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Archive for December, 2011

Up, Up, and Away

Day 8

I won’t be posting much this week since I haven’t been playing much this week thanks to my schedule.  Most of the things I’ll address in this post are items that I came across last week but haven’t posted for one reason or another.

Hammer Station

My friend and I attempted to duo this flashpoint at level 19.  The flashpoint suggests 4 players but the companion that each character can bring does add quite a bit of flexibility.  We were hoping that the companions and our higher than average levels for the instance would make it possible.

The first boss we stumbled through, I’ll admit.  Looks like the trick is to take out the little adds.  We’ll do better on that if we do the boss again.

The second boss went flawlessly.  My friend mez’d (mez as a generic term for crowd control — World of Warcraft players might call it Sheep and I’m sure it has a name of Force Something but it’s mez to us) one of the adds and I Charged the boss and then attacked other add.  Kept focus on the add while occasionally throwing a Sunder on the boss and Thunderclapping to keep aggro.  When the first add died I dragged the boss over to the second and was ready for when mez broke.  Taunted the add and switched to it, keeping the same tactics as before.  Then took the boss down.  I never lost aggro.  First time in this game to actually feel like a tank.  Pretty sweet.

At first the Jedi Knight felt like playing a combination of Rogue and Warrior from Warcraft.  As I get more levels it feels more and more like just a Warrior.  This is playing a Guardian and it makes me wonder if a Sentinel would feel like a Rogue.

But the skills are very similar.  Charge = Force Leap, Thunderlcap = Force Sweep, Taunt = Taunt, Sunder = Sundering Strike.  Especially that last one.  Come on, Bioware.  You can be more creative than that!

The third and final boss kicked our butts.  It basically comes down to the pets not being smart enough to avoid damage and too many adds.  Players better at micromanaging the pets could probably pull it off but we gave up after half a dozen times.

Found Bug #10 during our attempts on the last boss.  If a boss fight is still going and one of the characters dies and re-enters the instance before the rest of the party is down then the boss will aggro on that character.  My friend went down first during one of our attempts and re-entered.  After I went down I saw the boss acting oddly before I released to the med center but didn’t think too much about it.  As soon as we got back in sight of the boss it immediately slaughtered my friend’s character.  We were too far away to attack it but it had no trouble damaging us.  Needless to say, that was a very fast wipe.

Space Combat

Once you have your personal spaceship you have the option of doing space combat areas.  They give xp and “Fleet Commendations” which I assume can be used to upgrade your ship.  They do not seem to be tied into the normal questing in any way (which is a good thing).

These space battles are pure arcade games.  There’s nothing RPG-like about them outside of being able to upgrade your ship.

The biggest disappointment is that these are solo only.  There is no way to bring your party members into the fight.  This feels like a huge oversight for an MMO.  They could have had over party members flying their own ships on different routes (you don’t have control over the route that your ship flies, just control over which part of the screen your ship is in) or they could have had them manning secondary weapons on a single ship.

Bug #11.  Not directly related to the space combat itself but if you enter the hanger of a party member (it’s an instance) then you can board their ship.  We had a bit of trouble with getting booted out of the ship and hanger at times but it mostly works.  When you exit your party member’s ship, however, you will then find yourself in your own hanger/instance standing outside your own ship.  Really odd.  Though I can think of a few reasons it might be done that way intentionally it has the feel of a bug.

Getting Stuck

I mentioned before that I’ve had problems with getting stuck in just about every 3D game I’ve played.

I’ve never had this many problems, though.  You can jump onto a stack of crates and get stuck between ones at different heights.  You can get stuck between pipes that are intended to be run on and the walls that they follow.  You can get stuck on groups of rocks.  In short if it’s something that you can jump on, you can probably get stuck on it.

In the picture above, you would think that either I would fall through or I would be able to jump back onto the pipe.  Nope.  The game thinks that I am falling but there’s not enough space between the bits of landscape for me to fall through, so I’m just sort of hovering there.

If you go into the help screen you can use the “Character Stuck” option and it will return you to the nearest safe (?) position.  This actually works fairly well and can be used about every half minute, so Bioware appears to be aware of the problem at least.

