Star Wars: The Old Republic Beta Impressions

 By Josh Nov 21, 2011 440 comments

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Now, I know I said I’d have a Shogun 2 post for you guys today, but on Friday, Bioware finally stopped actively trying to prevent people from talking about their latest game and dropped the Old Republic’s NDA. Given I’ve been waiting to do a post on this game for what seems like forever, you’ll have to forgive me putting off Shogun 2 for a little while longer.

Back around mid-August, I received a welcome surprise in my inbox – a beta invite to the Old Republic. Ever since then, I’ve been itching to tell people about my experiences with the game. Some of you may also remember how I played it back at PAX 2010 and raised some concerns about the budget and direction for the game. I’ve long been waiting to see if I would have to eat those words. And I think just about everyone has been waiting to see if what is probably the most hyped MMO – perhaps, the most hyped videogame – in history will actually live up to all it promises.

So why don’t we get down right to that? Does BioWare’s first MMO live up to its enormous hype?

Is Star Wars: The Old Repubic any good?

And if I were to put all of my thoughts and experiences about the game into a single-word answer to that question, it would really just have to be:

No.

On the surface, that answer seems absurd, doesn’t it? I mean, it’s BioWare! Sure, I may have been a rather vocal critic of their last few titles, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make a good game anymore. And it’s Star Wars! Probably the most well-recognized fiction franchise in human history! Just think about the money that LucasArts and EA could – and did – throw into a project like this. How could it possibly be bad?!

Well, that’s not an easy question to answer. While I would never say the Old Republic is a good game, I don’t think I’d qualify it as a bad game either. It’s certainly not an obviously bad game – the game does good things, but they don’t seem to come together to form a coherent, interesting whole. MMOs are such complex creatures, and it can be difficult to get to the heart of why you don’t like one on a whole. But I think one of the most important elements to understanding my answer lies with the very core of the game’s design.

Put simply, Star Wars: The Old Republic is a game with an overarching design that seems to be very confused with itself. On the one hand, you have many of the elements that go into any given BioWare game you can name from the past nine years. Cinematic cutscenes, voiced dialogue, interesting side characters, clever humor. Everything you’d expect from a BioWare game. On the other hand, you have a cheap World of Warcraft knockoff with clunky combat, utterly dull encounters, very little customization, few community features, and pitifully little player-choice – even for a linear themepark game. While I’m convinced that there are ways that you could skilfully and seamlessly blend traditional MMO mechanics with BioWare’s signiature storytelling style, the way the two come together in this game is anything but.

On the BioWare side of things – the elements that are almost exclusively contained within BioWare’s monolithic “fourth pillar” of story – you have, as I said before, just about every element you would expect from a BioWare game. More or less every BioWare cliche you can name can be found somewhere in this game, from “you are the chosen one” elements, to plucky, humorous sidekicks, to incredibly restrictive morality meters. Good and bad, it’s all here, and if all you ever wanted was “BioWare puts BioWare cliches into an MMO” and don’t care at all about how it fits together or how the rest of the game plays, then this is your game.

The story is “good,” in as much as that the same quality of writing would make for a mediocre novel – which is just about par for most BioWare games. That said, there weren’t very many plot elements that really snuck up on me, and it was pretty easy to predict what was going to happen next, from my Smuggler’s ship being stolen in the opening quest to my Imperial Agent being tasked to kill the obvious-sympathetic-NPC guy that just last quest was talking about how I should meet his sons when they arrived. Maybe I’ve just been playing BioWare games for too long. The voicework in this game is superb, though, on par with – if not better than – Mass Effect, and none of this is to say that playing out the story and dialogue sections of the game aren’t enjoyable. Far from it, in fact; the “fourth pillar” is by far the bright spot of this game. It’s refreshing to see BioWare-style cutscenes in an MMO environment, and the venerable RPG company has soundly succeeded at beating out every other MMO story in history – at the very least in presentation, if not in writing quality.

The problem is that while BioWare’s first three pillars of Progression, Exploration, and Combat are all holding up the roof of their MMO, the fourth pillar is in another building altogether on the opposite side of town. There is a very clear disconnect between TOR’s storytelling elements and everything else in the game – and the story suffers for it. The game feels much less like an MMO built around storytelling and much more like an MMO with storytelling elements strapped on. While the story-related cutscenes succeed at garnering feelings of attachment and interest in the characters and plot as I’m told someone I’ve been working with is in trouble and I need to go help them, or that the person I’ve been chasing since the beginning of the game has finally shown himself, as I’m dropped back into the MMO part of the world and the quest marker pops up in my log with “kill dudes that are standing around idly in a field and take their stuff until you find x of y,” I’m reminded that I’m playing a themepark MMO again, and I’m doing the same damn quests I’ve been doing for the last eight years and no, they’re still not interesting – and everything that the story has propped up for me shatters in an instant. The gameplay completely fails to support the story.

This problem could have been remedied had the MMO parts of TOR been good – I’m not sure I’ll ever accept kill ten rats quests as a ‘good platform for RPG storytelling’ but I would have been less bothered by them at any rate – but the truth of the matter is that the forth pillar is by far the best one, and the MMO elements in TOR are some sad combination of outdated, poorly designed, and badly implimented.

Aside from the fact that every quest is some variation of a “kill ten rats” quest or a “Fed-ex” delivery quest, the first thing I noticed was that, despite the game’s heavy use of instancing, there is absolutely no phasing in this game. Your actions in the story cannot affect the world around you because, without phasing, they’d affect the world for everyone – something that is antithetical to the very idea of a themepark MMO. And all interactable objects and nodes in the world exist for everyone – which means that for the half of the quests that deal with interactable consoles, switches, and machines, you’ll be fighting with everyone else in the zone to turn them on, lest you be left waiting for them to “respawn” and become interactable again. This caused some significant problems in the beta when the respawn timers for interactable objects were broken, leaving switches that would take eight hours to respawn, and while those bugs were fixed, you’d better hope that a bug like that never crops up again, or you could suddenly find your character stonewalled from advancing because they can’t complete a class quest.

Combat itself would best be described as “clunky.” Hopefully things will be better at launch, because throughout my beta experiences, it felt as if there was almost always a half-second of latency between my pushing a key and my character actually firing off an ability. And aside from the technical problems, combat just isn’t all that deep or interesting. The optimal way to play any class in the game is to find a combination of two or three high-damage, low-recharge abilities and use them in rotation over and over and over again until whatever you’re hitting is dead. For those of you of the more support-oriented persuasion, there are no target-of-target mechanics in the game – so good luck doing anything other than stare at the group window and constantly flipping targets using the game’s frustrating targeting UI to heal whoever is taking damage at any given moment. Sounds like fun to me!

Encounters through most of the game are incredibly dull affairs. From level one, you will be going out into the world and fighting groups of three mobs at a time. Over and over again. At level 25, you’ll still be fighting the same groups of three mobs. Three is the number here, like some sad Monty Python reference that’s spiraled out of control. Let me stress, this is not hyperbole – literally, the Old Republic consists of a series of planets filled to the brim with groups of three guys standing around doing nothing. I can’t even recall a lucid example of fighting a battle against more than three guys outside of flashpoints, unless I accidentally aggro’d two groups at once. And it isn’t as if the three-mob-encounters are all that varied either; I guess you might run into a group that has a healer that might get off two or three heals occasionally, but that’s about it. Maybe you’ll run into the occasional group of two or even a lone mob, but four guys, man? That’s ridiculous.

The real sad thing is that this combat pillar is probably the most fully featured of the three MMO pillars. The “exploration” pillar is a laughable excuse for a misshapen pet-rock; I haven’t seen more closed-in environments, box-canyons, and long, linear corridors since Guild Wars, and that game was instanced! This game is open world! Well, not quite, anyhow – the game makes judicous use of instancing to make certain the population on a given planet isn’t so high or concentrated that it will make it impossible to complete a quest in the phasing-void world of the Old Republic; which means that, yes, there will be multiple instances of Coruscant on the same server. Didn’t Champions Online prove that breaking up community centers like that was a terrible idea? Compound that with the game’s rigid linearity – there’s no such thing as alternative leveling zones in this game – and you’ve got a grade-A recipe for monotony.

The progression pillar doesn’t really stand up on its own either. Each class has two advanced classes that alter the way the class plays, and each of those have two unique talent trees and one that’s shared between both advanced classes, but since most of the good parts of a given advanced class are concentrated towards the top of that class’s talent trees, dabblers will find themselves at a significant disadvantage. The game compounds this problem with a complete lack of any sort of dual-speccing system, meaning you’re just out of luck if you want to play a healer and can’t find a reliable group. You can’t currently respec to a different advanced class at all, either. Beyond that, not very many of the abilities I played with were terribly interesting either, and with the exception of the addition of stealth mechanics to some of the classes, they didn’t seem to really change the way I played much.

The game is also sorely lacking in community features. There are no looking for group functions, the auction house barely qualifies as a store, the group size limit is four, and companions take up group slots, character customization is so laughably inconsequential that I don’t even know where to begin, and you can’t invite people onto your ship. Oh yes, you didn’t misread that last part; you cannot invite people onto your own ship! Don’t even ask me about the thought process that went into that last decision, I don’t want to understand it.

But after all this, I still haven’t gotten to the core of my problem with TOR, and I haven’t answered the question I posed at the beginning of this preview. Because for all of my complaints about the game’s mechanics, they’re all really ancillary to the problem. This game could have been good – not great – but good, had it been a tightly-focused BioWare story with poor MMO mechanics propping it up. After all, KotOR’s combat was rather bland and inconsequential, and to many people, including myself, it is still the best BioWare game. But that’s the real problem with the Old Republic: the story isn’t tightly focused, and its not the dominant feature of the game.

This is an MMO first, and a BioWare RPG as a distant second.

Allow me to illustrate this more succinctly. The ratio of main-to-side-quests in this game is, generously, ten to one. Normally, this would be a good figure for an RPG, implying a massive world with lots of room to explore and lots of activities to complete. But this is an MMO, and I’m increasingly coming to the opinion that there is no such thing as a side-quest in an MMO. That is to say, that to progress in this game – to keep up with the level required to complete the story quests – you need to complete nearly all of the so called “side-quests.” Since the side quests are all unashamedly variations of Fed-Ex and Kill-Ten-Rats quests, concealed only under the thin veneer of voiced dialogue which, while novel, does little to distract from the fact that you’re doing another kill-ten-dudes-in-a-field quest, this becomes much more than a mere chore. And combine that with the fact that you’re playing out these “side-quests” with outdated MMO mechanics and a philosophy of design from 2005, and all of the goodwill, interest, and meaning that the story has built up for you will come crashing down under a typhoon of monotony. If there is a such thing as a true “grind” in an MMO, then this is it, and the story is the carrot.

And that’s the heart of the problem. The so-touted, so-hyped “story” of the Old Republic is a side-activity! Little more than an entertaining diversion from the monotony that is the rest of the game. In KotOR, you could play out the story at your own pace – things could happen as fast or as slow as you wanted them to. In The Old Republic, that story is permanently stuck in first gear, and with the levelling curve the way it is, it actually gets slower as you progress, rather than ramping up.

The Old Republic feels as if someone took a mediocre WoW clone and added a few well-written and presented story quests to it. If you could progress solely through the story then everything would be fine, but you can’t – you can’t even come close. Every part of BioWare’s fourth pillar suffers from this, even the flashpoints, the one part of the game where every pillar comes together to create an experience that made me exclaim, “Yes, yes! This is it! This is what I wanted! This is multiplayer KotOR – we’re making decisions as a group, fighting interesting battles, and there’s an overarching narrative that gives meaning to everything we’re doing!” So naturally, there are only about eight of them in the entire game.

There might be a silver lining, I suppose. I’m sure there will be people quick to point out that the game is still in beta, and that even after launch, the game will constantly be changing as BioWare adds content and patches bugs, but that is of little comfort to me. My problem with the game runs far deeper than simple bugs or content gaps. It’s endemic to the game’s very design. The core game – the four pillars – each one of them sounding so good on its own, have been patched together into something that better resembles Frankenstein’s monster than it does the Six Million Dollar Man.

As I continued to play, I found myself asking the same questions, over and over. Why aren’t there more flashpoints? Hell, why isn’t the entire game made up of flashpoints linked together by hubs? Why is the story so needlessly strung out by these mandatory side-quests – a decision that seems to exist solely because the game is an MMO and for no other reason. Why isn’t this game better? There are hundreds of millions of dollars in this product! Why does it feel like such a chore to play? Eventually, I lost the motivation to even play the game anymore, even knowing I wanted to have as much experience as I could solely so that I could write this post. The irony was poignant – I was in a beta I’m sure people would pay hundreds of dollars for the mere chance to get into – and I didn’t even have the motivation to play it. This was the magnum opus, the dream game of myself and millions of other fans who played KotOR, and all I could think about was how I kept coming back to one question.

Why isn’t this game better?

Because that’s the real tragedy of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Not that it’s a mediocre game – though that is a tragedy in itself – but that it could have been so very much more.

And it isn’t.

A Hundred!A Hundred!A Hundred!A Hundred!2020440 comments. Keep commenting and you're liable to break the internet.


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  1. OEP says:

    Ugh, and I preordered this disaster.

  2. Mersadeon says:

    Wow. I didn’t expect this. I wasn’t going to play TOR anyway (because of the money), but I was expecting that it would be at least a good WoW clone with Bioware-grade story. What a shame. I’m really feeling kinda sad about this. I wasn’t that hyped, but all those people who are STILL thinking this will be the biggest thing since the invention of the wheel. Man. This feels worse than Duke Nukem Forever.

  3. SolkaTruesilver says:

    *chug*

    Oh well, I guess I am happy I spent my money on a diverse and incredibly large SP game like Skyrim compared to a monotonous MMORPG..

    There sure ain’t “kill 10 mudcrabs” quests in the Elder Scrolls…

    • reg42 says:

      There is a “Kill 7 bears” quest, though. God damn bears.

      • SolkaTruesilver says:

        when the “Kill X thing” happens to be named as the EXCEPTION rather than the norm, and you have to go out and find that very quest, I believe the game designers did a good job.

        I’d like to try a Pacifist run, once.

        • Jarenth says:

          In Skyrim? I’m curious to see how you’ll handle the dragons.

          • swimon1 says:

            they don’t appear unless you do the main quest where you kill your first dragon. That said I don’t see how you could do Skyrim pacifist I mean are there quests that don’t entirely revolve around killing stuff?

            • Jarenth says:

              I guess that’d depend on your definition of ‘run’. Are you just going to play all the pacifist-possible quests you can find? I guess that could work, though it’d probably be short.

              • SolkaTruesilver says:

                Dragons will be the exception, I am afraid.

                As for the assassination quests, I guess I’ll have to resort either to traps or illusion spells so the monsters will kill each others. But I’ll sure try to avoid killing as much as possible, and simply abuse the stealth/fear mechanics.

                • Newbie says:

                  Wrong… I have absorbed 5 souls and killed only two dragons… twice I have lead a dragon to a giant and the giant beat the crap out of those hunks of useless meat.

                  • Sumanai says:

                    Is it really pacifism if you lead something to its death intentionally?

                    • SolkaTruesilver says:

                      Under a very, very stretched definition of pacifism, yhea..

                      But I’d rather avoid it.

                    • Bardo says:

                      Dragons aren’t people anyway. I think you can get away with killing a rat that’s running around in your house, and still honestly call yourself a Pacifist.
                      Dragons are just really big rats. With wings. You’re not a murderer of any sort, merely pest control.

            • Friend of Dragons says:

              Hmm… There’s probably some sidequests, but a very large percentage of the quests I’ve done have all involved some degree of dungeon-delving, so I dunno how much luck you’ll have avoiding combat, even for things like the mage guild questline. Hmm… if I had to guess, I’d say the thieve’s guild might have comparatively low required combat, though I haven’t gotten around to that one yet.

              • CTrees says:

                There’s at least one required kill, later on in the Theive’s Guild questline. They do call it out as an exception, in-game, at least. It might be possible to force your companions to do the killing (Fus-Ro-Dah means enemies near cliffs don’t live long, so I wouldn’t know).

                Also, do you consider sending your companions in to kill things to violate your pacifism? Normally I would, but considering your comment, “I guess I’ll have to resort either to traps or illusion spells so the monsters will kill each others,” it might fit within your requirements.

                • SolkaTruesilver says:

                  That’s already a last resort. If possible, I’d simply sneak past by. It’s really if I need to kill someone head-on, only then would I cast inter-fighting spells…

                  Bringing a henchman to do the dirty job for me would not be okay in my book.

          • Raka says:

            A well-reasoned exchange of views leading to a mutually satisfactory compromise?

      • Kdansky says:

        There are a small handful of “kill x” and “collect x” quests in Skyrim (and some of them are incredibly tongue-in-cheek), but it’s not much of an issue because they are very rare. Sometimes, “collect three amethysts” or “collect 30 [spoileriffic] Nirnroots” really makes sense for the story that is told, and then it’s absolutely fine to go with it.

        • Robyrt says:

          I hate that 30 Nirnroots quest so much, because the wonky PC UI means I accidentally eat one every time I open the shop window.

          And while there are very few Kill-Ten-Rats quests in Skyrim, there are lots and lots of Fed-Ex quests, and a generous helping of Ethnic-Cleansing quests too. (You know, things like “Clear out the goblins from Deephollow Mine so our guys can move in.”)

          • Kdansky says:

            Don’t get me started on the UI.

            The thing is, the ethnic cleansing quests usually work well because you don’t run around searching for enemies, but rather walk there, and fight them (and if you miss a few or sneak by, it still counts if you get the leader who is impossible to avoid). You don’t ever stand there with 9/10 killed, looking for that last one. It’s the arbitrary number that feels so wrong.

            As for fedexing: Yes, lots of it. But it is usually very well packaged, and doesn’t feel incredibly forced. Sneaking into an embassy during a cocktail party to find the secret files just feels right, unlike “go murder Wolves (but not Direwolves or Rabid Wolves) until you find a tongue” (because only every 8th has one, and why the fuck do you need a tongue anyway? Can’t you just buy a cow tongue over there in the inn for ten coppers? And why would you pay me enough money for that to buy a wolf mount with? And why do I get 20’000 experience points for bringing you a tongue? And so on). As for “bring this item to my friend X”: To me, it makes sense. There is no postal service (WoW has one that delivers in 60 minutes, even to other dimensions!), and the roads are ridiculously dangerous with bandits and infinite dragons.

            Any game needs a bit of suspension of disbelief, but the whole of Skyrim takes less of it than any twenty quests from WoW. And as a disclaimer: I don’t think WoW is particularly bad, nearly every other MMO is far worse.

            • SolkaTruesilver says:

              Plus, there is no limit on the number of quests you can have at the same time. So if you forget you need to fedex something somewhere, it’s not that bad.

              As opposed to have a max of 20 active quests in your quest log… grrrrrrrrrrr

              • Sumanai says:

                So there’s no time limit or similar in Skyrim? I could’ve sworn that Jarenth mentioned that he got assaulted by hired hands for not delivering the item in question on JPH’s site.

                • SolkaTruesilver says:

                  Not that I know off. There ARE thugs who can be hired to beat you up and kill you, but I don’t think they are quest-related…

                  No time limit I’ve ever seen. Even people who tell you “meet me there quickly” will gladly wait 5 months if you feel like it.

            • kanodin says:

              Yeah I kinda like the fed-ex quests, they’re a nice reason to just go wander off into the wilderness and poke around while still having a general goal to be moving towards.

        • Dasick says:

          I remember Oblivion had a variation of the “kill x enemy” with the black bow bandits and vampires.

          Except that you get gold for every one you kill and you can kill as many as you want.

  4. 13CBS says:

    This…is worrisome. Biowre sunk a LOT of money into this thing, and if it fails…

    …well, hopefully Mass Effect sales gave them enough of a buffer. If not, then I truly hope that this game isn’t the cause of Bioware’s downfall. Bioware doesn’t deserve an inglorious end like that.

    • JimminyJoJo says:

      Bioware’s Golden Age ended when they were acquired by EA. They were so good at making single-player RPGs, even if they did recycle the same cliches almost every time. They never would have tried to make a game so far from their proficiency if EA wasn’t calling the shots, just like the trend of the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series towards more action/shooter style gameplay merely to attract a wider audience. Now, tragically, we see it’s just a waste of everyone’s time and massive amounts of money.

      • Infinitron says:

        The irony is that, as Skyrim shows us, moving towards ‘action/shooter-style’ gameplay wasn’t even the correct way to get a wider audience for an RPG.
        Instead, they should have learned to craft a wider, more open world. Which, insanely, is something they’ve actually been steadily moving away from over the years, even before joining EA. Baldur’s Gate was more open than NWN which was more open than Dragon Age.

