Sometimes Bad Is Good: Developer Edition

This will be a two parter, so venture back here tomorrow for the Player’s Edition.  But for now…


Its pretty clear that I’m not a big fan of Bioware at this point in my life.  And they have reeled drunkenly from failure to failure in a way that is almost gawkworthy.   The latest example I can give you is when I went to rename my characters for this past weekend.  I lost out on my first choice because, when you click a character to play that doesn’t have a name and it prompts you to rename, you’d think that you were being prompted to rename *that* character.  The one you just hit the big PLAY button for.  And you’d be wrong.




What I finally figured out I think was that it prompted a renaming process, in reverse order of character creation – in other words, starting with your newest creation and proceeding to your oldest.   In any case, my Jedi Knight ended up with my Sith’s name, and my Sith ended up with…well, about my 8th choice, because everything else was taken.


But when you are that bad, making sloppy mistakes left and right, sometimes, the mistakes actually work in the opposite direction.   Some of them can be hilarious, like when players realized with the new Bolster system in PVP taking into account gear scores, that it was actually better for them, statwise, to fight naked (for even more hilarity, that link is to the French players complaining/rejoicing).   Soon Nude PVP will be the wave of the future.  You can combine it with a dedicated Singles server for even more fun.  The creative side of me desperately wants to shoot a a cover video of Methods of Mayhem’s Get Naked video with Darth Vader taking Tommy Lee’s place, and perhaps the Emperor covering George Clinton’s part with a “Doin’ it Sith style” voiceover.


George knows whats up.


If you have no idea what I’m talking about – be glad.  I wouldn’t either, but working with teenagers sometimes introduces you to parts of live you would never have otherwise known about, lol!


Anyways, to get to the point – there are also times when messing up has an unintended positive consequence for the players – sometimes being bad is good.    Wargaming made a goof in the last update on the Russian servers with a shell price, and the end result was that some players ended up selling off a load of shells for ten times more than they had bought them for.  Instant profit!  But Bioware has to do everything better, so they messed up in real world econ, and I profited.   You are supposed to get 100 Cartel Coins a month for having a security key, right?   Check my ledger…


Again 2


Needless to say, those coins weren’t on my ledger for long.  I burned plenty this weekend, while I could.  Did it make up for all the Bioware fails to get a few extra Legacy perks and an account wide Unify Colors unlock?   Not really.  But it did make the weekend and the playtime more palatable.   I’d like to think it wasn’t a mistake, but rather some nice developer down in the vaults that read one of my posts and had a little “oops” with my account balance, but that’s just my glass-half-full side talking.  It only lasts until I unified the colors on my agent and found that my green chestplate produced some brown pants and a matching brown helmet.   I’d be mad, but since I got it for free…close enough, Bioware.  Close enough.

Bioware Finds Creative New Ways to Lose Business

ETA:  I logged back in this morning, and I can confirm that the character I know for sure I played in February is once again marked inactive.


Six weeks.  That’s all it takes.  And this on an RP server to boot.  Player beware.


I just logged into SWTOR, thinking maybe I would dink around with my agent.  And I discovered that now my level 25 Sorcerer has had his name bumped.  I am no longer entitled to the name I chose for my character, either because of another merger (that I was not informed of) or because perhaps a subscriber decided they wanted it instead.


Screw you Bioware.






I hope you enjoy the money I spend on the Collector’s Edition,  but you’ll need to make it stretch.  Because that is the only money you will ever get from me.

Counting My Cartel Coins

So, I have 100 of them.  I was fairly interested when TOR released the calculations for initials amounts of coins.  Being a Collector’s Edition person and a Six Month Subscriber mean I was going to get a slew of them.  Turns out the 1900 I was promised I only get if I subscribe again.


