Thoughts on Star Wars: The Old Republic and Why We Quit

When SWTOR announced free-to-play this week, several sites used the phrase “hemorrhaging subscribers” to describe the huge decrease in subscriptions from launch until now. A lot of people are walking away, myself and my husband, Ultraking (UK for short) included.

As much as we’d like to sum it up with a blanket statement and say “Everyone’s quitting because of X,” that’s just not reality. Everyone is going to have their own reason for leaving, and while we’re likely to see trends, nailing down a definitive answer is, in my opinion, highly unlikely.

Recently, UK and I were discussing (again) why, exactly, we’re letting our SWTOR subscriptions run out. There was the overarching answer that we “just don’t enjoy it anymore,” but that’s a simple and incomplete. We got to talking about what exactly that means for each of us. We talked about things our friends have said, comments made on Twitter this week, things happening with our guild, and I think at the end of it, we have a pretty good idea of an actual answer.

The Expectation

The first reason isn’t actually anyone’s fault. The fact is, people had a lot of expectations for this game. It had one of the biggest, longest-lasting fandoms attached, before fandom came with Tumblr memes and Twitter lists. You attach “Star Wars” to something, and people suddenly get excited.

Star Wars Cosplay

It’s understandable, isn’t it? Most of us love Star Wars on some level. Fans get instantly nostalgic thinking about it, and it’s not uncommon in any fan group to want to escape into that every once in a while. Some do it through books, others through websites. Some RP, and others–well, we play video games. People have very clear ideas about what the Star Wars universe actually is (although they don’t always match up), and the idea of an MMO–as close as you can virtually get to being a part of Star Wars–well, that’s exciting.

SWTOR Hype

The game was hyped a lot. I don’t think it’s Bioware’s fault for hyping the game any more than I think it’s the players’ fault for having high expectations. Some people are pleased with the game the way it is. Some aren’t. It just is what it is, and that’s okay.

The problem is, when you have high expectations, it’s much easier to be disappointed. I think in the case of a lot of people (UK included), the expectations pinned to the enjoyment of this game went well above and beyond what was actually presented. If you have this idea in your head of what Star Wars should look like and sound like and act like and then it isn’t that, you’re bound to be put off by it.

Reason #1: The game didn’t meet our expectations.

The Experience

The game from levels 1-50 was incredible. I loved the immersion, I loved the story of my sniper. Without giving out spoilers, they took me by surprise a couple of times, and I felt like I was playing out a story in a book. It was awesome.

Sniper Ambera Mist

Then I hit level 50, and my story stopped. Really, it just stopped. The identity I’d sort of built for my character over the 50 levels no longer applied. It felt aimless, but I was excited to start level 50 Flashpoints and Warzones and Operations, so I shrugged and went on.

Not ever at any point after that did I feel like I was playing an agent. I was a sniper, yes, but I wasn’t an agent. Not really. I wasn’t special for being a sniper, I was just another dps.

Normally, this wouldn’t matter. If you look at WoW and most MMOs I’ve played, class quests are slim-to-none, especially at level cap. However, SWTOR put so much storytelling into the leveling process that I grew invested in the character of my sniper, and not having anything else after she hit 50 to carry on the story even a little bit left me feeling lost.

My husband had a bit to say on this, as well. He absolutely loved the Bounty Hunter storyline. The Great Hunt was awesome, and he really felt like a bounty hunter through the entire process. He was hoping maybe they’d have some quests at 50 that would be random bounties he could go collect, but there was nothing. He hit 50, and just like me, he felt like he wasn’t Ultraking, Grand Champion of the Great Hunt anymore, but just Ultraking the DPS and Offtank.

Ambera and UK

On top of that, once we capped out some of our companions, they became boring. I married Vector, and he still greeted me like an agent. I realize there are limits, but I wanted there to be some recognition that my story had happened. I got two letters from him, I think, and then our marriage fizzled, apparently.

Reason #2: The experience felt incomplete at the level cap.

The Epic


All right, this is a completely nebulous concept. I’ve heard it said a lot, but each person who says it tends to mean something slightly different. “It doesn’t feel epic.” “It lost its epic.” “I remember when this used to be epic.”

I can only explain what “epic” means to me, and why I felt it was lacking in SWTOR.

It took a Twitter conversation and the full conversation with my husband to pin down exactly what my definition of “epic” is. What am I looking for; what quality is it that makes me say, “Whoa, this feels epic,” or “Eh, it’s missing the epicness”?

