept into the trash mobs themselves. Every single pull requires at least some degree of tactics now, and with the introduction of 'get out of the fire, but get into the green' they're really pulling a mind job on their playerbase.

          We'll see how it turns out.

      • You must not play WoW then. With the "new world" the 1000's of quests are gone, and now it is more like a console game where you got to go through every frickin quest in a linear fashion. PvP sucks except for the XP-off 19s and 29s, and unless you are a tank or a healer, expect minimum 40 minute+ wait times for a random dungeon to pop. Someone needs to come out with a fantasy MMORPG that does PvE, PvP, solo play and crafting pretty well. Note not great, not excellent, but pretty well. How frickin hard is it
        • The problem with mimicking P&P RPGs (and why I only play them, and not CRPGS) is that they have a genuine human being behind them dynamically telling a story, varying the difficulty, assigning rewards and generally making the game fun. Until computer game companies produce an AI as good as a human being at social interaction and storytelling (don't hold your breath), a pen-and-paper RPG will always be a 'better balanced' experience.
        • by mikael_j (106439)

          I definitely disagree about the quest changes being bad. The old world (lvl 1-60) pre-shattering was horrible. Even though they kept upping the XP gained and nerfing the XP needed to level it was still slow and cumbersome. With the changes they also finally got rid of a lot of the old "fedex quests" where you had to spend 45 minutes traveling from one end of the world to the other, give someone a bracelet, travel back and then finally get the next "real" quest in the quest chain which also required 15 minut

      • What the real problem in these games trying to follow World of Warcraft is that they usually take aim at the previous generation of WOW. As in, Blizzard keeps moving WOW forward. The change the mechanics, the reinvent classes at times, they even change their world completely. They haven't stood still. Yet each time I see a new WOW killer come along it is aimed at WOW from three to four years ago claiming great new features which just btw, happen to be in the current WOW or are very similar.

        The folks at Blizzard aren't stupid. They've been making games for a while now. They're aware that other folks are out there competing against them. They want to keep their WoW players in WoW. And they aren't afraid to change WoW to keep people playing.

        WoW really is not the same product that was released years ago. Core gameplay mechanics have changed dramatically over the years.

        If you see some (p)review talking about how GAME X has this awesome new feature that's absolutely wonderful and enjoyable and

      • Yet each time I see a new WOW killer come along it is aimed at WOW from three to four years ago claiming great new features which just btw, happen to be in the current WOW or are very similar.

        You have it backwards. A new game comes along, and says "Hey, we'll beat WoW because of these features." Then the WoW team looks at what they are promising, and figures out what's good about it. Then the WoW development cycle is tight enough that they will have those features in WoW by the time the contender hits the market, making the contender look dated.

        Then guys like you say "Oh, look, that new MMO has the same features that are in the current WoW, so why would I change games?"

      • CoH took an interesting twist on the normal MMO concepts. It's not nearly as good endgame as WoW in and of itself, but there's the Architect System for user designed content a lot of which is pretty good and there's enough of it to "hide" the grinding. There's also the whole "archetype" concept, where you have classes that are general functions and a lot of variations in how it works. For example it has a "ranged DPS with minor utility and a tiny bit of melee" class (Blaster), with a bunch of options for

    • Re:Tabula Rasa (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday January 05, 2011 @07:46AM (#34763944)

      TR suffered from a number of problems. Actually, it should go into textbooks as an example what you can possibly do WRONG in an MMO.

      Lessons to learn from TR:

      1. When you have a famous developer, do something he is known for.
      Lord British is known for Ultima. For NOTHING else. When someone hears Garriot/British, he expects fantasy. Likewise, taking Sid Meyer and having him make a shooter will not attract an audience. People have some expectations when they hear a name.

      2. Choose your guns and stick with 'em.
      TR went from a fantasy game to a sci-fi game, then halfway back. Every time you're wasting code, artwork and time, and every time you're losing followers. Take a few looks at TR previews at the 2004 E3 (youtube will aid you) and you'll see a game that had NOTHING to do with the final product.

      3. Release a game when it's done.
      As a result of 2, the beancounters will shove it out the door long, long before it's done. TR was finished and ready for release JUST when they shut it down. Anything before was a beta. Half finished quests, broken balance and zero content are not what keeps people playing.

      4. Make sure the classes deliver what their package promises.
      It should go without say, but TR proved it doesn't. The medic was originally the ultimate killer while his healing abilities were at best useless. The sniper was a great close range fighter while his sniping gun sucked. For pretty much every class you could be sure that their "signature ability" or weapon stunk, but using one of the weapons or abilities that allegedly only lend themselves to leveling 'til you get that "signature" stuff was partly SO overpowered that it was simply not funny anymore, due to the combination with various skills. And due to the class specialization trees, it often meant that 2 classes played identically, because what set them apart was equally useless.

      But it can all be rolled up into one single problem that killed TR: DO NOT release a game before it is done. You might try to cut your loss, but in the end, you're throwing away the game. TR had the potential to be good. Not great, certainly no WoW killer, but it was fun enough to attack and defend those bases to keep people playing and paying, even without any sensible content around it.

