It's been a tough year for MMO studios so far. 38 Studios and Big Huge Games laid off their entire staff recently after the Kingdoms of Amalur and Copernicus developer found themselves in financial trouble. Shortly prior to that, Bioware announced layoffs at their Star Wars: The Old Republic studio in Austin . I asked TOR associate lead designer Emmanuel Lusinchi how the lay-offs had affected the studio, and what impact they would have on TOR's development.
"The MMO is the toughest part of the game industry without a doubt and we live in tough economic times in general," he said. "So that's very unfortunate, and on a personal level it's quite difficult to to have people that you've been working with for a long time that you know personally, you go to their barbecue and you meet their families and it's never easy. I doubt it'd be easy in any industry for anyone, but it happens."
"We have a very large development team still, definitely one of the biggest in the industry, and we have a very complete and detailed plan for the rest of the year. The players don't really care about all that, behind closed curtains, but they want what they're paying for which is a service with new content, new systems, that's what they're asking for and we listen to them. That's what we mean to deliver."
Update 1.3 is on the way. It's set to deliver a number of updates that fans have been asking for, including group finding tools and server transfer support. The previous updates have added new flashpoints, raids and an unexpected Rakghoul plague . How does Lusinchi think the first six months has gone for TOR?
"I think we did a good job of listening to the players and delivering some of the features they wanted with a quick turnaround," he said. "Of course, from a player perspective it's always going to take too long but the game has changed quite a lot in the last six months if you think about it. We're learning about ways to schedule things better to have more room for feedback from players during the testing phase on the public servers, to make it much easier for players to get onto the public servers in the first place."
"I think we did good. I think the game is really fun. We have subscription numbers that many of our competitors will envy, maybe not all the competitors, but we're doing good. When I look at what is in the plan, in the prototype I get to play every day, some of those things are truly spectacular. Well, I think so. The players will judge!"