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GDC - James Ohlen - Voiceovers didn't drive the cost up, it was getting the engine to work right tha

KarteliKarteli Providence, PAPosts: 2,646Member

This article is directed at SW people-in-the-know, or Gamebreaker watchers.

 

Gamebreaker had an interesting portion with Larry, in which stuff was said at GDC (via James Ohlen) to indicate that the high pricetag of SWTOR was not because of voiceovers, but because EA had to deal with the game engine which was unsupportive of multiplayer activity from the start.  I can find references to the event where Ohlen references EA's purchase of Hero's engine as "untested"; thats common knowledge, so no need to bring that up again (Google search will direct you). But OK (http://raidwarning.com/bioware-creative-director-details-swtor-development-issues/)

 

Stuff was said to indicate that even just a year before release, SWTOR was incapable of being played in a massive environment (more than 6-10 players even).  Tweaks were made to allow the bare minimum .. which I think speaks volumes to the horrid performance the graphics engine delivers.  It was tweaked further later.

 

I skipped to that section of the episode, for your consideration (It's a building conversation, so watch for a few mins):

 

Gamebreaker: Star Wars: The Republic, episode 131

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=j5dLULLpJhU#t=462s

 

I'm curious as to what Larry was speaking of, about the severe limitations of SWTOR just a year prior to release.  Does anyone have a link to the 6-10 player cap?

 

Also, if anyone has a transcript of GDC 2013 with James Ohlen, that would also be helpful.  I could not find one, or a complete video.

 

I'm not looking to focus on how the engine was procured, but rather what needed to be done to make it somewhat playable.

 

Want a nice understanding of life? Try Spirit Science: "The Human History"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8NNHmV3QPw&feature=plcp
Recognize the voice? Yep sounds like Penny Arcade's Extra Credits.

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Comments

  • KaiserPhoenixKaiserPhoenix ViennaPosts: 59Member
    Do we really need more details of their incompetence?
  • FromHellFromHell NY, NYPosts: 1,311Member

    yeah that was a baffling quote, also it means the #1 argument of the hardcore fans used to justify the shortcomings of the game is now officially busted.

    It's not the VO budget's fault that the game world  is static and misses tons of gameplay mechanics, space combat, minigames, housing and day/night cycles.

    Secrets of Dragon?s Spine Trailer.. ! :D
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwT9cFVQCMw

    Best MMOs ever played: Ultima, EvE, SW Galaxies, Age of Conan, The Secret World
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2X_SbZCHpc&t=21s
    .


    .
    The Return of ELITE !
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  • doodphacedoodphace Vancouver, BCPosts: 1,815Member
    Originally posted by FromHell

    yeah that was a baffling quote, also it means the #1 argument of the hardcore fans used to justify the shortcomings of the game is now officially busted.

    It's not the VO budget's fault that the game world  is static and misses tons of gameplay mechanics, space combat, minigames, housing and day/night cycles.

    I was really into SWTOR at its launch, even cancelled my WoW sub...found its leveling process to be the best out of any MMO (still is)...joined a good raid guild, was downing nightmare modes etc..

    The game breaker for me was the broken engine...the GCD issue was there for the entire 5 months I played. For those unfamilier with it, you would cast an ability (such as a heal), its global cooldown would activate, but the heal wouldnt happen. Imagine spending 4 hours in a raid instance, wiping on a boss over and over, all of which because heals wouldnt go off and tanks would die, or DPS abilities wouldnt go off, thus hitting enrage timers. Total disaster, and why most competative players/raiders left.

  • tiefighter25tiefighter25 Winchester, MAPosts: 937Member

    Well I posted the link in another thread, I guess no one clicked it.

    Anyway here ya go. http://www.edge-online.com/features/gdc-2013-star-wars-the-old-republics-difficult-launch-and-its-free-to-play-switch/

    Max 10 people on screen.

    Thee engine befuddled them throughout development. Here's an aticle with quotes from Gabe about how it messed up Ilum. (Besides just the slideshow framerates.)