      What broke its back and drove people away was that it was in a state of a very early beta at release (hell, they redesigned half the skills of the classes 4-6 months after release, and I don't mean "tweak", I mean "whole new skills") and that Garriot and NC fell apart, not to mention that NC wanted to promote their new love child Aion and drive the remaining TR players there.

      Why, though, I should trade a base defense/sci-fi game against a WoW clone is beyond me.

      • by Lazy Jones (8403)

        1. When you have a famous developer, do something he is known for.

        That will hardly make someone like RG a worse choice than no famous developer at all...

        2. Choose your guns and stick with 'em. TR went from a fantasy game to a sci-fi game, then halfway back

        While that may have led to excessive development cost (the story is well known), it's not something that affects success at release.

        3. Release a game when it's done.

        That may be a good suggestion, but the current fashion seems to be to do large, semi-public beta tests and if EVE is a benchmark for success and staying power, it means that it certainly doesn't have such a big effect as you suggest. EVE has never been free of major bugs/deficiencies in it

  • by Tei (520358) on Wednesday January 05, 2011 @06:45AM (#34763704) Journal

    Could you imagine a universe, where successive Pacman clones are more expensive, so the last one will cost 150 million dollars?
    Thats the MMORPG business for you. Cloning a formula that seems to work, in a very expensive way, for a public that is progressively more bored of the formula.

    What make that hurt here even more, is that we don't want BioWare to die. Did a lot of great games, and we are really pleased of his work. These people really got talent and the exact formula of RPG fun.

    To be honest, we don't know at this point if the game will be a success or not.

    • The problem I see with Bioware nowadays is that they seem to have an increasing tendency to just go where the money is over innovating or staying true to their past, they just repeat a succesful formula over and over (currently this seems to be Mass Effect). Their DLC "strategies" for Mass Effect and Dragon Age only seem to confirm this, as well as Dragon Age 2 basically turning into a Mass Effect clone.

      The complex combat combined with a lot of freedom and an engrossing story and character development have

    • by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday January 05, 2011 @07:42AM (#34763930)

      Could you imagine a universe, where successive Pacman clones are more expensive, so the last one will cost 150 million dollars?
      Thats the MMORPG business for you. Cloning a formula that seems to work, in a very expensive way, for a public that is progressively more bored of the formula.

      Well, that's the real problem. Storylines were added to provide some context to the play mechanic itself. Doom2 was the last storyless shooter I enjoyed. I didn't find another shooter that sparked my interest until Half-Life and it was that addition of story that sucked me in. I'd compare it to what happened with movies -- people used to be satisfied watching kinescopes of simple activities and were amazed by a train coming out of a tunnel on the big screen. After the novelty wore off they started having to supply storylines to give those moving pictures meaning. The exception to that rule, of course, are the casual games, the ones that are basically where coin-op arcade games were at in the early 80's. Something like Angry Birds has as rudimentary a storyline as Donkey Kong but the play mechanics keep people coming back. But something huge and complex like an RPG, it had better have a good storyline to provide context to everything or I'm completely bored. Dragon Age bored the snot out of me. I know I'm the minority opinion here.

      The thing is, there's only so much storyline in even a poorly done single player RPG. You play, you grind, you reach the end, you move on to the next game. The insidious thing with MMORPG's is they have you play the same bits over and over and over and over. Which might be fine if those sections were fun games in and of themselves but that's just it, they're not fun. That's why people pay gold farmers so they can get new gear and go back to the fun stuff.

      Honestly, I don't see where people find the time for this sort of thing. People enjoy MMORPG's, there's even successful web comedies about that sort of thing. http://www.watchtheguild.com/ [watchtheguild.com] But I'll tell you what, it's depressing. I just find it like watching a show all about alcoholics drinking themselves to death. There are really people who live like this.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        People enjoy MMORPG's, there's even successful web comedies about that sort of thing. http://www.watchtheguild.com/ [watchtheguild.com] But I'll tell you what, it's depressing. I just find it like watching a show all about alcoholics drinking themselves to death. There are really people who live like this.

        That's how I feel about all sitcoms. It really struck me when I was living in a geek house near downtown Santa Cruz that threw massive wild parties that I realized that I was more interesting than the dipshits on TV. Cured me to the point where if I had to be in a certain place at a certain time to see a TV show I could give it a miss. Now I'm a rental viewer. I just barely have the bandwidth for streaming so I only use netflix on PC (it has the biggest buffer of all options save youtube, which has time lim

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      Well, it's even worse, since the only high score table that matters is the World Of Pacman one, that all your friends play.

      If Old Republic actually launches as free to download, free to play, then it stands an outside chance of getting the required numbers. Making a profit will have to be step 3. If they try launch as a $50 box with a $15 subscription fee, well, at least it'll save them the expense of buying many servers.

    • Could you imagine a universe, where successive Pacman clones are more expensive, so the last one will cost 150 million dollars? Thats the MMORPG business for you. Cloning a formula that seems to work, in a very expensive way, for a public that is progressively more bored of the formula.

      And just like the real cloning business, for every one successful Dolly there are dozens of genetic failures that die of internal organ failure within a few weeks.

    • Cloning a formula that seems to work, in a very expensive way, for a public that is progressively more bored of the formula.

