25/05/2016

On Negativity

The other day a really old post of mine suddenly popped up in the "recently popular posts" widget on my sidebar: More Positivity Please! It's a post that I wrote back in July 2012 (shortly before the free-to-play conversion was announced actually), lamenting the way that SWTOR was being talked about in the wider media - which is to say: very negatively - and how that seemed to make even the most devoted fans a bit ashamed of admitting that they simply enjoyed the game. I really wish I knew where the sudden attention to this post came from, but sadly my analytics tools are being their usual disagreeable selves. According to Google Analytics, nobody has been looking at that post at all, but I'm inclined to believe Blogger in this case because this is just too curious to be random.

Are we seeing a new wave of negativity centred around the game, causing people to look for posts on the subject? Depends on who you ask I suppose.

Personally I tend to hang around a lot of fan sites and blogs that write about more than one game (also refer to my blog roll), and my overall impression there has been that the "mainstream" reputation of SWTOR is actually better now than it has been in a very long time. That's not to say that you won't find people in the Massively OP comments talking about how much it sucks, but as Wilhelm pointed out the other week, according to the internet, every MMO is dead anyway. It's all relative.

I nearly had a heart attack when everyone's favourite MMO cynic, Syncaine, posted last year that, based on what he had read in the news, maybe SWTOR was somewhat on the upswing. Metacritic paints a picture of a game slowly clawing its way back up in terms of public recognition: The page for the base game sits at an unimpressive user score of 5.9, and while Rise of the Hutt Cartel managed to make that rise to a 7.1, that was also the critics' turn to be less than impressed with the first expansion. Despite of supposedly being quite successful, Shadow of Revan didn't even garner enough interest to deserve a metacritic page of its own, but with Knights of the Fallen Empire, Bioware appears to be back in business and the user ratings have finally managed to make it up into the green. PC Gamer even had an article a few months back in which it listed SWTOR as one of the "biggest comebacks in PC gaming". I'm sure I wasn't the only one whose jaw dropped a bit while reading that (though in my case it's more because gameplay-wise, I really don't think there was anything to come back from).

However, in somewhat of an ironic turnaround from 2012, it's now many of the loyal core players that are unhappy. Are we ever going to see another operation? Where is the group content and love for competitive PvP? You don't have to venture very far to hear these cries resonate wherever the community likes to meet to chat, whether it's on the forums or on Twitter.

The latest OotiniCast featured an interesting take on this, as they talked about players who criticise the game feeling somewhat... beleaguered by those who really like the current direction. Now, I do want to say up front that - obviously - I in no way support people getting insulted or harassed for their opinions about the game, no matter what those are. Yet the same time I couldn't help but find the narrative of disgruntled players being under siege from superfans a bit... surreal. Whenever I look at the official forums or the SWTOR subreddit, I certainly see as much moaning about the game as ever. Criticism may be important, but it's also easy to contribute - the saying "everyone's a critic" exists for a reason, so it's not as if the disgruntled part of the community is in any actual danger of being silenced.

I also suspect that people often have a significantly higher opinion of their "criticism" than it really deserves. Just because you're not insulting anyone, that doesn't automatically make you very helpful. Just repeating the same complaints over and over again isn't constructive, just tedious. As someone who absolutely does hope for a new operation soon, even I get tired of seeing every announcement of a new feature or initiative get inundated with "Who cares, where are the new ops?"-type comments. It annoys me that people can be so single-minded in a game that has so much to offer. You are free to state the same things over and over again of course, but people are not obliged to agree with you.

Somewhat related to this, in the same OotiniCast episode the subject of playing other games came up, and some slightly conflicting viewpoints were stated. Swtorista mentioned that her multi-gaming community was highly supportive of people switching between different games, while one of the essays that were read out complained about people feeling ostracised when they are being told to maybe play something else if they are so fed up with SWTOR. Personally I'm firmly in the "other games are good" camp here. Nobody likes having someone along who just complains all the time, and often hopping into a different game for a while can provide you with a whole new perspective. This isn't about being cast out from the community - it's about wanting everyone to play something that they actually enjoy. Even as someone who often plays the same game for years, I still dabble in other games at the same time - there really is no shame in that.

In conclusion, in the more "mainstream" media, SWTOR's reputation has improved drastically since launch, and even though I haven't agreed with every part of the game's current direction, I'm nonetheless glad about this because it makes me feel less like the pariah playing "that MMO that everybody else hates" when I hang out in a multi-gaming space. I'm optimistic that good times are ahead for SWTOR in the near future - even if you are super cynical about the state of the game, you'll have to admit that the new movies will keep investment in all things Star Wars-related high for at least the next couple of years. Personally I'm also hopeful that greater success for the game will maybe result in at least a little bit more reinvestment in more varied content, even if we all know that EA just like to fill their pockets.

And yes, let's all keep talking about the stuff we'd like to see more of, but let's also maintain some perspective while doing so please. If you're still clamouring for cross-server warzones nearly five years after launch, or grousing about the removal of 8v8 ranked PvP two and a half years after the fact, it may be time to play something else for a while. Maybe you'll realise that actually, you miss your character having a deep story and colourful companions and that you enjoy these things more than you thought. Or maybe you'll ask yourself why you didn't start playing this other awesome game which is completely focused on PvP years ago. Either way, everybody wins.

