I am enjoying my second run through SWTOR, now entering its third month. But one thing I don’t like is when I start up the launcher and I see this screen:
I don’t know what “reorganizing data” means from Bioware’s perspective, or from a coding perspective. I know what it means for me as a player though.
It means I will be waiting at least thirty minutes to play this game, and that while I am waiting, my computer’s CPU power will be so enslaved to the process that I will be able to do virtually nothing else with it.
In response to encouragement from Rowan, I am going to do some developer thank yous. And I thought I would do that through the lens of a few of my favorite features in games. Things the developers conjured up and made reality for me, often as if reading my mind. Its a busy week for me, being Holy Week, so these will be short and sweet, but I will try to get three (3) of them in this week.
So, my first thank you goes to SWTOR’s developers for an underappreciated element of the game: Starship Battles.
No, not Galactic Space Fail, the original space battles tunnel shooter than shipped with the game at launch.
The developers realized that they did not have the time or money to create the free-flying space sim / X-Wing clone that Star Wars Galaxies (may it rest in peace) was able to pull off. But they did not want to not do anything. And so they reached back into the history and lore of the franchise and pulled out a piece of nostalgia – the arcade game tunnel shooters that many of us played growing up, and that were also a cornerstone of the Rebel Assault franchise.
It was a compromise, a chance for players to actually use their cool ships and put some time and effort into them, and something that could be created within the framework of the original game. And while it was panned widely when announced because it was not what SWG gave us, it was a nice peace offering and one that was actually a nice, entertaining diversion within the greater game.
So, thank you SWTOR developers, for giving us something when we might have otherwise had nothing, and for giving us something that fit within the franchise, lore, and nostalgia of Star Wars. Critics and anonymous posters may have banged on you hard for it, but I thought it was a good move from the beginning, and I still enjoy it today.
~ Its the little things that I appreciate in the game. That big knife sticking in the torso of the defeated barbarian master belongs to me. Most games that animation would disappear on death, but not here. The adaptive armor that allows you to achieve almost any look for any character without sacrificing stats or gameplay advantage. Are you a Sith Inquisitor using dark side heals but want to look like Cade Skywalker, rocking the trench coat vibe? No problem. Elite Republic Commando but you can’t enough of Leia in that bikini? Done. Have particular or conversation choices in mind but you don’t like the companion affection or dark side/light side changes? There’s an app a crew skill for that. Want to know where your apartment is on Dromund Kass? Well, they actually coded the building into the landscape.
~ Its also the little things that are frustrating. My Agent has a blaster pistol in every cut scene (and uses it in more than one), but I can’t equip or use one at all in the game. My companions are interesting, but my use in them is limited because I have to trade them out based on my in game need. Doctor Lockin (pictured above) can only come out when I’m in a group. Vector Hyllis, a fascinating character, never travels with me at all because he is locked into two different DPS stances. The word was that early on, you could give companion’s “kits” that changed their available gear and skill loadouts. I really wish we still had that. I would love it if I could make 2V-R8 tank for me, while he complains that he is not programmed for disintegration (a la C3PO in Clone Wars). Speaking of which, the ship droids need to be fully fleshed out. We need customization and conversations options for them, if you ask me. Though I suppose that might cut into Bioware’s profits from selling HK clones at however many $$$ a pop. And those giant, beautiful worlds? Well the game gets you running from place to place so fast because of its slow leveling curve (downright abyssmal if you are F2P) that you end up missing all the cool little tidbits they programmed in, like this conversation I overheard in a seedier section of Coruscant (you may have to enlarge to read it):
~ Some things Bioware has done have improved the game. The one that nearly made me weep with joy was the removal of people shooting each other to heal them. It was not only not canonical in any way, it was just plain stupid. Just think of all the friendly fire accidents from forgetting to change to the right cylinder. Shooting darts at someone still remains, but that I can sort of see. It was unloading your gatling cannon on a buddy to heal them that made me cringe. Also the credit drop rate is now reasonable rather than deeply stingy (I remember when paying 100 creds for a jukebox token was the pinnacle of luxury spending). The game has been nicely optimized (it runs nicely on my son’s computer, which does not have dedicated graphics). Strongholds are a nice touch, and they also gave a way to cut down on load screen hopping as you try to group up around the galaxy – you can always travel directly to the stronghold and from the stronghold you can (without expending a precious travel cooldown) head to the fleet, the city the stronghold is located in, or your previous location. It still takes a bit to get to a new place, but settling your character in for the night got a hell of a lot easier. And the decoration “hook” system is nice for those of us who want a nice looking home but stink at decorating (or just don’t have a lot of time to put into it).
~ That system does take a while to learn though. I burned my free prefab and some Cartel Coins for stuff that I could have gotten for free if I had known a little more about what I was doing. Which brings me to some of the things that haven’t changed that are hilariously irritating. SWTOR is the king of awkward animations, with nobody even close to second place.
