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A SWTOR Context


Kryptonomic's Avatar


Kryptonomic
01.20.2019 , 08:33 AM | #1
This may get taken down by the SWTOR team or perhaps it belongs more in "Off Topic." Not sure. I was originally going to post this here as a thread, but instead I posted this article:

A SWTOR Context

Obviously there is a lot of sentiment around the game, it's current development, and it's possible future. I've found in a few of these conversations that people do appreciate a bit of context. Historical context is often the best of all. So that's what the above is.

It's not White Knight content; it's not so called "Hater" content. It simply is what it is: providing some context, at least from one person's point of view. If curious, I also have some posts on SWTOR regarding testing. None of this reveals any internal details of the current team nor any details of internal operations, both now and in the past.

The definitive story on SWTOR will likely be published at some later date. And it certainly won't be by me.

Lhancelot's Avatar


Lhancelot
01.20.2019 , 10:26 AM | #2
I just read your article that's really interesting especially all the explanations behind how KOTFE and KOTET were added and why so many of the stories seem so awkward and odd fitting with the past chapters etc.

I think a lot of people would really find the explanations behind the companions interesting too, basically all the story-mode players would find your article very telling.

I just wonder why they decided to not put more effort and resources into SWTOR? I mean, with all the Star Wars stuff out, movies, etc., why would they not put forth more effort in making this game better? Why did they decide to take partially developed ideas that had been shelved, only to slap them onto the game in the end? Why not put the proper amount of resources into this game so content and stories could be done well? Did they believe the game simply wasn't worth it?
The Revival of SWTOR: Petition for More Funding and Resources
(Click link Below For More Information)

http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=959696

Ardrossan's Avatar


Ardrossan
01.20.2019 , 10:41 AM | #3
I found it a very interesting read, thank you. Particularly the idea that Kotfe was, like RotHC, something they had on the books during pre-production phase. The worry, of course, is that now they've run out of that material, and what they're coming up with now. It also explains the irritation some players feel about going from Emperor to minion in one update.
Quote: Originally Posted by Rion_Starkiller View Post
Companions are a crutch for the weak.

Unperson's Avatar


Unperson
01.20.2019 , 10:43 AM | #4
Interesting read, Jeff. Thanks.

I wish BW had simply made the game as originally envisioned, rather than trying to take on the biggest fish in the pond with virtually zero experience in MMOs. And I never was a "KotOR 3 or bust" kind of guy. Maybe if the sale happened a year or three later than it did.

This piece only reinforces the view of many people that there hasn't been a clear plan on where to take the game and how to get there for a long time. The only surprising part is how early this uncertainty took root.

Personally, I think taking the story forward as they did was a mistake. A new class story or two, possibly with a new third faction (perhaps similarly to how Romulans work in STO) would have provided a good entry point for new players while delivering the story content that many veterans wanted. This would have done away with the need to fit the square peg in the round hole to accommodate 8 different previous stories, and eliminated the inevitable narrative power creep. I'm sure they considered this approach, I hope someday we'll learn why they went with KotFE as a direct continuation instead.

Lhancelot's Avatar


Lhancelot
01.20.2019 , 10:52 AM | #5
Quote: Originally Posted by Unperson View Post
I hope someday we'll learn why they went with KotFE as a direct continuation instead.
My guess is they took what was available off the shelf, instead of coming up with original ideas and creating new story material they decided to use what was already written. I guess they didn't really think things out long-term. Maybe they simply didn't have the creative writing talent available to come up with new stuff.
The Revival of SWTOR: Petition for More Funding and Resources
(Click link Below For More Information)

http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=959696

Kryptonomic's Avatar


Kryptonomic
01.20.2019 , 11:26 AM | #6
Quote: Originally Posted by Lhancelot View Post
I just wonder why they decided to not put more effort and resources into SWTOR? I mean, with all the Star Wars stuff out, movies, etc., why would they not put forth more effort in making this game better?
I think part of it was simply that resources weren't available. Many were let go or moved onto other projects that were now in the build pipeline. There was also, I think, a certain lack of confidence about what could be done. But notice the dangerous loop you get into there? You don't put in resources but because of that it doesn't get better. And you can't get it better without more resources. So something has to be break the confidence paralysis there and make some decisions.

That, incidentally, falls to a product and project team, not a development team. The product team has to make a case for what can be done and the project team has to assure them that the vision can be completed with the resources on hand. This is what the lead producers tend to handle as part of their mandate. Think of them as the product managers.

