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TOR Might Wind Up a “Clone”– Why Is That Bad, Again?

It’s been interesting to watch how the public interpretation of The Old Republic has changed since it was announced. It went from godsend, to F2P (oh noes!), to godsend, to the current point of “It’s a WoW clone” disappointment. On one hand, I empathize with people that want something new and are tired of the same, rehashed diku tropes that have dragged the industry into the Great Stagnation of 2010. Then again, I have to wonder if people really know what they want at all. The cattle call is “different.” As in, “give us something different” and “I already played WoW, I want something different!”

Yet, the majority of MMO players began their MMO careers with WoW and have only fleeting tried other games, if at all. These players, bitter as some may be, expect new MMOs to be like WoW, if not in form than in function. I hate to generalize like that but it’s human nature, isn’t it? We compare to what we know. If we like one MP3 player, we expect our next to be pretty much the same with a little extra shine.

But, that expectation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I mean, WoW is a little basic, but can we really argue that it’s a “bad” game? What’s not worth copying there? Alright, a carbon copy wouldn’t be a good idea – there’s always room for improvement, after all – but there is a core of a very good, addictive experience there. Copying the WoW formula would be the smartest decision Bioware could make if they want a successful game.

Say what you want about the endgame, but how many hours does the average player spend chasing that eternal carrot through instance and raid dungeon? 100? 1000? You don’t get to be the market lead – and stay there for five years – by making a bad game. I understand that people get bored and sometimes feel burnt when it’s time to move on, but most of us can admit to having enjoyed WoW at some point. Could it be deeper, look better, stand a change of pace or a few more options at the level cap? Of course, but that doesn’t negate the hundreds of hours and millions of XP we’ve earned over the years.

So, when people knock on TOR for coming off as a WoW clone with an added fourth pillar, I can’t quite say I agree or would be upset if that turned out to be the case. If TOR turns out to be half the game WoW is, it will be doing alright. That means quality PvE, fun dungeons, and a long life past the level cap. That’s exactly what a PvE game needs to be.

Let’s not forget that even if it takes its cues from WoW, it’s only a starting point. Add in story, add in depth, add in all of the originality and polish that’s given Bioware its name, and you can see the Blizzard Approach in practice: take what works and make it great; make it your own, and add to it. The playstyle of WoW may not be what every MMO player wants, but it seems to be what the mainstreamer enjoys, and that’s what Bioware is after.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need SW:TOR to reinvent the wheel. I need it to be a fun game with a great story. I think they’re on track with that. Maybe you don’t like WoW. If the millions of hours we’ve spent there, and the millions more others will spend there, say anything, it’s that most people do. It’s easy to forget that the playerbase of WoW more than likely outnumbers those of every other major MMO combined. Building from there, targeting the highest density of players, and expanding on the familiar, how is that a bad thing?

Maybe you can enlighten me, though, as to why I’m wrong. The rocky reception of FFXIV can be attribute to a clunky interface, but I think another part of it is just that’s is so starkly different from what we’re used to. Is that the direction we’d want TOR to go? Action bars and well thought out dungeons are no reason to disregard a potentially fun game, IMO.

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  1. Pitrelli

    ToRs downfall will be its selling point aka its voice acting and ‘story mode’. Once the story runs out or people get sick of being ring roaded into choices then they will leak subs. I’ve heard a lot of money has been spent on this MMO and from what I’ve seen combat wise its not a step forward from WoW, Aion. AoC etc its same old.

    I predict its gonna be a hit on launch and then its gonna crash big time after a few months :)

    1. Chris

      I think the game will bleed subs after the first month simply because no game could live up to the hype they’ve built around it. The story will be another part, they’ve built that up an insane degree as well, but also because no story pulls everyone in that would like to enjoy it. The gameplay will have to be there to support it. From what I’ve seen, it doesn’t look new and amazing, but as long as it’s polished and fun, I’ll be happy.

  2. Orin

    i think even if it clones a lot of WoW stuff it will be different, mainly because the story line will be completely unique to the SW universe, and like you said why not build on WoW’s already proven technique

    1. Chris

      Agreed. It may be similar in mechanics but I don’t so much mind that. It will be different enough because of the setting and that it’s come from a whole different development house.

