The Ninjabot

The Rise and Fall of The Old Republic

Posted on July 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm by Randy

All of us at Geek Legacy have played World of Warcraft at some point in time, in fact some of us still do (I’m looking at you, Justin).  So, when we first heard about Star Wars: The Old Republic, we were all incredibly excited.  After all, it was hyped as “Star Wars flavored WoW.”

Finally, last December, after years of teasing, it was unleashed to the gaming public.  We dove into it, and like many others, we hit the level cap within the first couple weeks.  And that was it.  Minimal endgame content, mind-numbing dailies, and the PvP was unbalanced and painful at best.  But it’s forgivable because the game was freshly launched, and we were in the minority of those who blasted their way to level 50.  We were still in the WoW mindset of “the game doesn’t really begin until level cap,” and honestly, that was just the wrong way to be looking at it.

SWTOR is a completely different animal.  It has such a rich single-player experience while leveling, it’s easy to forget you’re actually playing an MMORPG.  And the truth is, if you avoid Flashpoints (aka dungeons or instances) and heroic quests, you can have an incredibly enjoyable gaming experience.   And once you have hit level 50 and complete your class story line you can say you “beat the game!”

But therein lies the problem.  I didn’t feel like I wanted to continue.  The guild I was in dwindled as players lost interest, sometimes even before reaching cap.  It seemed like no one was running Flashpoints, hard-mode or otherwise, and only the most hardcore of guilds were raiding at all.  Usually I love PvP, but I couldn’t get into it. Players using client-side hacks and the never ending stream of Huttball made it unbearable. I was on an Empire-heavy server so I rarely got to see any of the other Republic vs Imperial Warzones.  Yet there I was, all dressed up with nowhere to go, wearing my purple PVP armor.

By the time patch 1.2 was released, the server was a ghost town. Where there was once 120 people in the Imperial Fleet, there were only 40-50, and the number kept slowly dropping.  Sure we had new content, but fewer people were there to enjoy it.  The economy tanked because there was simply no one there to buy any crafted items.  Huge red flag.  Still, I stuck around.  The reason I fell in love with the game in the first place (leveling a new character) was the only thing keeping me around.  Even so, I resigned to only logging in once or twice a week; my interest was waning.

Then one day I logged in and I was the ONLY person on the Imperial Fleet.  It was like that old Twilight Zone episode where the guy is the last man left on Earth and he’s super excited because he has a huge library worth of books to read, then he breaks his glasses, so he’s completely screwed.  Sure, I didn’t have to read the mind-numbing “barrens-chat” one usually associates with capital cities in an MMO, but the multiplayer aspect of the game was officially dead.  It turns out the free server tansfers had begun, and there was a mass exodus.  I jumped on the bandwagon to GTFO and go to a more highly populated server, and I couldn’t have been happier.  Now there are 200-250 people at the fleet at any given time, the GTN (Galactic Trade Network/Auction House) is booming and things seem to be on the right track.

The free server transfers combined with the new material in the 1.3 patch seems to be stimulating (at least temporarily) the SWTOR community.  I usually avoid spending much time trolling the forums, because let’s face it, they’re usually just a headache of QQing (whining), but the general consensus seems to be that The Old Republic is still on the decline. Bioware is hemorrhaging subscribers, and the attention-span of today’s gamers is largely too short to adopt the “wait and see” point of view, hoping things will get better.  People are quick to forget all the problems associated with World of Warcaft after it was first launched: unexpected and prolonged downtimes, and the constant tweaking for years.  Sure, it’s the “gold standard” now, but it took over six years to get there, and SWTOR hasn’t even been out a year yet.

I love just about anything Star Wars, so I gave SWTOR the benefit of the doubt, but I’m wondering how much longer I can do it. Now rumors are circulating that The Old Republic might make the transition to a Free-to-Play (F2P) model.  While that has worked with other MMOs like Lord of the Rings Online, to many it seems like the last act of a depserate company trying to keep the game alive.  Time will tell.

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