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Suggestions to how to make SWToR feel less linear

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Story and Lore
Suggestions to how to make SWToR feel less linear

Andge's Avatar

02.09.2012 , 02:29 AM | #1
First off, I should say, that I really love SWToR. There is definitely room improvements (personally, I find visual diversity really important to an MMO, so I can only suggest to BW to implement more "not human-looking" races. Zabrak, Cyborg, Human etc. they all look more or less alike in-game. Only twileks offer a little diversity) but the narrative depths of the game has provided me with what I've always missed in other MMOs.

I'm not a fan boy, but now you know, at least I love the game.

Thus to the actual topic of my post; one of the things that I hear people mention most often as a point of critique of the game is that they find the leveling experience to be too linear. They miss an "open world" as opposed to the "on tracks" experience they feel SWToR gives them.

I think most people realize that no game with a developing narrative or a leveling mechanic can ever be truely "non-linear" or "open world".
Even WoW which many of the same people mention as an example of an "open world" MMO is totally linear. Each area in the game is dedicated to a certain lvl range.
What WoW has is two areas for each lvl range, so that players can choose 1 of 2 or mix it up everytime he lvls a character. This probably creates a sense of "open world" experience.
But I imagine this is something SWToR will have in the future with an expansion.
Besides what I want to do in this post is give suggestions to how BW can make SWToR feel less linear with the content they have atm.

So no game with a developing narrative or a leveling mechanic can ever be truely "non-linear" or "open world". Instead it is a matter of making the game "feel" like it's "non-linear" or "open world".
Take Half Life for instance. It's a single player game, I know, but I think it fits well to illustrate my point; Half Life is one of the most "on tracks" game I've ever played; the player is constantly guided down the right hallway, through the right door etc.
But the game manages to make the player feel as if he's not "on tracks"; when the player has to turn down hallway A, because the ceiling in hallway B just fell down, the player feels "I have to go down hallway A since B just became blocked". Not what really happened, namely that B just became blocked because the designers wants the player to go down A.

It's a matter of feeling what's cause and what's effect.

To me, one of the things in SWToR that really creates the feeling of being "on tracks" is such a seemingly in-significant thing as the level range shown on the information page of each planet on the galaxy map.
E.g. when the information page for Balmorra says "level 16-20", I say to myself "Balmorra is for lvl 16. I'm lvl 16. So I'm going to Balmorra". I.e. I don't get the feeling that it's the story that takes me to Balmorra.

So my first suggestion to BW is; remove the level ranges show on the information page for each planet.
Let the story alone guide the players to whatever planet fits their level. For Christ sake, that's the whole point of having a class story!

Another thing that adds to the feeling of being "on tracks" when leveling in SWToR is the fact that each planet is almost exclusively for its own level range. When everyone is lvl 10-16 on one planet, lvl 16-20 on another, lvl 20-24 on a third, it gives the feeling that every player online is part of a linear train.
I think this could be avoided by mixed the level range of each planet a bit. E.g. have a small area on Hoth which has lvl 17 mobs in it. Then sent the lvl 17s in a small errant to Hoth, just to kill a few mobs, and then back to do their quests on their appropriate planet. This would give the lvl 17s a foreshadowing of what's to come (at least for a person playing the game for the first time). And it would also give the lvl 37s a possible change of pace, when they see that "little helpless lvl 17 running around down there" and go down to help him.
And do the opposite as well; sent high lvl characters to do quests on lower lvl planets.
But that's only to delivery quests. It should be quests out amongst the lvl 1-16s instead.

Okay, so those are my first suggestions of how to make SWToR feel more "open world" with the present content.

I will edit soon and post more suggestions.

But what is your opinion? Does SWToR feel too much as if it's "on tracks"? And if you feel it does, can you pin point what the reason is? How other MMOs do a better job? And do you have suggestions to how SWToR can be improved in this area?