But there are justifications required here on the part of the team.

It often comes down to: Do we want to maintain a status quo? Or do we want to keep pushing for the "better"? (It's a way of asking: "Is the status quo 'good enough'?" This is a way of viewing quality.) And this gets into an interesting dynamic with the typology of game players. In the game development industry as a whole, strict MMO gamers (i.e., those who play something because it's an MMO) are sometimes called "treadmill gamers." They are willing to do the same thing over and over again to get gear (or whatever) so that they can do the same thing over and over again.

That's great because they keep paying. The trick is that all you have to do is keep them "happy enough" to keep paying. That can require much less development resources when you boil it down.

But that argument doesn't work when you start talking to story-driven or environment-driven game players, who prefer the concept of voice acted stories with coherent story lines that explore and refine lore but that also mix in the expansive sandbox nature of a game that keeps them coming back. These are players, in the case of SWTOR, that are playing something in spite of the fact that it's an MMO.

That identity crisis has plagued SWTOR pretty much since its inception and it's a tricky balance.

Another identity crisis has been "How Star Wars does SWTOR actually have to be?" That may sound like an inherently silly question (assuming it makes sense the way I phrased it) but prior to the Disney/Lucasfilm deal, there was a bit more wiggle room here. That's not a knock on Disney or the tightened focus of the Story Group, but in pre-Disney, the "canon" was actually many different canons and the main Story Group at that time really only cared about the movies and, to a lesser extent, the established EU in books. (This is why The Force Unleashed could pretty much do what it wanted, including the Infinities "alternate universe" ideas.)

Yet another identity crisis is the idea of a persistent world with meaningful choices, and thus consequences, that are situated in a lore-heavy background. That doesn't always sit well with an MMO context. I realize that's debatable and I don't intend to imply otherwise. But as an example:

One of the cooler (I think) possibilities of the expansive story mode playing out for players involved the Empire side on Balmorra. Consider near the end of the quest chain for Darth Lachris. You get into a base where Republic troops are all over the place. Lachris is supposedly sending legions of troops to help you out. But you don't see that at all. Except in one tiny little instanced part. But in the original KOTOR 3-style implementation, players would have been navigating through a space that was filled with NPC Republic and Empire troops fighting it out, giving the impression of an actual battle going on. That doesn't work in an MMO where spawn points and available NPCs for quest kills are necessary and have to look roughly the same for any player at any given time.

I'm cherry-picking there a bit, but you can get the idea. Lots of ideas have to change when you decide on the constraints -- but also the possibilities -- of an MMO.

Quote: Originally Posted by Lhancelot View Post
Why did they decide to take partially developed ideas that had been shelved, only to slap them onto the game in the end? Why not put the proper amount of resources into this game so content and stories could be done well? Did they believe the game simply wasn't worth it?
I think the development team very much believed the game was worth it.

I think one of the key things that people struggled with in terms of the game was identity. It started off as a game around KOTO3. It became SWTOR. That can be seen as nothing more than a name change but it led to some fundamental reshuffling of ideas. Once you added in other classes, for example, you had to fit their context into the wider story of the Cold War and the start of the new Galactic War.

Then there was concern about the Disney thing. On the one hand, this was great! More Star Wars! Future interest is assured because more movies, more books, etc. But, on the other hand, all of that is essentially continuing a story that is thousands of years after the events of The Old Republic. So how relevant would an Old Republic time frame be? Would it make more sense to have a game more current so there could be more tie-ins and so on?

This also had an impact due to the Lucasfilm Story Group's mandate that all content going forward -- games, movies, books -- would be canon. But that canon was now going to be a bit more consistent.

Granted, at this point we're all on the outside looking in. We can recover bits of the history that we knew at the time. Some of that can be recovered from interviews or articles written at the time. Others are from statements made at various conferences, including public and private game development conferences. And, of course, some of it is just inferred based on what we can observe happening, what people are (and aren't) talking about regarding the game, and so on.

Kryptonomic's Avatar


Kryptonomic
01.20.2019 , 11:35 AM | #7
Quote: Originally Posted by Unperson View Post
The only surprising part is how early this uncertainty took root.
This is actually something that I think is important for fans of the game (or even those not too thrilled with the game) to understand.

I say this in another bit of context: a large part of my career is helping to do software archaeology. It's essentially digging into the past to find out not just what happened (after all, we can usually see that) but why it happened; what decisions where made; what discussions likely did or did not happen; and so on. It's a pretty fascinating area to work in.

