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Posts Tagged ‘bioware’

Yes, it’s my birthday.  BioWare must care, since they released Star Wars the Old Republic‘s free to play iteration today.

…but I probably won’t play it for a while.  I still want to give Guild Wars 2 a fair shakedown, but my computer is… not up to the task.  Maybe after I get it repaired.

…right after I sell some more of my older games on eBay so I can afford the parts.  (Turns out I need a new case, hard drive, DVD drive and Windows in addition to the new video card I got, which needed a new power supply, and the random crashes my computer still performed required that new motherboard, CPU and RAM that I got that don’t fit in my old case.  I thought I’d wind up with a Frankenstein mishmash of old and new components, but no, I’m just going to have a new computer built from pieces.  Stupid technology.  Don’t buy HP.)

…right after I finish painting the basement.

…right after I finish mudding and sanding it.

…right after I finish helping my friend with the sheet rock.

…oh, and if I had time, I’d write the first novel in the series I have had planned for years now.  It has something to do with this.  (Which I slipped into my Zazzle store a little while ago.)  Yes, I know it’s that NaNoWriMo or whatever, but, well, I’m short on time.

Project Khopesh

So yes, thanks, BioWare, for the birthday gift!  I might get to it next year.

…right after I finish playing all the games I got from Steam, Humble Bundle, Indie Gala, Indie Royale, GoG.com, OnLive and even Amazon Download.

…right after I finish Final Fantasy Tactics on the PSP.

…better make that 2015.

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I just wanted to point out a few excellent articles and make a pithy comment or three about this SWTOR game that is much-ballyhooed of late.

First, Raph Koster’s excellent article on Narrative:

Narrative is Not a Game Mechanic

EDITED TO ADD Koster’s followup post, Narrative Isn’t Usually Content Either

Then there’s Richard Bartle’s take on SWTOR:

Bartle’s Notes

aaaand then there’s this little snippet from the WoW guys, who apparently concede that linear, heavily scripted and directed gaming might not be the best approach.

Blizzard Seems to Think That Cataclysm Was Too Linear

I’ve written about these things before.

Death Grip on the Reins

and then there’s this oldie about the business model:

SWTOR Cost?

and my old huge article on MMOs with endings:

The End of an MMO

Y’see, I consider the narrative-heavy “fourth pillar” to be a Bad Idea for MMO play.  To quote myself from Klepsacovic’s place:

Yeah, I should clarify. There’s no problem with devs telling a story, but the structure of MMOs is about playing off of other people in a persistent world (whether through direct or indirect interaction). The most interesting parts of that (the parts that drive interest and retention) are going to be the stories that players are enabled to tell because it’s a unique part of the genre. Those ephemeral moments of Awesome or Weirdness are what sell these MMO gamespaces as somewhere worth visiting.

Sure, you can get your watercooler/blog discussions about how your Smuggler handled that one moral choice in SWTOR, or how your guild downed the Lich King, but you could get much the same thing talking about an offline game. MMOs simply have the potential to *function* differently from other games, so it’s baffling to me that devs seem to want to put the experience on rails. It bothered me in WoW, it bothers me in the core design ethos of SWTOR.

It doesn’t bother me because the dev stories are bad, either (though they may be), it bothers me because they aren’t letting players *play* in these great potential playgrounds. They are just pushing them through the motions.

So when I say that MMOs *should* be about player stories, it’s because I think that’s the unique selling point and strength of the genre. That doesn’t mean devs should be forbidden to tell stories, just that they might be missing the point if they can’t let go of the reins.

Then again, this is a problem I have with game design on a larger scale; way too many devs seem to be frustrated filmmakers, not really *game* makers. It’s a different sort of entertainment, this “game” animal, and it can’t really be expected to function the same way. It’s a spectrum, though, not a binary “sandbox/theme park” dichotomy. *shrug*

There’s a place for barely interactive movies.  There’s a place for story in MMOs.  I just think that MMOs work best with greater freedom and a more malleable world, largely because it’s those crazy moments out in the game’s world that really make them unique.  That’s the legacy of tabletop RPGs that I think MMOs could be poised to inherit.  You can get great scripted narratives in something like Uncharted 3, and that works fine… but it’s not really the point of MMOs.  As Koster notes, there’s a difference between an experience and a game.

