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An open letter to Bioware


Sendai_S's Avatar


Sendai_S
07.15.2012 , 10:28 PM | #1
Greetings inter-webs and Star Wars nerds and nerdettes.

I have decided to end my relationship with Star Wars The Old Republic, and while I have no doubt that this post will be viewed as another “cry cry cry” post, I feel that there are a few things that the developers need to understand about my, and really all the reasons a player might quit their game.

Now to begin, I love Star Wars. It's been in my blood for a very long time. So for me to say anything hurtful about any of it's elements hurts, but let's face it – once Jar Jar Binks was made a reality in the films - all bets were off when it comes to anything else.

Some history:

Several years ago as I blissfully playing Star Wars Galaxies, I received disturbing news: the CU version of Star Wars Galaxies with it's expansive and interesting skill system was going to be replaced by a nine class system where anyone could be a Jedi right out of the gate.

I was mortified. I had been one of the very early unlocks and had actually beat off several Bounty Hunters during the “perma-death” time period of the game. I researched it more and more and decided I would give it a chance, after all I had just purchased the upgrade expansion that included Mustafar.

About a week after the NGE, as it was known, came out – I quit. I demanded my money back for the expansion. As most of us probably know, the NGE was one of the biggest mistakes that they ever did to that game.

I had a plan however, fueled by a recent job opening that I saw at Lucasarts, I wrote a very long and detailed Game Design Document and after doing a poor-man's copyright to it, I sent it off to the address given in the job advertisement.

The game I had detailed, was an MMO, that took place 3000 years prior to the events of the films, and the classes on each side had been specifically designed to be identical to each other in every way, so that in one of the perceived end game scenarios of a PERMANENT PVP PLANET dedicated solely to Player versus Player combat. No less than a third of the document was set aside to detail an elaborate and complex battle system that would entice nearly all players – even those not interested specifically in PVP – to go and partake in the galactic battle.

Rewards for doing so would be additional drops and bonuses pertaining to all PVE related activities. i.e. extra money from PVE battles, better gear drops, etc. It went on to detail how, population imbalances would be tempered by dynamic buffing and de-buffing and the existence of bases that were meant to be taken in battle – with player associations able to control and upgrade them in the likelihood of no one being there to man them directly if they were attacked by enemy factions. A lot of the design for the PVP planet was based on my experiences playing Dark Age of Camelot, a game that still holds true in my mind as having possibly the best PVP system, in any online game. And let's be clear, PVE and PVP were NOT separated by some cheapened player stat, and the incredibly lazy use of an “enrage” timer was not used as a DPS check ever.

Of course, I made modifications and I even postulated a third faction for the Star Wars universe aside from the Republic and Empire; possibly an underworld faction.

A few other features I had included in the game design document was the ability to infiltrate enemy home bases, and mingle with their factions. It was a system I called “aliasing”. It had lengthy requirements and only select classes could do it. Another feature I outlined was a system involving changing your faction at any time during the game. It wasn't painless, and required some work but it would have been possible.

Anyway, I never heard back from them about the job application. I got suspicious when I heard about this game being developed a year or two later though. I wasn't sure, of course, if it was remotely related to my idea that I sent in; after all let's face it, a lot of people have the same bloody ideas.
I'm just going to say if someone HAD taken my idea, and stuck to my design specs, that this would be a game that I probably never would have quit. (Still not entirely sure that someone didn't use my design as a basis for this game, but I guess I'll never know...)

I do not like World Of Warcraft. I tried it. I hated it. In many ways, TOR reminds me of that game in so many ways. The skill system: very pigeonholed and limited – designed to be simple and unfortunately uninspiring. The kill XX and gather XX items quests. Also, very done and over. All in all the only thing that made TOR stand out at all was the fact that they had voice actors and interactive cutscenes. Aside from that, TOR is functionally, traditionally the same as everything else that came before it.