    Frame rates aside, the OPVP zone was supposed to have several nodes players had to take over, the nodes were supposed to be on timed control switches, so a losing team could still gather forces and take out individual nodes.

    Since the engine couldn't support the timer on the nodes, they had to be insta-switched, which (along with population imbalance) caused the shenanigans and bottleneck at the Republic base.

    http://www.ign.com/articles/2012/02/17/star-wars-the-old-republic-the-ilum-problem

    Why they chose an Alpha engine is bizarre. Why they would pour so much time, money, and effort into trying to fix it is even odder. Why not either build your own (ideal) or if you're trying to save time and money, lease a proven engine?

    Anyway, Bioware has always been an odd fish in the tech dept.; even more so in owning up to stuff till they think they have a fix.

    The most recent example being the memory leak they swore didn't exsist for about a year,

    <div views-row-1="" views-row-odd="" views-row-first="" views-row-last"="">

    1.7.3a Patch Notes

    4/2/2013

    General

    • Fixed a significant memory leak, which will result in lowered memory usage over time.
     
    (Not after people complaining about it were ridiculed mercilessly by the friendly forums for a year. You know the usual, update your drivers, check with your ISP, upgrade your PC, defrag your hard drive, etc.)
  • KarteliKarteli Providence, PAPosts: 2,646Member

    Another interesting source:

    BioWare details the bumpy first year of Star Wars: The Old Republic

    Tracey Lien

    March 30, 2013

    http://www.polygon.com/2013/3/30/4158734/bioware-details-the-bumpy-first-year-of-star-wars-the-old-republic

     

    The whole thing is good, so I'd like to source in it's entireity, with the author.

     

    BioWare's massively-multiplayer online role-playing game, Star Wars: The Old Republic, had a rough launch year because the studio underestimated how much content the game would need and how resource-intensive it would be, according to senior creative director James Ohlen.

    Ohlen gave a talk at the Game Developers Conference this week titled "Designing a live MMORPG: The First Year of Star Wars: The Old Republic" where he outlined the growth and bumpy road of BioWare's first MMORPG. He said the studio experienced challenges both before and after the game's launch, and these challenges contributed to a rocky 2012 for the studio.

    Ohlen said prior to launch, the team at BioWare faced challenges like entering a crowded field (MMOs) without an existing MMO engine. Where competitors had had years to build, test and iterate their game engines, BioWare had to ramp its studio up to having more than 300 employees to create an unproven engine.

    "Some of the risks we had identified going into launch were worse than we'd thought."

    The sudden growth in the team also "incurred communication, ownership, technology and efficiency issues." Ohlen said the team would go months between playable builds, the game engine wasn't designed natively to allow branching, and basic features like chat, basic guilds and basic PvP were still being developed in 2011. "Features were difficult to build into the game," he said. "We had to build 180 hours of content while simultaneously adding features — it was like changing out the engine of an airplane in the middle of a flight."

    When the game launched in December 2011, it became the fastest-selling MMO in history, shipping 1.5 million copies in its first month. But by January 2012, more problems emerged.

    "Some of the risks we had identified going into launch were worse than we'd thought," Ohlen said. "The data we were getting through in-game metrics and exit surveys was telling us that people were going through the content much faster than we were expecting."

    Ohlen said the BioWare team had expected players to take three to four months to go through the 180 hours of content they'd created. The metrics they were getting informed them the average player was going through the game at 40 hours a week, with some players spending 80-120 hours in the game in a week. Fans were starting to "churn up" the content, the team was unprepared for the rate at which people were playing, and by May 2012, the game fell to 1.3 million subscribers and the studio had to layoff staff to accommodate the downward trend of subscribers.

    According to Ohlen, morale at the studio hit a low point in July of 2012. The game's subscriber count continued to fall, while members of the gaming community predicted the imminent launch of Mists of "[kicking] us in the crotch." The Old Republic needed a change, and that change came in the form of a free-to-play business model. Ohlen said The Old Republic was not built to be free-to-play, so the development team had to find a way to integrate the model without compromising the core game. The team also couldn't completely abandon the subscription model because subscribers accounted for a significant portion of the game's revenue each month.

