SWTOR Oddities Part 1

In our adventures around the galaxy we have come across a few… interesting things.  Below are a few of them.

Anyone else notice that, in the entire galaxy, no water passes your knees?  Imagine the disease from that much standing water.  Did the developers not want to code swimming?  What’s the deal with that?

We’re both bothered by the male sitting animation.  Not very Jedi, at least.

Graev: “Whatcha doin?”
Keen: “Nothin’.  Just thinkin’ bout Jedi stuff.”

Getting stuck sucks.  It’s always frustrating to be cruising along on your speeder and suddenly being stuck on a pixel of geometry — sometimes out in the open!  Other times you’re on some ledge and slide off to be stuck behind rocks or trees.  Oh well, just use /stuck, right?  Sure, if you want to suffer DEATH PENALTIES!  Okay, so it’s not that big of a deal.  You lose some armor durability.  SWTOR actually has a fairly decent /stuck which bumps you away from where you’re stuck.  It’s just weird to punish players for something out of their control.

SWTOR PvP falls short, my suggestions

Yesterday I told you what I thought about SWTOR‘s PvE from 1-40.  Now I want to give you my quick thoughts on the PvP.  My perspective is not one of a hardcore PvPer doing only warfronts to level, nor is it from someone who considers themselves god’s gift to PvP.  I’m not a pro, nor will I put a pro-gamer tag next to my name to insinuate such.  However, I have PvP’d extensively in MMO’s for over a decade and I’ve seen it all.

PvP in SWTOR is, currently, in a rough state.  The lack of level brackets is an outright fiasco, which is why I wasn’t surprised at all to see that they’re adding them soon.  Fighting in battlegrounds is not fun at all on my Guardian.  I’ve had some really rough experiences with the lack of damage.  I contribute by soaking up damage for others, but even then I feel like I’m not doing much.  I’m fairly positive that it’s my problem and not the class’, but it feels like I have to have a pocket healer focusing exclusively on me to do anything.

Playing on my healer has been an entirely different experience.  Even at level 12, when I went in and healed I topped the charts (sometimes the only healer on both sides) and knew for sure that my team won because of me.  It’s only getting better as I get more healing abilities.  I’m having a blast PvPing at level 18.

Improve the Warzone Design

Maybe it’s just me, but PvP in general feels clunky.  A lot of people waving lightsabers around mosh pitting on doors is not doing it for me.  I would have preferred a warzone fighting over the sarlacc pit for control points or something like that.  Something more interesting than a space station with doors as your objectives.  Anyone remember Star Wars: Battlefront?  There were plenty of map designs that would have made great SWTOR warzones — yes, even vehicles could be an option.

Expand the Open-world PvP

You all know I’m not much of a WoW-style battleground system fan.  I’d love to see the open-world stuff be expanded.  Illum has real potential, and even Outlaw’s Den can be made into something that players value.  There’s no reason we can’t get a big open zone with permanent 24/7 capturable objectives.  The planet system just begs for something like DAOC’s battlegrounds system, or even the frontier.  Take a planet, divide it into 3 major areas.  One area for each faction as their territory and a middle area that is owned by one faction at a time.  Within each zone would be bases that can be captured.  There are no restrictions on which bases can be captured, except the unconquerable spaceport each faction lands at.

Owning the most bases on this planet would grant access to a special spaceport that players could use to shuttle to a neutral planet/moon with PvE benefits.  Some awesome dungeon or boss or something that would entice players to constantly battle for control of the bases.  When the other faction gains control of the most bases, the spaceport switches hands and the other faction can fly over and attack the current occupants.  This would give incentive for players to constantly defend and attack, thus causing a community to form around the protection of bases at all times for the good of all.

That said… I’ve done ad-hoc open-world pvp on planets like Hoth, and I have really have a lot of fun.  Mostly small skirmishes and gank attempts, but fun.

