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First, a cliff notes overview of my MMO background. My first was as a BETA tester for Star Wars Galaxies. Im a HUGE SW nut, so thats what brought me to that experience (which had tons of pluses and tons of problems). When they ruined that game around the famed NGE, I moved onto WoW with several maxed out toons. I took a long break and then wandered through Rift, Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World. In SWG and WoW, I was very active in family guilds, which included taking our time to take in all of the content, which included raiding up until the Lich King expansion. Ive also been a fairly active crafter, I rather enjoy all that, too.
Ok, so onto my review. I was in early BETA for this game and along with peeps like Taugrim, actively posted my rather passionate views on such online magazines as Money and Forbes, which posted several long articles when SWTOR first fell apart. To be clear, I was hyper critical of the game for reasons I will outline in a bit. But this is no ordinary game, it simply has not progressed in a traditional fashion and it carries with it, the most successful license in history- now under new management. Its not a simple vanilla situation. And Im in Austin, where this is game is based, even went to a launch event.
Simply put, the way this game was launched is a case study for all the things not todo. From endless technical bugs, the likes of which I have never seen, to horrific customer service, the problems rapidly cascaded until the a whole lot of people who signed up - simply moved on. Ive never seen anything like it nor had many business publications, which is why the failure of SWTOR after such huge upfront investments and tons of press, caught the mainstream's eye. All that said, the game at any point could have been turned around. Although the endless laundry list of issues was daunting, the single mistake they made, the old management team (of which Olden remains, I think) was unbelievable levels of arrogance. Simply put, they refused to listen to the many that desperately tried to save the game.
I lost track of how many times I would read posts by the top brass, basically stating its our way or the highway. People felt very betrayed and more importantly, totally unheard. They were going to push the content they want to push out, regardless. Their customer base would just have to deal with it. And nowhere in there were genuine admissions of fault or any meaningful attempts to make things right. A few great examples of this. When my Jedi Sentinel faced the Emperor, a much discussed fight in terms of how impossible it was, I over geared up and was ready to go. This represented the final moments of a storyline that I VERY MUCH enjoyed, the story part they hit a huge home run. So there I was, the big moment and the game glitched, it was over in about six seconds, with me one shot killing the Emperor. Their response? A $7 credit to my account. It was a horrible way to handle such a serious problem and this is but one example of countless issues that were equally serious.
When F2P came up, after most of the top brass left or were asked to leave, all the press SWTOR was putting out was, it was simply the wrong monetization model, so now that we have that down (F2P), we'll be fine. There were no real and credible admissions as to how poorly this whole thing had been managed. There was no initial evidence that the TONE of management and how they planned on developing TOR had changed at all. Again, horribly managing things, pitiful responses to very serious issues, remained the status quo.
The one thing they did do well, however, better then almost any Ive experienced, was tell stories. I have greatly enjoyed the leveling process for the most part. SO kudos to the original crew for that, because in that area, they did exceptional work. But in many other ways, the flashpoints and even some of the stories, were far more about Rhakghouls then Star Wars content. The planets that people most liked were the ones they already knew of, not the ones they randomly invented. And the fact that you would so totally invest in companions only to have them go silent once they were fully unlocked- a very poor planning process. So their story work, while very good in some ways, they (again) simply did not listen to their base.
The bottom line is this, Bioware and EA lost the trust of some very passionate SW fans, of MMO people for all of the end game failures and of the gaming world in general- due to the many unresolved glitches. They didnt listen and in so doing, they massively blew both the launch of this game and the many crisis situations that followed.
They gave us an adorable Ewok, well, we had to pay for it, but its an Ewok! We also now have Tauntauns, soon- bounty contracts and other alternate missions. Over the last three months, their customer service, which had been the worst I had ever experienced anywhere in any business model, has shown some very positive signs of improvement. Many of the Legacy perks, while way too expensive, have greatly improved both the gameplay experience as well as the immersion experience. I loved being able to work from my ship, for example. I think they need to do a great deal more to make the capital cities more of a hub, but that is also nice. And while their approach to dyes is nowhere even close to GW2's excellent and far more affordable and equitable system, its a start. Some of the recent flashpoints feel a lot more like Star Wars and the recent upgrade on the look of the textures was a huge plus. I can honestly say that I am, in many ways, truly enjoying the game on many levels. But serious problems remain.
The Cartel Coin system is a mess and far too expensive. I do well IRL so when I came back to the game, I had no problem funding getting the three toons I regularly play with dressed up, power leveled for crafting and all with mounts and cool looks. But to do that cost me close to a whopping $600+ over about three weeks!!! And Legacy is kind of a farce if hitting higher levels of Legacy just means more things to spend real life money on. The in game credit prices are nuts and totally out of whack.
I am a big fan of a Legacy system that mirrors regularly leveling, but for the purpose of TRULY rewarding a player. Six tiers of 10, as in Legacy levels 1-9 would equal Tier 1, wherein Legacy levels 50-59 would equal tier six. Lets take the Ewok companion. Make him crazy expensive on the Cartel- like 10,000 CC. A Tier 1 person could unlock him for 1M credits, but lower that to 800K credits for tier 2. If someone is Tier 6, they could get the Ewok for say 200K credits. Reward your most loyal players. Also, make it a super crazy long quest line for those that dont have the real world cash and dont have a lot ot Legacy yet. This is a system that makes far more sense. Right now, its all backwards, the more you unlock, the more ways they can charge you! I love the Legacy perks, there is lots of good stuff in their, but how they are doing it is wrong. Morally.
Also, dont make people gamble with their hard earned money and/or credits. Packs should not be a gamble in the way they are now, where you have to buy tons of them to get the "thing" you want, just sell it per the system I outlined above. Or stay with the current system and significantly reduce the cost. And DONT nickle and dime people. If they drop a ton of cash for a thing, it should automatically be account wide. F2P was meant to be around micro, as in small, transactions- not macro, you now have TONS OF WIFE AGGRO and are thus living with a Bantha out in the barn, system!!
Content. Again, I am seeing more and more improvements, way more Star Wars, far more listening, Im seeing more and more good stuff. But dont make this events once a month. Set up a permanent BH system, Light Side questing system, Dark side questing system, other classes. And dont take short cuts. On Makeb, you NEVER see what you're flying over! Come on, all that work where we experience being on a speeder but then there, nada?
I have seen a significant improvement in customer service over the last few months, but a great deal more needs to be done. The GTN, slowly getting there, is very clumsy to use. Allow is to click an item into the search function, for example. There also needs to be much better balance on crafting items versus raid items. Allow crafter to offer items that you can only get from crafters that support PvP and raiding. And above all else, LISTEN!! Give us Star Wars content, gives us traditional MMO strengths but also show some imagination and redefine MMO's- more exploring, hybrids-people love hybrids.
I had totally written this game off on so many levels. It had failed me time and time again and yet now, its winning its way back into my heart. Hopefully, as time goes on, it will make its way into my pocket book less and less. I am BEGINNING to have hope that this could become the game I once believed it could be. Time will tell.