by

Mark Pincus Grateful For Continued Existence Of Bobby Kotick

BOOM! HEADSHOT!

Bobby Kotick shows the class, grace and market acumen for which he is so justly renowned, when commenting on an imminent competitor for his corporation’s cash cow:

“We’ve been in business with Lucas for a long time and the economics will always accrue to the benefit of Lucas, so I don’t really understand how the economics work for Electronic Arts.”

He said that he does not think The Old Republic will steal users from WoW, adding, “If you look at the history of the people investing in an MMO and achieving success, it’s a small number.”

Yes, and clearly the largest game company on the planet, funding what is most likely the most expensive game project in history, would never qualify for that small number.

Oh Bobby, don’t ever change.

  • Later in that interview:

    “When asked about further subscription losses being possible Mr. Kotick released a bloodthirsty zerg of steroid enhanced pandas, ending the interview.”

  • Sinij

    This must be PR saber rattling, nobody this high up the ladder could be this ignorant.

    • Some Guy

      “This must be PR saber rattling, nobody this high up the ladder could be this ignorant.”

      That’s certainly what the ladder would have you believe, isn’t it?  Surprisingly, they’re just people.  And usually people pretty insulated from the concerns of what most of us would consider real life.  Apart from that, people high up the later are as capable of being a bonehead as anyone else; the primary difference being that they will rarely be told they are being a bonehead.

  • Sinij

    Here is my predicition for year 2012:

    There can be only one DIKU top dog. Seeing how WoW had its “jump the shark” expansion and TOR about to release with more shiny than ever seen before….

    In year 2012 WoW will lose 80%+ of paid customers to TOR and will be forced to go F2P.

  • Vetarnias

    “This must be PR saber rattling, nobody this high up the ladder could be this ignorant.”

    Never underestimate the elasticity of the Peter Principle.

    I saw that news article shortly before Lum posted it here, and I was thinking exactly the same thing. Lucas is a greedy soulless bastard, everyone knows that.  But could WoW and TOR have completely different demographic bases? That reminds me of the petulant WoW fanboys taking pride in shooting down Pirates of the Burning Seas like it was their doing; most of the guys who played PotBS were as anti-WoW as you could find. 

    • Sinij

      From what I heard from TOR beta players it is DIKU to the
      bone. My guess is that WoW and TOR demographics overlap about as much as WoW
      and EQ, so history tells us that pretty much entire player base plus all
      inactive players will pick up and move to TOR. The only way WoW could compete
      is with point-by-point feature matching with TOR, and I just don’t see this
      happening, seeing how little effort goes into WoW expansion.

      WoW also demonstrated what I call “DIKU
      paradigm”,  as countless examples of
      DIKU post-WoW attempts (LoTR, CoH, DDO, AoC just to name few) showed
      overwhelming majority would play only one DIKU at a time and when playing DIKU
      players expect point-by-point feature matching. You could also argue that
      people generally don’t care about settings, cartoonish-looking orcs,
      superheroes, tentacle rape or else, only tiny fraction even influenced by this.

      Next battle going to be Blizzard’s Titan vs. TOR expansion
      and it can play as follows,

      ETHER TOR decides to protect initial investment and put
      serious effort into expansions, reversing ‘milk for all it got with half-assed
      effort’ industry trend

      OR we are going to see once-a-decade blockbuster dominating
      market pattern, where budget to compete is at Hollywood blockbuster level.

