I feel it necessary to mention that is by no means an exhaustive or comprehensive review. I also feel that a few critical issues should be addressed, which prompted me to cancel my 2 accounts. After grinding up a 50 to full battlemaster with gear, I can't bring myself to continue.
To whom it may concern, I would like to pass on some concerns about the failures and future of SWTOR, and online gaming in general. As a hard core gamer for over the past 30 years, from Pong to the PC, the garbage that passes for an acceptable piece of gaming software today is pathetic. If someone was trying to sell me a car that was only halfway running, or a hamburger that wasn't done, I would take it back and ask for a refund. So why is it that the gaming community accepts such substandard work today even with the ability to produce high grade computer graphics like anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering?
I believe that most of the raw developer talent today is suppressed, because everything gets a passing grade today with the advent of the participation trophy generation. Children that have grown up getting a trophy for waking up and washing their nasty anuses in the bathtub, then go to university or community college for programming. These same losers that have never experienced the high of true success through hard work and determination believe that every piece of code they write should be packaged and sold to the masses, when it is flat out incomplete garbage.
The creative out of the box, revolutionary, ground breaking, brilliant, breathtaking, and no holds barred software never seems to find its way to retailer shelves. Experienced developers not being allowed or encouraged to take risks, and being allowed to push the level of gaming software to new dimensions has been relegated to days gone by.
Probably few these days, remember the thrill of playing games like Pong, Atari's Missile Command, Vanguard, Dig Dug, Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Asteroids, Nintendo's Mike Tyson's Punch-out, or perhaps the harsh toe gripping MSDOS action in the original Command & Conquer or U.S.S. Ticonderoga? What made these games legendary was the fact that they didn't try to counterfeit someone else's work, they were each their own and as distinctly unique amongst the entertainment software community as chocolate chip or neapolitan ice cream.
The games today have much less robust creativity and long term playability because they lack some essential ingredients necessary for success. Community, compatibility, and customer service strike me as a few serious issues impacting the software gaming industry. I know that there are probably a dozen other issues I could elaborate on in this review, however for the sake of timeliness I only selected a few important ones that are easy to follow and remember.
First, the community for most games that claim to be massively multiplayer online (MMO) is not cultivated or is essentially non-existent. Gaming critics and developers alike, have been allowed to redefine what constitutes an MMO by simply throwing up a vast quantity of gaming servers and then hoping you can get through a broken login queue at retail release.
The community of an MMO is the adhesive of the software, and it helps breathe life into a complex series of binary code. True MMOs have been few in number, such as Dark Age of Camelot, Everquest, Planetside, Star Wars Galaxies, Eve Online, and a select handful of others. One of the undeniable realities about great MMOs is that you need a vibrant active community for the game to be playable. The trend for many games, including SWTOR, caters to the single player more than it does to the community base of multi-guild players. When you do NOT emphasize community more than the single player online game that SWTOR is, you will have one short lived game because it is only odds and ends holding the game together.
Team work and organizational participation should be the desired result of any high end MMO. Simply having a bunch of players being allowed to run around and flash an emote in a digitally pixilated environment misses the mark to me.
SWTOR 4 man squads are pathetic, as are 24 player ops groups that are really only usable on a broken down heap of a planet called ilum. The 8 versus 8 warzones are a calamitous and monotonous joke all at the same time. Players entering a random battle with random pickup players is an epic failure for trying to promote teamwork and cooperation. I am unconcerned about the lone wolf player who feels that a pre-made organized group on Teamspeak is too overpowered for his taste buds: my response is go play KOTOR or Skyrim, a single player game. When the game becomes all about the gear and not about working as a team to accomplish some type of galactic objective, the novelty of the game soon loses its luster.
I am able to think of a couple things that wouldn't be difficult or as time consuming as several hundred hours and gigs of audio, such as multiplayer vehicles for warfare and transportation. Imagine being able to use the crawlers on ilum with a pilot and gunners instead of using some asinine rocket launcher to blow them up for no real reason other than a valor buff, or what about multiplayer spaceships with persistent universal pvp objectives and benefits? I guess that might take some creative thought and out of the box programming that isn't a shallow knock off of world of warcraft?