How Different?

Voice Acting

I’ve seen a lot of talk about how “revolutionary” Star Wars: The Old Republic due to the fact that all the quests are voice acted.

In fact, not all of them are.

Some you simply get a dialog box when either accepting the quest or turning it in.  This doesn’t bother me and the majority of the quests are voice acted but it makes me wonder.  Were these quests added at the last minute?

Quest Choices

Also, I’ve seen a lot of players praising the choices you have during the quests.

There are the obvious light/dark side points that you gain during some quests but aside from that I haven’t seen any evidence that these choices have a larger impact on the game.  Maybe have to play through the class quests multiple times to see it (in other words, roll the same character class multiple times) but from every indication I’ve seen you still kill the same mobs, receive the same rewards, and continue on to the same quest hub.  The only difference that the choices really make is in the dialogue.

This game feels more “on rails” than Dragon Age 2, which so many people complained about.

Leveling with a friend, I’ve seen quite a bit of the Jedi Consular quest line.  Perhaps when I roll my own I’ll make weird choices just to see what can happen.  Can you really choose not to save your sick Jedi master for instance?  Can you annoy your companions sufficiently that they will abandon you?

I need to roll at least one character to simply screw around with and not worry about the consequences.

Classes

From what I can tell so far the “Advanced Classes” in The Old Republic correspond most closely to what a class would be in World of Warcraft.

For each of the 4 classes that you select from when you create the character you have two advanced classes.  These learn different skills and have their own talent trees.  You can respec between talents apparently but you cannot switch advanced classes.

So it looks like there are 8 classes in the game.  But wait!  The Sith side has its own classes!  So aren’t there 16?

No.  The classes appear to be perfect reflections.  A Sith Warrior is the same thing as a Jedi Knight.  The animations and the names of abilities are different and they will certainly have their own story, but gameplay is the same.


A Sith heals by getting angry instead of remaining calm.  That’s about as different as they get.

I even wonder how different a Guardian and a Sentinel are since they share the same basic class and a lot of abilities.

Summary

I’m not trying to be critical of the game.  I am, after all, having fun.

But I like being honest about the game and some players seem to be overawed at the moment and turning a blind eye to the game’s shortcomings.

I’ll try to find more things to be positive about for my next post.

Am I in the Right Galaxy?

Day 7

Recently I’ve seen a lot of talk in MMO forums about this nebulous thing called “community.”

I’m not going to go as far as to say that people are wearing rose-tinted glasses but rather it appears that experiences have varied widely.

I’m a relatively introverted person.  Unlike some stories you hear that doesn’t change for me to a large degree when I’m online.  I’m keeping this journal mainly for myself, I haven’t linked it anywhere or tried to get other people to read it.  That’s about my limit.

MUD

Many moons ago I started playing on a MUD due to a handful of people that I met in real life.  When I wasn’t playing with those people I was soloing.  When the users of a game count in the hundreds I am sure that some of the more active players knew all the admins (“gods”) and such but that didn’t really come into my gameplay.  I just had a small circle of friends.  That didn’t prevent me from giving random people buffs or helping out lower level players when asked but I didn’t go looking for such opportunities either.

Everquest

Years later I began playing Everquest.  Same thing, I had a few friends that were playing it and it looked interesting.  Tried it out on one friend’s account before I puchased it.

Grouping was required to level in Everquest unless you played a couple of specific classes.  I played a Cleric.  Clerics were the most powerful healers in the game so I never had much of a problem finding a group to play with. Forming a group from scratch so that I could play with my friends was a different story and would sometimes take quite a long time.  The server I was on (Erollisi Marr) had enough people that I very rarely grouped with the same characters.

Part of the problem with discussing something like this years after the fact is that the extreme things — whether positive or negative — are what stick in the mind.

I remember spending hours helping a person recover their corpse and xp (a game where you lose xp on death is not something I will ever play again).  I loaded my Necromancer to summon his corpses (at least a dozen of them) and then switched to my Cleric to rez each.  Did that help with my sense of community?  I don’t remember ever seeing the player again.

