Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Worried about Star Wars the Old Republic

Like many others, I am looking extremely much forward to the upcoming mmo from Bioware; Star Wars: The old Republic (swtor). Especially ever since *that* video hit the internet, I’ve been impatiently waiting for this game. 
Seeing this video again, I am rememinded of what one of my friends said when I first linked him the trailer.
“You see? You see how fucking cool Star wars can be when George Lucas leaves it the Fuck alone”

And I am inclined to agree with him. This is the absolutely best way to kick of the hype-gasm on a new game.


And what a game it looks to turn out to be. Bioware, one of my old time favourite developers, combined with the vast resources of EA (and I might add, an EA that backs of and just feeds them cash), seems to be the wining combo of the decade.
However, I am still worried about this game.
And the reason I am worried, is the same reason I am so excited about it. This game is created by Bioware. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioware
Yes the same Kotor, masse effect, MDK2 (I’d forgotten they made that), neverwinter nights, Dragons age, Baldurs Frikking gate, - Bioware.
The kings of everlasting stories, and incredible solid rosters of games - Bioware.
The March Mayhem runner up for two years straight (both years beating Blizzard) –Bioware.

*The* Bioware. How can you not get Goosebumps knowing that they will go back into their Old Republic –series? (Seriously, if there is anyone out there who has not completed this game, go play now… Yes I am glancing at you little Miss Pink pigtail).
So how come that worries me?

When is a game not an mmo?

When it is not balanced, has a good gameplay, when it lacks consistency, when it is not clear what path you should go gown or why, and when you cannot reverse your decisions once you have chosen your path.
Bioware, are a lot of things, but good *gamedesigners* are not one of them.
They make fantastic games, they are just not very well designed.

Example time:
- In mass effect, how many enjoyed the parts of the game where you had to drive your mako?
- In *any* bioware, wheel-chat function game, how many chose the wrong option on their pc? (scrolling with your mouse over that wheel to get the right chat-option, was hell)
- In dragons age, how many where aware of just how much easier the game was if you picked a magic using class, and learned to heal?
- In *any* bioware wheel-chat function game, how many chose one chat option, thinking it would lead in a whole different direction than it did?

That last one probably demands an case-in-point: In Dragons age Origins, I played as a happy go-lucky elf, I enjoyed my country and was loyal to my country. In every option throughout the game, that is what I chose, and I had fun. Then I got into a chat with the lord of a castle. He said something along the lines of “the blight may not be all bad” And I would beg to differ, I chose a wheel that said something along the lines of… Well I can’t remember, but it was the only option where I was disagreeing with him. Turned out my character interpreted my choice to say “yo elf, kill that mo-fo” And so he started attacking after calling the Lords mum a cheap prostitute.
That was not really what I meant.

It was a while since I played the game, so my memory is a little fuzzy on the exact event, but the gist of it was, that many times I would save the game, before engaging in conversation. So that when me and the elf I played, would disagree to what a chat option meant, I could reload.
I was not the only one, many bloggers wrote about how they saved multiple times to see where a conversation would lead them. That is not how I play, but I’m not one to judge… Much.
Point is, that totally killed any resemblance of immersion. And a storydriven game, like Biowares, that lives only on story and the players being immersed, that is a horrible no-no to have.

Gameplay, or lack thereof

Because gameplay in most Bioware games is close to non-existing, I complete Bioware games despite their gameplay, not because of it. Some I do not complete at all, Mass effect 1, for example.
I bought that game both for the PC and later for my Xbox. Whenever I played it on my Xbox, in our living room, Mrs Dwism has to either leave the room or hit me in order to make me not yell (loudly) at the screen. Why? Because that games story is amazing, so I keep playing a game I hate in order to get more of the storyline. The AI of my fellow group-members is that of a suicidal Lemming. The controls are floppy, at best. And Boss fights… Don’t get me started on Boss fights, they are just awful.

Imagine a company like that making an mmo: the story is great, but gameplay is horrible, the various classes are not at all balanced, and Boss fights are too horribly made, to even talk about.

So why am I still excited about this?

Because they have shown signs of learning from their mistakes. Mass Effect 2, is infinetly better than the first one, in all the areas that I had problems with. They seem to be very much aware of balancing classes out, and especially about the fact that everyone wants to play jedi/sith, so they are doing an incredible job at making the non-force using classes interesting.
They even succeeded so much in achieving interesting class options, that their first class to be publicly tested (The Trooper) was so well received, that Blizzard changed their hunters to match them.

That shows a lot of promise if you ask me.

Will I be playing a non-force user, once the game hits? I very much doubt it, but I applaud them for having focus on it. (if you are curious I’ve got my eyes set dead on the Sith Warrior).

So there we are, a lot of reasons to not play this game, and some reasons to *do* play it. I will be playing it, I am looking forward to it, and I hope that Blizzard will launch Cataclysm soon, because if these two come out at the same time, I do not know what to do.

I think that what I am trying to say here, is that I am very much into the hype of any game, I’m a firm believer in the saying that “There is no greater pleasure than the joy of anticipation” (dunno how well that translates), but I am not blindly going into it either. I know Biowares history, I know their faults, but I do believe they will correct them this time.


  1. Hooo.

    Yep. And I hadn't seen that trailer, so tvm for linking (even if you did make me lust after a game I'd conveniently forgotten about). I do have to raise a dissenting voice about a few points you made:

    1. I *liked* the Mako. It drove just like the jeeps in Halo. I certainly prefer it to the "teleport to planet > mission > teleport out" mechanic in place for ME2 which made the world much less immersive for me.

    2. I also liked the ambiguity of some of your responses in both ME and DA:O -- I quite liked that I was trying to set a tone but my character would speak the words, although that might not suit everyone. That said, it would be a bit dicey for an MMO, if the in-game consequences went beyond a snotty remark from the person you're talking to. I'm hoping they know that and will make the flow/tone of your responses obvious if conversations make any meaningful difference in game.

    3. Boss fights: which ones did you especially dislike? I can't say any stood out for me as being irredeemable.

  2. How could you like the mako? in comparison to the gathering in me2, then I get it, but overall? It steered like a drunken Rhino had taken the wheels of a bumbercart. And not in a good way.
    about your second point, I guess it depends on the premise: Am I controlling a character in a world, or is it *me* playing a character in that world? Makes a lot of difference, and their games has always been sold as the latter... Although I can see the charm in playing it your way :)

    Boss fights: Well there really are not that many, but the purple things mom in ME2, sarens helper. That fight took me over 4 hours of loading reloading because.. well okay mostly because my members decided to hide behind explosive boxes, and when I tried to move them, they moved in front of her fire and died.
    This is a long conversation I'll have to elaborate on, I can see that now :)