A big thing right now in the ‘sphere are the SWTOR queues. Even with their staggered launch, BioWare is being hit with some hefty queues. Yet, nothing is really new. Voodoo equations prognosticating things like server health, player retention, and herd leveling speed are part of the design, and they usually seem to say “queues now are better in the long run.” One trick I loved with Rift was joining the hour-long queue a little after 7. Taking the remainder of the hour to put the kids to bed, and once they were down, voila! the queue was just about done. It really helped to just walk away. Even sitting there and reading a book or watching TV while you queue in front of your computer will likely have an effect on your mental and physical well-being.
Because the ArenaNet Community Managers are now on vacation, let’s do a little logic exercise. First, we must assume! We must assume that Guild Wars 2 will have queues. We know they are going to have servers (“worlds“) more like current MMOs than the original Guild Wars, where players get to fight for their world in World vs. World PvP combat and fight evil in their world with other worldly citizens. It’s a safe assumption given almost every MMO’s launch. Continue reading →
I will now get the highest score of any MMO pundit making predictions. Ready? “It will not go live in 2012.” Whatever we’re talking about, I’m predicting that it will slip into 2013, or later, or just never ship. The game, the expansion, whatever: not in 2012. I’m going to lose a few points, since something will ship in 2012, but I don’t see how anyone can beat my accuracy rate here.
For a subscription MMO, getting hooks into players is pretty much a top priority. Players that want to return are more likely to continue to subscribe than players nearing the meh-zone. People have been pretty pleased with the launch of SWTOR so far, except for the log-in queues. Unlike Rift, which may have been a shock to the ‘sphere as far as quality went, I really haven’t seen any ’3 month death toll’- posts at launch. Still, the 3 month mark is one to give the MMO a hard eye.
In Rift, I was just hitting level 45 or so and getting in to the “end game.” I quit. Between my guild and the game, I still didn’t have enough hooks in my skin to keep me interested in paying. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a fault of Rift; I just think that ye ol’ gear shift from leveling to end game in Rift (modeled after other vanilla MMOs of yore) was not for me. So I was tangentially flung away from the game. I know I was not alone.
I still don’t think the core of SWTOR is different enough for me even if it is a solid MMO, but I still have to wonder what effect the story pillar will have on subscriptions. If I assume that in 3 months time that my situation would be similar to Rift, would I pay another month or two just to see the end of my story. Would I want to start another one?
Then there is the issue of BioWare’s post launch plans adding in new story content. If I were a betting man, I would say that the story pillar will definitely keep more subscribers around at the 3 month mark. Of course, there is also the feeling of finishing, which might make some players kick their feet up as credits rolls. I don’t think this will happen often. I didn’t see many instances of players doing that in Guild Wars or Lord of the Rings Online.
I know as the inevitable first wave of subscribers tampers down, the statistic I would love to see how much impact did the story pillar have on their monthly tithe. It’s something that could definitely change future MMO ideas.
Everybody knows about the fourth pillar that will exalt Star Wars The Old Republic (SWTOR) over all other vanilla MMO brethren: story. Except many MMOs have already had story available. They were told through many various mechanisms including good ol’ quest text, in-game actions, and even cut scenes. Plenty of MMOs even had branching effects caused by the player decisions. Most were silly in hindsight. (Did you really want to poach that innocent forest animal for the dwarf when you needed to befriend the hostile elves?)
BioWare’s games are about story, and their MMO, gosh darnit, was going to have story amplified to 11. Are these wings of words and wax enough to raise SWTOR above the crowd? Continue reading →
Like I said earlier, there are two core differences to the presentation of Star Wars The Old Republic (SWTOR) from other vanilla MMOs. Fighting static NPCs is one of those differences. (The other is replacing quest text with interactable cut scenes, but I will save that for a later post.) Fighting feels less formulaic than many other vanilla MMOs, and it definitely feels higher in action even if it is still the equivalent of two spreadsheets in mortal combat. The reason is that instead of single mobs, SWTOR has encounters.
Encounters are a group of enemy NPCs (i.e., “mobs”) that are all alerted to the player’s presence if one of them is attached or alerted to the player’s ill intentions, like walking by. They all aggro, but even with a 4-on-1 fight, the heroic player wins the day. Continue reading →
Thankfully my server or time played was perfect. I never had a queue, but that seemed to be a rarity. Anyway, I felt like I got a solid play session or two in. I would say getting I got enough time to make a solidly informed consumer decision.