      I've never been a big fan of RPG mechanics. Sure they're addictive, but I think it just creates a very elitist atmosphere where the "best" players are actually just the ones with the most free time to waste rather than the most skillful.

      I think MMOs are a great idea though. We need more MMOs in other genres than simply RPGs. Imagine GTA with hundreds of players per map, divided into gangs. I would have started playing Eve if I hadn't found out about it having a levelling up system. Having to collect money,

  • ...by reading Damian Schubert's blog and his posts on the mud dev2 mailing list.

    He is the lead designer for the combat systems on that MMO and his views are straight up conventional.

  • by Feinu (1956378) on Wednesday January 05, 2011 @06:56AM (#34763746)

    I think after six years it's safe to say that trying to beat WoW at its own game is futile. If you want to surpass WoW as the world's leading MMO, you can't just copy their model.

    The approach that ArenaNet appears to be taking with Guild Wars 2 is more sensible. They've thrown out many things which could be considered as fundamental in an MMO, but are actually limiting or frustrating. This includes things like grinding, quests that have no impact, text based plot and more subtle concepts such as the DPS/tank/heal arrangement.

    If any game is capable of surpassing WoW, my money would be on GW2.

    • by Machtyn (759119)
      To your point. Everquest was king. What did Blizzard do with WoW to take the crown? Did they copy the style, the gameplay mechanics, the grind? Nope, it saw where Everquest was weak (lots of sitting time waiting for mana, long grind to get to top levels including loss of XP for death, etc.) Blizzard also had a known entity, the Warcraft universe with a storyline developed over 2 RTS's and an unreleased FPS that was eventually released as a book (I think).

      When I stopped playing Everquest, I had two c
  • by unity100 (970058) on Wednesday January 05, 2011 @07:03AM (#34763764) Homepage Journal
    no surprise, a megacorp doesnt want to risk even a dime in new concepts or originality. rehash, serve. make how much you can make. this is what happens when big companies with stockholders get innovative small outfits like bioware in their grip.
  • The article basically says that despite all the advancements for the genre, the starting area quests feel like more of the same from previous MMOs. That's not a minus so much as a "not so big of a plus".
    Personally I'm waiting to see what they do with the endgame, Bioware promised something secret and revolutionary years before it was revealed to be a Star Wars MMO. WoW's endgame (raiding) was designed by the leader of the lead hardcore raiding guild from Everquest, so MMO endgames have failed to evolve for

    • There are only 2 realistic end games for the majority in my opinion, linedancing practice (raiding) and player made faction world building and warfare (Eve, Darkfall). The chance of the second happening are just about 0.

      For a select group skill based PvP (Guildwars, WoW arena) is a viable end game ... but that's not for the masses IMO.

  • by Eraesr (1629799) on Wednesday January 05, 2011 @07:04AM (#34763772) Homepage
    Isn't it true that the WoW hype was at it's pinnacle back in 2006 - 2007 or so? Sure, an expansion pack has been released recently, but it appears to be lacking the whole hype. In fact, where I live, Blizzard seems to be promoting the expansion pack pretty aggressively, something I have never seen them do before. Is this necessary because WoW's days are counted? Blizzard themselves are shifting focus to Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3, WoW is losing it's momentum, hype is fading away. I'm sure that still a lot of people play it, but from here on out, I think the only way for WoW is down. Maybe in due time, some other game will step up and be the next WoW, simply because WoW is too old and too 'been there-done that' so there's no competition from WoW anymore.
    • by Exitar (809068)

      Well, it reached 12 million of players in October and the last expansion, Cataclysm, sold 3.3 million of copies in the first 24 four hours (the previous expansion sold "only" 2.8 million the first day).
      Not exactly what I'd define a dying game.

    • Actually I started playing WoW again with Cataclysm and the game is even more packed than I remember it during Burning Crusade days.

      WoW has done exactly what the article claims Star Wars should have done - the redone starting areas for Gnomes, Worgen and Goblins are really epic. The introduction of the "phasing" mechanic has allowed it to appear like individual players have an actual effect on the game world. Quest hub, flight path re-jigging and one-off transport from quests has eliminated a lot of the bor

      • by Corbets (169101)

        The introduction of the "phasing" mechanic has allowed it to appear like individual players have an actual effect on the game world.

        Do you like that? I find it quite annoying, because it's transparent that I'm not actually having an effect, and that other users aren't seeing what I'm seeing.

        I still think that Horizons, for all its faults, had the best mechanic I've ever seen for a player-impacted world/environment.

        • by Grygus (1143095)

          I think that the intended way to play WoW now is as a single-player game while leveling, with multiplayer breaks for the occasional dungeon run, then full multiplayer at the end game. If you play like that then phasing is great, since whether other people see what you see while you're leveling is immaterial - you're in single player mode anyway - and at end-game you all do see the same thing since you've all completed the same quest lines.

          Horizons had some great ideas buried in a mess of a game. I paid th

        • What, did you actually expect your level 10 to do something so epic that you literally changed the game world for everyone forever?

