We sat down with Afterlife's Tabin, Attreus, and Biny to discuss their history and what they think Star Wars: The Old Republic needs to succeed.
Please introduce yourself, and describe what your position is in the guild.
Tabin: I am Tabin, one of the founders of Afterlife and raid leader.
Attreus: I am Attreus. I have been with Afterlife for over 3 years. I help organize the setup and attendance for raids.
Biny: Im Biny. I have been in the guild since 2001. I am just a member.
Tabin: As far as a brief history goes, Afterlife formed about 11 years ago in Everquest. We started out with the big large world raids and no organization at all. So I got together with all the leaders from different friends guilds and cherry pick the best people from every guild. Thott, Hobbe, myself, and a few other people leader-wise came together as well as a bunch of other people, and we started raiding from there.
What caused you to move from Everquest to World of Warcraft? What made you want to make that big jump?
Biny: It happened during the Gates of Discord expansion. The final zone was instanced and was a copy of the progression zone. You had to do it over and over and it was all attunement based. Once you finally got there, the zone wasnt actually completed. Around the same time, the beta for World of Warcraft started and the entire guild received an invite for it, so then we switched over.
What criteria does Star Wars: The Old Republic need to have in order to consider making it the guilds core focus?
Tabin: Well, Afterlife has always been a raiding guild and number one would have to be a very solid raid game. It would have to be something along the lines of "better than World of Warcraft," which definitely set the bar very, very high for Star Wars: The Old Republic to compete with.
Biny: I would say that the top end gear available would have to stand out as a recognizable item. Like back in Everquest, the Fungal Tunic was the top item that you could get for that slot for most classes. You saw someone with it, and you wanted it. In WoW, you never really have an item like that; where you see it and think, "oh like, I get this from here." It is the best item available and it is very rare.
Since all the Star Wars: The Old Republic classes were revealed, which ones are you personally interested in playing?
Tabin: Personally, it would probably be one of the four force users -- either the two Sith or the two Jedi classes. The other classes seem rather bland to me. I am a healer, which is unfortunate because there isnt a dedicated healer class in Star Wars that I can see.
Attreus: I noticed that there wasn't a healer. I started out the same in World of Warcraft and converted into damage a couple of years later. Personally, I am interested in the Bounty Hunter and the Jedi Knight. Of course, those are the two classes that everyone who saw the Star Wars movies would love to check out. It is rare for me to want to play something on more than just one faction. Before World of Warcraft came out, I completely decided on being Alliance. But for this game, I want to check out something on each. So that is something new for me.
Biny: After reviewing all of them, I think I would be most interested in the Sith Warrior.
And why is that?
Biny: Just from the ability list that I saw. It seems more of a Star Wars-based class than the rest of the classes.
Each class in Star Wars: The Old Republic has a unique skill set and story. Will this affect your guilds view on playing TOR, since these classes are faction restricted? How do you reconcile this factor from a guild management perspective?
Tabin: Well probably do the same thing that we did when we came to World of Warcraft. Generally story and that sort of thing doesnt really mean that much if you play it with the intent of raiding from the start. So we will look at which side will have the highest percentage of people playing it, and then try to be on the side where we would have the easiest time recruiting people.
Attreus: The hard part is really for the developers keeping each side balanced with the other one.
Biny: Right, we would probably pick the faction that would help us accomplish it or accomplish our goal the most.
Now with your guilds history, you obviously saw many aspects of PvE raiding that you enjoyed and others you disliked. What are some raiding dislikes that you hope are not repeated in TOR?
Biny: Well, everything in Everquest leading up to Uqua -- which is the raid zone that we quit during --went the way that World of Warcraft is going now with a try-based progression system. Every time you wiped In Uqua, everyone that died spawned adds and that made you fail, so you had to start the whole zone over. In WoW, they started that with the Trial of the Crusader raid zone. You have a limited number of attempts on the heroic version. If you dont finish the zone with 50 attempts remaining, and you start with 50, then you dont get as good loot. The more random based stuff like that. "Oh, someones link went dead, so now you're going to fail for the week, and you dont get as good as loot because of it."
Tabin: I think the biggest thing that TOR can do is learn from other games and learn from themselves. One of my biggest dislikes with both Everquest and World of Warcraft is repetition of mistakes. They acknowledge that they make a mistake, and they still dont change them in future versions. Or they get short term memory where things crop up again a year later. So there is nothing specific that I would say, "I dont want to see." But the biggest thing for me is that they make sure they learn from their mistakes and move forward.
Attreus: I could go on for hours about this, but I will definitely keep it brief. The biggest like I would have to say is the instancing system. For the first couple of years of Everquest, that didnt exist and you could take as many people to an encounter as you wanted. While it worked at the time, it is definitely needed now for all MMOs because of just how many people play them today. But a major dislike of mine is something World of Warcraft did on a number of occasions: when they release only bits and pieces of raid content at a time. They will release maybe four bosses when it is a twelve boss dungeon. I personally believe that if you want to scale the difficulty up, then just release it all at one time. If people want to play through it very quickly and that is their play style, then they should really be allowed to do that. They really shouldnt be told that they have to wait, and they shouldnt be told how to play the game.