Still…I could sub up for $15, which would net me those 1900, plus 500 more complimentary with the sub.  Which is a nice bonus – 2400 coins normally costs $20, not $15.  So that’s not too bad, basically that boils down to in my case is: if you buy coins you get a one time disctount and a complimentary sub for a month as a thank you for being with us in the beginning.  I can live with that.  I also have 100 coins for my security fob – which I won’t complain about any more apparently…


Yet, this is TOR we are talking about here.  Bioware.  EA.  You know they have to have screwed it up somehow right?  I quickly realized there was no price list.  What am I going to get for my money?  Fortunately for Bioware, others have done the dirty work for them.   Assuming those prices are correct (the list is, what, six weeks old at this point)…I tried to figure out what would be on my shopping list:


Authorization: Crew Member Appearance – 325 Coins
Unlock: Additional Quickbar – 250 Coins
Unlock: Additional Quickbar – 250 Coins  (maxes my quickbars)
Customization Control: Hide Head Slot – 350 Coins
Customization Control: Unify Colors – 350 Coins
Customization Control: Display Legacy Name – 100 Coins


For those of you who aren’t math junkies, that comes to 1,625 Cartel Coins.  Not bad.  Especially since those Customization unlocks are one-time deals.  I assume that’s because of coding problems, or any sane F2P program would have made those per character and not per account.  Oh the irony, that the same hackneyed coding that caused this games downfall may also force choke its ability to generate F2P revenue!


Anyway, that would leave me 875 coins.   So then I look at my list of wants but don’t needs:

Major Experience Boost – 120 Coins for 1, 480 Coins for 5
Armor Pieces – 150 Coins each (Level 15), 325 Coins each (level 43)
Authorization: Artifact Equipment – 1200 Coins


The last one may not be necessary, I’d have to log in and check.  And then of course, I have to decide which two characters I’ll be using.  And in yet another fail, I don’t see that you can buy character slots yet.  That would be next on the agenda.


And then there are the things that I have no idea why you would buy:


Customization Control: Display Titles – 100 Coins
Legacy Perk: Improved Speeder Piloting – I/475, II/225, III/225
Weekly Pass: Warzone/Flashpoints/SpaceMissions/Operations – 240 Coins
Authorization: Event Equipment Requisition


The titles in the game were supbar, and since you could only get them by completing missions that everyone was completing – they weren’t really all that rare or unique.  The speeder thing is funny in that its a trap – sure it lets you unlock the speeder earlier – but do you have enough money for that?  I zeroed my cash balance out when I was finally high enough level to buy Piloting I, and I knew I would not hit the cash requirement for II by the required level.  Unless you have ways of making cash hand over fist….waste of money.  Same with the event equipment.  The one and only event I remember took so much pain and effort and awarded you only one piece of armor, which you may or may not have been able to use.  Gee thanks.  And the passes…well, if you want to do those on an unlimited basis, the sub is your ticket, and if not, you probably aren’t running dungeons five nights a week.


Overall, the one impressive money sink they did have was the medical droid.  Rezzing on the spot is a huge time saver, particularly if you are a solo player and don’t have someone to revive you.  At 100 coins a pop though…well, let’s just say its probably the best incentive to not die since corpse and item recovery circa 1999.


The real question here though, for me is this:  do I really want to dump another $20 into this game?  On the one hand, that will pretty much ensure that I can do what I want to do in TOR forever as I please, remaining F2P from here on out.  On the other hand…it wasn’t really a great game for me to begin with.  Maybe I should just take the 100 free Coins a month from my fob and call it even.



The End of a Gaming Era

Saying goodbye to SWTOR has not really been hard at all.  I’m sure I’ll be back when they make the transition to F2P, which seems more and more like a certainty with every passing day.  The fateful day for me is tomorrow, July 18th, when my sub goes dormant.  But there is a date which has caused me a good bit of sadness and melancholy as it approaches:  July 22nd.


You see, July 22nd is the day that my guild will turn off the lights and close and lock the doors for the final time.  Beskar has been one of the greatest guilds I have ever belonged too, and also marks the longest time I’ve ever been in one guild.  Beskar opened its doors back in 2008, if you can believe that, in preparation for the release of SWTOR, which back in those days was thought to only be a year or so away  (Looking at the timeline now, and having done some probing, I firmly believe that at that point in 2008, they were just starting technical development of the game).  I joined up in November of 2010, as the guild was getting ready to mark its two year anniversary, and was anxiously awaiting the promised release date of “Spring 2011.”  As it would turn out, I would be spending my first year in the guild with nothing to do in SWTOR *but* the guild!


