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.


2 responses to “SWTOR, MMOs & Expectations

  1. Nice post. I guess those kinds of reviews would be akin to like, say, someone criticizing the use of first-person perspective in shooters. It’s complaining about a feature that has become a definitive part of the genre.

    You allude to another point that I find interesting — those who want more ground-breaking, revolutionary innovation in MMOs, at what point will they be happy? When the game is so ground-breaking, revolutionary and innovative that it doesn’t even resemble the genre anymore? Perhaps they are better off looking outside MMOs for their fix instead of holding their breath hoping for drastic change. Thanks for the new perspective.

    • In the Reddit discussion someone said they wanted to see MMOs progress akin to what FPS did with the leaps between Wolf3D, Doom and Quake. I pointed out that MMOs have been out for well over a decade, that the Wolf3D to Quake leap was already passed. Esp. when you look at Meridian 59 to Asheron’s Call then on to Anarchy Online, City of Heroes and World of Warcraft. Since Quake and since the WoW era (not just WoW, mind you) both FPSes and MMOs have been iterative, not revolutionary.

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