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What went wrong with  Star Wars: The Old Republic ?
What went wrong with Star Wars: The Old Republic? Exclusive
August 7, 2012 | By Ramin Shokrizade

August 7, 2012 | By Ramin Shokrizade
Comments
    107 comments
More: Social/Online, Design, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



Last week, EA and BioWare Austin said Star Wars: The Old Republic would join the free-to-play ranks. Game monetization expert Ramin Shokrizade examines what happened to the subscription model's great hope.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars: The Old Republic was vaunted as the kind of large-scale, massively mulitplayer online game that would justify a monthly subscription. It didn't have to follow the free-to-play trend, because, well, it was supposed to be a special case.

But things change fast. BioWare and Electronic Arts announced last week, amid reports of dropping subscription numbers, that SWTOR would be changing its business model from subscription to free-to-play. Calling an audible and drastically changing the fundamental way a game makes money -- after less than a year on the market -- is not a particularly good sign.

So what went wrong with SWTOR? While I could ask 10 people this question and get 10 different answers, here I will address the two most common design mistakes that lead to new MMO launches being commercially unsuccessful.

Lack of social interaction

What separates massively multiplayer online games from other simpler products is the promise of social interaction. A much more consistent play experience can be had with a single player or small team competition game for those that are not seeking this social interaction from their play time. It is thus imperative that an MMO be built to provide maximum positive social interaction. Most social interaction takes one of three forms, in addition to chat functionality:

A. Cooperative Play: Taking on an opponent with five, 20, or even 100 of your friends and teammates adds a great deal to the excitement level of a game. Not only does the result of an encounter require a lot more communication and team work, it also adds additional randomness that can make every encounter unique. Doing well in such situations also can bring great prestige as others will come to admire you if you perform well under pressure when they are depending on you.

The best parts of SWTOR are the story line missions. Their cinematic quality makes you feel like you are in a movie that you control. The weakness of this design is that the focus is on a single player, and that a full group could be just two players and AI companions. This gives SW:TOR the feeling of a "Massively Single Player Game". While there are missions that can accommodate more players, the game never manages to escape this feel.

B. Trade and Economic Interactions: Being part of a player driven economy can give opportunities for player interactions that involve not just dozens of players, but even thousands. If your economy is designed well, assets in the economy will maintain their value, or equity, over time and allow a player to build wealth and prestige. This can make for a game with a very long life span, as EVE Online has demonstrated.

Starting on the first day of the retail launch of SWTOR, I held an "economic deathwatch" on the LinkedIn Game Developer group forum. I tracked the real world exchange rate from SWTOR credits to real dollars. By giving almost daily exchange rates I was able to demonstrate that the value of game credits fell by 97 percent in the first 30 days. This destroyed all equity in the economy and amputated all of the associated content. Given the complexity of the craft system in SWTOR, I would say this eliminated most of the social interactions in the game before they even had a chance to get started.



The mechanism of attack against the economy was an instance reset exploit. I described this class of virtual economic attack and its countermeasures in my 2009 proprietary paper, Sustainable Virtual Economies and Business Models. A vulnerability was discovered during the SW beta test and a macro was developed to take advantage of it. It is in the interest of the creators of such macros to keep them secret, because competition can quickly drive down the value of credits created this way. In this case the macro did end up in the public space, implying that the motivation for whoever did so was to rapidly destroy the commercial viability of a major Western game product. This was disastrous for both EA and the gold farmers preying on SWTOR. I did notify EA immediately about this macro, but by then the damage was done.

C. Competitive Play (PvP): Competing against other players can be an excellent form of social interaction that makes gameplay both prestigious and unpredictable. The downside to competitive play occurs when PvP is non-consensual. This is because not only is the result usually 100 percent predictable (lowering the enjoyment of the griefer), but can be discouraging to the victim. To deal with this problem most MMO designs restrict competitive play to PvP arenas, which are usually tacked onto the original game late in the development cycle. Since such games are built for PvE first and foremost, PvP combat balance is rarely achieved, making PvP combat in arenas disappointing.

As combat in SWTOR was balanced for PvE, PvP combat balance was never attainable. Further, since the PvP arenas were added very late in the development cycle, they are not as impressive as the rest of the game and can quickly become repetitive. Possibly sensing this, the Bioware developers made the rewards for arena PvP much greater than in the PvE game, almost forcing players to spend time every day in PvP, whether this was their preference or not. While the intention might have been to conserve the main story line and make it last longer, I think for many this reduced the overall immersion of the game.

Ineffective monetization design

SWTOR launched with an unlimited play subscription model, which is about as close to no monetization model as you can get. It is difficult to recall any MMO launched after 2004 that was a commercial success when monetized this way. Even those games launched before 2004 with subscription monetization models have attempted (with varying degrees of success) to integrate microtransactions and free to play design elements.

The problem with the unlimited subscription model is that it rewards players for blasting through your content as fast as possible. Players have adapted to this over the years by planning days off work to do all-nighters on launch day. This model rewards players for playing completely through your game in the first month and is a recipe for canceled subscriptions and poor retention.



The use of a free-to-play monetization model requires careful placement of your best content, what I call "carrots," on the other side of payment opportunities that I call "gates." Effective placement of carrots and gates requires early integration with core design elements, and thus is best achieved if it is planned for at the very earliest stages of game design. Converting a game from a subscription model to a free-to-play model is difficult to do effectively -- especially if the base game is complex -- and is no guarantee of increased revenues.

If a free-to-play model is designed into the core game design from the start, and is done without selling game objectives or advantages, it is my opinion that this can multiply first year revenues by between two and four times. This perhaps makes the choice of monetization model the biggest single factor in the ultimate success or failure of an MMO product. In the case of SWTOR, this is likely its most fatal flaw and should act as a clear warning to future MMO producers to consider this aspect of game design earlier and more carefully.

In a few years, history may look back at SWTOR as an artistic milestone that was not a commercial success. It may signal the official end of the subscription monetization model for MMOs, though I think this was clear years earlier. Games that are a commercial success, like World of Warcraft or EVE Online, can endure long enough to produce numerous content expansions. This makes them very difficult to unseat by new product offerings. Any new MMO entering the market in the current environment must be carefully designed from the start to endure long enough to build market share.

Ramin Shokrizade is a former U.S. Olympic track coach and trainer, who became a top cyberathlete in 1999 and started writing mainstream articles on virtual economies and currencies in 2000. In 2005 he began inventing passive real money transfer defenses, and advanced virtual economic and monetization models for next generation online games. He is currently a partner at RIVET Studios Ltd. and is their Game and Monetization Design Director.


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Comments


Ian Fisch
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For those of us who aren't SWTOR players, can you elaborate on this 'instance reset exploit'.

What exactly does that mean, and how did it ruin the economy?

Ramin Shokrizade
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Ian I suspect few players knew about this either. The exploit involved a max value credit box that could be opened with the slicing skill. It was located just inside an instance line. The macro involved placing a player avatar just outside the instance, opening the box from outside the instance, then resetting the instance. This caused the box to instantly respawn. This could be repeated every few seconds, all day.

An instance reset exploit is a general class of exploit where you take advantage of easy to acquire loot in an instance and then repeatedly reset it. I made this a major exploit class in 2009 because almost every MMO I could think of before then had one or more of these types of exploits in it.

Raph Koster
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The oldschool name is "dupe bug." Basically, anything that tricks the game backend DB into duplicating something. It almost always involves exploiting a race condition across process boundaries.

