SW:TOR – How is the end-game?

Random thought: What if the end-game in SW:TOR is awesome?

Most people right now are talking about the leveling experience in SW. The pace, the voice, the story, the mechanics, etc. And rightfully so in many ways. Pre-release, almost all of the SW hype was centered around the 4th pillar, story, and how SW had that BioWare feel. And of course this lead others, myself firmly included, to question just how an MMO is going to profit from producing a sRPG with a monthly fee.

But what if the end-game is awesome?

What if raiding is as good as it was in 2005-6 WoW?

For one, it should solve the whole 6-month-death thing, right? I mean while WoW launched with a great leveling game, it was the end-game that RETAINED people, and that retention in turn lead to growth (people not leaving + people coming in = growth. People leaving + people coming in = stagnation/decline, depending on the rates). So if we assume SW has a great end-game, it should retain people at the level cap, while still being a draw for new people to come in and join in. Pretty basic MMO 101 stuff here.

But SW is not WoW. Well it is, basically, but WoW was not voiced. And that allowed Blizzard to pump out content at a good clip (yes, believe it or not, back in 2004-6 WoW actually got frequent updates that contained new, challenging content that ADDED ON TO THE GAME. How strange that during that time the game also grew. No connection, I’m sure). BioWare will either have to keep spending more cash-per-content and continue voicing everything, or change the formula for the end-game. And honestly, who wants to listen to the same voice acting the 400th time they attempt a raid boss? Why even bother, right? But if you take voice acting out of SW, is it still SW? Is the game good enough in all other areas to still justify the $15 a month?

Another factor: Raiders don’t like leveling. Oh some do, but how many times have we been told that the WoW leveling game got nerfed to allow raiders and arena players to ‘get to the real game’ and skip leveling? If you skip the leveling of SW, what was all that 4th pillar talk about? And, far worse, if you start nerfing the leveling game ala-WoW to cater to that crowd in SW, what does it say about the whole approach BioWare took?

Finally, if the reverse is true, and the end-game sucks because too much focus was put on leveling (4th pillar for life, yo), and the mechanics that made leveling enjoyable are a train wreck for end-game raiding/PvP (tell me if you’ve heard that one before), wtf do you expect people to do once they hear the voice acting? This is a pay-per-month MMO, right?

3-6 months can’t come soon enough!

25 Responses to SW:TOR – How is the end-game?

  1. Liore says:

    Your SWTOR posts come across like.. a guy who has already paid lots of money for a good black funeral suit and by god you are going to wear it even if no one has died. It’s sort of endearing, if a little weird.

    Anyway, for what it’s worth I love raiding and identify as a “raider” and hate questing. I usually level in PvP, in fact, because questing just seems like a big stupid “honey do” list of things that I don’t care about. In SWTOR, though, I am actually avoiding PvP because I don’t want to level away from any of the quests. I am having a blast with the voiced story quests and don’t even notice that I’m technically levelling.

    Being a raider doesn’t make one immune to engaging content.. it’s just that so few MMOs bother to make engaging levelling content.

    • SynCaine says:

      “Your SWTOR posts come across like.. a guy who has already paid lots of money for a good black funeral suit and by god you are going to wear it even if no one has died. It’s sort of endearing, if a little weird.”

      Any new major MMO, whether you play it or not, at least raises some question about MMO design. I like thinking about the design behind the genre, and a game as polarizing as SW is going to produce some questions. Plus it’s also fun for me to go back to these posts 6-12 months later and see how I felt about things at release, vs how I feel about them later.

  2. bhagpuss says:

    If I had a business that had, let’s say, 250,000 customers and I was able to keep them paying me money regularly month in, month out I think I’d call that “stability”, not “stagnation”.

    Other than that, as a non-participant I’m going to be very interested also to see how things play out over the year. SW:ToR is good spectator sport and certainly a lot more enjoyable to read about for this bystander than EVE (not a dig at the EVE stories I read here – I don’t find them very interesting anywhere).

    • saucelah says:

      Still, every company in every industry since the dawn of commerce considers growth and increasing income to be more desirable than not, whether the alternative is called “stability” or “stagnation”

    • Carson says:

      It’s pretty much an article of faith in capitalism that what Syn called “stagnation” and what you call “stability” is a bad thing. It’s better than decline, but it’s disappointing, it’s failure. Growth uber alles.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yep, like Carson says, pretty much the first thing you get drilled into your head in b-school is that if you’re not growing, you’re dying (because while you coast your competitors are growing.)

      • Yep, I know that. I’m not a capitalist or a businessman, though. I’m not obligated to share, endorse or approve of that worldview and by and large I don’t. On the other hand, I do realize that if you’re a publicly-listed company then you do, under some legislative regimes, have a legal obligation to grow, or at least to attempt to do so.

