SWKOTORMMORPG

Timely Coincidence

I finished chapters 2 and  3 of the Jedi Knight story arc in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and from what I can tell is the “original” content that launched in 2011. First impressions is that it was very Star Wars-y. No huge surprises but it fit the general tone and theme of what I have come to expect from the Star Wars universe. I have been playing the game completely as it should have been made (single player RPG) and as noted in a previous entry here it took me almost exactly 12 hours to finish Chapter 1 of the galactic saga. Oddly enough, to complete chapters 2 and 3 it took almost exactly an additional 12 hours. My character has played 23 hours, 49 minutes through the single player story line. This includes no side missions but does include the story mode flash points which further expand on the main story line.

Is that a beautiful co-incidence? Semi attractive one? A coincidence having nothing doing  with looks at all?? 12 and 24 hours are just such nice, sensible targets for a developer to strive towards that I find it really interesting wondering if that was on purpose or not. Only time will tell, as I push on to the next series of content. I had to google it to ensure I had the order right but looks like it goes Chapters 1-3, then Ilum, Makeb, Riven, Ziost.

Also, a throwback to last post, I did find my Wampa finally. No awesome cave though, just wandering around the frosty regions of Hoth.

And it was interesting to note, on the next planet, yet another familiar creature from the Star Wars movies used as a roaming mob in game. Clearly they have it easy with so much visual material to pull from. One of these almost ate Anakin on that planet when tied to the pole thing with all those bug people before a bunch of good Jedi show up. My power of recollection is amazing.

The visuals are on point and the gameplay and lightsaber fighting options feels great. The MMO aspects of this game keep getting in the way of making it spectacular but you learn to ignore those. In case you were wondering what those are, in no particular order:

  • Seeing 5 Kira Carsens attached to 5 other Jedis in the same area, is immersive ruining. Hey, she is  a romance interest and *your* companion. No one said anything about cloning. That doesn’t happen until what, Episode 2?
  • Any human being that can take a dozen slashes from a lightsaber is more powerful than the emperor himself.  “Imperial Medic _002” can take that.
  • Running past mobs inside a star ship, in full view, outside of an “aggro” range while alarms go off due to the full attack.  If this was single player there wouldn’t need to be a certain mob density and all mobs could be on high alert. “Oh listen, alarms. Oh look at that non-imperial with a lightsaber cutting down those guys over there. Well, he’s not in our guard area, so let’s just watch…”

A lot of the game feels like “must add this because MMOs have this” instead of “let’s make an awesome Star Wars game and let it stand on its own”. That view of this game is hardly surprising to anyone who has criticized it in the past (or present), but I will continue to argue that it would have been a far bigger success (both commercially and critically) if they went the Mass Effect route with it.

Speaking of Mass Effect, I think I am going to play through the trilogy again once I am done the SWTOR expansions. It was one of the best ever made, if you ignore the ending.

Familiar Territory

Hoth.

I love Hoth. The starting planet of The Empire Strikes Back, Han wielding a lightsaber (to gut a Tauntaun), AT-ATs, Snowspeeders, Probe Droids.. LOVE that (fictional) planet. It was with much enthusiasm that I traveled to Hoth for some missions for my Jedi Knight in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Would they give homage to the films? (of course). Would there be Tauntauns? (yes, and you can buy one as a mount). In fact, they put the Tauntauns and respective vendor right where you get off the shuttle. Clever commercialism.

Why hello, you marvelous meat blanket

Being Canadian and growing up in a rural snow belt I have strong and positive memories of 8′ high snow banks, driving a snowmobile to school, making snow forts and the like. Outside of Star Wars nostalgia I also have a personal affinity for the crisp white snow. Stepping out of the base (during the day of course, I mean, you freeze really fast at night on Hoth) did not disappoint.

the cold, crisp air

The mountains, snow, short and fat AT-AT (ok, stretch there) but there I was, on Hoth. Amazing. I didn’t expect to see any Snowspeeders (it was a different era after all, that tech is WAY in the future) but there was something so familiar, comfortable and exciting about having adventures on this planet if only by knowing what was to come a few thousand years in the future. Seeing how it is in the present timeline versus the desolation in 3600 years was enjoyable from a lore and personal joy perspective.