John Tynes
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I wouldn't consider this a dupe bug as there was no race condition or networking/code exploit involved. By their nature, instance-based zones are typically resettable and re-entrant in case of mission goal failure or party wipe. The instance behaved as designed. The problem was in the content design: placing a high-value loot item in easily and quickly accessible location within the instance. I believe this qualifies as a farming exploit.

Trent Tait
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Thanks Ramin. I recall the mass crying on the forums about people being banned for "legitimately" slicing boxes on Illum, but I never managed to find out what people were actually doing, BW kept it very quiet. I probably could have searched more but I was too busy playing.

Maria Jayne
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What killed it for me was having attained a high legacy level, when they introduced legacy perks I had to grind for cash to be able to buy my legacy rewards. Which made having a high legacy level redundant. Cash grinding was all that mattered.

Making money is not an end game activity, it's the reason gold farmers are profitable.

Ramin Shokrizade
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This was likely a reaction on the part of Bioware to the large amount of unused credits in the economy. You did not do the crime, but you do have to do the time. This is, of course, great news for SW gold farmers as they stand a good chance of unloading the credits they earned with the exploit, and the credit price in real dollars is no doubt recovering nicely. Your desire to not have to grind is a big part of why we have secondary markets in MMOs. Developers put their best rewards on the other side of their most boring activities. This is tremendously discouraging for real players.

Manuel Guerra
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It is also possible that SWTOR failed simply because the Star Wars franchise has been over exploited and it has lost the good will of many fans that won't get duped as easily as before with any product slapped with the "Star Wars" label.

Trent Tait
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Personally I love the game, but as a game designer / developer / mmo lover / hater, I can see many, many things they did wrong. Being Star Wars and/or KOTOR based is not one of them.

Jeremy Reaban
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Let's not get carried away - it's still a success compared to pretty much any other game not named WoW. It's got what, 800,000 subscribers still?

Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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The quote from the EA investor meeting reads "...well above 500.000 subscribers..."

For one of the most expensive MMO ventures in the past 5 years, maybe even in history, with one of the strongest IPs at its back, i would not call that a success.

While i wouldn't use the world "failure" EAs reaction shows us that they do not consider it successful, at least not with its current business-model.

Roy Baron
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That would make sense if TSW weren't keeping its number of subs steady.

Colm McAndrews
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...and if the game really had 800k subs you really think it would turn F2P. Right!

It's got nomore than 200k, i heard.

Wylie Garvin
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This isn't even the *first* Star Wars MMO to "fail" with numbers that (before WoW) would have been considered a reasonable success.

Star Wars Galaxies also had hundreds of thousands of subscribers, but SoE wasn't happy with that, so they pulled the CU and NGE and alienated basically all of those subscribers. Luckily for me, that game had so many technical problems that I had already quit before they pulled that stuff. I still vowed never to play another SoE MMO again though.

When I heard about SW:TOR, I was pretty sure it would be a giant money-black-hole and more or less a total failure (like every other expensive MMO). Bioware has actually done better with it than I expected them to. I don't see why people think they can replicate the success of WoW, or even 1/5th of the success of WoW -- its the most incredible outlier in the entire history of MMOs! WoW set user expectations for theme-park MMOs higher than they had ever been before, and even though it grew the MMO playerbase, it also locked up a large fraction of that playerbase.

No one in other industries would come in with little or no experience, no serious successes of their own, and set their target on the most wildly successful outlier of the entire industry and think they could replicate or exceed that performance. MMOs are really hard, and really expensive. So why do companies keep insisting on trying to beat WoW at its own game? Until WoW completely dies, there is no real point. You're not going to dethrone Blizzard, so why gamble a nine-digit budget trying?

TC Weidner
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if it was a success it wouldnt be laying off people left and right and reaching for the FTP card.

Rik Spruitenburg
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Is it a "Success" if it never pulls a profit? Forbes puts the cost to make a market at possibly as high as $500 million.

That said, from a design stand point I think there were a lot of successes made in the game, and it was very enjoyable. Like many many MMOs there was a lack of endgame, and like many MMOs people played for about a month.

Kellam Templeton-Smith
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Eh, there's really not much too this-I could've saved them hundreds of millions of dollars saying, "WoW+voiced quest text isn't going to bring down WoW". You're competing against a huge amount of polished content, and a rock solid core user base.

Rob Wright
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Anyone who played the pre-beta build or even the beta knows this game was NOT ready for primetime when it was released last December. EA and BioWare would have been better off delaying the game and taking some of the pre-release feedback to heart rather than rushing it out for the holidays and focusing more on trying to get at least an 85 Metacritic score. When you can't get space combat right for a Star Wars game, well, then it's time to table the game and go back to the drawing board. In my opinion, this game played like WoW of 5 years ago, and it's clear that EA/BioWare spent too much energy trying to strategize ways to lure WoW players away instead of focusing on folks that DIDN'T play WoW but love RPGs like KOTOR, Mass Effect, etc., and were interested in making the investment in SWTOR.

Aaron Fowler
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Honestly, I felt that SWTOR was just a mediocre MMO with hopes that tacking Star Wars (or KOTOR) on to it would turn it into an amazing success. (With the exception of the story quests. Those were cool.) But after that, there's just not that much appeal.

Side note:

I also liked the cinematic trailers. I know it was Blur Studios, but I almost wish a Star Wars cinematic short film would be made with that kind of quality.

Rob Wright
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Ditto on the cinematic trailers. I mean, jeez, they could have taken that footage, built on it, and created a pretty amazing animated feature film that could have grossed, I dunno, $300-plus million this summer.

Aaron Fowler
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I understand that trailers and full length movies are two completely different beasts to tackle. But if it could be done right, it would be awesome.

Craig Page
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I'll re-install the game if they let me play as a wookie.

Alan Youngblood
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Good advice to those reading Craig's comment: "Let the wookie win."

Michael DeFazio
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a few years from now we will likely look back (at 2011/2012) and realize:
1) the mmorpg market was oversaturated (too many options... not enough players to sustain all of these communities)
2) the "outflow" of mmorpg players exceeded the "influx" of new mmorpg players

(in general it's a "negative-sum game" for subscribers in the current mmorpg landscape)

i'm certainly speculating on point 2),but charts (if they are to be trusted) show peaks in subscriber numbers around late 2010 (http://users.telenet.be/mmodata/Charts/Subs-1.png) and declines or relative flatness since.

my gut tells me mmos aren't just losing subscribers/players to other mmos, they are also fighting a general malaise that has effected the mmo space. SWOTOR, (one of the most powerful brands) did not revolutionize the mmo formula much, and enter into a market saturated with similar mmos (tell me what feature is unique to SWOTOR other than the brand that evovles from the "traditional mmo"?)

evolving the monetization strategy (without evolving the gameplay) seems like a loosing battle, and i would be shocked if the FTP strategy moves them closer to profitability.

Michael DeFazio
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just to be clear... i'm not bearish on all mmos, but i think the next "breakout hit" in the space is going to have to change the gameplay formula (not just the monetization formula) more fundamentally... and simultaneously appeal to a new audience of players while appealing to existing mmo players)... maybe pandas is enough? ;)

Alex Boccia
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I don't think Mists of Pandaria will be enough, I think Blizzard is really hinging on their Titan project to come through with flying colors. WoW has been homogenized to such an extent that he old spirit of the game was lost, however it still is a very successful game, but I don't think the subscriber count is going to be increasing any time soon.

