Star Wars: The DOOM Song

doomsongMMO players are well-known for many idiosyncrasies, and one of their more famous traits is in pronouncing DOOM (always spelled with all caps) in any upcoming title for reasons that are clearly apparent to them but perhaps not to most sane folks.

It’s no secret that Star Wars: The Old Republic is one of the most anticipated MMOs in years, and we’re only going to see the fervor increase as the due date approaches.  But with great hype comes great grumpiness, as Uncle Ben once told me, and we’re already seeing the early notes of the DOOM song being warmed up on stage. It’s a great song, and chances are you know the beat – “Yeah this game looks to be pretty popularrrr… but this one thing is going to siiiiiiink it! DOOM!”  It gives people something to fixate on and give them cause to be generally pessimistic toward the game.

Lately I’ve been hearing/reading one of three commonly repeated DOOM beats in relation to TOR, all of which I find a tad premature since our actual knowledge of the game is fairly limited as of now. I’m going to tackle these three debated factors, but I want to make it clear: I’m not taking the opposite stance and saying any of these are wrong. They may be proven right in the long run.  I’m merely playing devil’s advocate because it’s simply too soon to know the truth behind any of these, and it’s kind of dumb to be pounding the DOOM tune out when the gaps between what we know could fit a Death Star. Or Two.

1. The “Single Player MMO” Hypothesis

By far, this is the one I’m hearing the most: “TOR is a single-player RPG masquerading as a MMO”, usually followed by a wistful “Why didn’t they just make a single-player KOTOR 3 instead?”  It irks me because it’s been repeated enough to make it almost sound like a fact, instead of the baseless speculation of what BioWare’s shown us vs. not.

Most MMO companies, when starting to talk up their upcoming title, jump out of the gate with their unique selling point.  Their big strength that sets them apart from the pack.  For WAR, it was RvR; for Champions, it was mix-and-match powers; for WoW, it was the accessibility to the casual crowd; for DDO, it was the GM narration and unique dungeons; and so on.  They don’t spend a lot of time talking about what they share in common with everyone else, because that’s a ho-hum mark against them in the PR department.  So in this case, BioWare leapt out with their “fourth pillar” of storytelling, which was aimed at each player’s individual experience.  They spent so much time talking about this that the perception grew that we’ll all just be going through these stories by our lonesome, never grouping, just waving to other players as we pass like ships in the night.

Yet BioWare isn’t stupid nor ignorant of what makes a MMO a MMO.  They haven’t gone into a lot of detail, but they have indicated that there’s a lot of “massively multiplaying” going on — parties of multiple player characters, characters sharing a non-instanced part of the world, PvP, the economy and so on.  Now, you may personally wish they had made KOTOR 3, but I’m all for this grand effort, because my character won’t “end” with the last part of my story, but have potential to continue in future chapters.

2. The “Too Much Talk/Story” Complaint

BioWare’s next big selling point was to announce that they are doing something that no other MMO has ever done before — fully voice every character, including your own — and to show off a couple examples of the cinematic dialogue you’ll be experiencing in their stories.  For some of us, the response is a properly awed “oh wow COOL” as we consider the logistics behind voicing all of this, in multiple genders and in multiple languages.  But no gift is too good as to be rejected by others, who see this as a potential black mark on the game.  “Too talky!  Me just want action!  I don’t read quest text now, why am I going to listen to them jabber later?”

To be fair, this is a personal preference issue, which will be resolved when people see whether or not what BioWare does works for them.  You may hate voiceovers in games.  You may wish to skip it all, and to eschew the story.  I’m sure BioWare will let you do that, somehow, but my feeling is that they’re making the game they want to make with the features that allow them to tell great stories like they’ve been doing for years.  If you don’t like it, nobody’s forcing you to partake.  But I’ve always loved being rewarded with conversations and cut scenes and scripted events when I’ve put in the effort to progress through a story, and this looks so much up my alley that I can’t applaud it loudly enough.  Sure, maybe it will be TOO much chatter.  Maybe I will hate the slower pace of storytelling.  But from what I’ve liked about BioWare’s single-player titles, I doubt it.

