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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.

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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.

A Long Time Ago

Day 1

Installed Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I didn’t have any problems but my friend did.  On his system the installer would download 11 gigs of files, attempt to install them, find a problem, and then start the 11 gig download again.  Over and over.  He finally found a way to fix the problem (an issue with memory) on his computer but it looks like the installer has some problems of its own.  I’m hoping updates won’t be painful.

While my friend was trying to get his problem fixed, I fiddled with the game a bit.

Character Creation

I created some characters to reserve some names.  When you create a character you have to begin playing it in order to save/check the name.  A little different from other games I’ve played but not something to really complain about.

A good number of options in the character creation but all the races are very similar.  Sure, different colored skin or horns growing out of their head but the basic shape of all the races is the same.  The most physically distinct are the Twi’leks — the race with two tubes coming out of their heads, Jaba had one dancing for him at the start of Return of the Jedi.  Limited body shapes probably makes creating equipment models easier.

Two odd things I noticed.

  1. A good number of the hair styles for males look like they belong on punk rockers.  I don’t remember mohawks being that common in the Star Wars movies.  And no option for a ponytail?  Meanwhile, females don’t have any long hair options.  Could be that way to make equipment models and hair clipping less of an issue.
  2. There are four “body types” to choose from when creating a character.  For simplicity let’s call them skinny, normal, tall, and fat.  I like this sort of option but there is a huge discrepancy between “fat” for males and “fat” for females.  It’s more like “fat” for males (maybe they were trying for football lineman style “bulky”) versus “slightly plump” for females.  Below are pictures of “normal” and “fat” for both sexes.  Should have left the pose in a 3/4 profile view, the difference between males frames is even more apparent that way.

Character Control

So I loaded one of the characters to play around with.  The first thing that I noticed was the similarity in controls to World of Warcraft.

You expect certain things like WASD controls, spell/ability cast toolbar hotkeys, most emotes (a lot of those came from MUDs), communication hotkeys such a R for reply, etc. to be the same since so many games use them now.  It wasn’t those that caught my attention.

It was hotkeys such as Z for equipping your weapon and X for sitting down.  P for opening your spell abilities panel, O for social, L for quest log, etc.

World of Warcraft borrowed heavily from its predecessors but all the hotkeys being the same was a bit surprising.

I also found my first bug: the + and – keys do not affect minimap zoom.  Went into the key mappings and confirmed that they were set.  I tried setting them to different keys but those didn’t work either so the minimap hotkeys are simply broken for now.

Character Animation

The animation looks like it needs a little work.  Walking backwards looks really, really odd as a male.  Not sure yet what to make of the dances.  Jumping looked a little strange as well but it almost always does to me in computer games.

Summary

Nothing much to say yet.  Once my friend and I get up and running I’ll have more.

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