Star Wars: The Old Republic Hype: Fanboy Fun

Tobold posted a very interesting blog about Star Wars: The Old Republic today. Tobold argues that Bioware has overhyped their game already, setting expectations so high that the final product will never be able to meet expectations, leading to disappointment from the dedicated fanbase. He says that fanboys (my term, not his) should wait until at least open beta to really get excited about the game because then we will have a more concrete idea of what the game will be instead of nitpicking a promotional cinematic trailer.

I agree with him to a point, but my experience has been that half of the fun in knowing about a game and following it through the development cycle is sifting through what really is just hype and what is quantifiable product.

I have always been a huge Star Wars fanboy. When I heard that Star Wars Galaxies was coming out, I immediately gravitated toward any fan forums I could find, eventually finding myself an administrator at Star Wars Galaxies: Stratics. The entire fun of it all was reading new press releases, seeing videos, and hearing about people’s accounts who were in closed alpha and beta builds. We speculated, we hoped, and we drooled over the hype that was released. After all, this was the first time any of us would be able to live in the Star Wars universe.

I was lucky enough to get into closed beta for SWG because I had garnered connections by helping build the community at Stratics. And lo and behold, the game sucked. Our expectations were thrown for a loop because the game we had long hoped for possessed none of the qualities we hoped for. The features the developers had hyped as being so revolutionary were mundane and, at times, the game could barely be considered functional (players couldn’t even jump!) So in a way, Tobold is right. We shot ourselves in the foot because we expected more than could have feasibly been delivered given the nature of MMOs at the time. But the fun we had speculating and ogling over screenshots and dev comments was not tarnished even a little bit. If anything, our community’s speculation into the game helped SWG because despite our knowing the game was lackluster, we bought it anyway on the vain hope that SOE and Lucasarts could fulfill some of the promises they made.

I can see how Tobold could see the E3 release of the trailer as mistimed hype. The internet culture is a lot different now than it was when SWG was entering development, with blogging becoming the primary communication method about upcoming releases as opposed to forums. Despite the penchant for overenthusiastic naysayer bloggers to come out of the woodwork with any new announcement, I think the folks at Bioware know what they’re doing. I have a feeling that the E3 announcement is only the first in a series of publicity stunts and press releases to garner interest in the new game, and that the reputable and/or knowledgeable fanbase will be able to differentiate between the hype and what can realistically be expected in the finished game.

Where I think Tobold was wrong, however, is saying that we shouldn’t get excited about the hype or that Bioware has made a mistake at timing their hype. I am currently looking very forward to reading through the developer blogs and videos I’ve missed over the months. I look forward to new news. I look forward to picking apart anything else the developers might say and wondering how and why they are making specific choices. I don’t think it facilitates burnout early because those who would be most prone to it, those who follow the developer comments and pore over each paragraph, are those who will be playing The Old Republic regardless of burnout. To me, that weeding through that kind of stuff is fun, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the finished game.

Until now, Bioware has allowed very little of Star Wars: The Old Republic to be seen by the public. The problem many people have with the video that was released yesterday comes in that it is a cinematic trailer and is in no way indicative of what The Old Republic will be. While this is true to an extent, the video does give a projected idea of the tone and themes that Bioware is working toward in the game itself. No, the game will not look like that. Neither does World of Warcraft look like any of the cinematic trailers that are released with any of its expansions; however, those cinematics give an idea of the feel of the game itself.

That said, the cinematic trailer looks fantastic. It gives a glimpse of the quality that Bioware is working toward in the final game, and that’s never a bad thing. If Bioware can come through with at least part of the promises they make regarding The Old Republic, then the hype will be worth it. With the disappointment that was Star Wars Galaxies, anything Bioware does to separate itself early on from that particular game is for their benefit, and releasing high quality promotional videos is the first step in doing that. Yes, I look forward to the time when there will be even more first-hand information that is not filtered through developers, but until then, I will have my fun reading dev blogs and watching promotional videos and interviews and trying to glean any new substance I can from them. I won’t get burned out like some people would because The Old Republic seems to be my last, best hope of finally having the interactive Star Wars universe I’ve desired since I was a kid.

Comments

  1. J.Ayers

    Keep in mind, you also need to consider the past works of the parties involved. SOE has what? Everquest? While that gives them a foot in the MMO realm, also consider they are notorious for ignoring information right in front of their face.

    Now look at Bioware, Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2 (both awesome), Knights of the the Old Republic (1 and 2, I never cared for them, but many did and their story was awesome), and most recently the Witcher, which is an amazing single player RPG.

    Bioware clearly has an outstanding resume when it comes to RPGs, but what about the MMO aspect. Well, at the beginning of 2008, Bioware’s parent company was purchased by EA, and EA has the MOST MMO experience of any company ala good ole’ Ultima Online.

    Just look at the facts, this isn’t overhype, or even regular hype, it is solid expectation. The quality and experience is there and they should be able to create an amazing MMORPG based on the Star Wars universe.

    The true test of time will be the long run. As we all know, the opening days are always bumpy, but fun. Then once bugs are cleared, and people start enjoying content, the game earns its wings. The problem comes from keeping the content enjoyable, and far to often do MMO’s fly to close to the sun, and burn themselves out.

  2. Beej

    I agree, John. I think that if anyone can be expected to turn out a good product based entirely on past performances, Bioware can.

    And I guess I should have said it, but it's not necessarily Bioware putting out their own hype that is getting commented on, but the surrounding hype from things they release. There are many places on the internet that are abuzz with people claiming the game is going to suck because it just can't look like that, or people like Tobold claiming that it is too early to get excited about it. I think they're both wrong in a way because it's obvious it's a cinematic trailer and not gameplay, and it's quite fun to actually follow small leads and extrapolate expectations, as long as one knows they might be just that–expectations.

    Some people are claiming already this will be a WoW killer based entirely on the fact that the CGI trailer was so well made. No, it won't. Nothing is going to "kill WoW", but TOR could very well be a well-made MMO that is worthy of our attention. That's the type of overhype I mean: basing judgment on something extraneous.