      • Guest

        “From what I heard from TOR beta players it is DIKU to the
        bone. My guess is that WoW and TOR demographics overlap about as much as WoW
        and EQ, so history tells us that pretty much entire player base plus all
        inactive players will pick up and move to TOR.
        [snip]
        You could also argue that
        people generally don’t care about settings, cartoonish-looking orcs,
        superheroes, tentacle rape or else, only tiny fraction even influenced by this. ”

        Time will tell if I’m one of that “tiny fraction” I guess, but I couldn’t disagree more.  There are some huge things working against TOR:
        1) It’s not elves-dwarves-goblins-etc.  No doubt a huge chunk of people love Star Wars, but I’m not convinced they want to *play* Star Wars. Ty fighters and combat medics and phaser guns are not orcs and ogres and magic and sabre slashing, and it DOES make a difference.  Yes, it’s a different skin on the same mechanics, but for a lot of us D&D and high fantasy are what we played, not sci fi.  You watched sci-fi on TV, you played with magic and swords and elves.
        2) The community exists in WoW.  Bioware has certainly recognized this and done a good job of establishing community before launch, with guild invites and whatnot hashed out before the game even starts, but it’s still going to trip a lot of people up; the path of least resistance is to stay with the community you’re in, and I wouldn’t underestimate the path of least resistance.
        3) It’s already been done.  KotOR pretty much ruined the whole Star Wars thing for a lot of people.  Using the same IP just makes the whole deal feel “meh” to me.

        • Gearjammer

          The community in WoW is almost nonexistent. Cross-server dungeon finder and queueing crushed what there was to begin with.

  • VPellen

    I hate Kotick as much as the next guy, but is he wrong? Just because TOR has a lot of money and a big license, that doesn’t mean it can’t fall flat on its face. It’ll probably gain a decent initial subscriber base, sure, although how much of that subscriber base it’ll actually retain is another question. Either way, I don’t see it toppling WoW simply because.. well, why would it?

  • Sinij

    More of the same plus newer.

  • Mandella

    During my short stay in the last open beta weekend stress test, there were quite a few loud general chatters claiming they were soon going to be ex WoW players.
    Who knows? It is DIKU to the bone, but at the same time it seems to be actually trying to tell a story, which is going to bore the WoWers to death. Also, system requirements are up there, another bad move if you are going to steal Blizzard’s thunder…

  • J.

    SPAAAAAAACE.
    space.

  • John Smith

    “But could WoW and TOR have completely different demographic bases?”

    Yes, very much so. Certainly, there is always that ex-game crowd that goes around trying every single new mmorpg out there and claims game x is going to be the best game ever, but you cant ever please that crowd so they are ultimately irrelevant. They will buy the box, they will buy a month, and then it’s just predictable bleedout from there on in. From what I’ve seen of tor, it isn’t really a true mmorpg in the traditional sense, and it certainly lacks serious innovation as far as the genre is concerned but rather it’s mass effect with a star wars skin and a monthly fee. This will draw in a distinctly different crowd in addition to mmo junkies, of which wow players are a large part.

    The fan base essentially breaks down as follows: First you have the star wars fans. Then you have the bioware rpg/mass effect fans. Then you break that down further into scifi fans, which there is a great lack of in the mmo department. Then there is that fourth group of so called mmorpg junkies who may or may not come from wow. There is certainly overlap but it is possible to see where Bobby “son of satan” Kottick is coming from.

    When wow launched, did it take all it’s customers from uo and eq and all the other oldies? No, it attracted an entirely different breed of players, mainly those that were blizzard fans or warcraft fans, not specifically mmo players. Unfortunately for the rest of us, there were many more fans from sc and diablo and wc that had a slight interest in wow which then snowballed into the standard setting monster that it is now… but it is conceivable that tor will have a similar success story: It will attract many players, not just a few current mmo players but  new players that havent played mmos before. Players that buy it and log on because it is perceived to be “star wars” or “mass effect online”. Who knows, 5 years from now we might be blaming that damn 100 bajillion dollar star wars game for the continued stagnation of western mmorpgs. 

  • Foamy

    Having played the weekend beta, SW:TOR is basically a single player Bioware RPG on 2003 MMO servers.  Fighting for mob taps for your “Kill 10 rats” quests and quest objects despawning if used by another player are in full effect, making other players in the area an impediment to your questing progress rather than a potential for cooperation.  LFG is a broken “who” function (it wasn’t even listing people standing next to me at one point), with no global chat channel nor any kind of summoning feature, so be prepared for 20+ mins of spamming chat followed by 20+ mins of standing around while the group gathers if you want a full party of 4…

    …which, quite frankly, most people probably wont bother with, since “Companions” (read: Guild Wars heroes) count towards the party size limit, and can be much more reliable than someone who may have never played an mmo before and has no idea about CC or aggro.  There’s likely to be the usual shortage of tanks/heals (the Holy Trinity is very much in effect), and being able to drop in a companion for that role is often easier.  Plus you get to progress the Companion Affection Minigame if they’re in your party.

