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Top 5 Reasons Why SWTOR Failed

Published by under Editorial on Sep. 19. 2012.

Now that mostly everyone that worked on the creation of Star Wars: The Old Republic is fired or left and that sufficient time has passed to have enough distance to talk about everything that transpired I want to list the top 5 things that, in my opinion, caused SWTOR to fail. TOR is not a bad game by any measure, but considering the fact it lost at least 75% of its initial players (and if we are to be honest the number is now closer to 95%) and sold less copies than most AAA single player games do, I feel confident enough to call it a failure. If John Riccitiello, CEO of Electronic Arts, called it that I see no reason why I shouldn’t. For the past couple of months I considered hard whether to call it the biggest failure in the history of MMORPGs since Age of Conan, but the jury is still out there on that one so I’ll stick to just calling it a general failure.
  

  1. Tech/Hero engine – Bioware chose to use a 3rd party engine to create SWTOR. Most companies out there invested in having a developer team that created their own engine. I am guessing that Bioware wanted to shorten the development time by using an already available engine called – Hero engine. On paper it looked like it would accomplish everything it needed to do. In reality things worked out a bit different.

    As seen on Ilum, large scale PvP is impossible in SWTOR, because once more than 40 people showed up in the same place things would become a lag fest with the graphics simply killing your computer no matter how strong it was. What kind of MMO is it if large number of people can’t be in the same place?

    The engine seems to be incredibly difficult to modify and implement initially unsupported features. It took them months to create a dungeon finder and server merges. Talking to the developers I heard over and over again how hard it was to put in features that were not already in the engine. … and than the bugs… oh my God the bugs.

    There seems to be something incredibly hard or wrong with the scripting part of the Hero engine because even the simplest events initially had bugs.

    Can you say loading times? It takes upwards of five minutes to load Belsavis! Higher the level the more loading screens you would see by moving from your ship to another planet and back to the fleet. Every time I had to go somewhere I cringed a bit.

    The game was not broken at launch per se. However, due to being faced with modifying other people’s tech it took months to do things that should have taken weeks. Which brings us to our no. 2

  2. Failure to react on time/initial number of servers/empty servers – Bioware decided to be generous with the number of servers they had at launch. Someone over there thought that queues at launch are much worse than having empty servers a month later. After all the beta testing they went with a very conservative server cap and I am not sure if they had more than 2000 concurrent players per server allowed before queue started to kick in. That is how it felt, because rarely you would see more than 50 players per planet on a moderately populated server with the most people being on fleet (100-150 max on med server). As with every MMO that launched in the past 10 years we had 25% of players leave within the first three months. In SWTOR’s case this meant 500.000 players left. You know what that did to the medium population servers? They became low pop and we had 10 people per planet and 30-50 players on fleet … in a Massive Multiplayer Online game. Can you say “single player MMO“?

    It took them 6 months to initiate the first server transfers (not merges – no). By then they lost 50+ percent of their subscribers. Someone over there did not think a technology for moving player characters between servers will be necessary so they had to develop it… You know, it is unheard of for a MMO to need to reshuffle its population in between servers post launch…

    This inability to react to things players demanded was visible in other areas as well, but nowhere did it hurt the game as much as the empty servers did. Next time your players tell you the servers are empty do not reply with snark comments how “the galaxy is a big place” mkay? If they had done server merges and extended the pop cap back in March we would have seen a much lower churn rate and the game would probably be in a much better state now.

    Can you also say group finder? How could it take so long to make such an essential tool available?

  3. Inability to communicate – the corporate rules imposed on Bioware have made communication with the players just a bunch of “soon” and “happy thoughts” statements. When things were the most critical the players were kept in the dark, which caused them to lose faith, which caused them to move on. There is a lot of faith involved in MMORPGs. Faith that the developer will continue to produce content for the virtual world you chose to participate in and pay subscription for and that the developer will fix the current bugs or systems that are not up to par in quality. That faith is best reinforced with honest communication and delivering on promises. Instead we had weeks and months of silence.

    The most incredible display of how grossly awkward the rules of silence are in Bioware was during GamesCom 2012. I was at the SWTOR booth because they were showing the new warzone – Ancient Hypergates. I was filming the gameplay with my camera and a person from Bioware came to me demanding to stop filming! Why? Why would you want to stop your players and fans from seeing the new stuff that will be coming to the game. Are you freaking insane? Out of 10 or so games and companies I filmed during GamesCom – none of them asked me not to record. None, except Bioware! And it was at a public booth where everyone could play the new warzone!

    I always understood that there are delicate forces at work with Lucas Arts overseeing all of the things happening and EA having their own policies about public presentation. What we got in the end is a community team that was let go for following company rules and bunch of angry players that left due to not having confidence in “we are working on it” sentences. Also – server merges are server merges and not server transfers.