For me, it comes down to one concept: Epic is being part of something bigger than myself.

I’ve told this story before, but one more time in context: Six years ago, I had been dating my now husband for about 3 or 4 months. I visited him every weekend. Then one week, I had the whole week off of work, so I stayed around for an extra few days. Monday was one of his raid nights, and he asked if I minded if he played. I didn’t.

I sat there and watched him in Molten Core for a long time. He explained about DPS and tanks and healers. How the tank had to keep the boss from attacking everyone else, how the healers kept everyone alive, and how it was the DPS’s job to kill the boss. He showed me how he had to decurse; he explained Baron Geddon’s bomb.

I marveled at how 40 people could team up and do things in such a precise way to win a battle. It amazed me. Before the week was over, he asked me if I wanted to give it a try. He had no idea that I would get as into it as I did.

Leveling was epic for me. I had never played an MMO. The world felt huge, and I felt so little within it. As I played through the quests (and yes, I read them all), I got caught up in the stories. I felt like I was a small part in a big story, and I loved it.

As soon as I hit Outland, I wanted to raid. More than anything, that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a part of that experience; part of that teamwork, that fight that required us to work together to win.

I wanted to be part of these stories–Karazhan, Gruul, Magtheridon, Hyjal, Black Temple…I had experienced pieces of these stories all the way through the game. They all fit into a story arc I could follow from one point to the next. I could connect dots, see where the things I experienced in Hellfire and Shadowmoon and Netherstorm built up to these moments. I felt like I had worked my way up to these fights.

Illidan Raid

This–this quality–is what was ultimately the dealbreaker for me and SWTOR. Once I hit level 50, I wanted to feel that rush. I wanted all the pieces to fit together. I wanted to feel like I was part of something bigger, and I never did.

Flashpoints and Operations seemed like localized mini-stories for the most part. I couldn’t see a clear correlation between the battle in Corellia or my experience on Voss and killing Soa. I didn’t even know he was the end boss the first time I did the instance. In fact, the first time someone said “Soa” in vent, I checked my ops frames to see who Soa was.

Whether this is what kept me from feeling like a part of something bigger, or some combination of factors, or something completely different, that’s ultimately what I missed: I never felt like I was part of something bigger than myself.

I still feel that way in WoW. I still feel like killing Deathwing is a big deal. I feel like I matter. I feel like my guild and I team up every week and make something of a miracle as we wipe the floor mob after mob, boss after boss. I still get a rush when we kill a boss we’ve been struggling with.

Archimonde Kill

I found and continue to find my epic in WoW. I didn’t find it in SWTOR, unfortunately.

Reason #3: SWTOR didn’t have The Epic.

Related PSA

Of course, these are my reasons for leaving. Well, mine and my husband’s, kind of mashed together. I’m sure everyone has a reason they left, and still others may find their epic in SWTOR and feel completely indifferent about Warcraft.

As an aside and an ending to this, let me /soapbox for just a second: everyone plays games for their own reasons. Just because someone likes a game you don’t like or hates the game you love doesn’t make either one of you wrong. It just makes you different.

Different is good. Live and let live; play and let play.

Search for your epic. Chi Cerca Trova–seek and you will find.

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30 Comments

Filed under Experiences

30 responses to “Thoughts on Star Wars: The Old Republic and Why We Quit

  1. Kayeri/Kaylen

    Nice post! I sill play and still enjoy it. Haven’t done the ops or anything and don’t even FP much or pvp a lot. But I still have characters to play and stories to explore. I have no doubt my hubby and I will explore Pandaria at some point, just not sure when. Our retirement from raiding was just such a wonderful freedom, I don’t want to give that up for anything. At least not yet. Your point about the stories continuing is valid, but my only back ‘atcha is that nothing is instant in MMO’s. It all takes time and I’ve enjoyed my stories enough that I’m willing to give Bioware the time to get more content in. But your suggestions about keeping your ‘identity’ is a valid one for Bioware to consider, perhaps even for just the Ops lead-in quests, even.

    • Yeah, the Ops lead-in quests came up in the convo with my husband, and I think that’d be very easy to implement. He suggested something like just changing the quest text to recognize your class. Something like, “This guy has been alluding us, Bounty Hunter, and we need you to bring him to us. Alive will not be an option, we want him dead” or “We need you to lead a team in and take out this assassination target, Agent.” You know, something to tie it back to who we are.