Would there be any other familiarities? I haven’t found a Wampa yet, but I am early in the story line. I did take a look around on my speeder to see what I could find of of course, Ion cannons! They were an important escape tool in The Empire Strikes Back and nice to see that the Republic used them on this planet way back when as well.

There are few other MMO worlds that can get me excited about an environment like SWTOR.  Do you have any favorite places in your MMO that just gets you feeling all good and excited to visit? Where does that stem from for you?

I Would Walk 500 Light Years

Being a big fan of Bioware games in general and also of Star Wars it may come as a surprise that I haven’t played much of SWTOR. When it was sub based only I didn’t have much time to game, so lacked investing in it. When I played the FTP version it was in it’s early and horrendous version – at one point, I couldn’t get an item upgrade from a low level quest unless I was a subscriber. That, and a punishing XP penalty for non subscribers made the game an unfun crawl. You couldn’t even sprint unless you paid. That scared me off. Besides  – the game always would have been better suited as a single player game to begin with.

I just checked and I have 7 old posts under the SWKOTORMMORPG category (the tag was to make fun of MMO acronyms) from 2008 and 2014. I’ll do a quick recap of each to review where my mind was about the game at any specific time (in order) before revisiting my foray into the title over the weekend.

KOTOR – A New Hope (December 2008): This was pre much anything out there about KOTOR and having picked up the Mass Effect Franchise I was cautiously optimistic about how an MMO in the Bioware style would work. The post covered off gameplay elements in ME, and how they may better translate over into MMO land. None of them did, of course.

Pre Marketing Hype Gone Wild (July 2009): One of my favourite short posts here, really. In it I dissected an exclusive interview where the devs basically declined to say anything at all while participating in a 4 page interview which had me questioning why in the heck they would agree to do an interviewin the first place. Bare minimum pre-screen questions, at least – or actually answering something players were interested in is not a bad idea. It was a joke, and a sad state of affairs to how companies hype games.

Lambs to the Slaughter (December 2010): After reading players expectations for the game during a SWTOR QA I realized that player expectations for this title cannot possibly be met as people were hoping for unique experiences and individualism in an “on rails” MMO world.

Star Wars the Old Republic: Hopes and Dreams (September 2010): Two years into the hype cycle I review the things I loved about Mass Effect and Dragon’s Age: Origins and allow myself a brief moment of optimism for the future of SWTOR. Yes, yes, pie in face, laugh at me, whatever you want to do. Hey, they had the building blocks to make something special!

Feast or Famine (July 2011): With the game nearing release but many playing beta I quick hit a note about having less interest in buying the game at release due to reviews from trusted and respected bloggers in BlogNation

Fun Police for Jedi (August 2011): This quote captures my angst in this article:

“… they are releasing a PVP warzone based on a neutral planet where the good guys and the bad guys pause their intergalactic conflict (oh, that silly thing?) to partake in something loosely resembling football set in a fantasy world“.

Yeah. Nothing screams end of the galaxy like copying the NFL.

Against My Better Judgement (October 2013): I tried to get into SWOTOR but the F2P issues were completely rediculous coming from a long stint in League of Legends (who does F2P extremely well)

How to Lose a MMO Gamer in 10 Ways (September 2014) was probably my most commented on article here (at a whopping 25) but I listed the things that make me not care about MMO games and the companies that make them. This wasn’t specific to SWTOR except they were tagged in it, probably because they hit 6 of the 10 items listed at some point in their development cycle.

