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Star Wars: The Old Republic "highly derivative" of Warcraft

Analyst unimpressed by Bioware's Jedi MMO, suggests game may meet further delay

Analyst firm Cowen and Company has described EA's MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic as "highly derivative" of World of Warcraft and suggested the game may miss its 2011 release.

"We got hands-on time with the game, and were largely unimpressed," stated Doug Creutz, senior research analyst covering the media and entertainment sector, in the firm's E3 report.

"Despite promises from EA/Bioware that the title represents a major step forward in MMO design, what we saw was essentially a World of Warcraft clone with Star Wars character skins and the Bioware RPG nice/nasty dialogue tree mechanism bolted on for non-player character conversations."

What we saw was essentially a World of Warcraft clone with Star Wars character skins and the Bioware RPG nice/nasty dialogue tree mechanism bolted on

Doug Creutz, Cowen and Company

Creutz also described the PC game's visuals as "competent but hardly breathtaking," but makes allowances for the landscape in which the demo was set. "Granted, we were playing in a desert area, so other areas may be more impressive-looking... on the other hand we question why EA chose a desert level to showcase the title."

It goes on to interpret EA's silence on a release date as a sign the game will be delayed until 2012, and cites this as the reason for the recent drop in EA's share price. The game was originally planned for a spring 2010 launch, and will be developer Bioware's first MMORPG.

Cowen and Company did however praise EA's Battlefield 3, which "looked impressive and was the clear leader in positive buzz at the show" and THQ's Saints Row: The Third, stating "we would compare the opening mission to the opening sequence of the James Bond movie Goldeneye - if it were directed by the creators of Jackass."

It also showed an interest in Activision's Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure, which allows physical toys to interact with a variety of consoles. "Activision management thinks in terms of billion-dollar franchises, and we think Skylanders has the right elements to have a chance of reaching that goal."

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Latest comments (23)

Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game9 years ago
Now if it is highly derivative, that is a big concern. As to whether it's visually stunning, the last thing you want on an MMO is high technical specifications. An MMO lives or dies on getting a large userbase, so if you limit the people that can run it smoothly, you've shot yourself in the foot. It should look good, sure, but it needs to run on a £400 laptop if you want the numbers.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 9 years ago
They will have a hit when they can make customers believe that it is cooler to have a level 80 Jedi than it is to have a level 80 Bloodelf. It is more a competition of two types of virtual street cred, than gameplay. Earning that street credit will cost a lot of time and subscription fees and that is how they make their money back, no other way.

The MMOs going for the demographic with a taste in gameplay will be totally different ones, such as Guild Wars 2. Beyond that, the single player RPG and the Co-Op RPG market is way too overcrowded and filled with way too many low budget games for Star Wars to attract anybody beyond an initial $60 purchase.
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Graham Simpson Tea boy, Collins Stewart9 years ago
The SWTOR level cap is 50.

I would say the whole point of an MMO is to interect with others and that's where the appeal ultimately is and why you log on again and again. Grinding a few quests in a Tatooine desert and casting judgement on the whole game is poor quality analysis. And the comment about graphics is just silly since in order to appeal to as many gamers as possible the spec should not be too demanding.

"Clear leader in positive buzz"..? Is this guy for real? More quality analysis right there. I'd be interested how he models his discounted cash flow analysis using the variable 'positive buzz'.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Graham Simpson on 13th June 2011 2:10pm

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Show all comments (23)
Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer 9 years ago
Uhm.. I'm sorry, but WoW wasn't also revolutionizing MMO's, yes it made it even more popular, but WoW is based on the same RPG elements as most MMO's.. For me even if it would be WoW with just SW characters it would be better as WoW as I'm not that fond of the fantasysetting..

And show me any new game that is actually new in gameplay and I think you found a miracle...
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Gavriel Goonewardene Studying Computer and Video Games, University of Salford9 years ago
Personally I think that while MMOs shouldn't be too graphically intense that gameplay is hindered on common household PCs/Laptops I do think they they should also cater for those that do have high spec machines, that's the whole point of having editable settings that allow the player to control the resources being used by the game while balancing out how much detail they want to see in the game world. With high end machines becoming cheaper and more common it would be a mistake to take to many steps backwards, at least graphically speaking. Take a look at Aion, at it's minimum settings it looks nice but not beautiful while at it's highest end it is visually impressive for a fully online game but graphics isn't the most important aspect of a game however and that's where the problem of derivative gameplay comes in.

I agree with Graham in his opinion that grinding a few quests in a desert can't give you enough information about all of the gameplay to accuratley analyse SWTOR but on the other hand MMOs that have the exact style of gameplay to WoW, WAR, Lineage 2 [Insert the endless list of MMO titles with point click combat here] etc have been flooding the market for the last few years even if they aren't AAA titles a lot of them have high a high user base and a fair bit of content but each is far too similar to the next that they all might aswell be the same game with a different skin. MMO gameplay needs to change because as it is the core designs that these titles have been using has become stagnant and quite frankly boring.

