MMOs the 'toughest' sector of games - Old Republic dev

BioWare associate lead designer says massively multiplayer online space is most challenging, claims Star Wars MMO boasts an enviable subscriber base.

The massively multiplayer online genre is the "toughest" sector in the industry, according to Star Wars: The Old Republic associate lead designer Emmanuel Lusinchi. Speaking to PC Gamer, the BioWare staffer also weighed in on the recent round of layoffs at the firm.

The Old Republic's subscription numbers are enviable, says Lusinchi.

"The MMO is the toughest part of the game industry without a doubt, and we live in tough economic times in general," he said. "So that's very unfortunate, and on a personal level it's quite difficult to have people that you've been working with for a long time that you know personally, you go to their barbecue and you meet their families and it's never easy. I doubt it'd be easy in any industry for anyone, but it happens."

Lusinchi went on to note that the team working on The Old Republic remains "one of the largest in the industry," and mentioned the studio has a "complete and detailed plan" for the rest of the year. Looking back at the game's first six months, Lusinchi was pleased with how The Old Republic has progressed.

"I think we did a good job of listening to the players and delivering some of the features they wanted with a quick turnaround," he said. "Of course, from a player perspective it's always going to take too long, but the game has changed quite a lot in the last six months if you think about it."

Lastly, Lusinchi spoke to The Old Republic's waning subscriber base, which fell from a total of 1.7 million in February to 1.3 million as of earlier this month.

"We have subscription numbers that many of our competitors will envy, maybe not all the competitors, but we're doing good," he said.

For more on Star Wars: The Old Republic, check out GameSpot's previous coverage.

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

Want the latest news about Star Wars: The Old Republic?

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Discussion

70 comments
victoria_wolf
victoria_wolf

forget the mmo game, just make Knights of the old republic 3 already.

leepialong
leepialong

Funny! "we live in tough economic times" so we decide to charge $15 a month PLUS the box price for a SINGLE player MMO. make sense!!

nurse_tsunami
nurse_tsunami

If they gave me something to do outside of combat (pvp, instances) other than staring at each other on the ship, I'd think about coming back.  But I just don't seem them going in the right direction for my tastes.

OurSin-360
OurSin-360

I played some of the game on the free weekend they had, it seemed pretty good but i'm not a MMO guy.  Just can't justify paying 60 bux for something and then paying 15 a month to play what i just bought.  KOTOR 3 please?

hadlee73
hadlee73

I actually thought the indie game sector of the industry might be the toughest, as they don't get multi-million dollar budgets and established IPs to work with.

JimmeyBurrows
JimmeyBurrows

I still haven't seen any MMO's that need to be massive... At the end of the day the gameplay ends up being based around a small party of people... The games would generally be better (and cheaper) if they'd planned the whole game around that instead of having everyone in the same gameworld, then you wouldn't need to make giant copy-pasted areas most of which is ignored as someone spends half an hour running past it... Would be much better if they made a fun game that people wanted to keep playing (rather than keeping them grinding for hours on end) and kept adding to it for a monthly fee... I'm sure more people would be willing to play it.

xeoneex66
xeoneex66

Another point I wish to make, is that Bioware, despite being EA's corporate bish, is not the type of developer that can handle MMO type games.  They are having alot of trouble making their single player games of late, ME 1 was amazing, ME 2 was horrible, didn't even bother with ME 3, especially after all the negative towards the ending.  And Dragon Age, need I say more?  They were great back in the day, baldur's gate 1&2, Neverwinter Nights.  It just seems those were the only 2 great games this company forged.  Everything else has been good, but not great, or mediocre at best.  And these were single player games, with the exception of neverwinter nights and its limited online play.  Of course it is by no means an MMO.  Which brings me to another point:

 

The gaming industry as a whole is horribly flawed today.  I shake my head in shame when great games of the past are overshadowed with either remakes, or sequels that are subpar.  If it wasn't for the fact the gaming industry having such a huge player base, regardless who it is, there would be yet another Big Game Crash, of this era.  I even would go so far as to say, in my opinion, its not entirely ruled out of a game market crash.  It may not be the same as the one in 1983, but it surely will happen in such a way as to impact the industry to either make a huge change, or destroy some of the big corporations somehow.  Of course this is just my opinion.