I ran the emotional gamut on Star Wars: The Old Republic. Hope, to absurdity, to bitter sarcasm, to more hope, to disappointment, to more absurdity, to resignation, to frustration. All of that and I don’t think I put more than 20 hours into the game over that 6 year period. I did do a beta phase and remember playing the Agent story line and getting to mid 20s but I didn’t ever write about that (which is weird for me). I had to triple check that I didn’t mis-tag a post or two.

 

Nevertheless, I decided to give it the old college try. Here are the weekend bullet points as I experienced it over the weekend

  • Zones are gigantic. Need speeder to move around. Non subs get at 20, subs at 10. With 250% xp boost you get a speeder by the second planet which makes it not a gigantic deal, but it would really suck to ahve to walk it all on your own. I do like the zone size (when proper travel options are available) as it really gives a grand scale in game. This inspired the title. I was on autorun most of the time to get around, slowly. Painfully slowly.
  • $10 to toggle helmet off/on. Choice between looking stupid (ranger helmet) or Jedi cool (hood). I chose stupid for the stats, but wish I could toggle for in free, or in game credits, or something. Another basic QoL smashed by bad F2P
  • Weapon stuck at 50% power because weapon quest rewards require an expansion to use. I can’t really die, but I kill really slow. I don’t remember Jedi sucking so bad in the SW universe. Don’t give expansion rewards in base game. SMH.
  • You get 2 quick slot bars. You fill those up by level 30. You have to pay to get anymore. The rumours were true.
  • Jedi Knight story is well done. I am enjoying that aspect.
  • NPCs you help may email you later on. This was well done and a nice surprise. they pace it out from when you actually helped them so you kind of forget about it, until you get the in game mail notification. Nice follow up. I can’t delete the email from my first (ex) girlfriend even though we can’t see each other ever again. Jedi code BS.
  • You could cut game time in half with reasonable travel modes. Giant zones and lack of speed travel stretches this out. Feels like 50%+ is just getting place to place. I have mastered how to avoid mobs to get there faster. Fun mini game. Maybe not that fun, but making the most of it.
  • Quick travel on 26 minute timer. Subscriber it is on a 6 minute timer.
  • How many airports look the same in the world? Why does every spaceport look exactly the same? Missed opportunity to rationalize differences and cool spaceports based on the planets. These could be omitted completely without missing a beat, but would by default increase travel time. SWTOR loves slow travel.
  • Chapter 1 took me 11 hours, 21 minutes as a full F2P player to complete, and I ended up at level 35.
  • I had a fun 11 hours. SWTOR, despite their F2P Fu@kery, deserve some money. I don’t mind paying for my entertainment.
  • Confusing as hell. Buy expansion? Subscribe a month? Buy coins? So many options, no clear path to what makes sense. Research time.
  • Turns out if you buy anything, you get “Preferred” status for life which means you can just sub one month and get F2P benefits for evah!
  • Bought 60 days plus goodies by buying the expansion pack. Good value for the enjoyment.
  • It still should be a single player game. Many MMO things ruin the single player experience. It’s weird, because you can’t group for the story missions, which is 90% of the low level game.

Now that I am subbed, for research, I am going to do the same Chapter 1 story and see how much faster it is as a subscriber. Will be interesting to see the difference! If you ever wanted to experience the single player story lines of this game now is the time, the XP gains mean you far out level the story even just doing the main story line. I know I am missing out on some good content but can always go back and experience side quests when I am done the main one. The game levels you down to make content playable.

How to Lose a MMO Gamer in 10 Ways

In the romantic comedy “How to lose a guy in 10 days” A reporter is writing an article with that name – and wants to prove she can lose a guy in 10 days. On the other side, the guy, a big advertising exec takes a bet that he can make a woman fall in love with him in 10 days. The result is genuinely cute (but mediocre) – no matter what she does that would make most guys afraid he sticks it out. Both are trying to win a bet. It’s not high on my recommended list, but a funny thought. If there are two people with exact opposite intentions, how to they get along? Is that the same opposite forces working between MMO developers who are trying to get as much money as possible for their product, and consumers who want as much bang for their buck?