    Admittedly it’ll probably be only 30 secs of spamming chat for a month or two for launch, but if anyone recalls trying to find groups for Blackrock Depths without guildies helping you’ll probably be in for a burst of nostalgia (and not in a good way).  Every single time I grouped over the weekend, the group disbanded immediately after that quest/flashpoint completed – there was no incentive to stay together after that task, as everyone had their own questlogs pulling them in different directions.  There doesn’t seem to be a central city “Hub” either – the Imperial/Republic Fleets appear to be the closest to this function, but I suspect that most people will be spending their spare time on their own ship instead, as ships give access to travel, storage, and minigames, while Fleets only appear to give access to the Auction House.

    Don’t get me wrong – the story is GREAT, although once you get to the second planet the stock PC voice responses start becoming apparent (obviously it would be nice to have unique “I accept your quest”/”I reject your quest” for every single conversation in the game, but it looks like there’s about 3 different variations for the non-class story quests).  BUT… story quests appear to be only progressed for one person at a time, so if you’ve got two Jedi Knights in your group (plus their companions) be prepared to repeat some sections – another disincentive against grouping.

    Given that there’s 8 unique storylines, one for each class, there’s a lot of replayability to be had for the RPG crowd, but the MMO part is complete balls.  None of the more casual-friendly, open group (you can’t invite yourself to someone else’s group), or public questing mechanics of the last 5 years has made it in.  Which will make some of the Old School ™ players happy, but if you’re only planning on playing a couple of hours a week and don’t have a guild already lined up you’ll probably be treating this as a single player game with a local chat channel.

    It’s a GREAT single player game (I rated it 8/10 when the beta questionnaire popped up), it’s Bioware, and it’s Scifi, so it will probably have a different player base to WoW.  Although given that a lot of people will only subscribe to one game at a time (on the basis that they only have time to focus on one at a time), and a lot of MMO players still like their RPGs, there will probably still be a hit to WoW’s subscription numbers.

    If this was a standard RPG I’d buy it in a heartbeat, but there’s not enough MMO to be worth the $15/month for me.

    • Ajt312

      Foamy, you pretty much summed up my experiences in the SWTOR beta weekend. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a fun decent game. The story is great. But you are not going to get 7 years out of it. I give it at most 6 months for the average player. 

      The problem is while the story and the full voiced Bioware cutscenes and conversation wheel interactions are fantastic as a single player experience. They clash horribly with the multiplayer MMO. There is nothing worse than standing in a town and seeing every other player standing around with “!” over their head indicating they are busy in a private cutscene. 

      And while the single player story is great. Much of the MMO elements feel dated. More like a game from 2004. Heck even the character animations feel like someone just cut and pasted the animation skeletons from DAoC or WAR and reskinned them. (I am really not kidding about this. Don’t believe me, hit the space bar to jump and watch how your toon moves.) A lot of it feels much rougher than it should. Especially given how much they paid out to make the thing.

      And therein lies the kicker. The reason why in spite of his usual charming personality, Bobby K may not be wrong. In playing the game it is obvious where they spent all the money. It was on those single player story lines and voice work, etc. But those are really expensive and labor intensive to do. So what will happen to your game when players start to reach the end of them? Will you be able to quickly add in more such stuff every 3-4 months as patched content? How much will it cost to do that vs how quickly will your players churn through it and be wondering where the new real content is?

      Bioware has made a phenomenal RPG. They have some of the best experience in the world at doing this and it shows. Unfortunately they have bolted it to a moderate and rather generic last generation MMO in which they have absolutely no experience at creating, managing, balancing or operating. And that too really shows in the beta.

