There is a lot that can be said about this piece from Massively about SW:TOR, but it’s Friday so I’ll just get right to the good stuff:
Based on BioWare’s pre-launch metrics, the team expected players to get through the content in three or four months. This assessment might seem obviously wrong to an experienced MMO player, but we are talking about a game with extensive voiceover and literally thousands of cinematic cutscenes adding up to about 170 to 180 hours of content. So the devs anticipated that TOR would take more consecutive days to complete than the average MMO. But according to BioWare’s metrics, players were tearing through the content an average of 40 hours a week; some players spent more than 120 hours a week in the game. “Within four and five weeks, we suddenly had close to a half a million people at the endgame,” Ohlen said. “It was something we didn’t expect at all.” Players were unsatisfied and began to exit the game.
First, how laughable were EAWare’s pre-launch metrics? It’s almost like no one from that studio had ever played or even seen how MMO gamers have been approaching content since 1997. Then again, we are talking about the studio that ‘announced’ Sunday being the most popular day to play an MMO, so yea.
Second, even if EAWare was right and players did spend a few months watching cutscenes and listening to voiceovers rather than mashing spacebar, you still have everyone quitting your sub-based MMO after finishing the sRPG. No one signed up for SW:TOR because it would eventually have a fantastic ‘elder game’. (Hey EAWare, in the MMO genre it’s called an end-game. You’re welcome). This is the 4th pillar title, KOTOR 4-153 all rolled into one, right?
Finally, I love EAWare telling us their F2P MMO that is shutting down servers is the second-biggest sub MMO out. Yea, it’s so big that during an EA investors call, the former CEO had to downplay the failures of the title and try to convince everyone that dumping 300m+ into voice ac… err, building your terrible MMO engine (wtf…), was no big deal. I’m sure the good doctors that jumped off the Tortanic would also confirm how proud they are of this massive success. Selling hotbars was in the cards all along!
I secretly suspect EA has an internal competition in upper management about who can troll their fans better, and while SW:TOR has clearly been #1 since launch, SimCity the MMO was starting to make noise and this is the response SW:TOR came up wth. 7/10 troll rating in my book, but still not the 10/10 that is “SimCity was always an MMO, we just forgot to tell anyone pre-release”.
I think this is the great challenge for most MMOs. How do you unlock content at a rate which people don’t feel overwhelmed by grind or alternately bored from lack of new things to do?
Make a sandbox…
You know an actual world and not a series of instanced rooms divided by lobby browsers and a match making system.
Even here, you are limited within the scope of content the developer provides you. If all you have are buckets and no shovels, it makes for a pretty boring experience.
The challenge for devs is maybe all they can make are buckets and shovels will just have to come later. If the players get bored with buckets before there are shovels… well, you have the same problem that a linear MMO does (lack of content).
The alternative is player created content (new buckets! new shovels! wet sand!) but that comes with it’s own sort of baggage.
By no means am I saying this isn’t a problem that can be solved. I would argue that EvE did this very well. But it’s definitely challenging.
I thought one of the characteristics of a sandbox was that you spent a lot of time being bored and waiting for something to happen.
LOL. Well played, sir, well played.
Must be playing them wrong :)
Why wait for things to happen? You make them happen. No re-skinned mobs and new takes on don’t stand in the fire required.
If SWTOR was a sandbox with a full space flight engine, space exploration, and numerous other features (housing, guild star destroyers, the list goes on) I would still be playing it on a frequent basis.
I am sorry but canned space rail shooters and boring kill 40 foozle quests (SWTOR actually has these) simply doesn’t cut it.
Looking at those comments by Ohlen (who BTW is a class 1 dickhead), he still does not get why his MMO isn’t as successful or has the staying power that other MMO’s have.
In other news EA has decided to close the Australian SWTOR servers and merge them back into the few remaining US servers. Of course no one really noticed.
I still play the game occasionally, (what can I say, I like light sabers and voice acting) but I have a low tolerance for marketing garbage and developer excuses.
I particularly like this bit at the end:”As Ohlen put it, TOR is the second biggest subscription MMORPG in the western world, it has had two million new accounts since the F2P launch, thousands of new players try out the game everyday, and TOR is one of the largest microtransaction money-makers for publisher EA.”
Those are some pretty carefully chosen factoids, laid out to make it sound like the game is a huge success. Taking them one at a time:
1) TOR is the second biggest subscription MMORPG in the western world: They had 2mil at launch, 1.7mil after three months, and have quit giving numbers since then. That’s probably more than Rift (The only similarly sized MMO that counted as both subscription and western in those months) had during that period, so this claim is technically true if you change “is” to “was”.
2) Two million new accounts since the F2P launch: Anyone who’s ever paid attention to MMO publisher announcements knows how this one works – that number is accounts created, not accounts anyone has ever paid anything for or played the game with. Again, technically true, (probably) but stated in a way that makes it sound like something it isn’t.
3) Thousands of new players try the game every day: it’s a F2P MMO, of course lots of people try it. And just like every other F2P MMO, 75% of them (totally made up figure, it’s probably higher) quit the first day. Most of the rest quit the first week, after experiencing the glory that is EA’s MMO microtransaction system, otherwise known as “bug the shit out of the player at every turn”.
4) TOR is one of the largest microtransaction money-makers for publisher EA: I’ll just bet it is. EA titles to which microtransactions have been awkwardly bolted on in the last year include Dead Space 3, (subtitled “Nobody Plays Survival Horror Anymore, Suck it Fanboys”) Mass Effect 3, (subtitle “We’ll Charge You Extra for DLC When We Finally Think of a Decent Ending”) and Real Racing 3. (“Revenge of the Son of Microtransactions, Part 3”)
But if you gloss over all that and you’re talking to a reporter who wants to appear even-handed and therefore doesn’t call you on every piece of bullshit you utter, it’s a giant hit!
EA is so much fail in so little room. There’s nothing wrong with building a waterslide MMO, just have an actual slide. For SWOTR it was more like a trapdoor.
I remember playing the first week and already knowing they would have problems. I was severely out-leveling the content just by very light playing. 1 instance run was a level, 1 or 2 space missions, another level. I skipped whole planets, aside from the mandatory story progression, since they were green. I actually started an opposite faction toon and paused playing my main because I was leveling way too fast.
They literally managed to learn nothing from any of the other existing MMOs. They had level progression set more like it was an older MMO dealing with level cap inflation via expansions. I.e. rocket boosters to get to the cap. But they didn’t have ANY endgame built. Likewise the lack of any kind of sandbox experience. Crazysauce…
There’s been some goddamn heavy marketing going on in the Facebooks of late, every time I log in I have another sponsored status from SWtOR.
what i find amazing is that they hoped the average person would last 3 months before running out of content. i mean really, say that everyone stayed for 2 more months than the 1 month it actually took, wouldn’t the game have failed just as miserable. I doubt a couple of months extra sub would have saved it long term.
I wonder if Tortanic ran into Testanic if they would both explode and rid us of watching their slow sink into the abyss.
If we are really lucky they might be joined there by the Titan…ic
Nah, a ship has to be built to sink and I’m unconvinced that Titan is anything more than a concept.