MMO developer and MMO players look great together!

The truth is in real life that doesn’t work that much. Quick on the heels of WildStar’s decline and some other big launches over the years, lets have a look at 10 ways to ensure you can push those gamers and consumers away from your product.

#10  A flawed vision

I don’t disagree with having a vision – that is critical! What surprised me with WildStar was that I don’t know who created the vision or why. Did they consult with players? Did NCsoft buy into it? I ask these things because I get it – I understand if McDonald’s offers the Super Grease and Cardiac Bacon Burger because they are speaking to their customer base. So Gaffney and targetting the 1% vision was the outcome, but who approved and funded that vision? Why would he no longer be running the company when he achieved what he set out to do? With brands I always believe to be who you are. KFC will never attract a healthy eating segment. Be who you are, and be proud of it. In gaming that means design your game for the audience you want – niche or not. I think you see this improving with recent Kickstarter projects – we’ll see if and when they deliver on those.

#9 : Have key people leave the company near/after launch 

There are a few WildStar examples of this, but also some bigger ones in the past. I get churn, but nothing signals failure more than people leaving/fired who built it or spent years building the community – no matter what reasons are shared.

#8 Gate content in silly ways

Content needs to be gated, we get it. Do it in a way that isn’t insulting to the intelligence of the player base. I would be playing (and paying for) SWTOR if they didn’t make certain quest rewards contingent on subscriber status. I would be more fond of LOTRO if they didn’t make character classes gated by an expansion that isn’t required for them to play in the first place. This goes beyond cash shops though – if you have a subscription, don’t add a cash shop that gates content. If you aren’t a F2P or B2P title, don’t gate content with needless and obvious grinds. I would have played Mists of Pandaria a LOT longer if progression wasn’t gated behind daily quests.

#7 : Lose your most supportive community members

Games like WoW and EQ lived on as much in the fansites as the games themselves. I still read WoWinsider and I haven’t played the game in a year! Allakhazams was pure gold back in the day, and look at sites like MMO-Champion. You need a community to support and hype your game. WildStar lost it’s busiest podcast (among others) and some community news sites. Companies need to celebrate, support, and nurture those sites. When you lose those who are most enthusiastic about your game it sends a bad signal to the community.

#6 Do not reward loyalty to long time customers 

The industry has to mature sooner or later and start treating customers like every other industry – rewarding loyalty, and customers, with things not just to do with who spent the most money the earliest (paid beta, collector editions, etc.) That guy that has paid a subscription to you for 5 years? Give him a title, or perk, or hell – a free month. Do something to recognize the growth that individual has provided you. I know some do this well with early beta access to future titles (etc.) but I strongly believe this is an area developers and publishers can greatly improve on.

#5 Be non-supportive of diversity in gaming

There is a lot of heat on both sides of this argument – I won’t link to the gamer definition discussions, or the Blizzard developer quotes – but it is out there – and companies that aren’t aware, or mindful, of how they represent different views of the gaming community in their games will have a much harder go of it going forward.

#4 : Over market, over hype, under deliver

Warhammer online comes to mind here the most. “We have PVP! PVE! PQs! We have EVERYTHING!” – and they did. Everything except an immersive, reliable, consistent and balanced gaming experience. Too much hype. Less sizzle, more steak. With marketing budgets making up more and more of development costs these days, I am one who firmly believes that money is better spent on development. People will market your game for you if it is actually good.

#3 : Charge a subscription

I know some people like subs. I know some people prefer them and won’t play games without them. The truth is that a large portion won’t even touch a subscription. This is all fine and good (again) if the company doesn’t mind having less users paying more. I believe hybrid solutions are the way to go and that will retain the maximum amount of players. The all or nothing approach of a subscription doesn’t work as well anymore. There need to be stages and varying access levels for it to be accepted by the majority. Yes, it works for EVE and WoW and the jury is still out on ESO – but WildStar will almost be certainly going to F2P – as have everyone else. There is a reason for this.