 

What I have learned in the past with games, Gameplay is far more important than graphics.  Whereas in today's market it seems graphics are far more important to the average gamer than gameplay.  I for one would choose gameplay over graphics any day.  Lets take the Elder Scrolls games for example.  While Skyrim, and even Oblivion were visually beautiful, Morrowind will by far outplay both Skyrim and Oblivion, mainly becuase of the gameplay elements that it had.  Sadly Oblivion took away a few, while skyrim ended up taking most of them away.  Spellcrafting was one of the biggest things I loved about Morrowind, and thankfully was in Oblivion.  Sadly it's nonexistant in skyrim and its a shame becuase some of the spells you can acquire in skyrim would be neat to play around with in spellcrafting.  They also changed the level up system from Oblivion to Skyrim which to me was an unnecessary change.  It takes away from the roleplaying aspect in alot of ways, while I'm not saying skyrim is bad for it, I'm simply saying they took it out to focus their attention to other things.  And yet they still can't get the AI behavior working the way they claimed it would be.  The world doesn't always feel like a lush playground of NPC's doing their own thing.  It's like a bunch of automatons programmed to do things and not "a realistic type of behavior".  There are other things I didnt like about the changes, but you get my point.

 

I just wish the devs could grit their teeth against criticism from the masses for once and make a game that envelopes what their visions see in the completed product rather than giving in to the masses and disappointing people.  And yes I know its very hard to do becuase you can't please everyone, but it will always be about quality not quantity.

okassar
okassar

The key part of MMO is "massive." Developers shouldn't cry when they realize that they didn't put enough effort into a game that's supposed to bring in the masses. If they halfass it or 3/4ass it, they get stuck with high costs and a product that still falls short. Plus, the market can only accommodate a few MMOs, maybe 2 big profitable ones and a handful of somewhat/barely profitable ones. 

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

Being the most pricy sector of gaming, it's not surprising that MMO, especially subscription-based MMO, is a tough sell. 1.3 million is still a lot of people. I hope BioWare/EA share Mr. Lusinchi's sentiment and feel no bitterness about the numbers.

fubarfoote
fubarfoote

couple things here:

 

one: SWTOR is not WoW and i thank god for that. I am sry but i tried playing WoW many times and could never get more than 10 hours in cuz everything felt absolutely pointless.

 

Two: the reason WoW (in my opinion) sux is because no one really cares about the world. Its all about raids and its all about getting level capped as quickly as possible. The mentaily of most mmo players seems to not enjoy the game as a game.

 

Three: could tor b better, absolutely. Is it a more interesting game than tor? yes. Why? Cuz even though it is very limited in comparison, tor made me want to know how my character's story developed.

 

Fourth: i here alot of comlaints bout ho the game is too hard solo... i just beaat the game as a jedi knight level 50 without doing a single flashpoint or heroic and even skipped some planet quests. So when ppl complain about too many elites you suck at the game because i faced them all by myself.

 

Fifth: i like playing tor with my friends, but in terms of the mainstream quests the game becomes a joke. flashpoints and heroics are the only reason you would need friends to help you.

 

Finally: it seems that mmo's have become that is not a videogame. Video games are supposed to let you have some fun a couple hours during the day and hopefully you walk away thinking: cool i just killed that guy, or " wow i we won the war"  tor tried to reengage us in story and make us appreciate our characters. its not perfect but its something and hopefully it will only get better.

 

p.s. WoW fans might think their game is better, thats fine. have fun not caring about the story 

xeoneex66
xeoneex66

MMO's need to back to their roots.  Ultima Online to be exact.  No levels, just skills you can get to max, and if you really wanted, switch to other skills and completely change your character on a whim.  A vast world where there is alot going on, wolves randomly attacking dear or rabbits to eat, monsters building forts to attack.  PvP should also go back to its roots, Dark Age of Camelot.  That BG system was by far the best system out there.  No Queue times, no limit to how many can be in at a time, just 2+ factions, with a keep/fort in the center of the map and the object is to get and hold the center as long as you can.  Seige equipment to break down the doors, or put down turrets to defend.  So simple yet so satisfying, I could play for hours on those.

