Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Some more SW:TOR thoughts on day 2.

No opportunity to play yet.

Browsing support forums.

-Paying customer:  My game won't work because X.
(Replace X with just about any bug you like.  Heavy lag, memory leaks, launcher errors, stuck character.  You know, stuff they should have ironed out in beta.) 

-Y:  Just relax, BioWare is doing everything they can to fix these issues.
(Replace Y with either "Fanboy," "Troll," "One of the few people who are not experiencing issues," or a combination of these.)

A more in depth overview would also include flame wars between the above parties and the occasional post about the game's non-existant, or worse, customer service.

So here I was, excited about the game.  Sucked into the hype machine.  And now I'm being spit out the other side to find all of this.  I can't wait to actually try playing this game...

The really disappointing thing about all of this is that SW:TOR has been put under a lot of pressure not to simply rehash World of Warcraft with new skins.  Now from what I have heard and seen of the game they have failed to bring much to the table we have note already seen in WoW.  Sadly, it seems the area in which they have decided to branch away from WoW's model is Customer Service.  WoW and Blizzard are know for their good customer service and interaction with/response to its player base.  Thus far, SW:TOR has not done much to help, or even pacify, its unsatisfied customers during a launch rife with issues.

Here is an incomplete list of issues I have read about which make the game fairly unplayable as of right now:

1.) Broken launcher.  Will not launch the game.

2.) Launcher will not update. 

3.)  Random crashes.  These often return players to queues for servers which can be hours long.

4.) Unsolicited assignment to the aforementioned full servers due to erroneously assumed affiliation with guilds assigned to those servers.

5.)  Inability to install the game.  Sometimes even the downloadable client fails to install.

6.) Huge lag spikes.

7.)  Memory leaks.

8.) Graphical issues.

9.)  Character stuck in one spot without the ability to do anything.

Some other issues:

1.) In game items go missing.

2.) In game mail not working.

3.) General lack of faith in any mechanics claimed.

Now this would all seem to be cause for alarm on the part of the developers.  However, they have remained mostly silent and when they do respond it's in the form of, well, form letters.

Somehow, however, people find it in themselves to defend the game.

I assume these people just want the game to be good so badly that they have blinded themselves to the evidence or that they have somehow managed to slip through the cracks without any issues.

Nevertheless, their arguments seem weak when compared to the substantial amount of crap people have gone through in an effort to avoid having squandered their $60 (or more) investment in the game.  Especially since their most common argument seems to be "Well it worked for me so you're wrong."

However, the most thought provoking response from a defender seemed to me to be the one which asked, "Why would BioWare make a game if they didn't want people to play it?"

That got me thinking and maybe I have an answer.

BioWare is a highly respected maker of single player games.  This is their first foray into MMOs.  They were able to hype this particular game on the grounds that their previous games were so exquisite and dynamic that they already felt somewhat multiplayer and that the transition to an MMO was natural.  Oh yeah, and it's star wars.  The combination of Star Wars fans and BioWare fans is too powerful to leave this game unnoticed.

So now the hype machine is in place.  What next?  The simple answer might be...nothing much.  Why put much effort into a game that is almost guaranteed to fly off the shelves?  People were saying it was going to rival World of Warcraft almost even before it was announced.  And the more people say this the more people believe it.  I did.

So make a mediocre game that looks pretty decent in the open beta and you're good to go.  Will people want to play it?  Who cares as long as they buy a copy, right? 

From the perspective of a subscription based game this might not make much sense.  If no one wants to play the game after they buy it then what's the point?  Well the point is that BioWare has always been a single player, non-subscription based company.  The other point is that the game costs $60 minimum. 

If we look at numbers, KOTOR, Bioware's other major star wars release, sold approximately 270,000 copies in the first several weeks after release.

Compare that to SW:TOR, which costs at least $10 more, which has sold an estimated 1.5 million copies in the first DAY.

That's difficult to spin as a failure, even if subscriptions taper off.

Add to that the fact that the purpose of a monthly subscription is to provide consistent updates and support for the game.  It seems that right now BioWare is doing neither of these things.  And to be honest, they might not need to.

It seems obvious that players who care enough to jump through the numerous hoops BioWare has presented in order to play this game might be satisfied with, simply, a working version of the game.  If this is the case and SW:TOR only retains a small fraction of their dedicated customers and loses many times more subscriptions to bugs and lack of support, this will still be a win for them.  They have already out-sold KOTOR based on hype alone and the few stalwart subscribers they retain will not complain when they don't get new content or quick bug fixes so why even use their subscription dollars to that end? 

At this point in time, it seems that SW:TOR will make its money in game sales and then wash their hands of this MMO business.  They will have done what they set out to do and their failure to make a good gaming experience will be masked by the perception that no MMO can compete with WoW.  "Oh, SW:TOR failed?  Well I guess WoW is too powerful to compete with.  I don't think any less of BioWare because of this.  Derp."

Obviously all of this is idle speculation at this point.  It's day 2 and I haven't even played the game for God's sake.  I hope I'm wrong and that the game turns out to be as good as everyone wants it to be.  However, from what I have read and experienced for myself, my hope does not extend too far.

SWTOR initial impressions

Pre-order?  Nah, I have games to play already.  If I don't get the game on launch day I'm still set for a while.

The closer to launch we get the more good I hear about sw:tor.  The more my curiosity mounts. 

Launch day.  Excited.  Very curious.  To Best Buy!

Wow, lots of copies still on the shelf.  Grabbed.  To home!

Installing disc 1.  So far so good.  Game is 20+GB.  Take doggie for walk during installation.

Back home.  "Installation Failed."  Another try.  Failed.  To the support forums!

Scanning forums.  Look crappy.  Layout jumbled, no search function. 

Create account.  New thread.

"You do not have permission..."  Wtf?

To the interwebz! 

Uninstall C++.  Scan HDD for errors.  Retry installation.  Failed.

Resort to download.  Erg, 20+GB, 700kB/s.  Could have saved trip to best buy.

Suppose I will be able to play tomorrow...maybe.