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News & Features Discussion  » Star Wars: The Old Republic: Verdict on the Fourth Pillar

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  MikeB Community Manager

Joined: 5/27/09
Posts: 5483

OP  3/28/12 3:25:00 AM#1

Did BioWare's gamble on story really make all the difference with Star Wars: The Old Republic? Was it really what MMOs were missing? We share our thoughts in this week's SWTOR column!

When BioWare announced Star Wars: The Old Republic, they asserted that MMOs have been lacking in one particular area, what they referred to as the “fourth pillar” of story.  BioWare knew a thing or about crafting great stories and they endeavored to rectify this ‘problem’ by creating a fully voiced MMO with individual storylines for each class.  For whatever reason, many MMO diehards either rejected this notion outright or viewed it with a healthy dose of skepticism, but whatever your feelings were, the fact of the matter is this was one fairly interesting experiment to observe.

Read more of Michael Bitton's Star Wars: The Old Republic: Verdict on the Fourth Pillar.

Michael "MikeB" Bitton
Community Manager
Twitter: @eMikeB


Novice Member

Joined: 1/15/05
Posts: 55

3/28/12 12:10:43 PM#2

Having played this game since beta starting last july I can say that all this story does is to make an MMO more of a single player game with lots of people around you playing the same single player game.But does it make you fell heroic?Not really becuase at end game every toon that is 50 have all saved the galaxy through their own story line that more then likely they soloed through.Its nice to have a general theme to your journey to level cap but Biowares story doesn't really do much besides change your standing to light side or darkside the choices don't really change your staory at all which if the story was so important these choices would mean more then they do.IMO of course your miles may vary.


Novice Member

Joined: 12/21/11
Posts: 6

3/28/12 12:11:53 PM#3

I had the opertunity to play some of the game this last weekend and have to admit that I was pulled in by the story. I am a huge fan of the concept of a space MMO anyway but SWTOR really has done a great job at hooking the player to their personal story. After coming away from the weekend of play I did also find it difficult to jump back into another MMO and its text box story telling. It has done an exceptional job at actually making me feel like I have an impact on my world even if in all reality I don't. 

My concern is that as much as  i did enjoy my playthrough I'm not sure that there is enough new features or at least innovative approaches to existing features to convince me to shell out the cash for the game plus a sub. With other great titles coming out this year, specifically GW2, Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2 (all of which will offer story and great gameplay without the sub) its a little tough to get on board the SWTOR band wagon. I'm still debating it but its a hard choice for me to make personally. 



Apprentice Member

Joined: 7/16/11
Posts: 3547


3/28/12 12:17:20 PM#4
Considering VO made SWTOR the most expensive CORPG in the history of the world by a factor of two and all indications are that the numbers are tanking at an unhealthy rate, I think you will need to get your storyline fix from SPRPGs going forward. SWTOR was a step back for the MMORPG genre.

Advanced Member

Joined: 7/31/06
Posts: 2094

3/28/12 12:19:03 PM#5

Yeah the thing is... the 'story' in SWTOR is boring and nothing like the ones in the dragon age or mass effect game, and certainly not like KOTOR.    It's a watered down blah blah voice act out the typical mmo quests.  There's a single quest chain where the 'real' story is contained, but it's so boring I couldn't even get to level 30.


I don't know what happened here, but you can't pass judgement on an mmo with a good story, because SWTOR doesn't have one.


The gameplay is awful as well, combat being the same old but with too many hotkeys and lacking any sort of excitement.  It's hard to say if a good story could have saved the game from it's gameplay.


Advanced Member

Joined: 4/23/09
Posts: 3402

I thought what I'd do is I'd pretend I was one of those Deaf-mutes.

3/28/12 12:20:59 PM#6
Originally posted by RefMinor
Considering VO made SWTOR the most expensive CORPG in the history of the world by a factor of two and all indications are that the numbers are tanking at an unhealthy rate, I think you will need to get your storyline fix from SPRPGs going forward. SWTOR was a step back for the MMORPG genre.

And I agree.

I enjoyed SWTOR for three months, loved the story, however after having played it, and now playing other games once again, I can say that dialogue doesn't really cover up the kill quests when the quest log says 0/10 jawa's killed as soon as you are done talking.

Don't get me wrong I really loved the main story arcs, really was a unique thing in an MMO getting me so excited for a single player boss fight.

But it just didn't have enough content for that to be their main pillar.

Dog won't hunt.


