I have a few reservations about SW:TOR.
First of all, the animations continue to get mentioned as being less than fluid. It’s something you can sort of see in some of the videos. This is also mentioned in a hands-on impressions post from Tap Repeatedly which also didn’t have a lot of nice things to say.
I thought that might be just raised expectations due to all the hype Bioware is throwing out there.
Which brings me to the second point, there isn’t really a whole lot of hype out there from Bioware is there? Most of the hype is fan driven. Digging through the forums and the official SW:TOR site I’m hard pressed to find a lot of specific information.
This sort of scares the crap out of me. It’s about two months from launch and I’ve no idea what races are allowed to be what classes? What do the races actually give you? How do I join friends that might have started on a whole other planet?
There are a lot of basic questions not answered yet and all Bioware is releasing are detail descriptions of planets you may visit without any solid information on how it impacts your game play. Looking through the information the site offers leaves me without a lot of real information.
Latest video released was an opinion piece about who’d win between a Jedi Knight and a Bounty Hunter which supposedly details some of their special abilities. I didn’t see a whole lot other than the force leap (which we already knew about), lightsaber throw (again, knew about it) and the need for the Jedi Knight to close on the Bounty Hunter to win. On the Bounty Hunter side we saw a few items that appeared in other videos already; effectively a root, shoot from the distance and maybe one more gimmick that left such an impression on me that I can’t remember what it was.
Ouch! Too tight!
Maybe that’s not a bad thing that I don’t know every inner mechanic about the game before it releases?
Still, two months before release and we’re seeing posts like this (in response to someone suggesting they should be in the ‘polishing stage’):
Keep in mind that our development process is highly iterative. Feedback is critical to us, and we use it to make changes.
There are several systems that are still undergoing changes meant to balance them and make them fun, and that will be a continuing process. Do we have an idea of where we’d like to be with a given system? Yes. Do we know exactly what changes to make to get there? We feel like testing (the feedback, telemetry, and other data we get from it) is an excellent way to help us make informed decisions and get feedback on a variety of changes so we can determine what works best. So, it isn’t that we don’t have a plan or any idea what the system should be, it’s more that we feel like testing is a critical component in making decisions about those systems and using feedback to tune them.
Sometimes we test big changes, sometimes just minor adjustments – whatever we think the system needs based on what we see in the test.
Okay iterative development. Generally speaking you plan what you’re going to develop, work on it, get feedback and improve it, get feedback and improve it to a point where it’s done. That’s the general overview of it, how it actually works for larger projects is you tend to break the larger project down to smaller portions and work on those. There are varying ways they could be doing this but that’s effectively what it entails.
The intent is to produce high quality software that could (potentially) be released at the end of each Dev cycle (if they’re using sprints) and you can easily push features out for future releases if they’re not ready yet because there is a lot more transparency to the overall project deliverables.
There has been some success with this in the software product market and it works well for development services. But… I’m really curious to see how it works for a MMO.
Really this could be the reason there isn’t a whole lot of ‘crunch’ material available yet because nothing is solid yet. This comment (regarding the “Item Modification system”) sort of emphasizes that:
It’s clear many of you are very interested in the Item Modification system (and understandably so!) and the various changes it has undergone. However, we’d like to remind you that it’s very difficult to get a good impression of an article’s meaning via Google translate – subtlety and context are often easily lost by automatic translations. Translating in general can be very difficult and can lead to confusion or misinterpretations.
It’s very important to keep in mind that we actually use our Game Testing Program to test the game. This means that sometimes we make radical changes to systems in order to gather the feedback we need. This testing allows us to find what works the best and is most fun for players. The Item Modification system is a system that has required some changes and testing as we feel out what players enjoy the most. In one build, items that can be modified may be rare. In another, they may be ubiquitous. Through testing, we’ll try several implementations, gather feedback, and make changes accordingly.
When Daniel spoke about Item Modifications, it is likely that what he spoke about reflected the implementation that was currently in testing – not necessarily the final intended state of the system (and we say “likely” because after talking with Daniel, he doesn’t have an exact recollection of what he said; he does do a LOT of interviews!). We haven’t delved deeply into discussing Item Modifications officially, and one reason for that is exactly what you’re seeing here: talking about things while they’re still in testing (and thus in flux) can be confusing to the community, so we do avoid it when we can while still trying to share information about the game.
We know you’re all interested in the specifics of how the system works, but please do keep in mind that quite a few things in the game are still subject to change as we continue with the test. Don’t panic! Though we’re close to launch, we aren’t done testing!
Which still scares the crap out of me with two months left to go – most of the foundation systems should be complete and solid enough to talk about. Things like character creation for one – I’m not seeing much on it though.
Another part of the quote above also scares the crap out of me is the bold part. I really hope they’re not relying solely on beta testers to provide them with this information. I understand a big part of iterative development is getting customer feedback, but the emphasis on “test” in that first sentence scares me. Most of the people signing up for beta have no idea how to test anything and more still just want early and free access to the game for a time to determine whether they want to buy it or not.