SWTOR looking decent now

My readers know me best as a gamer who wears his emotions on his sleeve.  I’m happy to constantly tell you how I really feel about games, even if I am contradicting myself or changing my mind.  I wouldn’t write any other way because I feel the biggest reason you’re here reading my blog is because you’ve either made a horrific mistake and clicked the wrong link or you’re here because you want to know what I really think.  Star Wars: The Old Republic isn’t a game that I have been gushing about.  In fact, I have been rather indifferent and even pessimistic/cynical about the game at times.  I’m trying to guard myself these days from getting sucked into hype.

I’ve commented already this E3 about how I feel the “Every player gets his own Starship” is a grandiose way of saying that players are simply getting player housing and a hub from which to launch into missions.  Bioware has since verified this statement that these are a “base of operations” by actually straight up calling them player housing and saying they are like KOTOR’s ship.  Honestly, it’s a bit underwhelming when they could be actual starships but I won’t balk at a game offering player housing at launch.

So it’s fair to say that I haven’t found anything that actually excites me or interests me yet about SWTOR…. until now.  I was watching E3 coverage on G4tv (don’t hate) and their SWTOR segment was playing.  During the interview there were a few well thought out statements that represent an intelligent way to design games.  With respect to class balance in SWTOR, “in some cases rock does beat scissors”.   There’s also talk about group play and how some of the content requires people to “absolutely” group up and play together.  This combat is “rewarding” and “fun”.

Here’s the video.  The part I want to focus on starts at ~2:00 min in. (If Youtube removes this video, go watch it on the SWTOR site — it’s the third G4 video down.)

I want to play SWTOR after watching that.   The group play looks really fun and very much like a standard MMO.  There are some people that have expressed distaste for how the combat looks but I’m not one of them.  What I saw in that video doesn’t looked edited or scripted — it looks just like a standard MMO that I’ve played before; it looks familiar.  I like that each character has a role to play in the combat and that they’re not always predefined per class but for how the person has chosen to play their class (within boundaries, I’m sure).  The class that I want to play most now is the Jedi Consular.  I think using force abilities to heal a group and support a group as more of a caster seems really fun.  I can also really appreciate small group content because I don’t necessarily want to always be in a huge raid (the occasional one is very fun and I do like big raids, just not all the time).

A lot of the dialog from the Bioware dev in the video is also relevant to why what is being shown interests me.  The group content being difficult enough that they’ll wipe if someone doesn’t perform, mention of crowd control, unconventional class mechanics like ranged tanking, and the level of customization are excellent.  Perhaps the best thing that was said without much explanation was that the groups had to be balanced.  This is something that worried me (and still does) about SWTOR since they’ve really been selling a casual small and nearly singleplayer experience that you can have friends join up on.  The necessity to balance a group is very nice to hear.

Am I looking forward to SWTOR now? Yeah, I am.  I know that SWTOR will be highly instanced.  I know that it will not be a big open world.  I know that a lot of what Bioware wants to accomplish can only happen in a game that resembles one of their (very well made) single-player RPG’s.  It’s not going to be my ideal MMO, but it’s going to be one that I think will be polished beyond belief and feature rich.  I know that I have the opportunity to find something that I can enjoy in SWTOR.   I’m not hyped about it, but I’m also not going to purposefully rag on the game all the time just because it’s not being made how I want.

Now that the opportunity for me to find something I enjoy about MMO’s has been shown in SWTOR, I’ll be able to evaluate it based upon those standards.  I’m happy that I have good things to say about SWTOR and I hope that others will be able to join me in evaluating the game and talking about the game much in the same way without being too polarized one way or another.

PS.  I find myself liking that UI a lot.

  • I haven’t really been following this game as much as I would have liked to, but that video made it look pretty cool. I will definately be keeping my eyes on this now.

  • What do you mean by you knowing it will be “highly instanced”?

    Are we talking Age of Conan like instanced? Making the whole world feel like small parts put together, removing all possible feelings of a wide, dynamic and living universe?