  3. Scarybooster

    I think TOR will do just fine. Look at all the WAR haters and that game is still kicking after 2 years. Yeah, there is no expansion except the RvR packs, but the game is stable even though people wanted it to burn. TOR might have cost a lot of money but they will make it up. Adding he WoW cloniness and new stuff, people will just play it to be in a Star Wars setting and rid themselves of Azeroth. It’s like a fancy meal at Mac Donald’s, people complain about it but they still eat there. People will complain about TOR, but don’t be surprised when they hand a sign out front that says 99 billion served.

    1. Chris

      The biggest thing, I think, is polish and setting. Look at LotRO for example. From the trailers, it looks like they’ve got the setting nailed. Familiar gameplay will only make it easy to jump into from other games. I’m betting you’re right. I don’t think it’ll top WoW, but I bet it settles into a comfortable position and makes lots of money.

  4. Emyln

    I was actually kind of surprised with the negative posts on TOR recently which makes no sense to me at all. Just a month ago, people could not praise it enough. I think the web is simply … fickle.

    Here’s my take. I’m not particularly into Space MMO’s only because there has yet to be one to impress me. But TOR has something that cannot be denied, Bioware. Of all the developers out there, Bioware does RPG right and they do it well and they have improved with every game they released.

    Do I expect TOR to be like WOW? Sure, at least on basic things like Interface, and such. But you know what I really want to see? How they bring the MMO experience into a single player game.

    Single player games are Bioware’s absolute strength. Let’s be honest, Dragon Age was not ugly but it was not pretty either, and interface wise it was a little clunky, but 10 mins into the game, all I cared about was having my elf mage survive the journey into the fade and the story got so much deeper and better from there. 98 hours later I was simply satisfied beyond words.

    If TOR can deliver at least that 98 hours of immersion, I don’t need much more. With regards to the end game? We will see what they come up with. but I’ll say this, if Dragon Age was an MMO, I would be in there right now clearing the mage tower for the 9999 time with a other folks.

    You’re right about TOR, I don’t need SW:TOR to reinvent the wheel either. And I think most of us Bioware fans are in the same boat. We’re just less vocal.

    PS. IMO, any game especially an MMO MUST nail the launch. Server issues can be given some leeway but not things like gameplay or lack of content etc … no one except EVE has survived a rocky launch. And even EVE is relegated to a niche market.

    PPS. FFXIV would have done a lot better if the interface was solid and working. I still think there are fundimental flaws in the design but having a bad experience in the first 15 mins of the game really turned me and I think many others off. Which is exactly why WOW is so bloody successful, the first 10 levels are perhaps the best time you can have in an MMO. (IMO).

  5. Trippin Ninja

    Thank you for this post. I been thinking the exact same thing lately. I have said from the beginning that if this ends up just being a wow clone in the star wars universe they still have my sub. Personally I have never been a big fan of fantasy so I have been waiting for a wow style mmo that’s based in another universe for a long time. Despite that fact I been subbed to wow since launch because if it’s solid gameplay. IMO the market is starving for a triple-a mmo that’s not fantasy based. Couple that with the star wars ip and it will be damn near impossible to not profit.

    I’m sorry to those that want some more depth in their game mechanics but I think future titles like Earthrise (another mmo I’m really looking forward to seeing) may fill that role for people. I wish more big budget companies would push the boundaries more but the fact is they need a relatively safe bet to make investors happy. For this reason is why we will only see smaller more indie companies innovating on a grander scale. I’m not really sure what could be done to change that.

  6. Caine

    My brief time around the game a few weeks ago didn’t do anything to damper my excitement for the game. Having full voice acting for everything and some consequences to how you choose to handle events is a pretty good idea and adds a lot of replay value to me especially when there will be storylines that only each class experiences.

    Everyones issue right now seems to be wanting the game to be something it’s not, get over that and judge the game for what it is not what you think it should be.

