Saturday, July 18

SWTOR: Voice Over video and let's hope it doesn't beat WOW

It's so, so hard to watch video's like this and not get your hopes up to the point where you can't but be disappointed. On the one hand you have the Star Wars background which, until George Lucas insisted on rebooting it, was one of the best, richest, Space Opera Sci Fi backgrounds out there. And it has Twi'Lek and Wookies. What more could you want?

On the other hand there's Bioware. One of the few studio's to have an unblemished record of bringing rock solid games for over a decade now. In fact, like most people who felt disatisfied with the prequels I'll claim that Bioware's hand at the helm of Knights of the Old Republic, the single player RPG, singlehandedly made up for- and trumped those movies in terms of emotional attachment to characters, overall plotline and, above all, dialogue. Dialogue, the so much missed witty repartee of the original trilogy which George tried to replace with lame one-liners in Episode II after realising he'd not put any into Episode I. Dialogue, not monologue, is important. Bioware gets that.

What Bioware, in the past, has also 'got' is to not overhype their products in advance. When they're publicly enthusiastic about something, it's usually in a tempered, sensible manner. Unlike nearly every other studio they normally try their best not to get your hopes up to the point where you're bound to be disappointed no matter what. They also have the recent history of Mythic's overhype of Warhammer Online to look at. So when Bioware gets really excited about things like more content then every other Bioware game put together and fully voiced to boot it's really hard not to get similarly excited. Even when the scope they're hinting at is mindbogling.
It's really hard not to get giddy as a Breezer-totting school-girl about this game. It's the frnachise bereft of the bad taste the prequels left behind, the original nostalgia, the Twi'lek and the solid work Bioware's been churning out so far.

You have to remind yourself that every Bioware game released after the Baldur's Gate cyclus good be played through in 24 to 48 hours. I remember finishing Mass Effect's main storyline 36 hours after purchasing it. With 4.5 hours of sleep in between. So even with the best, most awesome story and dialogue driven content out there you'd go through it in a matter of months. Of course I also get the feeling this game might be a bit altitis inducing in a CoX-like manner. But I do hope they noticed something Richard Barttle suggested with his 'three girls' presentation. Start out as the guided amusement park tour and slowly, gradually move towards a sand-box End Game (preferably reminiscent of the depth of pre NGE SWG or Eve Online).

So, will this be big? Even if Bioware's doing their usual underplaying, the hype is rising. I hope they do an early pre-order programme so they have an inkling of how bad it's going to be at launch. I'm not that quick to say this but this one might be as big as WOW, at launch. You never know how hard it's going to crash and burn after though. And maybe I want it to. Sounds odd doesn't it? But as immersive, as emotional attaching as this game looks set to become, I can't help but feel that I'd rather not share such an experience with 8 Million people if you know what I mean? As grand scaled as Star Wars has always been, there's also always been a private, intimate sense to it. Like a guilty pleasure. I have a hard time fitting that into the MMO's potential to be huge.

Time will tell, but for now I'm trying to hold on to my reservations as tight as I can, in the face of Bioware's onslaught of awesomeness.
In case you forgot what that is, here's the E3 2009 trailer. Repeat to yourself while watching that the game can never be as cool as the trailer, or can it?

Also, this was the only way to get a long enough post to esnure that horrible picture ends up well below the fold :-)


  1. It's interesting how people look at things completely differently. Kaen from Kaen and Greav appears to only see what he fears may be lacking in SWTOR from an MMO puritan point of view. Melf_Himself probably put it best himself how I feel about that. According to some, what the world really needs is another by the numbers EQ/WOW clone without any, any deviation. It doesn't matter if you're entire approach is at a 90 degrees angle to that old approach. It must play as that one game. It's why ArenaNet called Guild Wars an CORPG rather than an MMO and why many who never tried it will still scoff at it despite its obvious success as one of two actually 'working' PvE/PvP online RPG games out there. Oddly enough the other one of that kind is also heavily instanced. Yet for some reason ultr-instance game Eve is acceptable as an MMORPG, whereas something closer to the WOW staple isn't. Odd that.

  2. I am actually agreeing with Keen, and Melf_Himself is as usual too full of himself. The game looks great, and I am looking forward to playing it. But the whole feel of the game has a single player experience to it. Which is just fine. I don't mind paying my $15/month for a great game.

    It is a bit like Tortage. I loved it! And I have played through it about 8 times now, still loving it. But it is not the best for teaming, and definitely not for role playing. You are kind of forced into your scripted story by the events around you. You can't really create your own story, or make lively characters as you can in Vanguard or City of Heroes.

    That doesn't mean at all it will be a bad game. And Keen doesn't think so either. It is not MM nor RP.

    I did like the very first comment on Keen's post. "I'm fine if the game is just a new KotoR with some MMO endgame". That sums up very nicely a WOW tourist. But I think we have all ranted over endgame junkies enough.