I remember being on the other side and having a higher level player spend a couple of hours helping me recover my corpse.  I think they were pretty annoyed by the end because it took longer than they thought it would.  Did that help the “community?”

I remember ogres sitting in front of banks so that no one could enter (character collision may be good for immersion but it’s horrible for gameplay).  I remember several players that had horrible reputations for “training” (pulling a large group of mobs onto other players in a way that they would aggro) raids.  I remember “ninjas” since anyone in the group/raid could loot the corpse and nothing was bind-on-pickup.

I remember pick-up raids during the “Planes of Power” expansion.  There were two types of pick-up raids: raids that were formed with a “core” group of experienced and well-equipped raiders and a bunch of random people joining in.  These were the first and most successful.  I believe that Rallos Zek was the highest level boss they took down.  I’m no longer sure of the details but my friend (the same one that I am playing The Old Republic with now) did get flagged for the Elemental Planes this way.

The second type of pick-up raid was just random people (my friend organized a few of these) without help from higher level raiders.  I experienced a few of these and sometimes they were successful, sometimes they weren’t.  They were far more limited in what bosses they took down, I think Bertox was as far as these raids got.

These pick-up raids — and the people that routinely did them — are probably the best example of game “community” outside of guilds.

But even that did not involve the majority of the players on the server.

When I started playing EQ I grouped with random people quite a bit, mostly to try to catch up in levels with my real-life friends.   The more I played the less interested I became in random grouping.  Toward the end I would only play if my friends were online as well.

World of Warcraft

By far a more enjoyable experience than Everquest.

I started playing WoW in early 2005 and continue to enjoy it.  In many ways, I enjoy it now more than ever.

One of the first things is that single-target buffs were instant cast and did not consume a reagent!  This was a massive improvement from a Cleric in Everquest where buffs often took over 10 seconds and cost money.  I buffed a lot of random people as I played and I continue to do so today, especially if I trip across a lower level player.

Groups were still a pain to form, standing in Ironforge (the popular place on my server since it was closer to the “trinity” of BRS, Scholomance, and Stratholme) for hours at times trying to get the last slot filled before someone else bailed.

With mob “leashing” and no player collision, people had less of an opportunity to be jerks.  There were (are?) some ways that Hunters and Rogues could train other players but it was far less common than in EQ.  “Ninja”ing still occurred as players would roll for items they couldn’t use but I didn’t see that happen too often.

I still had a small group of friends that I knew in real life that I tended to play with.

I also quit (for a time) playing World of Warcraft later in 2005 (around the time that Zul’Gurub was introduced).  I had reached maximum level and was running the “trinity” instances over and over.  The gap between those instances and “real” raiding wasn’t so much skill as equipment.  But getting equipped well enough to make that jump was a massive grind.

Was a slower leveling system where I never did reach the cap better?  I would never go back to Everquest, so I think not.  I think I had my fill of grinds with EQ and didn’t want to experience anything similar again.

The other contributing factor to my quitting was that my best friend played more than I did, got the equipment, and started playing with a raiding guild.  Which meant that he didn’t have time to run anything with me.  That may come across more self-centered than I actually intend it to be.  Raiding at the time was multiple hours a night, 4 or 5 days a week.  He ended up in one of the best guilds on the server and though they didn’t complete Naxx40 before BC came out they were quite a ways into it and my friend had (still has, in fact) a near full set of Tier 3.

That’s a great accomplishment but as you might be coming to understand from reading this, I mostly enjoy playing with real-life friends.  They are my “community” in the game.  My best friend, his friends, and to some extent, friends of those friends.

I started up another character in 2006 and played it somewhat sporadically during Burning Crusade.

Wrath of the Lich King was the best experience I’ve had in online gaming.

I switched back to my first character and started leveling it up from 60.  (Sadly, if you look at that character’s armory page, it is impossible to tell that it was created before Wrath came out.)  I still have several pieces of “Tier 0” which I am now proudly wearing through the transmogrification system.