Aaron Casillas
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Agree. As a gamer I wanted to wait, since I felt burnt by Galaxies, mostly the slow fixes and changes to outstanding bugs (Like Walkers that could be placed inside a house and become invulnerable or dungeons where AI didn't attack).

The most important component is that these game have incredibly large production budgets, probably far to large to make them profitable within a quarter or two.

The mmo I would have looked forward to would have involved actual "Star"+ "Wars" a larger than life game where the conquest of the Galaxy planet to planet was involved. In the upper atmosphere players battle out to defend or attack a Planets systems, then move to land on the Planet and do X objective. Players could live on Star Destroyers or Corvettes etc...

Ramin Shokrizade
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Michael, you make some great points. I think the downward trend you are seeing is not because we have less players (we have more) or because technology is weaker (it is not) or because gamer budgets are going down (unlikely). I put the blame on declining MMO quality relative to the quality of other offerings. Monetization models, while still a bit primitive imo, have advanced a lot in the last few years. Putting even a primitive monetization model into a very complex MMO is a lot of work. I do not think the MMO market will recover until developers start treating monetization as a core part of game design and begin implementing it from the very start.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Daniel,

While your point is attractive, I am inclined to disagree since rising unemployment gives people increased leisure time, and on a tight budget games are still one of the cheapest forms of entertainment around. Granted, a lot of Facebook games require you to pay $200 or more to win in "pay to win" games, but these monetization models are weak in any environment, and especially now. I do not think they will have much staying power as players learn to identify them.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Daniel,

As described in my "The Death of the MMO" paper (http://gameful.org/groups/games-for-change/forum/topic/the-death-
of-the-mmo/), 57% of investment resources went into Facebook game development, and 30% to mobile game development last year. That left only 13% for all other games, including AAA games. This has caused on implosion of both new and innovative AAA offerings of late, so this trend is going to confound any simple analysis of the environment.

Michael DeFazio
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@Ramin,

first off, thanks for an interesting post (i often forget to say that when i add comments)

i suppose it is premature to assume the audience for mmorpgs has shrunk, but i think some of the core mmorpg audience has gotten "less enthusiastic" with the field of "traditional" mmorpgs as of late. (according to people i know, articles i've read and podcasts i've listened to (but those are certainly not scientific metrics).

truth is, now that technology is becoming cheaper and more people have access to computers and fast internet (think China, India, etc. ) the popularity of mmorpgs has the potential of really taking off...interestingly enough, new genres have evolved ...MOBAs like League of Legends, etc., or other non-traditional MMOs ("World of Tanks")

...and i get the impression that people who were previously highly enthusiastic about Wow and Wow clones now have other interesting options depending on their individual interests. (and many of these options are F2P so "no risk").

anyways i completely agree with your statement:
"I do not think the MMO market will recover until developers start treating monetization as a core part of game design and begin implementing it from the very start."

and i think potentially the reason SWOTOR suffers is because it clings too tightly to a "traditional mmorpg"... or more simply it tried to "out WoW Wow" without bringing anything really innovative to the table and making it F2P (after the fact) doesn't really re mediate the problem... cheers

Ramin Shokrizade
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Michael,

I think the biggest thing holding back MMO development, and the reason I got into this in the first place, was poor utilization of microtransactions starting in 2001. My paper "Supremacy Goods" explains the problem and provides solutions. I hope to publish it here on Gamasutra soon, but it is about 8 pages long so it might require some adjustments.

Jack Everitt
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Ramin - About half way through reading this, I suddenly wondered if you had written it; scrolled up and yes, it's you. Well done!

Andrew Yang
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I feel SWOTR had great gameplay and story, however when it came out what it really lacked was endgame good raiding. Which made it problematic to keep players once they reach maxed level for long duration of time.

Cedrian Lex
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I like that you say how important social interaction is to an MMO. So many people I've read actually think that being alone in an MMO is a good thing, and argue that you don't need actual roles, and would prefer a game where the majority of the content is completable through solo play. SWTOR failed because it had spent too much time, energy, and money on a part of the game that isn't actually necessary for the genre. While it is a nice addition to have a fully developed story for the leveling experience, it should not be done at the expense of the core features that make an MMO.

One thing that I did appreciate was the developer's strong stance against auto-grouping tools like the WoW dungeon finder.

Simas Oliveira
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I second that! I never played SWTOR, but when I play an MMO I do it lone wolf style, unless forced otherwise. And I resent when some important content is behind a 25 group requirement, because I don't like the annoyances that come with it (leavers, rude people, scammers, and all sorts of other bad behavior).

Of course, sometimes people are nice when you least expect and you get an amazing experience out of nowhere. Borderlands was like this for me, but it's a 4 people team and you can jump in and out of coop anytime, and there's very little need for team management and communication.

I think that's why WoW is good, you just solo it all the way through, hit the dungeon finder or battlegrounds from time to time, you barely have to waste time coordinating with your fellow random players. That's definitely a plus for single players like me!

Trent Tait
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I agree that social interaction is important, and while not necessary for the genre, SWTOR strongest aspect is that it is like a single player cinematic experience while levelling and no quest ends with "oh sorry, you need 25 friend to finish this". All group content is seperate and very short, and early after launch these "heroic instances" were very awesome experiences. They still are but often it's harder to find people now.

I find your comment about group finder funny. They implemented it and it's fantastic. As always, it's not the tools fault you end up with morons in your group. Personally the groups I've been in have been fantastic.

Rasmus Gunnarsson
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One strong contender for failure is poor end-game content. If you don't have an alluring PvE and PvP endgame you will not keep people or grow your game. Even if you make a pretty and fun grind on the way there, if there isn't any big payoff or challenge or whatever at the end it will all feel pointless and boring.

Kind of how diablo 3 flunked it, focusing on getting the beginning right and fun but with an endgame that many players just asked for a refund even if they'd clocked 100s of hours.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Rasmus, if you read my predictions about D3 from last year (http://gameful.org/groups/games-for-change/forum/topic/smedleys-d
ream-part-i-ii/), before I had actually seen the game, you can see that much of what went wrong in D3 was an attempt to make a Real Money Auction House (RMAH) work. This is a monetization model with a number of perils as I described in last year's paper. Even if they were aware of all these perils, trying to get it to work requires a lot of changes to the core product that can make it unpleasant. One of those changes is that they have to make the end game so hard that no bot could ever play it. Another change is that the game has to be "online only" to mitigate client-side duping.

Rasmus Gunnarsson
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While I agree that the RMAH induced depressive drop rates worsen the end-game, the biggest nail in the coffin to me is just the lack of real end-game goals. No secret superhard bosses, no pvp no nothing.

But tbh, they still sold a lot of copies and can probably fix the endgame with the next expansion. So they probably made a "smart" decision doing it like this.

Aaron Casillas
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@ Ramin Agree. The introduction of "curves" exponential or not, paygates, difficulty ramps and other monetization schemes which attempt to induce capitalization through real world currency might not work for games like D3. My best guess is that they work better in short to mid session gaming with specific cohorts in mind. The D3 audience might be more competitive, have more patience, but be more sensitive to gameplay statics and system work.

Personally, for D3, I would have introduced a social entanglement system where classes have to work together at higher symbiotic capacity, blacksmith reagents might be unique every x person. Remove the possibility of "why buy it when I can earn" element by various means.

However, an overall clarity of design and itemization vs worth (person and team) would helped as well. D2 I could read an item's currency worth as well as it's design purpose just in the nomenclature.