    I’ve loved the idea of The Old Republic all along, ever since I knew that BioWare was going to develop it I’ve been having some really high hopes as BioWare is the one other company other than Blizzard Entertainment that have yet to actually manage to disappoint me and give me a game that hasn’t been one of the greatest in it’s genre.

    I do love the Star Wars franchise, and even though I’m not thrilled by the whole stylized realistic graphics BioWare is going for, neither have their combat animations impressed me much yet either I still have high hopes for The Old Republic being the first ever MMO I’ll really enjoy and stick to after World of Warcraft.

    But if we are talking highly instanced like Age of Conan, ruining the whole dynamic feeling of a massive universe full of players playing and developing the world together along with brining some really annoying loading screens popping up every 20min I’ll pass!

    I kinda tried to forgive Age of Conan because of it’s breathtaking graphics which I of course understood wouldn’t be possible without doing the whole massive instanced solution thingie.. But here we talk about a game trying to make a cartoon feeling and looking realistic, that can’t possibly require something even remotely close to how instanced Age of Conan was / is?

    Dear god, I hope not!

  • The more details I hear the less interested I am becoming. Sounds like just another same old same old MMO that I’m already bored to death of.

  • So um… that’s a Jedi Cleric? Why does she even have a light saber in her hand, if she’s just holding it and spamming the whole time?

    Color me unimpressed. I was really hoping for more interesting combat than this.

  • @Thomas Andre: I would assume even more instanced than AoC. AoC was like a wanna-be contiguous world that just redundantly instanced zones.

    With SWTOR, it’s not going to be a loading screen every 20 min… it’s probably going to be every 5 min but less of a loading screen and more of a ‘you’re in your own area’ effect. I have yet to see any in-game footage that even looked remotely like an open world with other players running around in it.

    I have my fingers crossed for something resembling an open world but it’s just not going to happen. I don’t think Bioware’s storytelling for your specific character can co-exist with an open world.

    @Renko: That’s why I’m more and more interested, actually. The more it sounds like a MMO, the less it sounds like a Bioware RPG.

    @JeremyT: Towards the end of the video she uses it to fight. The developer mentioned multiple ways to specialize into advanced classes. Some classes can specialize as DPS -or- healing. I think the Trooper might even be capable of being DPS or tank-like. Smugglers can be more tactical (I assume CC?) or more action oriented like Han Solo. It’s not as cut and dry, but at the end of the day it’s looking like a standard MMO where you fill a role (Tank, heals, dps, cc, etc).

  • (My kingdom for an edit button)

    That should say that the Jedi Cleric is spamming *heals* the whole time.

    This looks like generic cookie-cutter WoW clone crap to me, at least from a combat perspective. I was really hoping for something more like Mass Effect, and I’m very disappointed in what I see here (although perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised).

  • Well… SWTOR is a MMO and for the first time it’s starting to look like one. If you want a Mass Effect game with a Star Wars setting, they’ve already made Knights of the Old Republic.

  • I still don’t know. I think the fact that it is so much like every other MMO makes me not as excited about it. Just watching a jedi sit there and heal a tank that is just sitting there shooting a NPC just made me cringe a bit.

    Maybe the PvP will be different. I don’t know. I guess I was just hoping to see something different then WoW but with Star Wars stickers on them.

  • @JeremyT

    Good, I’m not alone. I should have refreshed before creating a comment, would have saved me some typing, lol.

  • *Shakes fist at Youtube* I’ll find another one. G4’s streams don’t work either.

    Edit: Okay, added another youtube video that will likely be removed. If they do, visit the official SWTOR site and it’s the third G4 video down.

  • Nice read Keen. I think the way you write is perfect and the fact that you don’t hold back, at the risk of looking bad if it does not turn out well, is refreshing. I too am starting to get a little excited about it but still a ways to go before release so keepin myself in check.

  • I know for sure I’ll be playing this one. Something you said that stuck with me is “What I saw in that video doesn’t looked edited or scripted”, I liked that as well, just show us the game and let us know what is real and what is hype. I think Bioware is doing very well at not over hyping.