      • Sinij

        >>>  Will you be able to quickly add in more such stuff every 3-4 months as patched content?

        Lets assume TOR is huge initial success due to its single-player aspect and completely flops due to no end game, shitty mmorpg balance and lack of timely expansions.

        I don’t see ex-WoW players, that now experienced fleshed-out questing and storyline with voiceovers going back to WoWs ‘kill 10 rats’.

        Bad news for TOR are not necessary good news for WoW.

  • Vetarnias

    @8cd8ec031435b2af025ced854e22de13:disqus
    “Who knows, 5 years from now we might be blaming that damn 100 bajillion
    dollar star wars game for the continued stagnation of western mmorpgs.”

    I suspect that will be Titan or whatever Blizzard is coming up with. I think you’re right regarding where WoW’s support really came from; it’s quite impossible to be talking of a shift in MMO gamers’ tastes when this external group just barged the doors open and took over because of sheer numbers.  And for their trouble, now every other publisher is (or was) trying to get at least part of that new demographic.  Guess what, publishers? Those guys don’t even know you have a game out, and what’s more, they don’t want to play it. Why? Because you’re not Blizzard.  They’re Pavlov’s little gamers, except that they’re not responding to anyone but Blizzard.  Stop wasting your time with them, all they succeed in doing is making fools out of you, at your financial backers’ expense; so go back to making games you can sell to people who haven’t sold their souls to Blizzard, and budget them accordingly.

    Star Wars, though, I think it’s in decline.  It might be more than a niche (like Star Trek was), but nobody bothers with Episodes I-III anymore, it’s putting on age, and George Lucas isn’t exactly a creator many people want to support anymore. And there is the previous KOTOR game, which seems to have ruined it in advance for quite a few players. But assuming it were to become the new 800-pound gorilla, it will offer no lesson that the industry already doesn’t believe in: big franchises sell, copy what came before you, don’t rock the boat, play it safe, graphics are king, keep on inflating system requirements, we have an entire industry banking on this.  Pyrrhic victory, if you ask me.

    @abb249055208c7af4d35568e422dfd63:disqus

    “You watched sci-fi on TV, you played with magic and swords and elves.”

    Yet there is a science fiction demographic in MMOs. The problem is it’s already well served by current games. EVE Online. Even Anarchy Online is still chugging along.  It’s probably the second most popular MMO genre after fantasy.  And look at all those age of sail video games. Did you ever play with miniature galleons, even in your bathtub?  I don’t think so.  I suspect you’d watch pirate films or read Patrick O’Brian.  But people obviously buy those video games.

    @8a6513bf8fd52d32ab8eefe8c0e156d0:disqus

    Your post confirms my worst apprehensions about TOR. They made a glorified single-player narrative-driven game and called it an MMO.  I know how that works — I used to play Baldur’s Gate 2 in multiplayer, but at least they didn’t charge me $15/month for the privilege. And that is why the last half of your last sentence will likely be prophetic: there’s not enough MMO to be worth the $15/month. Naturally, WoW will get the blame, and its fanboys will gloat with another trophy on their mantelpiece.

  • Vatec

    I’ll go a step further and say that, by trying to make it an MMO, Bioware is =detracting= from the single-player story. In KOTOR and Mass Effect, you are instrumental. You’re the only amnesiac Jedi / human SPECTRE running around; in TOR, there will be literally =dozens= of Sith Warriors running around Korriban (lightsabers always drawn, of course, because tapping the key to put them away after casting your self buff is simply too much work), each followed by his/her very own Twilek slavegirl. Sure, the Twilek slavegirls might be orange or green instead of blue. But … really?

    As I said in my feedback to Bioware, it’s not bad for a company’s first effort at an MMO. But it’s not “great,” either. I hope it does well, because overall Bioware has given me many hours of entertainment over the years.

    But they’ll have to do well without =my= money.