For me as a designer and a consumer, I'm wondering what is an "endgame?" I've now played several mmo's where the endgame means all rules are thrown out that you learned in the last x levels, no more leveling and you need an extensive gameplan found on a wiki somewhere, but is this really the End Game we are all hoping for? Or are we looking for an end game that blows us away, reveals to the player what is really going on behind curtain of the world?

(I rant, exit stage left.)

Trent Tait
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I agree that the end game is lacking. I am constantly amused that so many developers get PvP so wrong. Adding "pvp" stats is a clear indication you have no idea what you're doing.

rAs for Diablo 3, omg don't get me started. The RMAH was a complete disaster of an idea right from the start, but the more overlooked disaster is the MMO nature of the game. I paid for a single player game and had to put up with massive lag, lag spikes and server maintenance. I promptly demanded my money back and suprisingly got it (digital purchase).

Ramin Shokrizade
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Aaron,

I personally think that the concept of "endgame" is a content money pit and I prefer the use of reincarnation as was used in Shattered Galaxy (Nexon, 2001) that I helped design. I'm told there are people that have reincarnated over 30 times in that game (possible every 3 months).

Leonardo Ceballos
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SWTOR does a lot of things right, and a lot of things wrong as a game. But I don't think any of that is why it failed The problem is simple: Subscription games are DONE. Unless your game's name starts with "World" and ends with "of Warcraft", you're not making money that way. SWTOR actually was the last gasp of that system; one big final attempt. I do think its failure (as a pay to play) demonstrates that its just no viable any more, especially for traditional MMO experiences.

Eve is an exception because Eve is >always< the exception, to everything. If someone told me that CCP headquarters in Iceland had successfully figured out how to ignore gravity (not beat, just... do their own thing) and was now floating two miles above the ground, I think might just believe it.

As for SWTOR, they have an amazing franchise and a beautiful world. I have hopes that with a bit of luck they might turn things around and have the kind of successful conversion to free to play that games like LoTRO have had.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Wylie Garvin
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CCP caters to a hardcore niche that has almost no overlap with WoW's niche.

Any MMO that overlaps with WoW's niche, you might as well not build at all -- Blizzard has that (huge) niche sowed up so nicely and they have a ten-year head start.

I almost expect that there will never again be a subscription MMO as successful as WoW (not any time in the next 15-20 years, anyway!)

If you want to make money-hats, you have to find some other way.

Ramin Shokrizade
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@Dave: the weakness of WoW is its poor economy. Its strength is that it is friendly to new players. The strength of EVE is its economy. It's weakness is its unfriendliness to new players. This is how they balance the economy. Both games have made serious compromises in game design and a game that takes the strengths from both products will beat both products. Stay tuned as I am already working on this.

Devasa Gunceler
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Actually i have read lots of comments in forums which i totaly disagree about the unbalanced situation of warzones pvp. I am a dedicated pvp player. I've played at least with 5 different classes at level50 and tried every class at low levels.
There is nothing wrong with pvp balance in Swtor as a game breaking issue. There are lots of reasons why Swtor failed but pvp balance is not one of them.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Any game can work as a subscription if you can include a stable virtual economy and build the game around that economy. EVE works merely because they did that. I personally am shocked every time I see an MMO that launches without this design. Obviously I get shocked a lot, which is what motivates my research. There are huge problems with the unlimited subscription model, but those are primarily due to the lack of multiple price points and temporal controls. There are ways to modify it to make it work again.

Daniel McMillan
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Good article and feedback! Single or multiplayer, imagine "Role Play that actually changes the world around you" along with in-game "hobbyist" construction kit purchases. Build and own anything you can afford over time or with add-ons. Allow players to form factions and defend / conquer territory. Keep the servers combined to facilitate both synchronous and asynchronous socialization (rather than reacting to fall-off) plus a mobile info/update/crafting portal and you have something like www.frontier1859.com/mmorpg :)

Jack Young
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That sounds great Daniel and I would play that with the right setting (for me). However, an aspect not discussed here is the cost of development to earnings. Such systems have been considered from other MMO's and weighed. In short, the more World Simulator your MMO the more nietch it becomes. This was Lucas Arts lesson from SWG and thus why SWTOR seems so bare bones simple. The only thing added to excite the players was the incredible expansive voice-over work.

For me, I liked the second life in a MMO that SWG originally brought. I have, however, longtime friends that are just as obsessive about Star Wars that have no interest in a second job in such a MMO. This is the casual player,more common attitude of the target demographic which EA/BioWare and Lucas Arts thought to win.

In addition, some here said that TOR needed more time to develope. If you have investors who have a stricked time turnaround then there is not much you can do but launch your game on target date(s). Some folks you might appeal for more time but in these economic times. . . what do you think?

Trent Tait
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SWTOR really missed the mark that SWG hit with forcing players of both factions through the same areas all the time. If you want interaction, SWG did right. Even more right than WoW. SWG had many other failures, but open world was not one of them. Changing your game completely and utterly because your new competetior is out selling you is the mistake they should be learning.

Addison Siemko
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Makes me think the TES: Online team must be shifting design to F2P, if it wasn't from the beginning

Aaron Fowler
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If it doesn't go f2p in the beginning, it probably will later on. It seems like every MMO tries to at least go with a subscription model in the beginning, but later falls back on the impending f2p model. (With the exception of Guild Wars.)

GameViewPoint Developer
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Best Star Wars game I ever played was Battle Front (not the sequel) on the old Xbox, all anyone needs to do to have a successful Star Wars game is just make that game again but with updated visuals, you really felt like you were in a battle in the Star Wars universe. Imagine a Call of Duty type game but using the Star Wars brand? Keep all the Jedi stuff to a minimum because it becomes too much like a superhero game. The franchise is still capable of producing amazing games, but for some reason they keep getting it wrong.

Sean Danielson
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Republic Commando, anyone?

John Trauger
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There's also the simple point that: If I want to play WoW, I'll go play WoW. I haven't played SWTOR, but the extent to which it is a WoW clone--not just borrowing a few convenient WoW conventions--is the extent to which the game has chosen to cheap and uncreative. The MMO graveyard is full of games that tried to peel away a piece of of WoW's market by blindly duplicating it.

R Hawley
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The game is linear. It's a single player game built by a company that makes great linear single player games. Painting MMO features over the top was only going to go so far. Story driven game with very few paths through it. Great many years ago but not worthy of a subscription, which is a long term commitment.

It's a good game but it's more of a single game with multiplayer. I suspect the Elder Scrolls MMO will end up making similar mistakes. Putting too much effort into being an MMO without understanding what the game is at heart.

kevin jamieson
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Interesting post, not sure I agree though.

Bob Johnson
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I thought it would fail from the get go. EA behind it was the first red flag. Then the fact it sounded like WoW with Star WArs skins. And then the fact that Bioware had little experience with MMOs. And was up against the 800 lb gorilla - WoW. WoW had over 7 years of polishing and expansion packs. The only way to overcome that is to really bring a next-gen design to the MMO space or stay out of their way and go niche.

Also unless you have your head in the sand you know it just isn't possible to create all the compelling story content Bioware is known for at the rate an MMO requires.


Sean Danielson
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Even on the face of Star Wars Galaxies' own failure, they still managed to subsist for a long time.

SWTOR is crashing faster (Less than 2 years) than Star Wars Galaxies did (7+ years).

While SWG suffered from the NGE, it still managed to retain enough subscribers to bring in a reasonable amount of money. How did SWG manage to exist in this hostile environment? Simple: By giving players a living, breathing world in terms of economics, sandbox gameplay and elements that made Star Wars Galaxies by and large one of the most gameplay-rich games in the MMO space for this entire decade.

