Hyperspace Beacon: Star Wars The Old Republic’s Uncle Owen problem

When Star Wars: The Old Republic first released, an old Star Wars Galaxies argument popped up, and the crux of that argument was this: “No one wants to be Uncle Owen.” If we say that SWG pre-NGE was the Uncle Owen game, where players could successfully play a simple moisture farmer, and compare it to SWTOR, where you can be a member of the Dark Council, then we would see that SWTOR is clearly the winner if we are talking about the sheer number of players. However, SWG was one of the founding MMOs; it helped kickstart the genre. There were just not that many people playing MMORPGs at that time, so comparing the raw numbers is a bit unfair.

The argument continues. If we look at the story in the upcoming Battlefront II game, we see a kind of Uncle Owen story. The main protagonist of the game is a Commander of a squadron of Imperial soldiers that we have never heard of until now. Her name is Iden Versio, and she is, for all intents, a faceless Stormtrooper. Star Wars fans are very excited about playing through this storyline. I’m one of them.

However, the biggest place where we see the Uncle Owen controversy is in the SWTOR roleplay community, and I believe that if we study their arguments for and against playing a powerful character, we will gain a greater understanding why some storylines work and others do not.

Let’s put aside misconceptions

First of all, I would like to say the statements “No one wants to be Uncle Owen” and “Everyone wants to be a Jedi” are completely wrong. We all know this. Even if we put aside the fact that those statements are completely hyperbolic, it discounts those gamers who actually like to be the Han Solos and Jyn Ersos of the Star Wars Universe. And as I make the arguments for each side, I want to be clear: Playing a character who doesn’t use space magic or doesn’t have all the power of the galaxy in his hand is a perfectly viable and fun way to live in the Star Wars Universe. But for the sake of the argument, I have to ask whether there is enough interest to make it a worthwhile pursuit from both a developer perspective and a player perspective.

I would also like to clarify what I consider a success when it comes to the MMO space. In a contest of raw numbers, EverQuest can’t come close to touching World of Warcraft, but I believe that EQ had just as much impact on the genre as the mammoth from Blizzard. But if it hadn’t been for EQ, a game like WoW would not exist, so in this case, EQ was a tremendous success on multiple fronts. For this reason, I measure success not only on raw numbers but on the game’s impact on the greater genre. Under those parameters, I would say that SWG was also a success, even though the number of players at any given moment was not as high as a modern blockbuster. The game made a heavy mark on Star Wars games and MMOs, and players still use it a gauge for quality systems like crafting.

An argument against Uncle Owen

I think we have heard the argument that everyone likes to feel powerful, and I’m not going to deny that. There is a definitely an endorphin boost when your character grows into a behemoth of the Force. The Dark-Side ending for Knights of the Old Republic was great: millions of people bowing down to the all-powerful Darth Revan, right?

But that’s not all there is to playing a powerful character.

I recently saw a roleplayer who goes by Seraph in the Ebon Hawk community say something interesting in the Citadel Discord chat. She said, “In the books and in the games, it implies that there is a larger level of politics that Sith engage in once they become a Darth.” As someone who likes the Netflix show House of Cards and really enjoys the political side of Game of Thrones, I admit that the idea that there is another “game” beyond gaining the top Imperial rank excites me. In the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion, we see a taste of this struggle in the scenes with Empress Acina and Minister Lorman.

Without the ability to rise to the top, we would not be able to see the political game. As Uncle Owen, we would just be attempting to survive — making a living in our own little world, as the galactic powerhouses fight each other. Not that there isn’t merit to that kind of struggle — there is! — but it’s not necessarily fun for everyone.

An argument against player power

Once you’re at the top, where do you go? If you are the Emperor of the Eternal Empire and have defeated the galaxy’s greatest enemy ever, what is there left to do besides rest on your laurels? Currently, that’s the issue with Star Wars: The Old Republic. The conflict at Iokath is interesting, but siding with the Empire or the Republic kind of loses its impact when you already have the most powerful army in the galaxy and could easily take out either one of those other factions.