Almost there…

Like the PvE, PvP is not horrible.  It’s not beyond repair. PvP is actually full of potential.  WoW’s PvP underwent numerous changes until Blizzard finally arrived at the current system.  My suggestions above for open-world PvP would not be hard (from a design perspective) to implement and they would make sense given the direction I feel SWTOR will go.  SWTOR won’t fit into the E-sport PvP scene.   Their best bet is to capitalize on the faction struggle inherent to their story and make a big show of it.

SWTOR 1-40 Commentary

We’ve been working diligently through the content of SWTOR, and it’s time for an update on where we’re at!  I haven’t been doing these updates as regularly as I had planned, but life gets busy at very specific times every single year — SWTOR’s launch coincided with one of those times.

I think what I’ll do first is give you guys a run down of the planets and what I thought of them.

Coruscant – The city itself is beautiful and truly more than I expected in terms of scope.  The flying traffic overhead, the massive and realistic scale of all the buildings and vertical space, all serve as great atmosphere.  I was disappointed by the taxi system being used to basically mask tiny little areas to quest in.  The questing itself was a little linear and I felt funneled.

Taris – My experience here was tainted by terrible lag.  The story was lost for me.  I lost interest in my class quest because it felt like an unimportant stepping stone.  The zone story was pretty much all about killing ghoul-like mutants, then rinsing and repeating in another part of the zone.  I was glad to leave.

Nar Shaddaa – The look of the zone is immediately a plus.  I like that Hutt-dominated slummy/shadowy neon city look.  Similar to Coruscant, the vertical space is excellent.  Again, similar to Coruscant the quests are very funneled and the repetitious nature of killing thugs standing around on the streets got old.  We ended up leaving as soon as we could.

Tatooine – I loved everything about Tatooine.  The quests were fun, the stories were interesting, the openness of the planet made it feel less funneled, and the nostalgia this planet holds for me is something I can’t quantify.

Alderaan – This planet’s story was convoluted with lots of political issues between Houses.  In the end, I still don’t know what happened.  I tried to pick good options and just go with it.  I felt like the quests were okay and the funneling was moderate.  The planet was aesthetically pleasing to me.

Balmorra – When I first arrived, I though it looked really cool!  A war-torn planet, aliens, and an Imperial base looked great at first.  The geography, however, destroyed me.  Getting anywhere was confusing.  Cliffs blocking paths, elevators, a map that doesn’t make sense… Give me back the Coruscant funneling!

Quesh – Short and sweet.  A two step class story and some killing.  I think there was one, maybe two class outposts.    I enjoyed the poisonous planet motif.

Hoth – Like Tatooine, Hoth is open and full of nostalgia love.  The planet can be a little bit daunting, given how big it feels compared to the funnel-zones, but in reality it’s not bad once you think of it outside of its internal relativity.  Hoth felt like an EverQuest zone.  Really open, lots of aggro in places, and opportunities to dodge enemies if you’re smart with the terrain.  We actually managed to complete the Heroic 4 quests here, which is saying a lot since we skipped them in quite a few zones.

Right now we’re getting ready to run some flashpoints.  We’ve skipped several and I guess we need to complete them in order to do their harder versions or move on to future flashpoints.  Esseles, the first flashpoint, was great.  Then the next couple were… not so much.   .

SWTOR’s PvE is mediocre, at best.  There’s a lot of “Kill X bad guys” and “blow up X machines”.  The unoriginality and repetition are cleverly masked in story, but even the story begins to wear thin as it becomes clear even the writers themselves tired of the same old thing.  Graev and I have started to notice A LOT of re-used dialog.  His character says the same 2-3 lines over and over.  “This will be no challenge for a Jedi.”  It’s not the best PvE, but it’s definitely not the worst and still enjoyable.  We’re going to hit level 40 tonight and hopefully 50 by next weekend.

I have a lot of thoughts on the PvP that I will write up for tomorrow, and inevitably more thoughts to come on the game’s PvE as I come closer to finishing.  Tonight’s patch should also introduce some major changes — stay tuned.

Update: Just finished Teral V and had an absolute blast.  Really long, but really neat story and atmosphere.