Like any historian enterprise, there's a lot more that you don't know than what you do. But coupled with knowledge of how development in general works, and game development in particular, it does allow us to make a lot of inferences and judgments that have a better chance of being on the side of "mostly correct" rather than "egregiously wrong."

Anyway, back on point: a lot of times in these situations, the warning signs were present very early on. We get a bit of a parallax effect, though. We see things as they are now and assume this must be a recent thing that is leading to decline. Witness, for example, a lot of folks convinced that Anthem is currently sucking away developers from SWTOR when, in fact, any such developers were sucked away many years ago. But it's the parallax of the fact that people know Anthem is close to release and the perceptions of SWTOR development. Thus a correlation is drawn.

SWTOR's history is a fascinating one in game development and I say this without any sarcasm or cynicism at all. SWTOR was ambitious. They tried to do a lot. They had successes and they had failures. The team has constantly had to reinvent itself and its ideas about the game in a very competitive market with one of the most popular franchises to exist. This was done in the midst of changing teams, layoffs, other games taking priority, Star Wars as a whole shifting focus, writers coming and going, and leadership changing. All of that really started around 2012, very early in the game's career.

I say all that without dismissing people's concerns about where the game is going (I have those too) nor dismissing those who feel the game is an excellent use of their entertainment dollar (it's still that for me too).

tahol's Avatar


tahol
01.20.2019 , 12:14 PM | #8
Thank you! It was a faschinating article. I always like to hear stories about developement from people who are in the industry, because the truth is always so much different than what the gamers believe it is.

Especially the part about Kofte/Kotet was really interesting.

Ylliarus's Avatar


Ylliarus
01.20.2019 , 12:22 PM | #9
Quote: Originally Posted by Kryptonomic View Post
This may get taken down by the SWTOR team or perhaps it belongs more in "Off Topic." Not sure. I was originally going to post this here as a thread, but instead I posted this article:

A SWTOR Context

Obviously there is a lot of sentiment around the game, it's current development, and it's possible future. I've found in a few of these conversations that people do appreciate a bit of context. Historical context is often the best of all. So that's what the above is.

It's not White Knight content; it's not so called "Hater" content. It simply is what it is: providing some context, at least from one person's point of view. If curious, I also have some posts on SWTOR regarding testing. None of this reveals any internal details of the current team nor any details of internal operations, both now and in the past.

The definitive story on SWTOR will likely be published at some later date. And it certainly won't be by me.
A very interesting article, it has reaffirmed a lot of my own thoughts regarding KotFE and KotET. The fact that it's repurposed KOTOR 3 content is very obvious. Look for example at Lana Beniko, she evident fits the role of the Jedi Exile who comes to rescue Revan. Then you have the Eternal Empire, a hidden Empire that threatens the galaxy, sounds kind of like the original concept for the Sith Empire no? Especially with Valkorion at the top. There are a lot of other points and elements that must have been KOTOR 3 material originally, but had been shelved and then repurposed into KotFE and KotET. But that was a mistake, I think, because it turned SWTOR's story into a sort of Frankenstein creation.

I wish they had kept the original idea, of 1 Jedi and 1 Sith story and then new episodic content from the perspective of a new character. They could have been adding new classes, the Smuggler, Bounty Hunter, Agent etc etc that way with each new instalment. It would have been an effective way of keeping players interested and hooked into the game. I always kept saying that SWTOR has a lot of wasted and lost potential.

Nonetheless, a very interesting context and read! I definitely can recommend others to read the article as well
The SWTOR Revitalization Petition
This MMO deserves a revitalization, by receiving more funding, resources, manpower and publicity. If you agree with this, sign the petition to EA and Disney here!
And here is my referral link.

TheAresian's Avatar


TheAresian
01.20.2019 , 01:03 PM | #10
A fascinating read. The one thing that stood out to me the most was the idea about SWTOR trying to be a "WOW killer". While I've never been an end game player myself, WOW has always had a ton of end game content to keep the gear monkeys playing. SWTOR, for as good as the original class stories are (and I think they're fantastic. They're the reason I'm subscribed) has always seemed light on the kind of raid content WOW has been hanging its hat on for most of its existence. I will give them proper credit for this though: The one thing they've managed to do as well as WOW is monetize.
Quote: Originally Posted by tahol View Post
+1 from me. I have never had any hard feelings for a game dev...and then there's Ben Irving. Him leaving filled my petty heart with joy.