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Player Perspectives: The Old Republic Doesn’t Excite Me

Column By Isabelle Parsley on August 12, 2011

Flame suit? Check. Thick skin? Check. Obligatory disclaimer? Coming right up.

I haven’t had any exposure to SW:TOR other than what I’ve read and the vids I’ve watched, which is still a fair bit of exposure considering the gigantic hype-wave that’s been unfurling not only in the last few months but in the last few years. I’m a Star Wars fan, but not a Star Wars fangirl. And these are just my opinions. However, opinion is what shapes games and game success far more than any actual listing of features and benefits, which is why it’s so hard to predict how an MMO will do until it’s been out of the gate for at least a few months.

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I haven’t lost my capacity for wonder and frothing excitement when it comes to MMOs – at least, I don’t think I have. That said, the last time I was frothingly excited about a game was Warhammer Online, and that turned out to be a bit of a damp squib for me (and quite a few others). I’m cautiously excited about The Secret World – part of me wants to caper in anticipatory ecstasy, but part of me already knows that however huge the excitement, the proof of an MMO is in the release-pudding, and I’m half-preparing myself for disappointment.

As for SW:TOR… I want to be excited about it, I really do, and for a number of reasons. But I’m just not. I’m kind of ‘meh’ about it, to tell the truth. When I got the email exhorting me to “Come, faithful follower, and shell out a fair wodge of cash so you can be among the FIRST to experience the game (if you’re quick enough), so get your wallet already!” I looked inward and realized I didn’t really want to do as I was told. Meh.

That’s the first hurdle for me: the price tag. Others have argued quite persuasively that creating a sense of scarcity (real or not) and pushing up the price will create a sense of quality and value in the potential customer; in marketing terms it’s hardly a new ploy, and it does work, but its effect on me didn’t work as intended. These days I’m just not willing to part with my cash – especially not as much cash as was being demanded for the various preorder/CE options – without having some feeling that I’m going to spend more than a few weeks in a game.

It’s not entirely rational, but then our reactions to MMOs are rarely entirely rational, which is one of the reasons making games is such a gamble. If there were a magic formula then Blizzard wouldn’t have been the only ones to hit upon it and we’d have a dozen WoW-sized successes by now. In overall terms the preorder prices really aren’t that high, even if I do only spend 3 months playing the game; I probably spend more on books in some months, especially if I’m binge-reading. But I’m not sure I’m going to get the value I want out of the money I spend, so I just didn’t spend it.

On a related note: the hype. I have a love-hate relationship with hype because I see it for what it is but I can’t always prevent myself from responding to it. It’s entirely artificial and in some cases the hype has almost nothing to do with what a game will be like (FFXIV anyone?), but it’s still fun and there’s nothing quite like getting on your board and surfing the hype wave will a million other fans. Ironically though – and probably because at the end of the day I’m a contrary old bat – the SW:TOR hype has been so massive that it’s triggered my ‘meh’ response. Quit telling me how excited I am and let me decide for myself! Get your slick marketing mechanics and viral techniques out of my face! And the more people tell me how this game will knock sliced bread out of the water and make the bee weak at the knees, the more I ‘meh’.

Then there’s the fact that it’s really just fantasy with fricken’ laser beams.

And let’s not forget the storms of brown stuff that are going to hit the fan when people actually start playing the game. A small number of die-hards will rant and rave over obscure points of lore, but the vast majority of people are going to hit general chat and the first thing they’ll ask is “Where’s Luke? Where’s Han Solo?” Trying to explain the setting and time to them will be useless, though the die-hards will go ballistic about it. It’s already going on but it’ll be a lot worse at launch, and I’m already tired of hearing it.

I’m also not certain I want to play a single-player RPG that just happens to have other people in it. That may not at all be how it works out, but at the moment I’m a bit ‘meh’ about that too.

And lastly, it just won’t be Star Wars: Galaxies. That’s undoubtedly a good thing in many ways, but I had such a great time in SWG over the years despite the various hack-jobs done on the game that I’m not sure I won’t constantly be wishing SW:TOR could be more like SW:G. The crafting descriptions for SW:TOR have me narrowing my eyes in suspicion and wondering if I’m being hoodwinked somehow without knowing it. Besides, I tested and played Vanguard: Saga of Heroes – I know exactly how the best of crafting intentions on paper can turn into tedium and frustration in practice.

All that being said, it’s highly likely that I will be trying SW:TOR at release. I’ve got my doubts about the game and I’ve got my ‘meh’ list, but ultimately I’m going to want to see for myself. A lack of excitement doesn’t mean ‘yech’, and the number of MMOs I’m genuinely interested in these days can be counted on the fingers of one hand with some room left over for ordering hot-dogs. I just won’t be preordering and I won’t be surfin’ that wave too hard in the meantime.

I can’t be the only one, can I?

Isabelle Parsley / http://stylishcorpse.wordpress.com

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Player Perspectives
Isabelle Parsley, better known as Ysharros, is a long time MMORPG player and prolific blogger on the topic. She joins the MMORPG.com columnist team with this Player Perspectives offering every Friday.
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