~ That last one just sums it all up. My gun magically moves itself to its invisible back holster while my kolto droid is shooting snot colored healing dust in my companions face. And I didn’t even put up any from the conversations because…surprise(!), they still have fixed the bug they introduced in beta(!!) that disables the screenshot key when you are in dialogue mode (!!!). MMO gods help us Bioware, you are reaching Sony Daybreak levels of cluelessness.
Still, we are enjoying our return to the game. So long as I play the stories with a bit of camp and frivolity, they are bearable, almost like an MMO version of Galavant. The subscription seems to offer a turbo boost to leveling, which puts it just this side of glacial (two nights on Alderaan = half a level of 30). If you are playing every night, that’s probably not bad. But for those of us playing once or twice a week, I should finish up my main character sometime this summer, and my alt somewhere in 2016. Meanwhile I will start a new character in STO next month and it will probably be my fourth to cap, which will happen probably in 4-6 weeks on a similar play schedule.
And I will say that the player base seems to have bled off a lot of the undesirables, perhaps because of how harsh the F2P climate is. My son rescued a fellow player from a bad pull the other night on Coruscant and got a big thank you in general chat and a gift of 200,000 credits – maybe more, since that’s the escrow cap on his account! And my interactions with other players have been constant and pleasent. Helping hands and patient waits for pulls have been the norm since my return.
To that end, I’m seriously contemplating something I haven’t done with any MMORPG since December of 2011, when SWTOR launched: buy a six month subscription. While I subbed to TESO for seven months in total, I never had the courage to run a multi-month sub like I have done with WoT/WoWp and WarThunder. The game still has its flaws, but the ability to play with my son seems to have helped me hit the reset button on the game. And that has been the biggest surprise, so far, of 2015.
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…
Syp has a great post about the personality of games, and I would like to say I agree 100%. My Wildstar title was chosen with great care – “things that turned me off” – and not just off the cuff. I don’t think its a bad game. I’m just a getting a bit of an eyebrow raise at the terms some people are using to describe it – innovative being the main one.
Which leads me to the one way I can see a game as being bad. And that is when it misrepresents itself to the wider audience. SWTOR got absolutely pummeled post launch, and gamewise, mechanically, its not a bad game. Its quite solid. But when it is not playing itself out the way you promised people it would, its gonna take a beating in social media and in sales and subs as well.
By the same token, this has been the concern with TESO as well – you are advertizing Multiplayer Elder Scrolls – that had better be what you deliver!
But if you can show people what your game is in a realistic manner, keep the expectations in check as a result of that, and then launch without too many bumps, things will be just fine for you and your game. And as you might have guessed, the expectations part of that is the difficult one. Games that are greatly hyped had to deal with frothing masses and their exponential growth of expectations (one of the things that makes me worry about Star Citizen). In other words, you have to be careful when you develop a cult of personality around your game. It might not be a bad thing for business. But if the crowds discover upon launch that the personality they have been worshipping is not the one they got, well…
And behold, I laughed. And laughed. And laughed. And I wonder how long before the lawsuits kick in.
Here is a video of the Imperial gunship gameplay from Galactic Starfighter.
Got it? Now here is a video of the frigate gameplay from Star Conflict, Gaijin’s (the guys from Warthunder) game of space combat that is currently in Open Beta.
Whoops. Kinda similar huh? And that’s not all. TOR’s Galactic Starfighter has 3 classes of ship, with subclasses that have specific set abilities in each. Same as Star Conflict. And some of those special ablities and weapons? Well, the name is changed, but the effects are the same.
We might could wave it off as similarity…but really? I mean, Warthunder and Warplanes are different enough. These two though, hit so close to the mark in terms of HUD, weapons abilities, special systems, and so on, that its hard to pass it off as coincidence. So here is a small litmus test. Galactic Starfighter only has one class of frigate…er…gunship at the moment. Star Conflict has another. So if a new gunship class appears with player controlled smart missiles…well, that kinda seals the deal right?
I have played Star Conflict, but I have not yet had access to Galactic Starfighter. I will be interested to see how the two play out in a side by side comparison.
Copyright challenges aside, this does present a unique opportunity. With character transfers now enabled, I can move my Jedi to my main server (for free basically, I will have enough Cartel Coins amassed from my security fob allowance) around the time Galactic Starfighter drops for Preferred Users (January 14th). I can do the storyline, skip the side missions, and make up any XP gap with the Starfighter minigame, because quite honestly, if it is indeed like Star Conflict, which I really enjoy, then playing it as a break to the storyline would be…well, really nice actually.
Who knows, maybe 2014 will see a full time return to SWTOR for me? The real question is, if I do…what from my current play rotation gets the short end of the stick?