  • I can’t quote the source, but there was hands on preview a couple of months ago where they were in an open area/world questing area (ie: kill 10 wamprats) and they did say it was quite expansive.
    If it’s anything like Mass Effect, then to travel to new planet – hop in space ship (maybe hearthstone back to ship?) – loading screen to ships interior – go to map room/navigation computer, select new planet – loading screen to new planet, etc.
    I imagine you’ll have open world/zone for stock standard MMO kill/fetch quests, then phased/instanced area for Storyline/interactive quests.

  • Regarding the fight at the end of the G4 demo:

    Rob Chestney said, “For the purpose of this multiplayer demo, we wanted to keep the ‘team combat dynamic’ simple and easy to understand. Furthermore, the Consular acts as the healer and as the ‘camera’ for the demo, so she isn’t necessarily playing exactly as she would in a normal playthrough. We wanted her to stay back from the action to provide a wide-angle view of the entire scene. Thus, where she might have run into to strike a few blows for righteousness in a regular group battle, she has to minimize that to keep the view right.”

    Source – http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?p=3180271#edit3180271

    Regarding instances:

    James Ohlen said, “The vast majority of our worlds are public spaces. So basically, when you arrive at Coruscant it is a public space for everyone to be running around in. The players will run around and complete the world quests (which aren’t specific to your class, and are doable by anybody of that faction.) With Coruscant, and any other world for that matter, there will be certain instances that you can go into where you see your class storytelling. And in those areas you’ll be able to see differences and changes depending on your choices. Such as, if you have killed someone, or if you’re romantic with someone, those choices will be reflected when you enter those areas. You could have two Bounty Hunters where one has killed someone, and the other spared the same character. Each instance would be different for that player.”

    source – http://www.askajedi.com/2010/06/16/exclusive-james-ohlen-qa/

  • More info regarding GW/AoC style instances:

    NO loading screens. Its something a lot of people overlooked, but I never had a single hint of a loading screen. I went from one area to the next completely fine. Its like if you took WoW and allowed all the instances to be walked right into without loading. Sure you still have that “energy beam barrier thing” but no longer does it mean “crap I have to sit through a loading screen to go there” it simply means “cool now I get to go on a mission without people there to mess it up.. unless I want to bring them along” I saw the developers even teleporting characters from one end of the map, or from one “instance” to the next without loading, and it was nearly instant. If you were worried this would be like Guild Wars, where everything feels like its connected through loading screens rather than actual ground.. don’t be.”

    source – http://tor-aid.com/20100616226/TOROcast/brandons-hands-on-impressions-of-swtor.html

  • Very nice. I have to say that video and commentary has made me interested in the game again.

    One thing I noticed, maybe I missed them but….I didnt see any of the “companions” in that group. I thought those were an integral part of your character. Did I just not see them?

  • I see some npc’s fighting on the players side, but I dont see any pet interface on the screen.

  • We all have to have certain things in an MMO which is why many MMO’s kinda have the same familiar feel. That is where that “WOW clone” statement comes from. (I did not like the WOW graphics so I never played it much. It is a good game non the less) In the tor-aid interview, they talked about the players at E3. Some where obviously not MMO players because they did not know what to do with the mouse. Others jumped right in and started playing without any trouble. Those players found that familiar feel.

    We also have are own likes and dislikes. I’m probably one of the few who really isn’t into space combat. I do it but it isn’t even close to the top of my list of things I like to do. So not having to fly a ship around to get to another planet is OK with me.

    I do however like that open world feel. I have to have it. STO does not have it and then throw in space combat, STO sure wasn’t for me.

    I did read or heard an interview where one of the Devs talked about SWTOR having an open world feel. He even said it twice that it will be open world. Again this is one of my must haves, so I know I heard it. I’ll just have to see how much open world it is once I play. Will it have instancing, no doubt about it. There is no other way to go into the story mode. If it is done where you still feel connected, where the screen isn’t black for a long time, I probably can live with it. If every five minutes I’m cutting away, then it could be a problem.

    @dekun you posted the interview before I had a chance good job. But lets hope that the no loading screen continues on a full server at 9pm on a Saturday night. I’m sure the players at E3 had a dedicated server with maybe twenty, thirty people playing. Having lag at E3 would not be a good thing.

