Longtime BioWare employee James Ohlen left the company recently, reminiscing about his time there in an interview today with Game Informer. For the most part, he reflects positively on his time with BioWare and the games he and his colleagues worked on, but has one notable regret regarding the biggest project he worked on, Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Ohlen stated that he wished he would have pushed SWTOR “a little bit more toward making it kind of Knights of The Republic online rather than ‘Star Wars World of Warcraft,'” citing player feedback. He still says he’s proud of what SWTOR became and, in the very next section, said he had “no regrets” regarding SWTOR. So, he has regrets and no regrets.
Also, earlier in the interview, Ohlen said that BioWare is good at taking risks and trying different things. While he mentions Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Neverwinter Nights as positive examples in that trend, he also brings up SWTOR, which he describes as “quite a bit different when it came out in 2011.” True, it had probably more conversations and voice lines than any other MMORPG of its day, but the gameplay was — as Ohlen admits — right out of WoW’s playbook. Ohlen also thinks Anthem will be “something different,” so take that for what you will.
If I’m reading between the lines of all this, I’d say that Ohlen was displeased with the direction that SWTOR took, but a) couldn’t do anything about it in development, because his bosses demanded a duplicate of WoW, and all the money that would come with it; and b) he’s well-mannered enough not to directly say that — apart from the one comment — and goes out of his way to say everywhere else that SWTOR was just fine. It’s OK, James, we hear you. Blink three times if you’re being coerced.
Finally, Ohlen compares SWTOR to the Titanic, saying:
“Working on the development of Star Wars: The Old Republic, I was the game director, which meant I had the most power, but I often felt like I was the captain of the Titanic and I could just steer it a teeny tiny bit if I put all my efforts into it.”
Like, he literally could have picked any large ship, and that’s the one he chose. Sometimes, the jokes write themselves.