It’s common for many people to say that the real game of the MMORPG doesn’t actually start until you’ve hit the level cap. What I believe most people are trying to say is that the game changes drastically when you hit the top. And that’s true of storytelling, too. When you’re emperor of the galaxy, the game changes from gaining your position to defending your position. It’s Robert Baratheon syndrome. Conquering the seven kingdoms is one thing, but if you don’t know how to play the game of thrones, then the kingdoms will crumble underneath you.

I don’t have a good answer

I really enjoy political games. I really enjoy stories of kings and gods, but Uncle Owen, Walter White, and Rick Grimes all have very interesting stories to tell, too. What is a developer or a community leader supposed to do? Can you make a game where Uncle Owen and Darth Vader are both playable characters?

I hate leaving an article with more questions than answers, but I don’t think that the answer lies with me anyway. The answer lies with you. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Every other week, Larry Everett jumps into his T-16 back home, rides through the hypergates of BioWare‘s Star Wars: The Old Republic, and posts his adventures in the Hyperspace Beacon. Drop him a holocom on Twitter @Shaddoe or send him a transmission at larry@massivelyop.com. Now strap yourself in, kid — we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!
SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Code of Conduct | Edit Your Profile | Commenting FAQ | Badge Reclamation | Badge Key

LEAVE A COMMENT

45 Comments on "Hyperspace Beacon: Star Wars The Old Republic’s Uncle Owen problem"

Subscribe to:
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most liked
Reader
Loyal Patron
Karl Maurer

I have every class variant at level cap (and most of them at ‘story cap’) in SWTOR and I find myself not very interested in playing them as I would just be grinding command xp and doing the same endgame content again and again. Instead, I play less often, leveling alts with friends, on different servers, to level the legacies there, and just to play with some friends that have NOT hit level cap enough to be tired of things. I do this because, currently, it is the only live MMO that has kept a level of interest that keeps me coming back, even if less often than I used to.

I have played other MMOs to level cap. Usually when this happens with one toon, I try to start an alt (or continue playing an alt, if I already started one)… and usually I find I am not interested, really, in playing the same story again, so when the story threads stop being unique play, I stop caring to push on, and go to other alts or other games.

The only MMO that felt different, to me, was City of Heroes. Yes, CoH also suffered from ‘stories converge’ somewhat, especially at endgame and the incarnate system. But each toon could be as unique as you were willing to design them to be. (Champions Online tries HARD to equal this, but falls down on the job, for me, personally – maybe it’s the ‘action combat’… *shrug*.) So when I went through leveling another alt in CoH, it didn’t FEEL like a grind. Of course, part of this MIGHT be due to it being the only MMO I have played that I could regularly have a full group of 8 other players and play the game from start to endgame with that SAME group. (We made a number of ‘theme teams’ over the years.) I have never had a MMO since that 8-12 of my MMO friends all agreed to play on the same weekly schedule, like I did with CoH.

Most MMOs (even SWTOR) limits a player group (outside of raid/operations content) to 4, maybe 5 players in a single xp/loot sharing group. Of course, at this point, outside of the previously lamented CoH, I usually can’t GET 4 of my friends to agree on a single game that they are willing to invest the time in.

SWTOR is a great game, but currently, outside of the occasional exception, it feels like a SOLO RPG and not an MMO. CoH had such a strong sense of community that it always felt like a MMO rather than a SOLO RPG. Yes, you COULD play it solo.

Just as a note here…. EQ, before WoW came around, also had the sense of community that I describe for CoH. Not the same sort of one, but it felt like it was more than the quests in the game. After WoW came out (as well as some others, even SOE’s own EQ2), that started to fade, though the diehards that may still play seem to still have some of that, but it’s a ‘ghost town’ compared to the way it was in ‘the good ol’ days’. SWG before the NGE, had that sense of community that made it what it was. The NGE diluted that because of the number of people that had been strong in the community that got disgusted and left. SWTOR had it rather strongly for the first year, maybe two. But it has faded some as people drifted away to other games, on consoles, social platforms, and elsewhere.