  3. And my apologies for being such a louzy updater. Work has been exceptionally busy, and my gaming has been Vanguard throughout in which nothing happened I can blog much about. I haven't even keeping up with Lani's reader thingy. Which usually tickles my brain and typing desires.

    of course having that picture on the top of page had nothing to do with it :)

  4. That first comment kinda sums up my own expectations and how I feel about it too. But if I'd posted that, 'that picture' would still have been at the top :-)

    I don't mind people being full of themselves if what they say is interesting. That's why I follow Brad McQuaid's blog. I do think you're undervaluing the RP potential of Bioware games. It _is_ more restricted than in an MMO freedom-wise I agree. The balance to that the dialogue and 'acting' and such are a lot more immersive than trying to emote to an NPC with someone trying /dance1-8 and roflcoptoring next to you :-)
    I always liken Bioware games to interactive movies. As you know I prefer books over movies a lot of the time for the greater stimuli of my imagination. I'd hesitate to compare 'regular' MMO's to books though. Maybe to fan fiction, which is horrendous most of the time :-)

    Ach, maybe it's just because I played Guild Wars which also had you in a straight-jacket of a storyline (without Bioware's usual 3-5 paths to pick from. They not only wrote the book on conversation trees, they also wrote the sequels) and found my imagination wealthy enough to fill in the blanks and reject ArenaNet's reality to resubmit my own where needed. In short, game has to be fun first, RPG second, MMO third. In fact, this might mean my worries about the intimacy level are invalid. Still I wouldn't mind kicking buttock on a bridge with you or Geekz0r either.

  5. Oh, by comparison. Tortage was great for an RPG experience in an MMO. Compared to a Bioware RPG it was incredibly shallow in terms of freedom of choice and depth of dialogue e.t.c. Which doesn't mean it was bad. I read both Steve Erikson and web comics and enjoy both :-)

  6. Something I just read:

    He’ll take from my book what he can bring to it. The dull witted will get dullness and the brilliant may find things in my book I didn’t know were there.

    I think that applies to games too.

  7. If you think SWTOR vs Tortage is like Erikson vs webcomic I am certain you are going to be seriously disappointed. My expectations might be a bit too low (which is a good thing since I will be happily surprised), but I think SWTOR will not be that far away from Tortage.

    The book vs movie analogy does work great here. I think SWTOR is going to be an brilliant movie. Probably the best I've ever seen. And I'll love it. And hopefully I will watch it over and over. But it will not be a book. Since I love books as much as movies that is not accusation. Just the way the game shaping up.

  8. No that's not what I was angling at.
    If Tortage is a regular book, then a Bioware game is one of those old adventure game/book stories where you'd have entries which end with "if you want to go through the door to your left go to entry #357 and if you want to go through the door on your right, go to entry #111". Or to put it another way, what I'd expect from a Bioware Single RPG would be to have all the Archetype Tortage storylines available as branching options for your single character. And since Bioware claims there's more content for each class than there is in a single Bioware game, I expect more of same.

    A Bioware game is more a movie than a book, I agree. I just think MMO's in general are less like a book than a Bioware game. Tortage was a good attempt at making a movie-like game. The approach is different and to me more restrictive than what I'd expect from Bioware. What happens after Tortage in Age of Conan isn't bookish (on a movie-book slider) to me though. There's another slider/comparison involved somewhere. Web comics aren't on that though so my apologies for using a bad analogy :-)

  9. Come to think of it, the book analogy isn't all that good either really. Books stimulate the imagination more, but it's as much a guided tour as a movie is. The book/games I mentioned really are more text-adventures in printed form. Not books.

    Both movies and books, if great enough will spark your imagination to think about what else happens in that world, time, IP e.t.c. The smae can happen to games like Vanguard or Guild Wars even. This is when the world truly becomes alive. It's what used to spark games being made. P&P RPG's and compuer games for instance. This was before blockbuster movies got computer games made by default. It's that quality, the incentive to go beyond the story as told to you that we're talking about. Even though that is irrespective of the medium (movie, game, book) I get that a lot more with books than with movies. But there are some movies which have sparked such as Star Wars, Aliens, Bladerunner, Firefly. Interesting that all these are Scifi while the book-stories that get me daydreaming are more often than not Fantasy.