Star Wars to me has always been about innovation, and even more, it represents evolution. In 1975 when Star Wars came out it cause a phenomenon. Now, nearly 30 years later, it's becoming more of a mainstream joke.

Now onto the specifics of why I have decided to take some time off from TOR:

“Mirror Mirror on the wall”

The classes mostly mirror each other but that's not actually what I'm referring to in this. I'm referring to the fact that all the end game armor, at release, was virtually identical to each other. Once you hit 50 in that first month and you stood there proudly in your brand new Rakata outfit, there was a moment where you were actually pleased with yourself.

Then the next day someone else looks exactly like you. And then another. And another. Perhaps the thing I should have detailed more about in my game design document was the fact that players of these games want to stand apart, to stand out in a crowd and to not look like anyone else. Perhaps if my document had been used for designing this game they might have at least kept that part if I had written it: alas I covered no such topic in my GDD. To be honest, I kind of thought it to be self-evident.

But the sheer lack of fashion options for the end game are still not going far enough, and the speed at which they are rectifying the situation is ridiculous. The Secret World has been out less than two weeks and already they've released more clothing options.

Regardless, the only options are costly, and unrelentlessly so, to change your look. It's so intrinsically tied to your stats that you have no choices at all. And worse thing of all, the sheer inability to change existing armor so that it could move it's stats as well, is hopeless.

If I had been the game design lead on this game, I would have never allowed stats, to be tied to what your character looked like as well.

“Where's the MMO in my MMO?”

No seriously, where is it?

I want to play with my friends as I'm leveling up, don't you? This game uses a unique storyline system that essentially divides the players from leveling/questing together unless they co-ordinate doing so. You can help, but due to how XP is yielded by the quest reward at the end, it's entirely unprofitable for a player to actually help another player unless they are on the same quest.

How did anyone NOT notice this?

There could have been a “pre-credit system” installed, that allowed players to “sidekick” up to other players and actually take a quest that was past them in levels and get a small amount of XP for it, then later maybe do a qualifying quest to receive more XP at the point in which they should have originally done the quest.

A higher level player could also sidekick down and take a previously finished quest again, and then still received at least some kind of reward for it.

The point is: the unique-ish questing system actually discourages you from playing with friends rather than playing with them. To use another recent game as an example, all quests in that game are 100% re-doable, after a cool-down period from time of completion, they still yield rewards and allow players to group with other players whenever they want.

If I had been the game design lead on this game, I would have never let this system go live without finding a good way to let friends always group with each other.

“You killed me! Damn, that was a good fight!”

It's long been my assertion that PVP is the end game of most MMORPGs. Raiding is fine too, but I love me some PVP action. Artificial Intelligence never trumps the erratic playstyle of another human. AI is predictable and ultimately, repetitive. (JOB: playing the boss monsters against player raids in an MMORPG. Must love being fair and being unpredictable. What a job that would be, eh?)

PVP is the portion of an MMO that players make themselves, and it's up to the developer to understand how PVP players tick and what makes the average guy PVP. The average player is gonna cheat, lie and steal, and try to find any exploit he can to get the largest reward with the least amount of work. As much as I wish it weren't true, it is.

That said: A REWARD BAG FOR PARTICIPATING IN CRAPPY OPEN WORLD PVP DESIGN IS GONNE BE A BAD IDEA.

PVP is it's own reward.

You can entice people to PVP by giving the populations factionwide bonuses for being the dominating faction. But to offer them a physical reward, a true no-no. Players will find a way to get that reward without actually working for it. Although they will call it work.

A fully functional PVP planet would have done wonders for the end game environment. Imagine logging on only to find all of the bases you logged off owning on the PVP planet were now nearly all gone and that you're faction was under siege! You're PVE bonus is now gone instead of 30% extra loot and money and XP from PVE, you're only getting a 1% PVE-XP boost. There goes that power leveling session you were planning, so instead you decide to go kick some enemy booty (which interestingly also gives XP and PVP rewards)!