All in all I'd much rather Bioware focus on changing and improving gameplay so that it leads towards the future of MMO gameplay rather than be stuck in the trap of making a WoW clone, then again I'm just a guy with an opinion.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 9 years ago

The actual level is not as important as what a level represents in the eyes of the customers. If mere interaction was the goal of the experience, then an MMO is a mighty complicated and expensive way to establish communication. For the most part, MMOs are also structured in a way which makes the players compete for the same resources, which are artificially below demand to put even more pressure on the gamers. MMOs are not Facebook, they are Keeping-up-with-the-Jones-Book.

An MMO creates a far more a competitive situation than it required to enable the forming of social connections. Some games encourage socialization by incentivizing it with higher rewards, but such schemes hardly ever breed community, they often breed elitist behavior and selection criteria which will drive more people from the game than into a lasting subscription. If you just interact with people to advance your own goals no lasting social effect will come from it.

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Pedro Engana Studying Information Systems and Computer Engineering, Technical University of Lisbon9 years ago
I think it's ok to use and refine gameplay mechanics already used by World of Warcraft. After all, it works, very well.

However, it comes to a point of stagnation. Doing the same kind of tasks again and again, except in different worlds and settings gets boring sooner or later, no matter how you do it. I think the MMOG genre is in stagnation nowadays. Someone has to truly innovate, I don't mean do everything from scratch, but gather what is worth keeping and what should be reinvented and develop something that is truly a diferent gameplay experience.

I have high hopes with Arena-net's Guild Wars 2. Let's see if they can deliver.
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship9 years ago
I think the interactivity or social connnectivity requirement for MMOs is over-stressed. WoW got 12 million subscribers in part by *lessening* the interactions required between players relative to previous MMOs - it's a game that works very well as a single player experience, albeit in a shared world. For me, this is one aspect of unlocking a huge player base - a single play session must be disposable or interrupt-able, without prohibitive cost to the player - this is what is required to engage gamers of the average age (28 for WoW in 2005 according to the Daedelus project, probably higher now), because gamers of this age have competing pressures for their time - family and work.

(Note, this is part of the reason why F2P is garnering such acceptance despite wild howls of protest from the core demographic - when you reach a certain point in your life, the time-honoured ranking of money over time reverses - your time becomes increasingly precious and your income more disposable.)

Increasing the interdependencies between players in an MMO means lessening your ability to play when and how you want, and this is the antithesis of a mainstream experience - it's also entirely contrary to the trend of all modern media, which are inexorably moving towards a model of on-demand consumption (Sky plus, on demand movies, iPlayer, etc). What I'd like to see is an MMO that attempted to provide a shared world but kept in mind at all times the time-constrained nature of the modern adult gamer.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 13th June 2011 4:51pm

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 9 years ago
I truly appreciate BioWare's tremendous efforts at making SWOTOR such a massively amazing game that's going to be enjoyed by hardcore and casual MMO fans and Star Wars junkies. However, I still feel a better use of all that time and resources would have been a single player focused open-world RPG similar to (but better than) KOTOR with the option for some sort of multiplayer online/offline mode.

While I understand one can indeed play through SWTOR entirely solo, I'd REALLY prefer NOT to be tethered to playing online at all, period. in a way, it's sort of what Nick mentions above in his last sentence. I stopped playing MMO's a while back simply because I have no time to invest in online gaming in its current form. I like most of my RPG experiences offline and solo so I can tackle what I want to at my own pace and not worry about connection issues, constant updating or other annoying stuff.

At the end of the day, this is such a huge gamble for all involved that it HAS to succeed in a major way at launch while drawing in and keeping new players bit by bit as word of mouth (and positive reviews) spread. If it fails, it won't be because of some dopey analyst's comments that are written to appease investors who have never touched a game controller and only use a keyboard and mouse to poke around their portfolios.

I think BioWare needs to round up as many of these people as possible, fly them up to Canada and show them the game, let them PLAY the damn thing THEN go write whatever pap they want to. At least it'll be more honest pap.

If the game ships with annoying bugs and requires a ton of patching or has elements missing that MMO fans come to expect, the more impatient gamers will skip it in favor of something without lightsabers and wookies. However, it definitely looks like BioWare is polishing the game so it's as full of everything fans expect while adding in plenty of elements that should thrill anyone willing to give it a try.
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 9 years ago
I do agree with your comments Greg, but alas the returns on a straight KOTOR sequel would be far less than the potential returns on TOR Online, which is what makes it a lot more appealing to a publishing power like LucasArts or EA.