  4. Electronic Arts – I feel pretty confident saying now that EA killed SWTOR. Now that the good Doctors retired from Bioware the last piece of the puzzle fell in. I do not think Bioware intended to launch SWTOR in the state it was ultimately launched in. They had to release it in 2011 (and if any of you remember, it was John Riccitiello, CEO of EA, who first said SWTOR will launch in 2011) so that EA honchos had something to show to the investors in that year. Just remember the rushed announcement of the launch at Eurogamer Expo 2011 and the terrible date of the launch (launch a few days before Christmas – nice). From my last interview with Gabe Amatangelo we heard that Ilum PvP was rushed due to launch and I assume the same stands for other parts of the game that looked rushed (semi-functional GTN; basic chat functions; basic UI; bugs in end game). That was the first thing that hurt SWTOR a lot. It is almost a consensus now that if the game launched with 1.2 features things would have played out a lot different.

    The second thing that EA did to kill SWTOR was pull the rug under its feet way too early. We now learned that the good doctors gave notice in April and in May we had the first wave of layoffs in SWTOR studio in Austin, TX. This means that EA pronounced SWTOR a failure 4 months after launch and I think consequently Greg Zeschuck gave notice and Ray followed. This reduced the studio’s ability to fix bugs and create new content and directed the game towards free to play and scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    With those two moves there is nothing left of Bioware’s vision of this game that we were fans of and the we followed for years; instead, we have a new Electornic Arts’ SWTOR

  5. Fear of innovation/playing it safe – It was pretty apparent Bioware will create a themepark MMO with familiar game mechanics right of the bat. When I first played the game back in 2010 I jumped right in and did not need a tutorial or anything. Everything was done in a well established manner and where they tried to innovate was quality. The quests were improved by voiceovers, cutscenes and some primetime writing. The companions had better AI and more personality than similar “systems” in other games. The worlds had more lore and very rich environments. Were any of these things an innovation? In my opinion – no. They were an evolution perhaps, but not an innovation and obviously players did not appreciate this.

    As a matter of fact, they started picking on everything that was not on par with the quality in other games. You have no dungeon finder? Fail. You have no customizable UI? Fail. There’s a lesson to be had here. If you are not going to bring anything innovative and new to the table, at least have everything on par with the competition. That is, if you are planning to be a top contender on the market.

  
Bonus fail – Red Zone – I will never forget the fact that Bioware allowed to have players segregated by the country they live or were born in. They only allowed players in the West to purchase the game initially. This meant the United States, Canada and most (but not all) of Europe (oh and Russia too). Games are a great medium that is (mostly) race, gender and class agnostic. Whoever you are and wherever you live you can sit down and play a game and you would play it the same as any other person out there in the world. In MMOs this is even more so because you would have a chance to meet and communicate with people from different cultures and different continents as if they were right there in your room. Bioware decided to split us up into prime time countries and the rest – the Red Zone. Guild Wars 2 at least let everyone purchase the game while “they had copies”. They stopped sales for everyone once they wanted to stop the pressure on the servers. That is what means being race, gender, country and class agnostic and what games should be all about.
  
The game was not all fail though and that is what makes this fail hurt even more. SWTOR did some things exceptionally well and I think it would only be fair to list them here as well.
  

  • Story telling – after SWTOR it will be difficult, to say at least, to enjoy storytelling in any other MMO. I tried several MMOs since SWTOR launched and it was hard to “swallow” Guild Wars 2 static dialogues and The Secret World’s lack of voiceovers for all quests. There will probably never again be a game that invests so much into storytelling and its presentation as SWTOR did and that’s a real shame.
  • Companions - the first “pet” system that provided you with a genuine buddy. Companion stories made you feel connected to some of the companions and their AI wasn’t half bad. Choosing a different companion gave you an option to fine tune your game style more towards survivability or DPS or whatever you like.
  • Warzones - I believe SWTOR had some of the best PvP arenas out there. Huttball is one of the best designed PvP maps ever (pity some classes had such clear advantage). The fact that more than 50% of SWTOR players actively participate in Warzones speaks for itself.
  • Classes - I like SWTOR classes. Maybe I am influenced by playing an Assassin most of the time and it was able to provide me with different play styles for a very long time. In any case I think that the classes represented well classic Star Wars prototypes and provided distinctly different ways to play your character based on the build you chose. It was not exactly groundbreaking or anything, but it was not bad
  • some of the raiding – I loved the fact I could kill a Rancor. I liked the SOA fight when they fixed all the bugs. I liked the Karagga fight. I liked the accessibility of raids so that most players could do them. I hated the puzzle events because they presented a barrier for groups without voice communication. I thought that having so many trash mobs is retarded.
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16 responses so far

16 Responses to “Top 5 Reasons Why SWTOR Failed”

  1. A.on 21 Sep 2012 at 11:45 am

    6. The sheer volume of complainers out there. Holy **** Batman! Be happy that this game even exists! Sheesh! Get of your drama-queening and get back to playing. This is like ’8′ games in one!

