Single-Player RPG with a Co-op feel?

One simple answer: No.

Through my WoW experience, I’ve enjoyed Brigwyn’s place in the community. He’s had some pretty interesting things to say, and I respect the hell out of him. However, this caught my eye via Twitter:

A very interesting thread on the official #SWTOR forums. Seems I’m not alone in feeling Single Player RPG w/ Coop play

**Sorry, Brig. I’m not picking on you. You brought light to a community issue that I felt compelled to comment on.**

The essence of the thread is this: There is a minority of people that believe that the game is “too linear”, “too small”, and “too instanced”. Most are players that come from Star Wars Galaxies or World of Warcraft, as would be expected.

Too Linear

World of Warcraft – How is this game NOT linear? The key to most games is progression, meaning it progresses along some kind of path. That’s simply how stories work. You start with some kind of exposition, an inciting event, then the rising action. You peak at the climax, then the resolving action to the conclusion (until the next inciting incident). You can branch off into little side sagas (look at the Star Wars Expanded Universe), but that’s how storytelling goes. Yes, SWTOR is linear because it’s telling a story. Your story. World of Warcraft is no different in it’s current form.

Star Wars Galaxies – The was a true open world or “sandbox” game. You made of it whatever you wanted. SOE put essentially zero story into it, which is why it really didn’t feel linear. The progress of your character involved getting missions, going out and killing a nest of monsters, then back to the terminals. Once you maxed your professions, you “rerolled” and did it all again until you got your Force Sensitive slot unlocked.

Too Small

World of Warcraft – I’m only on Balmorra, but I already feel like SWTOR has more surface area than World of Warcraft, especially give what I’ve heard about Tatooine and Hoth (with more planets to eventually). Each planet is supposed to serve as the level-equivalent zone you’re supposed to be in. In comparison, Balmorra already is bigger than Stranglethorn. In terms of starting areas, Dromund Kaas and Korriban are certainly bigger than Elwynn Forest. If it feels smaller because you have to get into a ship to go between planets, that’s valid. However, I don’t buy the argument that it actually is smaller.

Star Wars Galaxies – SWG was on the other side of the spectrum. At the end-level planets like Dantooine, to travel from one place to another, you’d be on your speeder long enough to go to the bathroom and grab a drink before you got there. Most likely, you wouldn’t see anyone on your trip. Yes, the worlds were expansive, but they were a little too much so, if you ask me. You’d stumble on a harvester field or a “Player City” (read: Ghost Town), but that’s it.

Frankly, there’s a happy medium between “small” and “too large”. I think Bioware is trying to strike that chord between the two. They’re on the right track. Worlds feel expansive enough for me, but not so expansive that it seems like a chore to get somewhere. I find that the time I spend traveling is best spent chatting with my guild and forging those bonds.

Too Instanced

World of Warcraft – One of my least favorite days in WoW is when new quest content is released. I’m usually running around like crazy trying to tag a mob to count for the quest that I need. Quest-givers are covered in players so I have to write a special macro just to interact with the NPC. It does feel good to know that there are people around, but there’s a threshold where it hinders my gameplay experience. I’m grateful for instancing. I can focus on the context of the mission I’m on, instead of trying to compete with a fellow Imperial (thus potentially souring server community).

Star Wars Galaxies – As stated above, the worlds were so expansive that it wasn’t usually a problem for those out in the wild. However, I can’t count how many hours I spent at the Mission Terminal, refreshing the page ad nauseum until the Rancor mission showed up. There was almost no need to group with anyone. Instancing wasn’t really an issue, but it also wasn’t needed because there were few chances for grouping except to give yourself better missions.

Again, this is another occasion where Bioware is trying to strike the chord between “Multiplayer” and “Overcrowded”. If instancing means I don’t have to fight other Imperial players for objectives, that’s fine with me.

Beyond that:

  • If you’re already level 50, then yes, it’s going to feel a bit empty. You got a jump start on a majority of the other players. You also leveled faster than most. It’s going to take a while for everyone else to catch up.
  • It’s going to have that “Single Player Feel” because one of Bioware’s goals is to advance your individual story and get you invested in it. If all you did was “space bar” through the dialogue, then you’re missing a main part of the meal. It’s like ordering a steak dinner and just eating the potato and the vegetable. I know the decisions that my Sith Sorcerer has made and why I made them. All I can tell you about my Resto Shaman is his i-level and spec.
  • There are ample opportunities to interact with other players: Heroic missions are repeatable, Flashpoints are easy to access, doing missions as a group award Social points, you can level in PvP. If you’re not taking these opportunities to interact and expecting it to “just happen”, then you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
  • Don’t declare a game “free to play” before it’s even had a chance to grow and mature. If WoW hadn’t started changing its design with Burning Crusade, they could’ve gone free-to-play as well. I’ll grant you that games tend to be going that way, but there are always exceptions.
  • Finally, just because you don’t seem to care for the game doesn’t make it a bad game. As I’ve written before, “to each his or her own”. Everyone’s going to have a game that grabs them and reels them in. WoW is still a great game. SWG had its fanbase to the end. EVE has a huge following. People still play Everquest. It is entirely okay for a game to not draw the attention and wallet of every gamer in the world.

If, after you’ve listened (not just heard) to everything I’ve pointed out above, you feel that SWTOR isn’t for you, that’s okay. You gave it a shot. You found out it wasn’t your cup of tea. Go find whatever it is that you want in a game. I really do sincerely hope you find it. All we ask is you not shit on the doorstep on your way out. I’m still enjoying SWTOR, and I’m happy to pay $15/month to support them.

If you still need some words from those of us that are enjoying the game, here’s a snippet from my friend Jonathon at The Best Damn Nerd Show:

To me, the idea that SW:TOR feels less ‘massively multiplayer’ is completely absurd. Skeptics, it seems, are looking for any reason to nitpick and complain about various aspects of the game, which is obviously not perfect. But, when these skeptics find even the slightest thing wrong, they’re willing to lampoon the game despite the fact that all of its competitors share the same exact flaw.

You can read the entire post from Jonathon right here.

2 responses to “Single-Player RPG with a Co-op feel?

  1. I am a little sad that I chanced across your blogs only very recently – after you have quit WoW. SWTOR looks like it is an amazing game, I personally am eagerly awaiting its launch where I live. :)

    May the Force be with you! /SW fan since childhood :D

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