My best friend had burned himself out with raiding in BC (he absolutely despised the gated raid system that Blizzard introduced) but another friend of mine started up a 10-man raiding group.  We started in Naxx, around the time that Ulduar was released.  Completed that and progressed into Ulduar when Trials of the Crusader came out.  Didn’t complete Ulduar.  The mechanics of those fights aren’t easy for a group of average players.  When Icecrown Citadel was released Blizzard also introduced the Dungeon Finder.

In my opinion, this was the single best addition to the game that Blizzard has done.

I could actually run instances whenever I wanted.  Our raid group was a 1 day a week thing due to schedules and it was rare when more than 2 of us were online together any other time of the week.  The Dungeon Finder allowed us to get Tier 9 and then progress through Trial of the Crusader and into Icecrown Citadel.

We never went back into Ulduar (which I tried to get us to do) and we didn’t get past 6/12 in ICC (but that was mostly due to players bringing in alts to get geared rather than focusing on progression) but it was the most fun I’ve ever had in an MMO.  Killing Marrowgar for the first time was absolutely amazing.

People on the forums complain about the LFG tool killing community.  For me it was just the opposite.  It added a needed boost to my flagging raid group and let us see content that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

“Community” for me is the friends people that I play with.  I couldn’t care less what people are saying in trade channel or Barren’s chat. Maybe my memory just isn’t good enough but the people that I did random dungeons with back in Classic and BC and never saw again (as far as I know) aren’t really part of my community.

The Dungeon Finder has been nothing but good for me.

Boy, have I gotten into rant mode or what?

On a side note my raiding group was killed by the difficulty of the Cataclysm heroics.  I probably didn’t hit the Wrath heroics before some nerfs had been done but there is a lot more “fire” to not stand in and Blizzard made healing far more difficult in addition in their latest expansion.

Luckily, I still have a 5-man group of friends (who were once “friends of friends”) to play with.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

What does all of this have to do with Star Wars?

I’m currently playing on a server that often hits “full” status and has a small queue for entering.

The so-called community of general chat is already pretty bad.

I haven’t seen much “trolling” but players asking simple questions usually don’t receive any answer.  Yes, it’s things such as “Where are the trainers?” that they can answer on their own with a little exploration and figuring out the map system but it’s sad to the point where I’m starting to answer.  Me, the introvert.

Maybe it’s the lack of a server-wide channel (such as the trade channel in WoW) but it seems like there is very little conversation going on.

Yes, in WoW there are times when idiots start doing idiot things in trade channel but there is also a lot of banter.  If anything builds a server “community” it is people talking to each other.  I know that much even if I’m not interested in that type of community.

I just don’t see it happening in The Old Republic.

Maybe it’s better on the Sith side?  There’s only 50 to 70 people in a Republic zone on a “full” server.  Most people don’t get involved in chat in MMOs to begin with, so that’s not much to form a community with.

Maybe it will be better once players reach level cap?  Maybe they’re busy leveling and not paying attention to chat?

There are players asking for groups for flashpoints and heroic areas or partial groups asking for more… and they continue to do so half an hour later (I hope they eventually get their groups together, I’m off somewhere else with my friend).

Oh, well.  I’ll continue to do what I’ve always done.  Buff random people as I run by and play with my friends.

Summary

The more things change, the more they stay the same?

Next time, I’ll describe duoing Hammer Station.

Not Much

Day 6

Not much to say.  The game is becoming more familiar to me so I’m finding fewer new things to write about.

Engine

My friend is utterly convinced that The Old Republic uses the same game engine as World of Warcraft.  I’m not sure it’s the same but if they did write their own engine they made it as similar to WoW as they could.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing but there are certain quirks to the World of Warcraft game engine and they are present in The Old Republic as well.

Gathering and Crafting

I said before that your companions are the ones that do the gathering.  Apparently if you dismiss your companion then you can do the gathering yourself.  That’s one way around some of the companion pathing bugs.

You can also target a resource node from a distance and your companion will run to it and do its thing.  This is a great time-saving mechanism but you do have to be aware that the companion may still aggro hostile mobs near the node.