  2. Saulo D'Orionon 21 Sep 2012 at 2:52 pm

    8 games in one? Pass what your smoking here please.

  3. Arieson 21 Sep 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Not sure why they chose to use Hero engine, maybe it seemed OK on paper and in the demo of it. But it is sad that BW did not develop their own engine, which we know they can do (Aurora and its subsequent updates), or why they did not licensed some other proven engine, like Unreal.

    Yes, if the game launched with 1.2 content, all would be great and nice. Or maybe this is just the thing with MMOs – do not start playing or evaluating them until they stabilize from the “birth pains” they all suffer after launch.

    Servers: This is sort of treacherous ground. If they did not provide more servers, the hate would be just the same as it was afterwards. Server transfers should have come sooner. Personally, I think they begun developing them after somebody found out that sh*t is hitting the fan with population. Also, they wasted time building an extremely sophisticated system, way more than what was needed.

    EA definitely pulled the rung under SWTOR’s feet way too soon. But then, what else should they tell the shareholders, who do not understand that games likes this need more work?

    F2P, well, this is big question. We can see that EA plans to publish lots of F2P games, like Ultima Online remake of Generals. So maybe F2P should stop meaning “this game failed terribly”, and be something more of a “ok, this is how the game scene will looks now”. Whether it is a plan to kill game stores, and get all the money from the game directly, that remains to be seen.
    I would just like to say thet F2P worked wonders for games like Anarchy Online (still played after 12 years of existence and 8 years of F2P, now with plans for major engine update) or LOTRO.

  4. Vallezon 22 Sep 2012 at 3:22 am

    I was pretty excited for this game, but it was unplayable on laptops. I can run WoW full res on my 24 inch monitor at 60 fps. With swtor I had to run it at 800×600 and would get 15fps max. I wanted to keep playing, but it was unplayable. Friends with desktops didn’t have issues, but the other people I knew attempting to play on laptops were having the same experience. I didn’t realize it was a third party engine, but that would explain a lot. Definitely a huge mistake to have a crucial part of your game depend on the incompetence of another company…

    In any case, I plan to fire the game up again once I upgrade my computer. However, it will be another laptop, so hopefully these issues are fixed by then…

  5. Arieson 22 Sep 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Vallez:
    Apparently, the HeroEngine used was so heavily edited by BioWare that original authors almost do not recognize it anymore. So it makes any upgrades to it (Hero Engine 2.0 is set for release soon, I think) extremely difficult, if not downright impossible. But I do hope that BW will manage to upgrade the engine to utilize x64 architecture and other things.
    As for laptops, not sure what you problem is, but I play on my laptop without problems while connected to wifi. However, the hardware in it is comparable to my desktop (Intel i5 dual-core at ~2.30 GHz, 4GB DDR2 RAM, nVidia GT540M), so maybe the problem is your laptop is weak on without driver updates (it really helps)

  6. Delmearon 24 Sep 2012 at 7:16 pm

    Here’s what I tend to come away with when people write about how TOR failed, but are actually willing to point out what they enjoyed as well:

    PvP, yeah, it’s a blast.
    PvE, not only is the story good , some of the fights are very entertaining.
    Leveling? Get out of town, I’ve never enjoyed leveling so much!
    Lore, I love Star Wars.
    Trinity system? Not a fan, but with companions this game isn’t a problem the way most are.

    However, there’s always SOMETHING that upsets them initially (usually understandably). From there they let their emotions get the best of them and they start nit picking all the little things exactly like this: “As a matter of fact, they started picking on everything that was not on par with the quality in other games.”

  7. Russon 25 Sep 2012 at 7:14 am

    It’s a shame you think GW2′s story telling isn’t as good, just because it’s presented in a different way. How far did you actually get with it? Be honest now… did you take it to 80? I was already bawling my eyes out when they killed off my mentor in the 40s, and it only got better from there. I think you just didn’t play it long enough, or haven’t played it long enough, to make that call.

  8. Mike Blackon 26 Sep 2012 at 11:01 pm

    Fanboys. Fanboys everywhere.

    I ll sign the reasons why this game failed and i would like to be permitted to say a few things more.

    As for the PvP. Population imbalance and the 1.2 patch killed PvP in SWTOR. Resolve and Stun,Stun,Stun, Stun played a big role on this too. They overhyped the Empire Faction with their marketing and trailer videos because they thought that everybody would be a Jedi. Then they failed when they designed the new PvP gear for 1.2 and OPed a couple of classes.