Reader
Alex Malone

I think the question really comes down to whether you want to live in a virtual world, or do you just want to experience a story as a character.

In a virtual world, just like the real world, you need a wide variety of roles to that many different types of personalities can play and form a great community, each somewhat dependant on one another. You need the gathers, the crafters, the fighters, the socialites, the entertainers, the lone wolves…..they all form a symbiotic network of players, each with their own very different but still important roles to play. It only works if each role is important and valued by the community, which means implementing game mechanics of some variety to keep things in balance.

If you just want to experience a story, that balance gets thrown out of the window. For narrated stories to be interesting, epic things need to happen. Stories, especially those told over long periods of time, also suffer from epicness-bloat – if you kill a bad guy in chapter 1, you need to kill a worse guy in chapter 2, then someone even tougher in chapter 3 etc. If the level of epicness drops off, the story can be viewed as trivial and unengaging. For example, if I killed a Nazgul at lvl 50, how am I supposed to get excited about killing an orc at lvl 60?

There is an active and valid market for both approaches to designing games. My issue is that focusing on stories, like SW:TOR, means a narrowing of scope. If your main content is the stories, then all players need to be able to complete the stories, which means everyone needs to have roughly the same role (combat). Everything else becomes a sideshow and unimportant. Stories also do not translate well into the MMO universe, as the narrated story as told through quests is often at odds with what is actually happening in game. In addition, due to everyone being able to complete the main story and thus the majority of the content, there tends to be a complete lack of interdependence. This is really bad for building communities and thus bad for retention.

I personally think that SW:TOR was a massive mistake for Bioware. They should have just stuck to building a KOTOR3, rather than attempting to build an MMO. Virtually every single design choice for the game gets in the way of building a community, from the heavy instancing, linear zones and stories, poor class design, lack of hobbies, pointless crafting to the crap engine. Bioware had the budget, the IP and the talent to create a truly genre-changing game, instead they built a bare bones MMO that only works as a single player game and required rescuing 3 months after launch as it was heading for financial failure.

wandris
Reader
wandris

I think the entire hero archetype and good vs evil plot has been done to death and tired. It is fun but after so many years of it the entire premise becomes predictable. Some of the most interesting stories I have read are ones which are difficult and not happy stories where there is not any real win condition in the end.

Tragic characters, tragic stories seem to stick in my mind for years. Pain teaches, and painful experiences stick and provoke genuinely different ideas. Playing a game as uncle Owen a regular guy living out in the Tatooine badlands surrounded by hostile sand people, and various hostile alien cultures would be a very interesting story. Who is to say on a lawless planet run by the Hutt cartel uncle Owen didn’t break bad during a difficult water farming season, or employed a bit of Rick Grimes style justice on some of his tribal enemies.

Star Wars as a whole has come a long way but to me it seems that it was originally a space fantasy spectacle mashed together just because. Years and popularity have built it into a large work of sci-fi but it follows the same old story for the most part. Good vs Evil, hero vs villian, good wins in the end. This newer era of star wars is a bit more promising though, or perhaps spectacle still has its appeal. I always sort of though there was numerous very similar parallels between star wars and Isaac Asimov’s foundation series which was written decades prior to the movie. That story like most of Asimovs works was way ahead of its time, and very interesting.

amkosh
Reader
amkosh

I think the author here doesn’t like SWTOR anymore. And hey, that’s fine. But I also think the author of this article should move on and stop heckling, because that’s all this article really is.

First off, he puts way too much stock in EQ. Guess what, do you really think had EQ not existed there would be no WoW? Yeah freakin right. Understand this, World of Warcraft was an inevitable game. Once Blizzard put out Warcaft 2 and Diablo, it was pretty much set that they would make WoW.

Of course EQ has influences in WoW, but had EQ not existed, other MMOs would have had influence. Remember, when WoW was initially greenlit, EQ wasn’t the largest MMO, UO was. It wasn’t until midway in 2002 that EQ overtook UO, and “little” Asheron’s Call was also out there. And by that time Blizzard had already announced it.