Many MMOs utilize the Trinity? system of tank/heal/dps in their approach to raiding. Do you feel that Star Wars: The Old Republic will need this to be successful?
Tabin: Well, I can definitely answer this one. I played many MMOs, probably about ten, and I raided in all of those MMOs as well. And I actually believe that the trinity system is needed. It adds quite a bit of balance, and I think that if they do not have a dedicated healer, it will certainly cause a lot of problems. The same with if they do not have a dedicated tank. As seems right now, everyone seems to be quite hybrid and leading towards DPS, which is fun to play while you are leveling up, but leads to very bland raids.
Attreus: And in addition to the trinity, you want some synergy between classes too. You want classes to complement each other. That makes it a lot more fun and interesting, and it definitely provokes a lot more thought from the raiders on how they are going to accomplish something.
Biny: It just depends on how they implement it. I cant really envision any sort of system that does not use that trinity system, where you need a tank, you need a healer, and you need a damage. You cant really have a tank that can heal himself because that defeats the purpose, and they could solo it. But at the same time, you could have a tank that could heal himself if you have the damage to kill it. But that still defeats the purpose of having a tank. You could have three tanks or five tanks or ten tanks that just sit around waiting for the first tank to die, and then take his place.
What level of guild functionality would you like to see included or improved upon in the Old Republic?
Tabin: I think they should take a look back at many different games, such as Everquest 2. World of Warcraft seems to be moving in that direction with their new expansion. Things like guild banks, being able to level up a guild, people investing time and effort in it. The biggest thing that I would like to see guild-wise would be the way that Everquest had a lot more guild loyalty. People had incentives to join a guild and put a lot of time and effort into it. It became their home.
Not necessarily in Afterlife, but I see in many other guilds that people are exceedingly transient and the level of commitment to guilds is very small. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that in World of Warcraft and in many games since, there hasn't really been an interdependence of people required to advance your character, and you can solo a lot of the way in. So I would like to see it where guilds are required to help you advance and you are required to help those other people advance, which leads to a sense of family, so on and so forth. It is kind of a nebulous thing; it isn't something that you can particularly code in, but that would be the biggest thing that I would like to see in guilds.
Attreus: Yeah, I personally agree with that. I would just like to see some small things pulled out of other games. Different things that may enhance that concept, like maybe guild housing and things like that. Tabin mentioned guild banks. Just small things to enhance that sense of a tight knit group, community, and people that accomplish something together.
Biny: I would like to see something that actually acknowledges the guild for accomplishments they completed. The Everquest 2 system kind of had that with broadcasting guild events that happened, and WoW kind of did that with Feats of Strength, and a server first kill of whatever. I would like to see some sort of, "you killed this. You accomplished this. Everybody knows you accomplished this." Back in Everquest, we defeated the Wrath Council, which at the time was non-killable. When we were actually doing it, there were invisible GMs watching the event happening, and the AE from the boss was killing them. And once we finally won, there was a lot of level 1s that logged on that sent us tells congratulating us for the event. Some sort of epic event that acknowledges you for who you are and lets you know that you are doing something that is important.
Anything you would like to add, concerns, hopes, etc. about the Old Republic?
Tabin: One thing that was mentioned to me, and I dont know how true it is, is that there wouldn't be any large bosses or pounding on one boss in Star Wars. That greatly concerns me because if you look at video games as a whole, the whole boss thing was introduced I think back 15 or 20 years ago, and it is a really good concept. I think that they need to have big epic bosses with big epic encounters and that they should look to World of Warcraft as a way to do things, at the way that fights are scripted.
It would be great if you could do something along the line of the movies, where you attack one of the AT-AT walkers or something. You have to do it as a guild, get in there, and fight the big guy at the end. If it is just fighting big masses of mobs and stuff, its not a lot of fun in my opinion. I did that in City of Heroes; the raiding was exceedingly poor and it didnt feel very epic. I think that they need to have big story villains or heroes for you to fight. It has to feel epic and not feel like you are just trudging through a million different endless mobs.
Attreus: One thing that I would like to see that could be in any MMO -- although I really havent felt it in a lot of the ones I played -- is when you reach max level in a game, there should be a way that people can really feel like they are advancing their characters. In World of Warcraft, there is basically nothing to do except for gear. They added in the achievements, but a lot of people have the very warranted gripe that they really dont enhance the power of your character. Put yourself in someone elses shoes: they are playing a character and they pretty much leveled to the maximum, so what can they still do to feel like they are enhancing their character? This will help the developers keep people playing, and not have people just come in and play a little bit this month, wait on new content, then play a month after that. Just keep people interested perpetually.
Biny: I hope that they can come up with a way to eliminate the whole trinity system and come up with a way that the raid content doesnt require it. The dungeon content, if they do dungeons, wont require to have a healer, to have a tank, and be able to get by some way without it.
Tabin: I think that is where someone can look at Everquest as a very good example. Something that has not been repeated since is Everquest's AA system -- that is actually phenomenal.
Thanks Attreus, Tabin, and Biny for giving us your time for this interview.
Tabin: It was a pleasure.
Attreus: Yep, thanks for the opportunity.
Biny: Yep, thank you too.