        • SolkaTruesilver says:

          A more dynamic world sure would have been nice. Just to SEE the results of your actions…

        • JimminyJoJo says:

          The genius of NWN was the easy to use toolset to allow people to create their own adventures- some of which far surpassed the main campaign. That and the persistent multiplayer worlds, which remains the best translation of DnD to a video game I’ve ever encountered, and I think surpasses the openness of BG.
          Dragon Age Origins was pretty restricted in terms of plot choices, but there were still a ton of places to explore in the world, and lots of ways to customize your character and party. DAO was started before Bioware was acquired. DA2 was started afterwards, and was just hack n slash basically taking place in one location.

          • Infinitron says:

            I agree – I purposely mentioned three games that weren’t actually bad.
            Nevertheless, they illustrate how Bioware has basically been crippling itself commercially over the years by going in the wrong direction in terms of world design.

            Adding ‘action/shooter’ elements as a bandaid solution won’t work.

        • Johan says:

          Eh, I’m not sure I’d agree BG was more open than Dragon Age. If only because in BG you sort of had to do everything a certain way. Nashkel->Bandits->More Bandits->Baldur’s Gate.

          Or at least that’s what the story demands you do. If, however I want to go to the Mages, Humans, Elves, and Dwarves in some other order, I can if I want.

          • Infinitron says:

            I wasn’t talking about linearity of the plot. Baldur’s Gate gave you tons of wilderness maps to explore. Dragon Age has no redundant areas.

            The phenomenal success of Elder Scrolls-type RPGs (including the new Fallouts) shows us that people love that stuff.

            • Meredith says:

              But not all people. I, for one, hate that stuff. I like to know where I’m headed and what to do when I get there with a little freedom to do things in an order of my choosing. KOTOR, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect work well for me this way; Baldur’s Gate and Fallout make me quit from frustration after an hour of wandering aimlessly and accidentally skipping half the quests because I didn’t know they were there. The very idea of Skyrim makes my head hurt. Infinite quests in a completely open world? Too much, way way too much. Both kinds of games should exist.

              • Infinitron says:

                No argument here. I myself prefer a “middle of the road”-type experience, with some exploration and some story-drivenness.

                But if your goal is to sell 5 million copies of your game, well…

              • Falcon says:

                Mass Effect pretty much hits that sweet spot for me. I am the kind of person who likes to see everything. You have your big world ending bad guy poised for his final strike, and I will climb right up to that ‘point of no return’ quest and then STOP. I will refuse to move the plot forward until I have checked every dungeon/ quest/ planet. I like a game that gives me some room to explore, but not one where I do this.

                • So, really, what you’re looking for is a game where if a character says “Help quick!” they mean it. A game where, if you go off to trade your collectible gems for the largest backpack right before the final boss battle, that dude will just up and destroy the world while you’re away!
                  I’d love it if games would quit lying to us. The alternative, though, is allowing the player to well and truly screw up the story that the writers have engineered to tell the player. Either that, or write a game that will come up with an interesting story, no matter what you do.

                  • Enada says:

                    Haha, they had something close with Crono Cross, old playstation game with a ton of endings. You can replay the game over and over and even beat it without defeating the main bad guy who’s trying to take over the world, and you get a cut scene showing what happened. In one case guys who would have been your party members try to defeat the boss without you… and they were never heard from again. XD
                    They should totally put that into more games.

            • Johan says:

              Well, I’ll grant you that, but all that wilderness… did it not get boring to you? It was fun my first time hunting down the Basilisks way the hell out to the East, but I’d rather replay Orzamarr all the different ways (Bhelen? Harromont? Golems? Not?) then replay all the hack and slash of BG’s wilderness.

              And I’m not going to look up the proper spelling for fictional names, so sorry if this is misspelled.
              (also, my spellcheckers says “Golems” should be “Togolese.” ubuwuh?

        • Jjkaybomb says:

          I think that might be true for RPGs. Skyrim has already outsold Mass Effect 2, 3.5mil units to 2mil. But open world might not be the goal for EA. They want the shooter market, and Modern Warfare, the linear shooter, has outsold Skyrim by millions.

          • Irridium says:

            Which is a shame, since you can easily have success with RPG’s. Considering that Skyrim seems to be the second best selling game of the year.

            But I guess they can’t just have a bit of everything to profit from all available markets and must instead just shoot for the one. Which makes me sad.

          • Goatcathead says:

            It’s all the bad parents buying the game for thier kids.

    • Zukhramm says:

      Honestly, if they put that much money into a game that is not very good, they do deserve to end like that.

      • Zagzag says:

        It’s just a shame considering how much I enjoyed their earlier games. To be honest I have been considering Bioware as dead since it was announced how much had been spent TOR. I’m probably exaggerating but I can’t see how they will make a profit out of it, and they will probably make a loss large enough to cause them to be closed down. I really hope this doesn’t happen but I’m afraid it might, Bioware were good once. If they could just work out that their games should get better over time now worse.

    • Shteevie says:

      If SW:ToR fails, it will likely be the end of BioWare. You will probably get ME3 before they pull the plug, though. ME1 and 2 didn’t come close to making enough to justify the acquisition, and DA1 and 2 both lost piles upon piles of money. I forsee a lot of 1-month-only subs for SW:ToR…

      • Infinitron says:

        DA1 and 2 both lost piles upon piles of money

        Citation needed.

        • Chargone says:

          ehh, games publishers like to use their own version of Hollywood accounting so they can continue to claim that piracy is destroying their industry and thus drag more and more cash out of the customers for more and more limited product.

          odds are good that, on paper and according to EA, they did. (at least if they include buying bioware as part of the cost. heh.)

          the reality could be anything though.

          and i’m not sure how much EA gets out of ME1 anyway?

      • Irridium says:

        Actually, Dragon Age 1 was a huge success considering the development time and the audience it was built for. It ended up selling over 3.2 million copies.

        DA2 on the other hand… not so much. I couldn’t really find official sales, so I’m guessing they weren’t that great. How would I know? Because if they were great, I’m pretty sure Bioware/EA would have bragged about it.

        • Last I checked, DA2 had sold over 2.5M copies, and the development time was about a third of what it was for Origins.

        • taellosse says:

          For what it’s worth, Wikipedia says DA2 has sold around 2 million copies. That was as of May, and was counting shipped to retailers, not sold to consumers, but they sold half that to consumers within 2 weeks of launch in March, and it’s probably reasonable to assume that most, if not all, of the copies that have been shipped for sale have been sold by now. So, while definitely lower than DA:O, it’s a respectable showing, all the same.

          I’m really not sure where Shteevie is pulling his claim that the DA series has lost money, though. I’ve never seen anything that says anything like that. Everything I’ve read indicates that DA:O did very well, even accounting for its extremely long development cycle (though Awakening had far more limited success), and DA2 made a healthy profit, even if it performed well below their expectations. If both games in the franchise had “lost piles upon piles of money” I seriously doubt they’d have a third one in development (which has been confirmed by BioWare’s Creative Development Senior Director Alistair McNally). I can just barely believe an independent Bioware might do that (though not really–they’d been running a successful development studio for 10 years before getting bought by EA, and you don’t manage that by making stupid business decisions), but NOT one that is a subsidiary of EA. There’s no way a major corporation would look at a consistently money-losing franchise and say “you know what we need to do? Fund another one! Third time’s the charm!” You occasionally see a sequel to a failed game, but you never see a trilogy of failed games. You see plenty of trilogies of bad games, but they have always made a profit, trust me.

  5. Kdansky says:

    I’ll be a bit smug now: This is exactly what I suspected it to be.

    The issues you list are those of current MMO design philosophy. WoW survived its issues because it’s six years old, and at that time, it was miles ahead of its competition, mainly due to the competition drowning in obvious issues such as bugs (and technical issues such as latency), ridiculous imbalances (let me throw out here that DAoC’s Savages were 4+ sigma above average in PVP matches won), unusable UI and complete opaqueness for beginners (a good Ultima PVP build (Halberd + Flame Strike + Katana switching) will murder everyone who doesn’t know the intrinsic details in three seconds flat).

    WoW was designed specifically around the issues of the competition: It had a fantastic UI (with powerful mod-support from the get-go), beginner-friendly starting areas and clear quest objectives, great art and a fairly good balance (easier to do when there is no PvP for many months after release).

    MMOs draw their content out as much as they can, so you pay overpriced subscription fees (150$ a year!) for a long time, and that makes the game feel shallow and boring. Skyrim for example doesn’t have to do that, but it would only last a month at the most if it were an MMO. Six years ago, such a design was still impressive compared to the single-player games we had. Today, we are more educated and more critical, and realize that you just cannot create a story-based MMO with the mechanics that WoW uses. You have to add or change mechanics (such as Flashpoints) to accomplish that. WoW is actually pretty good at story-telling considering how impossibly hard that is with their tools.

    I always claim that one has to look at video games (and all other art!) in relation to when it was created. Today, photorealistic drawings are not as impressive as they once were, because any cheap camera will outdo the best painter by orders of magnitude. If Planescape: Torment was released today, we’d complain endlessly about its interface. ToR is half a decade late, and even a Star Wars licence cannot make a shitty game good (but it will surely do wonders for the copies sold).

    • Jarenth says:

      I find myself agreeing with this post 100%, which is a rarity.

    • Vlad says:

      I agree with you, but I also think WoW remains incredibly popular to this day because Blizzard improved it a lot over the years (I think, though am not sure, this is part of the point you were trying to make).

      When World of Warcraft first came out, it had a lot of quests and features that were added, like Josh said, just because it was an MMO. With the patches and expansions, Blizzard managed to add a lot of content, greatly improve what they already had (see the Cataclysm revision of Azeroth) and create interesting features despite the fact that it was an MMO.

      They learned a lot from the evolution of WoW, and frankly, I felt that in Starcraft II’s design : very little repetition, interesting and diverse objectives, fun gameplay etc. It’s one of the reasons I can’t wait for Diablo III. They’ve shown nothing but improvement game after game and I applaud them for that.

      I’m also anticipating Guild Wars 2, even though I’m not really an MMO guy. They seem be applying an even more impressive and revolutionary (compared to current WoW) design philosophy right from the get-go. I’m really curious to see how it ends up.

      Also, Josh, I think it would be more suspenseful and/or funny if you made the separation in your post before saying “No.” and not after it.

      • Trix says:

        Blizzard just has this silly habit of like…listening to their customers you know? Why the heck would anyone do that? :)

        Looking over WoW over the years its easy to see how much they tweak and change and overhaul nearly every aspect. They recognize when things get outdated and replace/revamp them. They realize that people play the game for FUN and tweak things that just aren’t.

        I can never convince myself to commit to another MMO anymore because no one else has that level of experience in the genre. It’s a bit unfortunate really, but then I do still like the game.

        • krellen says:

          Are you saying no one has as much experience in tweaking an MMO as Blizzard?

          • Kylroy says:

            In terms of actual number of tweaks made, probably yes. There are older MMOs out there than WoW, but I don’t know if any of them have poured even half the number of employee man-hours into balancing, re-balancing, and modifying their game’s play experience that WoW has.

            • krellen says:

              City of Heroes doesn’t have as big of a team, but they’ve put out 22 issues in their game’s life, which I think is a bit more than the number of patches WoW has released.

              • Kevin says:

                Interesting note, if you consider expansions as major patches, as WoW labels them, WoW does have more.

                1.1 Release
                1.2 – 1.12 | 11 patches
                2.0 – 2.4 | 5 patches
                3.0 – 3.3 | 4 patches
                4.0 – 4.2 | 3 patches
                ———————–
                23 patches

                • Chargone says:

                  ehh, CoH has major expansions corresponding to two of it’s ‘issues’ (or three, depending on what the hell one actually calls ‘Freedom’… i’m still not sure what’s up with that, though given that my health issues are greatly limiting my play time, i may just take advantage of it and cancel my VIP membership (previously a subscription, but the free to play change over and such rearranged everything.)

                  only reason i’ve not done that yet is lazyness, really.

                  also, CoH has quite a lot of patches aside from the 22 issues… but most of them are bug fixes.

                  i’m also looking forward go Guild Wars 2. should be interesting.

                • krellen says:

                  Okay, how about Everquest (the original, which is still running). 18 expansions have been released, which isn’t counting their individual patches.

                  This list shows a lot of patching, including 21 “Game Updates” (differentiated from Hotfixes) in the past year alone.

                  • Alex the Too Old says:

                    Circling back around to the original point, is all of this to say that the CoH or Everquest teams have put more work into fixing up their games than the WoW team?

                    • krellen says:

                      It’s to point out that even the idea that Blizzard are the most experienced MMO designers is ridiculous on its face. There are a lot of people that have been doing this longer than they have.

    • Khizan says:

      I never played Planescape:Torment when it was new.

      I got it from GoG a few months back and I just couldn’t make myself finish it. The story was great. The characters were great. The world was great. But the interface was so godawful that I just couldn’t make myself put up with it. The story was great, but the actual mechanics of PLAYING the game made it a chore that I eventually put aside.

      It’s a shame, really. I tried to replay BG2 a while back and I encountered the same thing. The interface was so frustrating that I decided I’d rather not bother.

      • Zekiel says:

        It is a great shame and I totally agree. I played Planescape Torment new and loved it. I still have incredibly fond memories of it and keep wanting to go back and replay it. But I also remember that even when it was new, the combat was boring and the interface a bit of a pain. Now…

        • Abnaxis says:

          I tried to play it recently and it wouldn’t run (still have my original disks). Damned disks from 1990s not working with modern hardware. Even a Windows 95 VM wouldn’t make it work…

          EDIT: Wow, modbot fail. Now I have to wonder…what did it see as a threat? Windows 95? The ’90s?

      • Infinitron says:

        I don’t understand the complaints about the Infinity Engine interface. It’s no less cumbersome than today’s consolized, menu-based interfaces.

        I think people are just too lazy to manage an entire party these days.

    • Adam Fuller says:

      It seems to me that this implies a huge untapped potential in the MMO market. If everyone is making the same mistakes, and WoW is getting on in years, it should be possible to design a game to do things right and be wildly successful. If anyone wants to get started on one, and needs an animal behaviorist/ecologist (what, of course you need one for an MMO!) by all means let me know.

      • Someone says:

        It should be possible, but the investors won’t give you money unless you copy something that’s already successful.

        • theNater says:

          As it happens, Blizzard is working on “a next-gen MMO”. I suspect their success with WoW provides funding for something new(and hopefully right to be wildly successful).

          No way to be sure, of course. It’s so early in development all that’s been released about it is that it is a next-gen MMO and it is not based on one of Blizzard’s existing properties.

    • zootie says:

      While not a WoW player, I kept up with the initial development as I was looking to move away from EQ1, and I find it odd that no one ever mentions the biggest factor in WoW’s success – the system requirements. I can still recall the article where the developers emphasized how important it was to them that WoW run on a 32 meg graphics card. The reason, as they put it, was “so that everyone can play it, not just people with high-end systems”.
      This got good to me because I’d had to upgrade to a 64 meg medium-high end card just to play EQ1.

      If you look at the consequences of that design decision, every tiny increment they could lower the system requirements by expanded their market by quite a large amount. And at a certain point, they got into the range where WoW could be played on an integrated graphics card, which brought the game into the reach of college and even high-school students. And that’s the prime population of video gamers right there.

      Just wanted to point out that in addition to its other qualities, there’s a real and direct correlation between WoW’s low level of system requirements and their high level of success in the market. Imagine if they’d gone the route the other developers had, loading the crap out of their games with graphics so they could boast “there isn’t a PC made that can run the game at the highest settings” (true fact, I remember reading that too). I believe that had Blizzard done that, they wouldn’t have been any more successful than the EQ games or any other big-name fantasy MMO.

  6. Fede says:

    Maybe it’s my general dislike of MMOs, maybe I’m cynic after the last Bioware titles, but this is exactly what I expected when I heard of a Kotor MMO.

  7. So it’s Bioware being forced into a WoW mold, with a Star Wars skin. Yeah, I pretty much saw it coming. Bioware’s lost it’s touch, WoW holds no appeal, and Star Wars hasn’t been good since Bioware’s last outing with the franchise, which even then had it’s flaws.

    I got invited into the beta, but because I basically expected this, and didn’t want to have to install Origin, I declined.

    The way I see it, Obsidian had the last word on Star Wars with KOTOR 2. The franchise doesn’t need to keep existing any more.

    • Mincecraft says:

      Origin isn’t required to download the beta or play the game.

    • Irridium says:

      Uh, you don’t need to install Origin to play the beta.

      I have the beta right now and don’t have Origin on my PC.

      • MintSkittle says:

        Huh, i was under the impression that Origin was required. Just checked the SWTOR general FAQ, and it does say that you need an Origin account. I guess I mis-interpreted that as requiring the Origin distribution client.

        The relevant bit:

        “Yes, you will require an active Origin account in addition to a Star Wars: The Old Republic account. You can create a new Origin account by going to the Origin Account Registration page, entering your email address in the appropriate space and clicking “Start my EA Profile.” This will take you to a screen where you can create your EA Master ID and set your password. You can also start a new Origin account by logging in with either your Facebook or PlayStation Network accounts, or by downloading and running the Origin client for the first time. ”

        So it looks like you just need an account, not the client software.

        Good to know.

        • Mephane says:

          I am just downloading the client for the upcoming beta weekend and avoided Origin like the pest. The only thing Origin-related is that if you create a SWTOR account, it also creates an EA/Origin account automatically, as they apparently use Origin’s authentication system.

          What you need Origin for is if you buy the game as digital download as opposed to retail, as they have it exclusively on Origin for download purchase.

  8. JimminyJoJo says:

    This makes me very sad, but I’m so glad my choice to cancel my pre-order and pick up Skyrim instead has been vindicated.

  9. Aristabulus says:

    Switch respawn camping? Damn. I know you said it was a bug, but I remember that little hell from MUDs in the days of yore. I am so very glad that I’ve lost my taste for both mumorpergers and Star Wars.

    • Mephane says:

      From what I have read on the forums, apparently switching instances also teleports you back to the spawn point using your quick travel skill (aka Hearthstone), consuming its 30 minute cooldown. I may be wrong, so please correct me if this info is false, it’s only what someone said on the forums.

      • Josh says:

        It did as of the last weekend test. It didn’t use to. I imagine it’s a sufficiently inelegant solution to the problem of people using instance swapping to teleport back home and avoid the 30 minute cooldown of the normal teleport skill.

        Of course being stuck unable to switch instances seems to sort of defeat the point of instances in the first place…

  10. Infinitron says:

    The question is: Is it bad enough to fail?
    Or will millions of MMO players out there be dazzled enough by the never-before-seen level of “fourth pillar” that it’ll become a hit regardless?

  11. Mincecraft says:

    Remember everyone, That while Josh raises some very valuable and very valid points here, that you shouldn’t base your entire opinion of a game of ONE review. There’s an overwhelming amount of positive feedback about it two, You’ve just got to weight up both arguments and THEN see where you stand.

    On Topic – It’s a feel that way about it, I’m still going to pick it up and launch and give it a chance when fully released (coupled with this coming weekends beta)

    • Josh says:

      I’d like to echo this. Don’t take this as some cry that “no one should ever buy this game.” Much of my stark disappointment is because I can see how the game could have been so much better than it is, to the point where it’s distracting. But play the beta test this weekend, if you were invited, and see for yourself if you’re still interested.

      • rofltehcat says:

        Another thing I can see coming is that just like “Minecraft” here, many people will already have preordered it by now and many will get it to see for themselves because there is a lack of information about the game.
        If there had been more information about the game earlier, I’m sure many more people would be more careful about purshasing it and would wait to see how it turns out.

        With all those people buying it on release, the game can’t “fail”, no matter what. I’m waiting a while to decide whether I’ll play it myself but we’ll really have to see how the subscriptions hold up after the first two months.

        Off to read more reviews now, there are bound to be more :D

        • Scott (Duneyrr) says:

          With all those people buying it on release, the game can’t “fail”, no matter what.

          With a development cost of around $135 million, TOR would have to sell two and a quarter million copies of the game at retail price to make their money back from development. If they don’t make that benchmark, they will need to keep people playing the game enough to make back the rest of the initial cost and enough to keep the servers running and their staff paid.

          I find it likely that TOR will make it’s money back, but the fact is: this game, like any game, can fail. I hope it doesn’t, but it can.

          • Eddie says:

            That’s two and a quarter million if Bioware/EA were getting 100% of the money from each sale. The retailers will be taking a cut and then there’s distribution costs and the cost of the servers and such. I have no idea how it actually breaks down, but 2.25 million won’t be enough.

            • Scott (Duneyrr) says:

              How did I miss that? Yes, it will need to be significantly more than 2 million sales. Also, we mustn’t forget that Star Wars Galaxies took two years to get one million subscribers, despite being pretty awesome when it launched (and getting good reviews) in 2003.