    "The game's subscriber count continued to fall, while members of the gaming community predicted the imminent launch of Mists of '[kicking] us in the crotch.'"

    As a solution, they introduced Cartel Packs — packages of goods that can be purchased from the Cartel Market using in-game coins. Subscribers would receive monthly allowances of coins, which could be used to purchase Cartel Packs, while non-subscribers could play for free and use real-world money to purchase in-game coins.

    Ohlen said since the free-to-play launch, subscriptions having been steadily climbing, and more than two million accounts have been created since last November. In addition, the game remains the second biggest western MMORPG.

     

    yellow: [questionable without statistics - EVE has 500k].  Prove a point and give numbers?  Or keep making it vague (SWTOR has less than 1 million subscribers but more than 500k BS, from last year).

     

     

    Want a nice understanding of life? Try Spirit Science: "The Human History"
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8NNHmV3QPw&feature=plcp
    Recognize the voice? Yep sounds like Penny Arcade's Extra Credits.

  • GreenHellGreenHell ludlow, MAPosts: 1,322Member Uncommon
    *snip*
    <div views-row-1="" views-row-odd="" views-row-first="" views-row-last"="">

    1.7.3a Patch Notes

    4/2/2013

    General

    • Fixed a significant memory leak, which will result in lowered memory usage over time.
     
    (Not after people complaining about it were ridiculed mercilessly by the friendly forums for a year. You know the usual, update your drivers, check with your ISP, upgrade your PC, defrag your hard drive, etc.)

    Thats the really sad part of blind, fanatical, fanboism. They attack other people who are just trying to help the game by reporting issues. BW could have stated this memory leak was a possibility but their silence just made it worse. The SW IP curse lives on.

  • KarteliKarteli Providence, PAPosts: 2,646Member
    The whole transcript with James Ohlen at GDC would be wonderful.  People interested can only see sniplets currently.  Thats no fun >:-D

    Want a nice understanding of life? Try Spirit Science: "The Human History"
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8NNHmV3QPw&feature=plcp
    Recognize the voice? Yep sounds like Penny Arcade's Extra Credits.

  • tiefighter25tiefighter25 Winchester, MAPosts: 937Member
    Meh, I don't do fetch quests. (That and there is no complete transcript.)
  • KarteliKarteli Providence, PAPosts: 2,646Member
    Originally posted by tiefighter25
    Meh, I don't do fetch quests. (That and there is no complete transcript.)

    I did the initial fetching.  Secondary fetching isn't so bad.  The cause is there for you to see.

    Want a nice understanding of life? Try Spirit Science: "The Human History"
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8NNHmV3QPw&feature=plcp
    Recognize the voice? Yep sounds like Penny Arcade's Extra Credits.

  • KaiserPhoenixKaiserPhoenix ViennaPosts: 59Member
    imagine how great swtor would've been if they made it on the Unreal Engine 3...
  • KarteliKarteli Providence, PAPosts: 2,646Member
    Originally posted by KaiserPhoenix
    imagine how great swtor would've been if they made it on the Unreal Engine 3...

    One could only wonder ..

     

    Although design issues are worthy of a new topic..

    Want a nice understanding of life? Try Spirit Science: "The Human History"
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8NNHmV3QPw&feature=plcp
    Recognize the voice? Yep sounds like Penny Arcade's Extra Credits.

  • Impulse47Impulse47 St. Louis, MOPosts: 158Member Common

    I posted a thread long ago about how the engine would fundamentally and irreversibly handicap this game and got crucified for it.

    http://www.mmorpg.com/discussion2.cfm/thread/344364

  • KarteliKarteli Providence, PAPosts: 2,646Member
    Originally posted by Impulse47

    I posted a thread long ago about how the engine would fundamentally and irreversibly handicap this game and got crucified for it.

    http://www.mmorpg.com/discussion2.cfm/thread/344364

    Those who understand will nod, while fans will tell you various hardware remedies.

