Why Guild Wars 2 and not Star Wars: The Old Republic

I have a bunch of things on my drafts talking about Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic which I’ll complete in the following days and post, so I thought it would be nice to everyone to explain my position about those two MMOs that should come in the next months.

Disclaimers

  1. I haven’t played any of those games yet. All my opinions come from the articles and videos you can find all around the internet. So take all this as personal opinions and put a grain of salt in those.
  2. Those are my opinions. It may be that you have a deep love for the Star Wars and dreamed being a Jedi since your early childhood or maybe you’re burned with the classic MMO style of questing and want the whole thing to burn down in a colourful fire so your opinion about those topics may be completely different from mine.

Again, this is all so you can understand my future articles, not to say “my game is better than your game, nya nya nya”.

Why Not Star Wars: The Old Republic

Let me start with Star Wars ’cause I’m pretty sure this will be highly controversial.

So, why I think Star Wars: The Old Republic is not a good game?

For that, you should probably know that I played World of Warcraft for almost 3 years. At some point, my character was the 9th best geared tank in its server (Oceanic, medium population). I started in the 2nd expansion (The Burning Crusade) and kept going till the very beginning of the current 4th expansion (Cataclysm). In that, I managed to get the “Loremaster” title, which requires completing almost every quest in every zone and the “of the Horde” title, which requires killing 100.000 other players (killing the same character twice or more still counts, it’s not 100.000 unique players). In other words, I played a lot of World of Warcraft.

The reason I’m not playing anymore is that I’m completely burned out. It gets really boring doing the same thing over and over again (and no, killing a different boss somewhere doesn’t count as a “new thing”).

I tried Rift for some time and, looking back, I can tell that the thing I did most was the “flavour” Trion added in their game. You see, deep down, Rift have the same mechanics World of Warcraft have, with the added rifts. I didn’t do that much PvP in Rift; I didn’t do any dungeon in Rift; but I spent as much time as I could closing rifts.

But how my distaste for World of Warcraft affects my opinion of SW:TOR? Well, first they are basically the same genre: push button MMO[1]. What changes the experience in both is the added flavour, as did rifts were an added flavour in Rift. The added flavour in SW:TOR is, obviously, the Star Wars universe and the complete voice over with quests. Apart from that, you can’t really expect things to be different, as even the Bioware vice-president said “Every MMO that comes out, I play and look at it. And if they break any of the WoW rules, in my book that’s pretty dumb.” So you can expect that, once you scrap the flavour, you end up with WoW.

(Let’s be a bit gentle with him and not understand that as “if it’s not like WoW, it doesn’t matter if it makes sense, it’s dumb”).

But if I played Rift, which is WoW with flavour, why I don’t believe SW:TOR will be good, as is WoW with another flavour?

The kernel the problem is the flavour.

First, you have the full voice over quests. Thing is, saying that “Womp rats are pests, they destroy our food stock, our kids are starving, blah blah blah, kill 10 of them to save us” and a text that reads “Kill 10 womp rats” are exactly the same. But the voice over (and story telling) don’t stop at that: In one of the videos you can find a group doing a group quest/dungeon and, at some point, the action stops and a cutscene is shown. My experience with cutscenes is “don’t”. Guild Wars also have that (you get one after a long quest chain) and most of the people click “skip” anyway. The sad part is: If it’s the first time you’re watching it and you’re interested and doesn’t skip the video, your PUG will complain. But, at the same time, after the 3rd time, it’s really boring watching everything again.

Second, you have the Star Wars universe. A fictional universe is like any other fictional universe and you can’t say that the Azeroth/Outland universe is better or worse than the Star Wars universe.

Since the first flavour is kinda moot (in my opinion), you’re left with just the Star Wars universe. And that’s the only thing Bioware have to bring any MMO player to their game: The universe. So their niche market is people who like the Star Wars universe and World of Warcraft and are willing to give up their characters with all the gear and gold/money they already acquired and start over from scratch again.

I won’t comment aesthetics as this is pretty much personal. You may like the cartoony looks of World of Warcraft and dislike the more real looks of Rift ’cause it breaks the impression it’s a fictional world. Personally, I’d put SW:TOR graphics below World of Warcraft. But, then again, WoW had 6 years to polish their engine and set the visuals to look all the same style; SW:TOR is starting now but somehow it feels they didn’t reach a balance between the cartoony environment and the player characters.

Why Guild Wars 2?

I played the original Guild Wars[2] and I must say that, although the story is pretty interesting, the general feel of the thing is not that pleasurable. In that regard, WoW have better movement, is more responsive and it’s more of an open world.