              • Maldeus says:

                Although it is worth noting that the MMO playing market is much bigger now.

                • Kana says:

                  It’s also becoming flooded with MMOs, and most people won’t play 2 at the same time. The only reason I’m planning on playing TERA Online and Planetside 2 is because one is free. Already know one will dominate my relaxation time while the other will become a quick little side break.

                  SW:TOR needs to convince people that it is a better alternative, or gather up lost subs from other games. The Star Wars license helps… but is it good enough to pull people from other games or get them back into MMOs as is?

          • Vipermagi says:

            2.25 million, assuming they get the full sixty dollars, which they probably don’t either. It does help they get at least another 15 dollars on top of every purchase from the monthly fee.

            • Aufero says:

              They’ve pre-sold quite a few collector’s editions (no idea how many, but the SW:TOR boards seem to be full of people who claim to have ordered the CE) at $150 apiece. If that’s a substantial fraction of their orders, it could drive down the break-even total. Two million units, maybe?

              In any case, it’s going to need at least an initial wave of sales larger than most MMOs get to be successful.

              • Mephane says:

                You mean those crying about how their (never as such advertised) “exclusive” lounge won’t be exclusive to them so they cannot feel as special as they want to? Because the way those people talk indicates a typical case of “vocal minority”.

            • Peter H. Coffin says:

              ’cause running servers is free.

              (Okay, compared to development costs, it nearly is. And usually the per-active-user cost for hardware and bandwidth envelopes to a buck a month. So it’s 93% free. But yes, keeping 80,000 users is a million dollars a month. Which tells you a little bit about how much WoW is REALLY worth.)

          • ravenshrike says:

            Total preorders will be at or quite a bit above 2 million, possibly as high as 3m assuming VGChartz Americas physical preorder numbers are with 15% of the actual Americas physical total and the incremental increase holds over the next 3 weeks. Plus all the people who will get it at launch/after christmas. If that launch rush tosses it over 4 mil, a distinct possibility, then it will have made its money back before it even started.

      • Rosseloh says:

        Indeed. I don’t have time to write a full review, but here’s my sales pitch:

        Playing in the most recent beta weekend (11/11/11) is what turned me from a skeptic into a preordering fanatic. I love MMOs (kill 10 rats and fedex included), so perhaps that’s the difference between me and Josh. But I was really quite impressed at how much it didn’t suck (at least, compared to what I thought was going to happen).

        Also, I didn’t notice the skill lag you’re talking about. But, I’m used to LotRO, which has a very strict skill timing system where you can actually queue up skills while another is executing, so I’m probably just not seeing what you are.

    • Mr Guy says:

      So, this is 100% true. Read everything you can.

      Not to give him a swelled head, but I trust Josh here more than “mainstream” gaming press for 2 reasons.

      First, I have an idea of how he approaches games from watching far too much spoiler warning, and in a lot of cases I agree with his critiques of games. Note that if you don’t usually find yourself nodding along with Josh, well, that tells you something. But I have a sense of the curve he grades on.

      Secondly, Josh isn’t really in this to make money, and he doesn’t really work for anyone who’s reviewing games to make money (unless twentysided is WAY more of a commercial success than it appears…). He doesn’t have an axe to grind, or a relationship with a studio to maintain. He doesn’t have a department pressuring him about “not pissing off the sponsors.”

      This is what really turns me off to the “mainstream” gaming press. I so rarely see a well-marketed AAA title get anything but a good review. I rarely see a mainstream reviewer really take a developer to task on bad decisions or really broken games (I’m flatly amazed at the great press Civ V and Fallout:NV both got at launch, despite each having horribly broken gameplay/mechanical elements).

  12. rofltehcat says:

    Thanks Josh, this reinforces what I had feared.
    In my Rift guild, everyone was like “OMGomgOMG only a month until SWTOR pre-release!” “I can’t believe they’re sending the preorder beta keys out tomorrow!” “hey, I got this live-stream of some guy who knows someone who is known by someone I know but don’t tell anyone!”

    My policy was that I’d maybe try it later when it was cheaper and there was some sort of recruit a friend promotion. In my eyes the hype was too good to be true. Let’s remember other MMOs that got hyped:
    “OMG Warhammer is gonna be so good, it will be just like WoW just more awesome and with PvP and I’m sure it will have lots of content and be very stable with battles of like 1000 vs. 1000!!! OMG Age of Conan will be the best thing ever, it has boobs in it!!!”
    Yeah, we know how those turned out.

    Also, the secrecy… when I voiced my concerns in Teamspeak that it was pretty strange they didn’t lift the NDA the hypers just meant it was because they wanted to build up anticipation… pfeh.

    Here is an example of my “SWTOR experience”:

    “Just look at this stream, it is awesome!”
    *Awesome cutscene centering about having to defend from an onslaught and there is one soldier speaking out and suggesting to retreat. Decision to advise his commander to kill him or to punish him otherwise. Then some generic Sith guy with two red lightsabers kills a group of 3 mobs, the next group of 3 mobs advances, is killed generally, combat seems rather boring despite him having like 30 abilities in his bars. Repeat a few times and then there is a group of 3 with a larger mob in the middle. Generic sith guy dies and respawns at some sort of space port. He gets on his glider-bike and drives through canyons for 7 or 8 minutes until he is at the same spot again.
    “Hey, that mount looks cool, just look at it! And his cape!” Generic sith guy’s cape wirls around like mad, making the bulky figure on the small hover bike seem even more ridiculous. Same cutscene again, proceed to kill mobs, this time succeeding.

    “Hey, he just said in chat that he is going to sign up for PvP now! This is gonna be so awesome!”
    Generic sith guy joins generic WoW-style battleground. People run to each other, then stop moving once they meet each other, hit each other with their abilities until eventually someone dies. Movement is only about running towards the next enemy.
    “Hey, did you see like he killed that guy in under 10 seconds?”

    Didn’t look that awesome to me.

  13. Lalaland says:

    I had hoped Bioware had taken all of that KOTOR goodness and hidden it in the MMO because since Mass Effect 1 I haven’t seen any sign of it in their games. The DA series, ME2 and, from the looks of things, ME3 have all gone down the ‘kill/fetch quest that changes nothing plot related’ path. It’s a shame as I’d hoped they had lashed all those talents to the MMO mast and I might get a SP game from them at some point in the future.
    I guess that’s not gonna happen now

  14. Taellosse says:

    You raise some worrying points, and they may still prove to be accurate. I was inclined to agree with you when I got a chance to play the demo they were showing at PAX East–it felt like how you describe–WoW in space with voiced dialogue. But I only got to play it for ~15 minutes, and that’s not much to judge any game on, never mind an MMO. I had a chance to try it out again on one of the recent beta weekends, and I got to play for several hours this time, getting a Sith Inquisitor up to level 6, and I was considerably more engaged, and very interested in playing it some more. Yeah, the problems you highlight were there–resetting quest items and respawning quest enemies, “kill X of Y” quests abounded, and so forth. But nevertheless, the story engaged me enough that I found I didn’t mind very much. And some of the powers I started to get as I leveled were rather fun–I got one where I could do a slam into the ground, using the Force to throw everyone around me back, and some really nifty-looking Force Lightning powers.

    I’ve tried several MMOs over the years, and never found one that kept me interested for long enough to want to pay a subscription fee. I sampled WoW during its original open beta, and again when I got the Warcraft 3 battlechest with 2 weeks free WoW 2 or 3 years later. I bought City of Heroes and Guild Wars and played enough to know I didn’t like them enough to keep at it. I tried out D&D Online, and I just recently gave DC Universe Online a shot, briefly. Pretty much all of them felt repetitive and dull after a few hours (CoH, while being one of the worst offenders here, was also the one I most seriously considered keeping up with, though, because of the truly awesome character creation). But I think a lot of that was because the writing was weak, and too easy to ignore or overlook because there was no interactive dialogue, and what little story there is was delivered through text boxes. Even the weak justifications for the “kill X of Y” quests in TOR interest me more than the similar ones in other games because I could actually interact with the quest-givers.

    It might not end up having staying power. I’m buying the game, and I’m going to put it through its paces for that first month. If I’m not still having fun after my free month is up, I’m prepared to not pay the subscription fee, and set it aside with the other MMOs I’ve given a shot, and ultimately not continued to play. I’ll agree that there’s room to improve the game–the combat could definitely be more engaging, the character customization could be much more robust (I find the arbitrary limits on which races can be which classes annoying, and the extremely limited range of race choices a bit disheartening–nothing even available with a non-human face, like a Rodian or Kel-Dor), and the number and variety of side quests could be a lot greater, but I think most of those kinds of things can be addressed post-launch. After all, WoW is quite different than it was in 2004 in all of those ways. If TOR can get off the ground, I think it can do well. I’m prepared to give it a shot, even if it isn’t perfect right away.

  15. rayen says:

    EDIT; i retract my earlier statements…

  16. Jarenth says:

    While I’m pretty sad to read this, Josh, it’s pretty much your own fault here. You heard what that gypsy said; you knew the cost of postponing more Guild Wars to go hang out in an amazing secret Star Wars world instead.

    Now you’ve paid the price.

  17. I’m not a fan of Star Wars
    I really had no interest in the game due more to subject matter then BioWare’s possible execution
    But even though I wasn’t gonna play it, I hoped the game would be successful and be a true contender with WoW

    I like a system where people with different tastes can have multiple choices
    I like Super Heroes and Sci-Fi and Post-Apocalyptic wastelands
    I don’t like Fantasy and Magic and Elves
    I search for a MMO that caters to my tastes, and my search continues
    Fantasy fans have WoW

    Maybe there is an audience out there that will hold this game up as a triumph and hopefully those fans will get to play for years to come
    Again, I have no interest in playing this myself but I liked the idea of Sci-Fi fans getting a turn in the MMO spotlight

    • Chuck says:

      Have you considered EVE Online, though you may be wanting something land based.

    • Scott (Duneyrr) says:

      Let’s be honest: Star Wars is fantasy in space. I would have to agree with Chuck and say take a look at EVE Online if you haven’t yet, and if you have, take another look. They’ve made some interesting changes to planet management and there appear to be some interesting developments in the works. Especially now that they are letting people walk around as their character (not really going anywhere, but it’s a start!)

      • Thank you both (Chuck and Scott)
        I played it back at release and I didn’t really have the computer rig for it then, so I gave up
        Also, I think deep down I wished it was a Pilot/SIM style game, like the X Series but as an MMO
        Now I have a beefier system, I could give it another look

        And your right about Star Wars Scott, I think thats why I never got into it…too much magic and swords and little self righteous green elves

    • krellen says:

      Have you tried City of Heroes? Honestly, it doesn’t do much at all that other MMOs do, so if other MMOs aren’t clicking for you, CoH might.

      • Made an account when you suggested it last :)
        I’m still trying to get the hang of it, but I’ve got a super strength type character going

        • Chargone says:

          one of my fav things in CoH is that the Defender (essentially a support class with damage abilities tacked on so it can solo when needed (which often have secondary support effects Anyway)) build is actually one of the more, in the context of the world if not the gameplay itself, dangerous builds out there.

          certain defender builds (most noticeably traps based builds) can solo Giant Monster class enemies.

          Giant monsters are gimiked to make your level utterly irrelevant beyond what it represents in terms of how many times you’ve picked up abilities and enhancement slots for them. they’re designed to be taken on by multiple 8 man teams At Once.

          and a properly built traps based defender (remember, it’s as near to a dedicated support class as this game Gets) can Solo Them. (i believe cold was one of the other defender builds that could, but i don’t remember.)

          not the tanks
          not the damage dealers
          not the guys with pets
          not the control based guys

          the Support Class :D
          (to be fair, a lot of this, in the case of traps, is because they have a rather powerful attack in their primary set and can, built right, pile up 20 or so of them in one place then pull the enemy onto them for massive damage, after having mini-artillery bombard the thing with stat reducing acid, but still!)

          now, i’m not good enough to actually pull that off, and traps defenders have the downside of requiring the entire Team to play completely differently from every other situation to be effective.. (they’re compleatly Useless on an eight man team because they take time to set up to do their thing, by which point everyone else has already blitzed the next three sets of mobs. on the other hand, they can let a 2-4 man team breeze through things an eight man team would normally struggle with with a bit of planning.)

          but you an guess what my fav class/build is, no? :D

    • Kdansky says:

      This bothers me to no end: Star Wars is not SciFi! It’s Fantasy with a slightly unusual backdrop. There are magic swords, knights, magic powers, dragons and elves. There are no concepts like Transhumanism, nobody talks about Singularities, there is no virtual reality, there are no AIs taking care of whole ecosystems, there are no questions about what it means to be a human. Long story short: Star Wars has nothing at all in common with Asimov, Stross, Hamilton or Nyven.

      • Chargone says:

        it’s also a decaying setting. part of it’s due to improvements in film making tech, but… if you take all the movies, and games, and books… very little new tech is developed over the course of all those things, and much is Lost… and when they DO have a period of technological development it’s because everything Else is falling apart.

        (technically the TIE fighter is actually Better than the X-wing, oddly, having replaced it, if i remember my lore correctly. just… the rebels only have limited people and gear, so stuck hyperspace engines and shield generators in the x-wings, while the empire has so many TIE fighters and pilots that the manouverability gain from ditching the shields is worth it, and they have star destroyers to carry them around with….)

        • Chuck says:

          X-Wings were made by defectors from the company that make the TIE Fighter.

          Yes, I am a huge dork.

          When you put it like that it sounds more like the Imperium of Man, which I guess would make it more sci-fi.

          • Jon says:

            Actually the TIE fighter was made by Sienar and the X-Wing was made by a company called Incom. At some point (the mythology is murky and contradictory here) Incom defected with the X-Wing to the Rebellion.

            The TIE fighter is inferior to the X-Wing in most respects. The Empire built its fleet around capital warships with fighters in support. The TIE is built to need a command ship and can only land in special docking cradles. It is built to be reliant on higher authority.

            The Rebellion didn’t have much in the way of a capital ship fleet so their starfighters had to be self-reliant, durable, and long-ranged enough to wage war independently. The Empire could have built a comparable fighter but that would have meant less capital warships.

            I guess you can take consolation in me being a bigger dork.

      • Falcon says:

        I’m going to have to call you out on this.

        Good Sci Fi and good fantasy are the same thing with different glossy coatings.

        Good Sci Fi will ask questions about the nature of humanity, our role in the universe,human rights, etc. The stories are things relevant today, set in the future, or an alternate world, to explore themes in a nonthreatening way.

        Good fantasy explores what is human, our role in the world, human/ elf/ dwarf rights, etc. Stories told with meaning today, but with a magic, pseudo historical, or different species to stand in for different cultures (make the dwarves an analogue for 16th century Austria, why not).

        I’m convinced you could strip out the fantasy parts of Lord of the Rings, and make it set in the same universe as Asimov’s Foundation. Likewise replace androids with golems to turn Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep into a fantasy novel.

        • Shamus says:

          Sci-Fi is kind of a sandbox for playing around with “what if” scenarios. What if, in our world, you could make a computer capable of thinking the way a human does? What if I copied my brain into the machine? Is it still me? If that machine comes to some horrible conclusion or does something bad, how much guilt would fall to me, the organic original? How much should?

          You CAN ask these sorts of questions with “magic”, but then it’s no longer “our world” or “us”. In fantasy, “magic” can be arbitrary and can do anything. The question of “is it still me?” is one for a wizard, not the reader. It’s much easier and clearer to play around with these ideas when the rules and limits are understood by the audience.

          The question: “What if our world had technology X?” is different from, “What if there was a fantasy world with magic that could do many many things, including X?”

          It’s not a hard line, and some stories could fall into either category. But I think “I, Robot” or “Ghost in the Machine” would lose a lot of their meaning if their thinking machines were replaced with magic.

          • I draw a line, too –

            A key point of Science Fiction is that humans are the architects of their own destiny. This works for parables, where the evil robot turns on its master, or for more cheerful explorations of what humanity might create. Even in stories where there is a higher power (aliens, god), the idea that humans create things with lasting impact, and what that does to us, is an inherent part of the setting.

            Fantasy, on the other hand, generally involves a struggle against, but within, the rules of the universe – there might be different rules in a particular setting (magic, elves etc.), but humans aren’t responsible for them; it’s a more direct allegory to everyday life, in that respect.

          • Mr Guy says:

            This is reducing all fantasy to Lord of the Rings and similar magic and swordfights.

            I guess I don’t see the reason why people are so sensitive to trying to keep Fantasy and Sci-Fi as separate genres.

            In my head, Fantasy stories are stories that take place in a world that differs in one or more material ways to the world we’re used to. Some are more plausible than others, but they’re different, and this difference is the mechanism that frees the author to play around with ideas in a world with different constraints and mores than our own.

            Sci-Fi would be a subgenre of that definition of Fantasy–it’s Fantasy where the specifics of how the world differs from our own are with regard to available technology and/or rules of physics (please no objections that some “hard” science fiction might be possible some day–the point is that the world of the story isn’t the world we know).

            Magic based fantasy stories are another popular subgenre, where the difference to our world are that the laws of nature are somehow changed/changable (e.g. that people could shoot fire from their hands). Exactly which “rules” of magic are permitted depend on how the author describes the world.

            There are works of fantasy that are neither of these archetypes–stories where the major differences to our world are neither based on a major technological advancement nor magical powers/creatures. Many dystopian stories fall into this category. To pick a ridiculous example, the Road Warrior takes place in a world that’s clearly a “fantasy” world because it doesn’t match our own, but the differences are neither technological nor magical.

        • zootie says:

          Hmm I always considered Sci-Fi a study of the changes in humanity due to new capabilities that we’d developed. Exploring those new capabilities from the viewpoints of the story’s characters and seeing how those characters change in reaction to them (and by extension, how humanity as a whole will also change) is, to me, the heart and soul of a real sci-fi story.

          Fantasy on the other hand seems to me to be generally imagination candy, regardless of the story (and I’ve read some great stories). There’s only rarely an exploration of what the fantastical elements mean to humanity (or whatever race the story’s characters belong to). Let me think…ok, Rick Cook’s Wizard stories did that a bit, as the main character introduced magic to regular people and they had to change their culture to deal with it. …umm and that’s the only one I can think of. Plenty of stories about how the main characters dealt personally with acquiring fantastical powers or abilities, but that’s not the same as “this will change us as a people”.

  18. Irridium says:

    Huh, you pretty much said all I wanted to say about it. Well, more or less anyway. Personally, I really like the story for the Imperial Agent. It’s interesting, characters are interesting, and some of the “good/evil” choices are more grey then I expected.

    But, all the issues you described pretty much get in the way of it. What I wish they would have done was make you’re character the necessary level to complete each story mission if you started at a lower-than-recommended level. That way those of us who just want to experience the story can do so and leave the MMO parts to screw off.

    Some might use it to level quickly, but it’s not much different from grinding enemies over and over again. And it gives people who just want the story a way to get it.

    And the “it’s just a beta” excuse doesn’t really hold water at this point. The game is one month from release, there’s no way they’ll be able to fix most of the issues this thing has in just one month. It’s pretty much the final game, and… it’s just not as good as it could be. Which is a damn shame.

    But, at least I know where all of Bioware’s decent story writers went. The Agent’s story is FAR better than ME2 or DA2. As is the Jedi Consular’s, though it is a bit too much on the standard star wars side of things. At least up to the part I’m at.

    As for the gameplay… well gameplay in Bioware games has always been pretty weak. It’s no different here.

  19. Dovius says:

    So basically, it’s WoW with a Star Wars setting and a better story. Except that the story isn’t THAT much better and they’ve nicked everything from WoW circa Patch 1.4?
    I can’t help but imagine that they could perhaps have transferred some funds from Voice Acting to Game Design.

    • Kylroy says:

      “…and they’ve nicked everything from WoW circa Patch 1.4?”

      This emphasizes to me the big hill any new MMO has to climb. Your game doesn’t need to be better than WoW was at release – it needs to better than WoW is right now, after six years and dozens of patches and many, many lessons learned.

      • Kdansky says:

        It has to be mentioned though that WoW has a lot of new faults, such as the “dance-centric” raids where you don’t need to know anything about your class, but just perform some unique dance for every boss. This means that your raid experience does not carry over to the next fight, which means you cannot “get better” at the game. And that means it quickly becomes boring.

        Still, WoW has seen a megaton of improvements over the years. The UI, the technology (streaming, lag compensation, looks), balancing and so on. It’s a catch-up game of gigantic proportions.

  20. Adam says:

    I’m not terribly surprised. Bioware’s strength has always been in tightly-plotted single-player games. Forcing them to take that and stretch it over the balsa-and-tissue-paper framework of a WoW clone was just asking for trouble. Maybe at least their next few games won’t be quite as wonky now that this disaster is out of the way.