But alas, no. This was not how Ilum turned out at all. Take a few nodes with rockets. Get a champion bag. Oh, and the real brain child: “We can force people to PVP by putting objects that they have to pick up in one location on the map, creating a virtual bottle neck!” Little did they even realize that we would end up fighting with our own faction more over those than we did the other side.

If I had been the game design lead on this game, I would have made the PVP planet one of the top priorities of the game prior to launch.

“Anticipate!? What's that?”

Something Bioware is apparently not doing. Along with all the classic mistakes they continually seem to be making, they continually underestimate the human factor in their game.

The ripple effects that massive changes made all at once will do. Throw one pebble in a pond and the ripples spread out evenly over the surface; throw more than one and the waves will cut into each other in new and unique ways that you could not even foresee.

The issues with cheating for one – then maybe the class changes for another. Human nature, and the base nature of all humans to be absolute ^&*%heads to each other when there is no fear of real world consequences.

Mostly, Bioware, you need to realize what you are doing past the edges of what you think you are doing. Start playing chess and try to play 5 steps ahead of your opponent – and above all else try to make the game original and unique.

Summation.

Now there are plenty of reasons I'm not going to continue playing for now, and yes, I plan to hopefully make it back one day – so you can't “haz mah stuff”, but in truth I'm not entirely sure about that.

I would want to see a lot of changes made to make this game more successful and far more innovative than it currently is. But I don't actually believe in the likelihood of actually having that happen. After all, we saw what happened to the last Star Wars game that tried to copy WOW.

Stuff like:
  • Armor and stats being 100% independent from character design.
  • A wide variety of designs to wear including traditional looks to understated looks to the current (and personally appalling to me in the Star Wars universe) “Lady Gaga” style of look.
  • PVP planet with smart and innovative design. Look at DAOC – seriously.
  • A PVP rewards system that goes MUCH slower than the “expertise” gear advancement system.
  • The removal of PVP stats like expertise. It can be done, has been done, and should be done. There are far better ways to reward PVPers than their own gear line.
  • Faction bonuses and debuffs and buffs for being overpopulated or underpopulated or both in real – time.
  • Mega-Servers. I am astounded this wasn't in at launch.
  • BIG FOR ME: A skill specialization system that doesn't blatantly rip off WOW ( a game I hate ) from 6 years ago. I heard even THEY got rid of it and made a new one. (Look at the Secret World for some inspiration...)
  • The ability to play with my friends from level 1 to level 50 no matter where I am in my personal advancement.
  • An in game Image Designer store that allows for purchase of vanity items and a way to modify your character's appearance. (Why do people call it a Barber shop? Is that a WOW thing?)
  • While on the subject, more variety in body types other than 4 different preset ones. How hard is a height and weight slider? Really?
  • Banning of large mounts on the fleet – buff our run speed instead – call it a homesoil buff or something. (Sorry but parking in front of or on top of vendors get's old little 12 year old guy...)
  • Animal mounts. (Not usable in the fleet or large Urban Cities.)
  • Gonna get a lot of hate on this one. REMOVAL OF ROCKET BOOST. For me this is about as immersion breaking as it gets. The only classes that should get this are Troopers and Bounty Hunters in the current game.
  • Day night cycle. I call BS that it was a design choice – I'm of the opinion that it was more “we didn't have time to implement it with the other stuff we had to do”. Day night cycles are a part of what makes planets come to life.

There's more. But this is just a fraction of what comes to mind right now.

Will I be back? Maybe. It's subjective to say anything other than if they make the game I want to play. I might come back despite them making it less of a game I want to play. But making it more of a game I want to play, I think other players would find that exciting too.

Just my two cents.

If I had been the game design lead on this game, this game that we play would be vastly different, and most likely superior to what we have now.

It's hard to say though, expectations are a tricky thing.

Good luck to you all, and may the force be with you. Always.

