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21 October 2011 3 Comments

Something Old, Something New

Alostrael, a friend and guildmate of mine who blogs over at Han Shot First, has posted an interesting summary of today’s press reports, including links to many of them.

He also makes the point that:

[there] are a wide variety of opinions, each of which seems to be coloured by the hopes and wishes (ie baggage) that the reviewer entered with. One reviewer will praise the story whilst another will say that it is awkward and doesnt fit in an MMO environment. One reviewer will quip “this is not the MMO you are looking for”, whilst another will sings songs of praise. The only general themes that everyone agrees on is that there is a metric shit load of story, and that at its core there is nothing else new that has been brought to the genre.

To me, “metric shit load of story” is something new that’s been brought to the genre. It’s all too easy in most MMOs to click through the quest text to the “Accept” button, and you have to make a specific decision to stop and actively read the story. In SWTOR, the story is presented to you – not inescapably, but certainly immersively. As Charles Onyett says in his IGN review:

“Many quest goals are still pretty standard for the genre, but at the same time the narrative wrapped around each quest is so well presented with voice-acting, detailed character animations and dialogue choices that it’s easy to get swept up in the fiction and forget about the menial kill and collect quest goals.”

And John Walker at Rock Paper Shotgun says:

“It’s impossible not to appreciate the difference voicing a game makes. It’s extraordinary to appreciate the difference being able to answer back makes.”

I absolutely agree with Alostrael that overall the game is “more evolutionary than revolutionary”, but I think the voiced NPC interactions (and multiple response choices) are a very important evolution for the genre to have made. World of Warcraft, the behemoth in the field, was evolutionary rather than revolutionary too, and look what it did for us. SWTOR is just evolving MMOs to the next step, not changing the face of them – but, as it is for Alostrael, that’s more than enough for me.

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3 Responses to “Something Old, Something New”

  1. Alostrael 22 October 2011 at 06:01 #

    I absolutely agree that story is something new and important brought to the genre. It makes a huge difference to the game experience, especially if you are the sort of gamer who loves immersion. Whilst I have not played the swtor beta, I have played MMO’s with VO (1st 20 levels of AoC is fully voiced). VO, combined with great story telling makes the game a lot more engaging. The world and it’s inhabitants come to life. You form likes and dislikes of NPCs based on their personality. NPC’s become memorable. Even years after the fact. How many WoW players can name the bulk of the NPC’s of their starter area? I remember almost all of the ones from AoC, along with how their voice sounds, some of the stuff they said, and the quests they sent me on. It is just a much more satisfying game experience, and in the end isn’t that what gamers are looking for?

    I think a lot of people are underestimating how much difference story and VO makes to a game. I think that once they play swtor for a decent length of time, they will find it hard to go back to your traditional “click through the text” type MMO.

  2. Aufero 23 October 2011 at 04:41 #

    Honestly, it’s the extensive VO work and emphasis on story that has me more excited about this game than any other MMO launch in the last few years. I enjoyed Aion and Rift, but their stories just felt bland and generic – I was rarely engaged much in what was going on with the narrative, and I couldn’t name more than a couple of NPCs from either.


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