     

    I just hope that those writing problems off understand the final consequences.

     

    Want a nice understanding of life? Try Spirit Science: "The Human History"
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8NNHmV3QPw&feature=plcp
    Recognize the voice? Yep sounds like Penny Arcade's Extra Credits.

  • DistopiaDistopia Baltimore, MDPosts: 16,899Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Impulse47

    I posted a thread long ago about how the engine would fundamentally and irreversibly handicap this game and got crucified for it.

    http://www.mmorpg.com/discussion2.cfm/thread/344364

    You're blaming hero in that thread, while ignoring the engine used was nothing of what Hero is today, it was an alfa build that was no where near done, many things were missing (as in not developed), this topic is only soldifying that fact. It's Bioware's screw up, not Hero's. They received no parts of Hero code outside of what they licensed, all additions were developed by bioware, from alfa up. The issue you're reporting is on Bioware not hero.

    For every minute you are angry , you lose 60 seconds of happiness."-Emerson

    It is a sign of a defeated man, to attack at ones character in the face of logic and reason- Me

  • FromHellFromHell NY, NYPosts: 1,311Member
    Originally posted by Distopia
    Originally posted by Impulse47

    I posted a thread long ago about how the engine would fundamentally and irreversibly handicap this game and got crucified for it.

    http://www.mmorpg.com/discussion2.cfm/thread/344364

    You're blaming hero in that thread, while ignoring the engine used was nothing of what Hero is today, it was an alfa build that was no where near done, many things were missing (as in not developed), this topic is only soldifying that fact. It's Bioware's screw up, not Hero's. They received no parts of Hero code outside of what they licensed, all additions were developed by bioware, from alfa up. The issue you're reporting is on Bioware not hero.

    They needed an engine where hundreds of people can work on content simultanously, I got that.

    Hero obviously was the only one which made it possible, even in alpha stage.

     

    They should have written their own engine from scratch, or worked more closely with the original devs maybe

    Secrets of Dragon?s Spine Trailer.. ! :D
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwT9cFVQCMw

    Best MMOs ever played: Ultima, EvE, SW Galaxies, Age of Conan, The Secret World
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2X_SbZCHpc&t=21s
    .


    .
    The Return of ELITE !
    image

  • LogicLesterLogicLester Claremont, CAPosts: 68Member
    Originally posted by FromHell

    They needed an engine where hundreds of people can work on content simultanously, I got that.

    Hero obviously was the only one which made it possible, even in alpha stage.

     

    They should have written their own engine from scratch, or worked more closely with the original devs maybe

     

    As I understand it, initially they started to.  But they determined early on that it wasn't cost effective so they licensed the hero engine.

     

    And I'm not sure where people are getting this "alpha" version for the hero engine, they were already out marketing it to potential developers when Bioware got it.  Pretty much the definition of release version is when you start selling it.  So it's not all on Bioware, nor is it all on Simultronics.  The engine clearly wasn't designed to do what Bioware wanted, and I don't believe all of those things they wanted it to do were unreasonable.  Also Bioware clearly wasn't capable of creating their own engine, or modifying the one they licensed.

     

    In the end it's a mix of mediocre game engine used by developers with high ambitions but mediocre development = mediocre product.  The only exceptional thing about the game is the insane amount of money they were able to get EA to spend on development.

     

    Seriously, how the hell do you not realize there's a problem when your costs exceed $100 million and you still have no release date or are even ready to begin beta?  And then you go on to toss more money at it?  Some say $200 million more....what the heck EA?  Gimme a mere $5k and I'll go get you a coffee, if it ends up costing more than that I'll let you know, expect delivery soon...ish.

     

    I've joked about it before with friends, but sometimes I really do wonder if SWTOR was all an Ocean's 11-esque con, with the doctors in the Clooney/Pitt roles and EA in Garcia's.  "11 men, 1 big game developer, $300 million bucks, 1 MMO to pull it off!"

