Questions From A Gamer
After I go through all the great stories and epic quests you'll have, then what?
Bioware makes single player RPGs better then anyone else. Those games have a beginning, a middle, and an end. With an MMO, you'll have a beginning, but we won't discern the other two parts unless something gets screwed up. MMOs are persistent worlds and players will chew through your content much faster then you will be able to produce new stuff, especially since you'll be creating separate content for each class. So when I run through all the content, what am I supposed to do then? What is going to keep me playing while I wait for the expansion pack? I guess what I am really asking is, what is your end game? Theoretically, you could try and just out pace the players and create content faster then we can experience it. If you can manage that, you go girl! If you try it that way, just realize that adding content isn't the same thing as lowering drop rates and lowering mob spawns so we have to go through the same instance or quest fifty times. Barring mass content or some alternative idea no one else has thought of then it's down to either raiding or PvP as your end game. If it's raiding tell me now so I can give notice at work, if it's PvP then how good is your hardware going to be?
How are you going to handle death in your MMO?
Death is fairly straight forward in a single player RPG. Hit reload, cuss a bunch, come up with a good excuse how it wasn't your fault. In SW:tOR I'll need you to either provide some mechanism that prevents me from being stupid or at least have the game provide me with some good excuses, "You have died. . .but it wasn't your fault. . .you lagged". The best way to have death mesh with story and immersion is, in my opinion, permanent death, but most MMOs can't really get away with that. Am I going to have to retrieve my body and items or take an experience penalty? Am I fully lootable, will I be ported to a far away bind point, or are you doing a timed skill or stat based penalty? How about resurrection, can those Metachlorians bring us back to life? Will you put restrictions or penalties on player resurrection?
What's the space travel going to be like at launch?
This isn't necessarily an MMO related question, it's more of a question about science fiction themed games, but a very important one nonetheless. Notice I asked what it would be like 'at launch' because every MMO player knows that even if you never plan on doing any space flight or combat that the actual answer will be, "we want to do it and we have some great ideas, but it probably won't make it to launch." So at launch will we see a simple loading screen, a short video when traversing between worlds, or will there be anything substantial? Ok you caught me, how long before I can fly the Millennium Falcon?
How much emphasis will the player run economy have?
I want the big dog, head cheese lightsaber. Am I making it myself, am I doing a quest for it, is someone else making it, or is Jabba the Hutt holding it for me? It's my opinion that a player run economy can never be complex enough. I always thought EVE had it covered not so much in practice but in deeming it important enough to hire an economist to run it. There's a bunch of different opinions on this subject. On one end you have people that think all equipment should be player made and there shouldn't even be merchant NPCs. On the other extreme there's people that think that player crafted items should exist merely as decoration. Where do you want your game to fall? Will you have auction houses? Will you have banks? Are they universal or local? Are resources universal or local? Will crafting stations all exist near the bank/auction house? On top of all of those questions, we have yet to cover bindable items. Will any of the higher end items be tradeable? Will items degrade or have durability and need to be repaired? Any plans to have unique items ACROSS a server (meaning one per server)? Will there be maker's marks, dyeable items, different qualities of items? Just on a personal note try to avoid what Anarchy Online did; instead of coming up with different names and graphics for the items. When I finally got an upgrade to my IEC Flashpoint Laser Rifle Quality:67 it was an IEC Flashpoint Laser Rifle Quality:95.
What is your plan for balancing the various classes?
The first question that springs to mind when I want to know about class balance in a game using the Star Wars universe is this; how are you going to balance Sith Lord/Jedi Knight as playable classes versus the other classes? Will Jedi Knights and Sith Lords just be more powerful and considered easy mode? Are you planning on having Bobba Fett be equal in power to Darth Vader? Are you going to come up with arbitrary penalties to put on Jedi and Sith to 'even them out'? After we learn how you plan on balancing the Percieved differences in class how are you planning out the overall gameplay between classes? Bioware mentions that the game will be 'largely soloable', does that mean the game will play like my (entirely self-sufficient) Priest of Mitra in AoC where I could pull, heal, crowd control, and AoE damage everything to death all solo? Or will your approach be more akin to Everquest where my warrior couldn't solo pride lions past level 12? Have you come up with any alternatives to the tank/DPS/Heals group mechanic so often employed by MMOs of the past? How about PvP, are you going to attempt to balance classes head to head? Will you attempt any balancing among the various group makeups that may exist for group PvP? When it comes to balance no one is ever happy, that's why it's important to know how the developers plan to attack it in theory. If you don't think that 1v1 PvP balance is important, then let us know so I can have a built-in excuse for when I lose. . .err, I mean so I don't focus on 1v1 as a main motivating factor in my game experience. Class balance isn't just who can beat who 1v1, it covers multiple forms of PvP and multiple forms of PvE. I don't want to lose 1v1 because his class has better crowd control, I don't want to get passed over for PvP groups because I'm spec'd wrong, I don't want to miss the raid because we need nine healers, and I don't want to level ten times slower because I picked the single target DPS class. In a perfect game world, nobody has these problems, in an actual game world I'm scared Darth Vader is rolling a Bright Wizard.
How will my character progress through the game?
Am I going to be leveling my character with experience points, weeding my way through skill trees, or some kind of combination of the two? If I need experience, how are you going to combat the grind feeling? If it's skills, what are your plans to combat macroing? Will my character grow, age, or change appearance as I go through the game? Am I going to see quest hubs presented in a linear or tiered progression or will you spread out the appropriate content among other content that I may or may not be ready for? In other words, if I go to a small village and talk to everyone will I ever need to come back there? How are you going to disperse the content across planets? Will Tatooine be for level tens and Coruscant be for level twenties or will there be a reason or need to go to both planets at both levels? I always thought that developers wasted a great deal of time constructing the lower level zones considering I saw them for a total of two hours. I'd like to see less linear progression and more freedom to progress where you want to. A popular, although stereotypical way to address the issue would be to ask, is your MMO going to be more sandbox or more amusement park?
How will the game world change?
At minimum, an MMO should give the illusion that the game world can be affected by players and seem alive or moving. This goal goes a long way toward successfully immersing the player into the world. Having said that, here are a few questions: Will you have weather? Will the weather simply be visual or are there any in game effects or penalties? Will any NPCs have schedules, move, interact with anything else aside from player initiated conversation. For example, could NPCs interacting with each other follow one another and move in a pack? Will housing be in? If so, will it be in a separate zone or integrated into the game world? Will storyline choices affect anything beyond my own character? If you answered yes to the previous question then 1)How did you do it? and 2)Will you offer lifetime subscriptions?