11 comments :

  1. I think for a while that it was in vogue to pile on the 'TORtanic.' Hell, even I jumped on that bandwagon ... it's usually always driven by passion one way or another. Now that SWTOR is celebrating 5 years (god, has it been that long?), I think most of the MMO public is ok with what SWTOR is. It's not WoW-in-space, like it was called at launch. It's not the Galaxies-killer, like it was lambasted through development. It isn't the "next WoW killer hurr durrr," like everyone assumed it would be when it released. It is what it is, and what it happens to be is a fun MMO that concentrates on story and less on raiding. Not that there's as much raiding content as any other MMO, it's just less focus on it right now. And that's ok! Just like Elder Scrolls is ok. And RIFT ... lol naw, RIFT is bad.

    I think there's plenty of room out there for good MMOs and I'm so very happy to be able to say, unironically, that SWTOR is a good MMO. It's always been fun and it's always been story-driven, but now we can say that and not be laughed at. It's a good thing!

    Also, the SWTOR reddit is a vile place. They are always doing 1 of 3 things:
    1. Crushing SWTOR over some game change
    2. "Returning player looking for advice"
    3. Whining about the Cartel Market

    Avoid that place, Shintar. You must never go there.

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    1. The other day I saw someone in the MOP comments compare Wildstar to the Titanic. I almost wanted to jump in and go: "There can be only one TORtanic!" XD Then I realised what I was doing and stopped myself. We've certainly come a long way!

      About the subreddit: I dunno, I've seen some decent discussions, funny links and creative humour on there, more often than on the official forums. Though it does feel like it's been going downhill a little lately.

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  2. Part of me keeps wondering if the people who keep harping on about "this thing is what I care about, therefore it should be what everybody including BioWare cares about and everything else is a waste of space" (or thereabouts) are just doing it for attention at this point. Maybe they're serious, but there does come a point when focusing on only one thing seems... obtuse.

    As it is now, SWtOR has settled relatively nicely into its current position as a game; if it had launched in its current iteration you could state with almost absolute certainty that it would have had far less significant issues to contend with, and it wouldn't have been forced to cut back on its (supposed) plans.

    I sadly don't think this is a situation BioWare can escape from negativity in. Even when a new Operation/Flashpoint/whatever does come out, you can guarantee that people will continue to moan about how the fights are boring, how all the time waiting for it was wasted, or how they ultimately can't get invested in what they're doing.

    Ultimately this negativity and backlash is going to harm the endgame community, if it hasn't already. There have been innumerable replrted incidents of new players being harassed and kicked from Ops Groups for SM Operations for the simple crimes of being new, even if they're a decent player. With every Operation being at 65, theoretically this should allow for more players to get into more relevant endgame, but this hostile environment just doesn't seem to be willing to accept them; this could result in fewer and fewer people being interested in Operations and this in turn could lead to there never being another one.

    Worst-case scenario, of course.

    Time will tell in all cases, of course, so we'll just have to sit by the wayside and watch things unfurl.

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    1. I do think that too much negativity from core players is harmful, but more in terms of how it promotes the game to new players than in the way people actually behave in game. I'll admit that it's been a little while since I last pugged an operation, but my experience has always been that people are fairly open and friendly towards new players there, not expecting them to have read guides, happy to explain tactics and so on. Do you think that has changed? But even so, I would have trouble making a straight connection between that and people being grumpy about the lack of new ops...

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    2. I think it would depend heavily on the server people are on. Most of the complaints I've seen relating to this behaviour have come from The Harbinger. The others, thankfully, seem to be okay, but the fact that these reports are coming in regardless is still concerning.

      I think this attitude has come in general from apathy and impatience (which might explain why I've only seen reports to have come from American servers..!) which is only going to get worse with no newer outlets for these people's frustrations, if that makes sense.

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  3. A very apt post. Before discovering blogs I read a lot of official forums in my early MMO years (2007-2009ish) and it was hard to escape from the negativity and doom-talk in all of them.

    Now though it does seem very tribal, very focused on bashing certain games. The negativity around SWTOR was terrible when you did the original post, I remember it all too well. I guess it's somewhat related to the size/success of the game? SWTOR had a big launch and so attracted a lot of 'hate'. I think we're seeing the turn now, at least on Youtube, against Black Desert Online - lots of "I quit" videos and "this isn't the sandbox we were looking for".

    I will add I do really love MassivelyOP's articles but I feel, and it's just a gut feeling, that the comments are tending towards more negative tribalism or game-bashing thesedays...

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    1. Some of the comments on Massively OP are horrible, indeed. So much trash talking game studios. Love the website and the articles, but the comments are definitely going downhill.

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    2. P.S. Sorry to Shintar for derailing there.

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    3. Haha, I have to admit that reading the MOP comments on some articles is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine - some of them can be quite funny. That said, I wouldn't want to have an actual discussion on there either. As Telwyn said, the commenters tend to be very tribal, with some very slanted opinions on some subjects (e.g. love for F2P, hate for raids), which can make life for dissenters very unpleasant.

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    4. Hey Rav, didn't you know that it's super cool to hate things? It makes you edgy and that means people like you more.
      3Edgy5Me

      Of course, this coming from a guy who took a dump on Overwatch, then bought it day one. I'm such a turd.

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    5. Oh, I know, but I don't *want* to be cool and I'm making an effort. I predict that, in 10 years, it will be cool not to be cool and then I can sit back and say "Hey, *I* already wasn't cool back when it wasn't cool to not be cool! Rekt." Because, you know, that totally wouldn't be hating on things. :P

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