Monday, April 16, 2012

In Search of Fun

Last weekend, I was on WoW when a guildie posed a question to some others who'd been AFK for a while:

"So, how was SW?"

There was a slight pause, and the response was "It was fun until it wasn't."

"You know," I chimed in, "I've been hearing that a lot lately."

And I have.  This isn't a TOR issue either, because I know of people who left WoW for TOR and haven't looked back.  And if you read the general chat areas of places like Age of Conan you'll find loads of people who delight in bashing WoW and announcing how more awesome their current MMO is.

But still, in this case let's talk about TOR and WoW.  What was it that TOR was missing?  Or, for those who still play TOR and have not looked back, what is it that TOR has?


  1. I can only speak from personal experience and from observing those around me, but basically the ones that still love and enjoy SWTOR all seem to be in friendly guilds and enjoy grouping up.

    The ones who went back to WoW on the other hand might have enjoyed the single player component of the class story, but don't like having to rely on other people at endgame, because you pretty much have to co-operate with others at some point in SWTOR. Yes, you can queue up for warzones or do dailies on your own, but you'll keep running into the same people and eventually someone will ask you to group up. I do suspect that a lot of players who treated the game like a single-player RPG actually found that intrusive... while at the same time being annoyed that other players weren't always available to help them out when needed.

    By that I don't mean to say that these players are asocial, but that they prefer the WoW style of hopping in and out of the game and having everything available at the push of a button with no strings attached. For me this is exactly what killed WoW for me though, because even though I had friends in the game, they never played with me except in pre-arranged raids. Everyone just logged on and automatically went off to do their own thing. Asking people to do a guild run actually felt like being a nuisance, because you were basically expecting them to hold off and wait for other guildies to come online.

    In other words, for me the most important difference is that I feel SWTOR rewards grouping and making friends where WoW punishes it (outside of raiding).

    1. @Shintar-- That's an interesting thought. I know that in some games, such as Age of Conan, the quests are designed with heavy grouping in mind. Even solo quests at-level in AoC can prove difficult to achieve because of how the mobs move/group together and their respawn rates. When there's nobody around, my work in AoC tends to grind to a halt. By comparison, WoW and (to a lesser extent LOTRO) are very solo friendly, even to the point of doing all the work of grouping for you.

  2. Well, I started out all fired up about SW:ToR - preordered a Digital Collector's Edition and started playing with pre-launch access. However, as the months have rolled by my enthusiasm has faltered. I can't point to any one big deal breaker; it's rather a lot of small things that are grating on my "fun sense". Part of it is that SW:ToR current feels a lot like TBC-era WoW, which had been great if I was still the same person that I was back then. This is of course a wholly personal preference thing, and that's why I'll be leaving without any drama and with a "Good luck and have fun!" to all of those still enjoying the game.

    Some of things I dislike slightly more are:
    - The leveling is a bit too sequential with regards to the available zones/planets. Your class quests will force you to visit the same planets, in basically the same order, every time you level a new character. I had to change my main just as I was finishing up Act I with him, and have leveled up a new one to the end of Act I. I now dread the prospect of leveling another toon any time soon, and yet this is supposed to be one of the more interesting aspects of the game with the legacy system and all?
    - I would love if you could choose what companions filled what roll (or if we could get dual-spec). As a trooper I liked Elara, but unfortunately I was a Commando healer so she was of little use to me in any real fights. As a Jedi Shadow tank, I almost exclusively quest with Tharan despite disliking him, instead of Qyzen who I actually like.
    - There is a lot of travel time while questing (Looking at you, Alderaan!), which means less time to actually have fun when you're on a tight play time schedule. Sometimes it almost feels like those crazy, continent-hopping quests from the last few levels of Vanilla WoW.
    - Not enough classes as the advance classes in many aspects doesn't differ that much from each other. Un-fun from an altoholic perspective, and makes it hard to choose what class you want to play completely freely in a small guild ("We already have 3 willpower, light armor users").
    - The environment feels more like a bunch of theatre backdrops than a living environment. As an explorer type player, the first thing I feel in love with in WoW was the environment. You could click on all animals and NPCs, and you could fish in almost any body of water! (I know this is something most people don't agree on, but to me it is important for my immersion.)
    - The class stories I have done so far (Jedi Consular and Trooper, both to the end of Act I) started off rather interesting, but sort of spluttered out later on, especially the Consular story gets a bit ludicrous when you confront the umpteenth sick Jedi master. Again, wasn't story the famous "fourth pillar" and the unique selling point of SW:ToR?
    - A generally lack of polish compared to WoW - I know that this from a logically point of view is an utter rubbish complaint, but I still can't shake it. If Bioware wants to compete against WoW, they better start polishing up the game soon, because Blizzard sure ain't going to waiting for you to catch up.

    All in all, SW:ToR is not a bad game in any meaning, but for me, WoW currently offers more fun and variety for my €15/month. If SW:ToR survives another year so that Bioware has the chance to add more content and polish, or if it goes F2P (perish the thought?), my prioritites may very well change.


    1. @Rosencrantz-- I think the questing issues you're feeling are because of how Bioware wants to tell the story. Just like WoW with the Cata revamp and the phasing; the linearity and lack of a sandbox type atmosphere are because of the story they want to tell.

      The travel time issues were only solved in WoW by the massive proliferation of flight points; well, that and the reorganizing of the quest chains to spoon feed you from one location to the next. Your comparison of TOR with TBC is very apt in this regard, because the Outland quests did have their fair share of long quest travel times and lack of variety --although Cata had a large variety deficit too until you get to the Twilight Highlands-- and TBC did have a good amount of group-oriented quests.

      For all of the MMO aging issues they have, Blizz does have a 7+ year head start on Bioware in running MMOs. The real question now becomes whether Bioware is a quick learner or not.

  3. I just recently saw The Stoppable Force back in game. wow to sw to wow again. Im sure they are keeping some people of course but im sure the return to wow is measurable.

    I was trying to find an email to message you. Please send me one at hydra at twistednether dot com

    1. I saw his response and the comments, and the only thing I can think of is that the Cata leveling experience sounds remarkably like what they're describing. Until I hit Storm Peaks and Icecrown and got to the massive deviations between Horde and Alliance quests, I was ready to scream. Even then, leveling by questing in WoW isn't very sandbox-oriented in the post-Cata design.

      The more I've read and thought about it, the more I wonder whether people want a good story or whether they want a big Star Wars sandbox MMO. There is a sliding scale present in how many elements of each you can put in a game, but people wanting both extremes in a single game are going to be disappointed.

      I'll ping you, Hydra. I know I keep close tabs on my e-mail accounts, but I guess we ought to put together a blog e-mail for generic purposes. If you'd have told me 3.5 years ago that we'd need one, I'd have thought you were crazy.