      I think for people who enjoyed rolling alts, it’s still a fabulous game. Again, the storytelling is so rich in the leveling process! But I wanted to do ops, and that meant spending most of my time on my level 50. I’m such an endgame-focused person that it just made it harder and harder to log in.

      My husband and I are hoping that there will be some kind of content boost that will entice us back, especially once it’s F2P. We already have the game, so if it’s free, we can at least hop in from time to time!

      • Kayeri/Kaylen

        There actually was some recognition of who I was on the lead-in quests on the Corellia dailies, as I recall, but I still agree with you on that.

  2. I kinda had a feeling SWTOR would unfold in such a way, but I was hoping my instincts were wrong and BioWare had something up its sleeve. It’s unfortunate that the flashpoints, warzones, and operations (the actual MMO elements) were, lore-wise, separate from the single-player elements. The other night, I got ninjavited to an Esseles group while running around on my trial account. It was fun, mind you, but it didn’t seem like it was terribly related to the other things I had been doing up to that point aside from, “Here’s another shuttle you can take to Coruscant if you want!”

    • Exactly! It felt like unrelated experiences for the most part, and that broke a lot of the enjoyment for me. I didn’t have any idea how things fit together, and I like when things fit together.

  3. Interesting commentary. Very interesting commentary. I say that, because it’s so rare to see someone lay out detailed and usable feedback in this fashion. (Side note: I have not played SWTOR, and will not. Why is a whole ‘nother story in itself. =))

    Let’s make no mistake either. Your feedback *is* interesting, detailed and useful as well. Already, a few points here have stoked my own thinking in relation to a few things. What really, really caught my eye was: you wanted to be a part of something bigger than yourself. The other big part was: they left you high and dry after the level cap.

    So, I am going to take both of those very thought out points, and bring them to some of my people, so as to try to avoid this with our game. =)

    • I think if more people REALLY thought about why they do or don’t like games and articulated that, we’d not only be helping developers know what things they should be considering, as players we’d actually know what we want. We would recognize when a game is likely to catch our interest and when it’s not.

      If I’ve helped at all, I’m very glad! Thank you! :-D

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  5. Zeldain

    Great article, especially on “The Epic” part! I think designers are far, far too caught up in the idea that players have to be THE hero and the story has to revolve AROUND them.

    Simply, in an MMO, we need to be a part of something LARGER than us. So while the TOR personal stories were great, there should have been something much bigger going on, a consistent narrative that brought us all together with purpose. It just wasn’t there.

    And I think as an MMO, that’s the biggest problem with the ga,e.

    • Durgan

      Not all MMO players need to be part of something larger. Some would rather be the hero. One of my problems with WoW is that we are the faceless ‘heroes’ that never get the ultimate credit for the big wins. NPCs do. That sucks, IMO. The problem I have with the TOR story is that you are important for your own story, but only a couple of class stories actually interact with the ‘main’ story.

      The biggest issue I have with TOR is gameplay. It feels old, having played WoW in Cataclysm. It feels like TOR was made to compete with BC or Wrath WoW, and, for the issues that exist in Cataclysm, the talent system feels better, and TOR’s feels archaic.

      • Zeldain

        I’d argue the very nature of an MMO implies that you’re on board with being a part of something, rather than that something revolving around you specifically. Single player games deliver a self-centric hero experience… MMOs can do more.

        In WoW, I always felt extremely heroic because my actions were tied to the story and lore… I was facing foes like Arthas and Deathwing that (growing up as a boy in Westfall, I always heard about) To fight along side Varian Wrynn or Thrall… that is the very definition of EPIC because their reputation and actions precede mine. I think that’s perfectly fine because it gives me and my friends a chance to be a part of the next big story in Azeroth, and it doesn’t have to be by name.

        I maintain this was one of the biggest flaws of TOR’s design – the idea that the personal story was a bigger focus than the world story. I just didn’t even feel like there was a world story. No one ever talks about it.

        TOR’s gameplay itself is the least of my complaints. I like it for the most part, though it’s still ridiculous with the lightsaber thing, having to swing 100 times before something dies.