          Phasing gets the point across; I can't help but wonder what more you could expect in a game whose world you have to share with everyone else who also wants to do the above. I think the only issue I have with phasing is phased herb/ore nodes that disappear the moment I try to obtain them because they belong to a phase I'm not a part of.

        • Do you like that? I find it quite annoying, because it's transparent that I'm not actually having an effect, and that other users aren't seeing what I'm seeing.

          Well, it's not always done in a proper manner, but it mostly works.

          The big issue is that the designers over-did the phasing and made the phased areas too small and out in the open where it's obvious that there is phasing happening. There's a place in Mount Hyjal where you take 2 steps one direction and suddenly you are surrounded by ogres, step
    • In fact, where I live, Blizzard seems to be promoting the expansion pack pretty aggressively, something I have never seen them do before.

      There's generally a fairly substantial gap between WoW expansions. So it's entirely possible you've just forgotten the marketing blitz that surrounded previous expansions.

      Maybe there's more advertising for this one... Maybe there's less... I have no idea how much they spent on advertising.

      But I remember seeing plenty of advertising for Lich King and Burning Crusade.

      One of the reasons Cataclysm is getting so much press is that there's a hell of a lot more going on than just the expansion. Blizzard comple

    • Isn't it true that the WoW hype was at it's pinnacle back in 2006 - 2007 or so? Sure, an expansion pack has been released recently, but it appears to be lacking the whole hype. In fact, where I live, Blizzard seems to be promoting the expansion pack pretty aggressively, something I have never seen them do before.

      I guess you have forgotten the whole "Ozzy vs Lich King [youtube.com]" commercial. Or the "I'm a night elf mohawk" or William Shatner doing the "I'm a shaman" commercial from 2 years ago. Or maybe this comme [youtube.com]
  • "Too late" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Wednesday January 05, 2011 @07:11AM (#34763798)

    Why do so many people think that every new entrant into the market has to take down the top dog?

    The SWTOR MMO only needs to make money. It doesn't need to beat anyone. This obsession with beating the 'best' is unhealthy and does not drive development well.

    I seriously doubt that WoW devs had the thought 'We need to beat Everquest' running through their heads. Instead, they were thinking 'We need to make a great game'. Beating Everquest came as a by-product of the real goal.

    • by Zenin (266666)

      "I seriously doubt that WoW devs had the thought 'We need to beat Everquest' running through their heads."

      Of course they did. Just as Everquest had 'We need to beat Ultima Online' running through their heads.

      The only other way is to take the MMO into a radically different direction, such as Sony's PlanetSide (FPS MMO) or NetDevil's Jumpgate (FPS space flight sim MMO). What, never heard of either? Yah...exactly... The point is, BioWare is going to have to do a hell of a lot more then simply rename "Rusty

    • Most of the WOW dev team were in the top tier Everquest guilds. They saw what was being done wrong with a fantastic game, decided to take that experience and polish it. They very much aimed to make a game that would replace Everquest, and they did. We got regular updates through Everquest how the then unnamed game was coming along. When some the best players/blizzard devs on the Everquest server stopped showing up because the new game was already better than Everquest, we knew they had something big coming.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday January 05, 2011 @07:15AM (#34763808) Journal
    I really don't understand why these sorts of mistakes keep getting made.

    From the perspective of game designers, Blizzard clearly has several advantages that will be difficult to overcome: 1. Already having had years to iterate and refine their game and engine. 2. A large paying audience, which means that the costs of implementing content X or upgrade Y are, per subscriber, tiny. Any game designer who thinks that those can be overcome by any means except doing something quite different(EVE: online, which went for a totally different player base, or any of the random browser-based grind games which go for being radically less expensive to produce and to play) is suffering from some serious hubris.

    From the perspective of the management types, Blizzard clearly has several advantages that will be difficult to overcome: 1. Network effects: because so many people play WoW, if your friends play any MMORPG, that is probably the one. Barring specific hatred of some aspect of WoW, you will default to playing the one that your friends are playing. 2. Substantial costs already amortized: They have a (more or less) fully functional engine, stuffed full of art assets and flavortext and whatnot, all paid off. Any new player that they can attract is, other than some slight server and bandwidth load, basically free until they have ground through a fairly large chunk of gameworld. Any competitor is starting from a far weaker position, attempting to get their engine and flavor to playable levels on borrowed or advanced money. 3. Large player base over which to divide fixed costs: Games, like movies, are heavy on fixed costs. The engine costs the same even if noone ever uses it. That dialog tree costs the same even if noone ever reads it. The more subscribers you have, the lower your fixed costs per subscriber(or, alternately, the higher your quality for the same fixed cost per subscriber as your inferior competitors).

    That's what I don't understand: All but the most delusionally hubristic game-design guys should easily realize that any 'me-too' attempt is going to go badly. They are probably inclined to be a bit optimistic about how original their work really is; but they should know that 'me-too' is suicide. At the same time, even the management types who know absolutely nothing about games should, purely with basic EC101 type considerations, be able to see that this is not a market where there is much room for imitative product. Blizzard hardly has a monopoly on "games"; but the idea that the market will support multiple "clearly WoW-like games" is hard to support.