P.S. The one thing I will give you mad props for is the removal of the gold spammers. You should sell that to the other guys.

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Sendai Sa'teph - Bria - Rank of Master
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Griefing doesn't make you cool. It doesn't make you better player. All it does is tell the rest of the world that you are not someone worth knowing.

OmegaMayhem's Avatar


OmegaMayhem
07.15.2012 , 10:47 PM | #2
Do you really expect anyone to read all of that?

Ostith's Avatar


Ostith
07.15.2012 , 10:47 PM | #3
No offense here but your gigantic wall of text is your opinion of what the game should be and not what the game is or what the developers have made. I'm not saying your ideas are bad but this is not the game you are looking for. You clearly have a very precise idea of what an mmo should be and you should possibly pursue a career in the business. This game is not what you wanted it to be and it will likely never be everything you want it to be. Like it for what it is and subscribe or move on to something else. Prepare for this thread to go downhill.

PS: Just thought I'd share for no reason. I played SWG for over 2 years and unlocked my jedi before the village. I also quit the game after the NGE and demanded a refund for the expansion that they tricked us into buying.
Intel i7 2600k @ 4.3 Ghz- Asus P8Z68-V Pro - 16GB Corsair XMS3 2000 Mhz - Mushkin Chronos 120GB SSD (2 x Raid 0) - Western Digital Caviar Black 500GB HDD (4 x Raid 0) - 2 x Asus HD 6950 2GB (Crossfire) - CoolerMaster 1000w Modular PSU

FourTwent's Avatar


FourTwent
07.15.2012 , 11:01 PM | #4
if only they let you type in some text when you cancel your subscription so that you can tell the developers your story and why you're leaving. . .oh wait

Thornsbane's Avatar


Thornsbane
07.15.2012 , 11:40 PM | #5
Quote: Originally Posted by Sendai_S View Post

If I had been the game design lead on this game, this game that we play would be vastly different, and most likely superior to what we have now.
Of course it would be. *Pats on head*

Oh......gimme ur gearz!

Andryah's Avatar


Andryah
07.16.2012 , 12:08 AM | #6
Quote: Originally Posted by Sendai_S View Post
Just my two cents.
Don't under rate yourself. That was waaaaaaaay more then 2 cents.

I don't agree with any of it.
Judgments are often inaccurate because the brain relies on cognitive biases over hard evidence. Cognitive bias is the tendency to make irrational judgments in consistent patterns. Researchers have found that cognitive bias wreaks havoc by forcing people to make poor, irrational judgments.

Neamhan's Avatar


Neamhan
07.16.2012 , 12:08 AM | #7
I can't imagine why Lucasarts didn't hire you.

oblongship's Avatar


oblongship
07.16.2012 , 12:11 AM | #8
Look at all the SWTOR Defense force here to flame someone actually trying to give valid feed back.

The OP didn't come in and go **** THIS GAME SUX EVEYRONE SHOULD LEAVE LIKE RIGHT NAO"

They made a very smart, tactful post that is constructive.

OP I hope you find a game you are looking for, you aren't alone in your views....thank you for taking the time to share your concerns.

Pplwithnolives's Avatar


Pplwithnolives
07.16.2012 , 12:27 AM | #9
Might as well call the article "Why can't SWTOR be more like Secret World?"
Troll Above

Neamhan's Avatar


Neamhan
07.16.2012 , 12:29 AM | #10
Quote: Originally Posted by oblongship View Post
Look at all the SWTOR Defense force here to flame someone actually trying to give valid feed back.

The OP didn't come in and go **** THIS GAME SUX EVEYRONE SHOULD LEAVE LIKE RIGHT NAO"

They made a very smart, tactful post that is constructive.

OP I hope you find a game you are looking for, you aren't alone in your views....thank you for taking the time to share your concerns.
The place for valid feedback is in the survey they send you after you cancel. That's where I listed my feedback. This thread is just attention 'seeking'.