Darth Chauncey Gardener.SW:ToR is a cipher onto which more than a few people are projecting their hopes for a post-WoW MMO marketplace. Bioware’s Blizzard-esque closed-mouthedness about the game allows people to pin their expectations on the game because so little concrete gameplay information is out there.

Reading the SW:ToR forums is a hoot. Galaxies veterans hope the game is a return to open-ended, crafter-friendly community-building. Hardcore raiders want the game to out-poopsock WoW; nonraiders want the game to be less raidy than WoW. Both sides argue in a state of blissful ignorance of any details of the max-level game. Some PvP veterans want it to be Eve with lightsabers. Holy Trinity? Yes? No? Both?

What am I getting at?

Without details about max-level play — about which we have near-zero information — it’s simply impossible to evaluate SW:ToR as an MMO, rather than as as one developer called it, a set of stand-alone KOTOR sequels. Given the emphasis on henchmen and presumed phasing/instancing, the leveling experience is virtually guaranteed to be soloable from start to max level. We haven’t heard anything at all about the elements of massive games that fundamentally make them massive — crafting, pve raid content, pvp, exploration, guild-building — except for developers busting out the old Prego slogan.

It’s a savvy marketing move, I guess. But in the end, Bioware is allowing people to believe things about its game that it knows aren’t true because there’s no upside in disabusing people of false hopes. It’s certainly a savvier move than past MMO developers have made, by actively hyping expectations or by overpromising and underdelivering.

Bioware says it’s gonna be revealing more at some conventions / industry gatherings in the coming weeks. That’s good. At some point, expectations have to come back down to earth. At some point, Bioware has to paint a clear picture of what this game expects out of players after the leveling dust clears and the max-level MMO content begins.

And at some point, SW:ToR stops being a cipher and starts being a game.