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Don't Be Surprised If I Find It Hard To Care

So, a 2011 spring release “window”? Ouch. Better to know I suppose, or is it? Did BioWare start the hype machine way too early? Granted, no actual release date was given previously, but considering the Star Wars: The Old Republic novel release—July 27, 2010 —was supposed to be set “sometime around [TOR‘s] release time“, this seems like a pretty disappointing setback. Assuming that the game will be pushed back from there, and I do feel safe in that prediction considering that’s how MMOs tend to go, I would not be surprised if we didn’t get to play this game until 2012. I also wouldn’t be surprised if, by that time, I find it hard to care.


A number of things can change by late 2011 to 2012. Gaming might have changed, expectations regarding TOR will definitely have evolved, and the community might actually lose some steam and start to shrink—at least until closer to release. Any of these can detract from TOR‘s following in the long run.

How will gaming have changed?

I can’t imagine what will have changed in two years in PC gaming. What will benchmark graphics be by then? Will gameplay trends have moved on so that TOR seems quaint and archaic in comparison? Forget WoW copying TOR, will Blizzard’s next MMO be on the horizon, ready to crush all who oppose? How innovative will the HeroEngine seem by that time, especially considering they’re using a modified, older version of the HeroEngine? At least I can’t imagine TOR having any trouble with hardware requirements. It looks low-requirement now.

This game has already seen 3-5 years of development in one form or another. I can’t imagine planning for a market five to seven years out. Granted I can’t imagine “planning for a market” generally. My version of “market planning”—utilizing my usual bar-stool developer methodology—involves imagining how awesome I think something would be with no practical restraints or considerations.

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But, as I understand it, this is a real thing. That developing for a market is an important part of making a game. Can BioWare really anticipate expectations for the 2012 market? Or are they just counting on brand loyalty and Star Wars to allow them to crush whatever competition exists in the future. I say this more from a marketing point of view, as of course their top priority in attracting players is to create a good game, but if people don’t feel much like trying the game out then they won’t get the chance to see it. This brings me back to the topic of hype.

How will expectations have shifted?

Hype—or “buzz”, or “viral marketing”—doesn’t just mean “excitement”. It means active interest when following the game and word-of-mouth, the willingness to sell the game to your friends. And it depends largely on player expectations. Will people have unreasonably high expectations for what they view as long development time? Will they only be satisfied by the TOR of their wildest dreams? Would a TOR lacking space content released in 2012 invite scorn at the “lazy” developers? It’d be ridiculous, of course, as the real problem is that BioWare is going for the “long” approach for hype. Or at least it seems that way. For all we know this release window is a disappointment to them as well.

And what about story? Will we have anything to look forward to story-wise by the time this thing gets released? I love the timelines, BioWare is putting out, and I’m looking forward to the Crosscurrent and Fatal Alliance tie-in novels, but I can actually see myself getting a little too much lore before setting foot in the game. Not that I would know what the class narratives are or anything, but I might be less excited for the Old Republic era, an era that, upon creation, was described as:

“… as vast as the galaxy itself. We haven’t scratched the surface of what TotJ could be. It’s so far back in the past, that there is no reason to fear that any story we tell could interfere with core continuity.”
Christian Gossett, artist

{TheForce.net}

—by the Tales of the Jedi creators. But with so much KotOR stuff behind, Darth Bane stuff ahead, and a ton of lore surrounding TOR‘s exact point in the timeline, it seems like the once-open Old Republic era of Star Wars is filling up. The last thing I want to do is log into the game and feel the need to say “seen it“. To feel burned out on my once-favorite Star Wars era. (I now love Star Wars: Legacy, thank you Dark Horse Comics.)

How will the community have held together?

What is the point of an official game website if not to build the community in anticipation of launch? The three-year anniversary for the TOR forums is October 23, 2011. Just after their “release window”. Three years as an active member of an online community is a long time. Especially if your participation is based on nothing more than anticipation, and not actually playing the game. Will other games have caught me up by then? Hell, I might even be sick of a different MMO by then. Is that BioWare’s master plan? To let us all get hooked on Global Agenda (which is very, very easy to do), All Points Bulletin, or whatever other MMO people are excited about right now, and then swoop in once we’ve had our fill?

I don’t speak for the community as a whole, and I’m not trying to tell people not to do this if they want to, but I can’t see the point of “guilding up” for TOR and then not playing anything as a group for the next two years. That entire section of the forums now just seems like a way to segregate those topics—which you can’t really stop from being made—from the rest. That they only exist as a clutter-saving measure. Will the various fan-sites, including this one—heck, including this column—be able to stick with what they thought was a light-to-medium jog toward release now that we know it’s actually a double-marathon? And at the end we have to fight a bear?

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It’s going to be interesting. To see who sticks around, who checks in on Fridays but otherwise could care less, and who walks away and just never comes back. Because in those two years they may have found something else and the final version of TOR doesn’t measure up to their expectations, or to whatever is occupying their attention at the time. You know, in Spring 2011 or [shudder] early 2012.

I know that ultimately, I will care. I will. It’s BioWare. It’s Star Wars. I’m not going to hate star wars in two years. If I can survive the prequels then I know I’ll never stop liking Star Wars. I know I’ll have fun with it. But after a year of closely following this game and 21 weeks of writing articles about it where I speculate on wisps of pseudo-information, I can only imagine how burned out I’ll be two years and 104 articles later.

Am I alone in feeling that they started hyping TOR way too early? I’m not saying that they should rush the game and get it out sooner, I’m saying that they should have waited until closer to release to announce and start hyping the game. Thoughts?

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