 

Now sadly it caters to the masses.  What the children want the spoiled brats get.  Instead of hardcore old school gamers like myself, you get whiney snot nosed children whining about crap, the developers have no choice but to go with the masses, and you get broken, uninspired games like SWTOR, AION, and every other MMO since the classics, EverQuest, Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot.  And just for the record WoW STOLE from those games to become the juggernaut that it is today.  It somehow found a way to take the bits and pieces from OTHER MMO's and mold them into something that was awesome at the beginning.  Yet over time everything dies.  It's nature at her finest.  But that doesn't mean that we can't get a replacement for what has decayed and passed on.  The developers need to get a clue.

Master-Kraken
Master-Kraken

The main problem with this game is simple; not everybody is a raid freak or has a big group to do the OP's. Personally i prefer the single or max 4 group content but because of the gear, i'm forced to accept conditions from other groups to get most advanced tier. And the new content from 1.2, it is not enough; 1 FP ( LI that you actually need rakata gear from OP's to play it ) 1 OP ( Denova with the same Find a group problem ) 1 daily zone (Corellia, where you can be farming like a zombie with no fun after you finish it the first time).After playing many times ( and i mean really many times ) their FPs and level up 4 classes I am on the verge to quit this game. This game really need to think about their single player content.

 

2 or 3 new planets to conquest, re-adjust how to obtain the lvl 3-4 tier (rakata-BT) so a single player wont be "robed" by raid groups just for the only reason he needs high level tier to play the new content, Replace Daily zones for new different ones with new missions and Heroics (ok after 6 months doing same Belsavis-ilum daily zones dont you think is time to change it? and im definitly not doing corellia everyday for 6 months to get BT gear).

 

If this game doesnt change direction in the next patch 1.3 not only in content but also in game dynamic, you will see their user numbers going down more. This is my first time in a "pay to play" game and I really enjoyed it the first 5 months of playing, now is just not worthy; waiting for more than 30 minutes to get into a raid group only to accept their crappy terms, playing same "daily zone" missions everyday like a zombie, same content, etc. And btw... Legacy Feature is not a solution (yes you create and twist your class adding other class powers but no new content to play it). I think many ppls think like me and just wait for 1.3 in the next months so they can decide to keep the game or leave.

WeWerePirates
WeWerePirates

The biggest problem this game has now is low server populations. It really needs server merges... soon. The number of servers made sense with the huge number of first month box sales and play times but with the ongoing subscriber base massively reduced and playing less there are clearly too many servers. Other than that SWTOR is the best MMO since WoW. If it fills out the end game it's one expansion away from removing "since WoW" from that last sentence. The live team has done a great deal to improve the game since launch. Not least of all the combat responsiveness issue, gameplay is now nice and crisp.

cmacinnis
cmacinnis

I whole heartedly disagree. Making a good platformer is much harder these days...

J_Dangerously
J_Dangerously

"I think we did a good job of listening to the players and delivering some of the features they wanted with a quick turnaround."

 

Unfortunately, you ignored all the feedback given during beta, and only started 'listening' to your customers when they stopped subscribing en mass.

musalala
musalala

 what people seem to forget is that though wow is an mmo it was successful mainly because is was really fun and enjoyable experience, these idiotic "me too" MMO just don"t seem to get that., they seem to think if we just put together some ho-hum generic MMO we will be racking in the doe...SMH*

SnuffDaddyNZ
SnuffDaddyNZ

My subscription expires in a couple of weeks.  The biggest failing of the game is that it tries to force you to group with other players, yet lacks a group finding tool!  Yes, that get's added in 1.3, but it won't fix the fact that the landscape is sparse, and has WAY too many elite mobs in it.

 

People wanna solo quest content, and group for dungeons or raids.  WoW Cataclysm got that formula exactly right, the entire 80-85 experience is fully soloable, no elite mobs.

nord1c
nord1c

SWTOR is dead. F2P is next, to turn it into a microtransaction Zombie.