  • JuJutsu

    The consensus seems the be that SWTOR represents all that’s evil in gaming and will provide the biggest thud of behemoth-hitting-ground since Goliath. Sweet, I’m a contrarian at heart. I had a fantastic time last weekend and I think it will be a success. Let’s all compare notes this time next year and see who gets to eat crow.

  •  I hope SW:TOR ends up being a huge success and my experience in beta was that it was a great deal of fun.

    I agree with some of the points made here that it is very single-player-ish and the heavy story/quest emphasis really makes grouping feel discouraged.

    The grouping/MMO parts will be interesting to see through flashpoints and perhaps other gameplay elements we haven’t seen yet.

  • Vetarnias

    @google-f5dc2b72bb008c686bdadcc25d9a25e3:disqus

    “Very single-player-ish” is all I need to hear to know I wouldn’t like it.  I’m sure it’s quite fun now, but what will happen when you feel you have exhausted all the narrative/story elements? “Great deal of fun” doesn’t necessarily mean you want to play it for more than a month.

    @1b3ef20a1d582434fe1d2faa8e26ff0f:disqus

    “in TOR, there will be literally =dozens= of Sith Warriors running around Korriban”  That’s the problem of every MMO, really, and the reason why any “heroic” character approach will lead to heavy instancing.  The case I always mention is the newbie island in DDO, where you’re the lone saviour of the island from what was it, dragons? A witch? It had so much of a long-term impact on me that I forgot all about it.

    It’s just that most MMOs generally lack the notion of class — not character, but social class — to be entirely convincing.  Status gear is a poor substitute, when all it says is who’s been playing the longest.  WoW guild leaders might think they’re important, but that means nothing even in the game itself; their influence on the game world is nil except at a meta level where the only people who care about it are other guild leaders. If you can’t have an impact on the latest newbie to join the game, if you can’t get your name known to people who don’t gravitate within your circle, you’re not important.  What I mostly mean here is political power, but it’s not limited to that. It’s also the high-level crafter who becomes the guy to go to when you want a certain exclusive item.  The reliable guy who can broker a transaction (as I heard it was done in Asheron’s Call when it lacked safe trading mechanics). The diplomat. You know, respected members of the community, not the “leet” crowd.

    Unfortunately, the only places with a class structure (that would be sandboxes) have always led to the same excesses. In-game social mobility means nothing when branch-plant guilds show up with their hierarchies firmly in place and dominate the game, based on a meta situation that is not even centered on this particular game, but on *gaming*, with the current game offering the latest opportunity to settle long-standing meta grievances that have nothing to do with the current game, and will carry on to the next game, and the one after that.  What is the role of a regular player in this landscape? I would not want to be a newbie in EVE today, trying to enter one of the large corps at the bottom, never trusted, expendable, with no say in political affairs, but told to mine stuff and shut up.

    I don’t see how EVE managed to stay in business, to be honest. I would have thought that nobody wanted to clean intergalactic latrines for $15/month.

    “a company’s first effort at an MMO” Just like Heaven’s Gate was Michael Cimino’s first attempt at a western.  I’d rather TOR were cheaper, and something more in line with what I’m expecting an MMO to be. As it stands, I have nothing to gain, and perhaps more to lose, if it succeeds. 

    • Vatec

      I’ve been playing MMOs for over ten years. I don’t mind there being dozens of Sith Warriors running around. I do mind that 95% of them will have a Twilek slavegirl named Vette running three feet behind them. Character customization can help with suspension of disbelief. But when the majority of representatives of a single class have the exact same companion, to me that’s the rough equivalent of them all having the same head. Just imagine dozens of Bounty Hunters, male and female, skinny, muscular, or fat; and every single one of them has the head of Worf. Sure, as you gain levels you slowly gain alternate companions. But at any point in time, assuming the game is actually successful enough to grow its population, we’re going to be seeing an awful lot of the the “newbie” companions.