3. The “You’ll Ruin My Conversation” Scenario

This is more of a smaller nitpick that’s coupled with a lack of clear understanding how these things will work.  After all, nobody’s really done multiplayer conversations with NPCs in MMOs before, and from what we’ve seen, the game rolls a dice or something when you’re in a party to see which player is allowed to respond to the NPCs.  The reasonable follow-through to that feature is that folks are worried that their party mates might make a wrong choice for their quest, or mess things up, or take the conversation in a direction that’s undesirable.

And, yes, it is reasonable to worry about this, but not to assume that it will be pure DOOM and BioWare isn’t aware of the potential problems with it.  Hold on to that concern, if you have it, but keep it in check until we hear more about it, and see how it plays out.

Update: On a recent Darth Hater podcast, they reported that BioWare’s said that if it is your quest, you can allow or forbid your friends from controlling the conversation, so that you can direct it the way you want.

To summarize: all three of these topics are not proven fact, nor should be treated as such.  They indeed might be, but we need to be a lot closer to the game’s launch to be able to judge this for ourselves, and until that point, keep speculation and assumption in separate rooms.

15 thoughts on “Star Wars: The DOOM Song

  1. It’s kind of silly being a “hater” this early in a game’s development. However, it’s a win/win situation for those who scream DOOM.

    The game flops and they can give it some ” I told you! I was the herald of truth and DOOM and all you fanboi’s doubted me! I now bathe in your sweet, sweet tears!”

    The game is a success – they change their screen name and enjoy a great game.

    The thing that worries me is that pressure from a pre-release community is always escelating and if a developer makes changes early on from the weight of ill-founded and contextually un-educated DOOM singers we could end up far from the original vision. A vision that if not diluted could have maybe been EXACTLY what the gaming community needs.

    If you are going to hate something, hate something that exists…

  2. I think the game will disappoint a huge amount of people. People that are used to the regular quest based, grind to end game and raid type of MMO out there (WoW) will hate it for the conversation and storyline focus.

    People that expects it to be SWG2 will also be disappointed, because I think it will be none like that.

    Personally, I think it will be awesome if they make it just like KOTOR, but online. I want a storyline with difficult decisions to be made and character progression like their previous games.

    And I don’t think I would be annoyed with jackass responses from my teammates during conversations. That happens a lot in every PnP RPG I’ve played and I guess it’s just something to be expected from a character you don’t have control of, jackass or not.

  3. You are misinterpreting what I, at least, have said. I have no interest (yet) in SWTOR as another MMO, I already play lots of MMOs and don’t have room for any more. If I DO play SWTOR, I only WANT to play it as a single player game. I have zero interest in leveling, grinding, raiding or anything else. Plenty of MMOs do that, don’t need another. I JUST want the story.

  4. Ah, the DOOM brigade. If I could make my nemesis in Champions, it would be this – a faceless entity of negativity, hurt feelings, and self-importance, all rolled up into one evil package.

    DOOMers are afraid of being wrong on the Internet (which is just about as silly as being afraid of being wrong in real life – both are distinct and inevitable outcomes), hence they hedge their bets on new products.

    It’s no surprise that sometimes, a game doesn’t live up to your expectations. Expectations just need to be managed better, and the “c’est la vie” idea of dealing with MOST issues with MMOs needs to be adopted more often. I’m not saying we should let devs off the hook for overpromising and underdelivering, but I am going to say that being upset or cynical about every little bad thing just leads to, well….nothing but being upset and being cynical. That’s not why we play games at all.

  5. Yeah, I forbid people to interrupt cutscenes in MY quest in MY world? 🙂

    I am very sceptical of SWTOR. But of course this is all speculation.That you come to the conclusion it is all speculation/not proven fact is rather, well, obvious.

    That BioWare is not ignorant of what makes a MMO a MMO is something I would not be so sure about.

    Their reputation in making good single player games is for me rather the reason why they go so heavily for voice acting and all that, but also the main reason for the “single player MMO” hypothesis.

  6. I think that complaint #2 can be dealt with to some extent by changing the purpose of questing. Right now, questing in most MMOs is something boring and repetitive that we do to get XP and gear. I am hoping that Bioware de-emphasizes gear (Do Jedi Knights need ph4t l00t to channel the Force? Will Sith Warriors have to grind to upgrade their life support systems?) so that questing will be mostly about character progression and storyline. Their won’t be a need to rush through the story, because the story is the primary purpose of questing. Take the carrot off the stick, give us a stick made out of carrots.