Spotlight Poster

Joined: 6/15/04
Posts: 4133

3/28/12 12:22:50 PM#7

After watching GW2 vids and seeing how quest dialog for most things plays out in realtime, especially for "events", personally I think GW2's way of questing is ten times better than SWTOR's.  SWTOR storylines feel so confined and half of what you are watching amounts to watching talking heads all day yammer back and forth.  I like the run and gun type of storytelling. On the fly so to speak, much like many single player games pull off such as God of War, Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider and so forth.  

Having a story is awesome, how it's implemented however is where the rubber meets the road. For me, SWTOR's story implementation is tedious.  Heck, I always felt that way about KOTOR, Dragon Age and Mass Effect.  Never could get into those games either due to having to watch very long dialog scenes that really weren't necessary.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 9/15/06
Posts: 182

3/28/12 12:22:51 PM#8
Originally posted by RefMinor
Considering VO made SWTOR the most expensive CORPG in the history of the world by a factor of two and all indications are that the numbers are tanking at an unhealthy rate, I think you will need to get your storyline fix from SPRPGs going forward. SWTOR was a step back for the MMORPG genre.

Don't take this the wrong way, Ref.  But do you have proof of these "tanking numbers"?  I'm not a fanboy but everytime I see people say something about falling subscription numbers, I get suspicious.

SWTOR took a step in the right direction, but to me it seems like it just isn't enough of a step.  It needs to go a bit further.  How, I'm not sure.  I'm not a developer so don't ask me for specifics.  But it just feels like something else is missing.


Novice Member

Joined: 4/19/09
Posts: 5064

The Dude abides

3/28/12 12:33:21 PM#9

Both the sage and inquisitor story lines are simply awful not to mention predictable as hell. Some of the other class story lines are fairly interesting but those two stink.

Not to mention the companion story line for Khem Val is one of the dumbest things I have ever seen. Actually was rather disappointed with BW in this aspect. Overall did they do well? I suppose compared to other mmos. I wouldn't say it was anything extraordinary though especially when you consider the bulk of the planet story lines are largely forgettable and predictable as well.

1. For god's sake mmo gamers, enough with the analogies. They're unnecessary and your comparisons are terrible, dissimilar, and illogical.

2. To posters feeling the need to state how f2p really isn't f2p: Players understand the concept. You aren't privy to some secret the rest are missing. You're embarrassing yourself.

3. Yes, Cpt. Obvious, we're not industry experts. Now run along and let the big people use the forums for their purpose.


Novice Member

Joined: 11/06/08
Posts: 711

3/28/12 12:34:38 PM#10

Story will only take you so far in SWTOR. Not all the story in SWTOR is worth a crap either. Take the Republic side storylines, nearly every planet has the same storyline for Republic quests; dangerous superweapon in (or in danger of being in) the Empire's control blah blah blah rinse repeat.

And Bioware....tell me where Huttball figures into the overall storyline of the game.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 7/16/11
Posts: 3547


3/28/12 12:41:09 PM#11
Originally posted by ScorpionOne
Originally posted by RefMinor
Considering VO made SWTOR the most expensive CORPG in the history of the world by a factor of two and all indications are that the numbers are tanking at an unhealthy rate, I think you will need to get your storyline fix from SPRPGs going forward. SWTOR was a step back for the MMORPG genre.

Don't take this the wrong way, Ref.  But do you have proof of these "tanking numbers"?  I'm not a fanboy but everytime I see people say something about falling subscription numbers, I get suspicious.

SWTOR took a step in the right direction, but to me it seems like it just isn't enough of a step.  It needs to go a bit further.  How, I'm not sure.  I'm not a developer so don't ask me for specifics.  But it just feels like something else is missing.


Proof, no, which is why I used the phrase "all indications are"


the above link shows server status, the smaller under the main graph shows the levels over time, note how full and heavy server % has dropped to 0 whilst the yellow light status has risen constantly.


the major threads on the official forums are about "is the game dying" "are sub numbers falling" and the constant scream to "merge servers now"


XFire has shown consistent falling levels of users apart from the 1st trial weekend when it jumped for the free days.

There are three indications off the top of my head, the only counter to that appears to be links to articles by gaming "journalists" supposedly quoting the head of EA as saying they have 1.7m subs as at about 2weeks ago, the articles owever contain no quotes. If you dig deeper you find the CEO is referring in his comments to the 1.7m subscribers EA had at 31st December when they were required to report the Q3 figures to investors.

Those who tell you SWTOR is doing well do not seem to come up with any evidence or indicators to that effect.

Novice Member

Joined: 1/06/07
Posts: 2541

Hype (noun)
1. to trick; gull.
2. exaggerated publicity; hoopla.
3. swindle, deception, or trick.

3/28/12 12:43:57 PM#12

Originally posted by RefMinor

Considering VO made SWTOR the most expensive CORPG in the history of the world by a factor of two and all indications are that the numbers are tanking at an unhealthy rate, I think you will need to get your storyline fix from SPRPGs going forward. SWTOR was a step back for the MMORPG genre.


