Massively mutliplayer online role-playing game fans used to love spending a majority of their time completing quests and grinding experience points. Those days might be over.
At least that’s what Charles Boyd, the creative lead designer for Star Wars: The Old Republic, thinks. His game, which was similar to traditional MMOs like World of Warcraft when it launched in 2011, has taken a more story-driven approach with it latest expansion, last year’s Knights of the Fallen Empire. It has been releasing episodic content since November, with the last three chapters hitting on June 3.
We had a chance to talk with Boyd a bit about the reaction to TOR’s new direction from its fans.
GamesBeat: How is the MMO space different today than when TOR launched?
Charles Boyd: Great question! We are seeing a couple of interesting trends in the industry. Players want to do more in less time, advance at their own pace, and plan ahead — players today are leading busy lives, and they want to maximize the opportunity to have fun and get rewarded every time they play.
This was a big factor in our move to an episodic storyline as it allows players to experience the story the way they want to and with maximum flexibility. Players are even more savvy now, and they want to know that there is a next chapter coming and appointment set for when — so we actually started announcing our “next” chapter the week after the current chapter releases to meet that goal.
GamesBeat: How have fans reacted to this kind of episodic approach to an MMO?
Boyd: Fans have embraced the story wholeheartedly and look forward to the chapter releases. The primary way we have seen this excitement manifest is through the online discussions that are happening in our forums, fansites, and other community channels like Reddit.
Players are often debating the impact of their decisions on alliance members, the unique personalities of the alliance companions that they have recruited from desperados to thieves to legendary manipulators — and of course there is the love/hate relationship with [Sith Emperor] Valkiorion. I feel that the story’s themes and conflicts are resonating with players as the story continues to unfold which is very humbling for us to see.
GamesBeat: What is next for TOR? Will future content remain story-driven?
Boyd: I think it is clear that players enjoy the story, and therefore we are motivated to continue it – this is a big part of our DNA as BioWare, and as a studio of Star Wars fans, there is nothing we can think of that is more rewarding and fun! We know our players also like to engage in battles, fight evil adversaries that want to rule the galaxy, and even engage in factional battles and so there a definite interest to create more of that type of content as well.
But, all of that notwithstanding, we are always looking at player feedback to guide our final direction. So, as the story continues and we see the impact of the most recent additions, including the Eternal Championship arena, we will finalize those plans.
GamesBeat: Has the resurgence in popularity of Star Wars with the new movies given TOR a boost?
Boyd: Absolutely! The excitement around Star Wars has grown exponentially, and the interest in playing a story-driven game that puts you in the center of your Star Wars saga is huge. We feel the same way, and it is really nice to share that love of Star Wars story with fans — and the good news is that we have a lot more stories to tell!