Not that I minded.  Beskar had strict rules about being active and present, even before launch.  Be absent from the forums for a week and you were made inactive, two weeks and you were kicked.   Though no absolute posting policy was ever adopted, 50 posts a month was unofficially among those of us who were active considered a good “eyeball test” for making an effort to being an active part of the community.   I wish I had the server stats in hand to give you, but our guild, which mostly hovered around 50 people, carved out a wonderful little home for ourselves.  There was a lot of turnover, particularly as Bioware fumbled the ball  time and again before launch, and continued to back the game up (I wonder if this didn’t hurt launch sales and stability by the way.  I would say we lost 1-2 people per month who just flat decided it wasn’t worth the hell that Bioware was putting people through).   When the game launched, we had around 60 people, chomping at the bit!


Yet, within two months, we had begun bleeding members.  Revved up members who had been waiting three years at that point, lit into the content like a bat out of hell.  We had people who had level capped within a week, and spent the next seven chewing up dailies and pvp and maxing out crafting before realizing that Bioware had neglected to put together an actual world for people to explore, play, and -yes- even live in.


As of right now, we can barely scratch together a dozen members, and most of those are playing on the Republic side (we were an Empire only guild until Bioware belatedly announced that this would restrict your gameplay…) at levels so widely varying that its impossible to group or do content together.  So the guild leader, himself retired from the game, made the decision that it was time to close the doors.   And I am in 100% agreement.  The guild is not even a shadow of what it was a year ago.   And the irony, and the moral, of the story is this:


Every other guild I’ve been in has been killed by either another game, or by internal drama.   Beskar was killed by the game that its members was playing.


Just let that sink in a moment.


So…I will miss the people that I have spent the last two years getting to know so well.  Some of them are moving over to Guild Wars 2 together, some are sticking around in SWTOR for a while longer, one or two are headed to TSW, but the remainder are just….done with MMO’s in general.  That hurts all of us.


I think its appropriate that my guild leader for the last two years have the final word.   While I will miss individuals, I will also miss the environment  and home that Beskar provided me with.  And, like the leader, I know I will not be alone in that:


You might think I’m joking, but by early May, reports were coming in that the game had lost 400,000 subscribers.

So if there’s any saving grace in what was happening, it’s that we weren’t alone. We weren’t some strange mutant strain of gamer that obsesses over a game for years, then hates it as soon as it launches… it seems we had hundreds of thousands of other gamers, literally, who all thought the same thing, to keep us company. It’s an incredible statistic, isn’t it?


Writing from the website and post of his new GW2 guild, he reflects on what the loss cost us, and the hopes we still hold for the future.  But mostly, he is reflecting on the fact that Bioware, like Sony before them, managed not only to fail to deliver a top notch MMO (something that would be frustrating, but understandable), but managed also to kill communities.  Ouch.


To my Beskar vod’e – I wish you all the best in the future, and I hope that whatever game or guild you are headed too, it treats you well, as you deserve, because you are awesome people.


Mishuk gotal’u meshuroke, pako kyore!

Saying Goodbye to SWTOR

I have 5 days left on my sub at this point, and while I don’t have any regrets about my time in the game, or moving on to play The Secret World, I do have some disappointments.

When the game asked me for my reason for leaving, I could have given several:  playing another game, problems with running the game/graphics, dislike my character/game mechanics, etc.  But ultimately, I chose what was the last in a fairly long list:  game did not meet my expectations.

And ultimately, that’s all it is.  Its not a bad game.  But there’s a host of things that I was expecting or wanting that just aren’t there.  Things that ultimately have led, not to nerd-rage, but boredom and disappointment.

Basic Bugs –

There are still some pretty obvious bugs that just haven’t been addressed.  My characters in cut scenes still have no eyeballs.  That’s pretty telling on what is a key feature of a story driven game.   My agent’s best knife attack has a combat animation that is either incomplete or glitched, I’m not sure which.  The end result is that instead of driving a knife home two handed into the mob, it looks like he is doing a point blank hadouken.  Yes I know, I died a little inside when I realized there was a Wikipedia page for that as well.

