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Galaxy of Heroes and MMO Game Design

This week’s morning maintenance gave me time to investigate Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, a mobile game that lets you assemble squads of your favorite Star Wars characters for turn-based combat.

Well, maybe not your favorite characters, unless you spend a lot of time and money. But characters! That have appeared in at least one star war!

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It’s also an Electronic Arts property, so those characters include an HK droid, a Jedi Consular, and a Jedi Guardian (the latter terms have of course been used in other Star Wars properties, but largely defined by The Old Republic).

This is not a full review, but more thoughts on the direction of massively multiplayer gaming sparked by the game…

I jumped into the light side battles immediately upon finishing the tutorial, and shortly had the feeling of hitting a wall. That was when I realized how much of the gameplay revolves around upgrading your characters between battles. Even on your first day, you need to repeat content to progress.

Since a large part of day-to-day playing in The Old Republic currently consists of repeating heroic missions, which were already recycled content when they were made a major endgame focus of the Odessan alliance in October, I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before MMORPGs adopt mobile game strategies:

The repetition is Galaxy of Heroes is not as tedious as it could be, because the grinding is automated. You can let your characters fight a battle automatically, and once you’ve beaten an encounter with a three star rating, you can automatically complete the fight with a “sim ticket” and get the loot instantly. Would you use such an item in The Old Republic if you could instantly complete a weekly heroic mission? It’s an interesting question to me, because like many MMORPG players I feel that there’s real-world virtue in perseverance, and that’s why I feel satisfaction after completing a major grind. And yet, if the result of the encounter is a foregone conclusion and all I’m getting out of it is loot, can I defend going through the motions of combat as a good game?

The second major way that MMORPGs could imitate mobile games is by limiting your activities with some sort of refillable energy, in order to slow players and to drive microtransactions to refill the bar.  What if you could buy another item to reset your weekly heroic missions or operations lockouts early?

I wouldn’t argue for either change — most mobile game designs are more coercive than immersive, and I also like that The Old Republic’s purchases don’t give a gameplay advantage — but as part of an MMORPG that’s owned by the same company, I wonder what the future holds.

 

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