  • I dont think ive ever been so unimpressed by an MMO as i have with this one. The graphics STILL look like it was made 5+ years ago. It just looks like the most mediocre effort at a star wars game that there could be.

  • Keen, You should rethink the “I know that it will not be a big open world” comment because the worlds are quite large. Single planets are said to be bigger with more area to explore then say 10 wow zones. Bioware has been working on just game worlds and disgn for over 2+ years ( i think 4 ) and have created a quite expansive world to world system. This will probable be the largest mmo to date

  • I wonder if this goes the same way as WAR…the question is: can SWOR improve on the shortcomings of WAR?

    We will have improved presentation (full voice etc.) and I suspect a better PvE experience. We will have scenarios and possibly some open world PvP. If open PvP combat will be meaningful..then they are facing the same problem as WAR – incorporating scenarios into open world PvP. If it is meaningless – then it will go the way of WOW – some sort of instance grind to accomplish something.

    My guess is that it will go according to WOW – it will feel tacked on and not very thought out. WAR was trying to throw a lot of reosurces at their PvP but in the end they failed. I question if SWOR is really spending enough resources on PvP to make a difference. My guess is nothign new…nothing exciting.

    However, the PvE experience might be decent…

  • Darth hater podcast confirmed your old-school mob train.
    about 45 minutes in they mention it.
    They didn’t talk about zoning, but at least the chase was long.

    podcast is very nice.

  • @Argorius
    PvP will be just WoW instanced BGs with no effect on anything.

    Settign is very fun, but the game looks terrible to be honest.

  • Nothing destroys a great IP like an MMORPG and its terrible combat system. Seriously, it’s time to just dump this genre until the technology exists to have combat systems that are newer than the pen and paper system of Dungeons and Dragons.

  • @Keen:

    Is there a rule somewhere that says all combat systems for all MMOs need to use this same cookie-cutter “stand around and mash skill buttons” approach?

    The WoW-clone combat system’s main failing is that it’s based on single player RPGs where you control entire parties, with very specific roles doled out for each member who has very minimal combat interactivity. You simply select a skill, wait for it to happen, select another skill.

    That works fine in, say, DA:O, where you’re pausing and doing this for *an entire group of characters* with diverse skillsets. But in a multiplayer game, where you’re playing only one unit in a group whose role is limited in this way, your tactical options are meager and your gameplay quickly gets stale.

    The Mass Effect system is a much better fit for an MMO, as far as I’m concerned. Mass Effect gives you a party that acts as support but that, by and large, you don’t have to micromanage. In exchange, Bioware has injected more action and interactivity into the experience of the main character, and I think it really works.

    I just think it’s a shame to see what I perceive to be the same mistakes being made from a company that practically *defines* the computer / console RPG experience right now. I know Bioware can do better.

  • @JeremyT: Nope, but I like that “stand around and mash skill buttons” combat the most out of all MMO combat ever released. I don’t like the faster more real time action-oriented combat. I prefer EQ/WoW style the most.

    @Elspath: This is an area where I’m remaining pessimistic. Until I see it (like the MMO combat I’ve now seen) I can’t believe they’ll have big open areas. I will immediately recant my strong theory that it will be highly instanced without an open world if it indeed presents itself.

    It’s very hard to think that Bioware can accomplish what they’re making without the heavy use of instancing.

  • Well, I’m an older gamer, I have at least 20 MMOs under my belt, I’ve probably beta tested that many as well. I cut my teeth back on EQ and I consider myself a massive fan of MMOs. I’ll be honest; I was expecting more from Bioware. Maybe in time I’ll be foaming at the mouth like Keen but nothing I’ve seen has gotten me excited, this video included.

    What I was hoping for was something like SWG, which had some amazing aspects, like coming across Jabba’s Palace in the middle of the desert, or C3PO’s/R2D2’s escape pod, etc. Or jumping on a speeder bike and just driving for miles and miles, coming across small camps and massive and unique creatures. Sure SWG has/had its problems, that been well documented, but I was hoping that they took/borrowed some of that games better elements and gave it the Bioware touch.

