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SWTOR Backlash | MMOrgue 11

SWTOR Backlash | MMOrgue 11

In this week’s MMOrgue, we cover the biggest MMO news to have scurried out from beneath the latex masks of San Diego Comic Con. Of course, the only real news on everyone’s mind has been the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic’s pre-orders, and the resulting DRAMA that unfolded from various distribution issues and a lack of product availability.

Before we get into the meat of that subject, we’ll also briefly cover NCSoft’s presence at SDCC, and DCUO’s Green Lantern “Power Ring” powerset announcements.

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Today was going to be SDCC recap, but only ONE story: SWTOR

Before we dive into that, let me tell you about a few others.

NCSoft held court, showing off Guild Wars 2 a bit.
But most of GW2 stuff will probably come out when ArenaNet attends PAX Prime this year.

NCSoft primarily focused on hyping up COH’s impending metamorphosis into a F2P game
New Trailer, new powersets!

Not to be outdone by their superpowered rivals
SOE announced the release of DCUO’s Green Lantern themed power sets
Nothing to say on powers, but the announcement deserves a minute

DCUO – Fight for the Light

First – this announcement missed the window of launching alongside the movie
Critically-panned, but blockbuster success nonetheless
DCUO has a history of missing real-world tie-ins…
Valentine’s Day almost a full month late, St. Patrick’s Day several weeks late.
If you cannot launch on time, don’t plan your content around RL events
It comes across as broken promises, and no fan will forgive you forever

Themed content isn’t sole failing point.
Prior to launch, promised monthly patches. To date, no two patches have come within <4 weeks of eachother.
Also promised free content, since the game is subscription based.

Well, how much does it feel like getting the big FINGER, when SOE announced that this new content patch will cost subscribers a fee of $10 to download and use?
They even had the BALLS to call it a DLC. A DLC! FOR AN MMO!
What are those monthly subscriptions going toward, if they won’t fuel the continued development and content release for the game?!

Expansions, OK… but THIS?!
It is so big a fail, I don’t really know how to quantify it.
I guess it’s just more fail on top of the pile that SOE continues to prove themselves to be.
Every time I start to feel like they’re redeeming themselves, they go and mismanage yet another project.

I guess there’s always hope for PlanetsideNEXT, right? hahaha

TORqued: The Pre-Order Saga

The biggest news from SDCC in the world of gaming, was easily Star Wars Old Republic’s pre-order availability, and the subsequent drama that unfolded over the few days following.

In this segment I’ll be walking you thru the events that unfolded and sharing my commentary along each step of this unfortunate series of events, as well as generally looking at the game’s future.

When the pre-orders were announced, this was the first time we heard the pricing of the Collector’s Edition… a whopping $150! Considering the fact that prior CEs of MMOs typically run for only between $80 and $100, this is a pretty significant leap in monetary investment. I’ve heard people saying you could potentially auction off the figurine on eBay if you wanted to recoup some of the cost, but let’s face it – that ain’t happening. The type of person that’ll buy a CE will keep that figurine and display it proudly, so the argument is moot.

But as it turns out, so, too, was the cost. You see, within 12 hours or so of opening pre-orders to the public, almost every major online retailer had completely SOLD OUT. A Q&A with Bioware at SDCC claimed they were NOT sold out, but retailers were singing a different tune. More units were eventually released for purchase the next morning, but by that time the damage was already done – Bioware’s precious hype had just suffered one of its first instances of public backlash, as angry fans found themselves unable to spend their money on the product Bioware had gotten them so excited about.

And unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. You see, the limited supply of pre-orders was only a factor here in the States. In the rest of the world, matters were even more complicated… In addition to only being available from an extremely limited number of retailers, some of those retailers (notably are delaying the release of pre-order registration keys to customers that purchased the game. This isn’t usually a big deal with an MMO since a registration key is pretty much have one, or don’t. But with TOR’s launch, they are employing a tiered release schedule. Details are scarce, but it involves offering pre-launch access on a first-come/first-serve basis, based solely on the order in which your pre-order keys are registered. In other words, these retailers’ inability to supply those precious pre-order keys will prevent those customers from being among the first to enjoy the game, despite being among the first to PAY for it.

