Cowen and Company analyst Doug Creutz recently ruffled the feathers of BioWare (and a few fans) after slamming the upcoming MMOG Star Wars: The Old Republic as a "highly derivative" clone of World of Warcraft. He even went so far as to suggesting that EA hasn't announced a release date because the game will likely not ship this year.
"We got hands-on time with the game, and were largely unimpressed," Creutz said in the firm's E3 2011 report. "Despite promises from EA/BioWare that the title represents a major step forward in MMO design, what we saw was essentially a World of Warcraft clone with Star Wars character skins and the BioWare RPG nice/nasty dialogue tree mechanism bolted on for non-player character conversations."
He also didn't have anything positive to say about the game's visual presentation, calling the scenery and character designs competent but hardly breathtaking. "Granted, we were playing in a desert area, so other areas may be more impressive-looking... on the other hand we question why EA chose a desert level to showcase the title,” he added.
BioWare CEO Ray Muzyka responded to the criticism by not even addressing Creutz's comments directly, saying that the development schedule is currently on track. "We're progressing well," he said. "The fact we're showing it hands-on on the show floor is an indication of our confidence in the quality. We're getting a lot of positive feedback on that. We know how critical it is to launch as a solid game and then have really high quality service afterwards, too. We have plans to do follow-on content and things that'll keep our players engaged and active for years to come."
BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk also threw in his two cents worth. "The content's getting there," he said. "We're pretty happy with what we're showing. There's always a lot of refining and polishing. We've pretty well announced the whole range of features. There's such an incredibly large range of things, like crafting, heroic combat, PVP, war zones, end game content – what we call operations, which are basically raids, companion characters, there's all this stuff. All those things all together are looking good."
Zeschuk added that it's not just enough to make the game great. "You have to give great service and you have to be able to support the game on a long-term basis," he said. "So we've devoted a lot of effort and thinking towards how we do that. The beta testing really is a validation of that stuff. At some point we'll be ready to go."
As for the actual launch date, Zeschuk said that EA is guided towards this calendar year. At least, that's what the "big men" have stated. "At the end of the day quality also matters," he added. "And quality of service just as much as quality of game."
So far SWTOR is still slated to launch by the end of the year. As reported, even Blizzard is banking on the game's success, hoping that Star Wars fans who have never played an MMORPG before will get hooked and have a desire to taste other offerings like one particular fantasy-based MMORPG played by millions and millions worldwide.