      • The room for improvement here centers on the fact that there can be balance. The player-centered leveling process was FUN. I enjoyed the heck out of that. But if they had simultaneously connected it to a larger story in a way that made the story hard to ignore, then you get both: you feel like an individual hero who, in addition to triumphing in your own story, is actively engaged in a bigger story at the same time.

  6. CATS

    For me quitting SWToR was mainly that it couldn´t keep up with my expectations. Other factors where that patch 4.3 was still fresh in WoW and for me that was the best patch so far (raidfinder, Transmog). Also I should have stayed away from PVP in SWToR, the bugs and the fact that SWToR didn´t feel that different from WoW (while at the same time being inferior in some regards on purpose imho, like not having a dungeon finder and being forced to visit the Space station to get the PVP daily and then staying there to turn it in or return later, elite grp quests, light/dark interactions in groups, little things like that)

    Now i mostly play The Secred World, i had low expectations and got blown out, I love the world, it oozes what you describe as epic. All the little wheels that add to the bigger story lines. I can´t comment on the endgame, but there are monthly updates and even the beginning zones are kept relevant and updated with quests that add to the stories there. If you want to play an MMO besides WoW I can only recommend TSW, it just feels so different from WoW and SWToR, with SWToR and other MMOs I always fought, well I might just as well play WoW, but not so here.

    • You’re describing what I said at the end exactly: you found your epic! I love it. :-D I played a little bit of TSW on the weekend, and it was okay, but I think I’m invested in so many other things right now that it just wouldn’t pull me away. I’ll keep it in mind, though!

      The expectation issue is a big one, and I don’t have any idea how that could have been remedied. The fact is, people wanted something in particular (but everyone always wants something different), and many people felt like SWTOR didn’t give them what they wanted.

      • CATS

        Yeah, I really hoped there was some big Storyline going on in SWToR and that all the class stories play into it at some point as well as the Flashpoints and Raids, but I never got that far and from what you described this is missing.

        TSW isn´t for everyone, even though I am completely in love with the game I can see that. I play it pretty much like a solo game at the moment, I did no PVP and only the first Instance. Doing PV from the very beginning in SWToR was one of the things that killed the game for me, all the bugs, lags and imbalances in the beginning where too much.

        Also TSW is lacking endgamecontent at the moment, there is no raid (I think they will release one by the end of the month) and there are 8 Dungeons, other than that you have PVP, loads of redoable quests and World bosses where you need to farm puzzlepieces to summon them, that´s it.

        For me that´s enough, if they keep it up with the monthly updates there will always be something interesting for me. (and some investigation missions take me days to figure out damn it)

      • Lejames2

        i suppose then i am finding SWTOR so fun because i have so low expectation of MMOs since i felt like below nothing in WOW and the story did not interest me at all and several other MMOs had failed to interest me. Also with your Character being the Hero i half disagree, half agree at first while i was on Hutta as a BH i always talked to nem’ro like i respect him even when he nearly got me killed, but later on during the point where you have to collect the 3 bountys for the great hunt i did not care about doing stuff agaisn’t the empire because i learn that because of the story the empire honestly did not give a shit about anything i did. also i have to say there needed to be more about things other then your self, like the war that was upcoming which was suppose to be huge was not a very big part in your story (or atleast it hasnt been yet). So overall i would half agree half disagree.

  7. Pingback: Interesting post, about the loss of epic. | Double Cluepon Software: The Blog

  8. I would have to agree with most of your reasons and I think you’ve said it better than I could. Hubby and I did a six month sub, which is ending in a few days and we’re not reupping.

    I am, however, glad the game is going F2P because then if I get the urge to level an alt [which is all I did in SWTOR] then I can.

    • That’s what we were talking about, too. It’s nice that with F2P, we can hop in and check it out without feeling quite so committed. For some games, F2P is just the best option, and I think that’s the case here.

  9. You are clearly a terrible person and an awful blogger for not liking the same things I like. I will now hurl derogatory statements in your direction and end the assault with a vague assertion that you are not a ‘real gamer.’

    No but really, your points are pretty good. I can definitely feel the story point; I hit 50 on my Sniper as well and the story just screamed to a halt. It was rather jarring. The epic is there for me (operations definitely surpassed my expectations!) but I can’t really fault anyone for leaving the game right now. It’s just lost so much momentum. But the best part is that, if TOR ever tickles your fancy again you can play for free after November.

    Happy trails!

    PS – Did you send in your letter to Bioware detailing your customer service experience (with blog posts, notations, and emails)? OMG I’m so gonna hound you till you do!