      As for the “heroic” character approach, I’m fine with it. I like instancing. Nothing I hate more than standing in line waiting for my turn to kill a quest target. A good MMO finds ways to maintain the illusion of “heroism” while also encouraging cooperation between players. Currently the best example is probably Rift, where game mechanics allow you to join and disband groups on the fly and the penalty for doing something in a group rather than alone is effectively non-existent.

      Again, I hope Bioware does well. To be more specific, I hope the game makes enough money to break even; but I also believe that, if it’s a breakout success, it will set back the state of the MMO industry for another decade. So, may it be successful, but not “too” successful….

      Me personally, I would rather they had invested all that time and effort into a more interesting IP (like Mass Effect) and had come up with somewhat more innovative (evolutionary, not necessarily revolutionary) gameplay.

      • Foamy

        “I do mind that 95% of them will have a Twilek slavegirl named Vette running three feet behind them.”

        It should probably be said in SWTOR’s defense that Vette is simply the first companion Sith Warriors receive, with a new one being received every 8 levels or so.  With 48 different companions (24 per side), there’s probably going to be a fair bit of variability once players migrate past the first 3 planets.

        “Therefore, I can hit people with lightning from stealth as a Sith in a Star Wars setting.”

        Kinda – lightning is restricted to Sith Inquisitors, and stealth is restricted further to the Sith Assassin advanced class – who specialize in melee, so their lightning is short range and rather pathetic compared to their Sith Sorceror counterparts.

        “I don’t see at all how KOTOR “ruins” Star wars for people.”

        KOTOR gets a HUGE shoutout (honestly, it’s more a feature than a shoutout) on the second Sith planet.  If you haven’t played KOTOR yet, I’d argue SWTOR ruins KOTOR.

  • UnknownSubject

    If you look at history, Kotick is correct. Most MMOs released post-WoW haven’t been successes on anywhere near the same scale and have generally struggled to keep players.

    According to BioWare’s own stats, about 50% of players who have started one of their recent games haven’t finished it. Are people really going to spend $15 a month for a story they won’t finish?

  • Triforcer

    My calculations run as follows:

    (1)  It is Star Wars.  Star Wars has Sith that can throw lightning.

    (2)  It has PvP servers.

    (3)  It has stealth.

    Therefore, I can hit people with lightning from stealth as a Sith in a Star Wars setting.  I’m sure whatever anyone said above is very interesting, but really- why bother with more details? 

  • Dana A

    I think it’s the single player experience that made WoW such a big success.  SWTOR has more and better of that.  I enjoyed it a lot more than I’ve ever managed to enjoy WoW.

    My favorite MMO is still City of Heroes.  I played it for 8 years and mostly enjoyed it, still subscribe.  But I’m probably going to quit and play SWTOR, because the free to play aspect is starting to bother me (basically it feels like things cost more than they used to, which is the opposite of how it should be when it’s supposedly free). 

    I never played Mass Effect or the other RPGs by Bioware, though I’ve seen people playing them often.  But combining that RP with gameplay from an MMO instead of the gameplay they had which I didn’t care for, works for me.

    I don’t see at all how KOTOR “ruins” Star wars for people.  Those games were very popular.  I hadn’t heard any mention of them ruining anything.. quite the converse till this comment thread.

  • gx1080

    If that game doesn’t have a HUGE drop on the suscription numbers after people finish the single player storyline and find a big pile of nothing at the end, I’m going to be very surprised.

  • Stabs

    Another interesting aspect is the sheer bitterness towards Lucas Arts. Kotick seems to be saying “I’ve worked with them in the past and got burned every time.”

  • Just a Decoy

    I can’t help feel it’s a little early to judge how long-term successful TOR is going to be based on participation in 1 or 2 beta weekends, as most of the comments describing it as a single player game turned into an MMO seem to be doing. Ultimately its longevity will be decided by its endgame, not the levelling process, and I don’t think any of us who participated in those betas (yes, I was there too) got to see any of that.