#2 : Have a bad cash shop

Not ironic behind the previous point and cash shops aren’t inherently bad on their own. #2 and #3 are interchangeable in order. However,  a bad cash shop is as much the kiss of death as a bad subscription. Cash shops should be always available, never annoying. Let players know there is a cash shop, let them know the sales, then leave them alone and let them play. Constant reminders and popups are a great way to lose the community by sheer annoyance. I did spend a LOT of money in League of Legends, who never did anything silly with their cash shop. In hindsight, I spend more money per month in LoL than I did with a subscription in WoW – but didn’t regret it once. I had the choice of when and how much to spend.

#1 : Lack of immersion.

This is the number one problem for me personally, so I listed it as #1 although I am sure other people will have other thoughts on that. While reflecting on WildStar the truth is that while I loved the setting, the style, the characters and so many things they did right – the worst thing they did was constantly drag me OUT of the immersion. They had an announcer for so many things – challenges, dings, etc. It took the world away and constantly reminded me that I was playing a game. Sure, the point may be to play a game, but I play these kinds of games to feel like it is more than just a game. I want to get into it and feel like my character is helping solve the poisoned river that is destroying the town. I don’t need the 4th wall to be broken with an announcer voice telling me “f&*cking awesome job, cupcake” when I do get it done. EQ immersed me by the third person view alone that was standard back then. The game was through my eyes. DAOC through my realm’s reliance on my actions. WoW has it’s easter eggs but it really dug down in the lore overall. You felt like you were in Azeroth. Let’s get back to to immersion.

Do you agree? I admit these are very personal to me but I also feel they have merit to what is going on in the marketplace as well. Some are more obvious than others and the rankings could wildly change depending on who is reading them. Overall I think it is a good barometer of some huge issues in our hobby and I’d love to play a game that avoided these 10.

Against My Better Judgement

I went back into SWTOR.

I love the Star Wars Universe. I was in early Beta Tests for SWTOR and like many others, believed if the game was launched as a single player experience it would have done amazing. Really, it is just a better, shinier KOTOR.  Dragon Age in the Star Wars Universe. Mass Effect-esque gameplay in a Star Wars backdrop. It could have been a perennial giant seller as a single player game such as the COD series or even Assasin’s Creed. I went back knowing that it really isn’t an MMO but the storylines I did in beta were pretty well done – and I wanted to see some of them through and maybe experience a couple new ones. I was willing to invest my time (and depending on the experience, money)

Wow, they have really messed it up. During my three hour play experience last night:

1) You can’t get certain quest rewards without being a subscriber. Major quest rewards are unattainable. Really? PRE-LEVEL 10? The starter experience?

2) The restrictions on chat make group very, very difficult (and there are heroic quests that require you to have a group as early as level 6-7)

3) XP gains have really been throttled (not surprisingly though)

So after spending a lot of time (and money) in League of Legends, someone who does Free To Play exceptionally well, it was a letdown. I want to spend time in EA’s Star Wars Universe, I want to give them my money – but I want to feel like I am rewarding them for good programming and business decisions. If I gave them a dime right now it would be the exact opposite.

Fun Police for Jedi

EA and Bioware are wrapping everything into their ‘hail mary pass’ launch of SWTOR (pardon the pun) to do everything imaginable (and then some) to recoup their eleventy billion dollar investment.

For those of you who don’t clicky links on blogs, they are releasing a PVP warzone based on a neutral planet where the good guys and the bad guys pause their intergalactic conflict (oh, that silly thing?) to partake in something loosely resembling football set in a fantasy world. Immersion breaking? Yes. Misguided? Probably. Downright silly? Uh-huh – if you are one of those Star Wars geeks who endear the IP.

