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So, is it doomed, or destined to rise again?
I've gotten a ridiculous number of emails and tweets asking me what I think about the recent announcement by EA that the subscriber base for Star Wars: The Old Republic shrank by 400,00 (25%) last...
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Nicole Wakelin's profile photoVladimir De Rosa's profile photoKevin Long's profile photoEric Rice (Spin)'s profile photo
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I am one of the people that did not continue past the intro period. My overriding decision is "why should I pay $ every month for a single player game?". Yes, I know it is not a single player game, but boy it sure feels like a single player Bioware game.
 
If you're not feeling the group aspect of the game, I can absolutely see why you'd not continue. I have a quild (however MIA they may be) and play with my husband and daughter, so that makes it a heck of a lot of fun.
 
Like any MMO it can be a single player game, but that doesn't mean that is what it is. When I started playing WoW I leveled to 72 before I was ever in a group, and I started because people at work were playing.

I don't think the problem is the game itself, it is the expectations that people have. Oh look, it is Bioware, this will be a really great in depth personal story arc with decision points and consequences. And all that is true. But the game has a lot of great multiplayer content as well, and more coming every day.

Where I personally think Bioware dropped the ball is the linearity of the story. The amazing thing about the original KOTOR game was that after the prologue you could go through it in any order you wanted and it scaled to you. TOR doesn't do that. When you get sick of Taris, and you will, you don't have anywhere else to go except space missions and PVP. SO in this case my own expectations of a Bioware game were disappointed.

So is 400k people dropping off n the first quarter of the year, which is the first quarter of the games existence be the death knell of the game? Not at all. I am still playing, actively, and trying to figure our how to juggle my schedule so I can see the next piece of story, looking forward to my buddy upgrading his machine so he can play to and holding an alt back so we can level up together, raiding the eternity vault, looking forward to 1.3 and all in all still living the game.
 
I think +Vladimir De Rosa may have hit the nail on the head with what my "single player" feel was - it is the linear nature of the game. It totally felt like a really old school RPG to me (and not in a good way) where I had to complete tasks A-B-C in order. The sandbox nature of the the MMO is really missing from SWTOR.

To compare against a MMO I do still play (LOTRO), you can look at the way the epic storyline interleaves with the sandbox nature of the game. LOTRO has an epic storyline similar to SWTOR. However, you can choose to still play the game as a sandbox. Areas are targeted towards specific level characters (just like SWTOR), however you are not prevented from entering areas far above your level. I had never truly appreciated the lack of railroading until I was in SWTOR and was railroaded into certain areas and away from others.

The railroading does produce a more cohesive story (just like in a single player game). However, railroading is generally perceived as the lowest mechanic in achieving player interaction with the story. Pen and Paper RPGs have long since known this, and for sure Bioware does (or used to - see the previous KOTOR comments from +Vladimir De Rosa).

In the end, it was this difference in what I expected from an MMO that made me choose to not continue the subscription. I'm sure there are plenty of folks who are enjoying the game. And as long as the game is profitable, it will be by definition a success. The degree of the success is another matter. SWTOR is almost definitely the last of the massive subscription based MMOs. The financial risk is significant for games of this size. With a mediocre profit on the game, you can see that companies will be far less likely to take that risk since the P&L question has become far less clear cut. Free to play models are becoming much more attractive because of the reduced and mitigated risk model they present.

So SWTOR most likely will continue on for a very long time. But it almost definitely is the last of it's kind.
 
I think you're right about expectations. It fell flat for those who had something different in mind, and the playing on rails aspect was not what a lot of veteran MMO players wanted.

I actually complained about that in the space battles. Yeah, it's a small part of the game, but if I'm going to have a ship I want to really be able to fly it around and do things. Instead there are missions with set times and a set fly-by sequence and that's frustrating.

You can see how they're trying to respond to that complaint, with the recent Rhakgoul outbreak on Tatooine. It was it's only little story that you could mess around with to a point. I know, not the kind of free-play environment that you really want, but it's a start.

I'm really hopeful that they'll continue to address this, expand in the areas where people have showed the most desire for improvements.
 
One thing that worried me a bit is in an article I read today from the LA Times that SWTORs breakeven is 1 million subscribers.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2012/05/electronic-arts-mass-effect-star-wars-depresses-fourth-quarter.html

If that is true they are dangerously close to costing the company every month which will most likely cause EA to force cost cutting. An easy way would be to merge servers which should help costs but ultimately the best way to save money is to cut personnel which means less development and that would kill the game.

I'm hopeful for the future but I do feel like the EA/Bioware executives have been lying for the last month with their adamant claims that the issue was "concurrent users" and not a drop in subscriptions. Considering the fact that it subscriptions dropped 25% there is no doubt in my mind they've known about this for a long time and were hoping the 30 days free and 1.2 would turn it around. It didn't.

I'm personally going to give it through the next quarter and if we don't see good progress on tools to help with grouping / guilds I think my patience will run out. It's too bad because I really had a lot of hope for this game.
 
The real challenge whenever the "VETERAN MMO PLAYER" wanders into the conversation is that they are playing veteran MMOs. When you hear "Waaangh wanngh, TOR doesn't have a LFG tool like WoW!" you have to remember that NEITHER DID WOW for 5 years. Just because the idea is out there doesn't mean that TOR doesn't need a stable foundation to put it on.

I am torn, given the nature of the story elements it would be hard in a lot of cases to make them non-linear. Possibly so difficult as to make it insane. I read an article once on how Joe Denver wrote the Lone Wolf series, and it was more about flow charts and possibilities than it was about story elements.

You start thinking about 8 classes, 16 advanced classes, and then you start thinking now they can go through these 5 elements in any order, what does that do to the plot stuff? What does it do to classic MMO mechanics of level progression? You think of it in those terms and you realize why they didn't, but you want it.

As for space battles, I am less concerned. Yes they are tedious and boring, and barely about you skill as a player, but they are also a place holder and they have said so. They couldn't release STAR WARS without the STAR part, or it would have just been WARS.


Now don't get me wrong, they need to do something about group finding eventually, for now I would be really happy with "Homing Beacon" everyone in your group can quick travel to you. Story justification: Everyone OWNS a frelling starship for fracking feth's sake.
 
I'm willing to give the game time but the biggest issue is with so many other MMOs/games on the horizon most players won't ever come back. That means this game is always going to be a niche player unless they can do something truly innovative and I just don't see that happening. If 1 million subscriptions is truly the breakeven then I'd bet they were counting on 2 million+ subscriptions to be able to afford developing the cool things like space battles, etc. That means the game we have is the game we are going to get for the foreseeable future. As EA hasn't ever shown willingness to invest good money after bad (and their shareholders/board are justifiably upset at the effect SWTOR has had on the stock price) I also fear that this is the beginning of the end for SWTOR.

Part of me wonders if this was EA's plan. They realized in the middle of last year the title needed another year and another $100 million to get to the original vision. With Free-to-Play on the rise and Panderia on the horizon it was a safer bet to release the game early knowing the single player portion was solid. That gave them a good portion of their investment back to develop other games. If the game caught on it was a bonus. We will only really know if EA has given up as we see the quality of the features released over the next year.
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