I dare you to try and find me a game that has more gameplay features than Star Wars Galaxies.

SWG Features:
1. Factional PvP (Rebel vs Empire)
a. Build your own bases.
b. Defend/attack enemy bases and gain superiority in a given region/planet.

2. Crafting System
a. Fabricate droids, with a high degree of customizability (colors, features and functions such as "town crier" systems that advertised your shop).
b. Fabricate clothing, armor and weapons with a high degree of customizability. Re-engineering is a major component to the system that allows for more powerful weapons and equipment.

3. Space Flight System
a. You can fly into spess! Freighters, starfighters, and even sub-capital ships such as the Rebel Gunship/Vigo Gunship/Imperial Gunship are available.
b. Re-engineering allows you to acquire more powerful components for your ships. I once had an engine that made my freighter among the fastest in the Galaxy. Outran even the best TIE Fighters.
c. Atmospheric flight. Implemented with the last update prior to shutdown, you had the ability to sightsee over the planet's surface, or engage in dogfights over Mos Eisley Spaceport.

4. Player-Driven Systems
a. Found your own city, expand it from an outpost to a metropolis! Get bonuses according to what type you designate it as. Industrial? Bigger benefit to mineral/resource harvesters! Residential? Cheaper cost for housing.
b. Resource-Driven Market System. You procure resources through people that survey the planets on a regular basis, seek out the best deposits and harvest them like fiends using massive ore, gas, solar harvesters that you can place anywhere on the planet. These resources are then fed into a factory that has a schematic loaded to produce components that may be assembled to create a mass-produced weapon, armor, or clothing. The crafting system allows for artisanal touches, or a hyper-capitalist mass-production approach. Either way, it's fun!

5. High degree of customizability.
a. In closing, I am stressing that Star Wars Galaxies, as a sandbox world, allowed for a high degree of customizability for your character, your equipment, your clothing, and your cities. You could even furnish your home and position the furniture HOWEVER you wanted using X-Y-Z axis commands. This produced some stunning households and business interiors that have won interior design contests.
b. Sony Online Entertainment decided to implement a card game, and when you earned rare cards, you could use them to acquire rare items, ships, and equipment in the game. This was an effective monetization model for an "unlimited subscription" game.

In other words, LucasArts is a blithering, mouth-drooling idiot for shutting down one of the most prime examples of MMORPG game design. By keeping it alive, they would have been able to provide guidance to what the future of MMORPGs could be!

You had the power to define your game experience. The game didn't do that for you.

Sean Danielson
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For those who say TL;DR - Star Wars Galaxies was far ahead of its time. Like the Sega Dreamcast. Just remake the game with a new graphics engine and we'll flock to it in droves.

Jack Young
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Lucas Arts: So why didn't that model work? It only got 300k players (best estimates).

Jack Young
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@Joe Wreschnig

That seems to be my finding with a number of my real life friends. However, there were many passionate about the World Simulator that were happy with the game. What gutted SWG was the NGE. All those players working towards or having achieved an Alpha Class character being wiped away. That was the unforgiveable action that doomed the game considering how hard getting it, it was. I knew many folks that quit just for the "holo-grind" much less the "Village". Jedi did create a game culture that in the end would have destroyed itself. Thats why LA/SOE decided to change it. Having an achievement like that was good IMHO, however. There has been no game that had that much drama and passion with it. BTW, another hated issue with SWG from LA was the Offical Forum on SWG. They saw them as a cess-pool of hate and gamer eletism that could not be positive for the Star Wars Brand. I would argue that on the contrary that server pride and competetion help build and ever increasing community, but thats me. ;)

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Ramin Shokrizade
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@Joshua: I believe I answer your question in my "Monetization Motivation" paper, which I hope to make public here on Gamasutra soon. There I begin to explain carrot hierarchy and what motivates gamers to both play and pay. You don't see a lot of gamer motivation right now because carrots are not improving. I would say they are getting weaker over time. I blame this on the increasing influence of MBA types on game development, instead of game designers.

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Sean Danielson
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@Jack Young: A better question, six months from now, is...

Lucas Arts: "Why does SWTOR have less than 300k?"

You know what? Fuck the concept that MMORPGs need to have insanely large numbers. No. If I ever became a producer in an MMORPG, my goal would be "sustainable, cost-effective" subscription numbers, not "OMGWTFBBQ WE BEAT WoW FOR THREE MONTHS".

In short, If my MMORPG gets 300k, that's sustainable. It'll take longer to pay off the budget, sure, but it's sustainable. Getting 25 million users for the first month is meaningless if they don't stay past the first month.

Zirani Jean-Sylvestre
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This is not what investors want to hear.

Jack Young
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Just so you know, I played SWG from launch (day 2) to Close. I never had the pleasure of the Beta as a new MMO player. I am fully onboard to play that game and have considered trying the "flightless bird". But I believe LA truely asked that question in "04 with WOW. They did exit polls and test markets and gathered thier research to produce the results that TOR was what the majority wanted in reflection of WOW. How wrong they were. Not one member piped in with any common sense to refute thier results. This is why I don't blame SOE as the soul contributer to SWG's trouble. SOE had failed in bug fixing the game which turned away a lot of players but the focus of the games design was approved by LA. (IMHO)

Jack Young
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Oh, and if you sell 25 million units in your first month on 300 million investment, ... outstanding... Good Job! You can coast a few months there my friend. :D

Sean Danielson
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@Zirani Jean-Sylvestre

Fuck the investors if that's not what they want to hear. Which do you want?

A product that manages to pull in 100 million dollars over the next 5 years,

or a product that pulls in 50 million in the first three months, then craters immediately afterward?

I think you know exactly which one a sensible investor will choose.

John Flush
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"What went wrong with Star Wars: The Old Republic?" - while a great write-up and all, the answer is very simple. People wanted KOTOR 3, instead they got an MMO - a mediocre one at that. It doesn't go much deeper than that.

The ones interested in the game had played KOTOR 1, 2 and played it like that - storyline and done. The ones that wanted an MMO are already playing one - so you either have to give them something new with a massive hook or they try it and leave. Who did this appeal to at all? a niche that like MMO's and KOTOR. It was a way too expensive gamble that just didn't pay off.

As far as the article goes, note, every one of those mistakes is an MMO trait that most users (KOTOR users) didn't care for in the first place.

TC Weidner
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They design these games wrong IMHO. They need to be built from the end game back. They need to spend 90% of their time on the end game design as that is where players will spend 90%+ of their game time. There are of course a million other smaller reasons why they are failing to capture and hold audiences but failure in design focus is the major one in my mind.

Brent Gulanowski
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Why not just go with endgame and forget all the other stuff up to that, which is where all the money goes? MMOs make no sense to me. If the point of a game is to play online with other, the make the best game possible about that. Why waste effort on grind-fests and canned quests and other stuff that would be better in a single-player game?

Hell, you could even have a two-game approach. A fun single-player or co-op game (bring back self-hosted small party games and LAN support!), that goes from level zero to level XX. Then have a separate MMO that starts right away at level XX. You learned the game controls in single player; now use them in PvP. Charge $10/month, or sell ammunition packs--ten thousand arrows for $10, a mixture of normal and special-use ammo, or earn upgrades for your gear by being the kind of player who attracts more players. Encourage people to behave in ways that make the game more fun, and let players give one another commendations.

There are unlimited new and different ways to break out of the crappy models for MMOs. Somebody needs to start experimenting, and it doesn't have to be AAA studios doing it.