Next thing is the author overestimates SWG’s influence. Yes, SWG was enjoyable. However, when you really get down to it, there are probably only a few hundred thousand players out there that really revere it. If you get down to it, EVE Online probably has way more influences on sandboxes than SWG does.

SWTOR was also designed and intended to give the KOTOR audience (which by sales volume and revenue so far eclipses SWG as to be laughable) a game they would want to play and pay a recurring sub for. It was not designed for SWG players, and I’ve heard the SWTOR team was mortified when LA/SOE cancelled SWG.

This article is basically sour grapes. Larry, dude, I think you should move on. You don’t like the way SWTOR is, get on something you do like. Stop being a twit and let the SWTOR fans like their game in peace.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Paragon Lost

I think the poster misses the point of MassivelyOp and why the writers and posters are here. Maybe the poster might want to take his own advice and move on? I don’t see Larry calling the poster names…

Mewmew
Reader
Mewmew

NGE was never going to work. The game would have needed a total relaunch, like games do today, and from all accounts NGE was pretty horrible. The only thing I can compare it to is the “Omega” system that Marvel Heroes went through in their “BGUE” – it dumbed down the game, turned massively open areas into a bunch of small straight corridors in some areas, did so many things that made the game not nearly as fun – and from what I hear NGE was much much worse.

The players who were still around SWG obviously were the ones who liked SWG the way it was. Which as I understand, wasn’t too great either. Leaving the totals out of it because as you say, the total numbers of players would be different then – still it wasn’t engaging enough to keep enough of a percentage of the people who did play at the time. I hear they did a pretty good job at making Uncle Owens toiling in the background farming moisture but that people at the time were expecting something else so most didn’t stay. I do wonder how such a game would do today. It would be done differently of course but someone could make one of these “survival and crafting” games out of it that are all the rage now.

There’s a really good article posted by one of the main developers about all the stuff that went wrong and they had to leave out at release. It also talks about when things started to shape up and such, but I guess my point is that it had a lot of trouble at release by these accounts and took a while to patch into something considered playable. Yes, NGE was a disaster that never should have happened (again, as someone reading about this and who didn’t experience it, that’s what I get out of it) – but the core game before that wasn’t engaging enough to support itself with subscriptions because there just weren’t enough people staying to play. I get that a few writers here were a couple of people who did like it and so write fondly about it but I also see that they were in the vast minority.

Is it okay to link it? It’s from a few years ago but had some great insight from an insider’s view:
http://gamasutra.com/blogs/RaphKoster/20150417/241406/A_Jedi_Saga.php

There’s a difference in being a toiling moisture farmer watching the days go by and being a nameless Imperial Commander of a squad. Those are two very different things. Although honestly I would be interested in seeing what a game made today like SWG would be like and I would probably play it, what I read about the game and what people recall or imagine it should be like seem to be two different things.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Cypher

That link was quite an interesting read🙂👍🏽

Reader
Witches

As far as i can tell only LOTRO gets it, in a multiplayer game you don’t get to be THE ONE, you’re not Luke , Leia, Han, Chewie, Vader, Palpatine, but you’re right there with them when the action happens, that way when you meet another player, instead of both claiming to be the one responsible for that heroic deed, you are just another guy who was there to help the hero.

In a sandbox game it makes sense to have lots of Owens, if people want to be moist farmers let them, i would leave Tatooine on the first available shuttle.

Reader
Melissa McDonald

even more important, you have CHOICE to make your own way (world quests) or rub shoulders with the iconic characters (epic quests). You can just happily be a pipe weed farmer in the Shire and sit on a rock and break out your lute and play (really play, in real time) Grateful Dead songs.

We need to cherish LOTRO while it lasts. It’s one of the top 3 MMOs ever.

Polyanna
Reader
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
Polyanna

I don’t want to be Uncle Owen. But I wouldn’t mind being Aunt Beru.

Reader
Melissa McDonald

Reader
thirtymil

At the end of the day it’s the same Stormtrooper barbecue you get invited to.

