Now that a corner has been turned

Now that we know the SWTOR beta will begin soon, it’s time to begin (again?) thiking about the unanswered questions we want answered. What is the strategy of SWTOR? Some might not care over-much, but for others (like myself), I am keenly interested in this game shaping up to be a truly dominant force in the MMO market space. I want SWTOR to suceed, and suceed big. And I want to play this game.

The problem is, I think I want more from SWTOR than a lot of players do. And more importantly, I think I am expecting more from SWTOR than I think Bioware might be looking to provide. I would have expected a lot more information to have been forthcoming about the “end-game”, possible sandbox elements (player created content – crafting/gather, player-based economy, etc), and PVP, to name just a few. Yet we’ve only been treated to the vaunted “Story-driven” aspect of the game. And that has a lot of people worried. I count myself among them.

I think Blizzard has shown the market what you have to do in order to prosper. You have to provide accessible content that suits various play-styles. You have to provide vibrant PVE and PVP content. You have to provide a means to “progress”, through gear (power) and achievements (prestiege). And probably a host of other factors that I am neglecting. Many other MMO’s have attempted to supplant WoW as the market leader, but they all failed because I don’t believe that any one of them has yet delivered successfully on all aspects of what the market desires. The market clearly will not contenance a game that deliveres on one aspect, even if it does it very well. Truly, the market wants its cake, and wants to eat it too. Unfortunately for developers, this is not 2003, and they have to deal with the situation as it stands now. WoW is here, and players now see it as the bar against which all other games will be judged. Developers either meet that bar and succeed in the market space, or they don’t meet the bar and will shamble along as an also-ran.

I personally will not be happy with a SWTOR that is completely “story-driven”. Story-driven is just another word for PVE (questing), and in this case would mean SWTOR is nothing more than KOTOR with coop elements. MMO-ized as I’ve related it previously. All the fancy new combat abilities (cover!) won’t change this for me, or for the vast majority of the player base, and I sincerely hope that Bioware understands this.

Do not misunderstand. I want the story-driven elements, though I am not all that excited about the voice overs. People do not want to have to stand around waiting for “quest text” to render in a bubble before they can accept the quest and be on their way. Only in this case it would be listening to quest text. I’ll reserve final judgement on this until I can actually see it for myself instead of limited views in videos released thus far. Along with this, of course, means end-game progression.

That means different things in different MMO’s, but I look at it from a WoW perspective because it’s clearly been the most successful model to date. At first I had a hard time envisioning “raids” in a Star Wars setting, but then I realized I was wrong. It wouldn’t be that hard to implement raid encounters that are unique and “Star Warsy”. The truth of the matter is that how Bioware implements this (if at all) matters quite a bit, and whether they succeed or fail is entirely up to them.
Yes, I want the questing aspects in SWTOR, but I want so much more too.

I want a vibrant PVP aspect to SWTOR. What kind of Star Wars game are we really talking about if you can’t act out the war? Fighting NPCs is one thing, and fighting against living, breathing players is quite another. I want the war to have meaning, and I want it to be pervasive. That being said, I think the market in general has spoken on the relative desire for full PVP versus an ability to PVP on demand. People want to be able to PVP but do not want to do it all the time, and most certainly do not want to thrust upon them. How will Bioware answer this, I wonder?

I want sand-box elements (player created content). I want a player created, and driven economy. Which of course means a strong crafting and gathering system. The crafting and gathering system was the only aspect of SWG that I still think of fondly. WoW is an example of a crafting system that is largely superfleous. Items crafted at lower levels are relatively worthless and are only crafted in order to level up. Items crafted at the highest levels of the profession can be worthwhile, but usually only if you haven’t gotten something better through PVE raiding or PVP. It’s perhaps the weakest aspect of WoW and an aspect I never cared for much. In fact the only crafting professions I would even recommend anyone take are Jewelcrafting, Enchanting, and perhaps Inscription. You can very easily ignore Leatherworking, Blacksmithing, and Tailoring and never blink and eye.

Instead I would like to see crafting professions that mean something within the construct of SWTOR. Craftable items should be useful and sought after at all levels of a profession, but perhaps also compete against items that are obtainable through PVE. Is that doable? Can it be balanced? I hope so.

I have been unable to access the beta signup form, but I will continue to attempt to do so. Outside of WoW’s expansions, I have not concerned myself too much with traying to access other MMO’s betas. But I feel a very strong desire to participate in this one. You hear that Bioware? Hook a brother up!

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