Pacing and Story –

After my little interaction with the writer of the Agent storyline on the official forums, I thought I was getting an Iain Banks style spy novel.  A character equally comfortable going undercover with a knife as strapping on some body armor and using a gun.   As we’ve repeatedly joked about throughout the game though, I got precious little Cheradenine Zakalwe and a sad abundance of the cheesiest form of James Bond possible.

Of course I’m a Jedi, darling. Come over here and I’ll show you my lightsaber.

Space Combat  and Alternative Options-

I initially defended the tunnel shooter minigame – I thought it was a nice nod to the original arcade games and a fun little diversion.  Until I realized that it was static.  The attacks, the placement of the fighters and the shots they take – all programmed, with no randomness.   Add to that how few missions there really were and…well, its like playing on an Atari 2600, but without the nostalgia.  At least add some modern refinement to the old warhorse if you are going to trot it out.  And that’s pretty much your only option.  Since the game and worlds are so tied to the storyline, if I’m on in a night where my group isn’t…there’s just not a lot to do.  Unlike games like Rift, where I would just zone into the capital and spend a happy hour doing some dailies from the current festival or jumping into some Rifts.

So…The Secret World could not have a picked a better time to launch.  Nor could Guild Wars 2 for that matter.  I feel bad for SWTOR, I really do.  I honestly do not believe that Bioware will be running the show over there much longer.  EA has too much riding on this, and everything Bioware has done has either been too little/too late (see also, the “incentive” for staying on longer than six months – a non-combat pet, and less marks than you could get in a week of grinding), or radical and ultimately not worth the investment (dialogue options for *everything* – hell, I’m surprised you don’t have to have a conversation with the vendor just to spend some commendations).  I believe the EA will eventually move Bioware off the game and onto other things, and let a cobbled together veteran developer team remake the game in a way that is more friendly to a long term stay – or that at least gets them closer to that much touted 10 year lifespan remark.

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.

TOR Force Chokes Server Merges

When the announcement came out last week that TOR was going to be doing server mergers, I was actually pretty happy.  After taking a look at some of the relevant stats and research, I figured that in the pool of six East Coast RP-PVE servers, we would be moving to two or three, depending on how crowded BW wanted the servers to be, and how many actual players were left on each of the servers.   And when what was arguably the number five or six server got merged with the most active one when transfers opened on Tuesday, this only server to bolster my conclusions.

But boy was I wrong.

Not three, not two, but one.  Six servers squished onto one.  You think people get mad about losing their name when two servers get squished together, think about jamming six of them together.  Its a wonder any of our names were not taken by the time we got in.  And in lovely EA/BW fashion,  the process was not based on any sort of fairness about time invested or anything like that – it was purely first come, first serve.  When I heard it, the first thing I posted on our guild forums was a question of how long it would be before we had to queue up to get into the game.  My guess was by the end of the week, but it turns out, it was by the end of the night…

But my Lord, we need more time…::cough, choke::

We’re still surveying the damage done.   Personally, because of the poor optimization of the client, it takes me an upwards of 7-8 minutes to log into a character.  I didn’t have that kind of time for 11 characters across 3 servers, so I lost any and all mail on my characters.  Including bonus credits for missions, and in several cases, Legacy and Collector’s Edition items for some of my alts.  I will have to rename all but one of my characters.   I haven’t heard how the rest of my leveling group did, but initial reports were not good their either.   The same can be said for my Republic characters.  You know, all the ones that I created and leveled before the Legacy announcements were made?  That I can’t transfer onto my server because these are one-way, limited mergers?  That BW couldn’t figure out the logistics of a full transfer system is mind-boggling.  Also mind-boggling is the realization that Legacy names, like character names, are unique.   Some people woke up this morning, on an RP server, with completely different characters than they went to bed with last night.