    I think that the best way to make the levelling process enjoyable is to aim it at solo players and make it engaging, which is exactly what TOR does; unless you have an IRL partner or a close friend with a similar schedule who shares your tastes in gaming, you are probably going to be playing solo for most of your levelling, so it makes sense to me at least to aim the content that way while also leaving it accessible to groups. TOR actually goes beyond this by encouraging players to group up even for solo questing, as you can only gain Social Points (an extra XP scale that allows access to some powerful gear in late-game) while in a group, and you actually get some spillover xp from party members’ quest completion in addition to your own quest xp. Finally, it’s also possible for group members to complete quests remotely by holocalling in from far away when another member speaks to the hand in NPC. Also, to address a point Foamy brought up earlier, a player using a quest item only despawns that item for players outside their group; if you’re in a group of 4 you don’t have to sit around waiting for it to respawn for each member, they can all grab it together. I do agree the despawning thing is annoying when you’re not grouped, though. Oh, and you also continue to get social points for whichever your ‘active’ companion is, even while they’re not in the party – whether that’s because your group is at the size limit or because you’ve sent them off on a tradeskill mission, so you’re not shooting yourself in the foot by grouping in that respect either.

    That said, I do believe that the arbitrary group quests in the game are one of its weakest points; the design as it is seems to include one or two ‘HEROIC’ quests (group content for 2+ or 4 players) at each quest hub, of which there are usually 5 or 6 per planet, which leads to groups being formed specifically for the quest(s) at a single hub, then falling apart after completion instead of going on to other heroic quests, because each player is at a different stage of non-group questing. A few months after launch the additional complication will also arise of there being very few people on the early planets to complete these group quests with. Hopefully Bioware realise this and will take a lesson from WoW and patch them down to normal content when this happens. It’s worth noting that on the starter planets (at least the 2 Sith ones, which I played through) the heroic quests aren’t spread out over different hubs, but take place quite close together both in terms of level and geography and in both cases I got groups that did all the heroic quests together and had fun doing so.

    Finally, regarding the original point of the article, I think there is a lot of crossover between TOR and WoW’s (potential) subscriber bases. A lot of players in the betas I was in claimed to be WoW players, most of them saying they would switch to TOR at launch. Beyond that, while there are demographics specifically of Blizzard fans and Bioware fans and of high fantasy fans and science fiction fans who will stick to their respective niches regardless of the competition, I think that a larger portion of WoW’ s small-country-sized subscriber base comes from people who enjoy the genre specifically more than the features that make WoW unique or separate it from TOR, and they’re going to be a lot harder to account for; TOR offers a lot of shiny newness, and in all honesty a lot more immersion than WoW does, but at the same time they’ve got however many months or years invested in WoW. Not to mention the altaholics that have played the WoW classes and questlines to exhaustion, who may well be tempted by a similar but different set of classes and a whole new levelling experience to go through. I can’t say which way they’ll go, but I definitely think there’s overlap between the (potential) audiences, and Kotick’s sweeping generalisations do nothing to persuade me otherwise.

    • FoamySquirrel

      “Also, to address a point Foamy brought up earlier, a player using a
      quest item only despawns that item for players outside their group”

      That wasn’t my experience – it was true that if a party member was nearby they would get credited for the quest item pickup, but if they were on the other side of the room beating on trash they’d miss it and had to wait for the item to respawn.

      “Oh, and you also continue to get social points for whichever your ‘active’ companion is, even while they’re not in the party”

      Again, that wasn’t my experience – played through Black Talon twice, once with party of 4 players, once with 2 players 2 companions.  Second time through I got companion affection, first time nada.

      That was just my experience though – I may have been oblivious to some mechanics or it may just have been bug, but those factors didn’t make for an enjoyable grouping experience.

      “TOR actually goes beyond this by encouraging players to group up even
      for solo questing, as you can only gain Social Points (an extra XP scale
      that allows access to some powerful gear in late-game) while in a group”

      This is my big problem, and I didn’t touch on it for my original comments – I REALLY didn’t like this mechanic from a psychology/design point of view.