  21. Xythe says:

    Thanks for the review, that’s the first set of criticisms I’ve found so far in my start of week blog travels (everything else has just been so much gushing). I will be continuing to reserve my judgement (and pre-order money) until I’ve given it a good go in beta this weekend.

  22. Daniel says:

    I participated in the beta and had largly the same negative experience as you. (To the point that I stopped playing before my beta period expired.)

    -But-

    I’m still more optimistic that things will change for the better. You said:

    This game could have been good – not great – but good … If you could progress solely through the story then everything would be fine, but you can’t – you can’t even come close.

    and I agree. But doesn’t that mean that that needs to be done to fix that issue is to radically speed up the leveling curve? WoW started off with painfully slow leveling and, as they added content, quickly ramped it up — I can easily imagine ToR doing the same. Especially if they are disappointed by their early performance, that seems like an obvious change (assuming they don’t crash and burn before that, of course.)

    So, maybe I’m deluded, but my thought was less “it’s no good” and more, “well, maybe in a year.”

    • rofltehcat says:

      Well, although WoW’s leveling at first was painful, it was still an improvement over everything on the market before. In pre-WoW MMOs, leveling bacially meant grinding mobs from lvl 1 to maxlvl.
      However, today this kill- and fetch-quest-based leveling isn’t really up to date anymore and many people expected SWTOR to do the next step. Nearly all the MMOs released in the last years didn’t really progress from WoW’s concept.

      Without bringing something new, new MMORPGs won’t be able to dethrone WoW. WoW stomped every other MMO before it because it was better than them, it worked around the weaknesses of those games. Today’s MMOs only try to copy WoW.

      Video game studios (and especially the publishers) haven’t learned anything from the failed MMORPGs of the last years. Sure, for someone who doesn’t understand much about game design but a lot about financing/investment (aka publishers), investing in a new product that is based on already existing and successful products can’t be wrong. How can it possibly fail if the other product is so successful?
      Well, this may work for most other things but I doubt it works for video games.

      • Daniel says:

        Yeah, I agree — they should really have done better on this point.

        But my overall question is: how much could the game be improved by the simple change of reducing the required xp/lvl to 1/3 it’s current amount?

        If the answer is “a ton,” then I still have hope for the game.

      • Josh says:

        The problem is not a unique quirk of MMOs – or, indeed, the video game market in general – but because the MMO market has been completely saturated for six years. World of Warcraft brought a massive influx of new MMO players, but no other MMO has managed anything remotely similar for years, so WoW has effectively been hogging most of the mainstream subscription MMO players. Add to that the fact that anything with a subscription as substantial as an MMO one actively discourages consumers from subscribing to more than one of these products at any given time, compounded by the fact that MMOs are social games and prospective new consumers or people who could potentially switch will usually hinge their decision on what their friends are doing, and you have a pretty clear picture of why new MMOs are failing to dethrone WoW.

        Note that free-to-play MMOs (or at least, the free-to-play MMOs that don’t constantly nickel and dime you and nearly require you to spend money to play reasonably) are largely immune to these problems, and the free-to-play market has seen massive growth over the past two years.

        • Tizzy says:

          It’s not just cash either: the *time* investment in any MMO worth the name will prevent players from simply hopping around from game to game (the way Reginald hops around the landscape).

        • Bossieke says:

          Again I agree with this guy.

          Just bookmarked this now. Apparenlty you have a great sense of analysis.

          I also think that the so called loss of players in EVE and WOW in 2011 had very little to do with in game policy or content (new items in EVE shop and so called difficult problem in Cata).

          My bet is that the number of 15% or more losses are due to the ever increasing “free to play” offers on the internet (be that IPad games, Web browser games, former AAA MMO titles etc …)

          I mean look at me: I try and play around 2 or 3 of these (almost) free to play I Pad games per month and mostly they are excellent translations of excellent boardgames you now can play … on the web 24/24.

          I think SW TOR will sell a lot (over 2M somewhere) but the retention rate will be the usual 20/25% after 6 months. Also most players get their pre release keys very early, so pre sales in MMo’s have very little significance.

          I think Blizzard’s new MMO will not have a subscription and therefore killing the single game subs based market for ever;

          There could be a global package offer (like play all games on a certain gaming net for a certain amount), but the era of single paid subscription based games is going to end rather sooner than later.

      • Tizzy says:

        How can it possibly fail if the other product is so successful?
        Well, this may work for most other things but I doubt it works for video games.

        Actually, this is true of almost everything, and especially true for technology-related products. (Zune anyone?) The top product in the market usually has a ridiculous margin over its closest competitor.

      • mewse says:

        Plus, WoW was spectacularly progressive in terms of how it treated the player, back when it was new. For example, when WoW first came out it was standard in MMOs for killed characters to lose experience points and/or levels, to (potentially) have their items looted, and other permanent penalties. WoW was revolutionary at the time by putting forward the kinder idea that “Making the player spend some of his time running back to where he died is enough punishment to discourage players from letting their characters die unnecessarily”. It’s hard to believe, today, just how revolutionary an idea this was when WoW was new.

        • Mephane says:

          Yeah. I went from Anarchy Online to WoW and the sudden increase in quality, playability, player-friendliness and non-grindiness was so amazing that I didn’t miss AO a second. The MMO that manages to perform such a substantial improvement again will be one to dethrone WoW.

          Ironically, though pure speculation, it’s entirely possible the first one to do so could be Titan, as they can directly put to use all their experience with WoW from the very beginning.

        • Chargone says:

          CoH came out before WoW, and it’s death penalty was ‘you got some debt. half your XP will go towards paying it off until it’s gone’. you only had to run back if you went to the hospital (rather than having a teammate or insperation(one use item) rez you) and then wanted to get back to the mission you were on rather than going and doing something else first then starting it over (yay instancing!)

          that got tweaked around a bit, and most rez powers made you immune to it if you died too soon after coming back anyway

          then they added patrol xp. basically, you logged off for a while, and for X xp after you logged back in, you got extra. … patrol xp and xp debt from death cancel. if you played a reasonable amount (rather than excessively) and weren’t a suicidal idiot, you were basically unaffected by it.

          i believe you can’t even Get xp debt until you’re level 10 or so.

          oh, and even while dead, if you’re still in the mission you still get xp for your team’s kills. and when you level you get one of every insperation used on you automatically. including the rez. (9 times out of 10 this will happen in the final boss fight, or at a point where events will transpire such that the insperations will wear off before you need them, but oh well. level-rezzing in the middle of battle and proceeding to own everything and win the fight is still awesome.)

          … it’s basically got to the point where the Functional penalty for all but the most obsesive players who have no lives And no clue, you don’t even notice it. the functional penalty for dieing is running back to the mission to rejoin your team so you can carry on and finish the mish. and even that is (Usually) measured in single digit minutes, tops.

          • Von Krieger says:

            Not to mention if you’re a subscriber, eventually you’ll be able to trigger that ‘level resurrection’ power once an hour.

            I like to use it and Rise of the Phoenix, since I can make them both fire off in succession. Everything had been damaged and knocked on its ass, while I’m essentially immortal for the next minute.

          • Kdansky says:

            XP debt is the same as XP loss, just worded differently. There is no difference between losing the next 100 exp or the last 100 exp, as long as you keep playing.

            Not having a meaningful death (or the opposite) isn’t just better. It’s a design decision. If an MMO had perma-death, it would still have a crowd, just not the same crowd. I’d play it. I like Roguelikes.

  23. GhostBoy says:

    While it probably wouldn’t affect your final impression of the game, Josh, your point would be much improved if you had bothered with a quick check of the latest changes, and removed the rather sizable number of specific points you bring up that are now several test builds outdated.

    Just sayin’

    • Josh says:

      I’ll grant there may be details in my recollections that are incorrect – and if they fixed even a fraction of the problems I brought up, then good on them. I tried not to give too many examples of problems that could be fixed prior to release because of that – though I’m not really certain I succeeded – and if you have any specific examples of my mistakes, I’d be glad to have a look at them.

      But as I said towards my conclusion, my most significant problems with the game are things that simply could not be changed without a complete revamp of the entire game. Nitpicks are nitpicks, but none of them were what kept me from liking TOR.

      Also, please tell me you can invite people onto your ship now. Pleeeeaaase tell me they added that.

      • Aufero says:

        Wasn’t sure where to post a response, but this seems as good a spot as any.

        Some of this review is accurate. Outside of the storytelling, this is a fairly standard WoW-style MMO. However, a number of the negative comments Josh made about the standard MMO aspect of the game are exaggerated. (Not on purpose, I’m sure – disappointment tends to color perception in things that have been heavily hyped)

        I could go through the list, (The three-enemy thing, for instance – I played two different classes to about 15 last weekend and can’t remember seeing groups of only three enemies outside the first few levels on either of them) but nitpicking is beside the point.

        If you were hoping for Bioware-style storytelling and voice acting added to a WoW-style (in other words, fairly polished but generic in mechanics and execution) MMO, you’ll be very happy with SW:TOR. The story lines are engaging, the voice acting is almost universally excellent, and the combat is just (but only just) different and Star-Wars-iconic enough to hold the attention of someone who likes MMOs in general.

        If you didn’t like Bioware’s last few single player RPGs and are sick of standard MMO quest and combat tropes, you won’t like SW:TOR.

        Personally I like it a lot, and that’s coming from someone who was quite skeptical going into the last beta weekend. It’s not going to be the be-all end-all of MMOs, but it does some things well that have turned me off to other games. (It also does some things poorly – the UI is pretty basic, for instance – but I’m hoping they’ll fix those things post-launch.)

      • GhostBoy says:

        I’ll give you a cherrypicked few flaws for reference.

        * You can indeed invite people into your ship and they can travel with you to other worlds.
        * You can respec within your chosen AC. Dual-spec is on the table for a post-launch feature. Switching AC is not in, but is the result of a deliberate design choice by Bioware. You may not agree, but presenting it as were it an oversight is, I think, misleading.
        * There is a looking-for-group feature
        * The maximum group size is 24, not 4, with the largest raid size being 16 (24 is used for open world PvP)
        * The auction house has had extensive search features and categories implemented.
        * The lack of phasing to allow influence of the game world is handled by personal instancing of the choice-and-consequence changes. Again, you may not agree but it was a design decision, not forgetfulness.
        * There are 15, not 8, flashpoints (and 2 operations) at launch. Progress through them can be altered both by conversation choice, or by application of crewskills to open alternate paths.
        * The two latest beta builds have, if reports are to be trusted, provided significant improvements in performance and interface response times.

        There have also been changes to the mechanics and interaction of class abilities, but I can’t say if they would have made the gameplay more interesting for you.

        It’s unlikely that’ll change your opinion much, but I thought it worthwhile to point out to other readers that improvements have been made since whatever beta build you based your article on. As to the kill-ten-rats questing, well I can’t fault BioWare for not delivering on something they never claimed the game would be.

        • kingcom says:

          Just wondering but are you refering to the silly little toggle as the “LFG” feature? Because that thing is nearly useless.

          • tremor3258 says:

            I was only in last beta weekened – but everyone was just using general chat for LFG.

            I think from reading the review, Josh, that I have a higher tolerance/enjoyment of typical MMO-style gameplay.

  24. Raygereio says:

    I’m really curious what EA will do if – after a year or something, the ammount of subscriptions aren’t high enough to consider the game anything else then a failure.

    My guess is we’re going to get more DA2s.

    • Infinitron says:

      If we’re lucky, they’ll try to create Skyrim clones.

      Which will probably be lame and derivative, but at least they’ll necessarily be less rushed.

      • rofltehcat says:

        They’ll probably buy the Elder Scrolls license for a few million, then pump out one Elder Scrolls game every year.
        Then they’ll wonder why it doesn’t sell very well because obviously it works for Madden etc.
        Also, they’ll wonder why everyone hates them for “destroying the Elder Scrolls brand”… after all they are giving them more Elder Scrolls games, aren’t they?

        EA got too big based on their sports titles, which they pump out every year. Other games than sports titles need a completely different approach.

        • Infinitron says:

          I appreciate your bitterness, but I think Zenimax is too big to buy out at this point.

          • rofltehcat says:

            Doesn’t mean you can’t buy the license from them!

            • Irridium says:

              With Skyrim set to make $450 million, and be the second best-selling game this year(next to MW2), I don’t think they’d be interested in selling.

              • noahpocalypse says:

                MW2? What universe are you in?

              • Abnaxis says:

                As compared to WoW, which is video games’ biggest cash cow ever–yet Blizzard still got bought out by Activision?

                • Irridium says:

                  True, that did happen. But Zenimax/Bethesda’s stock prices are no doubt really high after Skyrim. And EA recently spent a shit-load of money, 700 million I think, buying Popcap. So I don’t think they’ll be buying much for a while.

                • Sagretti says:

                  Activision never bought out Blizzard. Blizzard was owned by various companies, most recently Vivendi, since well before World of Warcraft came out. Blizzard was such a valuable studio that it was mostly left to its own devices. Vivendi then purchased and merged with Activision, and decided that the Blizzard name was valuable enough that they re-named the “combined” company Activision Blizzard.

                  Activision itself apparently has little to no actual involvement with Blizzard. It’s a common fallacy to say that Activision bought out Blizzard and “controls” it now, because it lets people blame the “evil” Activision for business and game development decisions Blizzard has made in recent years.

                  Long Story Short: World of Warcraft could have never protected Blizzard from being bought out, because Blizzard wasn’t an independent company before the launch of the MMO.

                  • Infinitron says:

                    Kind of a good cop/bad cop thing they have going there.
                    Mike Morhaime: “Look buddy. Don’t worry about that asshole Kotick over there. He gets kind of excited sometimes. But I’m on your side!”

                  • Abnaxis says:

                    Regardless of the details, the point was that just because something is valuable, doesn’t mean it won’t be bought. I wasn’t meaning to imply anything about Activision ruining Blizzard, just that the logic of “this is making the owning company lots of money so they’ll never sell it” isn’t really all that true.

                    • Bossieke says:

                      I give a 1000 dollars to anyone who can find me the Activision name on a Blizzard game.

                      You will not find it. :)))

                      That is Blizzard is its own game designer, developper AND its own PUBLISHER.

                      Hence they have their own spreadsheets and quarterly colon on the financial reports.

                      That IS a big difference with Bioware who simply are owned by EA. You won’t see a mere box of Bioware any more, because EA is on it. They don’t have seprate stock info reports. EA just buys out the companies they acquire.

                      The difference in practice ? … SW is scheduled to launch a few nights before Xmas. Diablo3will be launched … when Blizzard thinks it is ready and then – and only then — Blizzard will publish it, not Activision.

                • Gale says:

                  If you think the Blizzard/Activision deal is anything remotely similar to one company selling an IP license to another company, then your understanding of the situation is seriously flawed.

                  • Abnaxis says:

                    See above. I’m not saying it’s equivalent, just that “asset A makes loads of money for company B so they’ll never sell it” logic is not how things work.

        • Dovius says:

          If EA actually bought the Elder Scrolls (Which, seeing the massive amounts of cash it makes for Zenimax, it pretty much can’t), I’m grabbing the torches and pitchforks and hosting a ‘Screw This!’-Party at the EA HQ. Everyone’s invited.

          • Mephane says:

            Besides, I have always found it absurd that someone can just go and buy another company like that. I mean, normally you expect there to be an owner who first would have to decide “okay, let’s sell this thing now”, but of course modern financial economics does not work that way. Grotesque, however, if you ask me.

  25. Kdansky says:

    I imagine ArenaNet threw a party at the office when they played the Beta (surely some of their employees got a key) and found out that it’s less competition than WoW.

  26. Vizael says:

    I ask myself if is that dificult to make something different in MMOs, with creative quests with sorted objectives and a good gameplay?

    I like DDO for the variety of customization it gives (Everquest seems to have it too), but in my view it fails in pvp, I won’t get rewarded for it and if I step in a tavern pvp zone before lvl 18 or so, I will have my ass kicked in 1s by some lvl 20.

    I remember old times playing Tibia, there was good quests, but you don’t depend on then to become stronger and a big world with a variety of hunting zones.

  27. Juvenihilist says:

    “Is Star Wars: The Old Repubic any good?”

    Hihi

  28. some random dood says:

    Thanks for the review Josh.
    Disappointed with how it’s gone – the thought of finally having a sequel to KOTORs 1 and 2 and seeing how the story turns out was making me wonder whether to drop the cash for an MMO. This review, along with the retconning of KOTOR 2′s plot and character for the Exile (what is it with Bioware and their crappy retcons recently?), has made me decide to put the cash into a single-player game – most likely Skyrim after a patch or two, and a check to see if my pc can run it!

  29. When I worked on SWTOR, the running joke was that we knew the game would be ready to ship when we had water physics and swimming animations.

    It’s shipping next month and there is still no water physics or swimming animations, even though there is a least one quest in which the NPCs SPECIFICALLY MENTION SWIMMING!

    For me, that was a portent of what to expect from the game.

    Leslee

    • Josh says:

      Thanks for the perspective Leslee. I had been hoping we might see you post about this game.

      • Very thorough and thoughtful review, Josh.

        I feel the same way you do about the overall experience – I’ve had beta access for quite a while now, and I just can’t bring myself to play it. It becomes monotonous and dull very quickly.

    • rofltehcat says:

      Was it more of a running joke because MMOs are never finished?
      Or was it actually that you thought you wouldn’t be finished/swimming was ja very low priority?

      I think I heard that swimming thing somewhere else, too. But I think it was about another MMO… warhammer? Or AoC? Hrm…. might have been a reference to that.

    • Ryan says:

      You mean the water animations that are in as of this past weekend’s build?

      I guess by your joke, its ready to ship.

      • sadface says:

        there is a ‘we can’t swim’ joke in the game. very funny… I can’t even laugh about the guys being screwed over by this game, can I? well, thanks for the beta.

        • ravenshrike says:

          The problem with swimming in Star Wars is that particle beams and plasma toroids don’t do well in water. So basically swimming would be a gimmick only. Cause really, underwater lightsaber fights would be fucking stupid, and underwater blaster battles would be even more groan worthy.

  30. Joe Cool says:

    OMG! YOu r critisizing a game i havn’t playd but wont too liek! fanboi raaaAAAGGGEEE!

    Seriously, after six years, I finally burnt out on WoW last Spring. I don’t want “like WoW, but Star Wars.” What I want is a new take on MMOs with new mechanics. I’m tired of not being able to influence the world, and combat being nothing but cool down babysitting. And you just can’t out-WoW WoW.

    If this fails, as I suspect it might, I wonder who will get the blame? And how will that affect Bioware?

    • Josh says:

      Is it sad that I managed to scroll down in the comments to where I could only read the very top line of your post with the rest hidden below the screen, and I instantly thought you were a serious commenter and found myself thinking, “Oh great, here come the fanboys”?

    • Ivan says:

      This is why all my hopes are riding on Guild Wars 2. They seem to be having another look at almost every reason why I got bored of Guild Wars. I still don’t know what to make of their combat system but it looks promising and new. So long as it is able to maintain depth once it gets to actual combat i’ll be happy (unlike how in Guild Wars all the depth was in choosing your skills). I haven’t heard anything about being able to change the world, but i’m just glad that it sounds like i’ll be able to interact with it. Having an open world should definitely help the game.

      I just hope that they keep the things I liked most as well. What finally killed wow for me was that it all boiled down to gear. You want to run the new raid? Well, go run the old ones 20 times to get gear that is strong enough to let you SURVIVE in the new one. What? you got bored after the first 2 times? Too bad, do it again if you wanna see the cool stuff.

      And don’t even get me started on the gear issue and PvP.

      Btw, does tOR have this issue with gear? It didn’t sound like you got to the end game Josh(or anyone), which is where this problem comes up and something like WoW fails for me. But did you see this issue looming on the horizon?

      • Skyy_High says:

        ArenaNet has confirmed multiple times that endgame gear will be easy to obtain and equivalent in stats no matter how (PvP/WvW, dungeons, events, or crafting) you go about getting it. Just like the first game, I think they’re going for rare = purdy, nothing more.

        • Zukhramm says:

          Which is great in my mind. Offer me a stronger sword for grinding and doing dungeons? I won’t do it even if I’m paid for it. But if there’s better looking clothes in the mix, I’ll gladly spend hours and days for it!

      • Taellosse says:

        I seem to remember reading or hearing (maybe at their PAX East presentation last year?) that GW2 will have a phased world–e.g. it will look different for you when you’re level 15 and have done some big quests that ought to affect the way the world looks than a level 2 character who’s just starting out. I’m not sure whether that level 15 character can interact with the level 2 guy in that case, or not.

