SWTOR, MMOs & Expectations

Now that the SWTOR NDA has been lifted there have been a rash of posts with people giving their thoughts on the game, giving reviews and just getting information out there.  Through all of this there has been one common strain of posts which are critical of SWTOR.  The prime example being this blog post from Josh at Twenty Sided.

There are many factual problems with his post that I could tackle, but I won’t.  The problem isn’t how accurate or inaccurate his post is but rather that the foundation upon which it rests is flawed.  Josh (and many others like him) attack SWTOR by attacking the conventions of the genre in which it occupies.  Their problem is not with the game, but the genre.  That being traditional, hot-key based, theme park MMOs (referred to as HKTP here on out).  World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Everquest 2, City of Heroes, Anarchy Online are all examples of this genre of game.

Now, I get that people might not like hot-key theme park MMOs.  I hardly feel that every gamer is going to love every genre of game.  I certainly don’t and I’ve been gaming since ASCII graphics were high-tech.  It’s ok that they don’t like that style of game.

However, I don’t think it is ok that they pick up a game which has was always billed as a hot-key theme park MMO and then judge it poorly because it was anything but.  But this is precisely what this strain of criticisms do.  Notice the constant harping on being WoW in space, or pointing out the kill ten rats and delivery quest tropes, or how the combat has the same type of attacks as other hot-key based MMOs.  Those aren’t criticisms of TOR but of the genre itself.

This isn’t limited to TOR.  This is a common issue raised with every new HKTP MMO.  What strikes me as odd is that only in the MMO genre does this criticism arise.  In no other genre of video game are criticisms of the game sticking to closely to the conventions of the genre levied.  In fact, the exact opposite often occurs!  If an FPS or RTS were to be released with core mechanics which were radically different than what had been seen in those genres prior chances are they would be harshly criticized for doing so.

Look, I can’t stand RTS games. Ever since Dune 2 I have never found an RTS game I can stand to play. I have many times railed against the mechanics of the RTS genre. But I have never would I ever presume to pick up an RTS, play it, then proceed to say that it was a bad game because it was exactly what it billed itself to be, an RTS game!

It boils down to people having some odd expectation that every MMO should be ground breaking, revolutionary and break with convention.  Facts are, most MMOs won’t.  Most video games don’t.  The gaming public expects this from other genres, it’s time they expect it from the MMO genre as well and simply do what I, and they, do when they hit a style of game they don’t like.  Don’t play it.

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SWTOR Progression Video Progression

This friday we got the progression video for the Imperial Agent.  More importantly we got progression of another kind.

About dang time, Bioware!  8 Basic classes and it takes almost 3/4ths before we get to see female armor progression.

Mass Effect Rehash?

So, I didn’t like Mass Effect or Dragon Age: Origins.  However one of my fellow OTGers recently recommended playing through Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic as a way to make the wait for Star Wars: The Old Republic go by faster.  As it happens I had KOTOR sitting on my Steam account from one of the many bundle sales I purchased in the past ~2 years.  I figured, what the heck, might as well go through it again.  I finished it once on my original XBox and my last attempt at a play through on the 360 ended within a few hours.

Know what?  I’m having fun.  Just got to the point where I rescued Bastila.  Much farther than I did on the 360.  I’m remembering why I really liked Bioware.

So here’s the plan.  Finish up KOTOR.  Then purchase the PC version of Mass Effect.  I originally wanted it on the 360 because my previous two Bioware games, KOTOR and Jade Empire, were on the XBox.  But as anyone who has played Mass Effect knows it isn’t like KOTOR or Jade Empire.  It’s more like a third-person shooter.  Those I play exclusively on the PC.  Maybe that will hold the key to getting into that series.  If so, there’s another couple dozen of hours of distraction to tide me over until TOR is released.

Dragon Age…  We’ll see.  I heard the PC version is better than the console version.  But I think the problems I had with that game transcend system.