The cards are down.

22 12 2011

There are a dozen topics (and almost as many roughshod drafts) that I thought about dropping over the past two days. What better way to address them all than to just stream-of-thought dump them here. (Spell-checker, don’t fail me now.)

People are saying all sorts of things about Star Wars: The Old Republic. Odds are by now you’ve either already bought it, are waiting for the holidays to pass, or maybe you decided to stick with WoW/EVE/your rogue Ultima Online server. Maybe you’re still on the fence. You’re wondering if the impossible amount of story and spoken dialog in the game is worthy or sustainable; is the game sustainable? Will it last? Will the end game be any good? Everybody’s wondering – whether they’re making a show about dismissing it or not – everybody’s wondering if this 800 pound gorilla can throw the haggard World of Warcraft off of the hill it’s so accustomed to sitting on. Many players have been with the same family of characters in WoW for years. There’s a level of investment there that’s hard to top, right? Why would they leave?

Then there’s this whole other movement. Some bloggers are coming down really hard on Bioware, on the so-named “theme park MMO model”. These games, copying WoW, are driving them insane. They vocally want TOR to fail, because they predict it’s failure will bring down what they feel is a tragic trend in the MMO market. What they want is a mystery to me. WoW hits the genre and brings ridiculous amounts of quest content…hundreds, thousands of quests. Enough that you can do a few dozen every day for months and months. Of course, the majority of that quest text is tragic and obviously spat out by an intern, but it sure beats saving the exact same princess once a week every week. It was considered a step up. And, let’s face it: you might love WoW, you might vehemently hate WoW, and you may never have tried it. It doesn’t matter. Whatever your position, you can’t help but see that WoW did something right, because it pulled in more money than any video game ever.

You can put a pejorative spin on it. Sure, I’ve heard the whole “They hired psychologists to help them make the game more addictive” thing. Maybe it’s true. Personally I never appreciated their early loot systems and the whole need for the player base to manage who got what loot. (Don’t get me started on DKP.) The real question is “Can millions of subscribers be wrong?” Here’s the answer you may not want.

They cannot be wrong.

Sure, they don’t value MMOs like you do. They don’t value the culture that they stomped all over. These WoW affecionados don’t have the passion or whatever. Hell, in a way I’m on your side. I don’t like WoW or their culture. But it’s because it’s their culture.

These companies don’t try to copy WoW to make money; that’s the most stupid line of crap I’ve ever heard. Nobody gets on Medal of Honor or Call of Duty or that stupid Golden-eye game for ripping off Wolfenstein 3D. It’s a genre. Certain aspects are going to endure. Like the first-person view, the variety of guns, enemies, and environments. Not to mention blood and explosions. They are parts of the genre.

Good ideas that are added to a genre stick around. Once people like Future Crew and Id figured out how to kick old school video cards into Mode X, everybody was doing it for their FPSs. Doom, Rise of the Triad, Duke Nukem…all of them really the same game but with a variety of things added to the genre: funny audio clips bound to hot keys, mines, increasingly unrealistic weapons. I keep using FPSs as an example, but I suspect the overlap between aged MMO-affecionados and aged FPS-affecionados is pretty small. I may be rarer than I think.

WoW added quest content, and it was a good idea and entertaining. Bioware has taken things a step further with the genre, adding spoken dialog and a real plot to each character class. When they said it was KOTOR 3 through 14, they weren’t exaggerating; each class has its own story line. It has an advantage with one of the most well known and powerful sci fi IPs ever. And, sorry Star Trek…but it really is an IP that’s much more conducive to action.

I’ve only played for two days. I broke down and bought a boxed copy on release day. I walked in to the store, took the first copy off the shelf with zero fanfare, and walked out. Was just like when I bought World of Warcraft back in ’04 on its release day. I’ve only played for two days and I already feel more attached to this character than any of the toons I spent years with in WoW. This character has a story. A tangible one. And it’s actually a good one. The story quest is compelling and interesting. All of the side quests further enhance the experience. My character is a Jedi and he fits the bill. He’s in it to defend the Republic. One man amidst a thousand generations.

This game is doing it. It’s redeeming Star Wars for me.

You may not like where it’s going or what it’s doing. You may wish every game was some pretty and self-playing spreadsheet like EVE Online, where the economy game is the real game and even the combat is a side line. You can feel free to criticize it for it’s lack of a space game or the way it’s streamlined crafting and travel. Maybe you get mad that your character doesn’t need to cook or eat or something I can’t imagine.

I will have a bit of trouble hearing you over the gentle hum of my lightsaber.

I love it. I recommend it. I got a space ship. I talked my way out of a few fights. And I got my name.

How do you like them apples?

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2 responses

23 12 2011
Gank

Well……..

I do my best to stay out of the debate regarding the ‘theme park’ vs. ‘others’. I am firmly in the ‘others’ camp but it doesn’t anger me in any way that so many others like ‘theme’ parks. So, no comment on all that.

What I will argue, is that millions of subscribers can be wrong. And are. Lots. Simply because millions like something doesn’t necessarily make it good, or right. I don’t think I have to go too far back in history to give some good examples.

Thats it. The only point I wanted to make. Enjoy your lightsaber and happy holidays.

26 12 2011
thade

You’ll probably agree that there’s no real way for me to respond to your point in a comment here. 😉 It’d be huge. Sooooo I started an article series to address it. Looking forward to picking this up again.

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