Crafting an item takes much longer than in previous MMOs that I’ve played.  Crafting an item takes at least a minute and your companion is gone during that time.  Once you have multiple companions this isn’t such a big deal but it is still something of an inconvenience.  You can queue up to five items for it to craft at a time.  That would at least cut down on opening the interface constantly if you are trying to skill up a crafting skill while you play.

Summary

Level 18 and more of less finished on Coruscant.  Just received my spaceship but have yet to do anything with it other than a brief tour of the interior.

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs

Day 5

First, my friend and I did The Esseles flashpoint a second time.  We plowed through it this time without any trouble.  Bosses dropped the same items as before so I’m wondering if they don’t have a loot “table” as in most games.  My friend took the gear for his character’s companion.

Also, there have been small patches being downloaded but I can’t find any patch notes.  The minimap is now showing where party members are — the little person icon sticks at the edge of the minimap and turns to look like an arrow.  It’s still easily hidden by other icons and the purple color is a little hard to see against the blue-green color of the minimap itself.

I did figure out some other issues with the map system.  There are different levels of maps (similar to zone vs continent maps in World of Warcraft) and you can locate party members on the highest level map.  I still have a problem with how unintuitive it is to use the map.  In WoW, left clicking “zooms in” and right clicking “zooms out” when viewing the maps.  I figured that out almost instantly when I first started playing WoW.  The Old Republic does not use left and right clicks in that manner.  But it should.

We found a number of bugs, though none of them are game-breaking.

#4 Quests You Can’t Abandon

During one of my class quests, I received a bonus quest to kill some mobs that were in the class-specific instance.  Usually you complete these bonus quests without even trying — or at least we do; we do have a tendency to kill everything that moves.  This time I somehow did not complete the bonus quest.  Some time after exiting the quest instance I noticed that the bonus quest was still in my quest log.  I don’t have the option to abandon the quest and I can no longer enter that instance.

#5 Commendation Item

As you perform quests and kill mobs you acquire “Commendations” that are similar to Justice Points in World of Warcraft.  The major difference being that the Commendations are specific to each planet.  These Commendations are a type of currency that can be used to purchase gear.  It appears that the gear is “level appropriate” for each planet.  Tython equipment is good around level 10, Coruscant equipment is good for level 16, etc.

I think this system is superior to World of Warcraft since there is not a need for increasingly large numbers of points given.

The bug that I found is that one quest gave me a commendation as an item, not as currency.  I can’t spend it.

#6 Taxi Interface

This one is just a display bug.

If you hover over one of the taxi destinations it will show information about that point including what quests are nearby.  Nice.  (Aside from the fact that this one is showing a quest that I can’t complete.)

If you move away from the taxi person the map will close but the popup with its information remains.

#7 Pets and Elevators

There was a resource node up above me and the only way to get there appeared to be by taking an elevator.  Not a problem for me but it was a problem for the pet.  It would roll to the elevator and then turn around and go elsewhere.  I went up and then dismissed the pet and resummoned it and the picture below shows the result.

No, I’m not lifting the astromech into the air using the force.  Sorry.

He did that all on his own.

And I couldn’t do anything with the resource node since it is actually your pets that do the dirty work when it comes to gathering.

#8 Pet Flop

I’ll try to get a picture of this but I don’t have one yet.

Sometimes after a fight — maybe when the companion gets knocked down? — my friend’s companion will stay prone on the floor.  When he moves his character the companion sort of teleports from one location to another while remaining on the floor.

Taking an elevator fixes the problem.

#9 Twi’lek Tails?

Not sure exactly what this was.

We saw a Twi’lek (the race with the two tubes coming out of their heads) player run by and there was this… wriggling worm thing following her to one side.  It was clearly some sort of artifact and my friend believes that it was some part of the tentacles being projected incorrectly.

I haven’t noticed it with any other player, so it could be some odd combination of race and clothing, etc.

Creepy.  And distracting; I didn’t get a screenshot.

#9.5 Item Stacking

Not a bug, per se, but another simple interface issue that was overlooked.

Items don’t always stack as they should.

If you open your bank and right click items in your inventory then they are transferred to the bank.  Unfortunately, the stackable items don’t stack with those already in your bank.  Hopefully that will get fixed soon.