Agreed. It baffles me as to why people would want more fail. I don't think most people understand just how much time, effort and most of all, MONEY it takes to do full VO. Do you want a half-a$$ CORPG full of one-time movie content or a real MMO with depth?

Hmm...let's see...

"Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever." - Noam Chomsky


Spotlight Poster

Joined: 9/19/09
Posts: 422

Never attribute to stupidity that which can be adequately explained by malice.

3/28/12 12:44:03 PM#13

The story stuff was top notch, and made leveling really fun.  But the story ends abruptly at cap.  The raiding and pvp has almost nothing to do with your story, and they're not particularly well implemented.  The game basically ended at level cap, and then all that fourth pillar stuff vanished.  Everything that made the game special vanished the moment you finished your class story.

Important facts:
1. Free to Play games are poorly made.
2. Casuals are not all idiots, but idiots call themselves casuals.
3. Great solo and group content are not mutually exclusive, but they suffer when one is shoved into the mold of the other. The same is true of PvP and PvE.
4. Community is more important than you think.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 1/29/12
Posts: 608

3/28/12 12:54:12 PM#14

I don't know if story is the 'fourth pillar', but I certainly think that it can be a major important component in an MMORPG. Sure, some MMO gamers like to regard MMORPG's as purely a game, no need for lore or story, just game mechanics; peope who'd never care what the story or background in WoW is really about as long as they can do their raids and battlegrounds and strive for their achievements. Other MMO gamers like to see an MMORPG as nothing but a world, a la Second Life, devoid of any lore, story or meaningful context injected in it by devs, only what players themselves bring. Like Second Life.


But I think the fact that there are at least 3 of the new MMO's, GW2, SWTOR and TSW all have devs that decided to spend more attention to building further upon dev provided storytelling content is saying something. The devs of all those 3 games felt like something was missing in that department and have stated that they wanted to bring it back with the story mechanics each of them in their own way have implemented in their games.

I think only if all 3 MMO's are out and then compared with MMO's where the devs decided to completely ignore it, can be said if story or context can be a major pillar to ingame entertainment in an MMORPG or not. Or if the setting is the only 'story' that an MMORPG might ever need.


Novice Member

Joined: 5/28/06
Posts: 1665

3/28/12 12:57:54 PM#15

I agree I can't go back to text-box MMO's either. Now they just feel like lazy unimaginative development to me. BioWare has spoiled me with their incredible storytelling and making me feel genuinely immersed into an MMO for the first time in my life, and I've played many MMO's.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 5/28/04
Posts: 634

3/28/12 1:00:05 PM#16

I think story is indeed very important and has been lacking in MMOs. (note: I'm saying "story" rather than "voice overs" as they are two entirely different things)

That said, I absolutely detested the JC story in SWTOR. I liked the Trooper story but the interesting stuff ended with Chapter 1. I found Trooper's Chapters 2 and 3 to be very bland.  So I don't think BioWare necessarily pulled it off... for me.  I know others have lauded the stories of the classes but I just couldn't find anything that really grabbed me on the Republic side except the Trooper's Chapter 1.  Part of this may be due to the fact that the "fully-voiced over experience" got very old and I started just reading subtitles and spacebarring through.  Now I'm to the point where if I'm not interested in the first couple of minutes of the story, I don't even read the subtitles. (and sometimes not even the dialog options)  

So while I think story is indeed very important, I think how it is implemented is *at least* as important.


Advanced Member

Joined: 5/02/10
Posts: 414

3/28/12 1:03:51 PM#17

The problem with the SWTOR stories is that, in the end, nothing really changes. I saved the planet from the Empire then why are they still there? It is like my epic story means nothing. The story is not enough for me to continue playing. I wanted to live in a Star Wars world. Instead, I feel that I am watching a Star Wars play.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 7/16/11
Posts: 274

3/28/12 1:05:42 PM#18

I'd rather have them have spent zero money and time on voices and put it all into a larger , less instanced and sectioned off world to play the game in.


Hard Core Member

Joined: 2/21/07
Posts: 2088

3/28/12 1:05:51 PM#19

I started off listening to all the stories then mid level I stopped listening to the side quest VOs and by the end spacebar and the 1 key were my friend. As other have said, the VOs do not make up for the game lacking in so many other areas.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 7/16/11
Posts: 3547


3/28/12 1:07:33 PM#20
Originally posted by tordurbar

I wanted to live in a Star Wars world. Instead, I feel that I am watching a Star Wars play.


If I had the space you might well have made my signature there.
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