SWTOR thoughts coming soon

Hey all, I’ve been finishing exams (14 hours per day studying) and traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday week.  I’m settled home for 10 days which means I’ll have a lot of time to blog.

I just read that the SWTOR NDA has been lifted.  As you know, I’ve been in closed beta for a little over a month now.  I’ve tried various classes and feel like I have enough information to make a statement.

I stopped “reviewing” MMO’s a long time ago, but I do give ongoing impressions of them (and plan to with SWTOR). I like to give thoughts and recommendations (to skip or try) when NDA’s lift.

I haven’t kept any secrets about the fact that I do recommend everyone try SWTOR, so make sure you get an opportunity to play during their next beta weekend.  I’ll put something together in the next few hours that sums up my thoughts.

  • How one perceives it will depend whether they are a lumper or a splitter; the former will likely say it isn’t anything that new and feels like WoW in space with well developed RPG elements, while the latter will say it is a novel RPG with WoW like MMO elements. I fall into the former category. It is a lot of fun, but I am not sure if it will hold my interest for a long term sub; I think how well world PvP plays out will be a key factor in my decision to stay.

    Here is a list in no particular order of importance from a weekend beta a few weeks ago that I put together; it is not complete as a kept editing it in the tester’s forum, but neglected to save the final as a document for myself. I’ll add as I remember points; also realize that some of these issues may have since been fixed over the last few weeks:

    Perceived problems and suggested fixes…

    Here are many of the features that I found to negatively impact my enjoyment of the game. I stayed away from talking about clear bugs as they were reported in game and are not a matter of opinion with regards to suggested pre-launch alterations.

    1)Leveling is far too fast. I reached level 23 in 3.5 days; there is a level cap of 50, so even if I cut my play time in half (as I was admittedly rushing through content for maximal bug exposure) that would mean I would likely reach cap in 2 weeks. If this isn’t altered BioWare had better have an enjoyable endgame firmly in place prior to launch or many people will not stick around for a monthly sub.

    Suggested fixes: Cut the experience gained, perhaps by half.

    2)Too many blue/purple/orange drops. By level 23 I had innumerable blues, ~7 purples, and an orange. Even as much as I love seeing that purple glow over a mob’s corpse, epic isn’t epic if I get a purple dropping off a trash mob, which did happen to me.

    Suggested fixes: Reduce non-green drop chances.

    3)Too many similar drops. I frequently found that I had multiples of the exact same green/blue items in my inventory; this makes a blue item feel mundane, which isn’t good.

    Suggested fixes: Put in a random modifier to stats; that is have a base value for item attributes and randomly distribute a set number of additional points between the attributes (i.e. one item may have End +14 Will + 18, while another of the same name has End +16 Will +16). This gives additional variety to items and secondarily will make the auction house more interesting. Also reducing drop rate will indirectly mask this problem.

    4)Companion interference with right click interactions. This aggravated me more than any other single thing, especially as it happened continuously throughout game play. I had to keep readjusting my position and camera angle to keep it from constantly moving about in front of my cursor.

    Suggested fixes: Make companions not be able to be selected for a conversation outside of cantinas; I don’t believe that they can even have meaningful conversations in the open world, so why bother making them interactable in these situations?

    5) Option for selectable non-grey item selection for companion vendoring. The inclusion of a Torchlight companion selling system is a winning idea, but it would be improved by allowing for the selling of non-greys also.

    Suggested fixes: Either an option similar to the reverse engineer button to choose additional items to be sold or a separate tab for sellable items into which the greys automatically go into and other items can be transferred into prior to companion selling trips.

    6)A less rudimentary, more interactive chat window. Many features are missing here such as the ability to click on player’s names to whisper, copy and paste, item linking, invite/ignore options.

    Suggested fixes: Make clickable/drop down menu options for chat. Numerous examples of successful MMO examples are out there.

    7)Add “Whisper” to the menu of options when one targets a friendly player.

    Suggested fixes: Self-explanatory.

    8)Place talk bubbles over friendly player’s heads. This helps improve the quality of player interactions.

    Suggested fixes: Self-explanatory.

    9)Commendation vendors could use a greater variety of items. This fell into two categories. Firstly, why should an entire planet have offerings limited to a few armor item types? Secondly, the balance of items needs to be addressed; Why only offer a lightsaber that had +Strength primary attributes, but none with +Willpower (Nar Shaddaa commendations items vendor)? Items shouldn’t disproportionately benefit one AC over another (in the prior example, Assassin over Sorcerer).

    Suggested fixes: Self-explanatory.

    10)The searchable Help window is so general to the point of being non-helpful and a waste of player’s time. I tried using this function about 8 times and I never got any specific information dealing with where and how (PvP was one example of this; I already know that there are different forms of PvP arenas, but how do I queue and do I have to be in a specific location/planet to queue for a specific arena?) Just because information was provided in a tutorial, does not mean that people will remember in the future when they actually need to use a function.

    Suggested fixes: As it exists I would remove it from the game unless it is dramatically improved upon. The good thing is that an informational database can be modified in terms of its content, so if you guys want to put in the effort, it can be salvaged. Try testing it on a group that never played the game, but have basic MMO exposure; ask them to search for core topic that you identify and afterwards survey them as to their understanding of the topic.

    11)More significant interactable voice options. This is more difficult at this point as the story is written and it is two months to launch, but I frequently felt that very little of what I chose in cut scene dialogue interactions made any difference in storyline progression (perhaps this could be considered for future content development). I ended up being driven to choose the options that provided the most token reinforcement (affection and dark side points) since I was going to be given the exact same mission at the conclusion of the conversation.

