1. 1Alexander RoseConvergent MediaProfessor Schrier14 February 2011 Designing For The Audience: Star Wars: The Old Republic In order to study my audience, I decided to look at the two most used forms of communication in the game community, which were the two Star Wars: The Old Republic Forums, and the in-game chat in Star Wars: The Old Republic. I asked four main questions to both the forum group and in-game chat. My questions were:1. How has the success of Star Wars: The Old Republic affected your game so far? Have you felt that there are a great number of players around in the game while you are playing? Does having more people around while doing quests make it feel more or less authentic?2. Do you feel that having more people in the game makes for a better playing experience while questing?3. How has the outside community (places such as Forums, Guild Sites, and Fan Sites) affected your game play experience?4. How well has the questing experience lived up to your expectations of what the questing experience would be? To elicit responses from the game community, I decided to post a thread on theforum asking players those four questions, and I used their responses as a sample ofwhat the forum community felt up to that point in the game. Next, in order to obtain myresults from the in-game chat, I decided to take 12 players randomly from in-game, andasked them those four questions individually. One challenge that I had in taking this information was that when asking the playersin-game what they thought of the different mechanics of the game thus far, was that Ihad only asked people from one server. Then, realizing that this would not be anaccurate portrayal of the entire community, since there are different experiences ondifferent servers, I decided to take three people from four different servers; each of those
2. 2servers had different populations and different game styles. One server was playerversus player (PvP); one server was player versus environment (PvE); one server wasrole-playing (RP); the last one was role-playing player versus player (RPPvP). I did thisin order to obtain different opinions from not just one group of people, but fromindividuals with varied game playing styles, and different sized populations. I also hadto make sure that the people I spoke to in the game were not normal visitors of theforums. I had to do this to make sure that the two groups interacted with the gamedifferently, since the people I spoke to in the game could also be people that frequentedthe forums. These were the only major issues I had in obtaining and collecting my data. My findings were varied more than I thought they were going to be; the responsesI got from the community while in-game as opposed to the ones I got from the forumswere, in some cases, polar opposites of one another. For the first question, the in-gametest group felt overall that the success of the game had not really affected their gamingexperience in SWTOR. The majority of them felt that they still did not see many playersin game even though the population of the game had already reached nearly two millionsubscribers. Many of them felt that the game felt more like a single player game to themrather than an MMORPG, at least while questing. They felt that they had not been inmany situations where they needed aid from other players or even really saw otherplayers. They did not believe that the game was bad in itself, they just felt that therewere not many players around while they were playing. The answers I got from theforum users were a bit more mixed. More than half the forum users actually felt thattheir experience had been affected by the number of people who were playing. The halfthat agreed said that they found many more people out in the world while they werequesting. They saw players killing the same enemies they needed to kill and they askedfor help or helped those players out with whatever they were doing and worked together.The other half of the group said that they didn‟t actually see too many people, but theydidn‟t feel like the game was completely empty either. Everyone from both groups feltthat they enjoyed their experience regardless of the success that the game had alreadyhad had.