    Even Tabula Rasa’s combat seemed like it had greater energy then this. I remember protecting camps and having them swarmed by mobs, man that was a blast.

    I think as time goes by the Bioware team is pounding this game into a standard cookie-cutter MMO when it becomes obvious that they’re not going to be able to bring anything revolutionary to the genre. Full voice? Bah, I turned mine off in EQ2 to save cpu cycles. I guess they’re going to play it safe. But I was hoping for something more like Mass Effect’s combat too. Just watching that “tank” stand there and unload on that mob made my peen limp, and then watching that “Cleric” spam the same heal over and over…../sigh.

    I’ll get the game, because like I said; I am an MMO fan and a SW fan. But I was really hoping for more; better graphics, better animations, just a better overall SW’s feel. This looks like a cross between Free Realms and Star wars Clone Adventures. heck, even the UI, at this stage, looks so generic.

  • I hear ya, Keen. I felt the same way after watching that video clip – the game looks fun!

    My suspicion is that the game won’t bring anything new to the MMO table but will just be another interpretation of the norm. Some people will complain but I’m sure it will be great fun and sell very well.

  • Oh, it will sell well, hell Warhammer “sold” well, AoC “sold” well. Question is; will those people convert to a monthly sub. The names Bioware and Star Wars guarantee it will sell well, but I’m not expecting massive critic kudos, not looking and playing like that. I hope I’m wrong, and like Keen I reserve the right to flip-flop at any time =P, I always tell my friend; never say never. When he asks me if I’ll ever resub to WoW, Aion, AoC, WAR, etc. – I say “I’ll never say never”. I can go from love-hate-love-hate with an MMO overnight.

  • I think I’m very balanced when it comes to SWTOR. I was completely cynical about it at one point and unable to see anything that really pulled me in. Now that I’m seeing some gameplay and some of the direction they’re going (actually seeing it and not hearing about it) I’m able to find something to like. .

    There’s still plenty that I dislike and plenty that I’m skeptical about (like over-instancing).

  • I don’t understand the unrealistic expectations some of you people had about SW:TOR.
    Everything i wanted in this gamee is a Bioware RPG in a massive multiplayer setting and that’s what they are promising to deliver.

    For me that means a game that has the systems that Bioware implemented in their previous games. The ship seems awesome to me. I am actually excited, because i liked the Normandy so much in Mass Effect (i just wish i could costumize it). Even if it serves only as a travel method that doesn’t means that in a later expansion they don’t include real space flight and combat.
    The morality system and other stuff also has me interested.
    And i am sure that the game will have a extensive crafting system.

    If Bioware has proven something is that they do RPGs the good old fashioned way and know how to strike a good balance between making innovation and keeping some of the foundations of the genre (for example: crafting in DA).
    Therefore i am sure this game will capture some of the feeling of old school MMORPGs but with some innovations that will make it feel fresh.

    I also have the feeling that they are going to use some of the assets of Mythic and some of the systems that were implemented in WAR. I believe that the PvP scenarios will be based around the scenarios in WAR and i just hope that if there is some open world PvP it will be better done than in WAR.
    Did anyone notice the colision detection between the players?

    I don’t understand where the expectations of a different gameplay from other MMOs came since they never touted the game as being action oriented…
    And i’m sure that would be something to speak about if they planned it that way.
    If people like Trimethicon want something different then go take a look at TERA, Global Agenda, Vindictus, End of Nations, APB or other MMOs that include different genres.

  • @Keen

    Well i been following the Death Hater blog and they just had a recent video interview with the lead writers and one of the items they discussed was this issue of world and exportability and size. If you haven’t checked it out I defiantly recommend it!

  • Did anyone else get the impression from the 3 videos that the solo combat appeared to have short pauses while they chose a combat action, as opposed to the group combat?

  • Looks like KotoR hit WoW at high speeds.

    And uh…that’s a compliment. I have many, many fond memories of both those games. SWTOR won’t be off the wall and attract people wanting something brand new, but hell, I think building off of what is proven to be fun and trying to add to it is a pretty damn noble idea in the first place.