Ron Dippold
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This is basically your Lack of Social Interaction, but I'd put it bluntly as

It was a fun single player RPG with some MMO stuff bolted on.

I 'beat' it twice with different classes. Enjoyed it! Then quit.

John Trauger
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@Jack,

Sounds like the "New Coke" fiasco. Lots of tests before launch. People liked it better than Pepsi in blind taste tests. Famously tanked with the "Coke" name on it.

Jack Young
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LOL!

Who won the Cola Wars? They did.

Who lost the Cola Wars? We did.

Did you have a Coke before 1984? After the 6 month to a year of pushing New Coke on the public, did you notice the differance of Original Coke (after 1984) to the preveious one? The change came in the form of switching from sugar to high-frutoes corn syrup. Before that Coke was more acidic and sweeter. It could also cut battery corroation in your car and had a host of other madicinal perposes. Why the change? Corn subsides and cheaper product along with using chemical carmal coloring instead of actual carmal. This comes from a life long Coke drinker. New Coke tasted like a flat RC cola, IMHO.

Miguel Castarde
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I wish so much somthing like a Minecraft MMO. Players building the world, limited resources, cities rising and falling, like old empires.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Horizons: Heroes of Istaria had most of these features... back in 2003. As a disclaimer I should mention I helped with the design of the tinkerer class and economy on that game. With a bit more time and money we could have built what you describe at least 5 years ago, if not 8 years ago.

Tore Slinning
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Actually that might still be a possibility.

Minecraft modders have delivered some crazy content over the years, hell a function in which they link up two servers might even exist.

So you have several private servers agreeing on to link up and with some good faith rules and transparency.
Then its defend and conquer...offcourse...such endevours wouldn't be much fun without complex machinery blocks, shields and crafting large moving entities that can spread death and destruction.(we already have that!)

Daniel McMillan
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I enjoyed playing SWTOR, and only left when I was unable to transfer soon enough to find others to play with. SWTOR was my 42 MMO experience. I was really hoping that Players would begin on different worlds, form and build their own Colonies, Research, Gather and build Spaceports and Fleets, Explore - eventually running into each other in Space - setting the stage for what Star Wars is all about!

Trent Tait
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I think this is what most SWG refugees were hoping for after the NGE.

Trent Tait
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I'm going to say you've got it partially right. Social interaction in this game is fine. It took me a long time to join a guild but I still talk to a lot of people, and I'm an introvert. What this game is missing is social interaction in the form of cross faction battles on all planets like SWG had, while levelling. The first place you see other players is Nar Shaddar, making you around L22+. Having absolutely no reason to cross the path of the enemy is really silly in an MMO. SWG did it right imho. Shared space ports, covert operatives, player placed faction bases that cause the other faction to mount raids on them. You just can't beat that.

1. AI
Wow... just, wow. Talk about de-innovating. Two or three enemies standing around waiting for you to attack them just does not cut it any more. These groups placed strategically so you can't avoid them is just even worse. Worse still is the lack of tactics required to battle them. Rinse and repeat.

I will say that they did toy with some innovative quest concepts (I can't say they haven't been tried before, not having played every mmo available), but 99.9% of encounters were the usual kind. Why are these troops who are fully battle ready, just standing in the middle of nowhere with no cover?

To me this is the biggest turn off.

2. Glow Bats
Lightsabers in the movies cut right through things and killed enemies in one swipe (mostly, the Acklay and General Greivous aside). In SWTOR, you wield pre-star wars lightsabers designed by the NERF company. I bonk you on the head with my lightsaber and you say "hey that hurt!"

3. Crafting
Yet another joke. It's ok, it works, but talk about boring. Not as boring as EQ 2, a bit better than WoW, but nothing has approached SWG for crafting brilliance. Not being able to craft the end game gear is just utter stupidity and voids the whole concept of a player made experience.

4. Bosses
Devs just don't get it. You want to make me feel heroic and you go all out to prove how powerful I am, then some pathetic republic general has 4 bajillion hit points and a pistol, and it takes me and secven other Dark Lords of the Sith to kill him? Go choke on a lemon please.

SWG failed here too, the corvette runs where average rebel troops had ridiculous amounts of hit points, just to make it take longer to kill them, and then they hit harder, truly a brainless idea.

5. Space Combat
What a joke. Seriously, this is the best Bioware could do? SWG did this pretty well, but even that didn't live up to the old X-Wing / Tie Fighter games. This is what everyone wants, why wont someone give it to us?

Edit: Where the hell is the MMO part of the space experience?

6. PvP
Stun lock. Seriously? You think it's fun to stand around being stunned the entire time? Now lets add a completely new stat to make all the gear you have worthless because it doesn't have this stat. Well done, well done. NOT.

I have a multitude more complaints to make, but to me these are the complete and utter failures of the game.

Having said all that, I have been playing since early access and I still play, and I still love playing it. I'm not finished all the class stories yet, and given that I am in an awesome friendly / casual raiding guild and we're having fun, I probably wont quit when I finish them. If my guild disappears and I'm finished my stories, I will move on.


Edit:
Oh I forgot the other big ones.
- Lack of new content
- Lack of communication from developers (though this appears to be normal for mmo's) This ties in with the Social side. It's not just about players being social, it's about everyone involved with the game being social. Epic Fail.
- Lies from developers about future updates (in the very minimal communications we did get 6 months ago). Social fail again.
- And of course the almight Free To Play update. Yeah, now we have to pay for updates we were getting for free, and that includes people who remain subscried. Yet another social fail.

Oh and yet another issue, one that affects me severely, but americans don't give a shit about, is doing maintenance in prime time. Yeah ok, if your MMO is only supported in the US, that is fine. EA/Bioware officially released this game into Australia and gave as a server in Sydney (yay, its about time a big company looked after us this way!) but then proceeded to do all the maintenance at 5pm - 11pm. The amount of times they bring the server down per week combined with their inability to take under 4 hours to complete maintenance means people just can't play the game. If they keep this practise up much longer I will have to quit the game as it's simply not available for me to play at reasonable playing times.

Ethan Birkemo
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@Aaron

I completely agree when you said, "The mmo I would have looked forward to would have involved actual "Star"+ "Wars" a larger than life game where the conquest of the Galaxy planet to planet was involved. In the upper atmosphere players battle out to defend or attack a Planets systems, then move to land on the Planet and do X objective. Players could live on Star Destroyers or Corvettes etc..."

Mark Venturelli
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"The use of a free-to-play monetization model requires careful placement of your best content, what I call 'carrots,' on the other side of payment opportunities that I call 'gates.' "

And by this process, you become what I call "asshole".

Trent Tait
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I get the feeling that's not quite what his intent was. He didn't state that you should over charge for a single peice of content, or charge something for tiny little bits of content. The store price for a game is a payment opportunity with a carrot on the other side. Expansion packs are payment opportunities with carrots on the other side. It can be done correctly where the player feels they got value for money, and indeed did get that.

It sounds like you've had too much exposure to the Google Play store. Most games there with payment gates are assholes.

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Trent Tait
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What part of the article are you addressing? I don't see the part about lack of content.

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Trent Tait
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I mentioned lack of content updates. The devs said they would rolls out new warzones, operations and flash points monthly, but that happened only once. Pretty bad given the amount of money spent on the game. It has been 19 weeks since that content update happened. Personally, I have not explored all the content that currently exists, so that is not my reasoning for it's failure, and personally I don't think that is a major reason for them failing. If the game has enough to do at max level it will take a long time for people to get bored of it.

