Tatooine is free from the encroaching rakghoul plague, and players have had a lot to say about the event and how it all went down. Most players were pretty satisfied with Star Wars: The Old Republic’s first major in-game event, and many had some excellent feedback for James Ohlen. He asked for our player feedback on the official forums. Could aspects be improved for the next big in-game event? That answer’s easy: Of course.
The first thing to remember when looking at the event through an objective lens is the fact that, yes, this was BioWare’s first attempt at an in-game event. That doesn’t mean the developers were delving through unfamiliar territory, however. Similar events are popular in most MMORPGs currently, although each developer tends to take different routes when it comes to the details, approach, and overall style of in-game events.
World of Warcraft, for example, has two types of events– large world events that bring a new expansion to life, and holiday events that occur regularly on a calendar, and tend to coincide with our own holidays. Many gamers think WoW’s holiday events go a little overboard, especially now that they all last at least two weeks, sometimes more. Some months are filled to the brim with turkeys, bunnies, and cute little elf-gnomes, turning a fantasy world that’s supposedly filled with dangerous monsters into a place that’s a little, well, childish.
Many games, like Lord of the Rings Online, go a similar route, and spice up their holiday events with occasions that are more seasonal, and pertain to lore better. Many MMO gamers love this approach. Others prefer events that are a little more unique, not bound by the calender, and focus on the actual game’s world and current storyline.
This second approach to events is the approach BioWare took, and I think it was the best move they could have made at this time. Star Wars is already a huge universe, with a ton of potential for events that would fit ridiculously well. Why not milk the universe, take it for a spin, and show us some of the dynamic dangers within it?
WoW’s world-based events are more similar to the rakghoul event, and feature plot-based activities for players to enjoy, and usually some cool cut scenes, items, and lore to enjoy. WoW doesn’t have events like this often, but other games, like RIFT, do. RIFT’s kind of unique in this manner, but there’s basically a world event always happening in RIFT. The events generally contain multiple phases, server-based goals that encourage players to participate, and a ton of daily quests that can sometimes get a little repetitive.
This approach keeps many players satisfied, but others find it a little too predictable and repetitive. If a game world needs constant events to keep its players on their toes, doesn’t that suggest the game world itself is a little lacking? Don’t get me wrong– I once loved WoW’s events, and still enjoy many of RIFT’s– but as times change and MMOs mature, developers need to think outside of the common, box archetypes, and look beyond.
And that, I think, is exactly what BioWare was attempting to do with the rakghoul outbreak. The event wasn’t placed on the beta server for player testing. The details were left intentionally vague until its release, when players were forced to discover what to do in real-time. This approach was certainly different, and most players loved the fact that the rakghoul attack really seemed like an attack, since they were unprepared and taken by surprise.
The broadcasting screens in the fleet and outside Tatooine’s spaceports were also an awesome touch. This is one of those sci-fi game details you just can’t get in a fantasy game, and BioWare should continue using SW technology to their advantage in future events. It would be nice to see more player-based choices in the future, as well, since those are what set SWTOR above the MMO pack to begin with. World events should be dynamic, and players should experience them differently– dynamically.
The daily quest chain that evolved as the event progressed was a nice touch. Most players enjoyed hopping on and seeing what the next quest had in store for them. Some were a bit simple, but it also meant they were all quick to complete, and for once, there wasn’t a ton of useless running around. The quest locales made sense, and so did the lore behind the quests.
I would have liked to have seen a little more differentiation between the daily quests and their initial variants, however. It made sense to discover technology and kill the captain guy during the initial quest chain. It didn’t make sense to keep killing him five days later. The fact that world bosses were available for players to group up and slay was a great addition, as well as the tie-in to the new flashpoint.
My other complaint regarding the event’s quests was how the event ended. It just… ended. There was no final quest that attempted to provide any sort of resolution or containment. There were no NPCs standing around after the event ended that tried to explain anything. We weren’t even allowed to use the DNA vendor afterwards. These are all pretty simple fixes in the future, thankfully. Despite the ending of the event, the immersion during all other parts was definitely there, and definitely a reason to toss BioWare a round of applause.
As far as the event’s length is concerned, I think BioWare found an acceptable length. The sweet spot for me, personally, would have been around 10 days– long enough to include 2 weekends, but not so long that the event wore out its cool factor. It’s risky having an event continue for too long, but at the same time, players need to be given a chance to complete everything even if they don’t log in every day. A few more days would have been perfect.
In the future, rewards may be better handled in a different way, as well. The crystals, pet, and pet granted from the scavenger hunt quest were all excellent, but the sheer randomness of the companion customizations was a bit unneeded. Items like these could have easily been made BoE or even faction-limited. The armor was a cool reward, but really should have had medium and heavy versions.
That brings me to the final large, looming complaint many players have about the rakghoul event– the plague. The idea of the plague itself is a fun one: get the plague by doing dailies, spread it around, cause some possible PvP havoc, and give players the ability to shuffle the plague to the outer regions of space, the fleets, and even flashpoints/operations.
The problem was in the execution. No, the plague shouldn’t have flagged non-flagged players on non-PvP servers. No, it really shouldn’t have been profitable to AFK in a pile, farming DNA. BioWare made the same mistake with Illum. Players should be rewarded for taking action, not AFKing in a pile.
These were hopefully oversights on BioWare’s part. It’s not always easy to keep up with how clever gamers try and be, but it’s imperative in the future, that BioWare figure out how to. Thankfully, it is their first in-game event, and we can only expect that in the next event, these complaints will be ironed out and become nonexistent.
Overall, the rakghoul plague event was successful. Players were able to enjoy an immersive event that brought the community, both factions, to a single map, and gave them a few reasons to fight together and even enjoy a little world PvP. It was awesome seeing Tatooine come alive, and we can only hope that BioWare figures out a way to either make that more permanent, or gives us more fun events in the future.
Iron out the kinks, BioWare– I know you can. Continue bringing us the goods. We’ll look forward to the next horrific, exciting galactic event.