Reader
AussieEevee

My SWG guild leader back in the day said “Not everyone wants to be a Jedi”… and it’s a phrase I’ve repeated so many times since then. I don’t want to run around with a laser sword and space powers. I’m perfectly happy being Han Solo.

That said, I think it’s quite bad to say “no one wants to be uncle owen”… I know quite a few players in SWG, WoW and Even TOR who make their entire game about farming and selling resources… They don’t play the game to be a Jedi, or a Paladin, or whatever else… They play the game to get resources and to sell resources.

SWG was better in this regard because you could set up a base with extractors all around, and set up your own shop to sell those resources. Or you could craft them and sell the crafted ships, weapons, etc.

Sometimes in games, you just want to be the average joe… the uncle owen, as you call it.

Reader
Iridescence

People want to play a character that is interesting and cool. If you make being Unlce Owen interesting I think quite a few people would do that. Unfortunately most games do not give RP tools to make anything other than combat interesting as they are basically (poor) combat sims.

Reader
starbuck1771

Larry Owen was Vader. Vader started out as a slave and he didn’t have jedi/sith ability’s until he was taught them. Choice is what makes you who you are. Destiny is a bogus concept.

Dantos
Reader
Dantos

I guess my question is, if many more possibilities were open to him, would Uncle Owen choose to be Uncle Owen?

Reader
TheDonDude

Probably. He didn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would join some damn fool idealistic crusade.

Reader
Melissa McDonald

you win the internets for today

Reader
Gen'Challa 🦆

From a roleplaying perspective, this becomes a crab problem – players keeping other players from roleplaying too powerful a character.

Many roleplaying communities (WoW, for example) discourage high-powered RP precisely because it’s significantly less fun to play an Uncle Owen character when EVERYONE ELSE is a super-Jedi ultra-Master. So the communities tamp down on high-powered RP and create a glass ceiling beyond which it’s considered gauche to climb.

So while it’s perfectly okay to, for example, roleplay as a member of the Dalaran wizards in WoW, it would be frowned upon to claim to be Head of the Kirin Tor – even though, in game, that’s exactly what a Mage player character is supposed to be. It’s a unique position, and every player has done the same quests for the same unique artifacts and the same unique mount and the same unique special title for their class. Everyone has done it, so basically no-one can claim it in RP.

It’s what makes RP in games with a personal story of this nature (like WoW, GW2, or SWTOR) more difficult to deal with than games that – for the most part – treat you as one of many (like STO or TSW). Yes, even the latter games have their ‘you are unique and special’ moments, but they don’t define the story the way they do with the former.

Reader
Terren Bruce

It really isn’t more difficult. The character you play in the story just isn’t the character you’re RP’ing. They’re two different characters that use the same avatar.

Reader
Gen'Challa 🦆

You don’t remember having to fight people who insisted THEY were the one who saved Wrathion’s Egg in the Badlands? It was a whole huge thing in the guild. Like four people insisted that THEY and THEY ALONE rescued the One True Egg because they had done the quest.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Rottenrotny

There needs to be more sandbox MMOs that provide players with the opportunity to let their inner Farmville obsessive self flourish hand in hand with the players who just want to pew pew pew all day.

Basically, non-combat classes/skills.

When I briefly played Archeage all I did was tend to my crops. It’s kinda soothing in a way.
I could see the players who are growing stuff then providing materials to other players who are crafting who then make items for other players to fight/farm with. It’s the MMO circle of life that is missing from so many games.

Reader
Emperor Caligula

I had played SWG from early on, and I loved it. BUT: after some time I was quite well aware that I like many people over time wanted more story, more heroism, and that ONLY being Uncle Owen forever was… not enough.

So what I wanted was SWG with STORY ON TOP. With heroic story ADDED. But what SWTOR did, was to throw everything from SWG out of the window and add only the heroic story stuff. Why they did this, when SWG was so beloved I never will understand.

For me it is about having a plurality of choices. I don’t want to be confined to either JUST story or JUST sandbox. Why no company managed to have both in one MMO is beyond me.

plasmajohn
Reader
plasmajohn

But what SWTOR did, was to throw everything from SWG out of the window and add only the heroic story stuff. Why they did this, when SWG was so beloved I never will understand.