I would love a proper KOTOR sequel with the option of playing some missions online or meeting at hubs so you could buddy up with people and play in their game. Basically, just like Demon's Souls did.
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Wayne Gibson UK Marketing Manager for 9 years ago
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. As long as it allows us to choose what region we play in like RIFT does, it shall be a day one purchase for me.
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Joe Devita Student, Rutgers University9 years ago
The lack of innovation shouldn't be news to anyone who has been following the game. Toned down graphics is a way to get people without gaming rigs to sign up and not have to deal with poor frame-rates (a strategy used by all blizzard games quite well). However for this game to be the success that EA's investors will demand due to its albeit rumored huge price-tag it will need to convert casual gamers from WoW. The reason this is seen as such a huge gamble is that most casual gamers lack the time to fully commit to one MMO nor do they want to have two monthly subscriptions. The game will need mass praise and a great reception from the core MMO players to eventually convince the masses who don't read the reviews, trolls the forums day in and out, etc... to capture the numbers they want. In conclusion, if all they offer is the same with nicer graphics and while good, but not really genuinely innovating leveling experience, I don't think the average casual player will be willing to drop all the time they've invested in WoW to start over in SWTOR.
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Jake Fong9 years ago
"Despite reports from EA/Bioware that the title represents a major step forward in MMO design...etc"
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Jake Fong9 years ago
"Despite reports from EA/Bioware that the title represents a major step forward in MMO design...etc." I believe that in no way did Bioware imply that the gameplay was any different. They say they are revolutionising the way it's designed by putting an emphasis on Story. Which is what other MMOs lack.
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Jamie Watson Studying Bachelor of Games & Interactive Entertainment, Queensland University of Technology9 years ago
As long as this game brings something different to the table of MMO's and has good gameplay mechanic which makes it fun and wanting to play more (addicting) then im all for it!

i just hope the fee per month isnt to high...
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Mark Beesly Business Director, Dare9 years ago
I am in agreement that there is a big need to move the MMO genre forward and make it more accessible to 'casual' players, but this is more likely to be successful with different subject matter than Star Wars - think MMO LA Noire etc. Star Wars is still inherently geeky, if in a more mass market way than most fantasy/scifi IPs and current MMO players form it's core target market.

The fact that Bioware may not have made an innovation leap with TOR is not a massive issue provided the gameplay is as good or better than WoW. Whilst the single player experience is important for a number of MMO players, most choose to play them over single player offline games because they can play with an often large group of friends in a polished fun environment. There is a huge group of people who've been playing WoW for years because it provides this in a way that no other game has. But after 5-6 years they want something fresher than just more content in the same world. They need a change of scene and the only other live game that comes close to this balance of depth, polish and fun - Rift, whilst being a great game, is the same subject matter as WoW.

TOR doesn't need to break new ground to succeed, in the current market it just needs to provide a viable alternative - something that has so far eluded all other MMO developers. If it can persuade even 25% of the WoW base of this, it'll be fine.
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship9 years ago
"Whilst the single player experience is important for a number of MMO players, most choose to play them over single player offline games because they can play with an often large group of friends in a polished fun environment"

I'd really like to see this assumption properly tested in the market with a super-single player focused MMO. MMOs offer lots of things over single player games OTHER than playing directly with friends. Namely - lots of content, epic scale, continuous updates and the ability to play solo but in a shared world - the 'alone, together' experience. Or even play solo with occasional forays into multiplayer and other shared content.

I've no idea whether the market exists for this, but I'd start with the presumption that ALL content should be solo-able - no content whatsoever would be off-limits to single players. All content should, if possible, be playable by groups of any size, in a drop-in / drop-out fashion. And I would try to add as many of those aspects of single player games that allow people to play at their leisure - some kind of save-state / save-game system (so players can leave missions / dungeons / content semi-finished and quit without being punished). Essentially, grouping and multiplayer becomes entirely discretionary. By all means make it the most fun way to play - but do not force it.

A lot of games make great claims about being solo friendly, but in truth most save their most exciting and rewarding content for enforced grouping. If grouping has to be required, it should be structured in such a way as to minimise elitist prerequisites, and make the grouping process totally frictionless, preferably out of the hands of players. Public quests in WAR, or the matchmaking in CoD are good examples of such systems.

Again, I would simply like to see such a structure tested by the market. I think there are still a large number of inherited assumptions about MMOs that are evolutionary hangovers from the earliest entrants to the genre. WoW made huge strides towards a mainstream design, but I think changes of a similiar order of magnitude again in the same direction could have real promise.
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Mark Beesly Business Director, Dare9 years ago
Worth having a look at this thread . WoW Insider asked it's readers why they continue to play Warcraft. It's an interesting insight into where many players' heads are at and what ToR needs to compete with. The majority in the thread cite people being the main thing that keeps them playing - whether that is actively playing with others or the alone/together thing, with depth and polish being secondary core reasons. Warcraft delivers on facilitating interaction with others, but within a hugely deep and polished experience. We don't yet know how well TOR will do the same.

