More on MMOs

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(OHAI GUYZ. I MADE A POST.)

So, as mentioned MUCH earlier (like… nearly a year ago-earlier) two of the big MMOs in our sights were GW2 and SWTOR.  Oh, I suppose to be more specific, the fact that GW2 and SWTOR had been in our sights, but GW2 was quickly falling off the radar, as far as personal preferences go.  GW2 was just sounding more and more like not the kind of game I wanted to play.  SWTOR won by default, with David’s devotion to everything Bioware and Star Wars (except the prequels… we don’t talk about those) overwhelming the more distant “that seems kinda interesting” feelings I had toward GW.  GW appearing to become more and more the type of game neither of us wanted to play was really the nail in the coffin.

SWTOR became our new hope.  (u c wut i did thar?)  Both Bioware and LucasArts were stingy with information, close mouthed and doling it out in minute drops.  We even ended up resubscribing to WoW, since we’d been goofing off on some other F2P games, but finding them less-fun than the Blizzard Behemoth. We even had high hopes for Cataclysm, dropping the money and getting about a months worth of playtime in it before (re-)discovering that WoW just doesn’t do it for us anymore.

As is also probably obvious from another recent post of mine, I discovered Rift. I didn’t go into it with any real expectations… Over the summer, David and I had gotten into the habit of signing up for any betas/F2Ps that looked even remotely interesting. And the soul system of Rift was definitely interesting enough to get a beta key and spend some quality time with the downloader. I certainly didn’t intend to enjoy it as much as I did. And suddenly, my Rift-raves started to sound a lot like David’s devotion to SWTOR.  There was once again two games on our potential horizon.

Granted, the likelihood of being able to start Rift much before SWTOR’s release (since they’re aiming for sometime this year) is a bit iffy due to a total MMO hiatus until end of summer due to baby.  It just puts them on more even footing. And while Rift appeals to me for the aspects of it, it also appeals because it’s a known quantity, which due to the secrecy surrounding SWTOR, you can’t say about the Other Game.

But I’ve still been keeping track. I watch MMO news/blog sites, and SWTOR is still in the running for Next Big Thing, with all the supposition and commentary you’d expect to find when people are left to their own devices to interpret vague developer comments.

Well, I’ve been watching those vague developer comments, and…  I’m not really liking where it SEEMS like it’s going.

First off, I may not share David’s love for them, but I have a lot of respect for Bioware. They make some great games. I also grew up on Star Wars, though my devotion to the franchise is… not terribly devoted.  David loves both, with a love matched only by his love of good chocolate and weird beers.

Just to get that out there before I start.  Ahem.

Okay, so.  Bioware has stated that they want to use SWTOR to put the RPG back in MMORPGs. But I’m worried that they’re going to make an awesome subscription-based RPG, that misses the whole MMO boat.  There’s not a lot of detail as to what they actually mean by their comment, beyond some mentions of the class quests. Well, this sets me to worrying… What is the primary function of the RPG? You, playing a pivotal character. A hero. When you think of RPGs, you think of heroes. MMOs lend themselves much more to adventurers than heroes. The bar is lower. The club is more open. It’s more “reasonable” to see multiple high-level characters running around.  To poke at the RPG aspect, it doesn’t ruin your immersion, which seeing a 100 other people who are heroes Just Like You would do in a traditional RPG. Playing a hero works in a single player game. You’re the only one awesome enough to be controlled by someone NOT the computer, after all.  MMOs require it to work in a setting surrounded by other people.

Also, Bioware wants to focus more on the class quest lines. Now, I have NO IDEA how important these will be, or how much time they’ll take up. But it’s pretty likely that all the real pivotal moments of gameplay for your character, the real character development, will come from these class quests. Well, guess what? Unless you want to create a party of all Jedi Knights, you’re going to be looking at a lot of time soloing, or potentially helping your buddy through run around and kill stuff quests that you can’t actually participate in yourself.  (Have I mentioned recently that I don’t solo? Cause I don’t.)

I’m also REALLY worried about the crews. I mean, think about it. You have minions. These minions do all your crafting/gathering/professioning, leaving you to be awesome. They also interact with you, have deep and meaningful quests and storylines, and can even be romanced.

Why would you want to play with other players? I mean really… You could have SnarkyRobotDPS backing you up and providing witty commentary tailored to your current progress on his storyline… or you could have IMAJEDILOL and his endless piles of leetspeek.

Is SWTOR a MMO? I’ve forgotten.

(Special thanks to Larry Everett at Massively, who made a post summing up/sharing all my concerns.  He probably does a MUCH better job putting them together than I do, and you all should read it.)