    Given that even outrageously hubristic game designers tend to depend on suits for money(at least until the game is ready to sell) and that even the dullest suits need a bunch of game designers willing to take the risk of having a real fuckup on their CV, I don't understand how these projects get off the ground. In almost any case, I would expect one party or the other to (sensibly) get cold feet quite early, if they even get the idea at all.
    • by dcollins (135727)

      "At the same time, even the management types who know absolutely nothing about games should, purely with basic EC101 type considerations, be able to see that this is not a market where there is much room for imitative product."

      This is like Kant arguing that it's impossible to commit suicide, because if the self cares enough to feel pain, then it cares too much to end itself.

      Epic-sized greed and wishful thinking are not wiped out by EC101. In fact, I would dare say that they are exacerbated by it.

      WOW makes,

    • The only tiny, tiny counter to your well-thought-out post is this:

      The massive user base WoW has can be used against them, should that amazing new game come along. On at least first order, every MMO player in the world either plays WoW, or is good friends with someone who does. When a bunch of people find a new game that blows WoW away, and start leaving WoW, that information will propagate through the WoW network. I've seen it happen with smaller games - suddenly people's game-hours decreased by 90%, and w
  • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Wednesday January 05, 2011 @07:18AM (#34763814) Journal
    Why is WoW still succesful? That is something worth pondering for the other MMO producers who want to be the next Blizzard. They do not have to beat WoW on the level of graphics or gameplay: WoW is already beaten there, by several other games. And they're still nr. 1. Because of one word: momentum.

    Everybody plays WoW because everybody else plays WoW. They got to where they are by being the best but they no longer have to be, social momentum has taken over. All WoW players I know got bored with the game, they took a break, tried one or several other MMO's, got bored with those too, and gravitated back to WoW because at least that had plenty of players and most of their friends in it. The way to beat WoW is to create an MMO that does way better at the social aspect of MMOs, and provides enough staying power for the first two years to retain players and help those players to convince their friends to hop over too. At this time, I don't think this is possible. Don't try to beat WoW, for the same reasons it is foolish to try and beat Facebook at this time.

    If I had to guess how WoW was going to be beaten, my money would be on slow attrition caused by light, browser based MMO's on a popular social network like Facebook. And guessing at which MMO producer is going to survive, my money is on a company that figures out how to produce, operate, support and expand an MMO on the cheap, so it can serve a niche market of 100k-500k players and still be profitable. This you can do by figuring out your niche, rather than trying to clone WoW. Two examples of good, viable games are Star Wars Galaxies and Age of Conan. They did a lot of things right in terms of gameplay, lots of things other companies can learn from. There's mistakes to be learned from as well: SWG lost most of their players after a big and hugely impopular change in game mechanics. AoC lost a lot of players following a buggy launch and a subsequent patch that made matters far worse. A shame, because both games have a lot of potential as profitable niche players.
    • Why is WoW still succesful? That is something worth pondering for the other MMO producers who want to be the next Blizzard. They do not have to beat WoW on the level of graphics or gameplay: WoW is already beaten there, by several other games. And they're still nr. 1. Because of one word: momentum.

      I've got to disagree on this.

      I don't play WoW because everybody else plays it... The only other person I'm concerned about is my wife, and the two of us have jumped from one game to another over the years. Played EQ together, DAoC, CoH, LotR:O, and WoW.

      The reason we keep coming back to WoW is that the game keeps evolving. The game, very literally, is not the same thing that Blizzard released years ago. And I'm not even talking about the expansions.

      Core game mechanics have changed over the years. Classe

    • Everybody plays WoW because everybody else plays WoW.

      Not really. Maybe a small fraction of the player base, but probably less then half already knew a WoW player.

      WoW wins because they take existing concepts, polish them up to take off the rough edges, and then continually iterate upon the concept. Very little of what is in WoW is original, but what is there is generally refined with an eye towards challenging without being frustrating. They don't get everything right, but they get it about 90% righ
  • What happened to Star Wars Galaxies? Wasn't that supposed to be the best Star Wars MMORPG?
    Never mind Jedi, you can be Boba-Fett or Han Solo type of character if you want to. If they just put a bit more effort into marketing and design, it could be a LOT better I think...
    http://starwarsgalaxies.station.sony.com/en_US/players/guides.vm?id=70000 [sony.com]
    • by Tukz (664339)

      Sony fucked that up when they took over.

      • Sony didn't take it over, they were always in charge of SWG from the start. But in 2005 they got a bad case of WoW-envy and decided that ~200,000 subs wasn't enough, since Blizzard had over a million by that point. So they completely redesigned the whole game in a misguided attempt to turn it more WoW-like and simplistic. This change was thrust on the entire player base without any warning whatsoever. Literally, you logged in the next day and it was no longer the game you were playing the night before, a

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          Sony didn't take it over, they were always in charge of SWG from the start. But in 2005 they got a bad case of WoW-envy and decided that ~200,000 subs wasn't enough, since Blizzard had over a million by that point.

          No, SWG was screwed by bad design choices from the start. I remember looking forward to trying it out when it was in development, and every few weeks the developers would announce another way that they'd made the game suck.

