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BioWare: World of Warcraft Set MMO Standards

By - Source: GamesIndustry | B 42 comments

During the DICE 2011 keynote panel, BioWare's Greg Zeschuk admitted that world of Warcraft set MMOG standards.

Thursday during the keynote panel at the DICE Summit in Las Vegas, BioWare's Greg Zeschuk admitted that Blizzard's World of Warcraft has established MMOG standards in which BioWare will follow with Star Wars: The Old Republic.

"It is a touchstone," Zeschuk told the audience. "It has established standards, it's established how you play an MMO. Every MMO that comes out, I play and look at it. And if they break any of the WoW rules, in my book that's pretty dumb. If you have established standards, WoW established them."

Zeschuk also admitted that it will be an "interesting challenge" to compete with World of Warcraft, noting the MMORPG's overall size in regards to its international reach and the yearly revenue it generates from subscribers and in-game purchases worldwide.

"In some ways they [Blizzard] cracked this market wide open," he said. "Obviously Star Wars is a very big license and it's something that when done right--and it's something we did right with KOTOR (Knights of the Old Republic) years ago--it's an incredible force multiplier on your efforts. We've added things so that anyone that plays it knows it's a BioWare game."

BioWare's apparent take on Star Wars: The Old Republic is to launch an established, stable realm in the market rather than unleash a Star Wars-based mammoth (Bantha) out to take down World of Warcraft and other MMOGs. "The audience will tell us if we have a place," he said.

Also present on the keynote panel was Blizzard's Mike Morhaime. He told Zeschuk to "do a good job" with the Star Wars MMOG. His take is that The Old Republic may bring in MMOG "virgins"-- those that previously never considered playing a subscription-based MMOG. If those new players try BioWare's epic and walk away discouraged because of bad gameplay or instability issues, they may not give the genre another try. Naturally if The Old Republic rocks and new players decide they're newborn fans of MMOGs, Blizzard and other publishers/developers will likely reel in a new customer in the long run.

"BioWare is a great developer and obviously Star Wars is a very strong license," Morhaime said. "We think it's good for the MMO genre for additional MMOs to come out that are actually fun and good to play. I don't know that it serves the genre very well when MMOs come out and have all sorts of problems and players leave in frustration."

Star Wars: The Old Republic is expected to launch in Q2 2011.

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  • 8 Hide
    dwave , February 10, 2011 7:07 PM
    What about the standards that EQ set that WoW followed?
  • -1 Hide
    geminireaper , February 10, 2011 7:11 PM
    He is a moron. Stop with the WoW Clones. Why would someone play a game like WoW if they could just play WoW. If everyone just copied the top dog there wouldnt be much in the way of innovation. Give people something different and it will succeed. The more I read about SWOTOR the less I want to play. They had a great IP but then throw it down the toilet as another WoW clone.
  • 3 Hide
    nottheking , February 10, 2011 7:12 PM
    This is hardly surprising or news. In short: WoW was the first wildly-successful MMO to make it out there, hence it's the one everyone wants to try to clone. One must remember that game development is a business, and all businesses want to be successful. In earlier times it was Everquest that was the "standard setter," and before then, Ultima Online. And later, once WoW's gone the way of its predecessors, whatever is top dog THEN will be the one all others will be held up to.

    This applies to ALL genres in gaming, not just MMOs: the FPS we compare others to is whatever is most popular, so we've seen shifts from referring to FPSes as "Doom-clone" in the mid-90s, to then comparing games to Quake, then Half-Life, Unreal Tournament, Halo, and most recently Call of Duty.

    However, I'm not quite sure if The Old Republic will actually be truly competing with WoW: in some ways WoW's already hit its peak: that happened around two years ago, when it FIRST hit 12 million subscribers. (I notice that the Google ad right now mentions this number) Since then it's drifted downward, but has lifted back up to 12 million thanks to Cataclysm's release. A look over the history of popular MMOs show they start with a strong growth slope, followed by a peak, with some "leveling off," followed by a more gradual decline, at 1/3rd to 2/3rd of the rate they climbed. Hence, as WoW originally grew at around 3 million a year, (going from 0-12 million in about four years) it's going to start declining at around 1-2 million users a year.