Simple. Two completely different developers. If you look at Bioware (the real Bioware, not the sad zombie that is the EA subsidiary) “Heroic Story” is all they knew how to write.

Reader
Scott Nelson

Now there should be no “uncle Owen” debate. With the use of alt’s you dont have to decide if you want to be Owen or Revan. That debate should be long over and done no matter what the game is.

In SWTOR it would be an excellent game to have an uncle Owen types of characters. The inclusion of Legacy and amount of available alt slots you could do everything. You could have a farmer, dancer, survivalist, or whatever you wanted.

Games could be designed keeping in mind that hardly anyone just uses one character slot anymore if more slots are available. I could farm a couple hours then go slice people in half for a couple hours, and then smuggle away the rest of my time.

That was one of the joys of Galaxies, i could do what i wanted when i wanted. Being an “Uncle Owen” all the time would get boring to most people, but being Owen for a bit then running as a jedi then smuggler or whatever should be a helluva draw for players no matter what the game or genre.

Theryl
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Theryl

You can tell good stories at any level, whether your hero is a moisture farmer or Emperor of the Galaxy. When we’re looking at an MMO though, it’s a lot easier to talk about multiple moisture farmers than multiple emperors. In a setting the size of Star Wars one can go pretty far up the social scale before hitting believability issues but high rank has its own set of issues.

You’re on the Dark Council? Great! Good luck staying there with bunch of power-hungry Sith gunning for your seat. Not much time for adventuring when you’ve got a powerbase to maintain and an empire to help run.

Another issue is that emperors (or darths, or Jedi masters, etc.) don’t do much on their own. They have “people for that” and, in MMO terms, they tend to be the questgivers sending their minions off to accomplish their goals. In RP terms, uber-powerful characters are usually better off as NPCs.

Personally, I have a lot more fun at the Uncle Owen(ish) level. The low ranking Sith trying to stay one step ahead of her peers, the smuggler trying to pull off a job and pay off a debt, or the Jedi trying to bust a smuggling ring.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

Good article!

Still can’t believe BioWare ended the story with the player sitting on the Eternal Throne. So, so, so, so many issues stem from that both with how the game is currently running and with anything they’d need to do to continue the story in subsequent expansions. I’m very curious to see how they handle it, because almost any way I can think of in my head goes very poorly on the player experience side of things.

But hey, Keith seems to be doing a great job so far, so hopefully he can work some magic : )

Edit: Legit considering re-subbing to check out the latest expansion lately (even though I should be spending my time checking out LOTRO while I’m subbed)…but the stupid Command system being locked behind the sub is killing my interest, since I don’t know if I’d maintain it. I want to get back to max level, but will have to look into gearing options outside of the Command nonsense to see if there are any viable, non-obnoxious paths to slowly work on gearing up. If there are, may as well give it another spin.

plasmajohn
Reader
plasmajohn

No idea what possessed me but I read through the reddit discussion on the 5.4 datamining. The story has gone so far off the rails that I don’t see any point in following it any more.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

I’m…not sure if I want to know…but I do. Do you have a link handy to that?

Reader
Sray

I don’t think Keith is doing that great a job. I think he’s great at communication, but not really anything else.

In my opinion, he’s dragging the game in the exact wrong direction to court an audience they’ve spent 2 years ignoring, and in turn largely ignoring the audience they’ve spent 2 years courting. He’s basically refused to deal with the Galactic Command problem in a meaningful way: every “improvement” miraculously manages to add more monetization to the system while still leaving it a colossal RNG dependent grind. And there’s the failure to address the very complaint of this column: not everyone wants to be the king of the galaxy, and the utterly non-sensical way we’re forced into being just that.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

Are you talking about raiding? Because that path was set before he came aboard, as was mostly all of the post-launch KotET content. I’m going off of the balance changes we’re seeing as well as the increased communication (mainly that), I fully don’t expect him to really influence the direction until the next expansion, as he’ll have been at the helm for most of that vs. this current content he’s mostly “seeing through”.

