During Massively’s coverage of this year’s Game Developer’s Conference in Austin, Texas, the staff published some interesting thoughts on a panel held by Damion Schubert, one of the original developers of Star Wars: The Old Republic. During the panel, Schubert discusses some of the difficulties in meshing together the elements of an MMO with pure story-driven elements– those most familiar to the BioWare team during SWTOR’s development. His presentation was quite frank, it seems, and he admitted that the team made a few mistakes in trying to accomplish their goal of creating a well-balanced, story-driven MMO:
If you have ever play any BioWare single-player game, then you know that the questlines can and will take you all over a given setting. Knights of the Old Republic had you visiting planets like Taris, Korriban, and Kashyyyk, finding bits of Star Map. Mass Effect allowed you to travel from one end of the Milky Way galaxy to the other attempting thwart Sovereign’s indoctrination of all known life. As Schubert pointed out in his presentation, in a single-player game, it doesn’t matter which of these planets you visit first because the NPCs scale based on your character’s level. However, he argued, “That’s not as easy to do in an open world, where different people of different levels are sharing the same space.” Consequently, BioWare “ended up kind of backing up that scale and going to a branching story.”
Schubert went on to discuss the sustainability of SWTOR, which is a subject that many of us understandably worry about. Schubert believes the current SWTOR team is on a better track now, and realizes where the game’s sustainability lies. Interestingly enough, he cites the game’s Legacy feature as a solid example of sustainable content, which might be true, but I think most SWTOR players would argue that the Legacy system isn’t actual content, and that content is king when it comes to sustaining any type of playerbase.
Check out Massively’s full take on the subject and the GDC panel here.