And it only adds insult to injury that some international markets actually do not have pre-orders available at all. Australia most notably. And although Bioware has confirmed that there will be no IP blocks based on region, allowing players in those regions to purchase a copy from overseas, playing on an overseas server is almost guaranteed to be a lag-infested experience. Particularly on launch day when so many people will be attempting to access the same pipelines and backbones.

All of this – the limited supply of pre-orders, the international delays, unavailability of units in certain regions – has only been made even worse by the sore lack of information coming out on the subject. Sure, Bioware devs have posted responses reassuring us that it’ll all be OK, but these issues are beyond their control. This is an EA issue – this is a publisher issue. The distribution of retail units, availability of pre-order keys, even the box cost itself. These are all items way above the pay grade of the folks creating the game that everybody is so eager to get their hands on.

And it fuels a very real, larger concern I have for the game in general.

The launch of SWTOR could potentially be the biggest MMO launch, ever. Bigger than WOW, bigger than AOC or WARhammer. By current estimations, we’re looking at millions of day-one adopters. EA and Bioware are NOT MMO companies, yet. And despite being able to learn quite a bit thru observation and second-hand accounts, there really is no substitute for hands-on experience. And I think this pre-order fiasco is proof of that matter.

It worries me. And not because I’m a fan of TOR, but because this game is going to become a benchmark for the industry. It’s broken the hype barrier and managed to become what most MMO enthusiasts are coming to refer to as the “Next Big Thing.” But not like AoC or RIFT were… this time it could be real, because there are professional reputations, huge budgets and ground-breaking development revolutions at play here. If anything marrs the launch of this game, it could leave a mark on the industry as a whole for years to come. MMOs already have the unfortunate reputation for launching as buggy, unplayable messes, and it is the big launches of the past that have given it that reputation. The more hype that preceeds a particular game’s launch, the more keenly those day-one disappointments are felt, and the louder the resonate throughout the media and gamer communities across the world. And let’s face it, there has never been another MMO with this level of hype steamrolling it onward. Every speed bump, every unexplained outage, every lag spike, exploit or imbalancing “I win” button… these will initially be complained about TOR’s communities, but the sheer volume of their negativity could quickly spill over to the rest of the MMO industry, and even into gaming in general.

We’re all in this together, and I don’t think that EA or Bioware understand that. Because they are not MMO companies. Yet.

And there WILL be issues. No matter how incredibly skilled Bioware’s QA department may be, there will be situations that only arise when you get tens or hundreds of thousands of players or more, are all accessing the same servers from locations all around the world, at the same time.

So what can be done at this point? Sadly, not much. As I said previously, TOR has broken the hype barrier… it’s a beast with a life of its own, and nothing at this point will reduce the fevered pitch of anticipation that’s been built into MMO gamers around the world.

My fears may be unfounded, and I’m hoping that they are. TOR will begin beta testing weekends in September, and I’m hopeful that these are stress tests. That Bioware will really run their servers thru the wringers and weed out every last glitch and bug before it’s opened up to the general public later this year. But even then, there’s no way you can prepare yourself for MILLIONS of players to hammer on your front door the day the game finally goes live.

Can You Run It?

SDCC Videos for SWTOR:


More of a follow-up to a previous story…

Several episodes ago, I mentioned that XLGames and 2KGames had partnered up to create an MMO based on one of 2kGames successful franchises.

Well, we now have a confirmation, and unfortunately it’s not the Borderlands MMOFPS that I was hoping for…

XLGames announced Civilization Online

I think… I just stopped caring.

I’m sorry, I SHOULD be excited about another strategy game entering the MMO market, but I’ve just been so underwhelmed to date. Age of Empires Online was yawnworthy, and I’m hearing reviews of End of Nations sit squarely between “meh” and “BARF.” I just don’t know that this subgenre is destined for success in the MMO market. And now a traditionally turn-based strategy game is attempting to break into the market? Color me skeptical.

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