I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt, again mainly due to him actually meaningfully communicating with players and clearly harassing Musco into posting more often as well, at least until the next expansion. That’s when I’ll start judging him in terms of the direction the game takes, he can really only influence so much of the current content given that much of it has been in active/pre-production since before he came aboard.

Reader
Sray

It’s not just raiding per se: the entirety of the direction he’s talking about in terms of balancing, future content, etc is all about going back down the WoW clone road instead of doubling down on the shared world, single player, story driven game that they’re just flat out better at; and telling those not interested that they’re better served elsewhere. The game was set in a direction that the players didn’t like and he’s just the new salesman whose been sent in to tell us that it is what was they wanted so they don’t have to change a damn thing.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

Honestly though, that approach hasn’t turned out great so far. KotFE started off fantastically and performed super well for them, but I think it was clear that the monthly content update cadence wasn’t really sustainable in a longterm sense either from the development or revenue side of things. And KotET didn’t even register as a blip on earnings reports, so there’s definitely indicators pointing to the nearly full focus on solo story over group based content not leading to financial success.

They need to find a happy medium between the two – keep enough solo story flowing to keep folks interested and engaged to come back and check out each major update, but also include enough repeatable group based MMO content to keep folks playing and subbing/spending money. Focusing on one to the exclusion of the other hasn’t worked well for them, and it’s leaving them with a very delicate balancing act to walk on that tightrope.

Again though, he likely has little say on the KotET content coming out. He was brought on after KotET launched and likely after most of this stuff was set in stone, so he couldn’t influence things too heavily. That’s why I’m giving him the next expansion to see how the game shakes out under his leadership. That will be the real test to see how folks react to the direction, both financially (which is more important for BW/EA) and enjoyment-wise.

Reader
Sray

I firmly believe the reason behind any “failure” of the more single player driven model was the result of their continued failure to commit 100% to it. This game has never found a happy medium: it’s time to admit that they can’t, choose a side of the road and commit to it. Honestly, I can’t see myself going back unless they actually say “crowd X, go find something else better suited to you”.

As for how much Keith can or can’t change thing if he had any real influence to change things, CXP would have been transformed into a different thing, and they’d be singing it from the rooftops. He’s just here to sell us on the notion that 3% less bullshit is somehow a good thing.

It occurred to me a few mimutes ago the irony of our current exchange. Last November you were in the “this the worst thing ever” category, while I was “I am hopeful”. What a change in just a few short months.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

What? KotFE was almost 100% solo, outside of a single flashpoint (that you could solo), I don’t think the expansion had a single piece of proper group content. Everything was solo, or small shared-zones that existed to get you to the solo bits. And it became apparent that a 100% solo direction wasn’t keeping players engaged, even with the sub rewards they had for maintaining a sub. It’s one of the reasons they pivoted to focusing on group-content vs. solo story content post-KotET.

He likely does have real influence, just not on the current version of teh game, as I’ve said. He can only do so much, and even then his influence may not be able to change Command entirely unless he can find a way to incentivize subbing/make up the revenue elsewhere. It sucks, I know, but we need to be real about things as well. I know he can’t fully control everything, even with the coming expansion.

I’m still in the, “The game is not in a great place and Command system is a disaster.” place I was before, it’s just been enough time that I’m no longer as actively “hating” on it and am considering giving it a spin. I’ve always tried to be optimistic about SWTOR, it’s just been nigh impossible for me at times, especially in the leadup to KotET. And honestly, I think I’ve mostly been on-point with the expansion. It’s not performed well from what we can see (narry a single mention on earnings calls), players aren’t playing as often/have left, and seems to be just chugging along quietly.

I don’t like being a debbie downer though, even though I often find myself being just that. I like being happy with the games I play, I like seeing those that I don’t play do well, I like being optimistic about games futures. I try to do that whenever I can, even if it goes against my better judgment, like with Keith/SWTOR right now. Everything SWTOR related makes me want to stay a debbie downer given how things have gone with the game since launch, but Keith is enough of a glimmer of hope to make me want to be optimistic, even if it’s a damn longshot.