Raeldor
Raeldor

High production values and voice-overs do not make a good game.  I played The Old Republic, and it as BORING.  I spent most of my time running around empty scenery with barely another player in sight watching NPCs standing around doing NOTHING but waiting to be killed.  Where's the adventure?  The excitement?  Where's the spontaneity?  Where's the living, breathing world that's alive and waiting to be explored?

 

The entire MMO genre is in need of some innovation.  Someone needs to have a serious sit-down and find some innovative ways to address the tedium in this genre.

tsunami2311
tsunami2311

its all lies there losing people servers are a ghost town, they went server happy when game launched now 99% of all servers are ghost town, saved for 2 servers were there is always tons of people on. they need to a do merger of all the lil servers so those server actual have people, and people can find parties no one want to pay 15$ a month to solo everything cause there no people.

 

He may say they doing good but me and many other think other wise. they still have yet to fix the poor excuse of game engine optimzing or lack there of it. Have SSD dont worry it will load just as slow and have same game loading studders as the HDD, HAve high end CPU with high end GPU dont worry you will have the same terrible frame rates in fleet and wz and the guy with the middle range cpu or gpu.

 

All that said this game is god compared to Ragnarok online. as that game is beyond broke both gamplay and game optimises and its pvp  is the most broke of any mmo out there it makes all the other mmo's pvp out there look fun in comparsion

PStrife
PStrife

Developers are the last people to actually understand how their industry really works.  All the time these developers are yapping at their own audiences and criticizing them for no good reason.  Even filmmakers have far more decency to not be talking down to their audience.

 

Developers should, for example, actually play the game that they made with new eyes.   See how it is to actually experience how it is, instead of expecting people to magically love their product and give them free baseless moneys.

jyml8582
jyml8582

WoW had variety, SWTOR doesn't, this is the real reason ppl are leaving, not all because of the "end game contents". WoW vannila only had 2 raid dungeons (not couting Onyxia) but you could level and play your characters however the way you want, WoW vanilla also has more than 10 zones for players to quest in. In SWTOR, you level up all of your the characters THE SAME WAY AS YOUR FIRST ONE, this sounds more like a grind fest to me if you're rolling your third toon in SWTOR. Not to mention SWTOR had a shxtload of technical issues on the very fundamental level of the game structure that didn't get fixed for over a month.

 

And just because it is "Star Wars" doesn't mean it should be immune to criticism. Grow up. WoW wasn't perfect and it certainly wasn't the only one in the biz when it launched. SWTOR had huge potential, but since Bioware's such a sellout to EA they pretty much didn't care enough to explore the potential but rather just kept on dwelling in the rakghoul story that's turning Star Wars into freaking Resident Evil, which doesn't even make sense.

 

If you're blaming ppl for not giving SWTOR a chance to grow because they left, then YOU SIR ARE THE TRUE REASON SWTOR IS GOING UP IN FLAMES NOW. You are the reason why MMOs don't grow, because ppl like you keep defending it like a blind douche and faults everyone else for not sticking around. I'm sorry for you but not everyone wants to pay $15/mo to help the company do what they should've done in the first place.

 

MMOG is a business, not a goddamn charity.

sortajan
sortajan

The tough thing with MMOs is convincing people that the game is worth $15 a month, and first impressions almost always determine the future of the game. Now that's a major problem for two reasons.

 

First of all, every MMO that is made WILL be compared to World of Warcraft; that's inevitable, because it's currently the gold standard for MMOs. It has been on top for eight years now, and there's no arguing with success. Over those eight years content has been added bit by bit, and that's why we've ended up with such a massive game. In every discussion about MMOs, World of Warcraft will justifiably come up and comparisons will be drawn. People have to get over that fact.

 

Now because World of Warcraft (the standard to which all MMOs have to live up to) is so massive, every time an MMO that's less developed (and it's going to be less developed no matter what, because it's new) appears, people are going to claim it has very little in the way of end-game content. What these people fail to understand is that this is how MMOs work. They start from the bottom up and build up over time. Older players will remember WoW didn't have an awful amount of content on release. These things grow over time.