This is why Doug Creutz's comments quoted above seem short sighted in my opinion. There is much more to a truly successful MMO experience than new mechanics and wizzy graphics. If the market were as crowded as say the FPS sector, with loads of already proven great IPs competing for share of voice, these things can become defining attributes of a new game's success, but that's not where the MMO space is right now.

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Mark Beesly on 14th June 2011 1:24pm

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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship9 years ago
Interesting read, ta.

I do think there's a selection bias here. Or an effect you could describe as a survivorship bias, or even an MMO anthropic principle :) - People who are still playing WoW, are, by definition, satisfied by what it does. We do know that people with the most in-game social ties stick around the longest - they undoubtedly aid retention.

The problem for me is that many people have no desire to make such social ties, yet still enjoy that shared, persistant world, high production values and constant content updates that only an MMO provides. Is it possible to make an MMO that is an order of magnitude more solo-friendly than even WoW? I think it is.
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John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam9 years ago
I agree with Nick.

The main reason I quit WoW after playing it for several months after it first came out was that I couldn't devote enough time to it to keep up with the levelling rate of my friends who were playing it. As I got to higher levels with more focus on big mobs, pvp and dungeon raids, there was less and less stuff I could do solo. Combined with (at the time) a relative shortage of high level content, it was easy to quit. A lot of my friends who were playing it for hours every day and kept up with the Joneses are probably still playing now, several years later.

If there was more solo friendly content, less focus on level grinding, a sidekick system so characters can still play alongside their higher level friends, and/or options to let me spend money to keep up with friends and online acquaintances who have no job and/or social life (the money vs time balance Nick mentioned), I might have stayed hooked longer.

The big challenge SWTOR and any other newcomer to the MMO market has though is finding an audience. WoW has a strangehold on the market, with millions of players who have each invested hundreds of dollars and thousands of hours in the game, often over a period of several years. Either you need to attract a new audience of people who have never played WoW or have already left it, or you need to create something compelling enough to pry people away from that massive investment of time and money (a tough sell), or go F2P to encourage people to play your game alongside WoW without having to shell out a monthly fee or make as big a time investment.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game9 years ago
@Nick " Is it possible to make an MMO that is an order of magnitude more solo-friendly than even WoW? I think it is."

I think if Bethesda do decide to make an Elder Scrolls or Fallout (litigation allowing) MMO, their properties would be ideal to try this out.
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Kenneth Mcmorran 3D/Environment Artist 9 years ago
I dont see how being highly derivative of the best MMO on the planet is a bad thing, what do people expect...that the mmo handbook was going to be totally re-written for SWTOR, that it was going to do things no other MMO ever has? Why fix something that isnt broken, 30 million people play WoW for a reason, its polished, tight, reliable and provides all the core MMO mechanics in a pleasing fashion. That is what SWTOR will be from launch and that is why it is running late. For everyone obsessed about a solo play focused MMO...your missing the point, the game by nature involves interaction with others, the whole point of an MMO is the social experience just ask any one of the 100 people standing talking in the local virtual tavern about the outgrageous price of embersilk cloth at the Ironforge Auction House. If you want a single player experience buy a single player game. If you want a totally revolutionary MMO then be prepared to re write a decade of video game history and re wire the millions of individuals who helped shape a genre.
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Marine Fradet9 years ago
I don´t know if you remember but Star Wars license already tried the MMO experience and I´am pretty sure that it didn´t have a huge success. At that time Star Wars Galaxies was quite difficult for a newbie of MMO like me to understand the different characteristics; there were too much things to configure and understand and without MMO experience you were easily lost.

Then WoW arrived and I was converted immediately. The interface reminded me of Diablo (logical since both are Blizzard´s games) and it was really intuitive. But then, like John Bye, I saw that its evolution went towards grouping activites, dunegons and all, and I quit playing because it took too much time and grouping events to evolve.

So, if TOR succeeds where Galaxies failed for the configuration of the character it will be a progress that might convert the casual gamers of WoW who also are SW fans. And the geeky WoW players who love their lvl 80 character, they might be interested to be challenged again in a new gaming environment, if they are concerned by SW.
Then, since it will add to the MMO experience a story like in KOTOR, I am pretty much sure that it will be easier to have more single player content. Your choices will have an impact on your character´s evolution and convince the player to repeat the game with other type of character and actions.

And solo content doesn´t mean you won´t interact with others like said Kenneth.

I believe that TOR will reach the MMO and SW fans + the new casual gamers (who increase everyday and want to share and play with their friends) + those who still haven´t found what they are looking for in WOW or in a MMO.
The WoW gamers are not necessarily the better choice.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Marine Fradet on 18th June 2011 2:59am

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