A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Play A Game

So my son has really enjoyed Marvel Heroes Online. And I play a good bit with him. A fun diversion and his first real introduction to an MMO of sorts. But while watching the new Star Wars cartoon (Rebels!) on Disney last week, he looked over at me and his memory had clearly been jogged.

“Dad, didn’t you used to play a game like Marvel, but with Star Wars?”

Yes son, yes I did. He requested a download of SWTOR to his computer, and in this day and age of Free To Play, it was a done deal. He asked me about playing with him, and I told him sure, as any good dad would, but I wasn’t really sure, if you know what I mean. The game and I obviously have a very troubled history together. I did update the game, but…

So a couple of nights ago, I was playing some War Thunder with my brother and my son wanders over and says…”oh” – putting a dozen levels of regret in his voice as only kids can do. And went over to fire up SWTOR. And I knew it was time for an epic dad moment. Through WT text chat, the deal was arranged.

My brother and I stealthily logged off War Thunder and into SWTOR. I casually made a drink run to figure out his character’s name and where he was. We pulled a couple of similar level toons, and just like that, history was made.


So this post is to commemorate the first time that my brother, my son (his godson), and I all played an MMO together. The first time we all did Star Wars together.

And perhaps because of my son’s enthusiasm for all things Star Wars, and the game in particular, and perhaps because my brother didn’t have quite the experience I did and continued to play even after I stopped, I have found myself back in a game I never thought I would be in, and yes, even having fun in it.

And since TESO has decided that they will no longer require a sub, it looks like this will takes its place, for a while anyway (my son can’t afford the sub, but did spend the last of his Christmas money on Cartel Coins for unlocks and a Preferred account status). This bears more exploration and posting about, but as I said, this one is mostly to mark history, and to help me remember the way my son’s face lit up when a couple of familiar faces showed up to help him out with his questing on Coruscant.

People, this is why I do Time Capsule posts. Never would have guessed…

#mmo, #swtor, #2015

The Evolution of Storylines

Back in the day when I first started up with MMO’s, we didn’t really have a whole lot of storylines.  Well, we did, but we called them quests.  You know, back before quests were just a way to give you a bonus for grinding the same thing for hours instead of exploring.  Back then, every quest was a storyline quest by default.  In EQOA part of the reward of grinding was hitting a level that had an available quest, which would usually take several days to complete and lead you over multiple zones, with the end result usually being enough XP to move you up another level.  You’d pay attention to the text, you’d probably need a group, or at least another friend or two, and with the story text and some imagination, you could spend a week RP-ing the snot out of that thing.


But I digress…


This all comes up because my brother apologized to me last night.  We’ve had some problems with the overflow instancing in GW2 preventing us from being able to play together.  To be fair, while its not the best system (and it is broken right now apparently – there is an option to join your partymate, but it gives you an error message), it was our fault because we had a little miscommunication when the queue was up about whether we were going to stay in the overflow or not.  And we never got re-linked because he was zoning all over the play working in his storyline quests.  Hence his apology – “I’m sorry, I just got sucked into the story.”


And I thought – wow, what a  change.  A month ago we were complaining about how the storylines in TOR were slowing us down and not at all interesting.  And we frequently apologized when the action had to be interrupted for one of us to go advance a storyline or pull us the wrong way on the map to update a related objective.  And that led to a bigger question – how is it that Guild Wars 2 stumbled into better stories and arguable a better way of telling those stories, and with more meaningful dialogue choices (a three axis personality system rather than two), all while seemingly not making it a priority above anything else they were doing.  Granted, roleplaying and storyline were a part of their manifesto, but so were gameplay and fun and all that jazz.


And of course this led me to the inevitably sad “what if” scenario.  What if TOR had allowed your personal story the same level of customization that GW2 does?  Some of the early leaks around TOR indicated that you would be choosing a background for you character – but it was tied directly to your race – in other words, you had a single three point decision to make that decided both your back story and your race.


One of the small blips in the aftermath of TOR’s crumble was an anonymous posting by an alleged developer who complaining that it was the communities fault for giving bad feedback.   I am wondering now if it wasn’t bad feedback – it was the usual Bioware “allergic to listening” miscommunication.

You see, when images like this started being leaked, people hit the roof.  It was restrictive, it was draconic, it was foolish, it put us too much on rails…and at that point in the raging, Bioware pulled the plug on it and started opening up more race options for each character class.  They ended up throwing out the baby with the bathwater, because what people were actually saying was “What if I want to play a ‘Merc’ – who is not a human?”  What if instead Bioware had kept the three backgrounds, and separated them from race?  Or, as Guild Wars 2 has done, separated them *by* race?