I’m not sure why there wasn’t a move to consolidate to two instead of one.  And I’m sure as hell not happy about having my legacy become something other than.  Quite honestly, it deflated what little energy I have left to play what has been, to my experienced MMO eye, a mediocre game.

I guess the only question left is: where do they go  from here?

They could start by fixing some bugs maybe. Like the one where you take a screen cap of a cinematic and get this instead.

Max Levels, Time Played, and Just What Is Loyalty?

So I managed to, for the second time, to max level in an MMORPG.  Meet Vice Admiral Gharrett…or at least, his backside as he dings 50:

Oooh, shiny.

And, with all the hubub about SWTOR’s loyalty rewards for those people who have totally played the game the way Bioware told you not to (yes, this smells of EA, not BW), I had some questions myself.  I did some checking of time played.  Hitting 50 in STO took me almost exactly 100 hours.  Of course this time was broken up and spread out, but there you have it.

In SWTOR on the other hand, I have invest 93 hours into my main, and I just dinged 31.  Incidentally, I’d show you a screenshot, but as it turns out, amond the myriad of things still bugged 4 months in is the screenshot function (sometimes it captures, sometimes it doesn’t).   I’d say I’ve put in another 50 or so hours with my alt and various piddly starter characters, which means my playing time on average has been about an hour a day.

At that rate, I most certainly am not a “loyal customer” (at least, according to EA/BW).  And all those shiny new fun goodies in the Legacy system?  Well they mostly revolve around items either required you to be 50 (another 100 hours or so?) or costing in the 500k to 1m range in credits (I currently have about 50k to my name).

In other words, 1.2 did nothing for me.  It fixed none of the bugs I was struggling with, it added no new content for me, and did nothing to enrich my game experience.  But that makes sense if I am not a loyal customer.

So what does that mean?  It means that I have to vote with my wallet.  When my six month sub is up in June – what am I going to do?  Keep paying for a buggy game with a snail-paced development cycle?  Keep paying for a game that considers me a second class citizen?  I don’t know.  I do have lots of friends (and family) playing, so as long as they want to play, I will too, but that’s about as far as my loyalty extends at this point.

So maybe EA/BW is right after all.  But its hard to think of it as anything other than a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Coming Up For Air

With a post like that you’d think I’d be about to unveil my level 30 Jedi Guardian or something.  Sadly, no.  I have not had nearly the playtime this week that I had hoped to have had.  Heck, I even took Tuesday off work.  But there’s just too much going on in the holiday season here, I’ve had to lower my expectations.


You and me both, big guy.


(On a side note, I wonder what this means for the player base divide.  The hardcore players will cap even faster with the holidays around, while the casual players will be moving even slower…)

However, I did manage to accomplish my most basic and vague head-start goal:  Dear Emperor, please let me get off the starter planets.  And so it has been.  I have three characters clear of the morass of the first planets and with any luck will have one more done before Tuesday hits.

Just to give you the lay of the land there, I currently have a Sorcerer who will be healing for the little trio of family I play with, an Operative who will be my primary character  for guild activities, and a Sentinel for some casual solo/Republic play.

And of course, I was very excited to learn that my guild, Beskar, had been placed on the same server as the Republic Mercy Corps, meaning I will, by good fortune, be able to cross paths or at least glowsticks with GC and Rowan.

Speaking of expectations, launch has so far been the stable, queue laden thing I thought it would be.  My serious concerns – mostly revolving around graphics, were in fact handled, if in a bit of a minimalistic manner.   We did get a toggle for shadows, which helped, and its obvious that the textures got one final pass before launch.

There though, still a number of bugs revolving around guild chat and the UI, mob quirks, and the one creepy conversation bug where everyone’s eyes disapppear – which is almost as freaky as it is in Event Horizon, only with less nudity involved.


20274-23126.gif (320×240)
Bob, do we need to have another talk about keeping your eye contact above chest level?


Of course there were also some unexpected surprises in that region too.  As it turns out, there is actually such a thing as hot Jedi chicks, and just to help you control the urge to go Google that right now with safe search off, I’ll conclude this post with proof of that.

Basically, she has to keep a droid for a companion. Nobody else can handle the sexual tension.