          I did try the free trial before they did the revamp, and I had a hard time finding anything resembling Star Wars (or a game, for that matter) in it. I think I lasted about three days before going back to Everquest. The problem is that by the time they decided to revamp it to bring in new

    • by Ogive17 (691899)
      I still remember how much fun SWG was, but when they implemented the "combat upgrade" they completely ruined the game. I loved the SWG economy and player cities. No other game I ever tried came close to replicating what SWG did (never tried Eve Online). Almost all the best gear is player created, and the best gear requires very rare material spawns that even the newest newbie can aquire if they know which planet the material is on. If you wanted nothing to do with combat, you could still have a very imp
  • What's baffling to me is that they've chosen to use one of the most tedious aspects of WoW. People enjoy WoW *in spite of* the grinding, not because of it. What's next, the Karate Kid "Wax on... wax off" emulator?
    • People enjoy WoW *in spite of* the grinding, not because of it

      Anecdote Warning: I used to believe that, but I have a bunch of friends who play WoW (I'm a GW-turned-Conan player myself) and all they do is bitch about how the grind was cut down.

      First few dozen times I heard it, it made my brain hurt.

      • by Tridus (79566)

        There are in fact a ton of people who prefer questing and levelling to endgame, and will make an alt rather then do endgame stuff. The problem is that most MMO forumgoers think these people don't exist, because they don't post on forums.

        But they do, and in very large numbers. Blizzard has done so well in part because it caters to them in addition to the vocal minority.

  • by RogueyWon (735973) * on Wednesday January 05, 2011 @07:55AM (#34763974) Journal

    Whether it's too late for the game to be successful depends on how you are defining "being successful". If you are defining it as staking out a sizeable, but still sub-WoW-sized share of the MMO market, perhaps even becoming the second-place runner, while bringing a number of players new to the genre, then Old Republic still has every chance to succeed; the key factors in whether it does so will be whether it is a good game and whether they have the infrastructure in place to manage it properly.

    If, however you define success as "beating World of Warcraft, taking away a large portion of its players and leaving it languishing in the dust" then the timing is indeed wrong. Or at least, the window of opportunity is closing fast and, once closed in a month or so, will not open again for another 18 months to 2 years.

    WoW's great strength is also its great weakness - and is the only plausible route to defeating it before Blizzard retire it in favour of a successor. The strength is WoW's cyclical nature. Expansions come out roughly every 2 years and completely reset the game more the vast majority of players. Gear becomes obsolete, old dungeons are retired, some aspects of the game change on a fundamental level. This keeps things fresh for players and, combined with the periodic roll-out of further content via free patches, provides an incentive to continue playing. And if everybody you know is continuing to play, then you yourself feel compelled to continue (even if you aren't enjoying the game much any more). This was WoW's great strength; it achieved a certain kind of watercooler-momentum, that saw people draw into the game by their real life friends and family. You're not going to break that easily.

    But every two years or so, there is a window where, I think, WoW's aura of invincibility is briefly dispelled. The final month of one expansion and the first month of a new one is, in many ways, a fairly grim time to play WoW. Before the new expansion hits, you will be bored to death of all of the current content, and many in-game activities will feel pointless because all of the rewards will be obsolete soon anyway. For the first month or two of the new expansion, there isn't all that much content to be working on and a lot of the hardcore players are cheesed off at having to start over from scratch again.

    So if another developer, with a relatively polished release product, a rudimentary end-game already present, an interface as good as or better than WoW's and, preferably, a decent existing IP to base the game world on could launch in that window, then the might - just might - have a shot at derrailing the WoW juggernaut and triggering the kind of mass-defection that would cut WoW's player-base by a half or more. However, the window that the launch of Cataclysm created is rapidly closing, and it looks like Old Republic has missed it. So if you are defining success as "WoW beater", then yes, I suspect it is already too late for Old Republic to succeed.

    • by Dhalka226 (559740)

      So if another developer, with a relatively polished release product, a rudimentary end-game already present, an interface as good as or better than WoW's and, preferably, a decent existing IP to base the game world on could launch in that window, then the might - just might - have a shot at derrailing the WoW juggernaut

      The game you're looking for is called Rift, and it releases on March 1st. The interface is nearly identical (obviously it looks different but if you break it down into what pieces are actual

  • by thesandtiger (819476) on Wednesday January 05, 2011 @07:55AM (#34763978)

    It's the story, stupid. When WoW came out, the majority of MMOs were horrible at telling stories. For example:

    Star Wars: Galaxies - there were what, 2, 3 possible "raids"? There were theme parks where you ran a bunch of random quests that kind of told a story, but at the end of it, nothing changed, nothing was unlocked, nothing was different for your character to do, and your rewards were pitiful for doing it. The "missions" in the game were literally, run up to a machine, it says "Hey, (some random SW type person) wants you to go and kill a bunch of animals! Do that!" and you ran out to kill a bunch of animals. The only interesting thing about that game was the rather amazing player based economy, but SOE completely wrecked that when they changed the underlying mechanics of the game.