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14 responses »

  1. Interesting post, and I went through and read the Massively write-up as well. Oddly though, I found my interest somewhat piqued rather than diminished.

    It probably helps though, that I’ve thus far managed to resist being pulled over much into the whole SWTOR hype machine. I love Bioware to bits; but this is their first MMO. I loved the KoTOR games to bits, and enjoy the Star Wars franchise, but I have no real devotion to it.

    So this was very much a game sitting on my ‘wait and see’ shelf.

    What I am hearing now is that… I’m going to get a KoTOR that I can play co-op? That sounds *fantastic*.

    Sure, it may not be an MMO as such. I think MMORPG has become a really overused term, to the point it’s sort of a catchall for any online game with a server not ran by players, regardless of how the actual play works.

    That’s one point of view in any case. The other is simply that despite how things sound at the moment, how they’re seemingly aiming the game marketing presently, we don’t know that there won’t also be ways to play together in the way of group content or simply not being harshly penalised — in either xp/loot per kill, or time to complete/quest — for grouping rather than going it alone.

    It also sounded like from prior comments that SWTOR Flashpoints would be modelled more after the WoW type of requiring other people — except you can ALSO adjust how they play out story wise by handling the scenarios differently! — rather than the DCUO type of more or less being able to do them alone.

    I guess in the end, I wind up firmly back at ‘wait and see’. If we do end up with a KoTOR-esque game with an option to play co-op (and I hope in that case you can, for instance, take your friend with you on class quests and the like) that would be all right with me.

    They just need to be a bit clearer on that so that expectations are correct for everyone coming in.

    • @Naithin — See, for me? I’m a cheapskate. David is too. Paying $50 for an AMAZING rpg from Bioware? Totally there. Paying $100 for two accounts of the same amazing game from Bioware? Yep yep. Paying $100 plus $30/month to play an amazing RPG from one of our favorite companies? er…

      I’m not willing to pay a monthly fee for a single-player RPG just to have co-op. I don’t care how amazing it is. The implication that a lot of the game is accessed via your ship (with implication that your ship is yours alone, just you and your minions), and the statement that a lot of the important bits are class-specific (see above Jedi Knight party) just turns me off even more.

      I mean, having a class quest or two is fine. But this seems to be way beyond one or two individual quests. I’ve fully admitted in the past that I’m in the minority of players who DOES NOT solo. (This is actually somewhat a misnomer. I’ve had at least one solo character all through my time in WoW, and a lot of my focus on Rift was my Chloromancer, who was also solo’d. But those are always goof off experiments or time killers. The majority of my *real* playtime will always be with at least one other person. Gaming *together* is what we do.) This system seems to penalize my playstyle as much as GW2’s announcement that they weren’t going to have healers did.

      It’s nothing *specific* about the game itself (okay, the subscription fee for a single-player RPG with co-op is pretty specific against SWTOR itself) so much as it is against the game for me.

      • Hmm.

        A very good point; Playing $15 a month for what could (arguably) have been expected in the base package of such a game is perhaps asking a bit much; and it becomes increasingly worse if the person (or people) you wish to play with are from the same house hold as well.

        I guess we’ll just have to say. I still don’t think the game is going to end up being all solo all the time (or even much of the time if you don’t want it to be), but I really can’t say that with any kind of authority.

        Seems that it’s going to be one to hopefully get a chance to try out in a Beta at some point or failing that, await peer reviews and the like. I’m sure there will be no shortage of people in our community wanting to give it a shot regardless. 🙂

        • @Naithin — yeah, at this point I (not necessarily David, not speaking for him here) will need to see some pretty firm details and glowing reviews before I’m willing to give in on SWTOR. I’m just a leeeetle too wary as it stands now.

  2. I am a huge Bioware fangirl and have played all of their games, even when they were still Black Isle. Planescape: Torment anyone?

    I love their storytelling. I love their games. They’re the perfect single player experience for me. But look what happens when you bring storytelling into MMOs. Look at what Blizzard has tried to do with Cataclysm. They have brought the storytelling in Cataclysm and it’s been impressive. Once. The new WoW quests are pretty much not replayable. The story is only compelling when told the first time, and it’s an on-rails experience.

    I am very enthralled by Rift right now, which has brought back the massively in MMO for me, after experiencing my first major invasion. The ease of public questing. Grouping up for group quests with friendly strangers from my shard, instead of the soulless anonymity WoW offers these days.

    I need more information about SWTOR to see where they are headed.

    • @Kadomi — Yes yes exactly yes. I like a lot of the storytelling changes they added to Cataclysm. Silverpine was amazing. Vashjir was awesome. Hyjal was great… the first time. I ran Silverpine twice, just because David needed to see it too, but a lot of the appeal is hearing the story. The story isn’t interesting enough on it’s own to have the same appeal hearing it for the fourth time. The fact that it’s “on-rails” and you have to do ALL the quests in a SPECIFIC order just turns any subsequent runthroughs into duds.