Summary

As I said, none of the bugs we found are game-breaking.  Having a quest permanently in your log is a bit annoying though.

In the end we reached level 16 and found another flashpoint.  This one suggests four players.  Fun times ahead.

Your Own Lightsaber

Day 4

Interface

Time for a bit more discussion of the interface for Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Some good things, some not so good.

The Good

One of the things that I like best is how the interface shows which dead mobs have something to loot.  Instead of the corpse sparkling like in World of Warcraft there is a beam of light shooting from it.

The best part of this system is that the color of the light differs depending on what kind of item is there.  White for grey/common items, green for “Premium”, blue for “Prototype”, etc.  Even quest items get their own color of gold.

This is a big improvement over other MMO systems I’ve seen.

Borderlands did something a little similar where dropped items have their own beams of light but bosses dropping items on the ground that way would not work well in an MMO.  Item stealing was pretty common in Ragnarok Online due to that.

The Bad

Alright, this one could be argued to be just an issue of getting used to the interface.  I think it’s highly unintuitive but I’ll admit that I’m going to be biased due to my own experience.

My friend and I finally received  our quests to build our lightsabers.  Cool, right?  I mean the lightsaber is the iconic weapon of the Star Wars franchise.

So I finished the quest, watched a video of the character putting together its lightsaber, and at the end had a dialog box for quest completion.  Hit accept and the lightsaber would have been in my bags.  Unfortunately, I got distracted by something in real life and somehow managed to close the dialog box instead.  Ack!

I checked everything that came to mind.  Nothing in the environment for me to click on and reaccept the quest or show the dialog box.  Looked at the quest log and the quest was no longer listed.  Checked my inventory several times and no lightsaber.  I wasn’t really worried (that’s called a lie, boys and girls) because I was sure that I would get upgrades from other quests or as drops but I was frustrated.  And stuck with a vibrosword.

So where was it?

Several minutes later and after my friend got his own lightsaber, I finally tripped across a little piece of the interface above the active quests.

Click the “Pending” there and voilà, the lost dialog box was back.

Yes, the text glows but it is pretty easy to overlook and there is no reason at all not to have it listed as “Pending” in the quest log as well.  This is an example of a bad interface.

The Ugly

The map.  It needs work.

Party members show up as small purple icons on your minimap and world map.  These aren’t very visible to begin with and easily get covered up by other icons.

If your party members are outside the minimap area then there is no indication of their location — such as arrows at the edge of the minimap as in World of Warcraft.

If a party member steps into a part of the game world that’s part of a different map (such as a cave) there is no indication at all of where they are on either minimap or world map.  You might be able to click on the links between different parts of the world map and find them but that could become a frustrating hunt.

As you would expect there are different things that both minimap and world map can track such as trainers, merchents, and so on but the world map can only show one of these at a time.  I have no idea why they would put a limitation like that on the world map when the minimap can show them all at once.

Bioware needs to make the player icons larger (or give us a scaling option for them) and add direction arrows when they are off the minimap.  I really don’t know why they didn’t steal these interface improvements from World of Warcraft when they stole so much else (not that WoW hasn’t stolen its share from other games).

Flashpoints

My friend and I did our first Flashpoint — The Old Republic’s version of dungeons as far as we can tell.

The Esseles was pretty fun.  The first boss — Ironfist — was by far the most difficult.  Part of that was needing to learn our classes better — though I don’t really have any tanking abilities yet aside from Shield Wall Saber Ward — and a little bit of extra control on our companions.

We died several times.  The winning combination for us was my droid tanking, my friend healing, and friend’s pet and I doing as much damage as possible.

We were level 11 when we went in and level 12 coming out.  I got two pieces of heavy armor and my friend got one piece off the “extra” boss.  I also got a lightsaber upgrade.  Yes, really.

I need to work on my hotkeys and get certain abilities in an easier to use position.  Also need to work on using Riposte when it’s available, I’ve always found abilities that trigger that way to be annoyingly awkward.

Summary

Got our lightsabers!

A Long Time Ago!