Of course, all that is assuming that Bioware actually had that background programmed into the extensive voiced dialogue they had recorded, and I think we are all pretty clear on what the chances of that were.

So for now, we’ve ended up with some pretty decent stories from a game that didn’t set the bar too high, and took a long hard look at the feedback they got to try to give the people what they want.  And still managed to provide voiced dialogue for all its stories – thought sadly not for Bill the Barkeep, or Sally the Forlorn Imperial Navy Officer.  But try not to kill me for saying that I wish beyond wishing that The Old Republic had been some kind of love child between these two games.  The IP of Star Wars with the design philosophy of Arena Net.

What an MMORPG that would have made…

And as for the evolution of storylines – I guess the lesson here is that while the form has evolved, the importance of their inclusion and featuring in the game never has.  Its was there from the very beginning.  It was just that some games ignored that feature, and some worshipped it.   Guild Wars 2 manages to strike a nice balance between the two.

The Apocalypse is Upon Us!

Yeah, I said it.  First it was Brad McQuaid re-emerging as a developer with Sony.

Now, this, from Dan Stahl, executive producer of Star Trek Online:


The key decision to move STO to F2P over the last year was crucial to our current success and while it was painful along the way, ultimately sets us up for the future. It really makes me wonder if other games such as SWTOR wished they would have launched F2P as well, because converting all the systems over to a new business is a huge challenge.


Yes, that’s right ladies and gents, you heard that right:  Cryptic (the studio that got sold off) and Star Trek Online (the MMO that flopped like the left ear of the Easter Bunny) are concerned about the long term survivability of Star Wars: The Old Republic.  If anyone had told me a year ago, I probably wouldn’t have believed it.  But today it not only sounds less than insane, it actually sounds right on the money.


Truly, this is 2012 kinda stuff happening around here lately.

Hope For Some, Despair for Others

There’s a new cinematic trailer out today for The Last Airbender The Old Republic.  Watch in awe as Aang a female Jedi utilizes the elements of Earth and Air the Force to teach peace and harmony to a half dozen or so Firebenders Sith Warriors.

What next, Jedi who can use the force to alter the outcome of entire battles or the ability to suck capital starships from orbit?

Oh wait…

PS:  Bet Stormtroopers wish they had that Republic armor eh?  Rated to take a full frontal point blank grenade blast.  Oh my!

PPS:  You can find less cynical reviews of the trailer here and here.

Now We’re Talkin’

I probably have come off lately pretty critical of several MMO’s.  Alganon, Conan, The Old Republic, etc.  Several of these have drawn some difficult words from me lately.

So…when something positive comes along, I want to give it some air time as well.  Enter today – and  something that The Old Republic did unveil this week that gets a thumbs up from me:  Advanced Classes.  This directly addresses some of the concerns that I had around the classes and the possibility of the MMO becoming a Team Fortress/WAR sort of MMO.

In addition to your Class-specific Skills and Abilities, your chosen Advanced Class will grant you access to role-defining Abilities that represent additional areas of expertise and some may even grant new weapon and armor types. Additionally, each Advanced Class will also have three sets of Skills available to further customize your character.

Unlike most AA abilities that tend to open up three “trees” of skills, each making a style of play more viable for a given class, this seems to be a bit different.  Each of the eight classes will now open two advanced classes – meaning, really, 16 classes in total.  And each of those 16 classes will have access to three skill sets, one of which will be shared between the two (so two unique sets).

The example given on the page involves a Sith Warrior and seems to indicate that a player will have the opportunity to choose between two advanced classes, one of which will open up the role of tank (“some Sith Warrior players will want to charge into the fight and take the full heat of the enemies’ aggression”), the other that would open up the role of DPS (“Others will…[focus] on channeling all their rage to destroy their enemies as quickly as possible”).  If that’s true, it suggest an interesting dichotomoy: the ability to play a class as either a Jedi or non-Jedi.   My guess:

My own speculations aside, this is a step in the right direction to get me back interested in the game.  Kudos.

Check your Station Account!

Those wacky SOE guys are at it again, giving away free playing time and not telling anyone. 

I was trying to get set up for the debut of the 51/50 server today, and postponed my Station Access Pass purchase when I realized I had a few more days of free Vanguard, along with a free month of Star Wars and two free weeks of Everquest II.

The catch for me is still how to work Everquest. I have an account and most of the expansions unlocked, but apparently no longer have the disc!  So I can’t install it on my computer.  Does that mean I have to rebuy the game from SOE in addition to reactivating my account?  I wanted to try the Epic play and support this little experiment, but I hate to rebuy something I technically already own.  Any tips?