I played World of Warcraft for about five and a half years. I started about a month before The Burning Crusade came out and quit shortly after Cataclysm. I've been playing Star Wars: the Old Republic MMO since early access, roughly five days ago.
Here is my obligatory comparison post, brought on by the idiots that sadly populate the WoW forums.
World of Warcraft
There was a time when World of Warcraft felt like a great game. The Burning Crusade offered gripping storylines and a raid that remains one of my favorites (Karazhan) to this day. This still gives me chills and likely always will. At Blizzcon '09, while I was standing in line to beta Cataclysm, this played on the giant screen right over my head. I won't ever forget that moment.
I ran a heavy roleplay guild that raided on the side. That guild lasted the entire time I was in WoW, crossed several servers, and went through more than one shake up where people quit/joined. I am still proud of what we did. Despite being a bunch of roleplayers we managed to clear a decent amount of content and ran some truly epic and long ranging stories.
But I started to notice around Cata that the roleplay was what really made me stick to the game, and the roleplay was largely my creation and the creation of those guild mates who participated in my storylines. We discarded quite a bit of official lore because, frankly, it's largely awful. There are a couple of contributors to the canon who have never grown as storytellers, and often times too many cooks in the kitchen, and it more than shows. The emotional tone is uneven and often rings false, and while I thought both the Worgen and Goblin starting areas had flashes of brilliance, it was too little too late as far as I was concerned.
The other problem I had with WoW was that you basically had to rely on a huge group of other people to get anything done. If you want to raid (which I do) you pretty much had to pull in strangers to fill out your group unless your guild focused only on raiding and nothing else, and attracted members on that basis. This more than anything is what killed WoW for me. You try running with a bunch of people for months only to have them drop your raid and leave you high and dry, when you're more than half done and have put a ridiculous amount of work in to getting there.
So, it all left a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth. At the same time I mourned the loss because WoW had been, at one time, incredibly important to me. It kept me grounded through very difficult times in my life and introduced me to several friends I still have to this day. It helped form the basis for a lot of my fiction since I often tested out the base elements of plots on my players before polishing them up for a book.
Basically, I wanted to fall in love with an MMO again.
SWTOR is that MMO. (visual issues re: the UI aside)
WoW and its issues
One thing that always annoyed the piss out of me about WoW is that it clearly did not care for its RPers. Blizz fell all over themselves to stroke PVPer peen, followed by raiders, and left the RPers in the dust. Decisions were often made, story wise, solely from a class balance stand point and then shoe horned clumsily in to the lore if they bothered at all. It messes with immersion at a certain point and makes it hard for people to engage with the game, even on RP servers.
Every. Single. Quest. in WoW goes like this: Bring me six wolf pelts. Great, now bring me six dire wolf teeth. Repeat. Repeat. Okay, maybe not every last quest but believe me, it sure feels like it after awhile. Slog through the text pop up only to be told that for some reason, they need you to go fetch seven vials of kobold urine or whatever. Do you know what that is? A fucking grind. Take in to consideration that you must also locate the quest giver for this pointless murdering/gathering, but you must then return to him to present your trinkets. This doesn't sound like much but if you're doing twenty, thirty quests in a play session that time adds up.
Then there's the daily quest. Do the EXACT SAME grindy bullshit every day. And if you want to raid? This is not optional. The curve in Cata was so steep you had to farm emblems in order to even get in to some heroics, let alone raids. BAD. NO BISCUIT. The grind is one of the worst parts and the Skinner Box might captivate for awhile but eventually you just want to kill yourself and everyone around you. If I wanted unending tedium I'd work in an office. And they'd pay me. I wouldn't pay them fifteen dollars a month for the privilege.
SWTOR and why it's awesome
IT IS AN RPG MMO. Full stop. The end. In a way that says it all for me. Bioware is also responsible for Dragon Age, by the way, and I think that is a nearly perfect RPG experience. I had tentative hopes because of that performance and Bioware brought the things that really worked from their single player titles to this MMO effort. For example, everything is voiced. This alone is incredible. It immerses a player like never before. There's no stupid parchment pop up to read. There are also missions where your group can play together, and every character is given an opportunity to respond to NPC prompts. For me that immediately made me bond with the other characters. Brilliant.
There's a story. It's not about grinding your way to raid level as quickly as fucking possible. I am so sick of people taking MMOs too seriously. By that I don't mean, please show up to my raid unprepared because YOU'RE JUST HAVING FUN, GOD STOP BEING SO MEAN or, please come act like a dickwad and make us all waste our time because IT'S JUST A GAME, U GUYZ. But I do mean that maybe there are reasons to play an MMO other than throwing the KEWLEST LIGHTNINGZ. People on the WoW forums were complaining that leveling is slow, and what they're really saying is HOW WILL I MEASURE MY VIRTUAL DICK WITH YOURS IF I CAN'T RIDE THE PURPLE TRAIN AND OUTFIT MYSELF IN EPICS IMMEDIATELY.
Now me, I played for the first ten levels at least without even looking at my level bar. I was completely engrossed. It was so enjoyable I lost a whole day to it. It reminded me of how I would sit down to play DA:O, intending to play for an hour or two, and I'd actually play for eleven hours, easy. I can't tell you how much I have been enjoying an MMO that doesn't constantly make me feel inferior for not going on a joyless grind like it's a job for days at a time. The choices your character makes matter to the story. It's great, okay? It's great.
My only complaint thus far is that stuns last an absurdly long time. I won't mention the little bugs here and there because at this point they're totally allowed to have some kinks they've yet to iron out. The only other annoyance is that they've made lightsaber crystals so dependent on faction that if you get Light side points as a Sith you lose your weapon. That's silly to me.
I hope to god Bioware sticks to what it's genius at and keeps the MMO going forward in this fashion. The second they start trying to cater to PVPers and number monkeys, it's doomed.