I have to disagree with your other statement. MMO's aren't failures. If they are such a failure, surely Blizzard needs to hear of this. I'm sure they disagree too. MMO's are primarily about playing a game with your friends and also people you don't know and don't have any control of being there, much like a tavern or pub. Meet new people, play the same games with them and have new fun. SWTOR doesn't quite do this properly, but it doesn't fail as much imho as the article suggests in the ways it suggests.

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Ramin Shokrizade
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Joshua, I agree with almost everything you say here. Players with achievement motivations but not social motivations will do basically whatever they are told to do via the placement of carrots. If you put the carrots on the other side of some social interaction, then these same typically asocial players begin to learn to socialize. They may not like it initially, because if they are not used to it they will suck initially. Social interaction is a skill just like any other.

With the inclusion of a necessary player economy, everyone becomes linked by the AH and similar economic focal points. Players can still be loners, and loners might be very useful in the economy, but if they want to advance they still have to provide something of worth to the community and depend on them somewhere. Just like in real life. Those who are more social will find they get better deals and breaks, maybe even free gear. Just like in real life.

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Trent Tait
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Joshua, I understand you don't consider these games to be true role playing, and I totally agree with you there. But that's not the point of the article, nor why SWTOR is failing.

You said: "I'll try and make sure my understanding good roleplay passes their quality control test next time."

Blizzard don't need your input. Yes their game is labelled an RPG, and whether that is valid is certainly debatable, but RPG or not, they are not failing.

"This is the same logic as going to a bar to date, don't recommend it."

Yeah, I don't go to a bar to meet women either, but I'm not trying to meet them in MMOs, I meet other friendly people and know lots because of it. They're not my best friends, they are casual aquaitances. So I have to disagree with you here, SWTOR working for me and a lot of other people. WoW does it slightly worse and is working far better.

I wont bother addressing the rest of your statements as they fall into the "is an RPG" debate, which is a personal choice and certainly not why the game is failing.

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Trent Tait
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Way to go overboard Joshua! You're way overanalysing this, so let me try and state what I believe, simply.

I am raiding in SWTOR where I never have raided in any other game. Heroic instances and flashpoints are fantastic fun. Why is something that makes connecting with your friends and people you dont know easy and fun, failing so bad? Clearly it has nothing to do with the social aspect and tools. Nothing at all. It has all the same social tools as every other MMO.

WoW is succeeding, despite barrens chat. WoW is succeeding despite asshat players.

This, along with my extensive list of what the hell IS wrong with SWTOR, tells me that the social aspect is not the cause of the failure. Some people (you and the author) may think the social aspect is lacking, and sure, I'll agree, but it's not why people are leaving.

Secondly, you misintepret my statements about Blizzard requiring your input. You claim MMO's are failures, now I'm not certain whether you mean finacially or just your opinion of a game. At first I thought the former, but now I think you meant the latter, which is completely fine. Financially I don't think you can claim WoW as a failure (understatement of the century).

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Jeff Jirsa
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I'm surprised no one has mentioned Dungeons & Dragons Online yet. Weather or not you like the game they seem to be doing well after switching to F2P. (Some reports I read said their revenue went up ~45% after switching.) I started playing as a free alternative to WoW, and yes ended up forking over some cash. The mix of F2P and P2P is a fairly gentle ramp up - there's plenty of "carrots" on the other side, but you don't really notice the "gates" until you're rather invested in your character and want to continue. I won't say much about the in-game economy and socialization as I usually play with a small, static group, but Turbine seems to be doing well enough to have recently released their first huge expansion. It's there and I can usually find a pick up group when I need it, I just don't look often.

The potential trouble SW:TOR may face is if, as others have noted, they relied too much on the franchise name instead of the gameplay itself to retain players. I'm sure the folks at BioWare did what they thought best during development, but from reading the accounts above and talking to friends who played during the Beta, I got the impression all the "Star Wars-y" stuff was there but it somehow lacked cohesion.

Ramin highlights in interesting delima for BW, however. From what I've read, DDO was kinda half-baked anyway prior to the switch, so it allowed them to course correct and "finish the thought" in a few areas. If SW:TOR is too locked in to a particular design path, it may end up being even harder for players to connect.

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Alejandro Santiago
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I was going to buy the game from day one, but Origin site said it wasnt available in my region and on the official site FAQ they said they will be releasing it to more countries on the upcoming months, tried a couple of times a few months later but the same lame message appeared, then I just didnt care about the game anymore.

I guess that happened to many international "potential" players, its a shame, isnt that the hole purpose of online stores? downloadable content? and so on

Trent Tait
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Amazon shipped it to anywhere, so if you can play WoW you can play SWTOR. I was also in a region that wasn't available but I've been playing since launch.

Bob Olmstead
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This article, like many articles Ive seen popping up, totally misses the major points as to why this specific MMO has crashed and almost burned. The latest bean counter version is that 40% of their exit interviews (which I took these surveys, several in fact, very poorly designed) say the monthly fee was the issue. In less then one year, EA and TOR's senior management continue the spin machine and sadly, the media continues to buy it, unchallenged, hook-line- and sinker. Although I greatly admire and respect your intellect and views, I think you are way overplaying monetization and the economy as core causal factors specific to this game. Even in your answer to the Legacy comment way above, if in fact Bioware priced Legacy so high due to gold farmers (which I do not buy) and their reaction was that pricing structure; if in fact they were that lacking in terms of adhering to a long-term vision- the game deserves to go under.

The core long-term issues have little to do with their monetization model or that they over reached on the use of the SW brand, or the economy as a huge driving force to the games demise. The solutions are not around some quick turn monetization model, the latest of which is F2P. Im sure some MMO F2P types will save this game on a basic level. But there is a VAST difference between saving your butt financially and an MMO that has truly become all it could be. Almost 2M subscribers speaks to the hope that people had; where it is now, well under 1M subscribers, has to do with fundamental breaches that occurred. Somebody needs to wake up to these truths if the game is ever to be fixed.

Article after article by BEAN COUNTERS cite stat after stat or make the issues about things that never address the CORE GAME MECHANICS and the GLOBAL ATTITUDE which do a much better job of defining the real truths behind the massive failure of this MMO. I cant imagine what all these hard working (many of them now laid off) devs and visionary managers must feel like to have something they cared so much about, shattered into pieces after years of work.

#1- The current mentality is to INVENT Star Wars content versus truly giving players/fans the Star Wars we know. When you constantly invent outside of a powerfully established context, you’re asking people to learn about and embrace your version of the cannon versus offering players the ability to enjoy fully the SW experiences they want to play. The story arcs that Ive played, three in total, are very good, the best of any MMO or any other game and yes, very iconic. Some of the side quests score decently well in this regard. But for the most part, this game is KOTOR on steroids and not even close to an SW MMO experience. Once you make it to 50 to include end game content, the game just falls flat on its face in terms of it being a SW license and as an MMO, plus they abandon the very thing they hook you on- story!

A very good example of this mentality is the invented planet that they are choosing to launch, which is being marketed as an all PvP planet. They are obviously playing to the quick fix, heavy PvP crowd from which F2P will bode well with (for minimal cost), which has nothing to do with truly offering the Opus of Star Wars experiences. Put another way, they way from which they have chosen to "fix" the game is a TOTAL FAILURE TO TRULY DOUBLE DOWN ON OFFERING A SUSTAINABLE STAR WARS EXPERIENCE that keeps a core base coming back for more and growing. Had they launched Endor or Dathomir as planets, well known and mysterious, highly desirable locations to explore and to “experience iconic Star Wars moments”- that alone, just launching one of those planets, increasing some options to explore, having good story lines, a Dathomir end game experience (talk about sexy? WOW!) that alone would have immediately resulted in more players and more revenue.

