With all the WoW and SWTOR news, something just hit me. I knew this was true, but it didn't really set in until now. It's been seven years since WoW released, and SWTOR is about to launch as the same exact game!
The same black and white, two-faction faux war with safe and "contested" zones; the same action combat with the same pace, hotbars, and skills; the same solo quest grind with the occasional dungeon run; the same poo-pooed crafting system that has little consequence to players; the same "hyrbid" classes which really aren't hybrids at all, but rather 3 min-maxed role specializations that are the Holy Trinity through and through.
And then, as if lack of innovation isn't enough, Bioware is going to completely eradicate players stories. The "fourth pillar" already existed in MMORPGs: there wouldn't be countless blogs devoted to retelling events that players experienced if "story" didn't exist (and unsurprisingly, Eve has the most numerous and varied story blogs I've ever read).
Let's assume Bioware is the leader in crafting video game stories. They create the most compelling canned stories anyone has ever written for a video game. They are still Bioware's stories! They are not player stories. Stories are born from extraordinary events. What would a SWTOR story blog look like? "Last night I had this really humorous and emotional dialog scene with these NPCs. I chose this light side option that resulted in an awesome cutscene!" The comments will read: "me too". What is worth telling if everyone experiences the same thing?
By the way, developer story has been done numerous times before; Bioware isn't doing anything new. Speaking from experience, FFXI had fun in-game cutscenes with your character in them and told some really amazing stories. But contrary to SWTOR, FFXI also put players in challenging situations and let extraordinary events transpire that morphed into player tales.
Developer stories, like graphics, are a selling point, but not important once the playbrain takes over. Games are systems. Choices are identified, outcomes are weighed, predictions are made, and then the brain gets a little shot of endorphins if it guessed correctly. MMORPGs are immensely layered and complex systems with an added layer of socialization. The interaction with other, irrational human beings spices the systems to the point of addiction. Humans crave knowledge and social interaction. Developer stories are an initial motivator, a driving force, an excuse to start down the path of playing a game, but they are not an ends of a game.
That's a lot of tall talk, but look at the numbers: "Only 10% of avid gamers completed the final mission, according to Raptr, which tracks more than 23 million gaming sessions." As expected, once the game system is mastered, the vast majority of players don't care about the "story" and see little reason to continue playing.
If SWTOR has the same systems we've all mastered seven years ago, and everyone is trapped in instances not experiencing extraordinary events around which to socialize, what is the point of playing? This seems like a way to charge $15 per month for KOTOR 3.