Tuesday, December 16, 2008

TOR, where's the MMO?

As you probably know, Bioware released a video documentary about their new game: Star Wars: The Old Republic. The video was ok, most of what was said could already be found here. I am not going to write about the graphics or anything, as they do not really matter. I want to know about the gameplay and what this project actually is.

The game is based on 4 pillars: combat, exploration, progression and story. To me, these have always been pillars of an RPG. Usually in a MMO story has been replaced by loot, so it will be nice to see a developer try to really focus on the story aspect. Will players at large buy in? That is a whole other issue.

What was missing from the video was anything about how other players fit into this experience. If I didn't know any better, it would seem like I was watching a video for a single player RPG. In fact, the key components to their story pillar seem to work against the MMO aspect of the game.

Class based storylines. It would seem that which class you choose will direct the overall story of your character. This almost seems like it is putting us on rails. Not really strict rails, but pointing us in a direction or as they say: tailored. This goes against the normal 'create your own path' ethos of a MMO. Of course most modern MMO's don't bother with that either. Everyone ends up doing the same content with maybe a little different quest text.

Choices. They are touting choices as a major component of the game. The choices you maybe will advance your storyline in different ways. This sounds great and is a staple of single-player rpg's. Except that there is no saving here. Choices only matter if they actually make a difference. Will they lead to the same content but different quest text?

Choices also are important if they change the world around you. This is difficult to accomplish in a MMO due to other players being involved. WoW is attempting this with their phasing system. I hope TOR has something along those lines.

Companion Characters. Much like in their hit KoTOR, they want companion characters (NPC's) to be a big part of the game. Based on choices your relationship with them will change. Will these characters adventure with you? If so, how will that work with other players? Would be strange to see duplicates of your companions.

It is not yet clear how other people will play a role in this game. They could be taking an approach more like Guild Wars (PvP and inviting other into your 'zone') or something original. I really hope they go for something original, as that is what the genre needs.

One thing is clear, this seems like it will be completely different from SWG (new or old). It actually makes sense, this way Lucas Arts can have 2 games out that won't really compete which each other.


I posted my thoughts some time ago:


Looks like we have a few of the same thoughts. Still.. I hope it turn out great.

I'm pretty confused by this product as well, though I admit I'm not watching it closely, not being much of a Star Wars fan *ducks the incoming barrage of rotten tomatoes* .

I'm just pretty skeptical as it seems like it's going to end up a heavily instanced game where the only MMO bits are the towns. I'm envisioning something like Guild Wars.

I agree with most of this...

Except that SWG had something and ruined it. I believe if they worked with what they had in SWG Pre-CU patch, they wouldn't compete with SWG. Galaxies is a different game now, appealing to different people with everything that many of us liked now distorted beyond recognition.

I dont personally believe they'd compete with SWG, but instead draw back the original playerbase that moved on when the combat-update came in. A playerbase that is halfheartedly playing other MMOs. A playerbase that is only mildly entertained, watching for the next MMO that will offer what SWG once did (me!)

You really hit the nail on the head in regards to the solo-play feel. Is a MMO a MMO when you are given the option of trading your friends for a NPC companion? He doesnt complain, he doesnt go afk. He doesn't do stupid things that get you killed. He never does content or quests without you.

It has potential, but also deprives us of what makes MMOs massively multiplayer.


I just don't think TOR will draw many of the people wishing for the original SWG either. There will likely be no sandbox aspect to TOR.

All that being said about TOR. I would pre-order today.

I'm skeptical about the companion idea.. Why introduce too much interaction with NPC's when there are hundreds of people around you?

I will follow the development of the game, but I'm skeptical about the M's in MMORPG.

Whether it's an "MMORPG" or not, Guild Wars always had NPC henchmen then later added NPC heroes you could level up, gear up, set their skills and have some RTS-like control over.

DDO just added hirelings, NPCs of various classes that can be controlled but their builds and gear are pre-set.

EQ1 just added Mercenaries, exact same concept.

I guess the main difference is DDO and EQ (and *so far* what TOR sounds like) is that each player can only bring *ONE* NPC along to fill a role, whereas in GW I can bring 3 heroes and 4 henchmen to make up a full group of 8 with me as the only human player in the group.

So in DDO and EQ, probably TOR, other players will still be needed, and players can hopefully play better than the AI, but once we "get over ourselves" regarding the whole philosophy of NPCs vs. players and look at the reality of the games we play, would you rather sit around for an hour spamming LFG to hopefully get a player or would you just grab an NPC so you and the rest of the group can just get going and have fun instead of wasting time? In the end, these are *GAMES* and the idea is to have *FUN* and I don't think piddling around idle with building frustration over not getting any hits from LFG for who knows how long is anyone's idea of fun.

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