But Guild Wars 2 is nothing like that. The game doesn’t have instantiated zones anymore, you have a huge map to explore, movement finally seems a lot more fluid and the graphics had a nice upgrade but that’s not the things that excite me.

First, there are no more quests. Well, there are, but they were changed into dynamic events. In those, instead of talking to a guy with a “!” (which will tell you to kill 10 womp rats), you’ll walk to a place and you’ll notice that womp rats are eating the food of a village. It’s up to you to jump into action or just let the village starve. But not all dynamic events have specific tasks: Instead of killing said womp rats, you could also pick pieces of plywood and close the entraces those rats are using to steal the food. So there are multiple ways of completing an event.

Edit: Ok, there is one more thing about dynamic events that I completely forgot: From what you can see, even if the event is complete, you can keep going. Why this is important to me? I played too many quests where you have a task like “save our men in the battle field”, where you have to come to almost-dying soldiers and heal them. Most quest-based games do this by giving you some item that mysteriously disappears after 10 or so uses or simply can’t be used again. Great hero you are when you are on your way back to the camp and can’t help another soldier ’cause you saved 10 already (In our womp rat reference, it would be the same as the womp rats not being targetable anymore after you kill the initial 10).

Second, it’s the removal of the holy trinity. Ok, “removal” is a strong word in this case. Let’s say that they changed the hard trinity, where you need a proper class and proper gear to fill a role, to a soft trinity, allowing all classes to fulfill all three roles without the need of respecing or different gear.

So Guild Wars 2 is not like World of Warcraft in its very core (maybe very deep, ’cause it still is a push button MMORPG), but it’s breaking a lot of WoW rules, so Bioware would think it’s a pretty dumb game.

If we get into the aesthetics, I’d say Guild Wars 2 seems more balanced between its real looks and the cartoony things, although I reckon the “SHINE ALL THE THINGS” may annoy some people. I still remember being completely overwhelmed by the looks of the first game, in the pre-searing part[3] (which is probably why I kept going).

Conclusion

Again, this is not a “my game is better than yours”, it’s just my point of view of both games. You may not agree with me in any of those and you’re fine. I’m just pointing why I really like one and don’t like the other.

And, from now on, you know how I feel about both, so you have more pointers on my future posts.

Footnotes

[1] Just to be safe, yes, I know there are many more games that fall in the same genre, as Rift, Everquest, Guild Wars and probably much more.

[2] Actually, I’m back in the game. I’ll give more info in the future, and that’s the reason of this post.

[3] In the first Guild Wars, in the first campaign (Prophecies) the story actually starts in the past, before the destruction of the human capital. The game looks somewhat like this.

Star Wars: The Old Republic, Bounty Hunter Progression. One thing that the previous videos showed that really turned me off was the player being hit. If you look at those videos, you’d see player characters being hit by large plasma “bullets” and doing absolutely nothing. I mean, no hit animation. So what did Bioware did this time? All enemies miss. All the time. So you don’t notice the “being hit” animation that isn’t there. On the other hand, now lasers can do curves. World of Warcraft and Rift are safe ‘cause bullets/pellets and arrows move too fast and don’t have a large profile. But laser and plasma? Though luck. Graphics quality? Ok-ish. I’d say it’s on par with the current World of Warcraft quality, which says a lot, ‘cause World of Warcraft is using a 6 year old graphics engine and low polygon count objects. It could be that Bioware is using some “non-ultra” quality settings for their demos, but that is just as bad as having a bad engine. Every single video Bioware posts about this game is a huge turn off. Unless they plan to release it in 2013, which may give them enough time to do proper animations and objects, they may have a change against World of Warcraft and Rift. Otherwise, this game will only have the franchise and the whole “we voiceover everything” to support itself — And that sounds pretty dangerous, compared to the incoming games.

Star Wars Old Republic a push for 2011, says Rift dev

Star Wars Old Republic a push for 2011, says Rift dev

Sure, sure, it could just be some picking on future competitors but some things he points seem true, although not all of them.

For example, the fact that Star Wars Old Republic is somewhat a disappointment for having a standard action-bar combat. That market is already saturated with World of Warcraft and Rift itself, so SWOR will have to fight only in the merits of the series, nothing new with the game itself (well, maybe the whole “everything will have a voice acting”). Not only they will go head to head with the behemot WoW is, but also against Rift itself, which already managed to capture those who got tired of WoW, shrinking the niche SWOR will try to get in.

On the other hand, Guild Wars 2 may be being pushed to a 2011 release (actually, a lot of games are being pushed to a release still this year) but it have a position of trying to bring a complete new concept for the MMO genre, which keeps a continuous flow of hype into the game — some people will not like it, some people will love it but most will surely try it just to see if it holds any water — and that’s exactly the way Arena.Net profits.