#2- If Im a Bounty Hunter and Im a level 50, I want to Bounty Hunt. Not gonna happen in TOR. If I am a Level 50 Smuggler, I want to smuggle, a Jedi Master- I want to work with the Jedi Council to go on important missions. NONE OF THIS IS AVAILABLE once your turn 50 in TOR, which is a HUGE STORY OVERSIGHT and has resulted in TOR leaving a ton of money on the table. A moment ago, I stated that had they launched a more iconic planet and opened up the gameplay framework, to allow for more exploration, they would have had a boon in return customers. Now lets add to that Level 50's that can Bounty Hunt, be Spys, run missions for the Jedi Council, so on and so forth- and that number of people that would bring back and the core TOR population would soar. IS EA IN TOUCH WITH THESE TRUTHS ON ANY LEVEL? The answer as evidenced by all of their actions, is no.

You have a game that does a great job of drawing you in through their story arcs and BAM, your reward for turning 50 is ALL OF THAT goes away. Your companions have nothing else to say to you, at least the ones you’ve maxed out, thats it- your relationship with that NPC companion is, for all practical purposes, done. TOR wants you to (in fact, forces you to- if you want to enjoy companion perks) max out all of your companion's XP. So if you had a blast with Kira, ALL THIS BUILD UP with her, you're gonna get married, you secretly broke Jedi rules and then level 50 hits or whenever you max out her storyline, then nothing, you're done, THE SILENT WIFE named Kira. From that point on she will only give you route, basic responses; basically, you have a talking test dummy.

How did this happen? How do you make those kinds of decisions? How do create a game so built around epic story lines and companion relationships only to then abandon all of that once a person hits 50? Again, this is a failure to NOT LEVERAGE THE BRAND ENOUGH versus leveraging it too much or any particular type of monetization model.

#3- Its friggin’ Star Wars! I want to explore and fully experience this cool world. Not going to happen in TOR. Ohlen stated in his article that they never meant to change the MMO experience, only to add story. Every MMO Ive played and I’ve played a lot of the big ones to include Galaxies - WoW - LOTR - Rift and others, let you truly explore the world you’re in. Rift even has a solid reward system for such desires with some fun perks.

A friend and I were talking about the game Star Wars Galaxies. I shared a story about one day when I was zooming along, minding my own business riding my speeder on the high level planet (it TRULY felt like a planet) of Endor, on the shoreline of a lake there, when out of the blue I get knocked off my bike- which then blows up and I hear Stormtroopers telling me to halt. I look behind me and see two ships full of stormies unloading and coming after me. I popped up my chat for my guild and said, "you won't believe this". Seconds later, I was in a fight for my life. The "trigger" for this random event had to do with a system they deployed that tied in how many imp kills I had, both PvP and NPC, that related to my reputation rating. Folks, this was a random encounter that made my experience feel rather over the top real! I was on a SW high for days.

No exploring. No iconic Star Wars world events (think Galaxies and Rift). Nothing meaningfully Star Wars after 50. Very narrow control on skill trees with Hybrids being a big no-no. Next to no interaction with our Star Wars environments. But sure, the real issue is people having to pay a monthly fee. So very sad, given how awesome the game trailers were, give how awesome this game could have been.

#4-Rhakghouls- seriously? Fine, its a call back to KOTOR, so a little bit here and there. But to make that such a huge deal throughout? In operations? In your one world event? Do you people even understand what the attraction of Star Wars is all about- because it aint Rhakghouls! And although KOTOR has some great merits, people didn't sign up for a KOTOR MMO NOR WAS IT MARKETED AS SUCH, they signed up for an EPIC SW experience! Give me a world event where Sith Masters or Jedi Masters suddenly appear on the opposing factions Capital Ships. Have a Call To Arms world event where I see twenty of my fellow players called back to the Jedi temple because its under attack. Give me iconic breathtaking and wide open SW worlds to not just fight in, but also to explore. THATS Star Wars!

#5- The general perception that Bioware and EA could care less has been a huge issue, regardless of all their press saying otherwise. They launched an economy that was utterly ridiculous in terms of all the costs for healing, repairs, transaction fees, etc.. Their tier based equipment and mod systems, which have been constantly changing rendering all your hard work useless, all that made the game anything but user friendly. Then there is the Legacy system complete with a Legacy XP bar for perks that I need to spend a fortune to buy, but somehow that supposed to feel like something I earned? And If you bought the Collectors Edition, you really felt a deep sense of betrayal, of Bait and Switch. Sure, the shipped items with the CE were nice, but VERY CLEARLY STATED IN THE RAMP UP is that we would get a vendor that would be updated regularly with exclusive new items and content. Never happened. The in game benefit to having a security key was dramatically better then having bought the CE. I could go on and on. Side quests, once Ive leveled to 50, I still have to waste my time on all the dialog when Im leveling a toon? I get that being important for a new toon's core storyline quests, but all the side quests too? So leveling 3 toons MANDATES dredging through all the same side content again?

EA needs to STOP spitting out statistics and STOP throwing out quick fixes. Give us the experience we paid for, the SW experience you marketed; give is Dathomir and bounties to hunt, things to smuggle, Jedi council meetings to attend that spark great adventures; give us back the companions WE WANT TO PLAY versus forcing us to level companions we could care less about. And in spite of what all the so called data TOR, especially EA likes to tout- the game will actually turnaround. Sorry OP, but you missed pretty much all of the major reasons this game has failed

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Shava Nerad
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I think EA took one look at the game and said, "This isn't a WOW killer. It isn't enough like WOW! You think you'll attract gamers with...*story???*" and gutted it and made them completely re-engineer away from the bones of the original legacy system and redo the end game. Just from my person gut forensics having played a great deal of SWTOR the way (in my arrogance) I suspect it was supposed to have been played, and from my knowledge of Bioware game design.

I think they wanted to do something different and EA killed them on acquisition. I could be wrong. But the fact is, there's a strong game still in this game, and it's not marketed as such. I blog about that here:

https://plus.google.com/101371184407256956306/posts/P6yZqcn2YC7

...and I've bitched about it on the swtor.com forums, where there's a serious contingent who agree with me. The primal sin?

The game I describe is designed for readers, for people who like story, for *introverts* (in the technical, psychological sense). This runs counter to what all the power players (who are all extroverts) in the games industry think that people want, because they listen to their fans, and the fans who are loudest are all extroverts.

Introverts play single player games, so the common wisdom runs. Bioware created an MMO for introverts (which run 50% or more of the general population according to some studies, probably more than that among SF fans, IMO).

EA, I believe, would have none of that. It fit none of their traditional markets. It fit none of their preconceptions. Who ever heard of an introvert in heroic fiction? (Obi-Wan, Luke, Anakin, probably all of them introverts -- Bilbo, Frodo,... uh, yeah...)

Now (as I blogged on my industry blog here) the founders of Bioware have left likely on non-compete. I hope they re-emerge to found another company in a couple years, and I hope they never are tempted to sell to a paternal giant again.

EA may get added to the sad category with SOE with some fans over this eventually. And perhaps, in some years, SWTOR will be the classic cult work like Blade Runner that people look back at and say, "See, this is where this part of story and art changed in this medium..."

Louis-Felix Cauchon
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What went wrong? Too much like wow.. Been there done that. Period.


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