    My main concern is that it will get repetitive after my 3rd or 4th alt. Although having class-specific character progression should help with this.

  7. Too much story? The mindless button-mashers have no business playing a Bioware game. Bioware games ARE stories. It’d be like a naked man in a clothes store refusing to try anything on. Sort of.

  8. I was just thinking about voiced conversations and the comments you made Syp. Yes, they certainly sound like a cool feature and I’m sure I’d appreciate them, but I am a bit worried on how they’ll be worked into an MMO.

    From my WAR experience, I really didn’t want to be standing around doing nothing (including listening to people speak or reading quests) for ANY amount of time because I knew I had to get into the Lakes ASAP and get into the fight before everyone logged off and left me sitting around a warcamp with my thumb up my @ss.

    If TOR sets up its PvP in a similar manner so that there’s pressure on the players to get into the fight as soon as possible and stay fighting as long as possible, I think you’ll see people annoyed by or unappreciative of voiced conversations.

    On the other hand, if it’s just “KOTOR 3” online and there is no pressure on the player to do anything other than advance a single-player storyline at their own pace, then voiced conversations could be a smash hit. But in this case, all those naysayers will be right about TOR just being a single player game masquerading as an MMO.

    I’m quite interested to see if BioWare can find the sweet-spot between always-fighting-PvP pressure and move-at-your-own-pace storylines; at the very least it would be unique.

  9. If you’re a story hater and just want to skip everything… WTH are you doing even thinking about a Bioware game? I mean, really. 🙄

    Of course, this is the intarwebz. Naturally folks just have to snark about games they aren’t even in the target market for…

  10. I get annoyed by the comments my friends make in *real life* what makes you think they’ll be any less annoying in-game?
    Besides, there will likely be a ‘Master looter’ style option for chatting, where the group leader decides who gets to say stuff.

  11. Also, as an addendum, I DO play in a NWN2 group and love how the game always comes to a halt while whoever touched the NPC first gets to do everything. Include interact with a merchant. I started out trying to get people to make certain choices, but then I kinda got bored with it and just wanted it to be over so I could move again.

    Turning off the game for everyone but one person is really boring.

  12. @ Tipa – “Turning off the game for everyone but one person is really boring.” I agree! And that’s why I hope that this multi-participant conversation system works because of it. I hated how, in LOTRO’s story quests, whoever touched the NPC first would get the story or could trigger the guy to move, and in so doing cause me to skip reading the actual story. Frustrating!

  13. I think the most important part for everyone to remember is that currently everything related to TOR is speculation. BioWare probably doesn’t even know what the end result to their efforts will be.

    And I imagine that BioWare is a smart enough company to realize that they should not change their intentions without a single player outside of their company actually playing a significant portion of the game.

    I’ve watched the walkthrough from gamescon a few times and I’m really excited about what I’ve seen, but I know that the game isn’t even in beta yet. And any footage that we’ve seen is a fairly early build of the alpha version of the game. We’ve seen the most polished aspects of the game. There are still four classes and many different stories to reveal about events that led up to the present time.

    I think you’re on point with a lot of your qualms with those yelling “DOOM!” They are concerns that have come up in my head as well, but then I realize: “Hey, I haven’t even played the game yet!” So, I’ve taken more to trying to analyze or at least make logical guesses toward how things will work (or what classes/races will be revealed, etc.)

  14. People being negative on the internet? Say it ain’t so!

    In this case, though, there are a few reasons why I can understand why people are screaming DOOM!

    1. There’s a Star Wars shaped target to aim for. Remember The Phanom Menace? Remember Star Wars Galaxies? Some people might even say, “Remember KotOR 2?”

    2. A game promising to do something stupendous, amazing, and never-seen-before? *yawn* Haven’t heard that before, then been sorely, sorely disappointed.

    3. Remember, this game is ultimately being made by EA. Yeah, that EA. Yeah, I’m sure they’ve learned their lesson by now about making MMOs.

    Personally, I know a few of the people working on the game and I think they know what they’re doing. Benefit of the doubt for some people I respect. But, I’m not quite willing to put my bets on the “will be better than sex” option quite yet. The nature of doing something fairly new, like making a heavily story-focused MMO, is that you’re likely to have a few missteps.

    The question is: will the problems outweigh the positives?

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