    City of Heroes - this game actually had some really interesting things going on, in that you had storylines to do (though they were grindy as hell and *incredibly* repetitive through *incredibly* repetitive environments, and were *incredibly* stupid for superheroes to be doing). But the whole "repetitive" thing and the whole "dumb for superheroes" thing made it wretched - why, for example, would Spider-Man be asked by (some random person) to deliver something halfway across town? The game mechanics were fun (and the base game still can be from time to time) but it can't really draw the crowds in because once you've run 4-5 missions, you really have done most of what that game has to offer, from a "seeing new and interesting things" standpoint.

    And then there is WoW. When it launched, the normal quests you were given lots of were the equivalent of most other MMOs *major* storylines as far as complexity. It was rough around the edges as far as player friendliness went (I remember running around for a couple of hours trying to find someone to turn a quest into - the text said "north of here" but it really meant "way on the whole other side of the world and all the way north as far as you can go") but there was a story, and you were a part of it. There were dungeons to go to - and some of them were jaw-dropping ("Holy shit, a PIRATE SHIP, in a MINE?!") even if they were annoying at times. For every little mechanical nit or bugged event or other complaint, there was stuff to do. And, even with all of the flaws at the time, it was *still* the most polished game around.

    In the meantime it's only gotten more polished, and the already way more intricate quests and storyline has been added to massively. There are dozens of dungeons to go to at various points in your playing life and quite a few raids (though some of the older stuff is ignored). They've added tons of features to improve gameplay. And, with the latest expansion, even at very low levels, your character feels, despite being one of millions, *important*. And you can change the world through your actions - as you complete quests, the world around you changes to reflect that in many ways. On top of that, they've really done a good job of making the player feel like their character is important, but at the same time that they are part of something larger.

    WoW doesn't have the shiniest engine - it's actually really dated, and I'm often surprised when I play newer games at just how dated it is - but that's not really important. The biggest asset WoW has (aside from a huge playerbase drawing people in) is that there's TONS of stuff to do, tons of stories to follow.

    And now we have Bioware's new game and... Oh, look, quests that would have been amazing 6 years ago but WoW's from 4 years ago were better. A shiny new engine but not, seemingly, a lot to do with it. So kind of like a lot of the other games out there. I played Champions Online - and it actually had some interesting stuff going on (and seems like it's gotten more to do so I might try it again). I got Star Trek - which really was pretty interesting to play, but I quickly got bored of repeating pretty much the same 5 missions over and over when I ran out of story arcs to do.

    If people want t

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      100% agree. I tried Lord of the Rings online once it went free to play, and, bleurgh, it's just yet another "deliver this pot pie" and "exterminate ten Pointy Birds" snoozefest of mundanity. The novelty of getting "fetch me a carrot" quests from a badly voiced model with "ARAGORN" floating over it wears off rapidly, and after that, there's really nothing to distinguish it from WOW, except the price. And even giving it away, they're losing players.

      If Old Republic is betting on its name being enough to p

      • by Rayonic (462789)

        The current WoW quest formula seems to be:

        Main Questgiver: Go over there and do (something interesting and/or plot critical)
        NPCs Nearby: Hey, while you're over there, could you (kill/collect/rescue) some of those (enemies/doodads/victims).

        Which is kinda nice, since it fleshes out the main questlines and exposes you to more enemies/environments.

        Another main quest type is using a few simple quests as a gateway to a major quest.

        Main Questgiver: I'll repair this awesome mech suit for you to use, but first I'll

  • Who wants to tell them there's already been a failed StarWars MMO?
  • I wasn't terribly interested when I first heard about this... And, while a lot of the teasers look very nice, I'm even less interested these days.

    I like BioWare's games. I generally enjoy the Star Wars universe as well. I thoroughly enjoyed KotOR.

    But BioWare's strength, in my opinion, is in their storytelling. And it's hard to develop much of a story in an MMOG.

    The other problem is that the Star Wars universe doesn't lend itself all that well got an MMOG framework. As pointed out in the summary - Jedi

  • So The Old Republic is hoping to score hits with XXX-rated content? Just like WoW, even a little worse, but all the enemies are naked women!

    Hey, I'll switch for that.
    • by St.Creed (853824)

      I've been thinking about an MMO that could be classified 18+. One faction would be dressed in leather, have dungeons and slaves, and generally be able to do what they wanted. The other faction would be knights in shining armor. And they'd get some REALLY COOL perks to compensate. Or I'd make them NPC's from the start, so all PC's would be playing the forces of darkness. I'm not sure it would be something you could actually sell without getting in loads of trouble, but it would at least be something new.

  • I've tried many mmos, but sadly they all tend to do exactly what everyone hates about WoW.

    - I don't want a pvp MMO
    - I don't want to grind x pointless levels, if there's no story to fill 80 levels don't make 80 levels.
    - I want story driven mmo play
    - I want better group play than what wow offers.

    Almost all the alternative mmos I tried are either grind fests, pvp garbage or not story driven in the slightest. The only one that came close was "Vindictus" and that lasted about 25 levels before it turned into a gr

    • by Tridus (79566)

      You want a lot.

      1) PvP is a thing that is loathed by one segment of the audience, and required by another. Not easy to make money without it in some form.