    I think you have the right idea with polish. If not great enough to be worth playing for years, the game certainly looks like it will be worth the price of admission. Crazy polish does not a game make, but it certainly can make imperfections less of a strain.

  • I am a bioware fanboi and proud! (if you’ve read any of my comments before this is no surprise lol)

  • @Keen

    We had people on staff (Darthhater.com) play the game at E3, we also know for a fact that the game is not heavily instanced. The only instanced areas are flash-points(Key events in your story, but these are not every quests), some quest givers, and War zones. Also planatery travel may not be seamless (Something similar to WoW most likely). However the game is very open and very playable, no loading screens, even when you walk into an instance, it is seamless. Watch the bounty hunter play through from (PAX?) last year, the green/red barrier they pass through is in instance to the quest giver, however do you see a loading screen? Nope.

  • So would you say the majority of the game has you going into instanced areas that are private to you and your party or open-world? I can understand there are no loading screens and there’s a seamless feel, but how true to open-world is it? (at least what has been shown)

  • A few of our quests were in a instance/flashpoint, everything else was out in the open world. You will be spending a very large amount of time in the open-world also the speeder bike (While not being able to ride freely at level 2) acted just like the transportation system in WoW. So unlike WAR when you saw a person flying away for a second you got to ride from point A to point B and see everything. From what I have been told named quest objectives (Like a Hogger) are in a instance, everything else is open, though that may not be the case for every quest. You could group up and run around the world if you wanted, the G4 demo was a flashpoint (Very specific part of it) but again not every quest is like that.

  • Sorry no edit button, but watch the G4 video of the Sith Inquisitor, most of the mobs are in the open world and just the main starter area would take a half hour plus to run from one side to the other, so the world is very vast and open.

  • Thanks for the info Engrey. I’m optimistic about the possibility that it will not be quite as bad as I had anticipated.

  • “the possibility that it will not be quite as bad as I had anticipated”? If you gave this game half the optimism you lavash on a 5 level xpac in WoW, it would still come off greater than how you have been protraying this game, and most of it based on extrapolation of wild speculation! Remeber the words of the late Detective Joe Friday…

  • All of my speculation about what I perceive to be a negative aspect of MMORPG’s present within SWTOR are justified given the company and type of game they are creating.

    As for comparing that to my anticipation of WoW’s expac, I’m not sure that I quite follow you there. I haven’t done anything other than state the fact that I am looking forward to Cataclysm. If you consider that a crime then that’s your problem, not mine.

  • The single player games of Bioware are quite massive so i’m sure that the MMO will be even more massive.
    Also they do some great RPG’s with some old school mechanics but very polished. So from SW:TOR i am expecting a really massive game with some old school mechanics of MMORPG’s but very polished.

    I am liking what i see untill now but i’m also not expecting the second coming of the Messiah in this game.

  • No, you misunderstood the reference, which is also not a crime; it is my fault for alluding to an outdated quote from a black and white 1950’s TV cop show, which is “Just the facts, maam.”

    I support your blog; I would say that I use it as a primary source of gaming information due to your distillation of a variety of gaming topics. I also support your right to state whatever your opinions are in your own personal blog (which you obviously dedicate a great deal of time to; I hope it pays off for you someday!), even if they are occasionally representative of angst-ridden mountains of skepticism, built up from molehills of scant pre-release game play information; just don’t be surprised if people call you out on it, especially if it appears fanboi imbalanced at times. I think your style of writing is entertaining; it starts to lose credibility when fact-based hypotheses are replaced by assumptions predicated on past non-related negative gaming experiences (P2P thread as an example). Keep writing, and I’ll keep reading!

  • I welcome people presenting differing views, especially when I hope that I am wrong. Please do it like Engrey (Comments #50 and 51) with links to information or at least “I read at such and such about this” so that I can try to find the information. Calling people “fanboi” and critiquing what they say as “angst” is pointless and only diminishes whatever it is you’re saying. I can’t really have a discussion if you just make ad hominem arguments. 🙂