Thursday, July 29, 2010

What will SWTOR's end-game be like?

That is the $64,000 question over the past several days after last week's San Diego Comic-Con when James Ohlen responded to an insightful question:
Q: If a player completes their class story, do you think it's likely that they'll restart as another character to experience another story, or focus on end game content?

A: We really hope that players will go play other classes because otherwise that would be a waste of resources
It's been no secret that many people have been very worried about the prospects of this game being closer to that of an RPG than an MMORPG and answers like this do nothing but feed into that fear.  It touched off numerous lengthy threads on the SWTOR forum and to which Bioware never replied to any of them.  By some accounts we're less than a year away from release -- the release of Deceived was delayed until Mar 2010, according to the author, to coincide with the release of the game -- and there is still a majority of the game we've heard virtually nothing about, let alone gotten to the specifics of.  End-game is one of those topics.  Other than a generic statement by Bioware that "there will be an end-game" we know absolutely nothing concrete.  During the San Diego Comic-Con we heard that some of the flash-points may be an hour to two hours long, which may in fact be the first examples of the end-game content we can expect.

If Bioware's developmental plans for end-game include starting new characters whenever you complete a class story, I think that idea will simply lend meat to the fears.  And I think it would be a terrible mistake.  Bioware has touted many times that all the content they've written for SWTOR thus far amount to more than 10 times the amount of content that was found in KOTOR, as if that were to stand as an example of why no one will ever get bored.  They didn't actually say that in so many words, but that's the impression I've gotten over the months when I read those answers.  If Bioware thinks that 300 or 400 hours of content is going to be enough to keep people satisfied, they are woefully mistaken and naive.  That's probably two to three months of play time for most players, although it would probably be several additional months of play time for the most casual of players.  So what do they expect those not so casual players to do in the intervening period before Bioware adds more content?  I can't tell you that, other than I guess create new characters, but I can  tell you what those players will do.  They'll get on the forums and bitch up a storm, and will bitch up a storm on their blogs, and anywhere else available to them.

The moral to this story is that Bioware really needs to understand the expectation of their potential customers.  They'll be varied, but that will include a vibrant PVP aspect that compliments and coincides with the PVE aspects; a strong crafting and gathering element, and most importantly, a design that doesn't force them to essentially start over when they reach the level cap.  Ten Ton Hammmer has a few interesting comments on the matter as well.