 

Because of that, any MMO that is released not already full-grown (and for a game in that genre, releasing it full-grown is nearly impossible, and an unrealistic expectation), instead of being patient and waiting to see how it turns out, people decide not to resubscribe after only one or two months. That kind of attitude will NOT help any MMOs to dethrone WoW. Until people get over it, new MMOs will continue to go up in flames.

elancion
elancion

correct me if im wrong, but it sounds like ppl dont want their mmo's to be story drvien.

it would appear that ppl prefer grind fests.

Savoritias
Savoritias

For me better buy Guild wars 2 once and play it than play 15$ a month for no content.

Landsharkk
Landsharkk

I've had more fun playing the free DayZ mod for Arma 2 in the past 3 days than I did the entire 2 months I played SWTOR.

abroche
abroche

the problem with SWTOR is they invest too much time adding too many uncessesarie interactive quest and the forgot the important stuff like content maing the game less linear and more open world most of the areas in the game feels the same the jedi/sith concept is not right i mean if you are jedi you are light side if you are sith you are dark both classes have the dark and light side to choose characters have no identity nor feel alive they are just rag dolls that stand there  every zone  feel the same there no ambiance

 

that is my impression of Swtor

 

LesserAngel
LesserAngel

From the charts I could find, (Yay, charts!) SWTOR currently is the third most popular MMO based on subscriptions, with 1.5 million, only behind Aion with 2.4 million (this one surprised me actually), and of course WoW with about 10 million, so Third place isn't bad at all. Now, EVE Online (My choice of MMO) has 'only' 450k, So no, 1.5 million isn't bad, but it still feels like the guy is whining because they don't have the numbers they wanted.

Frozensky
Frozensky

MMO communities are hard to deal with. No matter how much is done for them, at least one significant group of players will be unsatisfied about a specific part of their experience, and they will let that determine their overall enjoyment of the game.

 

Imagine four children and one has a broken toy. Buy a new toy for that child and the others become jealous and angry when there was nothing wrong with their toys. MMO communities same thing. And I'm not just speaking on class balance. Raiders vs groups vs solo players, PvE vs PvP players, casual vs hardcore, etc, all go through similar situations.

 

Forums are then overwhelmingly negative because there's always one group or another that's unsatisfied, and positive feedback often only comes in the form of active subscriptions, which players can't really gauge at a glance.

 

The end result is things -looking- like a bigger mess than they ever actually were, and no matter how hard a developer might try, subscriptions bleed off based on perception. Ask Trion about it. Those poor guys have been busting their butts on Rift and seemed to be unable to please anyone about anything.

 

It all makes me wonder if maybe preventing the players from having such a centralized place for the community to gather might actually be good for the game. I mean, I would certainly hope not, but I dunno what else can be done. Kinda sad to think about.

ragnar320
ragnar320

i got to lvl 44 before i started to lose interest. everything just became a struggle it was just a pain in the ass really idk i get bored with mmos pretty quickly idk how ppl can keep going with them

n0matter
n0matter

It's one of the toughest markets to break into...when you sell a single player game and try to label it an MMO.

_Roo_
_Roo_

Lets see $ 60.00 for the game and $ 180.00 a year to be able to play it and you want to whine about what a tough market it is.  Are you kidding me???  The economy sucks and you don't understand why people don't want to pay $ 180.00 a year to play the same game over and over?  I don't know what your smoking but pass it over here.

 

I got tired of being fleeced by MMO subscription fees years ago but because of my love of KOTOR I decided to give SWTOR a shot.  I did one play through and canceled my subscription.  Although fun there just wasn't anything compelling enough to justify the subscription price. 

n64nut
n64nut

 @victoria_wolf 

 

LucasArts was working on KOTOR III back in 2007 but it got cancelled because LucasArts was apparently in a financial bind at the time. Personally, I say KOTOR 3 can rot in a ditch. I'd rather have ToR and a new SW RPG set during the Legacy era.

xeoneex66
xeoneex66

Er excuse me, I meant it should always be about quality not quantity and will sadly be about quantity not quality.