    As for the Story Content. Nothing superb here, the class stories were ok. But if you rolled an alt you had to get through all those boring sidequests (some were ok Black Dissector) so the space button worked there. Also the alignment was wrong. No neutral ground, only Good or Bad.

    No Economy. Biochem or burst. They added the augments as a lame effort to give life to the crafters but it failed. Whoever designed that economy system must never work for a game company.

    Railshooters. Give me open and free space battles against Player or Environment and take my soul. And my money. Not StarWARS Fox.

    Leveling. It was a treat. I enjoyed my first character both with the class story and the side quests for THE FIRST TIME. It is the best thing this game has to offer but it is LINEAR. No options to go somewhere else to level with questing. From A to B then C. Fail.

    Endgame. End What? Yeah do some hardmode dungeons, grind yourself with Huttball, wait for the raids to unlock and do those boring daily quests every day. It gets boring and feels like a job very early.

    Sorry to see you quit from SWTOR, i was excited for this game like you, and i have the same feelings. I wish better luck next time for all of us.

  9. Voxon 28 Sep 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Agree with every word :)

  10. LordInvictuson 02 Oct 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Custom avatar

    yep totally agree with the comments bar a few things
    1 space combat was a joke and cheep i mean cheep
    2 the worlds are dead and have no life to them just static good graphics but lameeeee
    3 no night and day cycles no weather cycles
    4 bad skill system for pvp great for single player pve but no balance for pvp
    5 no world pvp or any reason to do it no conquest points nothingggggg
    6 promises after promises and nothing delivered every time u add something they made 10 more bugs
    7 not looking at other games cos the amount of crap they dont have astounds me
    8 crap rides and mounts and terrible end game clothing and its still coming after the mass of complainants
    9 THE WORST CRAFTING SYSTEM TO DATE EVER IN MY 30 YEARS OF GAMING
    10 sticking people with a ship that cant be changed in the slightest way
    11 no sand boxing at all i mean come onnnnnnnnnn just a little bit for gods sake
    12 devs making pvp balances changes 3 months into the game and destroying most peoples play style

    i could go on and on and i love starwars i loved kotor as well but to try and make an mmo out of what was a single player story with real choice into a game with no choice and a one way trip to the end like a single player game was doomed to fail another reason is this most people got to end game then realised that there was no end game all the storys follow their own script if u play empire u win if u play republic u win every bodie wins and no ones story ties into each other if u play all 8 story’s and try to put them into one story u cant cos it makes no freaking sense THE TRUTH IS THIS SWTOR IS A RUSHED HALF ASSED GAME THAT BROUGHT VIDS TO QUESTING THATS IT APPART FORM THAT IT HAS NOTHING u take them shiney vids away the games worse then any game ever made i do say its the biggest flop in mmo history all that hype for what wow with a starwars skin and less freedom THE GAME IS A BAD JOKE

    BRING ON SWG2

    i play EVE now cos its the last true hard core mmo left not a gimmie it all now that was to hard nerf it plz game for 12 year old kids that cry cos they cant buy it straight of the bat what happend to games what happend to 100 hours min to beat the end story boss then 200 more hours to kill the super bounus bosses like the DARK AOINS IN FF10

  11. Bubon 03 Oct 2012 at 12:19 am

    ^ What happened to punctuation?

  12. Joshon 04 Oct 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I think lack of patience had a lot to do with it as well. Honestly the players really helped kill their own game. They compared it to older, well developed games like World of Warcraft. Most seem to forget that WoW was just like this in the beginning and has had major dynamics changes many times (the latest talent system made me quit). People left way too soon because they expected the game to be like a five year running MMO and not a brand new one. They took away the money and killed their own game.
    I will pay for this game until its truly dead. If the die hard fans keep paying we may see something cool. Or if they rework the engine everyone may come back.
    This is the only mmo I play because it isn’t just grinding quests.

  13. Hepatiaon 06 Oct 2012 at 5:43 pm

    I LOVE this game! It’s my first mmo, yes, there’s bugs; but I’m okay with that. I realize it’s a new game, and I’ll play it as long as it’s there. :D

  14. SWTOR_is_Garbageon 13 Oct 2012 at 2:23 am

    The only reason why SW:TOR failed is the last reason SWTOR-Life listed. GAME DESIGN. The game is simply horrendously designed and outdated. No one wants to play a WoW wannabe that isn’t even good at copying WoW. It’s that simple.

    In other words, the only people that should be blamed for the failure of this monstrosity are the LEAD DESIGNERS of EA/Bioware.

  15. Fouron 19 Oct 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Is there any chance SWTOR will survive?

  16. Mikroon 19 Oct 2012 at 1:13 pm

    @Four

    I am sure it will. It just failed to meet its full potential by a large margin.