    TOR won't be instantly a "big player," at least if Bioware is to succeed: all MMOs that saw an initial hyper-growth period with a fraction of a million subscribers in the first month all peaked more or less instantly, which meant folding within a year. (remember, an MMO's peak comes almost always around 20-30% of its lifespan, so a peak at 1 month means a 3-5-month life) Assuming that TOR is to grow into the multi-millions range, it's going to do it gradually, taking years. If it follows WoW's pattern, even if it DOESN'T peak as high, it won't be until late 2015, by which WoW will have dropped to around 4.5 million users. (I predict WoW to shut their doors entirely between 2018-2020)

    So perhaps, trying to model after WoW to make the "next big thing" might NOT be a good idea, since if it IS the next big thing, WoW won't be really around in the same commanding position. However, I'll admit the other side of the coin: a game has to START with success... And right now, we're in the year 2011, where WoW has been king for about 6 years now, ever since it bumped off Lineage. It'll be interesting to see what the future landscape of MMOs looks like in a few years from now.
  • Display all 42 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    hoofhearted , February 10, 2011 7:12 PM
    EQ is weak compared to WoW
  • 4 Hide
    knightmike , February 10, 2011 7:13 PM
    Yeah, but there are plenty of things that can be done better.
    1. The auction house. Please, for the love of God, enable proxy bidding like ebay.
    2. The subscription scheme. Don't charge for expansions (updates to the game.) It divides the community and makes people angry when they're already paying $15/mo. Please don't retort they're a business and they're in it to make money. There is plenty of money to be made w/o charging for expansions.
  • 1 Hide
    hoofhearted , February 10, 2011 7:15 PM
    I think World of Starcraft will be the sci-fi thing (not Star Wars).
  • 2 Hide
    sliem , February 10, 2011 7:20 PM
    I wish wow would be free to play :D .
  • -1 Hide
    skit75 , February 10, 2011 7:27 PM
    Stop "Dumbing Down" the MMO genre please. I understand the balancing act that occurs to increase the player base but, by now surely it must be obvious to developers that new DLC once a year will not keep subscribers. If the gameplay is not engaging, the content does not matter. I suspect the game won't even be close to my expectations upon release. I hope I am wrong.
  • 2 Hide
    edilee , February 10, 2011 7:27 PM
    I believe Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot were the ones that set the standards...WoW was just a reincarnation of these games that was wildy successful and remains so.
  • -1 Hide
    illo , February 10, 2011 7:34 PM
    played swtor at PAX, exactly the same thing as WOW with laz0rs instead of fireballs....sad excuse for a game.
  • 3 Hide
    dark_knight33 , February 10, 2011 7:35 PM
    When will people learn that you won't make a great MMO simply by copying what is popular *now*? Differentiation is what is required. Otherwise, you'll just have a niche game that is basically WoW in a SW skin. Why would anyone leave WoW for a copy?
  • -4 Hide
    dark_knight33 , February 10, 2011 7:36 PM
    When will people learn that you won't make a great MMO simply by copying what is popular *now*? Differentiation is what is required. Otherwise, you'll just have a niche game that is basically WoW in a SW skin. Why would anyone leave WoW for a copy?
  • 0 Hide
    Rodain , February 10, 2011 7:36 PM
    "I don't know that it serves the genre very well when MMOs come out and have all sorts of problems and players leave in frustration." Anyone heard of Star Wars:Galaxies?

    I love how they are coming out with a new Star Wars MMO but are doing everything in their power to not mention Star Wars:Galaxies. There was a Star Wars MMO and it got screwed up. Lets hope BioWare doesn't make the same mistakes as Star Wars:Galaxies.
  • 1 Hide
    dark_knight33 , February 10, 2011 7:38 PM
    Sorry about the double post. Honestly, I hate his remarks regarding how detailed the crafting system of the game will be. It may not be about the "Shop Keeper" experience, but if that's what I like to do, and it's what that *other* SW game did best, than maybe you shouldn't be so pig headed about it.
  • 1 Hide
    dark_knight33 , February 10, 2011 7:40 PM
    Rodain"I don't know that it serves the genre very well when MMOs come out and have all sorts of problems and players leave in frustration." Anyone heard of Star Wars:Galaxies?I love how they are coming out with a new Star Wars MMO but are doing everything in their power to not mention Star Wars:Galaxies. There was a Star Wars MMO and it got screwed up. Lets hope BioWare doesn't make the same mistakes as Star Wars:Galaxies.