Zerabp
Zerabp

 @tsunami2311 As someone who went trough a server merge with Aion (Twice) I can say that this won't help either, and in fact will lead to more lost subs then the servers being empty.

leviathan_wing
leviathan_wing

 @PStrife actually i would say gamers know the very least of how the game industry works... consumers are like sheep after all.

_Roo_
_Roo_

 @sortajan Although I agree with everything you say in the first three paragraphs your conclusion seems to be that people should shut up and just keep paying the monthly fee because eventually there will be new content.

I can't speak for anyone but myself when I call BS.  I for one am not going to keep paying for a game I'm not playing and without new content I'm not going to be playing.  Now in a year or so if I hear enough good things I might jump back on board but at $ 15.00 a month for a few new fetch quests and maybe a new cut scene or two?  No thanks..

Greyfeld
Greyfeld

 @elancion The problem is that swtor IS a grind fest.  Grind levels, grind valor, grind for gear.  There's so little actual variety in the game that once you have a level 50 character, you've pretty much seen all the game has to offer.  Even rolling up a new character in the opposite faction doesn't give players a new experience, because all the quests in either faction feel the god damn same.  Hell, sometimes they ARE the god damn same.

DeViLzzz
DeViLzzz

 @abroche with how people want to play these mmorpgs now I think they should just stop making them til we get better communities who actually want to use the whole world they create and actually group quest vs everything being instanced and the player base wanting to rush to max level and burn themselves out on raiding ....

xeoneex66
xeoneex66

 @LesserAngel EVE is different since there are no "servers" its one giant cluster of servers based on one universe.  So 450k people playing "one server", so to speak, is hard to compare to several seperate servers with only a few thousand playing each one.

Landsharkk
Landsharkk

 @LesserAngel Aion F2P basically offers you the entire game for free, paid options only offer perks (like more xp for an hour, or bigger inventory).  Of all the F2P MMO's I've played, Aion free-to-play has stuck closest to its' original subscription based offering and content.

Zerabp
Zerabp

 @_Roo_ And this is the crux of the issue WoW built it's subs off what was originally it's players parents money. Now that it's our money we are a lot more choosey with how we spend it. Subscription based MMO's simply won't succeed anymore because its audience has grown up. Even WoW is bleeding subs now down over 2 mil and rising since the release of cataclysm. No game will match WoW because no sub based game will do well in this market.

Raeldor
Raeldor

 @talestra I did, and I was very impressed with the overall package.  Not that I'm saying it's completely innovative, but they've used some great elements from other MMOs such as dynamic events (Rift) and siege warfare (DAoC), and improved on them to make something that DOES feel alive and exciting.  Light years ahead of SWTOR, and definitely the only MMO I will be playing in the near future.

 

I still think there's a lot of scope for the MMO genre to grow though.  I'd love to see the world become more dynamic and player controlled; something similar to Minecraft, where players can build their own towns from dynamic resources etc.

kez1304
kez1304

 @DeViLzzz How you people can write like this with no grammar and expect people to understand immediately what it is youre saying especially when listing things is beyond me.

 

Go, back, to, school... Jeez.

LesserAngel
LesserAngel

 @Landsharkk @bonzibuddyxxx  I played Aion for a while, it's actually pretty fun, and yes, I know it's free to play now. What gets me, is that the chart I'm getting these numbers from says that Aion had even more subscribers before it went free to play. It just surprises me that a game that has had such little advertising not only manages to have the most subscribers of a free MMO, but the second most subscriptions of ANY MMO. (At least the ones they have listed, I'll have to check it again to see if there are any big name free to play MMOs not listed.)

kroehre
kroehre

 @kez1304 Your sentence structure is horrendous. His post is twice as long and half as difficult to decipher. 

kez1304
kez1304

 @xeoneex66 I comment on a lack of any grammar, whatsoever, and you blame me for the gaming industry being ruined..?

 

Wow... How, dare I say?

xeoneex66
xeoneex66

 @kez1304  @DeViLzzz 

 

And it's people like kez1304 that are critically ruining the gaming industry with their childish mentality and insulting.