I’m not going to lie; I haven’t been following Star Wars the Old Republic very closely. The game just doesn’t seem to strike that MMO fanboy nerve in me. That being said I’m not ignorant of its existence and I’m aware of some of its more widely publicized and criticized features. Today I’m going to look at one of the pitfalls Bioware/EA can avoid that led games such as Warhammer Online, Age of Conan, and so many other MMOs off the “chosen one” course.
Vision seems to get tossed around more and more these days with regards to MMOs. I think vision is a good word for describing something else. That something else is “what do we, as developers, want our game to do and be”, a goal if you will. Once you decide what this vision for your game is you need to remember it, and stick to it. When making any design decision from here on out ask yourself, “Does this help us achieve our vision?”, if your answer is yes then go forward with it. However if your answer is no then you have a new question, “does it hurt us in achieving our vision?” If your answer is yes, stop where you are and scrape that idea. If your answer is no then you need to consider the importance of this decision, can we live without it, think of another way of doing it, etc.
Warhammer Online lost sight of its vision early on. The developers at Mythic made excuse after excuse for adding features that were clearly counterproductive to the game vision they had set out to achieve. This was a major reason for WAR’s failure, the developers got lost in the woods. Age of Conan suffered from an equally catastrophic issue with regards to vision, it simply had none. Many of the contradicting design decisions Mythic employed during WAR would have made the Chaos gods themselves confused.
Star Wars needs to set a vision for their team to focus on. Every step of the way they need to look back at their vision and continually ask themselves, “does this help or hinder or vision?” The moment they lose sight of this and wander from the trail is the moment they too will get lost in the woods. As long as Bioware/EA stick to their vision they will be in a very good place. The MMO community may not feel that Star Wars The old Republic is a true MMO, but at least by sticking to their path they will create a solid game. Lack of vision is the first pitfall many developers stumble into.