3. 3 Question number two also had very varied responses. In the in-game test group,most of the players felt that having more people in the game would not really affect theirexperience. They indicated that while having others play through quests with themmight add a different aspect to the experience, it would not fundamentally change theirexperience in the game. The players felt that they had the same feeling from playingwith a group of people as they did playing alone. If anything, they felt that playing alonewas better because this made their character seem more unique and as if he or she wasthe only hero in the universe of the game. The forum group felt that having more peoplein the game made for a more intriguing experience. They liked that the game hadenabled them tosee the affects of different players‟ responses in a certain situations. Thisadded a much more social experience to their game, one that nearly the entire forum testgroup agreed was beneficial to their individual experiences in the game. For question three, the in-game test group explained that none of them actuallyvisited other websites such as guild sites or fan made sites. Most of them were in smallguilds made up of friends they had in real life or they did not have a guild at all so theynever had the need to visit guild websites. Some of them explained that they visited sitesthat were item databases for the game, which allowed them to find information aboutspecific quests or items in the game, but they never actually went to any sites to enhancetheir in-game story experience. They used these database sites strictly to find weapons orto make money in the game; there was no outside social interaction. The forum grouponce again had a completely different response. The entire forum group had, and still do,visit guild specific websites that they use to enhance their social experience in the gameand they had visited some small fan made sites but the SWTOR website was still thebest website for players to use. I asked the forum group if they also used the databasewebsites that the in-game test group used, and they all said that they do but theythemselves frequently add information and comments to those sites, not just go to themto get more information about in-game items. The fourth and final question was the only question I had that I received nearlyunanimous responses to. Both the in-game test group and the forum group felt thatwhile there could be more quests available in the game, the questing experience had
4. 4lived up to what they were expecting of it, and in some cases it had even surpassedwhat they were expecting. All players felt that the questing mechanics in SWTOR madefor a completely unique experience unlike anything in other MMORPGs on the markettoday. None of them felt that the game was lacking in content relevant to questing, andtheir individual storylines. I thought the responses to these questions were intriguing. I noticed that thepeople who were part of my in-game test group were those whom I actually had to reachout to in order for them to take part in my test, as opposed to those in the forums whofreely posted their opinions in my forum thread. This, combined with the responses Ireceived to nearly all of my questions, made me realize that people who frequent theforums seem to be people who are more likely to interact openly with others, and arelooking for interaction with other players. I noticed that the people whom I had to findin-game kept much more to themselves and they were happy playing alone as if thegame was single player. Neither group felt that the game was bad when it came toquesting and they both felt satisfied with their game experiences. I found this odd sincethey both clearly enjoyed two very different ways of playing the game and had verydifferent views about how the game felt. To me, this meant that the game developers ofStar Wars: The Old Republic had done something fantastic. They had made it so that theuser could still feel satisfied with his or her experience while questing, even if he or shedecided he or she wanted to play alone or with a group, and there was no didn‟t sacrificeon either side to make one more exciting than the other. In SWTOR,the player can enjoy himself or herself while playing alone and neverfeel as if he or she ismissing out on something or he or she could play with a group ofpeople. These playersdo not feel as if they are missing out on something they could bedoing alone. They made the questing experience fun and exciting no matter how theydecide to experience it. The designers must have had this same concept in mind whenthey decided to have extensive forums available to players. While having forums for agame is a common thing today, this clearly was a good choice by the designers becauseit allows players who are looking for a more in-depth interaction with the game to have
5. 5that, and it does not prevent others who just want to play the game alone from enjoyingthe game by themselves. The design of questing in Star Wars: The Old Republic, as detailed in Designingthe User Interface, definitely seems made to “Cater to universal usability”(qtd. inShneiderman”49). The designers did not want the user to feel like there was one way ofplaying the game or that playing it alone was better than with a group of players or viceversa. They wanted users to have the freedom to choose what they wanted, and feel as ifthey were playing the game correctly and not missing out on anything. This showstremendous consideration for the audience during the design process. The designersknew that not everyone would enjoy the game the same way, and that players wouldwant to play the game their own way and not be impeded by rules of the game. Byallowing players to make their own choices in the game, they can choose to do thingswith a group of people or alone and never even feel remorse for not having done thingsdifferently, which is not usually seen in MMOs. It is apparent that every aspect of thequesting experience in SWTOR was designed with the audience in mind. Instead ofdesigning a game that would force the user to follow one strict narrative, they designedthe game so that users could have their own self-made narrative. In conclusion, I think a large part of what makes the questing of SWTOR sosuccessful and exciting for everyone is that no matter what you do the game flows reallywell and as Raph Koster says “When there‟s flow, players usually say afterward, “Thatwas a lot of fun… When the balance is really perfect, people often zone out”(2). What Ifound was that many players whom I spoke to said they did not even notice other playersor they did not feel like they were missing out on anything. Because they game flows sowell, no matter how you play it, you do not even notice the other aspects of the gamethat you take part in since it is so easy to be completely entranced by your ownexperience in the game. Designing the game this way is really why the SWTOR questsystem works so well.
6. 6 Works CitedCoster, Raph. “Book Excerpt „A Theory of Game Design – What Games Aren‟t.‟” Gamasutra.com. December 3, 2004. Web. p.2.Shneiderman, Ben. “Designing For Fun: How Can We Design User Interfaces to Be More Fun?” Interactions. September/October, 2004. Web. pp.48-50.