  3. saucelah says:

    I’m fully aware of what sample bias is, but I’d like to note a few observations I’ve made about people in my own circles that are playing this game.

    While I certainly read a few bloggers playing this game that do not fit these descriptions, everyone I personally know playing the game has at least one of the following characteristics:

    1) They have not played other MMOs at all, or they played one in the past but only for a month or two.
    2) Those that have played more than one MMO have never played one for more than three months or are even more casual than I am, avoiding end-game content altogether, usually quitting after tiring of playing alts.
    3) They do not expect to still be playing this game 3 months from now.

    I know there are people playing this game who do not fit any of these three characteristics, but they are certainly not uncommon traits: I’ve also run into people with these characteristics in a discussion group I’m part of that has nothing to do with gaming.

    I make no claims about the percentage of the playerbase that possesses these traits but instead am just noting that they are, at minimum, not rare or unusual to encounter. I also make no claims about what this means for the future of the game, but it does make me more interested in posts such as this, contemplating possible futures for the game.

    On the plus side, these recent conversations with friends about the game have finally given me something to like about SWTOR: it has opened the gates to friends who rarely gamed or have never been interested in the MMO genre. I even confirmed with a friend that SWTOR is indeed a better game than STO and not a terrible choice for him to further explore the MMO genre. I have to admit it was hard on me to call SWTOR a good choice, but it is a good choice for him. For now.

    Hopefully I can drag him along when something else comes up that he might enjoy but with more depth and challenge. And let’s face it, starting with a lot of depth and challenge isn’t a great idea for many gamers, and certainly not a great idea for someone like my friend whose last RPG was KotOR 2.

  4. Anorax says:

    Out of interest have you played SWTOR Syncaine? I notice your Raptr tracking is suspiciously dead (considering you are continuing to play Eve Online). ;)

  5. jonneh says:

    you should put your money where your mouth is, try it and comment

    you were willing to give rift the benefit of the doubt

  6. Azuriel says:

    The thing I would dispute is

    “[...] back in 2004-6 WoW actually got frequent updates that contained new, challenging content that ADDED ON TO THE GAME.”

    What exactly are you referring to here?

    Nov 04 = Molten Core+.
    Dec 04 = Maraudan (40-49 dungeon)
    Mar 05 = Dire Maul (56-60) + 2 outdoor raid bosses.
    May 05 = PvP honor system
    June 05 = WSG + AV introduced
    July 05 = BWL
    Sept 05 = ZG + AB
    Jan 06 = AQ+
    Jun 06 = Naxx

    If we look at raiding stuff specifically, and include things like outdoor raid bosses out of charity, we got something like 5-5-3-5-6 in terms of months between “new, challenging content.” While I in no way support what Blizzard did with dragging the ICC patch out for a year+ or completely phoning in the recycled garbage that was 4.1, content is pretty consistently taking ~5 months plus or minus since the game released.

    If it appears Blizzard released “more” in the beginning, I’d argue that was because they released a half-finished game. No modern MMO could afford to release with zero BGs, for example.

    It is a legitimate concern whether SWTOR can actually release content in a timely manner, given the “requirement” of voice work. One NPC conversation can be applied to all classes easily, but each class (I believe) has different voices, so 8 (x2 for gender?) different responses would have to be recorded for each quest. Nevermind how big the game install gets after a few patches of that much VO.

    I imagine they drop everything getting voiced in the endgame later on, or at least not for the trivial stuff. During the beta, I remember getting a quest via “mail” that was just text. Expect to see more of that as time goes by, IMO.

    • SynCaine says:

      LBRS, UBRS, Scholo/Strath, while 5-10 man content (though originally 40, sorta), was still end-game, and worthwhile at that.

      Plus until BC, MC was just as viable in 2006 as it was in 2004. Hell we still raided MC to gear people up once a week even when raiding Nax. That’s not the case these days, not to mention the progressive nerfing system. Today the new replaces the old, rather than adding to the chain.

  7. LogiC says:

    While a few posts comment on the negative style of this post, I can see it is more a critical examination. I am waiting to see how this game turns out at end game (plus I’m Australian, gg EA). So far nothing I have heard has made me think that this game is anything but an even more casual orientated, Star Wars themed WoW clone. Not saying that is a bad thing, I mean it does seem like it is very fun but…

    If end game ends up being entirely focused on “raid strat” bosses as WoW is now, then I just don’t think I will buy it. Quality single player content is all well and good but end game is what retains most players. I hated Cataclysm raiding in WoW, you had to use mods, the strats were dumbed down, and felt extremely forced. I liked the “pay attention or you die” style of raiding in Vanilla, rather than the “stand here and wait for the on screen warning to move” strats in Cataclysm. If This game follows that, well, I quit WoW because of the boring raids.

