Star Wars: The Old Republic Interview

The folks at RPGSite have an interview with BioWare's Jeff Hickman on Star Wars: The Old Republic, which deals with the free-to-play switch of the MMO (and if Hickman's opinion is shared by the rest of the company, there's quite a philosophy change going on behind the scenes), the chances of seeing an expansion for the title, the chances of seeing a faster way to access the game compared to the current ponderous install, the day-to-day interactions with LucasArts and more.

Here's an excerpt:
RPG Site: It'd be crazy not to start with the free-to-play stuff. I was really struck, sitting in the press conference, at the statement "We believe in free-to-play" - it's a bold statement. Do you think anybody can launch a paid-for MMO in today's climate and succeed? Or has the time for that model passed?

Jeff Hickman: Well, I can give you my opinion, okay? In my opinion, I think the big, subscription-based MMO market is gone.

I think that as with anything, there are possibilities you could come out with an MMO now and have a successful subscription model and succeed in the long term, but I think it's an exception. I think that at this point, players like to try things before they buy them.

They don't like the feeling - and it's truly just a feeling, I think - of commitment. Because the reality is, when you go to look at these free-to-play games - any free-to-play game, really, MMO or not - there is a monetary commitment, it's just a different type of monetary commitment. If you look at free-to-play games, they're making lots of money.

But the players - the generation of gamers who are growing up now and are in their teens and their twenties looks at games and says "I'm not going to listen to the marketing, I'm gonna go and play the game, make my own judgment call, and if I like that game, I will pay you. In fact, I'll pay you a lot!"

So I think, number one, the free-to-play MMO market has a giant opportunity ahead of us. This is an opportunity we must take - and in my opinion I'd say to MMO developer right now - they should be looking at free-to-play."


RPG Site: I'd argue you had a good stab at doing something really new with your newfound emphasis on story. On the flip-side, though, what do you say to criticisms that TOR feels more like a co-op game than an MMO? More MO-RPG than MMORPG?

Hickman: Yeah, I disagree vehemently about it. I think you can say that about a lot of games, and it depends on how you want to play the game. What we tried to do was provide an experience that was fun and accessible to a broad range of players.

So we tried to provide that story experience - and in some cases a single-player type experience where you can go through and play the game alone if you really want to - but you can say the same thing about WOW. WOW has that also - I personally have levelled from 1-60 solo in WOW. Is that a single player game? No. Absolutely not.

Yet we also provide a broad variety of multiplayer and massively multiplayer opportunities within the game - whether it be PVP, Operations, Flashpoints - and so I think it matters how you play the game. I think what happens is people get so tied up in the story that they say "I don't need anybody else." Well, yeah, you may not need anybody else for the story, but that's not the entire game.

So, I disagree with that standpoint. If you want to play the game single player, fine, but if you want to play with others there's plenty of ways and people to do so with.