        • Josh says:

          From what I’ve read, the world will just straight up change depending on what the playerbase has done or allowed to happen. If you’re around during an event when centaurs invade a town and you fail and they take over the town, then that town is literally now a centaur stronghold for the entire server.

          Of course you and some other players can go and take it back so you don’t end up in permanent failstates, and there will be other events that trigger in response to the town being taken. Guild Wars 2 altogether sounds less like a themepark and much more like a sandbox game the more I read about it.

  31. Daimbert says:

    I’m surprised that they didn’t steal the instancing from, say, CoH and use that for their story quests, especially since CoH is now moving to mostly story-based levelling across multiple stories. Adding a main quest line to smaller story arcs and then having grinding available while instancing to the specific party the things that would be the most immersion breaking seemed to be a no-brainer. Although I’m suspicious that they got distracted by the other elements, like ship battles (which I don’t know is actually in) and crafting.

    • Taellosse says:

      There is some instancing in TOR, actually. Not as much as CoH, but some. Most, if not all, of the class-specific quests take place, both in their acquisition, completion, and delivery, in instanced areas that you aren’t sharing with other PCs, except any in your group (and some of the acquisition and delivery phases have to be done solo even then, I think). It’s the “kill x of y” and “fetch z of q” sidequests that are done in shared space, and require waiting on respawning monsters and items.

  32. Nox says:

    Finally something about SW:TOR that I agree with, for all the hype I was very very disappointed once I played the beta.

    I am also surprised that no-one has mentioned and they won’t tell us, how end game might work. Everything I read about SW:TOR is so focused on leveling, but anyone who has played an MMO knows that leveling is just a small segment of the game. From a subscriptions stand point, you spend months leveling but years in end game, the real money is there.

    After experience with WoW and the events sequences in heroics/raids and how much people complained about not being able to skip them, I wonder how the movie quests will work with end game raids. I have noticed an awful lot of dialog in the flashpoints and it seems to me that this may end up getting old pretty quick if you are trying to get a specific pieces of gear.

    • krellen says:

      MMOs don’t have to have an end game. CoH survived without one for almost seven years, and if you ask me, the addition of traditional “end-game” stuff almost ruined the entire game.

      • Jarenth says:

        City of Heroes was unique, though, in that the character creator was the entire game. The rest was just set dressing.

      • Chargone says:

        ehh, it’s awkward and annoying enough that it’s not too hard to find people who can’t be bothered to play the other stuff with. I’m told it’s actually pretty epic and awesome, but the whole ‘can’t move due to too many people. can’t target due to too much stuff going on, can’t SEE due to power effects of DOOM!’ effect of jamming that many people into that small a space (seen in zombie and rikti invasions too) just makes it not worth it.

        much like the invention system, Technically it’s entirely possible to play the entire game and be Fine without touching it, ever. likewise task forces (heck, most players will miss that most task forces even Exist until another player points it out… or used to, i think that’s been tweeked. the contacts for them didn’t show up on contact lists or anything, you had to go find them.)

        of course, if you play PVP (which the game wasn’t originally designed for, and which very few people ever bother with on most servers… though apparently base raiding was popular before they broke it horribly about the time i started playing… getting that working again is on the current to do list though, i believe?) anywho, if you play PVP that kinda thing starts mattering. but otherwise the end game stuff is mostly ‘cool shiny story plus extra shiny super-super powers to use so that wrapping up those various story arcs you want your character to do despite being max level is not boring/a Complete waste of time’

        so far as i can tell.

      • Zukhramm says:

        Yet another one of the reasons I don’t like WoW. Blizzard (and the playerbase?) wants the game to be all about top level content. Why you’d want to focus on the most boring part of the game has always been a mystery to me.

      • Kdansky says:

        DDO’s endgame is “reincarnate as level 1 (for a minor permanent stat boost)”. This actually makes sense: The end game is the same as the leveling game, instead of completely different. It appeals to the same people.

  33. Wtrmute says:

    So if I’m understanding what you say well, what you actually wanted was Multiplayer KotOR. While I think such a game would be awesome, I don’t think it is possible for it to exist as an MMO. The design of MMOGs and single-player games is fundamentally different, due mostly to the constraints that MMOGs cannot have an end and cannot have a protagonist (or, if there is one, he or she cannot be a player). So if you fault SW:tOR for not having a single-player game-like design, you fault it for not being something it could never be.

    That being said, I wasn’t going to subscribe to it nor will I now, as I understand my gaming habits enough to know that MMOs are not for me. That might make me a hypocrite, but I don’t really have enough money to splurge on games I know I won’t like very well…

    • Josh says:

      I guess when you put it like that, what I really wanted from the game was KotOR as Guild Wars. I’d say that game probably set the bar for storytelling presentation prior to ToR, and it did it by having the main questline as a series of sequential mission instances tied together by the odd quest or two. You could level to max by just doing story missions and never touching the side quests and since the game was so heavily instanced, you could at least get the feeling that the story was having an effect on the world. That said, Guild Wars wasn’t for everyone, and it’s easy to see why TOR bears little resemblence to it.

      The thing with TOR is, there are some elements that seem to want to have that same sort of Guild Wars feel, but there’s little in the game’s MMO components to support it in any way, so it just feels strange and… out of place.

      • Matt K says:

        Add in that Guild Wars 2 will cost about the same upfront price as TOR but without the monthly fee and it’s easy to see where my money will go for a more story driven MMO (plus I can’t justify what $15/mo so ~$200 for a year of TOR vs $50 for GW2 plus GW2 is from a developer with a proven MMO).

      • Bubble181 says:

        Well, I’m a Star Wars fanboy and a KotOR fanboy… If Josh’s review had been “this is KotOR, but with real people instead of companions” or “…but with some others running about” or something, I’d have gone and bought my first MMO ever (well, if different reviews all said that).
        Instead, I’m not even mildly interested. The tradition MMO really, honestly doesn’t interest me in the least. A single player RPG does. Why oh why does the industry think that putting MMO in my RPG will make it better? Wether it’s Diablo, Warcraft or KotOR, my favourite franchises have all been MMO’d… Yes, MMOs can be hugely successful – but can you keep them separate from my single player experience, please?

        • Vekni says:

          Because the industry doesn’t care about better. Better, aside from being purely subjective, is not the same thing as MORE PROFITABLE. MMO=more profitable if successful than a successful single player title.

    • Aufero says:

      Flashpoints feel a lot like multiplayer KOTOR, which may be why Josh was disappointed there weren’t more of them. I’d like to see more of them too, eventually. They’re a surprisingly workable extension of the single player Bioware games into a multiplayer experience.

      • Halfling says:

        I got into the beta back in August as well and the flashpoints are easily the strongest point of the game. In fact the first time I ran Black Talon was one of my favorite moments in a MMO ever. If the rest of the game was more like the flashpoints or there were significantly more flashpoints this game might hold some long term appeal.

        As of now I would have cancelled the Pre-order if not for all my friends who are still clamoring to play the thing. I can at least get my self to soldier through until something better comes along. At least some of the class stories are intriguing. Particularly Imperial Agent.

        I should have stuck with Rift which is surprisingly more polished and more fun despite having a non-budget compared to SWTOR.

      • Kdansky says:

        They should just do a whole game with (nearly) nothing but Flashpoints. No need to stuff the boring WoW-combat in there.

  34. Meredith says:

    Am I the only person on the planet who didn’t dream of a multiplayer KOTOR 3? I don’t understand why everyone was so excited for a KOTOR MMO. A Star Wars MMO, perhaps, but you can’t have a linear story in an MMO. It’s so much less epic to be one of a million heros.

    Last time TOR came up here, I said I’d wait for it to go ftp and I stand by that. I got a key for the stress test this weekend and was looking forward to a chance to see the game for myself, but it looks like I’ll be too busy to play much anyway.

    • Daimbert says:

      A Star Wars MMO set in the Old Republic era where Jedi existing make sense had some innate appeal for me. A Star Wars MMO that was supposed to be story-based was much more appealing. A multiplayer KotOR, if done well, pretty much fulfills a dream.

    • Abnaxis says:

      Something just struck me about your point.

      Why the hell can’t anyone make a multiplayer RPG that isn’t an MMO anymore?

      Seriously, my wife and I enjoy playing together (preferably on the same screen), we enjoy RPGs, and we barely make the mortgage payment. Subscription MMOs are too expensive and F2P MMOs just get obnoxious most of the time. And always-on-internet-required is a deal-breaker for us, because without fail, any time we want to play the damned servers are down or our internet is wonky.

      The last time I was able to get a halfway decent game to scratch our particular itch was Borderlands–and frankly, that game wasn’t all that great, it’s just the only one of it’s kind. Before that, the nearest decent game that was worth playing was NWN2 (and we still had to buy 2 copies for that. Grumble).

      I’m starting to think all of video game development process is: 1) ignore everyone in the audience except the “majority,” 2) someone without their heads in their asses thinks to create a game that caters to the people that are ignored, 3) everyone jumps on the bandwagon and only creates games for the new market, except they’re already too late, 4) Repeat at 1.

      [/rant]

    • Skyy_High says:

      Just want to touch on the “you can’t have a linear storyline in an MMO” bit. Yes, you can. See: GW1 and GW2. Heck, ToR (sounds like it) has a linear storyline too, it’s just broken up into tiny pieces interspersed with traditional MMO grinding.

      WoW has an absolutely fantastic setting and an absolutely terrible story. This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to have a good linear story in an MMO, it means that WoW (and most WoW clones) utterly fail at it.

      • Trix says:

        WoW has considerably better storytelling now than it did in years past. I wouldn’t put in on par with single player RPGs, but it’s enough to engage me. Even better, you can technically ignore most of it if you’re just rushing through to level up and all.

        • Zukhramm says:

          The problem with WoW’s storytelling to me always has been that it felt like Blizzard’s story, not mine. Of course, I understand that technically it’s always going to be Blizzard’s story but it always felt like the people at Blizzard going “look how fun you’ll have when you get to watch our characters do cool stuff”.

          • Skyy_High says:

            I can’t even say the stuff post-Cata is that good. Some of it is, but the quality varies wildly, and the worst of it is that (as far as I could tell, and I was paying attention because I love story), there was little to no connection between the different questing regions in terms of story content. That was my biggest peeve; some of the individual stories were ok, even good, but there was no over-arching narrative beyond “You’re a strong guy, these people need your help, now you’re done helping them, go help these other people.” That’s not enough for me.

  35. James says:

    I Get to beta test soon, so ill have some hands on experience, before release. and that will determine if i get SW:TOR, i hope its good (for me at least), i really do. but i also know Guild Wars 2 is coming, and from what I’ve seen that looks amazing, and their is always my on/off lover Eve-Online i cant ignore, Space ships, explosions, killing people that’s why i play Eve, and will recommend it to anyone. (and can give people 21day trials) if you havn’t tried it josh do so, its not deep in a story sense, its a sandbox, with space ships. sure theres grind to get the nicest things. but its a sandbox, and on one sever, oh and death has conciquences, it can cost you a lot of ingame money, and skills.

    they’re is always the Mass Effect MMO that will probably happen, and i’d be playing Skyrim if not for a game-breaking bug. (on Ps3 when the save file exceeds 5mb (its estimated to be at the 25 hour mark)(or for me just after i did the end of the Dark Brotherhood and Companions quests)) just gotta wait for the patch, good job i have Batman eh?

  36. Friend of Dragons says:

    Yeah, I was always hesistant about this game. Bioware had proven that they know how to do single-player games with stories at least passably, but I wasn’t at all sure how well they would handle the transition to multiplayer. To hear that they did it poorly isn’t that much of a surprise. Welp, back to waiting for Guild Wars 2, whose developers have already proven that they can do a story-driven quasi-MMO and do it well.

  37. Eärlindor says:

    I am not the least bit surprised.

  38. Chris says:

    As someone who played the beta the last beta weekend, and who is in the next beta weekend. I can say that from what i’ve seen…This review is heavily bias and almost completely untrue. Back in August the game was barely out of it’s Alpha, the mobs weren’t balanced, over half of the content wasn’t on the beta servers yet. This “review” is nothing but a fanboi anti-mmo rant veiled as objectivity.

    Btw I’ve been playing mmo’s for over a decade..And after playing a dozen or more of them, this one is by far the best. As for the kill X number of Y. This game only has them in place as “bonus quests”. Basicly if you are fighting through an area to get to an objective you get a “bonus quest” that pops up that is basicly “Oh, if you kill 10 of these we’ll throw in some extra xp”. Sense you’d be killing 7 or 8 of them no matter what to get were your going…it’s not exactly tedious.

    • Josh says:

      When did I make any claims of objectivity? This is an opinion piece, I’m being completely subjective here by the nature of the article. I don’t claim to be the final voice on… well, on just about anything, and I don’t want to. And I’m certainly not saying “Don’t buy this game.” I’m not really sure how this “review,” as you call it, is biased – unless that means I’m expressing my opinion, in which case, hell yeah it’s biased. How do you write an opinion piece without stating your opinion?

      I suppose it may look like I have it out for the game but honestly, I really don’t. I wanted this game to be good – really, really good – which is a large part of the reason why this piece comes off as so scathing. I’m bitterly disappointed that the game isn’t more than what I’ve seen. And that’s really the heart of the article. You can say that I had unrealistic expectations going in, and perhaps there’s a sliver of truth to that, but I’m really at a loss here – when did it become a bad thing to demand more from companies? To demand better products, better services? Isn’t that an attitude that any company should have – to constantly be improving itself and be providing its customers with better services?

      But ultimately, there is nothing objective here. I probably should have thrown a disclaimer in there somewhere that, since I was covering my impressions of a beta, not everything I mention may be true now or at launch. I was kind of hoping that was self-evident, but I can understand how it might not come across that way.

      And I’m glad that you’ve found the game you’ve been looking for. Sincerely, I am. That’s a score for both you and BioWare. But it’s not the game I was looking for, and for a time, I thought it could have been. That’s why I’m disappointed.

      • Suggested Disclaimer : if you are expecting this review to be written from the perspective you would have used, matching your personal bias, using the words you would have chosen, and you aren’t the author, you may be disappointed.

        If you have invested any emotions in this review matching your own opinion of what you consider the game to be like, and believe that conflicting opinions are a malicious and cruel insult to you personally, you may be offended.

        If you expect this example of the inherently subjective medium of critique to be written objectively, you may be disappointed.

        If you have arbitrarily decided to be offended no matter what you read in the review, you may be offended.

        If you find being patronised by a disclaimer to be condescending and unfunny, you may already be offended.

    • acronix says:

      As someone who was read this post this last minute, and who is going to read it again the next hour, I can say that from what I´ve read, this post is heavily biased and almost completely untrue! This post is nothing but a fanboy anti-Josh rant veiled as objectivity!

      On a more serious note: playing MMos for a decade? Join club! For me, the best mmo is Champions Online.And that´s totally objective!

    • Kdansky says:

      So you bought the Collectors Edition for lolbucks and are now rationalising your purchase by being defensive? Carry on!

      • Thaleos says:

        Funny thing about this comment is, you’re doing the same thing Chris did and you’re both equally in the wrong: you attempt to present your own, personal understanding of the other person’s motivations in writing his post as the objective reality (Chris: “Josh wrote his post because he’s an anti-MMO fanboy;” Kdansky: “Chris wrote his comment because he needs to feel justified in purchasing a TOR CE.”) Unless you’re telepathic, you can’t get into another person’s head like that, so I think it’s a little hypocritical to attempt to criticize or mock people for doing the same thing as yourself.

        Also, on a more sad and serious note, these two comments, when juxtaposed with each other, illustrate rather well why it’s next to impossible to have a rational discussion on the internet: given enough time, the likelihood of people dismissing the opponent’s argument for some superficial (and usually made-up) reason approaches 1. One can’t logically disagree with an opinion (to do so is only to claim the owner of that opinion is lying, it in no way reflects on the validity of the opinion in question), so naturally it’s easier to accuse your opponent of being morally bankrupt and being motivated by something less than the rigorous search for objective truth, and it’s without a doubt intellectually dishonest to do so. However, to point that out by using the same technique is even worse, because you really should know better and two wrongs don’t make a right.

      • ravenshrike says:

        *shrugs* I bought the CE and you don’t see me QQing over the review. Of course, even if I didn’t really like the way the game was done, I would have bought the standard edition for the 1st or 2nd side quest the Imp Agent gets. There’s just something that fills me with an unholy amount of glee shooting a kids father right in front of him, and then turning to him with a deadpan expression and saying in a delightful British accent “Sorry kid, it had to be done”. Seriously, I laughed for at least 2 minutes after that.

  39. Lore says:

    Given that I just finished reading Game Informer’s latest issue and their thoughts on The Old Republic, I was skeptical of this review. Each and every single writer that did a class writeup (4 in all, for each Imperial class) said their time in game was too short and they couldn’t wait to get back in and play again. I decided to go perusing through some of your other reviews to get a better idea of what’s what. You admit in this review you’ve been hard on some of Bioware’s games in the past, did you ever stop to consider that SWTOR wasn’t made for you? Then I found this in your Rift review, “Plus, I’m kind of addicted to Guild Wars.” Granted, I’ve been more or less of a rabid Warcraft fanboi (if you want to spin it that way) for years, but I gave Rift a try and found it to be only moderately likeable. I quit after only a couple of months. But what strikes me about this Guild Wars comment is that Guild Wars fanbois have been disparaging SWTOR for MONTHS. Seriously. You can’t post a comment about SWTOR anywhere on the net (except maybe the official SWTOR site) without a Guild Wars 2 fanboi jumping in the mix and letting us all know how awesome Guild Wars 2 will be and how much SWTOR will suck and how we all need to screw our MMO heads on correctly. Simply put – I’m having trouble taking your review seriously, and anyone who has been looking forward to SWTOR should too. As I can’t help but think this review isn’t anything more than a PRO Guild Wars 2 movement and anti SWTOR. Many of the things you sound off about have been absolutely incredible to others. (Half of my SWTOR guild has been through BETA testing all ready, and they loved it.) It doesn’t sound like the game is a good fit for you, but according to many, many other sources (Game Informer, IGN, Gamespot, etc;) this game is absolutely incredible though it does borrow from previous MMOs.

    • Josh says:

      I appreciate your feedback, and I can understand your frustration with the Guild Wars 2 vs The Old Republic argument that has become so popular over the past year. But please, allow me to stress, that I did not write this piece with any sort of Guild Wars-based agenda. I was legitimately excited about The Old Republic before I got into the beta. Now, I’ll freely admit, yeah, I like Guild Wars – it’s one of my favorite MMOs, and is certainly the MMO I’ve played the most over the past four years. And I’m excited about Guild Wars 2, I think a lot of their design ideas sound amazing on paper. Now, will it be a good game? I don’t know, I don’t think I can make an informed judgement on it without playing it for longer than the forty minutes I did at PAX 2010.

      But despite that, I did not write this with Guild Wars in mind. I can only ask that you believe my word, but I will defend that point above all else. In fact, I made certain never to mention Guild Wars in any of the articles I’ve written here about The Old Republic specifically because I wanted to avoid the appearance that I was writing this with an agenda. Next June, I honestly wanted to be playing both The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2 concurrently. It seemed like the perfect storm of MMO titans, and I certainly have the income to play both at the same time. But as I followed the pre-release information in the months leading up to my acceptance into the beta, and as I played it extensively for myself, I realized more and more that The Old Republic just wasn’t turning out the way I had hoped it would.

      Was this game not made with me in mind? Yeah, that’s probably true. That’s a good way of thinking about it I suppose. It certainly appeals to a lot of other people. But is it wrong for me to be disappointed that it wasn’t made with me in mind? Should I simply not be allowed to express that disappointment? I never said that nobody should buy this game – hell, I didn’t even mention if I was going to buy it. Which is really an interesting phenomenon, because I still don’t know! I haven’t cancelled my preorder yet, and despite the scathing impression I gave today, there’s still a pull I feel to the game – I want to know what happens!

      And maybe that’s the real staying power of The Old Republic, that despite being utterly disillusioned with essentially the entirety of the game’s gameplay, I still might actually buy it. Just to see what happens.

      Thank you for the feedback, though. I must say, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that you actually went back and read through my old posts before making this comment.

      • Skyy_High says:

        “Pleasant surprise”? I would have found it a little annoying that someone was so set on “discovering” your inherent bias that he researched your past game reviews, picked out a line from a review of one game expressing a positive opinion of another game, and (as a result of the fact that you liked that game) concluded that you are permanently biased against this game, because obviously no one could ever like two different MMOs.

        It’s one thing to be annoyed by people trolling articles where they don’t belong and intentionally baiting fans just to get a response. It’s quite another to assume that everyone who likes one game and dislikes another just be trollin’, and that the entirety of one community is “out to get” the other (particularly when members of both communities have been acting pretty badly).