  • KarteliKarteli Providence, PAPosts: 2,646Member
    Originally posted by LogicLester
    Originally posted by FromHell

    They needed an engine where hundreds of people can work on content simultanously, I got that.

    Hero obviously was the only one which made it possible, even in alpha stage.

     

    They should have written their own engine from scratch, or worked more closely with the original devs maybe

     

    As I understand it, initially they started to.  But they determined early on that it wasn't cost effective so they licensed the hero engine.

     

    And I'm not sure where people are getting this "alpha" version for the hero engine, they were already out marketing it to potential developers when Bioware got it.  Pretty much the definition of release version is when you start selling it.  So it's not all on Bioware, nor is it all on Simultronics.  The engine clearly wasn't designed to do what Bioware wanted, and I don't believe all of those things they wanted it to do were unreasonable.  Also Bioware clearly wasn't capable of creating their own engine, or modifying the one they licensed.

     

    In the end it's a mix of mediocre game engine used by developers with high ambitions but mediocre development = mediocre product.  The only exceptional thing about the game is the insane amount of money they were able to get EA to spend on development.

     

    Seriously, how the hell do you not realize there's a problem when your costs exceed $100 million and you still have no release date or are even ready to begin beta?  And then you go on to toss more money at it?  Some say $200 million more....what the heck EA?  Gimme a mere $5k and I'll go get you a coffee, if it ends up costing more than that I'll let you know, expect delivery soon...ish.

     

    I've joked about it before with friends, but sometimes I really do wonder if SWTOR was all an Ocean's 11-esque con, with the doctors in the Clooney/Pitt roles and EA in Garcia's.  "11 men, 1 big game developer, $300 million bucks, 1 MMO to pull it off!"

    HeroEngine Meets StarWars

    http://www.heroengine.com/2011/11/heroengine-meets-starwars/

     

    It's a good read.  It's Hero's rebuttal when EA made the mistake of saying they couldn't do much with the engine because of it's limitations.

     

    Can't say I blame Hero for spilling the beans when their integrity was on the line.  Gordon Walton since left EA / Bioware btw.

     

    Want a nice understanding of life? Try Spirit Science: "The Human History"
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8NNHmV3QPw&feature=plcp
    Recognize the voice? Yep sounds like Penny Arcade's Extra Credits.

  • ThomasN7ThomasN7 87.18.7.148 1, NJPosts: 6,690Member
    Bad choice of engine it seems. Bummer they didn't get it to work properly. I would have chosen Unreal 3 instead of the hero engine.
    30
  • taus01taus01 MunichPosts: 1,352Member

     

    Has nothing to do with the engine or the cost for voiceovers. The games design was flawed from the beginning, they tried to cash in on the WoW crowd and made it a purely linear WoW in space. It had zero innovation or originality. After your starting planet which served as a tutorial for multiple classes, everyone did the same boring linear quests, even fracking space was on rails! Then you ended up at the non existing end game 5 months premature according to their calculations and had nothing to do.

    The problem is that they wanted to cash in on the IP and the huge market for a new WoW. They failed, as expected. That is all there is to it.

    "Give players systems and tools instead of rails and rules"

    image
  • LogicLesterLogicLester Claremont, CAPosts: 68Member
    Originally posted by Karteli

    HeroEngine Meets StarWars

    http://www.heroengine.com/2011/11/heroengine-meets-starwars/

     

    It's a good read.  It's Hero's rebuttal when EA made the mistake of saying they couldn't do much with the engine because of it's limitations.

     

    Can't say I blame Hero for spilling the beans when their integrity was on the line.  Gordon Walton since left EA / Bioware btw. 

     

    It IS an interesting article, what I'd read before was much more of a, Simutronics was at E3 shopping for potential licensees for their game engine as much, or moreso, than they were showing off the game they were making with it.  That article makes it out to be more of a, Simutronics was at E3 showing off their upcoming game, and the engine they were using to make it, in hopes of licensing it to other developers after the game's release.  But what I said before still stands, why they went to E3 is irrelevant.  They sold it, therefore that is release.  The fact that they knew it wasn't an actual release canidate just makes them more culpable reputation-wise.