There’s a place for great narrative, grand epics and stories with endings.  I just don’t think that place is in MMOs, especially not subscription MMOs that almost of necessity need to be built around grinding and the sense of neverending play.  There’s a strong case to be made that such isn’t really what is best for games in general, but that’s how sub MMOs work, for better or worse.

I don’t want SWTOR to fail (though Scarybooster is right, some have that mean attitude), but dagnabbit, the stresses inherent in shoehorning strong narrative into the MMO mold shouldn’t have been hard to see.  It should be no surprise that players are “finishing” the game and moving on, or that the focus on the storytelling might mean a weaker effort on the “retention” schemes that makes the subscription system work (good comments over at Yeebo’s place).  This is what BioWare does, it makes single player games.  Even if SWTOR as it is might make for a stupidly grindy single player game (hattip to Chris at GameByNight)… I enjoyed Disgaea and several Final Fantasy games, so a long game doesn’t scare me.

…and yes, if they sold SWTOR as an offline game or even series of games, I’d still probably buy in, as I noted in that SWTOR Cost article from months ago.  The game might be grand as a single player game, it’s just… trying to be something it isn’t.

Oh, and incidentally, MMO Melting Pot has a good roundup of some of the commentary, too, found thisaway:

Is SWTOR Screwed?  The EA Stock Fall Edition

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Michael Stackpole’s “I, Jedi” book is my favorite novel in the Star Wars Extended Universe.  (Let us not speak of the travesty that they call The New Jedi Order.)  It’s an intriguing look at what it might be like to adopt the Jedi code, and how one adapts to using the Force and living as a Jedi Knight.

I never played Star Wars Galaxies.  I’m not sure if there was a similar sense of responsibility and power that was attached to the Jedi character class.  I hope there was, just like I hope that the lore is treated well in the Bioware MMO, Star Wars:  The Old Republic.  Being a Jedi should mean something beyond having a fancy lightsaber and an emo cloak.  (Yes, this means that I think George Lucas didn’t quite treat the lore all that well, either.  Yes, it’s his baby.  Yes, I’m a fan of what I think it could be, not what it has become.  Too bad.)

I want an I, Jedi experience from Bioware.  I want to know what it’s like to be a Jedi, not just some dude who takes turns trading lightsaber blows with some Sith NPC.  (Seriously, trading hits with a lightsaber?  Am I the only one getting serious Monty Python Black Knight flashbacks?)

I want to build my own lightsaber.

That is, I want to go through the entire process, like Corran Horn did.  I want a personalized piece of machinery, tuned to perfection for my abilities, and suiting my tastes.  I don’t want a generic Trainee lightsaber that I can only tune by swapping in some gems of +5 Rancorslaying.  I want to go hunting down an exotic monster’s horn, hollow it out and put the emitter in it, give it mother of pearl inlay and obsidian buttons, and install a secret compartment or two for when I get my MacGyver itch.  Or maybe scavenge a droid’s arm and make myself a unique hinged lightsaber.  I definitely want a dual phase blade.

In short, I want player-driven crafting in SWTOR, and I want craftsmanship and individuality to mean something.  Surely that’s something Bioware can do, right?

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EA Wimps Out

Apparently, there’s been some kerfluffle about this little teaser from EA:

Bioware’s Star Wars MMO to use Microtransactions

So now they “misrepresented the facts” and are pulling back from a semi-controversial comment.

Wimps.

Since when did EA give a flying flan’s flagella about PR?  This is the company that actively abuses its customers.  (All in the name of antipiracy, of course… political parallels?  Nope, not here, this is not the country you’re looking for.)  They are also publicly traded, and utterly beholden to their shareholders.  Some of those investors might actually be paying attention to the market, which has actively abused subscription based MMOs by anyone who isn’t Blizzard, and an economy that is rapidly approaching Depression era level meltdown.

In a world where Maple Story is profitable but Age of Conan and Warhammer are floundering, microtransactions make sense.  I’d actually suggest a dual currency model where purchaseable items are cosmetic or frivolous rather than gameplay altering, but such a common sense moderate (and demonstrably profitable) plan just has no place in the rabid fanboy world of the internet.

Players are demanding another failure based on the subscription business model, all while whining that WoW is awful and that there’s no innovation in the MMO genre.  Y’know who’s to blame for that?  Yup, the idiots who complain about innovation and who keep their WoW subscription alive.

It’s the economy, stupid.  Then again, when the U.S. is behind Croatia and Liechtenstein in mathematic comprehension, I guess this shouldn’t surprise me.

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