But the real question is: will it be fun? Yes, probably. It sure looks that way. I just don’t think it belongs there, and is an aspect that totally negates the whole point of having a story based (brand new pillar, amirite?) MMO in the first place.

Next PVP warzone being released is on hoth and  involves both ice skates and a small round disk made from compressed wampa fat. DLC price of $10.

My hype meter is at an all time low for SWTOR.

 

Feast or Famine

Going to a new blogging style. The exciting ‘when I can/feel like it’. When I blogged regularly I blogged pretty hard, 3+ posts a week, keeping on top of current events and all the “excitement”. I took an extended break once, and in the same breadth kept lurking and reading my favorites without posting. I haven’t posted since December and plan on making it more regular (without any firm commitments!)

Now I’ll just have the odd meal, enjoy the writing part, and keep blogging for no ulterior purpose but to enjoy myself on much needed breaks.

So, what have I been up to gaming wise?

a) I broke my EA holdout 10 months after it started while in a gaming funk, and bought Dragons Age 2 on sale. As reviewed by others I was a bit dissappointed when compared to the first.

b) Long after Cataclysm was released, I did my WoW dance once again, enjoyed it for what it is, then left when all I could do was done. Un-subbed prior to 4.1 with little interest returning. Maybe next expansion for a 3 month ride to remind myself why I unsubbed in the first place =)

c) Played more of Minecraft – although given up on creating something completely awesome, I am strip mining to hollow out under the world but making all resources renewable – anything I take from the ground I have to reuse above ground. Will someday end up with a rediculous cavern underground and floating islands in the sky. It’s definitely Zen grinding down blocks then finding uses for them elsewhere

d) Played Rift until level 15, quit, much for the same uninspiring reasons the current-gen MMO mechanics I often lament

e) Trialed AION for the free 20 levels, enjoyed myself a bit, not buying.

f) Less excited than ever about SWTOR and their marketing giganticnous of the title, and looking forward to not buying it on release while waiting for the reviews to pour in from trusted like minded bloggers. I still expect to play it someday as I am a fan of the DA/ME conversation wheel choices, but everything I have read about it from the CE backward has me in pure holdout mode.

Work wise we are expanding into Asian and South American countries, so that has been interesting and exciting. My family and I (odd to make the distinction, heh) are moving this week to a new home 7 hours away for work.

How have you been? =)

Star Wars The Old Republic : Hopes and Dreams

I have writers block. I have 7 drafts written on various topics but am having a hard time piecing them together. Some of them are related, and I think, can I combine them? Do they make sense? I have lost my groove, and working to find it.

My time off blogging was spent playing 3 games. WoW, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect. Having just finished Mass Effect 2 this week it gives me cautious optimism for Bioware’s SWTOR, even though I made fun of them on at least one occasion. In typical naive internet fashion, I am basing my personal hopes and dreams not from the devs, or things I have read about the upcoming title, but because of the type of game I want (dammit!).

Review of what lead me to my hopes and dreams, and how I would like to see SWTOR end up, after the break.

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KOTOR – A New Hope

I have bandied about my reservations on KOTOR MMO if it would be a subscription based platform, and took time to praise how it could be wonderful on the RMT platform, but actually haven’t discussed the game itself. How could I? There isn’t much known, afterall, and I refuse to get into speculation such as the already thousands of posts on official forums, as well as the several fansites already popping up. The speculation phase builds up the unrealistic expectations of the fan base before release, impending dissappointment ensues.

I have wholly stepped away from the MMO space for now, and have been testing different waters. The post release mega-game discount is just too hard to ignore. Bioshock for $20.00, and I just picked up Mass Effect for $30 on Steam. (Steam is now carrying a bunch of EA titles – yay!)

I am now on my third playthrough of Mass Effect, and my experiences have given me hope on what KOTOR MMO could indeed be – of course, keeping my mind in line with my first paragraph – I am just going to list what I like about Mass Effect and how the game design could mold nicely in the MMO sphere. After the break.

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