Now that the NDA is lifted I might as well post this here. I put this in a PM to someone when they asked me my opinion on TOR. They suggested that I post it, it was on a leak site, but I thought it would probably just stir up the fanbois and haters. Well, now that we can I might as well post my thoughts in one of my favorite haunts.
My opinion on TOR? Well, I guess it goes back to an interview a couple of years ago. I think it was with Daniel and he mentioned something which has stuck with me. He said they were putting the RPG back into MMORPG. They wanted to bring back the feeling of being kids sitting around the kitchen table playing D&D, something along those lines. Considering that my main attraction to MMORPG's is the MMO part, that statement didn't sit to well with me. I've always had this nagging feeling that putting the RPG back in MMORPG might result in taking out to much MMO.
There is another line I recall from a tester but I don't recall exactly who it was, it was along the lines of, "The Old Republic is the best single-player MMORPG ever made." If you compare TOR to another MMORPG like WoW, they line up pretty well. Each has solo quests, talent trees, group quests, battlegrounds, dungeons, quest hubs, raids, etc, etc, etc... However TOR does not "feel," as much, like an MMO to me. Last weekend, for me, TOR "felt" like post-Cataclysm WoW, not WoW's first year.
I know people getting in each others way is a common complaint about MMORPG's. I think it was an interview with Blaine a year or two ago where he, unprompted, addressed that complaint by saying they may rely more on instancing than people are used too. Well, while those crowds can be a pain, they are also a significant part of what makes an MMO feel like its a massively multiplayer online experience. Something, in my opinion, that is now largely missing from "phasing" friendly post-Cataclysm WoW and was mostly absent from last weekend's Beta event.
Now I did encounter other players while out and about. Yet the, for lack of a better word, "feel" was different. That feeling of something missing went beyond just the "MMO" part and was also part of the zones themselves. My favorite zone in early WoW was The Barrens. The reason it was my favorite was because it was the zone that felt most "alive" to me. Lots of wildlife that mostly seemed uninterested in me. I got a little of that feeling from Balmorral but not much. None of that feeling from Korriban or Dromund Kaas. I noticed its absence.
I understand why the zones are not as populated with neutral wildlife as I would like them to be. I understand the leveling curves, processing needs, framerate issues, etc, etc... Facts rarely change feelings. I even think I might understand why TOR feels "lonelier." Companions. Apologies for drawing on the WoW analogies again, but it is one of the most widely known frames of reference. Hunters in WoW were frequently reviled and the subject of derision. I recall them frequently being thought of as a "solo" class. I couldn't hope to count the number of times I read a Hunter claim "my pet can tank."
With a pet the possibly subconscious desire to group, "strength in numbers," is significantly undermined. Well in TOR, after the first few hours of content, every class is a "pet" class. Not only is every class a pet class, but they can even cover healing roles as well. Why bother even attempting to be social when you have a faithful interactive follower that, depending on Companion, can dps, tank, or even heal. The classic "trinity" of MMORPG's available... solo.
Now I should point out that I did have more fun than I expected to. As I've said before, in my opinion, TOR is WoW with Lightsabers and that "with Lightsabers" part adds more than most might expect. However, I soon discovered that TOR was missing the "feel" of an MMORPG. At least the "feel" that I was looking for. Unless that feeling was just missing because of the conditions of the event, it will affect how long I keep paying to keep playing this game.
Of course TOR may still be wildly successful. Maybe this is the kind of game the market actually wants now. Though Cataclysm's failure to significantly expand WoW's subscription base isn't a favorable sign. Whether TOR ends up "hot" or "flop" I suspect my subscription will not last more than a couple of months. Though that is an improvement since, before the event, I didn't expect to be playing TOR passed the first thirty days.
Apologies for the length but its a question that deserves an in depth answer.
By the by, I should also note that I only got to the fourth planet by the time the event ended. It very well might get better later on.