Thursday, June 23, 2011

So...why SW:TOR?

So why not Rift, or Aion, or DCUO (that's the one with Batman, and he's my favorite!)? I think my wife best summed up why SW:TOR is the MMO to pay attention to when she said, "deep down, everyone wants to be a Jedi."

I should backtrack a bit. Two weeks ago my wife mentioned to me that now might be a good time for me to stop raiding for good. Her argument went something like, "I don't see you during the day, so I damn well better see you at night...also, shouldn't you be doing dishes right now?!" This was followed by a debate about video games, during which I may have pointed out to her that she'd once had her very own World of Warcraft account (ostensibly so that we had something to do together while I was stationed in Georgia and she was working in Ohio). She claimed to have outgrown video games, and declared herself disinterested in ever again playing another. Then, after much cajoling, I showed her this. Which was promptly followed by an extensive research session, where we investigated the playable races and the Jedi Shadow Advanced Class.

It would be easy to brush this off as a casual gamer being enticed by a new game and its "better than all three Star Wars prequels" CGI trailer, so I put the game to a real test. I sent a link to my father. The last game that my dear old dad played with any gusto was snood, and the last time he played a video game with me or my brothers was NHL '94. Seriously. At the height of my time in WoW, when I was co-owner of my own raid guild and both of my brothers were in it with me, we never came close to getting Dad to try the dang game. But he agreed to try out SW:TOR (on the condition that both of my brothers and I join him).

WoW has done a lot to revamp their leveling process, make the quests more intuitive and interesting, and generally make the game welcoming to new players, all of which is moot, because there's no hook to get those new players into the game. SW:TOR has that hook built in. My soon to be 60 year old father saw the original trilogy in the theaters back in the 70s, loved them, and then went about outgrowing video games as they became increasingly time consuming and demanding (in the sense of demanding a learned skill set and new muscle memory). Dad played pong. He suffered through NHL hockey on the Sega Genesis with its relatively intuitive controller commands, and then ducked out right around the time Zelda came out for the Nintendo 64. The only way that Bioware can keep a customer like my father is by making sure that the game doesn't force unintuitive mechanics on its players, keeps bait on the glorious Star Wars hook that they have, and isn't overly difficult for non-gamers to get a handle on.

Bioware definitely has a handle the first two issues. Plot is their mantra, and every review I've read seems to confirm that they've really nailed the plot --> immersion experience. Likewise the controls for the game will almost certainly be intuitive, just based on KOTOR and the intense Beta that Bioware's been running (they've already scrapped their first go at a UI based on user feedback, which is a good sign for the combat system). But that third point is the one that worries me. My father will probably never be soloing anything in SW:TOR, he'll have at least one of his sons questing with him. However, he cannot be the only non-gamer contemplating a foray into the MMO morass for this Star Wars title, and a lot of those guys are going to be going it alone. The people inclined to participate in the Beta are almost certainly old MMO hands, and so they will likely want a higher level of difficulty and challenge in their solo endeavors than a non-gamer would. All that being said, if the hook is strong enough - if the plot is engrossing enough to drive even the most casual of non-gaming gamers to pursue it with gusto - then new gamers will learn the MMO skill set without even noticing it.

SW:TOR is a game to pay attention to. People may mock it as WoW with lightsabers, but WoW is the most popular game in the genre for a reason. If all that Bioware has done is take the WoW formula and immerse it in a deep and involved plot that happens to be based in an already exceptionally popular sci-fi setting, it could easily crush everything that's come before it. Either way, I'll be there playing it with my dad.

1 comment:

  1. Hooray dad! Btw, great profile picture haha. Thanks to Dusty? Hooray Dusty!