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Star Wars: The Old Republic Column: Two Years and Counting

By Michael Bitton on October 27, 2010

The official Star Wars: The Old Republic website opened its doors two years ago and the site’s community has been one of the most active pre-launch forum communities I’ve ever seen. The environment is a bit different now, though, and its left me wondering: did Bioware show their hand too early?

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The official SWTOR forum community is a real melting pot of MMO gamers and Bioware fans, all who have been hopeful that the game would deliver in certain features that attract them to MMOs, and with so many different subsets of gamers making up the community, many ideas are often diametrically opposed. This fact has led to many interesting discussions over the past two years, some of which consisted of totally wild speculation on the game, with just about any idea, however unrealistic, easily garnering (hundreds of) pages upon pages of discussion, often leading to the moderator team having to create a “part two” or even “part three” thread for the discussion to continue.

Bioware’s marketing strategy seems to be at the root of this phenomenon. As many of you following the game know by now, the flow of information on Star Wars: The Old Republic could be best described as a “trickle.” For the longest time, outside of the fact Bioware was pursuing a fully voiced storyline with their game, gamers really didn’t know much about it, leaving a whole lot to rampant speculation.

Fast forward two years and the environment is a bit different now. Information still trickles in, but enough has trickled in over the past year to give us an idea of the basics of the game. We’ve learned of all the game’s playable classes and Advanced Classes, many of the playable races, several of the companions, the presence of a space feature (as well as player housing), how multiplayer dialogue works, and a decent deal of the content breakdown in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

What’s odd is the fact that while the above sounds fairly substantial, the reveals have been somewhat piecemeal and we still don’t know a whole lot about the game. Bioware has been more and more willing to discuss the story aspects of the game in greater detail, but the real meat and potatoes, the basic MMO features of the game are still mostly a mystery. Ask yourselves this: can you name a single stand-out feature that Star Wars: The Old Republic will have that is not related to the game’s storyline? This isn’t to say that such features don’t exist, but for whatever reason, Bioware is simply not talking about them, not yet anyway. Crafting anyone?

The tone of the official Star Wars: The Old Republic community seems a bit, well, fatigued at this point. Retreading a lot of the same topics with very little interaction from the developers and a studio that’s been fairly tight lipped, it comes as no surprise to me that even the staunchest fans of the game are frustrated. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to get much better in the short term. With the show season now over, developers tend to get a bit quieter until the madness begins to kick up again in March. With the game’s release often rumored to be some time in 2011, we can only hope that the marketing team kicks things into high gear next year so we can learn more about the game.

Bioware could stand to take a page or two from the ArenaNet marketing playbook. Never mind your feelings on that game, it’s pretty hard to deny that we’ve learned a great deal about Guild Wars 2 in just a few short months. I’d wager we’ve seen and heard more about Guild Wars 2 in 2010 than we’ve learned about Star Wars: The Old Republic since 2008! Show and tell, boys, show and tell. If your game is good, it’ll stand on its own, and believe me, we’ll be frothing at the mouth to play it all the way through launch!

So, I’d like to leave you all with a question, and this is for the fans. Has your enthusiasm for Star Wars: The Old Republic waned at all in recent months? If so, what is on the top of your list as far as things you’d like to hear about in order to get yourself fired up about the game again?

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