Dec 27 2011

SWTOR – ups and downs and Bioware being Bioware…

Postet kl.: 19:30 - med følgende tema: observasjoner,underholdning

 

I’m playing SWTOR (if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll even get the webpage to load to see what it’s all about). While playing the game is mostly fun, albeit there being a few annoying bugs, the abysmal customer support system, the lack of coherent replies from forum moderators and administrators, the mile-long threads (which, when they reach some arbitrary number of posts / replies, gets “full” and either have to be redone to continue or die a quiet death) without a single reply from someone who’s actually someone etc., makes the overall feeling a bit less… fullfilling.

Bioware, and EA as distributors, seems adamant that listening to the (active) community, trying their best to fix bugs and keeping their audience up to date on what’s going on isn’t really that important.

Of course, the very vocal contributors on the forum isn’t the biggest part of their customer base, their involvement should make them heard. The “overall customer” will not speak up – they’ll just play along, not really caring about the going-ons in the background. Of course, these are the customers Bioware and EA wants the most – they’re easy to appease, they don’t complain, and they (somewhat) happily pay for the opportunity to play every month.

The ones they should be listening to, though, are the ones that actually speaks up. The ones that visits the forum, make pointed remarks, suggests improvements, and takes a stand. Because these are the players that (while still complaining and making a fuzz) also pay for the game, and who’ll be happy to pay for the game even with the bugs, and have been playing the beta and still came along for release day! They’re dedicated. They see that SWTOR can be a great game, if Bioware plays ball.

The release today of a “teaser” for the upcoming “extra content” patch shows that Bioware might be focused on the wrong thing, though. Bioware have no real experience in this sort of game – I’m not talking about RPGs, of course – they’ve plenty of experience there – I’m talking about the massive undertaking such an MMO like this is. Blizzard did most of the gruntwork quite a few years ago, when they put out World of Warcraft. Bioware shouldn’t have to make so many of the same mistakes over again, but seemingly, copying stuff from the most successfull MMO on the market would be bad, because SWTOR “tries to be something entirely new”… well, here’s a fact, Bioware: it’s not. Yes, you have voice acting, you have some great new ideas for managing farming and other such things, but no, it’s nothing really new. It is WoW in space, with lightsabers. Live with it, and make the best of it, Bioware.

There are so many things that have been pointed out in the forums, ever since the first chance to participate in the beta, that has still not been fixed. There are stupid in-game bugs that makes easy stuff take forever, and sometimes even breaks the game completely. While some of these things are mostly annoying, and to be expected from a brand new release, the lack of understanding from Bioware’s side isn’t.

Not to mention the continued lack of updates to their webservers. More often than not, you’ll run into a “Waiting room” when trying to access anything – it be the forums or just standard content. In 2011, this isn’t good enough. You put in more power, you load balance, you make sure the forums, the help information, the news etc. are available 24/7/365. Estimates from different traffic monitors show that the monthly amount of visitors to the SWTOR.com page is between 6 and 10 million every month (for the last couple months, it was way lower before that). That means that you have 150-200 thousand visitors each day, with some spikes hitting maybe as much as a million on some days. That isn’t a lot. Not really. If you can’t deal with that amount of traffic on a webserver, it doesn’t really bode well for the overall game experience either (I’m assuming and hoping there’s no joint taskforce dealing with both those things at the same time…).

I’m still hoping for SWTOR to be the “new WoW” – ie, make a mark, get popular, draw in players, give us (the players) great content and new ideas – but please, Bioware, please, please, please don’t treat your customers like crap? Try to listen, try to participate, and try to make sure that, whatever you do, the customers are informed, preferably beforehand. The info-bit is where you’re lacking the most at the moment.

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