  7. Orin

    the voice overs in Dragon Age were actually not that bad so if Bioware keeps the good voice actors, that should be a pleasant addition.

    doesn’t Mark Hammil do some voice overs, not sure, but if so, he alone will be worth it lol, that guys is great

  8. Starseeker

    I think there are two games right now that could be somewhat considered “polished” wow clones. TOR and RIFT. I don’t think this is bad at all. Honestly wow has a solid game. I can’t get past the cartoon like graphics myself. But if someone like TOR or RIFT can take that game play, UI, and features we are familiar with, add upgraded graphics, a good story and a few of their own twists on things that work I think it will work for a lot of people. I don’t think it’s always fair as you say to say oh it’s a wow clone blah. If you look at the last games to come out, they all tried to reinvent the wheel and fell on their faces. I think it’s time an MMO takes what is good upgrades it, polishes it, and adds their twist on it. Good article. I agree with almost all of it. And to me all voice acting will be very annoying, but that’s just me.

  9. Alik Steel

    This will be an epic fail for me, And here is why. I am so done and over with the same ol, same ol, When it comes to MMO’s that I like. Yes for most, yet another mainstream MMO is great. But I have been dealing with the same MMO for the last five years no matter what the title of the game is. After every dang MMO company decided that WOW was created from the money gods. All of them started reaching for the same thing, And I am sick of it. And having cutscenes does not make a great MMO, No matter what people say.

    This game may ended up making millions and millions of dollars, But it will still be an epic fail to me.

    Nice read by the way.

    1. Chris

      I can definitely see where you’re coming from. At least you’re being realistic about it, though. You’re not sitting there complaining and making a big deal because the game may not be for you. A lot of other people, though, have just found out their “game to end all games” is, in fact, just another MMO. Some people will love it, some will hate it.

      But, yeah, I’m all for new stuff, too. It’s just about having perspective. I can appreciate that the old style has its charm and will probably make more money. Still, I’m a lot more likely to get excited when there’s a new shiny being dangled in front of me.

  10. Song7

    I want this game to succeed as much as and for the same reasons that I want games like Darkfall to succeed(meaning large subscriptions). It’s because choices are a great thing. I know this game seems like it only offers one new idea to the mix. But hopefully it grows and more games evolve and add more and more ideas until the choices are never ending.

    Problem is though the stereotypes associated with gaming in the US. And the small amount of people that play them compared to say “watch football on TV”. Both are pastimes here but one is clearly more popular and certainly more accepted behavior than playing a game for the same amount of time. So until gaming gets off the blacklist of activities it won’t have the chance to grow.

    Unfortunately(some think), a popular game like WoW is the only way to gain acceptance at this time.

  11. Longasc

    A lot of people like WoW like it is. A lot of people will like SWTOR if it is WoW in Star Wars Space.

    Nothing wrong with it?

    Depends. I am SICK of WoW style. I got that fed for years. It is not bad, but it is a dead end of game design and some principles like the eternal struggle for gear, levels and the endgame problem, aka let’s raid forever, dailies on top of that as latest addition – this has become almost synonymous with “MMORPG.”

    So rather than switching from Fantasy to Science-Fiction or whatever genre, I would rather prefer a new take on the genre mechanics. I never enjoyed the greed driven hunt for gear and levelling up. This is why I also like Guild Wars 1. While I see a lot of room for change and improvement there as well, with its own share of flaws and problems, it has shown that there is fun to have even if stats of gear and player levels don’t improve at all.

    It boils down to this question: Do you want moar WoW? Yay or Nay?
    I personally won’t bother with another WoW derivate, SWTOR is pretty much a waste for me.

  12. Carson63000

    I reckon they could clone a lot of things about WoW and it would be absolutely fine.

    But the one thing that they really need to avoid cloning (and not just from WoW, but from the games that predate it) is the holy trinity tank/heals/dps grouping model.

    It’s a tired mechanic in and of itself, but even more importantly, it’s just a horrible fit for a space game. Ever seen or read any space opera where troopers stand there and take shots while a jedi stands behind them and force heals them? Hell no. It’s all about avoiding getting shot, not soaking up hits and healing them.

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