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Hi everyone, I just wanted to compile some information together, since there is some disparity about SWTOR actually having a decent game engine.
It's been talked about before, about how the game engine may or may not be OK, or just flat out SUCK. Often times disputed by EA, and spoken to their fans, the whole idea is dumped back on the players, with reasoning that it's their customers machines, not the game. Let's look into this.
Some time ago EA investigated the Hero Engine. They loved what they saw, and, even though Hero was still in beta, they said, "we'll take it!". Now the thing to walk away from here was that the Hero Engine was incomplete, by the very people who could have made it complete, but EA bought it "as is", saying they would fill the rest in later. A Warrantee was void at this point.
Nowadays the Hero Engine is complete and other games are using it with full graphics capability.
Lets look back to what Hero said. This response was notable only after EA said that optimization could not fully happen because of the Hero Engine limitations. Hero has a way with words to defend their honor .. but then again I'd expect them to, since Hero is a principal to their company.
We showed the game to our friend Gordon Walton. We had known Gordon for many years, back in the days when he worked for Kesmai, our late great competitor. Gordon had since been with Sony for its Star Wars Galaxies game among other places. He knows games, especially online games.
Not only did we show him the game, but because Gordon knew us so well we showed him the development tools we had built around our special process – building the game online, in realtime, with tools for the entire team all in one package.
“I need this,” said Gordon. “I am about to start a special project and these tools will let us build and prototype fast and get something running in a hurry.” Gordon is not an excitable guy by nature but this had his adrenaline flowing. “This is just what I need! I want to license your engine.”
We had thought about offering our engine and tools to developers but we had expected that we would have to actually ship a game first, like Epic did with Unreal Tournament before they licensed the original Unreal Engine.
“It’s not productized yet,” we told Gordon. “There are whole sections of code that is only roughed in and not optimized for performance or security. And there are very few comments and very little documentation.”
He didn’t care. “We are going to have tons of engineers. We can finish it ourselves. We’re going to want to modify your source code for our special project anyway.”
Gordon Walton was General Manager of BioWare Austin, until early 2011, when he stepped down. Perhaps to save his career after all the damage that was done?
Well it didn't turn out so good. The performance of the SWTOR engine was awful. EA's twisted version of the Hero engine is still incomplete. SWTOR was nowhere near massively. Multiplayer? .. ok, but with 16 players or less nearby to you. 16 players or more and the game showed it's "massively" weakness. Hell 30+ players in Ilum turned the game into a slideshow, causing Ilum to be shutdown permamently (looking straight down didn't even help). It wasn't because Ilum was a bad concept, it was because players went there and said, "wow this game blows" .. this was not the publicity EA wanted, so they shut Ilum down.
This ideology to sell a pile of poo with pretty wrapping doomed the game. Who wants to play a AAA MMO that has a subscription fee, plagued by a horrible engine?
Well optimizations continue to happen. I believe in 1.2 we saw a 10% performance boost. At least that what the astroturfers on the SWTOR forums said. I saw no increase.
EA Bioware recently came on to say (Aug 27, 2012):
Hey all, I just wanted to pop in and say we are actively working on various optimizations (both server and client) and will continue to do so. It's extremely important for us to continually make improvements to our technology so we can have users across a variety of system specs and support large living worlds for those users to craft their virtual lives.
So this is essentially the same message EA spread from the start, but now they are still working on it. DarthHater has been after EA to optimize from launch, and this is the response SW fans get. /sigh
[side reference to the original DathHater interview: http://www.darthhater.com/articles/swtor-news/19981-guild-summit-interview-with-daniel-erickson/daniel-erickson-interview-part-2, see NOTE  at the end of this article.]
From a post-launch release:
[Star Wars: The Old Republic is no Witcher 2, Skyrim, or government-created missile targeting program. It doesn’t exactly look like it should be the Death Star to your rig’s Alderaan. And yet, many players have reported framerates that can barely keep their heads above 20FPS on machines that eat the aforementioned titles/missiles for breakfast. So, what’s the deal? Well, BioWare’s not entirely convinced there is one. With a wave of the hand, game director James Ohlen told Eurogamer that these aren’t the performance issues you’re looking for.
“The thing is, for the most part, 95 per cent – oh I can’t give you the exact percentage – most of our players aren’t really having performance concerns,” he said. “However, we know that it’s important that there is a smaller group of people usually with lower end machines that are having problems in some areas. And one of the most important things for us to grow our service is to continue to bring in more players, including those players who only have low-end machines.”]
Liars from the grand opening of this game. Great start Bioware. They even threw in a BS statistic.
This is our most desperate hour. Help me, Star-Wars-MMO_03. You're my only hope.
It should be noted that the same machine that gave 1-10 fps in a crowded environment with SWTOR gives 60 fps in GW2 and WoW. Or close to it, even during massive PVP.
As a saving grace, SWTOR gives 60 fps when no other players are on the same map. The only way to play this game is single player apparently.
[NOTE 1] referenced earlier
Guild Summit: Interview With Daniel Erickson
March 14, 2012
Where are you on game engine optimizations? Because I currently get about 5 to 10 frames per second on Alderaan and about 20 in Huttball and I have a PC that can run Crysis 2 at ultra. With no real explanation on what is going on.
Wow. You should do some investigation, because that is not typical. Where we are on game optimization in general is we’ve got some crazy, crazy options that you can turn on in 1.2. I played running around on several of the planets at fully acceptable wonderful running framerates on min spec machines now, which was the thing I wanted to see.
What we got right now is a big texture package pass, and we did it in both directions. So we can say, “Hey, you can take the textures way down, run around, the game works.” We’ve also said, “Hey, you know those textures people keep saying they like so much in the promotional videos? You can turn those on too now.” Because now we figured out how to do it in a small area so it doesn’t try to do it everywhere.
The next big thing we have to hit is effects, and that’s just a standard of what games do is say, “Hey, you know all those crazy crazy effects that everybody else is drawing? Yeah, maybe I don’t want to see all of your lightning storms all at once.” We have a programming team now that literally that’s their only mandate is game run better. Long term target is you should be able to play on your laptop, you should be able to play on your second and third machine in the house. And we are fiercely dedicated to that goal.
editted to fix typos
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