        For the record, I think there is ample room for reasonable comparisons between the two games; they have so much in common, and yet so many design decisions which are completely opposite each other. It’s very interesting seeing two different takes on “the next-gen MMO”.

        • Ryan says:

          Now, I could certainly be elitist in thinking this, but there is room to play both.
          Especially if GW2 is buy to play.
          I personally prefer MMOs that are a change of pace for me. I used to play EVE and when I got tired of a sandbox type MMO, would pop back over to WoW. Or City of Heroes, etc.

          So for me, while SWTOR is going to be my monthly habit, I have every intention of playing GW2 as well.

          I can certainly see why Bioware did what they did. (An mmo that is a bit more casual friendly, with enough closeness to WoW to pull some subscribers that are jettisoning from that game).
          I can certainly see where Bioware might fail (If people think it is TOO close to WoW).

          I can also see where Guild Wars 2 might be popular. I can also see how it could fail.

          For me, I’ll play both.

        • rofltehcat says:

          You get this in every MMO, sadly. Many people feel the need to defend their favorite MMO no matter what.
          We had this with every MMO vs. WoW, Rift vs. SWTOR, GW2 vs. SWTOR etc. and every time some people are coming into the respective forums and proclaiming that game A or game B is inferior or that game B’s release will kill game A blablabla.

          Why can’t people just let others play?

          • Raygereio says:

            “Why can’t people just let others play?”
            But someone on the Internet has a different opinion then mine. This means they’re wrong. Don’t you see? I have a moral duty to inform them that they’re wrong.

            • Tizzy says:

              There is certainly more to this than what you wrote: it’s clear that people who will enjoy SWTOR are getting a bit worried: if the game is not a hit, their own gaming experience will surely suffer. So they cannot stay neutral and they do have their self-interest at heart.

              It’s not exactly taking the high road, but I find it understandable, and I sympathize with their plight.

              • Skyy_High says:

                It’s even more than this, I think: MMOs are unique (somewhat) in that every individual player has a vested interest in getting as many other people to like their game (and, since most MMOs have sub fees, this means disliking the competition) as possible. More players = larger, more vibrant community to play with, more money to the developers, more monthly content (and quality updates), more support for out-of-game networks like wikis and auction houses, etc.

                So, while it’d be nice if people could live and let live, it’s just a fact that MMO wars for brainspace can have consequences in the long run. Theoretically, at least.

                • Pickly says:

                  The time required to play almost all MMO’s seems to play into this as well, as does the emotional investment from the the achievement and progressions type gameplay most MMO’s use (See the anger, for instance, at any time an MMO makes something easier to access). Having someone criticize a game that someone else has put a big chunk of their life into, and has built up a solid collections of gear, achievemnts, and such probably hits a lot more than having someone criticize one of 10 or so games a person occasionally plays when in the mood.

          • Aufero says:

            Because someone is wrong on the internet!

            Seriously, I have no clue why people try to argue other people out of liking or disliking things. Has that ever worked?

            I like Eve. I like SW:TOR. I liked WoW for many years, until I got bored with it. I disliked Guild Wars and couldn’t stand to play it just because I couldn’t jump. None of those are logical positions capable of being changed by argument, but all of them will provoke huge arguments if said in any MMO chat channel.

            Maybe geeks just like to argue?

            • Lore says:

              There are so many things I could reply to here, but I’ll say this – it’s not that the writer is or isn’t entitled to have his opinion about the game (because he certainly is). I read this precisely because I wanted to see what things I might not enjoy about SWTOR. That being said, it is my opinion (and we know based on some of the comments here that my opinion is not likely to change) that the points are very poor (especially those regarding story) as this particular review does not share similarities with other reviews. In fact it’s one negative review (though I have seen a couple of others) among dozens of positive reviews which say something along the lines of, “This game draws heavily on Warcraft in terms of combat, and it’s also very linear. However, I found the story so engrossing and my attachment to my character so much deeper than my previous MMO playing experiences, that these things didn’t bother me. It just made the game easier to digest and it felt less and less like a grind.” All opinions are subject to peer review – meaning, yes he is entitled to think it’s a poor game but how does his opinion stack up against the opinions of others. If you have dozens of professional gaming journalists from Game Informer, Gamespot, IGN etc; etc; proclaiming the game is fun and worth your time and money, then the opinion this article imparts is less credible. (Doesn’t mean it’s not true for him, just not true for the majority.) What I do find interesting is the accusation that I dismissed the article based on it’s negative approach, when I read it precisely to make myself informed – whereas many of you are drawing opinions about SWTOR based on this article alone. I would strongly suggest immersing yourself in more material and reviews regarding SWTOR before making a decision based on someone elses’ bias.

              Edit: Also, I didn’t need to go far to find information about the author’s bias. Heck, it’s right here in the comments section, “I guess when you put it like that, what I really wanted from the game was KotOR as Guild Wars.” And while I respect that there are many people who enjoy Guild Wars (I fully intend on checking Guild Wars 2 out when it launches), it’s a different beast. People who play Warcraft by and large didn’t like Guild Wars (doesn’t mean there weren’t some people who did, I’d really like to avoid sweeping generalizations). But, I think what many of you are missing is that people who liked Warcraft better than Guild Wars are probably going to enjoy SWTOR more. It’s a large difference in the delivery and style of gameplay – which I’d venture to guess is precisely why the author didn’t like SWTOR.

              • Linwolf says:

                Funny almost all the reviews I have read about SW:toR have been negative, people aren’t drawing their opinions based on this article alone. At least for me it reflect what I have read and seen other places.

              • acronix says:

                Allow me to quote something:
                “[his] points are very poor (especially those regarding story) as this particular review does not share similarities with other reviews.”

                So, you are suggesting his points are poor, not because they are objectively poor, but because they are NOT the same as the points of people who did like the game. Makes sense!

                Opinions are useless in theirselves, since they are not objective by nature. Even if you grab a thousand opinions about any given subject, there´s no way you´ll know the truth (and by truth, here, I mean “how much you´ll like the game). The only use opinions have is when the person giving it has a certain similarity with yourself: since you are similar (in this case, similar in game-taste) you could deduce that, since this one person didn´t like the game, you will not either.

                This means that no matter how many professional journalists´ review you read, if you do not share a similar taste for games, you have learn absolutely nothing useful to you.

                And I forgot why I wrote all this. I think I´m hungry. Let´s dinner! I´ll bring the tacos.

              • Raygereio says:

                Edit: I did not mean to dogpile on you there. But still…

                If you have dozens of professional gaming journalists from Game Informer, Gamespot, IGN etc; etc; proclaiming the game is fun and worth your time and money, then the opinion this article imparts is less credible.

                And you lost most of your credibillity right there. You do realise that reviews from such sources are utterly useless if you want know whether or not a game is “good”? The only thing the major videogamejournalism is good for is telling you wether or not the game in question has all the latests graphical whatsits.

                I would strongly suggest immersing yourself in more material and reviews regarding SWTOR before making a decision based on someone elses’ bias.

                Or a better suggestion would be to listen to someone’s opinion and the explanation of why they came to that opinion. I believe something like that is called a review.

                • Lore says:

                  You do realize that your point about major gaming publications and their journalists being less than credible is entirely opinion based? And you do realize that whether or not you think the game is any good, there is a great chance SWTOR is going to be hugely successful?

                  Analysts project the game will start will 3 million subscribers. The game is currently at the top of all existing game preorders with over 800,000. That DOES NOT include digital sales or sales outside of the United States. In comparison to the launch of all other MMO’s, SWTOR is all ready the biggest launch in MMO history. What’s more, “Bagga noted that Star Wars: The Old Republic, in particular, stands to gain from WOW’s loosening hold on the market. Of those surveyed who are currently playing WOW, 50 percent said they plan to buy The Old Republic, with an additional 38 percent saying they may buy the game. The survey also found that 87 percent of the 95 players in the study who were participating in The Old Republic beta had already preordered or planned to preorder EA’s game.” (http://www.gamespot.com/news/activision-blizzard-stock-downgraded-on-world-of-warcraft-declines-6346436) Those are the facts sir. So, while a small minority of people may be crying foul about this game, I can with facts tell you that this game is currently on track to break numerous records.

                  87 percent of 95 players who played BETA are pre-ordering? See, this is what I’m talking about. This article is representative of the smallest percentage.

                  I would have given this game a chance whether there had been 500,000 subscribers or 10 million subscribers. But, let’s get one thing straight – if you like MMOs, have friends that play MMOs, and like knowing there is going to be a decent population for an MMO… you’d be ignorant to ignore Bioware’s success with SWTOR up to this point. They haven’t even started advertising the game. It’s all word of mouth. No television ads, no newspapers ads. Nothing.

                  But again, when you do nothing but look for information that supports your opinion, you’ll always come to the conclusion that yours is the right one. To each their own.

                  • Skyy_High says:

                    Point is, the mainstream gaming sites have been shown repeatedly to tend to gloss over negatives, at least for big budget games. If you want more nuanced critiques of games, you need to go to more independent sites, blogs, and forums where there are personal reviews of the games in question. IGN doesn’t, by virtue of being IGN, have a more valid opinion than this or any other gaming blog.

                    Also: bringing up the point that someone who likes GW (chiefly, as he said, because it lets you experience the full story with as many or as few side quests as you want) as an indicator of bias against ToR is not much of a point. His opinion was that ToR did a poor job of letting the player experience the story (I’m assuming the main story) in the name of making you grind mobs to level in between story points. Even if the quests are presented beautifully, it’s still not giving you any choice in the matter of what content you do. The fact that GW did it in a way that he liked and TOR did not does not mean there’s something “wrong” with his opinion, or he’s automatically biased because he likes GW. What do you want him to say, that’s it’s ok that this new game does it in a way he doesn’t like? Heck no! It’s perfectly reasonable to complain about something new and point to a different way that it could have been done that you would have preferred.

                    Overall, it just sounds like you’re complaining because he didn’t like the game. Do you really want to be That Guy?

                  • Raygereio says:

                    You do realize that your point about major gaming publications and their journalists being less than credible is entirely opinion based? And you do realize that whether or not you think the game is any good, there is a great chance SWTOR is going to be hugely successful?

                    Yes off course. Nowwhere here did you see a big disclaimer stating people where spouting out THE TRUTH! Well, I am. But that’s because I’m spouting out my opinion and my opinion is naturally correct.
                    If you get what you need from the big gaming journalism publications then more power to you.

                    So, while a small minority of people may be crying foul about this game, I can with facts tell you that this game is currently on track to break numerous records.

                    I’ve stood at the sidelines of a lot of MMO releases and watches countless times as people got all excited during prerelease, rejoiced while dancing nude in the street on launchdate and then after a while just drifted away to other games when the new shiney isn’t new anymore.
                    In other words, I reserve the right to be skeptical. You show me the data of people still playing this game after a year and then we’ll talk.

                  • Abnaxis says:

                    Alright, I tried, I really did. But I can’t pass this up. A few facts about your “facts”

                    …87 percent of 95 players who played BETA are pre-ordering? See, this is what I’m talking about. This article is representative of the smallest percentage…

                    …Of those surveyed who are currently playing WOW, 50 percent said they plan to buy The Old Republic, with an additional 38 percent saying they may buy the game…

                    Even if we assume this survey was designed properly (it isn’t, online surveys never yield unbiased samples) and people answered every question honestly (they don’t, ever, there are always–ALWAYS–more people who say they will buy something than actually do) then with 97% confidence we could say that somewhere between 44-57% of Wow subscribers will buy ToR, 31-45% may buy ToR, and of all the Wow subscribers that participated in the Beta 77-94% will have pre-ordered ToR.

                    That’s a huge delta, even after giving the study waaaay more credit than is due for accuracy. And that’s only talking about people buying the game–ToR needs over two million subscribers, which adds another slew of errors into the mix. How many of those 800,000 pre-orders will still be playing after a month? I don’t know.

                    Finding facts is all well and good, but those facts are utterly useless (and, in fact, harmful) if you don’t obtain and use them in a correct matter, especially when it comes to statistics. You don’t get a wrong answer if you use statistics wrong. You still get a number which is misleading and leads you to make bad decisions because you weren’t paying enough attention.

                    Analysts might say that they expect 3 million subscribers, but there is no way they have that number more accurate than “somewhere between 1 million and 4 million subscribers, with an expected value of 3 million.” That’s still a decent chance of failure, even in an ideal world where no one made a mistake. And we don’t actually live in an ideal world…

                    • Bubble181 says:

                      Not to mention that Josh is saying he doesn’t think this is a very GOOD game. Whether or not it’ll be a POPULAR game he doesn’t comment on.
                      Good doesn’t equal popular and vice versa. Transformers 2 wasn’t exactly a good movie, but it was pretty big, or so I’ve heard… :-P

                    • Abnaxis says:

                      Eh…but this is an MMO. Since a large portion of the value in an MMO comes from its community, it has to be popular to be good (though it isn’t the only requirement, I suppose…)

                  • Craig says:

                    But, I wonder how many people of those 800,000 have now canceled their pre-orders because they were a part of the beta test weekend(s) and have now changed their minds.

                    And, 87% of people in the beta were also people that had pending pre-orders also does not surprise me. You don’t ask to beta test a game you aren’t interested in. But, again, how many canceled after actually experiencing it? I didn’t cancel my pre-order until two weeks after my beta test weekend.

                    I’ve seen a lot of posts on the SWTOR website itself during and since my beta time of people saying they too were canceling. But, you also have to ask yourself, how many people got in on the beta? If it were just a few thousand, then the number of people canceling could just be a drop in the bucket. But, I think it does go to show that not everyone is sold by the new game.

                    When Halo 2 came out, I was disappointed in it. Every major review site I went to was giving it 9 out of 10′s. XBox official magazine was giving it it’s highest score of any XBox game ever. But, if you were to read the forums at the time, you would have seen that I wasn’t the only person disappointed in the game. It was several months before I found a review that hit all the spots I thought were lacking. Does that mean it wasn’t a popular game? No, it was one of the biggest games of all times. And, just because people are saying SWTOR isn’t everything we had been hoping for doesn’t mean it won’t be huge. I hope it is. I hope the game has legs and maybe in a few months, or a couple years I will probably give it another look after the price has dropped and they have had a chance to add more content in the game.

                    I’ve always been a bargain bin game shopper anyway. Gives a chance for patches to come out…let me read reviews after all the hype has died down…and lets the price come down to a more reasonable level for my tastes.

                    Edit: I’ve never played GW. I played WoW for a few years but haven’t played in several months due to burn out. I was playing LOTRO (which is actually pretty good BTW, except for some of the grinding elements), but haven’t signed onto that in probably 3 weeks. So, not really playing anything ATM.

                • mewse says:

                  Side-note from an industry insider. (I do currently work for a company which is owned by EA, but I have no connection to TOR. I’m speaking my own opinions here based upon long observation of the industry, not official company opinion or such. But do feel free to discount everything I say as being a company stooge, if you prefer. :) )

                  Anyone’s opinions of game previews are not necessarily going to match their opinions of the final product, obviously. This is true both of blog coverage and press coverage. Blog coverage of previews tend to skew slightly toward negative coverage (not sure why. I guess people are slightly more likely to feel like sharing if they’re unhappy with something?). Press coverage skews strongly toward positive coverage of previews, probably because journalists are trying to maintain good relationships with developers and publishers, and so they maintain a good faith belief that any faults which they’ve noticed will be fixed before release, and those faults typically don’t get mentioned in previews.

                  I think both sides have fair points in this discussion; Josh’s comments don’t necessarily relate to the version that will eventually be released, but are perfectly fair and reasonable as comments about TOR’s state at the point in time when he played, and are certainly areas which I hope the developers are addressing between now (then?) and release. On the other hand, the more mainstream reviewers’ positive comments aren’t evidence for anything, since they’d be sitting on any criticisms until the game is released and they’re writing proper reviews, anyway.

                  For good or for bad, we’ll just have to wait for the game’s release (and the traditional “panicked fixing of the game” weekend that immediately follows the release of almost every MMO) before we’ll be able to confidently make definitive statements about how much each of us really likes TOR.

                  (well.. actually, I won’t be buying or playing TOR, as it’s not being released in my part of the world. And I’m not convinced I really want to play a MMO again, anyway. But you know what I mean. :) )

                • Kel'Thuzad says:

                  And you lost most of your credibillity right there. You do realise that reviews from such sources are utterly useless if you want know whether or not a game is “good”? The only thing the major videogamejournalism is good for is telling you wether or not the game in question has all the latests graphical whatsits.

                  You know, if this were true they would have disparaged The Old Republic as the graphics aren’t very good. I’ve played very few MMOs and TOR’s primary appeal to me is the focus on story.

              • Tizzy says:

                Lore: I know it’s not your main point, but allow me a small remark… I think that one the people who flock to Shamus’s blog are often motivated by the desire to read opinions that specifically do not come from the professional press, so having Game Informer and the likes pull rank on Josh is not going to impress the regulars here.

                • Zukhramm says:

                  This. If I wanted the opinions of Game Informer, Gamespot and IGN I’d be reading them and not this blog.

                  Actually, the point that they all have a positive opinion on the game is one of the biggest problems I have with games journalism. Not that they are positive but that they all have basically the same opinion. What’s the point of all these different publications if they all say the same thing most of the time? I want more opinions, not less.

          • krellen says:

            “Why can’t people just let others play?”

            As a slightly more serious answer, something else being successful and popular actually can affect your future (though it won’t really affect your current) enjoyment.

            People used to be willing to experiment a bit with MMO mechanics – MMOs older than WoW have several different mechanics and levelling ideas. But since WoW, the MMO market has become little other than “WoW clones”; people looking for something else in terms of MMO gameplay are largely out of luck; the only real difference between most MMOs now is setting and minor systems differences.

            (EVE Online being an exception to this, please don’t bring it up.)

          • Mephane says:

            I too find it annoying that when talking about an upcoming MMO, you can hardly escape from the people that need to step in just to shout out loud “but MMO X is gonna be so much better”. I mean, I sincerely appreciate honest critisizm and comparisons between games, because that’s what humans always do anyway; of course personally, I am comparing SWTOR to WoW, for example, and see the many similarities as well as the differences and then have to decide if I like what I am seeing or not.

            So if someone wants to say “GW2 is going to be better because X, whereas SWTOR has only Y instead, which is flawed because of Z”, please go ahead anytime. But just hopping in any exclamating that your favourite current or upcoming game is superior and everyone should automatically think the same is, at the very least, extremely rude.

            Also, people like be will likely become extremely skeptical of their favourite game sooner or later, as that shouting eventually blends into just another pile of hype surrounding the other side. Then we have “our hype” vs “their hype” and half of the time people have to struggle to seperate genuine information and criticism from mutual bashing.

    • swimon1 says:

      While I mean no disrespect towards gentlemen Chris and Lore they seem different to the standard fair of commenters that this blog usually shares. This combined with the fact that they seem to share certain phrases (fanboi for example) and a similar outlook on the article (that it pretended to be objective while having underlying biases) makes it seem to me that they come from a shared community. So out of curiosity I wonder: what forum or blog linked this article?

  40. I’ve been expecting something like this for a long time now–almost everything I’ve seen on TOR since it’s initial announcement has been a case of “really? that doesn’t sound like it’d work very well”. The more I hear about it, the more it looks like a hash of bad design decisions.

    I disagree that instancing (even of public areas) and a lack of target-of-target mechanics are necessarily fun-limiting, however. They work beautifully in DDO, for example, but that game is designed to utilize the nature of those mechanics. But then, in DDO the idea of a given class being a “support” class (or even a given build being a “support” build) is somewhat hazy. For me, the primary good thing that makes DDO a bit of a standout game is that it’s so much more customizable and complicated than other MMO’s (which, granted, means it’s very easy to make REALLY BAD characters until you get the hang of things) that a lot (but not all) of the typical role-ization gets scrapped.

    Anyway, I wish Bioware well and I hope TOR doesn’t sink them, but I don’t think it’s going to enjoy a prominent place in gaming history.

  41. Amarsir says:

    there will be multiple instances of Coruscant on the same server. Didn’t Champions Online prove that breaking up community centers like that was a terrible idea?
    Did they? I felt it was one of the things Champions Online did well.

    Also, phase tech is tough. Has anyone accomplished it besides Blizzard? Last I checked (which isn’t recent, I don’t really follow it) the WoW pirate servers were having a lot of problems making them work, and they have the benefit of a pre-made client. Not that this is really an excuse for a high-budget game like TOR not keeping up, it just emphasizes how impressive an accomplishment it was by Blizzard.

    • Zukhramm says:

      Guild Wars did it pretty good too.