      My view on grouping design is that the game should require you to group on the basis that “obstacles that are difficult to overcome become manageable”.  That’s it – that should be the only requirement.  The game should facilitate that process by making grouping (a) easy (e.g. Open Groups where you click a button and invite yourself), (b) fun (by introducing new mechanics or synergies, e.g. LotRO Fellowship Maneuvers), and (c) effective (e.g. Guild Wars “calling” targets/skills and drawing on the map).

      The only innovation SWTOR uses is the Holocall, aka Remote Quest Handin, and instead goes for “Well, if you group we’ll give you these shinies”.  From a design standpoint, the “shinies” should always be secondary – yes, you may get the best phat lewtz from raiding with X other players, but the reward is given for beating the boss not just clicking “accept” for a party invite.  In SWTOR, it’s theoretically possible to max out your Social Points without engaging in a single effective action – you could simply grind quest-giver conversations with an afk party member (although it’d take a while, as each conversation option would have to wait for the afk person to time out).

      From a psychological standpoint, better rewards are usually handed out for more difficult tasks – e.g. in WoW, activating Heroic Mode or getting an achievement by defeating a boss in a counter-intuitive way often results in shinies.  By handing out shinies simply for grouping, you imply that grouping itself is an onerous task to be overcome.  This is backed up by scientific research – providing rewards for trivial tasks decreases enjoyment, as people subconsciously stop thinking “I’m doing this because I like it” and start thinking “I’m doing this because I’m paid to do it”.

      Personally, I question the multiplayer design if you have to effectively bribe players to do it – players should be drawn to it because it’s the natural thing to do to overcome difficult tasks in a game where you have potentially dozens of people to help a few steps away, and it’s the designers’ job to make that process as smooth as possible.  SWTOR doesn’t seem to do that, which is why I find the “MM” part of their “MMORPG” very lacking.

      As an aside, the third point “effectiveness” is what has me worried for Guild Wars 2 – from the designer commentary, the game always acts as if you’re grouped with nearby players… but from what I’ve seen of the demos there’s very little in the way of coordination tools.  Given that some of the larger events shown at the conventions have a number of mechanics to defeat the Boss, there seems to be no way in-game to check (for example) that someone is Defending the Superweapon, or Tanking the Adds, or Destroying the Defences, or even Lying in a Ditch and Needing a Heal.  Now, if you added Wintergrasp/Barradin autoraidframes, assigned raidleader on a “highest number of PQs Completed” basis, gave the ability to assign groups to waypoints on the fly (similar to a quest marker just for people in that raid group), and the ability to rename raidgroups to communicate that group’s function (e.g. “Defend the Gate”), THAT would be a game for which I would play $15/month.

      • WUA

        “My view on grouping design is that the game should require you to group
        on the basis that ‘obstacles that are difficult to overcome become
        manageable’.  That’s it – that should be the only requirement.”

        This isn’t 1999, leveling content that mandates grouping by dickstomping solo players is a dead design concept. It’s what SWTOR is doing or grouping outside of instances goes the way of the dodo.

        • FoamySquirrel

          I may have written that badly – I didn’t mean to imply that the game should require you to group at all times, I meant to contrast “I’m grouping to be more effective” vs. “I’m grouping to get the best loot” (and there’s always the third “I’m grouping to play with my friends”, but that’s harder to facilitate from a design standpoint).

          If you can only get the phat lewt at the endgame by filling up your “I Have Watched Cinematics With Other People In My Group” meter, then the game is requiring you to group not because that’s how you overcome difficult obstacles, but because “That’s how I get paid”.

  • Brask

    Wait a second… There is a four person group size limit in TOR?

    WTF?

    Did they fail basic mathematics?

    If I happen to have, say, a group of 5 people, this means I have to split into 2/3 – which is a massive power differential compared to when you have 7 people that need to split 4/3.  2 people isn’t a group.

    It seems Diablo III is also going this way, to my disappointment.

    I can understand limiting group size.  But it is like they did a survey of the most common group sizes and decided to throw away the oddball ones, without pausing to contemplate the difference between a soft limit and a hard limit.