      I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like the small quest hubs and story driven reasoning behind quests… But if I’ve done a quest once, know it’s obnoxious, and can’t skip it because I need it to unlock the next hub? Yeah, there’s your mistake.

      The reason I like Rift so much, and that it works so well for me, is I love grouping. (Goddamnit, I need to stop almost-typoing “groping” there.) Questing is present, you have small hubs leading to small hubs in a logical fashion, but the focus of the game is to get people in the same zone together on a fairly regular basis to achieve something.

      It’s community-BUILDING, not community-separating. It’s like old-WoW, back before the days of cross server LFD came around, where knowing people on your realm (and being known) actually had some meaning.

      Solo’ing a healer/supporter in Rift and going on Rift-closing sprees? You get to know/recognize the names of the tanks/dps who keep shit off you pretty quickly. You may not become friends, but if you see them LFG, you have a pretty good idea what you’re in for.

  3. I saw a demo for SWOTOR a while back and something about it just …meh for me. I wish I could remember the details exactly that I didn’t like, but I’ve not been watching since then. Although I don’t think my thoughts were as well-organized as what you’ve got here, they do sound VERY familiar, and I believe worry about the multiplayerness was one of my concerns.

    I, too, don’t solo.

    I play with my husband. I’m a cheap date. (So is he).

    We play together. It allows me to play the support role that I love so much, and allows him to mow through things even faster than he could alone. We’re a great team. We tried Torchlight and it was AWESOME … except I only played it twice because I had to play solo. I just don’t have enough time for that, and I’d rather spend what time I DO have for gaming WITH my husband.

    I actually enjoy watching him play RPGs more than I enjoy playing while he’s off doing something else or watching. (LOVED most of the Shadow Hearts games, notably minus the most recent one)

    But if we’re forking over the cash for two accounts of an expensive MMO…it had better be more MMO than it is RPG.

    *firm nod*

    • @Tami — Preach it, sistah. *fist bump* Reason Rift works so well = grouping friendly. Hell, grouping mandatory/encouraged. May aggravate some people (though, they don’t exactly make it *difficult* to group, I’m just sayin) but pish posh on them. They can play one of the games that don’t require you to interact with anyone at any time ever.

      Me? I want to run around with David.

  4. And that last comment was addressed to Tami, I thought you had threaded commenting or something. My mistake!

    @Jov: Rift has a lot of quest hubs as well, and I think there are a bunch of quests that unlock the follow-ups in the next hub. But if you decide to skip quests and move to the next hub, you will still get quests there. I really do not know what Blizzard was thinking to make all quests a requirements to progress through a zone. I loved Vashj’ir, but I wouldn’t want to do all those quests (like 150?) all over again. I did not get the Cataclysm Loremaster, because I just couldn’t handle it.

    Me, I am waaaaaaay more excited about Mass Effect 3 and DA2 than I am about SWTOR.

    • @Kadomi — Technically your comment threaded to Tami’s comment, this theme just doesn’t display threading well. It’s just a small indent. (It’s the only thing I don’t like about this theme — anyone want to give me $75 to activate Pretty Young Thing (one of the premium themes)? har har)

      Ahem. Yeah, I think the Blizzard/Cata model of story-based small hub questing was definitely on the right track, don’t get me wrong. But where they lost it was the fact that ALL the quests were mandatory to progress. Rift has a nice balance. “Oh hey, there are quests here” “yeah, but that quest sucks, I’m gonna go to the next hub” “Oh, okay. There are quests there too!” /

      I’ll admit, I have no idea about the ME thing. I usually avoid scifi (it doesn’t do it for me like fantasy) but I’ve occasionally been curious, mainly with the idea that it, specifically ME2, seemed much more polished and just as story-driven as DA.

      • Do yourself a favor, play both Mass Effect games. I don’t do shooters, but got so caught up on the story that I played both games. The storytelling is amazing, and I actually am really more excited about ME3, because there was this GIANT CLIFFHANGER, ZOMG.

        • @Kadomi — haha, I’ll keep that in mind. Though, to be fair, most games need the approval of both David and myself before we’re willing to fork over the cost. And I have no idea his feelings toward ME(2)

        • @Kadomi – If they have a Steam Special when ME 3 comes out I’ll probably nab ME1&2.

          Truth is I get interested in many games but I don’t have the time to play them. WoW really has limited the amount that I have played in the past few years. Other than WoW expansions, DA2 is the first game since Oblivion I’m planing on buying within the first month or so of release.

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