In game crafting is another key aspect that will build a strong sense of community, because when you require players to make and control the economy, everyone has a role to play in how the game develops. For example, if players aren't crafting ships, you don't have ships to fly, if players aren't crafting weapons, you don't have quality weapons to use, or bullets to use for those weapons. Bioware has set up another ridiculously lame crafting system that is a lot of nothing. Players can make gear, but it isn't gear that they can customize and perfect for a profit on the global auction system, it is bind on pickup...retarded. In all reality there are only 2 professions in SWTOR that are viable, biochem and cybertech, because everything else is useless and unnecessary under current game play.
I could continue to elaborate on community based issues, such as guild banks and others, but the one thing Bioware needs to realize: they have failed the MMO community. The game in its current state offers no real incentives or benefits to the community as a whole: it is a single player online role playing game (SPORPG).
The second problematic point brings me to the compatibility issue. For sake of time I won't belabor this issue other than to say to the gaming industry, quit trying to dumb down gaming complexity! This profit saving mechanism is costing you long term monetary loss, because the real money is generated by long term paying customers. The modern console gaming generation has a short ritalin attention span, so the tendency to cater to them is tempting, however as soon as they sub the game they will unsub and you will be left with trying to consolidate a bunch of unpopulated servers.
One of the best development teams that has ever graced the online gaming world is CCP. Whether you like or have even heard of Eve Online, they cater to the community and compatibility wise they aren't trying to make their MMO more appealing to the crowd that is unable to handle a learning curve. Eve Online is a successful massively multiplayer game that allows hundreds and thousands of players to co-exist on one enormous super computer, where expansions and updates are free to the subscriber base. While CCP is currently developing a piece of software for console users that will have the ability to interface with Eve Online, they are separate and distinct pieces of software in two different genres.
Publishers and programmers alike should strive to create games that force cognitive thinking and reasoning, strategy and teamwork, and games that will actually challenge the participants instead of placating their short ritalin controlled attention spans.
I conclude with my third point being a complete lack of customer service, not exclusive to SWTOR. I am sick and tired of developers and GM's who feel like they are doing me a favor by responding if I file a customer support ticket or request assistance with in game issues. What most of the community is looking for is a simple, "we apologize for the inconvenience we have caused" and because of that they will give some form of compensation to show they are serious. Do not just say you are sorry in an email or post and then do NOTHING to remedy the problem, make good on your word!
For example, if the quests are broken and are not giving credit for dailies or weeklies like they have been since retail release, make some overture of goodwill to your paying customers that won't cost you a dime, i.e. credit for a week of dailies or something to show you actually give a shit about your subscriber base. If the servers go down unexpectedly, give a day credit to people on their accounts...things like this go a VERY long way to people paying your salary.
Listen to your customer base: read customer mail and threads. Actually allow it to influence the way you do you business or you will be out of business! I am amazed at the insolence of developers and support staff at the way they treat and respond to customers. I could site illustrations, but since this has turned into a longer critique than originally intended I will curtail what remains.
Be responsive to your customer base, if they say don't push the patch because it is broken, do NOT push the patch. I realize you have a group of trolls, whiners, and crybabies that only care about their forum rank and thread count, but please for your own paychecks, play the game and verify what your customers are dealing with and then be determined to fix it: if you are willing to take my money then be willing to give me a product worth the price. Just because George Lucas sleeps with a blow up C3PO doll in his R2D2 pajamas and Darth Vader underoos does not mean that every other person will continue paying for broken down garbage and remain loyal to the force.
All in all, the game has a ton of potential as many other games have, however the necessary course corrections must be made while you still have a viable subscriber base. Once the management determines to lowball customer service and support and neglect important quality control issues, then do NOT expect to have a long term viable game like Eve Online that has been collecting subscriptions for the past 8 years. The Hut ball is in your hands Bioware, what will you do with it?