  10. Having been tortured over the last few days with one of the worst online communites I've come across... I welcome multiple instancing with open arms - Bring it on! Maybe because GW was my first online gaming experience I've been spoilt, the idea of only those I wish to spend time with, who don't spoil my immersion and who add to the experience being the sole living occupants of a world full of NPC's appeals to me. I guess GW made me a social RPG player rather than a hardcore MMO player. In real life I'm fussy about who I spend time with, same goes for the virtual world too. That's not to say I'm elitist, I'm always open to meeting new people in whatever environment but quality over quantity every time :)

    Keen assumes too much though, it seems he headed down a dead end one way street of his own making. It's just as likely that the world will be mostly open and cutscenes exist for you or your current group, it's just as logical to say the world will be open as it is to say closed. Those are his own fears, he can live with them, personally I'll just wait for facts and despite my opening paragraph if the game is as good as it's looking and completely persisitant I'll still be diving in head first.

    Tortage, lovely, lovely Tortage, it is a great RPG experience after that though the game does fall flat a little but it still remains more of a social RPG for PvE players right up until 'endgame' when you can choose the hamster wheel of raiding or choose to move on to MMO's new. Raiding is probably the only time you realise it is a fully fledged MMO in that respect. Three lvl 80's none of who'm had to group to get to max.

    Nice choice of films Lani, it is in fact the flmic quality of some MMO's and RPG's that I rave about to my friends, I may not read books but I do like my movies.

    WoW *sigh* if I never see that acronym again it will be too soon. I've been posting in a beta forum consisting of WoW tourists or those who think they have seen the light and become so distant from their MMO beginnings that WoW is teh evil! ...It's like those reformed smokers who suddenly start moaning about the smell of cigarettes after forgetting their previous addiction and what it felt like. My one wish at this point in time is to erase WoW and all memory of it from the face of the planet so new games can actually be approached properly without constant reference to that behemoth.

  11. I did some more thinking too, and the book/movie analogy does not indeed not really work. SWTOR is still like a great movie. But COH and Vanguard are something else. To me at least. I had great time in AOC, but it missed what I really gets me addicted to to the other two games. There I can really make my own personalities. And my fear from what I have seen so far of SWTOR it will be hard to there too. If everything is voiced over it means you only have so many options about what you can say. Thus making your character very static.

    I actually realized I am a bit of a COH tourist. As Geek is probably a GW tourist. We played these games for so long with so much joy, it is only logic we want the good bits repeating in any next game. And Keen is the same. He is just mentioning some worries.

    I don't have too much issues with people being full of them selves, but Melf's post sounds more like a fanboi piece. "If you have concerns about certain game designs you have to be WOW tourist who can't accept change. Unlike me, who is great."

    Oh, and one more. (great post, btw Lani. got us talking again)

    Geeky's comment that GW made you a social MMO-er in stead of an hardcore MMO-er. I always though I am a social MMO-er, and definitely not a hardcore MMO-er. Well, at least not in that sense of the word. My biggest worry for SWTOR at the moment is that it is not social enough. Interesting to see we still have quite different views on things :)

  12. "Oh, and one more. (great post, btw Lani. got us talking again) "
    It was? Then why am I still awaiting someone commenting on the post itself rather than my first comment? :-)

    I just don't see the full of himself Melf, nor do I recognize your "quoted" sentiment at all. What Melf is reacting upon is Keen's pompous "it must have this feature or it will suck" attitude. If anyone is full of something it's Keen who is full off preconceptions of what something must be in order to be an MMORPG. Melf aptly attacks that by saying anyone bringing out an MMO game better not call it MMORPG 'cause it'll get tons of people full of preconceptions to condemn it beforehand just because it's not as their (insert favorite MMO game acronym) tourist mentality wants it to be.

    But that's just more of what my first comment said. it's interesting how different people get completely different things from something, anything. It's what you bring to it yourself which defines what you'll get out of it in the end.

    Btw Geek, which community have you been using to feed your sadom masochistic tendencies? :-)

  13. Btw, if any of you think we're nitpicking here, go check out this dissection of the video and see how much we missed. i.e. about 98% of what's there to see :-)

  14. *grin* the comment wouldn't have been there without the post. And most of what I wanted to say is about that video. Just getting dragged away about our conflicting views of some blogsphere folks. Maybe anybody that writes a blog is full of himself *bigger grin*

    Maybe I should find a copy of Kotor somewhere and get a feel what bioware and starwars is really about. I still refuse to watch the movies though.

    Or probably even smarter would be to finally install and play my copy of Mass Effect.

  15. Mass Effect is the most cinematic of Bioware's movies. I mean games :-)
    It's also the most restrictive I feel. Their Good vs Evil axis got a bit stale in that game.
    KoToR is still one of the bes Single Player RPG's out there. I loved how I got completely blindsided by the plot twist because i'd been so caught up in the story, the side-quests, the budding romance that I was making a sub-concious choice not to pursue a certain line of hints because bigger issues were at stake. *Grin* boy did I get a surprise :-)

    Anyway, if you cna't find KoToR, Jade Empire is available on XBOX 360 Live as a cheap download. It's the "least" of the post NWN games I think, but still a pretty decent game.

    And you're right, we're all full of it :-)