Why I should stick my neck out for you is far beyond my capacity!

“Luke: Well, more wealth than you can imagine!
Han Solo: I don’t know, I can imagine quite a bit.”

Deliberately inflammatory rhetoric aside, I do find myself somewhat aligned with the less than popular opinion that I’d rather wait for a while after Star Wars: The Old Republic’s release, before dropping out of hyperspace and diving flame-licked into the atmosphere of the virtual world that it represents.

The reasons are many and minor, but their cumulative effect is that of grains of sand, piled one upon the other until they dam rivers and ground ships; doubt upon uncertainty upon cynicism, until the flow of enthusiasm is strangled to a trickle. The enthusiasm is there, pooled, churning and thundering raw, a bear trapped in a collapsed tent, without focus or reason, and in danger of harming itself, or anyone who tries to guide it in the right direction; wisdom says that it’s best left alone to sort itself out, as it will inevitably do. Therefore I’ve avoided ordering a copy of the game straight away, and will watch from the sidelines as the vanguard of players takes to that infamous galactic stage far far away.

The pricing option has been debated elsewhere, and I imagine even the monocles of EVE players were in danger of popping out at the initial reveal of the collector’s edition price. Consider, though, that if you’d been in the right place at the right time, you could have gathered a couple of those ejected eyeglasses and bought yourself a TOR collector’s edition. If we call it ten Sparkle Ponies instead of $200, it would be a cynical marketing sleight of hand, but it certainly doesn’t seem quite so offensive when you balance the content of SW:TOR against ten translucent steeds, let alone the additional sundries that come with the Collector’s Edition. So it seems to have been aimed at the right level, too steep for some and a compulsory purchase for others, but for me it simply helped to reinforce my decision to wait until after release.

SW:TOR seems to all intents and purposes a traditional single player Bioware RPG but with the option to bring friends along. The voice acting will give a pace to questing that I believe will cause more friction in groups, especially PuGs, than we are already witness to. As such, the game appears to encourage a single player approach. Companion NPCs only seem to advance this theory. What I want to know, and what I can’t know until the game is released, is whether this bucking bronco of game design will throw most MMO riders, or whether the ropes, chaps and gloves of TOR’s various ancillary game systems will give players enough purchase to keep riding. I certainly can’t justify a monthly subscription for a single player RPG, even a Bioware one… especially a Bioware one, seeing as Dragon Age and Mass Effect cater perfectly well to that requirement.

In addition, I’ve come to equate, perhaps unfairly, the charge to get ahead during the early access of a game with that overarching madness in MMO society for rushing through content, getting afore the hoi polloi, and to pound out character levels as if in time with the sonorous rhythm of hammers in a village smithy. In some quarters there’s almost a January Sales mentality to it, where the crowds seems to beat at each other, striving not for bargains, but the boredom and bitter disillusion of end-game. Unfortunately I don’t look back with fondness on the many MMO head-starts of which I’ve partaken. I still remember World of Warcraft’s early days as being a time of server instability, incredible lag, and massively oversubscribed resources. I couldn’t get into Warhammer Online for days. I was in at the start of City of Heroes, and although it had a smooth release as far as the warped and battered platters of my memory can recall, I also don’t remember anything outstanding that occurred in those early days that made the unavoidable overcrowding worthwhile. I honestly can’t remember an MMO where getting in from the very beginning has made any difference to my experience; indeed, I became properly invested in LotRO only years after its release –and only then I suspect because I found a good group of friends to play with– and yet it is an MMO for which I will always have the fondest memories and no regrets, despite not being there from the very beginning.

There are other grains of concern I have for TOR, subjective ones such as the graphics, which don’t appeal to me to the point that I still harbour a secret hope that Bioware will surprise us all by dropping the faux Clone Wars style, and revealing that the game actually looks more like something birthed from the union of Force Unleashed and Mass Effect. Group issues again come to the fore with the game-play: videos of players standing statically around a boss mob and going through the Usual MMO Combat Routine[TM], do not entirely inspire a new hope. Rail-based starship combat didn’t take off in Clone Wars Adventures, so let’s do it again in this game! The list goes on. The grains of sand form a bank. The wash of enthusiasm is arrested.

So I’m not ordering Star Wars: The Old Republic, although I don’t think the price is the real issue here. It’s a personal thing: partly because, for better or worse, I’m over that stage of MMO fandom where I need to be involved in an MMO from the start; partly because there are other contenders which I feel offer me a better chance at finding my MMO mojo once again; and partly because I’m not convinced that SW:TOR is a game for which I want to pay a monthly subscription, something which other contenders –and a large part of the MMO market– have already moved away from.

Deep down I still hope that The Force is strong with this one, and if it is then I’ll probably visit that galaxy far far away, but for the time being… I still have a bad feeling about this.

10 thoughts on “Why I should stick my neck out for you is far beyond my capacity!

  1. Tyrion

    I can’t say that I agree with you, but I understand your concerns. The over-hyped-ness of TOR might leave a lot of disapointed in the very near future. I guess I might be called a Bioware Believer in that I have faith that this game will be great.

  2. Drannos

    I picked up the preorder that first morning; for me, it wasn’t so much a matter of “Buying the hype” as much as one of “Know Thyself”. Though I have grown somewhat tired of the themepark rides, the game I still play the most is LotRO – for the friends made, and especially for the world and lore. Those will carry me quite a ways, and I’m enough of a fan to feel the same about TOR. Even what I know at this point tells me it is highly likely to be a game I enjoy, and both I and my son love Star Wars.