     

    If you're working on something and a potential customer comes up to you and says "Hey, that looks great already!  I'll give you X for it right now and finish it up myself later!" and you know you're nowhere near done, but you sell it to them anyway, you've sold your reputation for X.  It's common sense, don't rely on your customer to do your work for you.

     

    Oh and pretty much everyone has left EA/Bioware one way or another since SWTOR.  It really was like a black hole for talent.  It got drawn in, but it could not escape.... except at the poles where there are vortices of ejected.... talent?  Okay that simile sucks.

  • ArglebargleArglebargle Austin, TXPosts: 1,413Member Uncommon

    Completly voicing games makes them much more difficult to make changes on.  Requires a lot more work, organization, and cost than having someone go in and change some text box.   Especially when too many speed demons are going to be tabbing through it anyway.   Makes adding that extra needed content that much more troublesome.  And choosing an untested engine?  How could they even know how 'cost effective' that was going to be?

     

    They also seemed to have real inaccurate ideas about how the game would be consumed.  I know they also said they thought that people would play it through 8 times  to get each class story.  Sigh. 

     

    EA must have thought they had the magic WoW dethroner:   Major IP, respected developer,  big budget w/ adverstising,  the mechanics of WoWappeal.  Oops. 

     

    A load of bad decisions, compounded, that once made, lead them into one titanic iceberg disaster.   Probably most of the people responsible have already jumped ship, or found suitable scapegoats.

     

     

    If you are holding out for the perfect game, the only game you play will be the waiting one.

  • erictlewiserictlewis Cottondale, ALPosts: 3,026Member Uncommon

    I said for a long time the game engine was crud, and how it limited the game.  This entire thing just goes to prove that the game engine behind stwor is what has and still is causing this games problems. 

     

  • doodphacedoodphace Vancouver, BCPosts: 1,815Member
    Originally posted by taus01

     

    Has nothing to do with the engine or the cost for voiceovers. The games design was flawed from the beginning, they tried to cash in on the WoW crowd and made it a purely linear WoW in space. It had zero innovation or originality. After your starting planet which served as a tutorial for multiple classes, everyone did the same boring linear quests, even fracking space was on rails! Then you ended up at the non existing end game 5 months premature according to their calculations and had nothing to do.

    The problem is that they wanted to cash in on the IP and the huge market for a new WoW. They failed, as expected. That is all there is to it.

    They did not in any way copy WoW, or make the game WoW in space.

    Copying WoW would have ment the game launched with a /roll command, combat log, macros/mod support, actual working raids, and a dungon finder.

  • Pongo_Pongo_ merced, CAPosts: 36Member Uncommon

    it was/ is a copy of WOW, a very poor copy .

    some of the talent trees in fact were a allmost identical copy. 

    crafting is the same, except you que a companion and wait minutes not a second or two.

     

  • doodphacedoodphace Vancouver, BCPosts: 1,815Member
    Originally posted by Pongo_

    it was/ is a copy of WOW, a very poor copy .

    some of the talent trees in fact were a allmost identical copy. 

    crafting is the same, except you que a companion and wait minutes not a second or two.

     

    Having 1/4th of WoW's features/functionality does not = a copy.

    A "poor copy" implies it copied it, just did it poorly. SWTOR left out the majority of WoW's features and functionality. Let me rephrase that, it left out the majority of MMO features and functionality. SWTOR was a poor MMO, not a poor "WoW clone".

    Case in point? DCUO launched with a /roll command, dungon finder, and combat log. Rift actually copied wow for the most part, and was not only a success, it was a damn good WoW replacement.

    Everyone needs to stop implying that the reason most MMO's fail, is because the copy wow.....the reason they fail is because they are poorly made. If their goal is to copy WoW, and they actually do it, they would have a damn fine themepark MMO on their hands.

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