How TOR Can Beat WoW – In 5 Easy Steps
Many people get angry whenever The Old Republic is measured against World of Warcraft. Some will even insist that TOR isn’t trying to beat WoW — and that’s a dirty lie. There’s no shame in ambition; there’s nothing vile about aiming high. Every MMO out there wants to be WoW. Every MMO wants to reach that level of success and profitability, and with the enormous production costs TOR is rumored to have, it doesn’t just want to beat WoW — it needs to.
Many MMOs have tried and failed to tackle the titan. Here are five ways in which TOR can avoid making the same mistakes.
1. A Perfect Launch
World of Warcraft’s launch in 2004 was disastrous — Blizzard wasn’t ready for the deluge of players who purchased the game. Between a higher-than-anticipated player count and server instability, Blizzard had to temporarily pull WoW from store shelves until they set up more servers to meet the player loads. Paying customers had to wait in queues to play the game they’d purchased.
Nowadays, MMORPGs cannot afford these kinds of mistakes. With the market flooded with MMO titles and the entirety of the competition cast in the shadow of WoW, players will move on from games that cannot be properly enjoyed upon release. In recent years, several MMOs touted to be “WoW-killers” failed due to poor launches, and if TOR’s launch is marred like most of the PC titles of this quarter, then it’ll be just another casualty of the MMO war.
2. Quality End-Game Content
A solid launch will keep players around for a good month, but if there isn’t a sufficient quantity of quality end-game content by then, players will begin dropping the game. We’ve seen it happen before — one of the reasons Age of Conan failed to make it big was due to its complete lack of end-game content upon release.
Promising end-game content in future patches isn’t enough — we live in an impatient society. If the content isn’t there when a player wants it, he’ll go looking elsewhere. Like Azeroth.
3. A Complete Experience
Many veteran players say World of Warcraft only begins once you’ve hit max level and can participate in end-game content. While the end-game is certainly important, it shouldn’t be the point at which players begin having fun — players must be engaged in exciting content throughout their leveling experience.
Attaining max level is the goal that makes MMOs work. But players won’t care to reach that goal unless they’re enjoying themselves.
4. An Alternative to Grind
In most MMOs, questing will only get you so far — grinding is necessary to level up. While some players enjoy repeatedly slaying random monsters ad nauseum, many consider it a chore. I worked in a geochemical laboratory during my university days, wherein I spent hours a day grinding rocks into powder. The last thing I wanted to do was go home and grind some more.
If TOR can provide a solid alternative to grinding, then both spheres of players will be content. Grinders can do their thing, and the rest of us wouldn’t rather drill a hole in our skull than spend another hour trying to level up.
5. A Friendly Community
While this isn’t something the developers have direct control over, the state of an MMORPG’s community is important to its health. I’ve played MMOs in which most players were helpful, cooperative, and friendly; I’ve also played MMOs in which most players were hostile, discourteous, and insulting. Message boards are filled with anecdotes of people giving up on a game due to its community — because ultimately, MMOs are about community. While it’s only natural that as a community grows, more trolls will seep in, to claim that all MMO communities are the same is a fallacy.
To a certain extent, the developers do influence what kind of community is fostered — I’ve noticed greater hostility in games that place emphasis on crushing other players in PvP than in games which require cooperation to attain mutual goals. Segregation of players between different servers, such as PvP or Roleplay servers, is another way developers can guide the development of their communities, as well as through the active policing of inappropriate behavior.
And there you have it. If TOR can hit those five nails on the head, it’s in a solid position to be the first MMO to give WoW a run for its money. Star Wars already has one of the largest and most loyal fanbases in the world — a fanbase far older than Blizzard’s. Give that fanbase a great MMO to play, and by this time next year, we may have seen the first annual TORcon.