There's been some really interesting discussions from some of the Star Wars: The Old Republic developers this week.
First of all, Damion Schubert, the principal lead systems designer on the game gave a lecture to the Games Developers Conference Online. This is a trade conference and the talk was aimed at other game designers. The title of the talk was "How Online Gaming Has Adopted The Grind".
Askajedi.com have a good summary of the lecture, and if you are really interested you can grab Damion's presentation slides from his blog here. As a pretty casual player myself nowadays I am quite averse to the grind, but it's something that all MMOs seem to have to some extent, even the very latest AAA titles. Case in point was a recent quest I did in Age of Conan that required me to kill 300 Nemedians. *yawn!*
Schubert's comments and ideas do give me hope that SW:TOR will minimise the grind, but provide it in out of the way areas for those players who really enjoy that kind of achievement. Part of the problem of course is that it's a matter of perception as to what becomes a grind. "To players that want to raid, the level game is a grind. To those who don’t care about raiding, leveling IS the game". To me personally, I count the grind as anything I have to repeat ad infinitum in order to get something I really want. I don't mind repeating things a couple of times, but more than that and the game stops being a game and starts resembling work.
I'm hoping that TOR will give us a game that is challenging without relying on grind content in order to offer that challenge.
The next post of interest with regards to TOR was made on the official forums by Daniel Erickson, the lead writer for the game. He outlines in some detail the major types of quest in the game, and confirms that the vast majority of a characters main storyline quest can be done in multiplayer groups if you prefer. I found the following segment particularly interesting.
"Now here's the fun part. Our multiplayer content has lines, choices and content that is specific to each class and content that is only there if you're in a group. Did the Jedi Consular really just convince the Sith boss to stand down and not fight us? Did the Bounty Hunter really just shake down the Moff for more money? Did the Smuggler just leave the group with that attractive quest giver? Um...are they coming back? It's fun to replay the game and see all the different content but it's also a blast to play with friends and be completely surprised by what they say. Often you'll find yourself saying "Okay, that clearly was not one of my dialogue options!"
I love this idea! The fact that the second time you run a quest it might be different to the first just because you have a different class make up in the group. Has this kind of thing been attempted before to this level? Maybe, but I'm not aware of it.
On a completely unrelated note, a bit of initially exciting news it that I've been allocated a Rift beta key. It became less exciting when I learned that this doesn't mean I have been accepted for the beta, just that I'm eligible. Oh well, fingers crossed anyway!
To finish off for now, just a quick message to Codemasters - PULL YOUR FINGERS OUT!!! Lord of the Rings Online was supposed to become free-to-play at the start of September. Almost six weeks on and there is still no news as to when it will happen. The US has been ftp for weeks now and almost all the feedback has been great (servers are very busy again, they have more than doubled their revenue, etc). If Codies take much longer I may give up on the game altogether.