BioWare Not Learning Lessons

Publicly announcing metrics that are easily tracked and can be assumed to denote success or failure… isn’t that kind of how we got here in the first place, with the second most popular subscription MMO in the US/EU being hailed as a failure as it tries to change its fortunes by going free to play?

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So color me mildly disappointed that some lessons remain unlearned as BioWare publicly commits to a major update to Star Wars: The Old Republic every six weeks.

“Well we’re committed to about every six weeks, doing a major update for the game — which would be a new warzone, a new operation, a new flashpoint, a new event — and to doing that on a really frequent cadence, every six weeks. So we’re going to stick to that”

Matt Bromberg, BioWare General Manager

Well, he did say “about” every six weeks.

And I suppose the things he mentions are self-contained enough.

But still, six weeks down the road, nobody is going to remember “about” or “frequent cadence,” they will only be looking at the calendar and saying, “Where is it?”  And if it isn’t there… well, we are back to Failsville, Arizona man.

Not that it cannot be done.  Look at what Trion has done with Rift.

But can BioWare, with its staff reduced and in the midst of a transition to free to play even begin to track to a six week tempo for “major” content updates?  Their track record so far doesn’t support this sort of pace.  Then again, without this sort of pace, they probably won’t succeed.  And I am sure they know it.  I suppose we shall see.

In the mean time, does this spell the end of the fully voices fourth pillar in SWTOR?  Is story dead?

11 thoughts on “BioWare Not Learning Lessons

  1. Dril

    I’m becoming more and more irate every time a press release abuses the word cadence. Seriously, unless this is some sort of highly involved analysis of the use of language, music and how they relate to eachother (ooh, your sentence was plagal?) what’s wrong with actually using the word “interval” or any synonym (incidentally, intervals are also a musical term, but they actually somewhat resemble the idea being presented).

    Unless, of course, all software developers describe their work rate in terms of RPM (which I find unlikely).


  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @HZ – It is just their post-launch track record that seems to argue against the case.

    @Dril – The closest I have seen to cadence is the “train leaving the station” release plan, where you have set dates for drops and if a feature doesn’t make it, it waits for the next train.

    And for complex enterprise systems, that works about as well as it did for Mussolini, at least in my personal experience.


  3. spinks

    My guess is that they have a few updates to the game that are pretty much ready to go and just decided to release them on this one per 6 week schedule rather than when they were ready.

    For example, they have been talking about a new companion (HK-51) for ages now, I don’t believe that quest isn’t ready to go. Also they had been talking about a new raid and flashpoints. Each of those could count as an update individually.

    The schedule wont’ last forever, but long enough for them to point to it.


  4. Feliz

    I can’t find fault in the attempt to commit to a certain service level. It’s something a well run business does. Of course, if it’s only hot air, it’s their fault, but if it becomes visible to the customers that they are willing to stand by their commitments, all the power to them.

    It’s certainly better than statements like “we will release bugfixes, upgrades and free content from time to time”. The 800 pound gorilla might get away with it, but a maturing industry and maturing players don’t have to keep up with it.


  5. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Feliz – Certainly, if they make it, they win. They just have to keep up that pace for a while to declare victory on that front. And they could really use a victory.

    My point was that they have said a lot of things up to this point that haven’t really come to pass. A lot of people might hesitate to lay out another easily tracked metric at that point. Another example of BioWare falling flat would… not be good.

    But maybe, as Spinks noted, they have the updates already in their pocket. They certainly haven’t been rushing updates out the door up to this point.


  6. P@tsh@t

    I didn’t get where I am today not recognizing the commitment to an easily verifiable metric of failure. Neither I nor Mrs P got where we are today not recognizing failure in the making.

    If they are actually able to meet these goals then I say “super.”


  7. Aufero

    So… they’re going to update stuff I don’t care about every six weeks? Well done.

    Hey Bioware, ever figure out that most of your players were in it for the story, (You know, the “fourth pillar” you talked up for a year in advance to try to drum up excitement for the game) not the generic MMO endgame? Think maybe that’s why so many of them quit shortly after making it to max level?

    Apparently not.


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