So in roughly 21 hours, the most anticipated MMO of the last [insert ridiculous hyberbole] will take its first baby steps into its launch. Right off the bat, I applaud them by doing the sane thing and adding two days to the rolling start, to keep daily increase to the load more manageable. And if you are worried about the stability of the servers and lag, don’t be. I experienced very little in the way of technical difficulties when it came to ping or server crashes. The only significant issue was the server queues, which regularly ventured into the 1 hour+ territory. Hence my applauding the more gradual rolling start.
However, there are a number of other issues that will tax the launch experience and may leave a sour taste in people’s mouth. Especially if they did not get a chance to peek behind the curtain of the TOR beta for themselves.
Yep, that is the level 50 endgame PvP Armor for the Sith Warrior. With textures set to High. Now, I’m not a graphics guy, at all (I still play the old Might and Magic games and think they look just fine), but that is on the borderline between making me throw up and making my eyes bleed. This game has been in development for six years, with the best staff money could buy, and that’s the best they can do? And its not just aesthetics either.
One of the first things you should do in TOR is turn all of the options for shadows OFF. In the earlier rounds of beta, I could run it with every option maxed out, and get 30-40 fps. If I turned shadows off. If I didn’t, I got between 2-20 fps, depending on whether I was inside or outside. And to be honest, even that may not help you. In the last round of beta, there was a graphical “update” and I had to turn everything down to low to make the game playable *anywhere*.
I have been watching the launcher/patcher, and there have been small updates everyday. My grandest hope for launch is that they fix this. I do not want this game to be a pixelated mess when I play it, and there is no excuse for it being one.
That being a stand in representative for all the promised features that will not be in at launch. Which is all the more critically laughable given just how insanely uptight BioWare has been about the “We won’t comment or talk about it until its ready.” Apparently, “ready” does not include actually testing the feature on your playerbase. More on that later.
The official reason for Color Match not being in the game is that it reduces the diversity of graphical looks for armor. One, that ranks among the most (captain) obvious statements I’ve ever heard. Of course it does. There is no way to fix that. That’s the price you pay for that system. This is why almost every MMO has gone to using a dye system, because, you know, that actually *increases* the graphical diversity.
But don’t let the stupidity lull you into complacency. The real reason the lack of diversity is an issue in TOR is because there is already a lack of diversity. Remember all those interviews about the hundreds of armor sets in the game? Not even close. There are perhaps ten armor sets per class residing in the game right now. Remember that level 50 PvP armor above? Yeah, there are actually *6* sets of level 50 PvP armor. Sort of.
Not bad for a game that’s been in development for six years right? Good thing they pushed this game back
six months a year to work on polish and making everything perfect, right?
Now I get that I’m harping on graphics, and I am, but that’s not all. There is also the laundry list a mile long of unfixed bugs and known issues that were still present in the game when beta ended 8 days ago.
Things like: “ATI video cards may experience some graphical inconsistencies such as blank icons, blank character portraits, or flickering shadows. These may supersede the other issues listed here.” Incidentally, I’d love to hear back from anyone with ATI cards. I have one, and I have this issue, among others, obviously. This has the potential to impact half the playerbase, and absolutely nothing was done about it at any time throughout beta.
Or the infamous “Login Bug.” After you have been playing your character awhile, you may log out on your own volition, or get DC’d, and come back later to find that you can’t access your character. At all. It will try to load it, but fail. Players found a workaround in that they could “unfreeze” a character by making a new character. This was rough, especially if you had already used all the character slots on your server. Someone eventually found you could create a character on any server and get the same result, which gave everyone some breathing room, but here’s the kicker: I don’t know anyone who avoided this bug in beta. It was pretty much universal – and yet BioWare never even publicly aknowledged that it was a bug or that they were working on it. It never appeared in the list of known issues, and no official workaround was ever offered.
Of course, there were also the humorous things. Players, in protest, began to report that chairs were not interact-able objects in the game as a “bug.” BioWare’s response was to list it as a non-issue, stating: “Some chairs and benches cannot be interacted with.” Some is actually – all. I have heard that you’re captains chair in the ship is usable now, which puts TOR about six months ahead of STO on the development curve. Not that that is anything to brag about.
So you may read this post and think all of that is fine, and that you can live with it. And honestly? I can too. But it frustrates me to no end. I mentioned earlier about BioWare’s policy of not talking about things until they were “ready.” I think all of us in our right mind believed that meant that these features actually, you know, worked. In real life. Instead, BioWare was talking about things as soon as they were done with them on the drawing board.
Perhaps because of this, it has come as a shock to those of us who came into testing later to learn that just over a year ago, there was no testing being done. Yep, that’s right. TOR was advertising a launch 4-6 months from when they first began beta testing. After testing 3 months, there was apparently an “oh s—” moment, because then launch was backed up another 4 months. But apparently it wasn’t enough of a n “oh s—” moment because then it was back up another 2 months. And apparently that didn’t do the trick either, so it was backed up for another….well, we will never know the answer to that one, because EA stepped in at the point and told them they could have 1 more month, and that was it.
Now that process in and of itself is not disturbing. Games get backed up all the time, and this is a first time MMO developer. What is disturbing is that BioWare does not seem to be learning from its mistakes. Player feedback is undervalued, testing cycles are taking longer than they should, and there is a clear refusal to look beyond their four walls to learn from mistakes that other MMO’s have made. The latter has admittedly been a mixed bag – bringing us some innovations we have not otherwise seen in MMO’s, such as the Mod system in place for weapons and armor, and some of the innovations in crafting, as well as the stubborn clinging to storyline as the grand central feature. But at times it crosses the fence from being a good creativity jolt to being a sort of unassailable dogma. At some point in the midst of an ongoing issue, BioWare is going to have to look to its peers for support and solutions. You can’t innovate everything, all the time.
Anyway, I ramble on. In conclusion – launch is probably going to be fine overall. It will try the patience of people like me who know there are things out there that aren’t being handled as well as they could be, and that could create issues in retaining subscribers further down the line. But I, like you, will be perched over my computer tomorrow at 7:00am CST, waiting for that grey play button to go gold.
One thought on “How Well Will the SWTOR Launch Go? That Depends on How Tolerant You Are.”
Man, I read this post, and I can only hope that everything turns out well. But we’ll always have STO, right? Right?
Also: have an ATI card. Will keep you posted.
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