      • Skyy_High says:

        GW doesn’t phase zones, at least not in the way WoW does it. Each instance is tailored to the party leader, yes, but it’s loaded fresh every time you enter it, which means it has to be easier to make changes to individual users’ zones than to phased persistent zones that everyone has access to (though the versions are slightly different for everyone).

        Cities have instances though, and they work quite well.

    • Mephane says:

      In Champions Online, I found the instancing absolutely awful, especially in social and core areas. The worst was when their first world event turned into a “hop into the instance with a boss currently active” metagame.

      • acronix says:

        I think it works well for the open world, since you don´t run out of mobs/quest critical objects. However, I agree that social areas are harmed by it, specially since they have half the capacity than open areas.

        The “hop into instance with the boss you look for” is terrible (and hilarious, in some way) during the Blood Moon event. Hundreds of players jumping from instance to instance, rushing and slaughtering the boss they wish before jumping to the next.

      • Amarsir says:

        Well the point of this serverless, multi-instanced world is to allow big populations and reduce respawn waiting. So if there’s an event that encourages big populations and/or respawn waiting then I have to agree the instance switching would be counter-productive.

        But for regular play I do think it’s good. It allows more people on a shard without queues or zone lag, which in the event of an (inevitable) population decline avoids server merges. I think those are good enough ideas that were I designing I would attempt a serverless style as well, but then bear the issue in mind when designing special events.

    • Rosseloh says:

      LotRO has been doing phasing for a while now, including “layering” which is different instances of crowded areas (mainly major cities). It’s worked pretty well, as far as I’ve seen.

      • krellen says:

        CoH also has a fairly successful phasing system, though I’m not sure they use it on anything but NPCs yet.

        • Amarsir says:

          Krellen can you give me a “for example” on CoH? I’m a bit out of date but I do know it fairly well and wasn’t aware.

          • krellen says:

            As a for instance, at the end of one story-line in Praetoria, you arrest a murderer who is also a contact for a different faction’s story-line; after you complete the first quest, this contact vanishes from the map, effectively cutting you off from the other story-line if you have not already progressed past his step in it.

            (Specifically, the first quest line is Interrogator Kang’s step of the Imperial City Responsibility arc (the first contact), and the murderer contact is Doctor Steffard, who is a few chains down in the Imperial City Warden arc.)

        • Rosseloh says:

          They introduced NPC phasing officially in the latest “expansion” a couple months ago. That is, you’ll finish a quest, and if it’s at a certain point in the storyline, the questgiver will disappear for you (but not for other people). But the “layering” feature works out in the world, as well, meaning that if there’s enough people out, waiting for a kill isn’t as bad as it used to be. (Note that I said “isn’t as bad”, not “eliminated”).

  42. Alex says:

    So now that the NDA is lifted… do you need to swing a lightsaber at something more than twice to kill it?

  43. Freykin says:

    While I only played in one weekend of the beta, so I only saw levels 1-11 of content, I very much enjoyed my time spent playing it. However, I don’t mind repetitive quests and grind, as long as the combat is fun, and from what I played of both the Sith Warrior and Trooper, the combat is fun enough for me to want to keep on playing.

    It helps that I had a friend who was in the beta as well, so we could do the first Flashpoint together. I agree that it would have been pretty amazing if the entire game was Flashpoints strung together, though I can see why they hedged their bets and went with a traditional(for these days) mmo style of combat/content.

    I’m still more hyped about Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World, but this will be a fun diversion until those two come along. At the very least, I’ll have an entertaining Star Wars story to show for it.

  44. kristos says:

    So let me get this straight, you played one weekend in August and you are basing your impressions on a 3 month old build?

    Ok. I wish I had the balls to write “reviews” on, let’s say, movies that are still in post-production or books that are half-finished. Oh wait, I don’t since it would be just kind of stupid, don’t you think?

    I don’t know which is worse, the fact that you swear that you have no agenda against SWTOR, which is kind of obvious that you do, otherwise you would’ve waited and tested the ACTUAL game or the LAST beta build to complain about clunky combat for instance or the people here that take your word as gospel. Are they your loyal followers? Shame on you all.

    What kind of “writer” bases his review on 3 month old content? You might want to STRESS the fact that your impressions are 3 MONTHS old.

    Boy am I glad that I found another wannabe “journalist” on the internet.

    And yes, I have played the beta and I still am, and yes, I freaking love it. Call me a fanboy, I know I am one, but don’t you think your post was loaded with, well, straight up bullshit?

    • Raygereio says:

      I am just loving this sillyness.
      Sir, I will have you know that despite all odds your post has served a purpose; it has in fact amused me.

      • kristos says:

        A pawn defending it’s King to the death. How cute.

        • Raygereio says:

          See? You’re wrong again. Well, half wrong. I’m not a pawn, I’m a knight. I’m cute though. Yes, sire I’m a very cure horsey.

          (Note to mods: Yeah, I know this isn’t productive. But I figure one might as well have some fun with the trolls, no? I’ll stop now.)

          In all seriousness; I’m glad for you that you’re having fun with the game. I personally would never have bought it regardless of what anyone would have said about it as I don’t like MMOs.
          Now what did you hope to accomplish with that post? Besides the fact that I don’t recall Josh saying he played it for just one weekend, are you for example seriously suggesting that BioWare changed the whole game in three months time?
          Or what was the point of claiming someone’s full of crap when that someone was simply expressing their own personal, subjective impression of something?

          It’s better you don’t answer that. After all we both know you can’t give a decent answer to that. Also I wasn’t even defending Josh; even if I was so inclined (which I’m not as I’m quite sure Josh is a big boy who doesn’t need my protection), it’s quite hard to do that when you haven’t actually raised a point worth the name. I was just amused by your irrational hatred and outrage that someone would dare to speak ill of your favorite game.

        • Kylroy says:

          *headdesk*

          I wonder what it’s like to have a complete lack of self-awareness on this level.

    • Zukhramm says:

      Oh no! Someone wrote about their opinion on the internet!

    • Alan says:

      Might I suggest that enumerating why you really love the game and perhaps noting improvements that have occurred since Josh played? That might sway more people into giving SWtOR a shot. If I want to read someone being butthurt because their favorite game in the world got a bad review I’ll visit every other game website ever.

    • Skyy_High says:

      Why do people claim that this was supposed to be a be-all-and-end-all review, particularly when there were so many caveats in the main article (and even more in the follow up comments)?

      “Journalism”? Hardly. You followed a link to an enthusiast blog, where a couple of guys (one in particular) post basically whatever they want, in a generally friendly atmosphere. Not everything needs to be taken so personally.

  45. kristos says:

    “Back around mid-August, I received a welcome surprise in my inbox – a beta invite to the Old Republic. Ever since then, I’ve been itching to tell people about my experiences with the game.”

    2+2 doesn’t equal 5.

    So you don’t like MMOs. Ok. Why are you here then? What made you post in the first place? You just like reading what “Josh” posts about anything and everything? I wish I had internet heroes like that who I could follow religiously.

    And me a troll? Hardly. I’m trolling because I’m trying to call out his BS in his post? Really? I used his “combat is clunky” as an example. 3 months ago I would’ve said the same thing, sure. In 3 months time a lot can happen in game development or do you actually believe it’s not possible? Now the combat is smooth and the animations are fluid.

    Yes, I’m claiming he is full of it because he is basing his personal opinions and impressions on a half-finished product and posting about it. Why not wait until it’s done? Riddle me that.

    • Shamus says:

      “Why not wait until it’s done? Riddle me that.”

      Why go around demanding that people not express their opinions before a game comes out? This is the entire point of discussing games. Like discussing movies, or books, or whatever else. People share their experiences and compare their impressions.

      Games “journalism” is mostly review-score prostitution and fan wankery. If you need to have your opinions reinforced, go read numeric scores on Metacritic. If you want to know what others thought of games, analyze gameplay mechanics, and second-guess design decisions, you come here.

    • Raygereio says:

      Oh, I know I shouldn’t. But he’s just so entertaining. Ah well.

      2+2 doesn’t equal 5.

      sir, I’ll have you know that neither does it equal 3.

      So you don’t like MMOs. Ok. Why are you here then?

      Who are you? What do you want? Oh, you’ll probably don’t get that reference anyway. Why I’m here? Honestly I’m curious as to how the TOR MMO will do as that will impact anything BioWare does in the future.

      You just like reading what “Josh” posts about anything and everything?

      Oh, there’s no sense in denying it anymore. Josh, I adore every single words that flows out of those beautifull typing fingers of yours. I love you. If your chin has been feeling rather chilly lately then that’s because I shaved your beard of while you were sleeping and framed this awe-inspiring spawn of yours on my wall.
      I’ll grab the next flight over, so we can get married in New Vegas.

      What made you post in the first place?

      Oh dear, now we have to add a reading disorder to your troubles. I already said I like baiting trolls. It’s a hobby. And yes, you are trolling; you’re throwing a hissy fit because someone doesn’t share your opinion, while bringing up no counter point to anything stated in Josh’ article.

      Oh wait, you did finally. Well, it’s an attempt at a point anyway.

      In 3 months time a lot can happen in game development or do you actually believe it’s not possible?

      Sure, a lot can happen. They can do a lot of tweaking and bugfixing. Tell me: did they change the core of the game’s design? I’ll help you out: the answer to that is no.
      The only thing that is not fair to critisize a beta build for is optimization issues and bugs, a game is finished other then that when it enters beta. In other words: it’s perfectly fair to criticize game on it’s design at that point.

    • Mr Guy says:

      Yes, I’m claiming he is full of it because he is basing his personal opinions and impressions on a half-finished product and posting about it. Why not wait until it’s done? Riddle me that.

      Challenge accepted.

      What you’re complaining about isn’t on Josh, it’s on Bioware.

      Previously, they embargoed any discussion on their “half-finished product” with the NDA they enforced on beta participants. Now they’ve lifted that NDA. What does that mean? It means they WANT PEOPLE TO TALK about their “half-finished product.” It means THEY feel that the product is sufficiently mature that they want reviews out, as a form of free advertising for their soon-to-be-released product.

      By dropping the NDA, Bioware is ASKING people to comment on their “half finished product.” They want people to share their “personal opinions” (by the way–unless we have robots writing reviews, what other kind of opinions are there?) on the product. They are ASKING people to post about it.

      This is like calling a journalist out for attending a press conference and writing about it.

      Riddle me this–if Bioware didn’t want people talking about their product with the current level of polish from the beta, why drop the NDA?

  46. ENC says:

    What I find most hilarious is it doesn’t get released until next year in Australia (Americans whinge the servers will lag, oh the irony). At least this means bioware will suffer massive losses of potential customers for us :), when everyone else has already finished playing it (and the majority of MMO players prefer games with high population numbers), thus barely any will join.

    Time for me to go back to Fallen Earth.

    • ehlijen says:

      Seriously?

      They decided to launch a world wide MMO later in some markets than others? What could possibly have made them think that’s a good idea? Did they need the extra time to figure out how much to charge the aussies extra?

      • Chargone says:

        given that that’s about 90% of the point of region locking etc?
        yeup.

        (the other ten percent is a mix of tech based factors (now obsolete as an issue, to my understanding) and language/censorship related laws based localising… which…. pretty much does not apply beyond running it past the cheif censor’s equivilant’s office for the appropriate rating sticker between the various significant English speaking markets)

      • rofltehcat says:

        On (Pre)release, MMO-servers often lag and crash and for Aussies the problems would probably be much worse.

        I still don’t get why companies don’t open SEAsia servers. I mean… having more (and happier) customers can’t be a good thing, can it?
        And the higher video game prices are complete BS. Back in the day, they maybe had to ship copies across the pacific but for digital distribution it is just about moneygrabbing.

  47. vel says:

    A few months ago my friend – an Everquest and WoW veteran/convert – raved to me about this game (he was a beta tester) and it sounded great to me. He wanted to get me a beta invite (never happened). I did get a chance though to play the free weekend. I played maybe 3 hours and that was that. It’s just the same old same old. The graphics and gameplay make me feel like I’m playing some defunct sci fi MMO from 5 years ago. The landscape is littered with NPC’s that are perpetually stuck in a routine of lifelessness. Guards stand in the same spot chit chatting with each other for eternity, as do other guards who are apparently harassing an alien for example. Being combat is long range with guns, all you do is fire and forget by pressing buttons when their time pops. i hate games that rely on stats and button presses for resolution of gun combat and not actual aiming. I’d much rather the enemies have more armor to make up for how precise a human could be. Give me something to freaking do besides just staring at the screen and clicking a button every 5 seconds.

    Oh well.

  48. mewse says:

    I just wanted to mention that “typhoon of monotony” is my new favourite descriptive phrase ever.

    Edit: Also, the name of my future noise cover band.

    • Indeed. I, too, was struck by the poetic juxtaposition. Well done.

      Pink or white? Oh, oh! Since it’s monotony, perhaps grey noise would fit the bill. That would be great. “And now, welcome, Typhoon of Monotony! Re-performing songs in a percieved accoustically homogenous fashion since who cares ago. Chhhhhhhhhhhhh…”
      Hmm, a mono-tone might be more like a pure sine wave. That would probably be less interesting though.

  49. Jean-luc Picard says:

    It sounds like Josh did not play TOR past level 20 and quit back in August. A lot of his ‘facts’ are outdated (back to around the build in August ironically enough), if not totally wrong. For instance, you can invite other players onto your ship. The combat and character ability customization has changed quite a bit in the three or four major builds since August too.

  50. Alaric says:

    You do realize that your point about major gaming publications and their journalists being less than credible is entirely opinion based? And you do realize that whether or not you think the game is any good, there is a great chance SWTOR is going to be hugely successful?

    Analysts project the game will start will 3 million subscribers. The game is currently at the top of all existing game preorders with over 800,000. That DOES NOT include digital sales or sales outside of the United States. In comparison to the launch of all other MMO’s, SWTOR is all ready the biggest launch in MMO history. What’s more, “Bagga noted that Star Wars: The Old Republic, in particular, stands to gain from WOW’s loosening hold on the market. Of those surveyed who are currently playing WOW, 50 percent said they plan to buy The Old Republic, with an additional 38 percent saying they may buy the game. The survey also found that 87 percent of the 95 players in the study who were participating in The Old Republic beta had already preordered or planned to preorder EA’s game.” (http://www.gamespot.com/news/activision-blizzard-stock-downgraded-on-world-of-warcraft-declines-6346436) Those are the facts sir. So, while a small minority of people may be crying foul about this game, I can with facts tell you that this game is currently on track to break numerous records.

    87 of 95 players who played BETA are pre-ordering? See, this is what I’m talking about. This article is only representative of 8 players.

    I would have given this game a chance whether there had been 500,000 subscribers or 10 million subscribers. But, let’s get one thing straight – if you like MMOs, have friends that play MMOs, and like knowing there is going to be a decent population for an MMO… you’d be ignorant to ignore Bioware’s success with SWTOR up to this point. They haven’t even started advertising the game. It’s all word of mouth. No television ads, no newspapers ads. Nothing.

    But again, when you do nothing but look for information that supports your opinion, you’ll always come to the conclusion that yours is the right one. To each their own.

    (I also think it’s pretty tacky that my posts are now awaiting moderation because I disagree with others here. Just a sign that dissenting viewpoints aren’t tolerated.)

    • Shamus says:

      “(I also think it’s pretty tacky that my posts are now awaiting moderation because I disagree with others here. Just a sign that dissenting viewpoints aren’t tolerated.)”

      Actually, your post was put into moderation because of the embedded link.

      Also: What’s the deal with you posting the same thing under two different names?

      • Vincent says:

        I’d say that the viral marketing/damage control firm is running out of scripts, Shamus. :)

        • Pickly says:

          I was wondering about that while reading the post. :) Seemed a bit odd…

          (This blog post as a whole seems to have attracted a lot of really angry players and/or marketing people compared to other posts for some reason.)

      • Mephane says:

        I find it funny how one could assume that the comment system would even remotely be able to recognize a post as disagreeing. It’s like, wow, IBM eventually decided to hand Watson over to Shamus (though I am not sure if even that machine would be able to tell the difference).

      • Oh wow. It’s almost exactly the same word for word. Amazing. So, what we have here is either two guys with the same material, or sock puppets.
        If it’s two guys from the same team, communication is clearly not a priority. A simple “Hey, I’ll handle the luddites over at shamusyoung.com” would suffice. I suggest a Google Docs spreadsheet to keep track of it all. Easy, and free.
        If it’s just one guy with sock puppets… Um, wow?

        Can you just nuke both threads? Lore’s is a flame war and this one just confirms either bad faith or stupidity. It’s your blog though, do what you like.

    • While I would be genuinely ASTONISHED if TOR didn’t perform well, those ‘facts’ you’re quoting are irrelevant to that point.

      87% of 95 players in the Closed Beta are going to pre-order. There’s a shock.

      It’s even more of a shock when you realise that one way INTO the closed beta is to pre-order the game.

      I also think they’ll probably need to sell more than 82 copies to consider the game a success – that’s a tiny survey, and is in no way statistically significant.

      100% of those I surveyed just now aren’t going to buy the game – but it was a survey of 1 person and a cat . It doesn’t mean no-one is going to buy the game, just that my sample size was tiny (and included a cat, and he doesn’t even have a bank account)

      -

      (You win in the end – you get to play a Star Wars game that you really like…)

      • Skyy_High says:

        This is completely discounting the fact that “popular = good” is ludicrous, with too many counter examples both in gaming and in general pop culture to name.

        Seriously, TOR is going to sell gangbusters no matter what, it’s WoW + Star Wars for Christ’s sake! You can’t get much bigger geek appeal. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be huge problems with the game for some people. Surprise surprise, the group that gave you Spoiler Warning (a video series built around pointing out the idiotic plot and gameplay mechanics of various RPG series, for those of you coming here from whatever forum linked this blog) is primarily upset about the plot and story not playing a big enough role. Obviously, that’s not a big deal for some people. Also obvious is the fact that posting projected sales figures will not change someone’s opinion about how the story could have been handled better.

      • Bob says:

        preording the game has no effect on getting into the closed beta. It allows you into the early access program which is a week before launch but it doesn’t get you into the beta.

  51. Ellis says:

    Thank you so much, Josh. I was having trouble telling people exactly why SWToR wasn’t fun for me, and you came up with the words I needed. I agree with everything you’ve said in this post.

  52. sadface says:

    I’m 100% with this. I would never find all the words do describe it… thank you!

    The side-quests are the real cookie-cutter in the game. They are only there to level slower, to make you stay one month for every character you level to 50. …bad decisions.

  53. Neneco says:

    Thanks for your impressions of the game. They pretty much line up with mine.

  54. Evan Johnston says:

    FINALLY. I was waiting for the damn NDA to lift so people could wake up and smell the fucking roses. I have no idea why this game is so hyped up and everyone will think it’s going to be amazing. It is going to be a mediocre game at best. I have told a countless number of friends this and I will be linking them this magnificent article. They have failed to clue in that this game isn’t going to be as awesome as those CGI trailers. Look at Dead Island, same thing. I feel like I’m trying to explain to a fucking Call of Duty fanboy why MW3 is going to be bad. They just don’t see it, they are blinded by the corporate greed shoved down their throats. That they are mindless following the great anatomy. Well guess what? You can choose what games you play, there are better games out there. I finally have substance to show them and prove to them this game isn’t going to be as preached up as everyones making it.

    Anyone here finally awaking from the eternal slumber and finally realizing this game is going to be bland check out Guild Wars 2. Take a look at what they are doing. They are sitting in the back row, the shy kid that never says anything but is booming with amazing ideas and concepts. They are going to revolutionize the MMORPG industry and media-whoring games like SWTOR are ripping all attention from it. Just check the Guild Wars 2 website, watch some videos. They are much more worth your time. Guild Wars 2 is thinking about us, the gamers. How much we matter and they are making a game specifically for us. They dabbled with Guild Wars. They saw the flaws and the strong points in the game. And 2006 they started from scratch and said what can we do better. And they are! They are creating a terrifyingly amazing and captivating game. An MMORPG to defy all MMORPG’s! No more killing ten rats, no more fed-ex deliveries. A game you will want to play, a game that will be enjoyable. It won’t feel like your slaving away at a mindless robot to perfect each and every aspect of them. The game evolves around you and there is SO much I cannot even explain it all. I could write paragraphs upon paragraphs about how well Guild Wars 2 is going to do.

    Another thing, no subscription fees. Pay the regular 60$ release price for a game and it is yours for life. FOR LIFE. Mind-fucking-blowing.

    • krellen says:

      For those accusing Josh of bias, this is what real Guild Wars bias looks like.

      • Abnaxis says:

        Indeed. I feel that by hailing this article as “proof,” this poster missed the point even more than the “Josh isn’t being objective!” people did.

