Last week, an interesting GameSpy article caught the eyes of a few SWTOR players. Why? Because it critiqued SWTOR in a way that not a lot of press articles and critics are talking about– it critiqued its “fluff”. Fluff, when used to describe MMO features, often refers to the social features that stand out to roleplayers in particular, but every type of gamer can get enjoyment from fluff.
Collectable items, vanity pets, cool mounts, roleplay events held in taverns and cantinas, achievements, mini games, tradeskills, and holiday events can all be constituted as fluff, and if game developers are smart, they use these social features both as a lure for players and as a way to simply show off the game world. Fluff is immersive, which is why it speaks to so many players. It lets MMOs become a virtual home to us instead of just a virtual place to shoot bad guys. SWTOR’s problem, according to the article? There’s too much shooting, and not enough fluff– which is pretty disappointing given the universe it’s based off.
The article goes into some detail about MMOs that have done very well with their fluff factor, including both World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online. Both games have extreme amounts of lasting power in comparison to many of the newer MMOs on the market, largely due to the fact that players readily return to take part in social gatherings, events, holidays, and new content patches because of high quality fluff content.
Here’s the part in reference to SWTOR:
“SWTOR puts up a good show with its cutscenes and class stories, and it was enough to keep me happy for a month or so after release, but I soon realized that there’s very little to do in the world itself apart from fighting. Day never changes to night, for one thing, and cosmetic gear isn’t as user-friendly as it should be. To date, SWTOR doesn’t even allow players to sit on the chairs and barstools that crowd its many cantinas, which I’m sure must raise eyebrows even on the most anti-RP servers. It’s a shame, because the Star Wars universe is rich with immersive activities other than combat. On my Jedi’s ship, for instance, there’s what looks like a Holochess board that just begs for a one-on-one version of the game we first saw in the 1977 film. If SWTOR had something like that, I’d probably play every day. The recent legacy additions helped somewhat, but the impact was minimal and a little too late to make much of a difference.”
Read the full article here.
Some excellent points. As a veteran player of both WoW and LotRO, I can’t help but agree. I’d love to see more social, fun content in SWTOR, but at the same time, progression, storyline, and multiplayer content are all important, too. The SWTOR community chimed in with their opinions in this thread.
One player summed up the issue BioWare is currently facing quite well, I thought:
“SWTOR is not a failure, but it is also not the successful game it can be. Right now it is just “another game”.. there is really nothing about it that one cannot get in another game (aside from lightsabers). It is in desperate need of a “social” upgrade… mini games, sitting, dancing, day/night cycles … the fluff.
The problem is, when they add things that would be considered fluff (which many consider the legacy system to be), they get hounded for it, because they didn’t add content. Then when content gets added, they get hounded for not adding more fluff. However, one person’s fluff is another person’s content.
Bioware needs to find that balance of both. Add both the social content and the progression content at the same time. There is no reason to keep them separate and no reason to not do both.”
Is it a tall order? Perhaps, but finding that balance– and keeping it– may be the secret to keeping SWTOR alive and well.