Looking Back: One Year of The Old Republic

What a difference a year can make.

At this time last year, members of Death’s Fist from across the globe were literally giddy as school children waiting to open presents on Christmas Day. We knew Santa had come and our presents were under the tree … we just had to wait to open them.

For years we had made plans for this very day. Many of us used vacation days so we could fully immerse ourselves in the Early Access period. Others literally put their entire lives on hold so they could level their first Old Republic character with no distractions.

Literally the excitement, anticipation and pure giddiness were like nothing I’d experienced leading up to an MMO before. Of course there was good reason for this. All of us in Death’s Fist were Star Wars Galaxies refugees. Gamers who had met each other on the Corbantis server and played with, or against, each other for years leading up to that infamous announcement in October 2005 that killed the game we loved.

One year later and we should be excitedly looking back on all the fond memories we’ve made in The Old Republic.

Like the time a dance party broke out on Tatooine while trying to get a couple of datacrons. Or the night some PvP fizzled out on Tatooine so we held a companion tournament instead. Or perhaps the nights we did get some good PvP, fighting Brotherhood First Battalion on Ilum or making friends with our new Pot5 enemies. There was the first time we gave Starfleet Dental a root canal. Heck, we can even look back on being one of the first guilds on our server to drop Trapjaw – as silly as that sounds now. My favorites? The nights we got literally dozens of guildies together to drop world bosses and collect datacrons.

Instead, we are shrouded in disappointment by yet another MMO that just didn’t live up to the hype or expectations. Thinking as much about the many months of memories we didn’t get a chance to make, because the game we put our hopes in failed us.

A game that turned out to be a bigger disappointment than Star Wars Galaxies.

The death of Star Wars Galaxies ultimately was a very simple one. Greed and Jealously. Sony and LucasArts saw the millions of people playing World of Warcraft and wanted a bigger piece of that pie – current players and fans of their game be damned.

The Old Republic? Not quite as simple. Ultimately there are many reasons why members of Death’s Fist and MMO gamers across the world aren’t playing The Old Republic any more. Some arguments can be very complex and get into the weeds of gamer motivation and psychology. Others are more simplistic.

Looking back, I see two big, systematic reasons The Old Republic today is a shell of what it was, and what it could have been.

The first is Electronic Arts. We all know their track record when it comes to games in general, but especially MMOs. And once again they forced a studio they owned to push out an MMO before it was ready because they were thinking about their stock price and not their customers.

And this pressure lead to a game being released that needed more polish to be successful.

The second? BioWare. Ultimately I feel BioWare was in over their head trying to run an MMO. This was especially true when problems came up that needed to be addressed to keep the game healthy and growing. Instead gamers were consistently asked to be patient and wait for miraculous fixes without a time table of when to expect them. “Soon” became a running joke within the community.

Game updates were marketed and treated more like extra downloadable content for a complete game that was already released than a needed remedy to problems the game was already facing. Players of The Old Republic were repeatedly told a fix for all their problems was coming, but you ultimately had to wait months for them to arrive.

The best example? Patch 1.2.

It brought a ton of polishing – which frankly should have been in the game at launch – and also the legacy system, UI customization, some new content and guild banks.

The hype for 1.2 started almost at launch, with BioWare releasing an “Coming Up” video in late January. The trailer for 1.2 came out during the Guild Summit in early March. When was it released? April 12. And even then, it didn’t include rated warzones like it was supposed to.

By the time Bioware released 1.2, it had already inflicted its first mortal wound and was slowly dying. Transfers were promised, but they two came too late. And the problem was further compounded by the infuriating manor transfers were handled – with players basically having to check the web each day to find out if they had a new home or not.

The move to Free-to-Play followed this same mentality. “The game is going to change … we think its going to be awesome … wait until November to see!” That was announced in the summer. HK-51? Trailer came out in July. Players couldn’t start the quest to get him until October/November.

I could go on.

So here we are again. Seven years since SOE broke our hearts and one year since BioWare reopened the wound.

Somebody pass the spiked blue milk.

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