    So much so that the CE, even as a gamble, became a break-even value proposition; the statue I could take or leave (or sell), and if RIFT taught me anything it was that even little conveniences early on can make enough difference. Time, after all, is the far more valuable resource. Even if I’m only playing for a few months at a time, those CE bonuses will follow me for the life of the game. As for the subscription, 30 days should give me a good idea of whether it’s worth continuing…

    I didn’t debate the point for very long (I’m a sucker for CEs…), but the price was certainly worth at least a moments pause. For me, it seemed worth it.

  3. Sente

    At least with level-focused progression I don’t really have ny urge or desire to jump in early; too many jumping in at that point with plunge through content at a faster pace and with more dedication and time than I would bring into it.

    Waiting some time after release with a game like this makes more sense IMHO – did that with Rift as well.

    If the game still plays fine a bit later when all the early crowd has moved on to later stages of the game, then it might be something to hang on to for a bit.

  4. Stabs

    I’ve also lost interest. I’ll be buying a game called Prime: Battle for Dominus that should be coming out around the same time instead.

  5. Derrick

    I have to agree fullheartedly. When swtor was announced, I was very excited. Even the stated goal, a single player+ MMO, really appeals to me: I imagine playing it like Neverwinter Nights, with a preset group of personal friends. Mass Effect with a multiplayer option, if you will.

    While I’m adamantly anti-sub pricing model, I’d even overlook that; for a couple months anyways. I only planned to play for a month or three, however long it took to go through the content. Incidentally, while some have decried this as a flaw, I look at it as an advantage. I’m done with pouring years into an MMO, just don’t want to do that again.

    But. Those grains of sand.

    Static, hotbar combat? Diku style holy trinity design? I can’t help but feel they’ve brought too much “MMO” into this – and not the good parts. Scary release time server issues, supercriwded starting zones, heavily spammed and useless area chats, so very many little things… I really want swtor to be awesome, I really want to enjoy it, but I’ve been burnt so many times by MMO’s, I’m not willing to take a chance again.

  6. Melmoth Post author

    @Tyrion: I hope I’m not right, because the last thing the genre needs is another big name MMO fizzling out, but I’ve too many doubts at the moment to become invested in the game for the time being. You’re right though, it is hard to see Bioware getting a game wrong. Here’s hoping.

    @Drannos: I’m really glad to see that the general response has been very good, with the online Collector’s Edition selling out fairly quickly it seems. There are always going to be the Star Wars and Bioware fans out there who will have faith, or are willing to gamble, that the game will be everything they hope. As I say, the price point seemed well placed, it caused a lot of people to pause for thought, but it wasn’t so exorbitant as to stop the fans from picking it up, which is certainly encouraging.

    @Sente: Indeed, I keep thinking to my time slowly taking-in recent Bioware games, and I can’t see myself doing that easily with other people; even our close-knit group in LotRO tends to barrel along through content, or get bored otherwise. If TOR is primed as a typical solo MMO, then there’s really no reason to wrangle with the issues and crowds at launch, as you point out.

    @Stabs: I’ve seen your recent coverage of Prime, and I’ll be interested to hear you reports on it. I had a look and it certainly seems interesting, and tri-faction PvP always has great potential.

    @Tesh: I do wonder if F2P came along at just the wrong time, and whether they would have gone for a subscription MMO in this current climate, or chosen to produce the next Knights of the Old Republic instead.

    @Derrick: You really don’t lose a whole lot by not taking a chance, and instead just waiting to see what happens. If the game turns out to be amazing, it will still be amazing for those who come late to the party, because the nature of these current MMOs is to be soloable and to be static in nature. If a hundred thousand people have destroyed the Death Star, it will still be there for a hundred thousand more to come along and destroy it all over again. As long as MMOs are produced in this way, there’s no real need to suffer through the trials and tribulations of the game’s launch.

  7. Bronte

    Thank you Melmoth, a much-needed voice of reason in a sea of early adopters and weaklings!

    Catcha word: fapple. That sounds kinky.

  8. darkeye

    My main concerns are the companion system and playing the story as a group, I like the graphics well enough, and the classes look interesting.

    If there is the option to go without companions I’d gladly take it, even just letting them stay in the ship to do my crafting for me while I go explore. The last Bioware RPG I played was KOTOR, and I got fed up of ‘Mission looks like she has something to say maybe you should talk to her’, blah.

    Both GW2 and SW:ToR handle other people in the personal stories differently but none of them are exceptional pieces of design. GW2 has the option that choices in the story can count for the leader only or the whole group if they are all on the same step. SW:ToR has that dialogue system where party members pick an option then there is a dice roll, and each player gets light/dark points depending on their choice, that’s in normal questing. In the personal story where 2 or more of the same class could help each other for parts of it, where they actually make the choice it is instanced and must be repeated for each player, so two bounty hunters could help each other but would say need to kill/spare the boss twice for each other to make progress. It just seems tacked on, rather than built into the system from the beginning.

  9. bhagpuss

    Easy for me to say no. I have little interest in or affection for Star Wars and until Dragon Age I hadn’t played a BioWare game since Neverwinter Nights back in 2002. And Dragon Age turned ut to be a dull, melodramatic farrago of cliches and ham acting, that’s a mistake I don’t plan on repeating for another decade.

    I don’t like the precedent being set, though. If EA succeeds in jacking up the price of all editions (it isn’t only the CE that’s overpriced) then it could raise all boats. That would be annoying when GW2 or even EQNext arrive. I’m fine with companies trying to screw every last dime out of weak-willed customers in their cash shops. That’s what cash shops are for. It’s clearly not in my interest to see price-hiking on purchase of the base product succeed.

    So, while I don’t want SW:ToR to fail (as if it could), I hope it’s a fairly moderate and short-lived success that doesn’t warp the market the way WoW did. Nothing about it looks like anything I want to see replicated across the board for future MMOs.

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