Reader
Sray

The failure to introduce raid/group content is not the same as full commitment to a more single player approach. During KotFE, they continued to bury the top end of character progression behind raids: that’s not committing to a particular group, that’s screwing 2 groups equally. Furthermore, KotFE introduced only two new things outside of the story chapters: the star fortresses and eternal championship, and they were six months apart. It was a lack of anything to do outside of one and done story chapters once a month that failed to keep players engaged. KotET exacerbated the issue by bringing content that the audience they were courting couldn’t (or wouldn’t) even play. SWTOR has always tried to keep a foot in both worlds, and that’s the problem.

The course of the game presently is what Keith continues espouse as its future: back to WoW cloning… for now (until we flip flop again). And we agree: the decision to go back to WoW cloning was made before he took the top spot. Which means, as far as I’m concerned, all that he has no real intention of changing anything. If he came out and announced that the story thing was a huge mistake, and they’re full out on a typical “raid or get out” WoW clone (obviously not what he’d actually call it), and if that’s not your thing then there are other games out there better suited to you, I’d change my opinion. If he announced the opposite and said they’re full committing to a shared world single player experience (and actually bringing stuff to do outside of the stories) and if that’s not your thing yada yada, I’d change my opinion. But barring that, again as far as I’m concerned, he’s just a different salesman selling us the same thing.

But that having been said, if his attitude and communication (admittedly huge improvements over the previous regime) make anyone hopeful and positive about the future of SWTOR, that’s a good thing.

Theryl
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Theryl

They lost me with KotFE. My suspension of disbelief hit a point where it couldn’t suspend anymore.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

Yeah, KotFE did not impress me. KotET was even less interesting, but at the very least I’m considering checking out the content. I do enjoy healing on my sage, so at the very least it would be more content to check out (even if it’s not that much content).

plasmajohn
Reader
plasmajohn

I don’t know what level you play at but word on the street is that Sage healers got hit hard with the nerf bat in a recent update. And don’t forget that EA Austin thinks “Nerf” means “depleted uranium”

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

Super mega casual level. Don’t care about raiding or “progression” content or anything.

Reader
Sray

To me, the big problem with present SWTOR is that it sees no longer possibility for middle ground in this respect: everyone has to be George Patton or else they’re just nameless citizens in occupied France; they don’t account for the possibility of being Audie Murphy or John Basilone. The game doesn’t allow for the player to be exceptional, but not necessarily unique.

Reader

As much as I love SWG, SWTOR is never going to able to emulate it. They are not interested in telling that story and they did not build out their worlds for that kind of play.

Having said that. I already enjoy some of the experiences you are asking for. Simply by being an active member of the SWTOR roleplay community and finding like minded individuals.

Sure I would like more tools and features to work with, but we make it work now with what we have. Along with a healthy dose of website forums to organize things.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Sashaa

Excellent article. From start to finish.

Games that allow for an Uncle Owen experience often rest on the community, it was especially true in the case of Star Wars Galaxies, where a lot of the fun was related to player-handled organisations and cities. Now, “the more power the better” approach is better for the new economic we have, where the aim is to attract a lot of players and finding ways to make them spend, even a little, in the short time they’ll stay, and if they came for power, than “boosts” and the like will sell with ease. Follow the money.

Reader
TheDonDude

I always thought the Uncle Owen vs Darth Vader question went a bit further than just story, though. It also includes gameplay. The Uncle Owen desire is more sandboxxy, letting you do whatever you wanted in the univese. If that meant creating and running a moisture farm on the planet that is furthest from the bright centre of the galaxy, then so be it.

Not that the Hero vs Humble Adventurer question is also an interesting one, tho.

edit: fixed *isn’t an interesting one* to *is*

Reader
Melissa McDonald

It’s all about choice. Let people play their own way. Anything less, you might as well give them 3 lives and make them pop in a quarter.

wpDiscuz