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5 things WoW could learn from Star Wars: The Old Republic

One of the hallmarks of the MMO genre is the fluidity at which these games can change. New pieces are added on and entire game systems are revamped in ways that would utterly decimate closed games that ship on the disc and then that's the end of it. With the impending release of The Old Republic, I wanted to give a rundown of some of the features and game systems that I personally feel would be at home in World of Warcraft along with cool ways Blizzard could grow its own world. (Also, check out my previous article about other MMO concepts WoW could borrow from.)

AoE looting, redux

AoE corpse looting is the new hotness, and it's here to stay. The fact that Blizzard has not found a way to even make AoE looting an option in WoW yet goes beyond my capacity to understand. Rift made the concept part of the mainstream, and The Old Republic is solidifying the feature as a Day One expectation.

In both of these games, players can choose to loot all corpses in an area around them at once instead of having to click on each corpse individually. Not only is this a great quality-of-life change for players, since less clicking is usually a good thing, but it also helps many players with disabilities who have trouble finding that one corpse under a hundred.

More voices in more places

One of The Old Republic's selling points (and a strong one at that) is the huge amount of voice and dialogue work that went into creating a living, breathing world for players to experience. Quest text is out, and quest voiceovers are in. Instead of reading about killing 10 boars, someone will actually tell me to do it!

All kidding aside, The Old Republic's Bioware-chat and dialogue pulled me into the game, and I listened to everything. World of Warcraft should not abandon all text and swap to a fully voiced model. No, sir. In fact, I appreciate the relative quiet that can come with WoW. Rather, WoW should implement more voice over work in more places. Let me give you an example.

Some of the most enjoyable moments of my beta experience with The Old Republic was during Huttball PvP matches. Huttball is a PvP battleground where two teams, the Frog-dogs and the Rotworms, go head to head in a team death match while trying to bring a ball into the other team's goal. During each match, there is an announcer casting each move that each team makes, even going into a commercial break during parts of the game. You'll know what's happening during the fight just by listening to the announcer.

Blizzard can put more voices in more places without making the whole game work on just voiceovers. Much like when players wanted more cutscenes like The Wrathgate, Blizzard began to work its own machinima into raid events and endgame cinematics. In the future, Blizzard could roll more voice work into aspects of the game that might benefit from it.

Active combat and player-controlled resources

The point of active combat is essentially moot because of the announcement and implementation of the monk and some changes to warriors coming later, but it deserves a mention. Before World of Warcraft, the general understanding of an MMO class was you had an auto-attack and abilities that drew from a single power supply, usually mana. Players would have to manage their mana in order to successfully defeat encounters while not going out of mana and becoming essentially useless.

The Old Republic is getting rid of the auto-attack on every class and replacing it with abilities that must be activated to do damage or recoup resources. For instance, a Jedi Knight character has attacks that build their resource Focus and attacks that use Focus. Think of it as a warrior in WoW who builds rage with some attacks and spends rage with others.

For WoW, this system makes its debut in the monk, which uses new resources. With the monk you are always pressing a button, making decisions on how to gain and then spend your resources on attacks and abilities. While it's kind of hard to explain in words, it works phenomenally well when you sit down and play it, as I have done with the monk at BlizzCon 2011 and multiple characters in The Old Republic.

More player customization

With the introduction of transmogrification, players have more options than ever for picking what their characters can wear in and out of combat and cities. While transmog has revolutionized our gear and outfits, we are still bound to the same skins and face options from seven years ago. Some characters, such as goblins, worgen, draenei, and blood elves, have the fortune of coming about later and benefiting from more options, but tauren, orcs, humans, and night elves especially have fewer options that still hold up to today's standards of customization.

The Old Republic has four body types and sliders that change everything from eyes to hair to complexion. While I don't expect WoW to do all of these things without an engine update, there are still many skins available to some races that might work for added customization. Red-skinned Maghar orcs, the taunka, or different races of trolls spring to mind. With more customization comes a greater connection to the character. Star Wars lets you make pretty much any humanoid character you could want, boasting four body types that turn even the same settings on one character into a totally different experience on another. I just want my updated models.

Classes that matter

When Blizzard said that it was getting rid of class-specific quests, I was a little taken aback. While I understand the cost, development, and nature of designing specific content for every class in the game, it makes me sad that my choice of class doesn't impact the game as much as it could. When I had learned that rogues in vanilla WoW got that cool quest where they had to use all of their abilities to get to the top of that tower, I rolled a rogue to try it.

The Old Republic has built each class as a game in and of itself. Your class determines not only your playstyle but also your game experience. The replayability of The Old Republic's classes is at a better place because of the uniqueness that each classes' story brings to the overarching story.

World of Warcraft's classes are part of the larger story, where set pieces and characters are involved in some great conflict and you interact with them. At the end of all things, moments before the second great cataclysm that threatens to destroy everything we know, Alexstrasza commands me to fight at my peak to interrupt the Destroyer and save our world. I feel like I'm part of the epic moment -- but I am not the one, ironically, immortalized. Thrall, Garrosh, Varian, Jaina, and the others are the ones the story remembers, versus the Jedi Knight who helped bring down an Empire or the Imperial Agent who brought democracy to its knees. My class in WoW is part of a larger and grander story, whereas my class in The Old Republic is the story.

Again, I'm not saying Blizzard should turn WoW on its head and make it just like The Old Republic. I do, however, want my class to be a more important part of the storyline. Sure, it's a ton of work, but the payoff for players is amazing. Rogues are currently engaged in an awesome story for their legendary daggers dealing with the Black Dragonflight and having a great time with it. Even if the rogue isn't in a dedicated raid group, the first few steps are available to all rogues. Imagine if each class had a cool quest like that that didn't necessarily end with legendaries but with a cool payoff moment for your class. Warriors get a mission to bring down Deathwing and be a personal bodyguard for the Aspects and Thrall. Priests are tasked with purifying a magical relic in the Destroyer's flames. Warlocks have to banish a demon using the power that is released after Deathwing's final breaths. You get what I mean.

World of Warcraft is tenacious. What brings about WoW's unprecedented tenacity is its willingness to change and adapt. At the end of the day, we as consumers and players win because we get the best of all worlds -- cool concepts, well-done games, and compelling content. WoW is already learning from a lot of these things, as evidenced by the forward-thinking Mists of Pandaria. I know that I'm excited.

What can The Old Republic learn from WoW?

And now, for a quick reversal, one thing that The Old Republic can learn from WoW and it has to do right now, no questions asked: dual spec.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

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