Day 3

Finally got to play the game.  I have a favorable impression overall.  The difficulty increases fairly quickly, especially with taking on multiple enemies that are higher level.

My friend and I still didn’t encounter any real problems until we stumbled across the entrance to a “heroic” area.  A group of “Strong” mobs presents more of a challenge.  When we saw groups of Strong mobs with an Elite mixed in we decided to come back after gaining another level or so.

We also came across an Elite wandering around by himself.  We took it out and the droid companion I had at the time was the only fatality.  It dropped a “blue” pair of light armor gloves.

3,500 Years

I tripped over a piece of information while reading some of the background info for Star Wars: The Old Republic.  This game is set about 3,500 years before any of the movies.

3,500 years?  That’s just ridiculous.  I wonder why they chose such an extreme amount of time.

Okay, setting aside whether a government can last that long — since this is supposed to be the same Republic that Palpatine eventually overthrew — the big question I have is why is the technology the same?

Oh, there are minor cosmetic changes, but the basics of starships, droids, blasters, etc. have apparently remained unchanged for 3,500 years.  3,500 years!  People on Earth were hacking each other with bronze 3,500 years ago.

So is the idea that the Republic has essentially reached the pinnacle of technology and only minor improvements remain?  Do the Jedi suppress any advances that might spell an end to their power?

This is going to really bug me until I find an answer.

I think they would have done better setting it … oh … about 500 years before the movies instead.  Still a massive amount of time as far as technology is concerned but more reasonable.  And they could have put a young(er?) Yoda into the game, just starting to train Jedi.  🙂

Cutscenes

One of the big selling points of SWTOR is that all the quests are voice acted.

I’m still deciding exactly how much this adds to the “immersion” of the game.  I do read a lot of the quests when I play World of Warcraft but at the same time it does add something to have the characters talking.

Then you walk by a Jedi master teaching some Padawans and he’s obviously speaking but there’s no sound or text at all.  That sort of thing was surprisingly jarring to me and seems to almost defeat the purpose of the voice acting.  At least put in some floating text for non-voiced NPCs and give them some lines.

The other “problems” with the quest system are something that you will only notice when grouped.

Shared Quests

When a player clicks an NPC to begin a quest cutscene and the quest can be obtained by multiple group members then it will display dialog boxes to the players.

The player that began the interaction will have a dialog box showing who in the group is ready and a single button to begin the cutscene.  There was much pressing of that single button before the other player was ready until we understood this dialog box.

The other players are presented with the choice to ignore the cutscene or take part (via hologram if they are too far away).

When multiple players are taking part in a cutscene and a dialogue choice is presented it will allow all the players to make a selection (there is a reasonable length timer on making a selection).  The players that make a selection “roll” a random number and whoever rolls highest has their selection become the one that drives the cutscene forward.  There’s also a bonus to the roll given to players that didn’t win previous rolls.  So you won’t see the same player get to make a dozen decisions in a row just because the RNG is acting up.

If a player is part of the cutscene via hologram then there are times when they are not allowed to make these choices — such as when receiving or giving a physical object as part of the quest.

And we found Bug #2!  The disabling of choice as described is not perfected yet.  It was funny to see a hologram reach out its hand to receive a scanner needed for a quest.

Overall this is a good system but the dialog box text is a bit confusing initially.

Class Quests

At first the cutscenes for the class-specific quests seem very similar to the shared quests, the obvious difference being that the other players don’t have any control of the conversation, right?

Well, it’s not quite that simple.

The other players can observe the cutscene if they are close enough when it begins — sometimes.  And there is no option to view it via hologram.  It seems that the cutscene when receiving a class quest or doing the final turn-in can be viewed but any cutscene that take part during the quest cannot.  For example I watched my friend talk to some bones at one point.  He said there was a hologram but you couldn’t prove it by me.  He talked to a rock a little later so I’m starting to wonder.

I don’t know if this limit on viewing other classes’ quests is an oversight or intentional.

Social Points

How do you get them?  By taking part in cutscenes with other players apparently.  4 points for the person who made the dialogue choice that was selected and 2 points for everyone else.

What do they do?  Increases your character’s Social level.