        • CvRChameleon says:

          Evan’s post may be biased towards Guild Wars 2, but he is one of a few here that seems to have seen the light as I have (noticed it through accidentally reading about hist statement on MW3 :P). I have always refused MMOs with its content when it subscription based or free to play buy-yourself-to-win items type MMOs.

          They both have its flaws, with subscription based MMOs having alot of grind to accomplish ANYTHING in the game… they HAVE to slow down everything to make their business model work. (node sharing, insane level curves, redo content 100s of times to hope for that elusive 0.1% rare item drop). With the things Josh said, this clearly hasnt changed even in SWTOR. Most free to play games gives you the best content/items through a cash shop.

          So maybe I have missed the point of the post too, no idea; just came to read and see what the fuss is all about, if there is really anything special about SWTOR because of the insane hype around it, well nothing to me.

          For the millions that are going to play SWTOR (there is no denying that its going to be a success) good luck with your clone of no difference-MMO. I am waiting for Guild Wars 2, and going to pre-order that, as I have followed the concepts they are changing since last May 2010, and thats what I wanted in an MMO.

    • Bound says:

      MW3 wasn’t ‘bad’.

    • I feel the same way about GW2 and ArenaNet in general. However, it may be wise to temper your gushing. One may feel strongly, but say only what is relevant. Oh, and they turned down my application, so now I’m bitter forever.
      :)

  55. unit 276 says:

    I have been testing this game since Aug. It was to be my crowning glory in my lifetime of being there from the start for a change, not getting left behind. Well I am still going to play, but the game has been hyped too much. But my reasons are not going to make any sense to most, so here goes.
    I want to be there and ride this Titanic to whatever comes of it. Lets aim for the iceberg maybe it will be more fun, instead of grazing it. Cause this game is not gonna make it. I had such high hopes for it, that was until I found out how much they butchered the storyline. Not to mention there is not a finalized economy,classes are still not balanced. And as of the new build of the beta I have had to relearn how to play because of changes to abilities.
    Not to mention that the story seems to be acted out well, but it seems like a bunch of small stories that the plot was thought out by a middle school kid. I have been following this for 6 years now, and its all hype. There is more but I know there is no way in hell that I care to bore anybody reading this post, I’m just telling a bunch of people I will never see in my life that this game is not as good as you hope. Better take your expectations down a few notches. Its beta I know, but you can’t fix something that is so fatally flawed.
    So as I said I am on board for the Titanic, full steam ahead captain.

    P.S.
    I am so gonna troll the shit out of the general chat. Beam me up Scotty.

  56. [...] So far things aren't looking good for this game. Here's a link of a review on the beta test. It didn't blast it but said it was not anywhere near as good as he hoped and that it was a chore to play. If a game fails to maintain your attention then you know you really did something wrong. Star Wars: The Old Republic Beta Impressions – Twenty Sided [...]

  57. Trevor says:

    I’ve been in beta for quite some time now, and I think it’s a great game, not perfect but at least an 8/10.

    Although maybe that’s because I have good taste in games.

    • Dnaloiram says:

      Is there anyone else that can’t stop laughing maniacally while reading through the comments? In between the trolls, damage control, and just plain uninformed people, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to catch my breath.

      I mean seriously, this whole thing is fucking hilarious.

  58. Mukk says:

    I personally prefer MMOs where players aren’t just taking a tour through an amusement park. I’m an EVE player. Every time someone makes another WoW clone game engine I cringe a little bit. I like the sandbox. I like teh building of teh castles. And the crushing. But developers believe what people want in an MMO is a amusement park. Maybe that’s what most players want. Building a sandcastle is hard. You have to learn sandcastle engineering. You have to recruit sandcastle construction workers. You have to come to agreements with the nearby sandcastles that they wont come stomp on you. You have to accept it when the sand castle gets crushed or washed away by the sea.

    My interest in this game is what it says about the people who play it. Will it be a success? Are game developers going to look at it and say, “You see. We just need to copy WoW better and harder!” Are people tired of kill 10 bats and shuffle along to the next ride? My personal bias is that it crashes and burns forcing souless developers chasing the big WoW $ to consider other MMO styles, including the sandbox. But those aren’t the kind of people I want catering to me anyway. So…

    Good luck Star Wars MMO Thing.

    • krellen says:

      I’d probably be interested in EVE if it wasn’t so ruthlessly PvP-biased.

      • Mukk says:

        The EVE PVE content is awful. The interesting part is the player interaction including a great deal of pvp. This gameplay isn’t for everyone.

        • Kana says:

          Now if only we had a totally PvE game centered around close groups and combat in a varied world with persistant rewards and a lack of a level system that had a major impact on how your character progressed.

          Oh Monster Hunter Frontier, I would settle for you as my perfect MMO. If only Japan would stop IP blocking it. :<

  59. Galad says:

    Say, what are flashpoints?

    Also, if this MMO fails, what’s the situation going to be like for Bioware and the RPG market in general?

    • Craig says:

      Basicly a dungeon. I did one in the beta weekend…couldn’t find a healer, so we couldn’t finish it. It was alright, but I can see people getting really tired of the dialog. Your whole group has to interact with NPC’s at the same time to have a dialog with them to advance in the dungeon. We had one guy who was lagging and it made it take FOREVER!

  60. JesterNR says:

    While I must admit that I, as well as several Real life friends as well as online gaming friends and clanmates, am looking forward to ToR, I must say that I really expected a better review (Not in terms of the quality of the review, it was good… I mean the game itself since I have not played it at all).

    Perhaps they need to scale the number and difficulty of the enemies based on the number of people in the group (Not sure if they already do this… but City of Heroes did that from day 1… and that launched in 04…) while still leaving a good bit of room for randomization. That -should- be a relatively easy change to make for them, and would go a long way into making some of the encounters a bit less monotonous. As for ‘x of y’ quests… that’s pretty much a given in any MMO, but to hear of having no alternate leveling areas makes me a sad panda… CoH and many other MMOs have this as well.

    As for a long and drawn out storyline… I actually rather enjoy that. Of course I’m also one of those who is in no hurry to reach the level cap… It isn’t the destination… its the journey…

    I was rather surprised to read about the ‘lack of customization’ though… that’s one of the best things about MMOs… or it should be, at any rate.

    • krellen says:

      I’m really sick of the “three guys” mechanic in MMOs. Honestly, one of the biggest draws of CoH for me is the fact that the vast majority of characters, by about level 30 (mid-level), can easily handle three to four groups of “three guys” at once – and some even more than that. I have two characters that can handle a nearly unlimited amount of guys at once, and it truly makes me feel super.

  61. X2-Eliah says:

    Hm. Interesting. I actually didn’t predict it was that bad.. But it all does make sense, and sounds about right when we look back at the marketing, Bioware’s past & current games, and the advertising.

    Incidentally, have you all noticed that the advertising seems to have died down quite a bit as more and more beta invites were handed out? Looks like somebody up there went ‘Um… Oh crap…’

    And.. I’d say more, but tbh I’m having way too much fun playing Skyrim, and really don’t give a damn whether Bioware sinks because of this game/failure or not. Now back to exploring falmer caves ->

    P.S. Just a minor note, for last 5+ years, Bioware have absolutely stunk at creating open worlds. DA:O is perfect example, where you have a bunch of small, corridor-based maps linked together with doors/gates, severely limiting where player goes and what from where (s)he sees. Idk.. I really dislike this sort of world design. Maybe it fits for people who are really into D’n’D campaigns and desk-laid maps, but.. You just can do so much more in a videogame.

    • Lalaland says:

      I wholeheartedly agree on the ‘Bioware can’t do open world anymore’ concept. Take the ME1 to ME2 transition, ME1 featured a lot of cut/paste worlds navigated with an infuriating vehicle but at least provided a sens of space exploration (even if every single facility was built the same, clearly Roankabin are the true power in this universe).

      ME 2 decided that what people wanted was more visual variety (correct) but decided that the best way to do this was to beam you down to a 12 foot corridor where you might be asked to press ‘use’ up to three times! (oh so very wrong). The side missions discovered via radio beacons were so disappointing, I’m not expecting them to challenge the main storyline but they were more like narrative burps than proper story telling. Later they added a vehicle back in but instead of letting you troll around in it you got a series of bad ‘future racer’ linear race tracks entirely separate from the main game that felt and were utterly superfluous.

      The collapsing of the universe was one of the more depressing elements in ME2 for me. Even the Citadel went from having vast vistas that hint at the huge facility beyond to a series of corridors that felt like I was visiting a mini-mall. I loved Ambassador [insert name here] office because I could at least glimpse at the lovely view of the station beyond. Meh they could have set the whole of ME2 on a single planet and I defy anyone to claim that if felt like you were actually exploring feck all.

      It’s a shame TOR has no exploration feel as it was the one thing I was hoping they could do right, ah well.

  62. Ryan says:

    “If you want more nuanced critiques of games, you need to go to more independent sites, blogs, and forums where there are personal reviews of the games in question.”

    You are cute. The problem with the internet is everyone has an opinion. Whats more, everyone thinks their opinion should be heard. Blogs, independent sites and forums are no better than ‘Mainstream gaming’ sites. (Yes, I am part of this, since I am posting on an independent site)

    All of these CAN (not always do, but can) have their own agendas. Whats more they are written by people. People have a great range of likes and dislikes. What Josh likes, I might not. And it is extremely hard to pick out what is factual and what isn’t without playing the game yourself. For every ‘honest post’ on a forum or blog, you have a ton more (on the same thread) screaming that the guy is wrong. Or even calmly replying that the guy is wrong, as you see here.
    Also, no offense meant for anyone here, but why should I care what anyone else thinks? I do find it a bit silly that someone posts a review and the majority of people take it as the gospel truth. But again, its your right to do so.

    The only way to truly tell if a game is good or not is to play it yourself. Whether its Skyrim, SWTOR, WoW or MW3. To let other people make your choices for you is doing yourself a disservice.

    • Lalaland says:

      I admire your defence of reasonableness in the face of fanboi rage and internet trolling.

      I take a perverse enjoyment with the rage posts by people who disagree with whatever the article is, they rarely offer a coherent defence just inchoate rage that whover disagrees them must be a shill for Sony/MS/Blizzard/Illuminati/NWO.

      I humbly present “John Gabriel’s Greater Internet F___wad Theory”

      How I wish that illustration was hyperbole or something the internet has ‘grown out of’

      • Ryan says:

        HAH! I love Penny Arcade!

        Seriously though. I love SWTOR and will be playing it at launch.
        I think it will be successful enough to be viable. Which is really all I care about. I don’t need it to be the WoW killer.

        If people don’t want to play it, thats always their choice. I just prefer to play a game (and not a beta, the actual game on release) before I decide.
        I’ve done it with every major MMO in the last 6 years and will keep doing it.

    • Kdansky says:

      Buying every game on the grounds that it could be good is doing yourself a disservice. I am still waiting for someone to write up why ToR is any good besides “OMG Star Wars”!

      • Ryan says:

        Buying every game that you want to try because you think it is good isn’t a disservice unless you are broke.

        If you want to try a game and are turned off by a review of a person you don’t personally know, before you have seen it and played it yourself, then yes thats a disservice.

        I am not stating you have to buy EVERY game that might be good. But if you have an interest in playing a game, you shouldnt be swayed by any 3rd party review.

    • Shamus says:

      “Also, no offense meant for anyone here, but why should I care what anyone else thinks?”

      Good question. Why do you care?

      “The only way to truly tell if a game is good or not is to play it yourself.”

      That is a very expensive proposition. Indeed, if everyone did that, we would have no need for critiques or journalism.

      Rather than slamming down $60 every time a game comes out, you can try having a conversation with others. What did you think of it? Did you have fun? Maybe your friend says the game is terrible because it has a lot of quicktime events. Maybe you like quicktime events, so you conclude you’ll like the game even though it’s bad.

      That’s what this site is for: Have a discussion, and then go think for yourself.

      • Ryan says:

        “That is a very expensive proposition”

        Not really. It depends on your own circumstances. For some of us, plopping 60 bucks down every few weeks on a game is no big deal. For others, it is. If it IS a big deal, then certainly, use review sites.

        “What did your friend think of it”
        I believe I said this same thing in my post. Ask your friends. Watch them play the game. BORROW the game yourself. But a 3rd party anonymous review site is a bit silly.
        To me, anyway.
        Your mileage may vary

        • Kdansky says:

          “Every few weeks”? I am not sure where you live, but on this planet, more than one AAA title is released per day. And even if I had the money to burn 100$+ per day on games, I would never have the time to play them.

          • Ryan says:

            Again, just speaking for me, but not every AAA title that comes out, do I want. There are maybe 2-3 games a month that I think about getting, mainly xbox titles.

            Way to keep any hostility or scorn out of your posts, btw. I guess some people don’t like a differing opinion.

        • Irridium says:

          If you’re talking about buying new AAA at launch… were you here for this holiday season?

          Skyrim, Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Saints Row 3, Uncharted 3, Arkham City, and Skyrward Sword. All released really close to each other. And it all up to about… $470 USD.

          I don’t think many people have that much money lying around. Or if they do, they don’t have enough time to play all those games. Since making that much money requires a job which takes up lots of time.

          • Ryan says:

            I can name 2 of those I am interested in (Skyrim and Arkham). I bought both. Not every AAA title is going to appeal to everyone.

            And no, I work an 8-4:30, mon-friday job and can drop 400 bucks on games in a month.

            • Keeshhound says:

              That’s great, but some people can’t do that for any number of reasons. I’m finishing up college right now; I pay have to pay all the expenses of someone in the workforce right now (rent, food, utilities, etc.) but I can’t work a 9-5 because I have to balance my time between work, classes and studying.

              Because both my time and funds are limited I try not to buy every game I’m interested and instead listen to what other people think and try to make decisions based on the experiences of others before I make a commitment of 9 hours of work to buy a game that I might end up hating. And to be honest, I’ll probably maintain my frugal habits even when I have the capital to burn on a risky game because I just don’t like to spend money on something I end up not enjoying.

              I’m more than glad you can afford to buy everything you’re interested in; people like you do far more to support the gaming industry than I do, but I don’t feel like I’m any less of a gamer for being cautious either.

            • Syal says:

              Married? Kids? Car/house payments?

            • Zukhramm says:

              Not every AAA title is going to appeal to everyone.

              Exactly. And to know which ones do appeal to me, I read about them.

        • krellen says:

          Shamus and Josh are not third party anonymous people (especially not Shamus, who just spent the past three months telling us all his life story). They are friends, even if I haven’t met them face-to-face. I have several other, outside-this-blog friends who are friends despite having never met in meatspace as well.

          You don’t need physical reality to form a friendship.

          • Raygereio says:

            I wouldn’t go so far as to call them friends, but they are indeed not anonymous. Any regular reader to this blog will have at the very least a basic understanding of Shamus’ and Josh’ tastes concerning videogames.

            And even then you can get an impression whether or not a particular game would be fun for you from a review, provided the reviewer explaines why and how he/she came to his opinion.

            Edit: I’m really curious what set off the “awaiting moderation”-thing in this post.

            • Shamus says:

              The auto-moderator is a strange, capricious beast. I don’t even know what sets it off half the time. It’s keyed to hook onto a few obvious things:

              * Posts with links
              * Posts that talk about viagr*, porn, loans, and a few other common spam / scam subjects.
              * Posts from people I’ve banned over the years.
              * Posts that mention or link to one of the many spammer domains I’ve blocked over the years.

              Sometimes innocent posts get caught in the queue, and it’s not clear which particular keyword match set it off.

            • krellen says:

              My threshold for “friend” is “would I let them crash on my couch”. I can’t really think of any circumstances wherein it might come up, but I would definitely let Josh or Shamus crash on my couch.

          • Mukk says:

            If they don’t know who you are they’re not a friend. You’re a fan. Umm. I donno I just get this creepy vibe from calling some celebrity, even internet, a friend without ever having spoken to the guy. I guess I’m technically speaking to him right now but its at such an impersonal level that I don’t even consider it communication. I’m just farting out words to be lost into the great internet machine.

            Anyway o/ Shamus.
            Do you want to be my friiieeeend?

            • Shamus says:

              “Anyway o/ Shamus.
              Do you want to be my friiieeeend?”

              Heh. Okay. o/

              Note that krellen has been a regular here for years, since before this site became anywhere near as popular as it is today. I know roughly what he does for a living, about how old he is, what kind of games he likes, (and which ones he’s hostile towards) some of his political and religious views, as well as a few hints of personal philosophy.

              Now, most people here aren’t as well known as krellen, but I’d still prefer to think of them as acquaintances or visitors than “fans”.

              • krellen says:

                Grr, Fallout 3! *shakes fist*

              • Mukk says:

                Fair enough.

                And I’d like to weigh in on the side of not raging at this review. There were no attacks on the developers. There were no underhanded tactics. Yes the opinions were subjective. But they were based on real objective things within the game. As far as I can determine the objective items were not deliberately falsified. This is what a review should look like. This is why I come to this site instead of some of the professional review sites.

                Even the best artistic creations have people that don’t like it. 100% approval rating doesn’t ever happen. What someone can do is see if the other views here sync up with their views. Then they can make a judgement on how much this review should impact their future actions. They should probably check multiple sources as well.

        • Craig says:

          Even when I was making what I considered good money, I still shopped the bargain bin. That will be even more true in the future as games have increased from $50 to $60. I didn’t start playing WoW till the price dropped to $30. Some of my favorite games I’ve picked up for $10 or less (Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 comes to mind).

      • Mephane says:

        It is even simpler than that, Shamus. Most of the time, the other people’s opinion isn’t even necessary to judge a new game. More often than not, I just look at the facts presented, and can then draw my conclusion whether I would like such a game or not.

        Example:

        Guy X says on the Internet: “This game is crap, it has so many dungeons and you always need a party to do them, you will have to group often if you want to achieve anything.”
        That conveys two things: a) that the game revolves around dungeons and a lot of cooperative gameplay and b) the reviewer prefers playing solo content.

        If I now on the other hand were to prefer dungeons and group content over solo content, despite guy X giving the game a negative review, I can still conclude that I would like it because of the very things he dislikes it.

        Long story short: All reviews are valuable that can state facts and examples to back up their position. Even if you disagree with the conclusion, the facts alone can be very helpful in forming your own opinion.

    • Zukhramm says:

      why should I care what anyone else thinks?

      Why are you reading a blog post called “The Old Republic Beta Impressions” if you’re not interested in hearing someone’s impressions of the Old Republic beta?

      To let other people make your choices for you is doing yourself a disservice.

      Maybe it is but I have limited time to spend and so does everyone else. Humanity would have gone nowhere if we had to find every single thing out ourselves. It’s simply a lot more efficient to share information.

  63. Daimbert says:

    So, I was browsing through some back posts of mine, and found the one thing that for me made me really interested in TOR: romances. Did they make it into the story sections, or not?

    • Josh says:

      They require a really high approval rating from the companions that can do them, so much so that you can’t really get to them until you get towards the endgame – something that’s not easy to do if BioWare wipes the servers every three weeks and has a two week downtime between then and the next beta test session. Plus, there was the whole “losing the will to keep playing” thing.

  64. RTBones says:

    This is a game I want to be excited about, but just am not. Right now, for many of the reasons Josh mentions and others here discuss, I will likely wait until the game has been out for a few months.

    Not being part of beta and not being a _totally_ rabid fanboy, the only info I have is what I can find on sites like Gamespot or here. There are a few videos on GS that take you through an hour or so of the game (I am sure folks who are following the game more closely than I can probably point me towards others). If what is there is any indication of the final release, the game looks and feels a bit too WoW-ish for my personal tastes.

    HOWEVER – that doesn’t mean I wont at least try the game. While I have not played WoW in a long while, I did enjoy it while I played. Further, the video comments section (at least for the vids I watched) indicated that what I was seeing was an ‘older build’ and that things had changed substantially. So I am back to wait and see.

    What is my point in all of this?

    Until the game comes out and I’ve had a chance to peruse the post-release comments/complaints/press, I will watch, listen, and learn. I have Minecraft and eventually Skyrim to hold my gaming interests until then.

1 2

3 Trackbacks

  1. By Star Wars: Old Republic - Release Date Announced on November 22, 2011 at 1:10 am

    [...] So far things aren't looking good for this game. Here's a link of a review on the beta test. It didn't blast it but said it was not anywhere near as good as he hoped and that it was a chore to play. If a game fails to maintain your attention then you know you really did something wrong. Star Wars: The Old Republic Beta Impressions – Twenty Sided [...]

  2. By Twentysided Previews SWTOR – SWTOR Class Guides on November 23, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    [...] Twentysided to read the whole [...]

  3. [...] on it, some are saying “ZOMFG ITS KOTOR3!!1“, some are saying it’s okay, and others are saying that the junk quest to story quest ratio is 10:1 – i.e. very, very bad pacing. I really [...]

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