Despite what some may think, BioWare’s success with The Old Republic is not a sure thing. The Massively Multiplayer Online RPG market is a very competitive one, and developers cannot be lazy or arrogant and think they’ll just sweep in and dethrone World of Warcraft. The game also can’t just rely on its license as saying “It’s Star Wars” isn’t enough, because if it were Star Wars Galaxies would be the #1 MMO in the world. The same can be said about its developer pedigree, as even BioWare can release a stinker; as Dragon Age II shows. Below are ten things that The Old Republic needs to not fall on its own lightsaber.
A Native Mac Client – At Launch
PC gamers may scoff at this, but no MMO will challenge WoW’s dominance by relying solely on the PC platform. One of the reasons for WoW’s 12-million user success is the fact that it’s 100% cross platform from day one with everyone playing on the same servers with no segregation at all. In fact, the WoW Mac client is actually superior with built-in video capture capabilities, which the PC version lacks. EA Mythic made a Warhammer Online Mac client long after the game was dying, and other MMOs (such as EVE Online) put out a native Mac client. Even SOE is seeing the light by making Free Realms and Clone Wars available on the Mac. If EA and BioWare want to maximize the success of The Old Republic, they’d have a native Mac client on the disc on day one of release.
Strong Account Security – At Launch
Something the launch of RIFT has really hammered into peoples heads is that “Gold farmer” companies will spend a ton of money to buy user databases from MMO fansites as too many people use the same login/password for multiple sites and games. That makes compromising accounts extremely easy. If BioWare wants to avoid backlash with the 1.5 million players who are sure to buy the game on day one, they’ll implement strong account security countermeasures to protect themselves from their own players’ computer illiteracy. At the very least, they need to copy Trion’s “Coin Lock” system. A cellphone-based Authenticator will also be a good idea, but a “Coin Lock” system is an absolute must.
Lots of Group Content
BioWare has shown off the group-instance “Flashpoint” story missions for TOR, but that isn’t enough for group content and neither is “elite” quests. Anyone who has ever played a MMO will tell you that you need something to break up the monotony of questing. If all you have to do is quest all the way to the level cap with one group instance every ten levels; you’ll be burned out before you hit level 20. The game needs group dungeons like every other MMO has so players can take a break from questing, and give them multiple ones to choose from. For example, in WoW from levels 17 through 30 you have multiple dungeons to tackle at any one time, which breaks up the boredom of questing.
Real Space Combat
It’s almost sickening how some people are so in love with TOR’s on-rails “tube shooter” space combat. Star Wars Galaxies, EVE Online, and Star Trek Online all offer full freedom in space exploration and space combat, so seeing TOR to not offer that is one of the biggest disappointments in the entire game. It’s almost as if the space content in the game was an afterthought that was just tagged on once someone realized they needed some representation of space.
We know that at some point in the game each class will branch off into one of two “Advanced Classes”. One thing that WoW has hammered into the MMO conscience, and RIFT really ran away with, was the ability to have multiple specs at any one time. Some people may like to level solo as a DPS warrior and then switch to Tank in group situations, for example. If it doesn’t already, TOR should offer some way for players to switch between the Advanced Classes (but not core classes) to offer them flexibility and not super-glue them into a decision.
One thing that made SWG great was the awesome world PVP and epic battles for faction bases. There have been other MMOs to feature strong world PVP, and RIFT’s Ancient Wardstone system sort of carries the faction base torch from SWG. This is something that TOR needs. Battlegrounds are nice and all, but for hardcore PVPers there’s nothing like huge battles breaking out where you least expect them.
Vehicles and Mounts
The video footage from PAX East showed some use of WoW-style flight points where you ride a speeder bike from point A to point B like the gryphons in WoW, but the game still needs user controllable vehicles/mounts. If they exist, we haven’t seen them yet.
This is something that EverQuest II has had since launch, World of Warcraft added with Cataclysm, and RIFT launched with. Guilds are great, but when you give them levels and a path of advancement; it gives them even more reason to play together. Add in achievements and special unlocks and you have a great guild system. The TOR guilds should follow this model.
Some Kind of Dynamic Content
Part of RIFT’s success is the popularity of dynamic content in the forms of rifts and invasions. SOE took notice of this and added public quests to the latest EverQuest II expansion. Dynamic content is actually pretty cheap to implement as it can be repeated by players multiple times, and it’s a lot of fun to play as RIFT shows. BioWare should take the time that the recent delay of the game has given them and figure out some kind of dynamic content to add to the game.
A Day/Night Cycle
This is an incredibly minor thing, but I had to include it here. Star Wars fans want to be Luke Skywalker and watch a binary sunset on Tatooine. They could do it in SWG (complete with music!), but the art decision made in TOR has taken that iconic Star Wars experience away from fans. While they’re at it, why not just remove Jedi too?