    Rogain, did you ever play SWG? I did, and the game rocked until CURB, then they tried to fix that gunshot wound by basically setting everything on fire with NGE. The game was great for several years, it didn't have "All sorts of problems" until after it was messed with by a meddlesome publisher.
  • 1 Hide
    nottheking , February 10, 2011 7:43 PM
    knightmikeThere is plenty of money to be made w/o charging for expansions.

    Or to put it better, they're far more appealing business models. Some things may LOOK profitable in the short-term, but I would agree that perhaps charging a full game's price for an expansion to a subscription MMO may actually cost them subscriptions in the long run.

    There's also TONS of other things that could be done as improvement. For one, all of the arguments AGAINST a housing system in WoW all demonstrate the arguers' utter lack of understanding. I'd point to UO's housing system, first implemented in the original game, (and given a massive improvement in 2001) as an example of a system done well that should be kept in many other games.

    skit75Stop "Dumbing Down" the MMO genre please. I understand the balancing act that occurs to increase the player base but, by now surely it must be obvious to developers that new DLC once a year will not keep subscribers. If the gameplay is not engaging, the content does not matter. I suspect the game won't even be close to my expectations upon release. I hope I am wrong.

    I'd note that in the case of WoW's expansions, as I already said, The game has begun its death spiral. Granted, it probably won't be un-seated from its throne (frozen or not) for a couple years, and certainly won't be DEAD for perhaps almost a decade, but it's already stopped growing, and started dying. Expansions and updates are merely targeted attempts to slow down and delay the inevitable, to milk the last they can.

    As far as the gameplay goes... Everquest had shown that Ultima Online had entirely overdone it: you DON'T need an exhaustive and open gameplay scheme with endless variety. You can just have a massive grindfest with tons of repetitive filler content and still rake in the dough, because the game almost becomes an unconscious "occupy the hands" thing while what they're REALLY focusing on is chatting over Ventrilo or TeamSpeak.

    I have my doubts, sadly, that we'll see any shift from this trend here. It's the strategy du jour for gaming: milk the cash cow all you can, and forget making something solid that will be remembered fondly after its peak money-making days are over.

    dark_knight33The game was great for several years, it didn't have "All sorts of problems" until after it was messed with by a meddlesome publisher.

    In all honesty, my opinion was that it was flawed from the start, possibly in the same way SWTOR might be. SWG was the largest MMO let-down I'd ever experienced... (since then I've always been cautiously pessimistic at best) I was hoping for, in short, one of three things. (in order of preference:

    1. Star Wars: Jedi Knight done as an MMO.
    2. Knights of the Old Republic done as an MMO.
    3. PlanetSide with a Star Wars skin slapped on.

    I'd thought that #3 would've been the most plausible, since Sony had been developing PlanetSide around the same time. Instead what do I get? Basically Everquest with a Star Wars skin slapped on it. Talk about botching it!
  • -2 Hide
    Sabiancym , February 10, 2011 8:06 PM
    And that says it right there. SW:TOR will suck.
  • 1 Hide
    dark_knight33 , February 10, 2011 8:10 PM
    It's one thing to say that you didn't like SWG either pre or post CURB/NGE, because by the time NGE rolled around, it really was a different game at that point (many liked it post NGE that didn't before). It's entirely another to say that it was a let-down just because it wasn't what *you* expected it to be altogether. That doesn't mean it was filled with problems, and even though I despise the severe and drastic changes made to game, I don't think it was filled with problems even post-NGE. The game was still fun, but is not what was (or even close) when the player base bought the game. It still worked as a game, but SOE had to learn the hard way you can't just ignore your audience and expect them to keep sending money every month. FFS, they should have learned something from Revolutionary war. Any company/Gov't/Entity that thinks they will keep taking resources from somebody, then continually ignore them has a rude awakening due to them.
  • 4 Hide
    hoofhearted , February 10, 2011 8:22 PM
    I want to play World of Duke Nukem complete with catholic school girl NPCs
  • 0 Hide
    XZaapryca , February 10, 2011 8:29 PM
    Anyone who played UO in 1997 knows how much better WoW is in comparison. There are tons of MMO's out there that are different, but how many have even a million subs? If people vote with their dollars, it's clear that WoW is better for most people. Will WoW be top dog forever? Of course not, but it will be for a while yet it seems. I think some people confuse being bored with a game once played to death and the game actually sucking.
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