Update 2: I clarify what I mean by mediocre PvE in a comment below.

Keen’s Predictions for 2012

As the final hours of 2011 slowly fade away, it’s time for me to post my predictions for 2012!  I didn’t do well in my predictions for this year.  A few of them were spot on, a couple were a year too early, and some were not even close.   Hopefully I can manage to predict better this year.

1.  Subscriptions will survive.  Free to play will not conquer the market, but will withdraw slowly as it becomes even more clear that, as Greg Zeschuck of Bioware said,  free to play games can’t match the size or scale of a subscription based game.

2.  PC Gaming will gain further traction.  2011 was very kind to PC gaming.  In fact, PC games saw great exclusives and even improved upon console ports.  2012 will simply continue the upward trend.

3.  Mobile gaming will suffer.  A shot in the dark, but I predict mobile gaming will, by the end of summer, have notable declines caused by…

4.  PS Vita and 3DS  will have a great year.  It’s risky to predict the 3DS having a stellar year against the Vita, and almost impossible to think Nintendo can beat this year’s lineup, but I predict console handhelds will do very well.

5.  2012 will be a year of new IP’s.  2011 was the year of 3’s, sequels, and reiterations.  I predict new properties will excel, or at least be announced.

6.  Indie games won’t do so hot.  I think we’re still a few years away from seeing the revolution people are predicting from indie games.  In fact, I think probably five or more years away.  2012 will actually hurt the movement, as many developers think they can succeed in the wake of Minecraft’s 2011 success.

7.  SWTOR will have a great year as new content releases.  Players will enjoy Bioware’s ability to support their first MMO well into 2013.

8.  GW2 will launch strong and be an early success but peter out after three months.

9.  The next EverQuest will be fully revealed.  We’ll learn that SOE is finally changing their ways and returning us to the quality of development we saw from MMO’s pre-2004.

10.  Dominus will be a sleeper hit and truly impress the MMO community with a December launch.

11.  Xbox 360 will have the best year. 2011 seems to have gone the way of PS3… somehow… but 2012 will be all Microsoft’s.

12.  The Wii-U will be a let down at first.  I’m predicting that the Wii-U will totally dissappoint gamers until the end of 2012 when suddenly it surges and releases amazing titles that give Nintendo the crown until Microsoft and Sony release their new consoles (which will be revealed at E3 2012).

Any last minute predictions of your own?

SWTOR Crafting: A new take on themepark crafting

I was warned that I might not like SWTOR’s crafting because it’s nothing like the type of crafting I enjoy.  I enjoy the type of crafting you find in sandbox games where you can spend your whole day working on a craft, become known as THE person on a server for what you do, and have repeat clients.  This type of crafting has not existed for years, and does not exist in SWTOR.  However, SWTOR does a few things with crafting that I do find interesting.

Crafting in SWTOR fits with the theme of having a team of NPC’s at your disposal.  Pressing the ‘N’ key brings up your companion window where you can manage your crew skills, which are the same thing as crafting skills.  You can send your companions out to gather you resources or task them with actually creating items for you.  The entire process is hands off, except for the rare occasion when you find a node out in the hunting areas — even then, you only gather if your companion isn’t out with you.

You tell your companions what to craft, and they do it.  In the videos pre-release, Bioware made it seem like your companions worked at stations on your ship. I guess that mechanic didn’t make launch because right now it’s all an imaginary process.  You have to just pretend it’s happening but really all you get is a little window that pops up.

Honestly, I enjoy the system despite its shortcomings.  I think it’s a fresh take on the themepark crafting model.  Sending companions out to gather resources for me works.  I don’t have to worry about keeping my skills up to gather nodes or compete for them. I think each of the crafting professions offers something useful to the game.  Every item I make is something better than I would find questing at my level.  I’ve been able to craft gear I actually use, and if I craft a nice piece of gear that I don’t use or give away, I can break it down for more raw materials.

I like what Bioware has done with the traditional themepark crafting, and I hope it remains as relevant in the endgame as it is while leveling up.