    I just don’t see an MMO having a single player, narrative driven focus being able to last. As fast as they can push out content, players will finish it faster and when they catch up the quitting will start.

    Really I would just like a game that isn’t afraid of punishing the players every now and then, in small ways. SW: ToR does look like a fun game but it also seems like they played it incredibly safe. I don’t think I could stand levelling through boring “kill x of y” quests again if the combat is just mash keys till stuff dies, even if they are presented in an artful and interesting manner. Let alone play through stale end game content for years to come.

    • Andrei says:

      “I just don’t see an MMO having a single player, narrative driven focus being able to last. As fast as they can push out content, players will finish it faster and when they catch up the quitting will start.”

      You are forgetting that solo friendly leveling was big part of WoW success. SWTOR gives exactly that – outstanding story based leveling game. If they manage to have at least decent end game BW may have winning combination to attract and retain millions of subscribers. With the rich SW lore they can keep adding story based content years to come. And I think people overestimate the complexity and cost of creating SWTOR stories. Surprisingly a lot can be reused/recycled: in a way it is not that much different from producing sitcoms.

  8. Bernard says:

    Maybe I’m missing something here, but I still don’t see what is wrong with having a model where as a worst case, only 10% of people will stay subscribed after 3 months to participate in the end game.

    EA gets the box sales + 2 months subscribtion in revenue.
    Bioware get their 500k subscribers required to stay in the black.

    Every year we see a new boxed expansion which includes some more voiced singleplayer content. (A la Madden/Fifa etc)

    In the interim period, lots of RMT spaceships, companions, server/gender/class change fees to squeeze every last dollar from the 10%.

  9. theJexster says:

    I see some confusion here and maybe I can help. From a money making standpoint yes SWTOR makes sense and will probably be considered a success. From a philosophical and artistic standpoint this game did 0 to add to the MMO genre, so old school players tend to hate it.

    Like most niche groups we fear and hate corporate meddling in our precious (Hobbit trailers out I had to) niche. Sadly our niche became main stream with WOW and the quality of the products suffered as corporate people swooped in to suck money out and did everything they could to avoid upsetting the “trend” for fear of rejection from the mass WOW market. Enter SWTOR, RC Cola to WOW, but you get a glowy bat (look at those graphics, they don’t deserve to be called a light saber).

    They failed to realize our market is smart and rejected the many WOW clones as cheep imitations. They negated to realize Blizz spent 20 years building the IP and did in fact did something the MMO market had never seen before. They releases a clean MMO that wasn’t plagued with chaotic bugs and overly complex systems thus advancing the genre. The bar was raised for what a MMO could be. It’s easy to look at WOW now and rage over the lack of advancement. But lets not forget what they accomplished at launch. The biggest problem with WOW was corporate interference that held back any true advancement for fear of losing the 12 mill subs.

    SWTOR is everything that made the genre bad. It’s what made WOW a shell of it’s former self. It’s what took out niche market away from us. It’s the main stream corporate item shop unicorn rainbow riding carebear that all of the old schoolers despise, and worst of all, because it’s Star Wars, it will probably make money. The result is more corporate fools restricting creativity and making more generic MMO clones, slowing our markets advancement even more! We had houses and realistic economies and political systems 10 years ago, 300m on a MMO where you can’t freakin sit is pathetic! It’s 2011 not 1990. 10 Options for create a character is even more pathetic. And if this succeeds it’s telling all those people that made these bad decisions they were right, and the hardcore MMO fans were wrong, and it sickens all of us that want to see this Genre advance.

    We went from having worlds to live in, to having RPGs with group content.

    • Sullas says:

      “We went from having worlds to live in, to having RPGs with group content.”

      A very fine turn of phrase, actually. And accurate. I’m just afraid I can’t treat it as the lament it’s meant to be.

      Instead, it sounds like the sort of thing a Realist might have said about Impressionists.

  10. Bernard says:

    @theJexster

    I wouldn’t despair yet. If you look at the ‘MMO’ market now, you have the most choice you ever had – EvE, SWTOR, A Tale in the Desert, Pirates of the Burning Sea, LOTRO, EQx, as well as a whole range of PvP lobby games. If you like player housing and player run economies, there are plenty of titles that offer these features.

    People will vote with their wallets. If they would rather have RPGs with group content rather than ‘worlds to live in’, then the big developers will target this demographic. But there is no point in railing against the masses that your niche is just a niche.

  11. Anti-Stupidity League says:

    I believe there will be a huge drop in the number of players for swtor in three months time. Mass Effect 3 comes out by then. I’ll be interesting to see how Bioware will coax players to come back to Star Wars once they’re finished with ME3.

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