      2) Lots of people love levelling and questing, and hate endgame. For them, the game *ends* when they level cap. You see this all the time in games like WoW where someone gets to the point of being raid-ready, then immediately starts an alt. They just don't care about endgame. Almost none of these people post on MMO forums, so most people who do frequent sai

      • by js3 (319268)

        1. The PVP segment is loud but very small and not loyal, that's why many pvp mmos have failed, see WarHammer

        2. Nobody loves grinding. In my original post I said leveling and questing works when it is story driving, when the game reaches a point where all you have to do is kill lots and lots of mobs just for the sake of leveling it turns into a grind. Nobody loves that. Nobody. I wasn't talking about end game.

        3. That's why WoW is still the King.

        4. What trend? That's the whole point of playing an mmo, this is

  • Think Icarus. So many successful game companies get bright lights in their eyes and want their own WOW. Problem is, the MMO genre is geometrically more difficult and expensive (as compared to singe-player games), and the push into it overwhelms and destroys otherwise successful companies over and over again.

    "As these talented amateurs struggle in power meta-games to control revenue from online gaming, the collateral damage has been extensive and nearly fatal. When the definitive history of online gaming is

  • Welcome to Star Wars - Inner Force!

    The entity that you permeate is:
    [ ] - Inanimate
    [x] - Animate

    The living entity you inhabit is:
    [ ] - Vertebrate
    [X] - Invertebrate ...

    You are drifting in the blood stream of a Death-Star Trash Compactor Monster.

    [ ] Begin Mitosis.
    [ ] Generate Force.
    [x] Draw nutrients from your host.
    [ ] Die

    ----

    Every player is a Midi-chlorian. The goal of the game is to remain undetected throughout the original trilogy followed by the prequel trilogy in order to avoid becoming a ridiculous explanation.

  • by Dixie_Flatline (5077) <vincent,jan,goh&gmail,com> on Wednesday January 05, 2011 @09:14AM (#34764482) Homepage

    I'm an EA employee. I used to work at BioWare. There's my disclosure.

    I'm not allowed to talk very much about the game, for obvious reasons. I AM allowed to disclose that I was part of an internal beta late last year. (At least, at the time I was in it, I was allowed to disclose that. Hopefully that hasn't changed.)

    Everyone that I know that was playing it was playing it addictively. We all loved it. The storyline that WE got to play was impressively well put together; I felt more at the center of that universe than I ever have in WoW (and I'm playing Cataclysm again, just so you know. I also think it's great).

    This 'review' is pretty vague, and betas are betas. I can't promise the game will be great, and there's obviously a massive bias for me to say that it will be, but I was really sad when the beta completed. The first 6 hours of WoW are just you running around killing small, nearly defenceless animals; the first 6 hours of MY ToR experience was so much more. I really wish I could reveal everything that went on; it was really rich, engaging storytelling, with interesting conversations and dialogue. I don't remember skipping over any of the dialogue – spoken dialogue, of course –even once. Most of the time in WoW, I just click through as quickly as possible and read the quest text only if I really obviously become stuck. (Cataclysm's introduction of forced cutscenes in the beginner areas actually makes things a lot better.)

    Seriously, give the game a chance. Beating up on it before you play it and based entirely off of the experiences of one person that played a few levels is hardly the way to judge an entire MMO.

  • Even Blizzard will have to compete with WoW at this point. There's not a lot of history with mega-hit MMOs, but judging from the still ongoing success of Everquest (no, not EQ2, I mean EQ1), the game won't be going anywhere soon. I think a trend, at least for the foreseeable future, is for MMOs to be slow-moving behemoths that people just wont move from. There's a lot of reasons for this. One is the time and money already invested. This is something that affects mostly casual players, but also medium and ha
  • by MrLizard (95131) on Wednesday January 05, 2011 @10:28AM (#34765218)

    I've been seeing previews of your new "World of Warcraft" game, and I think you're wasting the rumored 50 million dollars you've put into it. It's nothing but a clone of the market leader, Everquest, and there's really no way you can overcome the huge advantage EQ has on you in terms of subscriber base and development time. They've had over five years to constantly refine and improve the game experience; you'll be starting out where they were five years ago, and doing nothing but playing catch-up. You've got the same "Go kill 10 rats" gameplay and the same endgame, except you have almost no raid content ready and I hear that your "innovative" PVP system, using the same "instancing" technology that Everquest implemented years ago in their Lost Dungeons of Norrath expansion, will not be ready at launch. Only something totally new and radical will work -- have you considered making it over into a twitch-based FPS game? Just doing what's already proven to be popular and genre defining, but doing it better, cleaner, sharper, and faster, is no recipe for success. Originality is far more important than competence, and building on your competitors work and taking advatnage of all they've learned the hard way, and then bettering it, is no recipe for success. Only the totally new and totally unproven, especially if it's not what customers have previously demonstrated they're willing to pay for, will win the game. You may want to look at Tabula Rasa, which has been in development since 2001 and will probably release soon. It's so original and groundbreaking even the developers aren't entirely sure what kind of game they're making -- that kind of shattering of genre boundaries is the best way to have a mega-hit. I feel sorry for the developers, artists, and so on who will be laid off when World of Warcraft bombs, dismissed as just another Everquest clone in a field already crowded with them (Asheron's Call, Dark Age Of Camelot, Horizons, etc).

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