    Suggested fixes: Inclusion of more choice options that alter the storyline (i.e. opening and closing of different missions) and alteration of persistent inter-personal interactions (if I sleep with a Sith Lord then it would be nice to be informed at some point how that impacted my mission objective further down the road).

    12)Better definition of conversation choices and/or of likely result. This has been utilized to a certain degree by putting clarification in brackets and showing light/versus dark benefits, but could benefit from greater usage. There were many times that an option sounded like what I wanted to say, but came out with my character saying something very different than what I thought the selection implied. Also companion reactions were sometimes seemingly inconsistent (i.e. mostly Khem Val would like strong supportive statement concerning Sith dominance, but inexplicably other times he was put off). Perhaps companion favored responses could be displayed much like dark/light choices currently are.

    Suggested fixes: Add further clarifications and possible implications to the choice selection tool.

    13)Increase the map customization features. I think the map is very useful and well thought out. I would like to additional options such as the ability to select multiple marker buttons simultaneously and sub-filters for markers that are perhaps too inclusive (such as all vendor types).

    Suggested fixes: Self-explanatory.

    14)Lack of interactable items in environment. The environment is often visually interesting and artistically rendered, but it is quite limited when it comes to thing that can be interacted with other than mission objects. It would be fun to be able to man a stationary gun and have destructible environments.

    Suggested fixes: Self-explanatory.

    15)Lack of non-map defined items. This is similar to #14, but addresses specifically the map identification of interactable objects. While the map is extremely helpful in quest resolution, it also kills some of the adventuring aspect by its near absolute inclusivity. I found myself not venturing into certain areas anymore as I soon discovered that there was an extremely high likelihood that nothing interactable would be found if not shown on the map. Granted this is less of an issue if #14 is not addressed.

    Suggested fixes: Self-explanatory.

    16)Story line lacks humor found in KOTOR. You have set a high standard in KOTOR for humor, but it has reemerged in games such as Jade Empire. There were times in both of those games that I had to put my controller down to stop because I was laughing so heartily; these moments were non-existent in my leveling a Sith Inquisitor to 23. Although the story line is interesting and voice acting excellent, the humor was unexpectedly lacking.

    Suggested fixes: Make it funny.

    17)Lack of a feature that converts commendations of any type to the planet’s type. Additional conversions at appropriate rates would be appreciated. Flying around to different planet in a chain of commendation conversions is dull and unnecessary.

    Suggested fixes: Self-explanatory.

    18)Addition of a feature to preview items. This is especially true for companion modifications!

    Suggested fixes: Self-explanatory.

    19)Font size selection for windows. My quest tracker took up too much space due to the large font sizes of the multiple quests.

    Suggested fixes: Self-explanatory.

    20)Skill trees do not allow for the feeling of unique customization. There are too many bottlenecks due to limited number of choices in the tiers. For instance some tiers only have 5 or 6 possible point choices, but 5 points are required to be distributed in a tier to advance to the next tier; the obvious dilemma is that there is only the illusion of choice as everyone must make the same selections in these tiers to continue up the tree. Also realize that BioWare devs have specifically stated that they actively discourage forming “hybrid” classes and refer to those who do as a “hybrid tax” (i.e. penalty) for trying to do so; functionally this means that they are punitively “encouraging” the majority of people to go up a single branch in a tree, which means that most people will have virtually identical builds as the number of skill selections are severely limited in most tiers. Compounding this are forced horizontal linkages of prerequisite skills within a tier to unlock skills in the next tier that in turn may need to be selected to advance in the subsequent tiers; also realize that it required a full point investment to unlock the horizontal linkage (i.e. the prerequisite skill had to be maxed out prior to choosing the horizontally linked skill within the same tier). Even more frustrating is that some of these linkages make no sense requiring one to choose a primarily melee skill to link into a ranged dps skill.

    Suggested fixes: Rather than completely reworking and/or inventing new skills (and the subsequent rebalancing) it would be easier to increase the existing number of potential skill points within bottlenecked tiers (perhaps 8-10 versus 5-6) with a commensurate increase in power for the given skill while keeping the 5 point threshold to advance into the next tier; for example a skill that currently has 2/2 points to yield say a 20% increase in damage could be increased to a potential of 3/3 points to yield a 30% increase, thereby allowing one greater flexibility in skill choices while also avoiding having to place points in undesired skills to reach the 5 point threshold for tier advancement. Also break horizontal linkages unless they are deemed necessary (certainly break the ones that link unrelated game play styles such as melee into ranged dps); at the very least do not require maxing out a prerequisite skill to advance horizontally.

  • 21) Space combat is nothing more than an on the rails minigame lacking any PvP and crew dynamics.

    Suggested fixes: Scrap it and start over…

  • hey gank way to steal Keen thunder.. i bet he now has to write 3 more pages to his blog cause of this. or just paraphrase you and quote hehe

  • Keen is in the full beta; he will have greater insight, especially in past level 20 game play. 😉

  • A good, constructive but ultimately off-putting start from Gankatron (I can’t believe they don’t yet have a proper chat interface…) so it’s over to Keen for a no doubt more positive take.

    Still, got to love the line:

    Suggested fixes: Make it funny.

  • I disagree with there being no humor. Play a Bounty Hunter or a Sith Sorcerer and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to giggle.

    I’m going to close comments on this post and have you comment on my main entry for SWTOR Beta impressions from hereon out.