    • I started writing it but haven’t finished it. I’ll get that done and let you know when I do, I promise!

      I’m glad someone else experienced the sniper thing. I couldn’t discuss it with my husband because he might still level one and doesn’t want spoilers, but MAN, the ending. I was disappointed. It wasn’t even an end, it was just an abrupt stop, like running full speed ahead and then hitting a brick wall. Anyway.

      We’ll probably hop in sometimes once it goes F2P. I like having options when I’m bored!

  10. Durgan

    @Zeldain,

    I understand the multiplayer aspect of an MMO, but for me, I want the ‘something bigger’ to be my guild, or, more specifically, my group of friends. It never feels to me like we’re important when Thrall or Tirion finish off the big bad. TOR isn’t successful at this either. But at least the personal story on the way to endgame has something to it, even if endgame doesn’t succeed at continuing it.

  11. Ano

    Great post! I enjoyed the personal stories in SWTOR. Once I hit 50 though and faced the endless grind of dailies/flashpoints/operations the game became far less interesting for me and my guild.

    For me an MMO survives at endgame by giving my guild lot’s of social activities, hobbies, and exploration of existing areas. Outside of personal stories SWTOR planets are extremely bland. I was also disappointed at the sheer number of “kill 40 foozles” quests. That smacks of laziness on the devs part.

    This is why I am looking forward to GW2. The whole game is endgame and the rich GW2 areas offer plenty for explorer-type players like myself.

    I would love to see the mechanics of GW2 applied to SWTOR. Dynamic content, vibrant areas, and no enforced grouping. I can’t see myself ever returning to SWTOR and sadly I doubt any in my guild will return either.

  12. Kedren

    Granted I haven’t hit 50 yet, but I’m not worried about not feeling like a Jedi at 50 because it takes a story to make you feel like that and you had to know at some point the story would stop until more content to further the story along was patched in.

    It’s just like the story that you follow in Lotro. If you read the books and know the lore, once you tackle the content, the story stops until they patch in more of it.

    the same goes for WoW. The under-lying story stops 24 hours after the content is patched in because that’s how long it takes before it gets beat once it gets beaten repeatedly on the test servers.

    I think Wow has sort of killed the MMO player in what they should expect because that game force feeds everyone generic content that has been rehashed over and over again.

    I think the saving grace for the MMO genre could be making the games difficult again. Bring back harsher death penalties. Bring back the need to actually group up to completely standard content. Make levely the longest, best part of the game to make people really choose what to play and not just give the the option to make 15 alts and have them all maxed leveled in a week once the game launches.

    for me, Swtor was losing its luster before 1.3, but once the server merges hit, the population on the servers became full and other small things were implemented (which should have been at launch) the game has finally found a fun spot for me.

    Sure, I am going to play GW2 at launch because it has the exploration and open world design I think Swtor is missing, but with both of them free to play, I just have more to keep me happy.

    • battlechicken

      I think you misunderstood my concern with the story. There is no additional class-related story, and there hasn’t been any in the last two patches. When you hit level 50, as you’ll see when you get there, your story as a Jedi ends. From that point, you’re still a Jedi, sure, but no one’s saying, “Hey, Jedi, please use your amazing light skillz (lol) to kill this arch nemesis Soa for us!” It’s more, “Yeah, so, go kill the bosses in here, dude.” I missed that continuation.

      The other problem is that there isn’t an overarching story. Do you know who Soa is? Do you know who Karagga is? Have you encountered either of them in your leveling story? I like for the stories to connect–to built up to the endgame.

      I’m not saying it’s right or wrong–lots of people are enjoying SWTOR just as it is; I’m just not one of them, and these are my reasons.

      LFG was a HUGE improvement, but by then, I was missing the story elements that made the game fun for me, so I didn’t have any motivation to keep going. My husband agrees wholeheartedly on the open world design–he’s looking forward to checking out GW2. I’m grateful that they’re both F2P (or will be soon). I don’t hate SWTOR, I just don’t see paying for a game I don’t enjoy playing very much.

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  14. Sums up my feelings exactly with Wow and SWTOR. Thanks for the post.

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  16. Lejames2

    im starting to think that sooner or later MMOs are all going to go FTP, WOW
    might survive for a while because of its huge fanbase but i bet with all the new FTP MMOs WOW might just die out.

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