A month out of the gate and Star Wars: The Old Republic has seen over 2 million copies sold and 1.7 million currently playing. That spells a pretty good start for investors to hang their hat on for now, but the biggest test is still yet to come. You see, people haven’t started paying the subscription cost yet as it came with a free trial.
During the grace period, Bioware hopes to show their stuff with already one update and another one coming in March. These updates will not only create new content, but will hopefully fix a lot of the glitches that still hound the game. If you check out the forums, there is a lot of early criticism, although no one I think really expected the game to go smoothly given the amount of content and the possibility of problems just about everywhere. What is good is that the developer is trying to stay on top of it and being as transparent as possible in doing so, which is not a bad thing. Although there have been anecdotal stories of some bans for people who are saying too much about their experience in open forums. But those are unsubstantiated.
At this point, people are still trying to find their way around the truly massive multi-planet worlds and get their “star cred” as it were. That is designed into the game that Act 1 will pretty much introduce everyone to the layout and help people find their bearings before their legacy begins at level 30 or so. Bioware is working on making sure that those that get to level 50 aren’t just stuck in oblivion with nothing to do. They are dedicating a lot of time and updates to that bracket to be sure it’s ready when necessary.
One critique is that it seems that people are having trouble finding other players for group events such as the new Flashpoint. This is because SW:TOR is designed a bit differently than it’s competitor WoW in this regard. In this one, you basically initiate a group, wait for someone else to join, etc, until you have four or more. Unfortunately, if no one else is really that interested, it can take awhile to find those other two or three and in the meantime the early group members pretty much have to stand there and wait. In WoW, it basically puts you in a queue, lets you go about your business and it will find a group for you to be in. Perhaps in time when people get more used to the lay of the land it will be more active, but for now, it’s a bit of a pain.
There are also the graphical issues such as the speeders not keeping up with their riders, the usual in the wall type stuff, and some terrible graphic lags in places to the point that the virtual movement becomes more of a stutter than a smooth experience. But hopefully these will be corrected as the system is tweaked to handle more traffic.
In all fairness to the designers, it’s very hard to see how a game will really react in realtime. Even after 5 years and all the beta testing in the world, that is still not going to cover the load when 2 million or so are hitting the servers at the same time. It’s then that they really find out what’s going on and gamers should keep in mind that even the greatest MMO’s had their moments of torture at the start, but grew out of them. We and the investors hope that The Old Republic can do the same.