Why do you want a higher Social level?  It’s a number that you can increase.  Aside from that, I don’t yet know.

Other Bugs

During one cutscene of a Jedi council type of meeting a female NPC walks into the room.  The only problem is that the NPC was scaled improperly and looked about an inch high.  Bug #3 … no, I’m not calling the NPC a bug.

My friend got stuck on some terrain.  I’m not considering this an actual bug because it happens in every 3D game that I’ve played.  But it was still funny.  He was trapped by some rocks that looked like you might be able to trip over them but they certainly wouldn’t impede you.  On my screen the character was vibrating up and down.  On his screen the whole world was vibrating up and down.  Started a duel and whether it was one of my skills or my friend’s or the little astro droid that was following me, I don’t know, but he got unstuck.

Summary

Got to level 7 with only 1 unintentional death.

A Long Time To Go?

Day 2

My friend has all his issues resolved it seems but he’s working today.

I was curious how “death” worked in The Old Republic, so I loaded a character with the specific intent on getting it killed.

Not a difficult thing to do but I was surprised at how long it took.  My character had rough 600 hitpoints and was taking about 12-15 damage each attack.  I got bored after a bit and went to find a group of enemies to hasten the process.

Difficulty

First, a sidetrack.  I’ve played World of Warcraft since shortly after its release.  A level 1 character in that game back then would have died much more quickly.  Let’s not get into how easily a level 1 character in Everquest died.  Even now, level 1 characters in WoW start at about 60 hp and the first mobs you encounter in the starting zones do about 8 damage.  That’s roughly 6 times the amount in relative damage.

Should The Old Republic be that easy even at level 1?  That’s not intended to be a rhetorical question.

I have no problem whatsoever with easy content.  I’ve never been a hardcore player (“only” reached level 62 in Everquest) and I’m more casual now than I’ve ever been.  I get enough mental challenge in my work.  I’ve never had quick reflexes.  So I play games to relax, have fun, and socialize.  Most single player games have a difficulty setting so that players can play the way that suits them.  I think MMOs should (and will) incorporate the same type of selection.

World of Warcraft has done this with their raids — normal, heroic, and recently the “LFR” difficulty (supposedly easy, I don’t yet have the level of equipment required to try it).  And WoW is apparently going to introduce something similar for the 5-man content in their next expansion.

But how easy should the leveling/quest/single player content be?  Right now, there is no way to choose a higher level of difficulty for the shared game world that players inhabit.  But it wouldn’t be difficult.  If a player selects a higher level of difficulty then the game could reduce their damage, armor, etc.  A lower level of difficulty then increase those things.

That way players on both ends of the spectrum — and I’ve seen players asking for both easier and harder leveling content on the WoW forums — will get what they want.

Aside from those that want the hard content and can’t stand for others to advance through the easy content.  But you can’t please everyone.

Death

Some “appropriate” music from another LucasArts game.

So the good ol’ Jedi died at the feet of some Flesh Raiders.  I had two options: Return to Medcenter (wherever that is) and Call Medical Probe.

Both of these options had a small timer on them before I could use them.  The timer on Call Medical Probe was slightly longer.

  1. Return to Medcenter – put the character back where I got the quests for the area that it was in.  That could be quite a ways off.  Then again that could be used to save time if you are willing to take the durability hit.  I will investigate this more in the future.
  2. Call Medical Probe – character returned to life where it was felled.  The character is even given a few seconds of stealth so that you can move out of the presumably dangerous area.  Very nice.

No running back to your corpse at all.  I for one do not miss the 30 minute long (frequently longer) corpse runs from Everquest.  It’s never been a big pain to me in WoW, even when wiping multiple times in the BRD Lyceum.  I do wonder if the options will be the same in TOR’s version of dungeons.  That will have to wait for a future post.

Both options (or just death itself) appear to cause 10% durability loss on equipment.  So you don’t have the extra 25% penalty that graveyards do in World of Warcraft.

Again, I find that The Old Republic is designed to be even less difficult than World of Warcraft.  I will have to see how this affects my opinion of the game in the long term.

Summary

Easy content at level 1 means almost nothing.

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