First, it’s rock solid. A lot of love and polish has gone in to making the game really smooth in pretty much every factor. Sure, there are a few minor bugs here and there, but if there was a vision to how the game would be, it was pretty much implemented to the fullest.
Second, the vision is of course something branching off of a vanilla MMO, which World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Rift et al. hold domain. There are some twists, which I am still digesting for future posts here, but my gut feeling is they don’t change much. It’s like the difference between presenting a nicely cooked steak on a plate and one that has been sliced for the guest to show a nicely cooked interior. It’s a steak either way. The two things that hit me were interactionable cut scenes replacing quest text and groups of mobs as being a single encounter. I’d be really interested to see how different those two things feel after 20-30 levels of gameplay.
Finally, I would love to play, but I don’t feel like shelling out $50 plus a subscription to play something essentially super-shiny vanilla. With holiday gifts needing spending, I might pick it up next year. I think I would enjoy the journey of going through each class’ story. So much of it feels though like “play together, alone.” I am a little worried at what might become of the end game too. I know once I got a whiff of Rift’s near-release end game I quit the game. For now, I think I will just look forward to stories and spoilers.
I just got a free beta key for SWTOR from Rock, Paper, Shotgun! I thought, well I didn’t think Rift was going to be all that fun, and playing in beta changed my mind. Maybe a free romp in SWTOR will do the same. Here I come static lightsaber battles!
Then I remembered I would have to install Origin. That brought my high crashing to the ground. I really don’t want to install something on my computer that seems shady at best. If EA simply wanted a great way to bring updated games the PC, why didn’t they just leave it at that instead of creating EULA-backed spyware. Any corporation that asks me to believe them when they won’t even explain what they deem necessary… well, I have my personal high road on this one.
In the world of quid pro quo, I don’t mind a source gathering information for say an operating system that I need or a game-buying service that I love, but making SWTOR’s rider the installation of Origin brings my high back to “meh.” I am now mulling my beta key. I want to play, but not that much. Put too many hoops in my way, and I have plenty of other games to fall back on. Still the first hoop (getting a free key) was a big one.
My go to game right now is The Binding of Isaac. Most games seem to take around 1/2 hour or a little more, but each game is a pure treat. The crux of my delight is that each game will be explored and played differently because the engine procedurally creates the dungeon, bosses, and loot each time. X-ray goggles for example let me pass through the secret doors, which normally need to be found by placing a bomb next to a wall and praying it is the correct wall. Now I have more bombs available for other things. Anybody that has played a roguelike, especiallyNetHack, will be comfortably familiar with this type of exploration.
For me, this is one of the most pure exploration scenarios available in any game. Unlocking a map or reading quest text in an MMO seems to pale by comparison. The developers made the chunk of game to be explored, and others have already explored it. I would go so far as to say that in an MMO the only explorers getting pure-ish exploration are the achievers working on a world first for a raid. Everything else evokes as much exploration as me going to a museum.
I want to be the scientist finding new discoveries. I want to see emergence that the developer could have only dreamed of. For me that is a purer exploration. Continue reading →
Werewolves in top hats, gnomes performing the dance moves from Bloodhound Gang’s Bad Touch, … ridiculous sexual dimorphism in PC races, non-combat pets, Haris Pilton, giant cow-men riding on chocobos, … shoulder pads you could hide a small village under, remote-controlled fighting robots, … escorting mechanical chickens, ludicrous retcons, kobold candles, Forsaken Death Knights, teleporters, steam car vs rocket car racetrack, … dressing up in a murloc suit, orbital death satellites, pink elekks…
Lewis B has some great impressions of the upcoming Stars Wars MMO over at Tap Repeatedly. I wouldn’t call them bad impressions per se; I would call them disappointed impressions. He gives praise where praise is due, mostly the script and voice acting. The art style is enjoyable, and then there’s everything else. For the sake of this post let’s just say it’s basically the gameplay millions have experienced in World of Warcraft, Rift, Lord of the Rings Online et al.
While I particularly trust Lewis B impressions, as subjective as many may be, this is approximately the feedback I have seen on this upcoming game for awhile. There are neat shiny bits apart from BioWare’s trademarked storytelling like the cover system or the use of personal mooks to do all the player’s crafting for sure. Yet it’s still a vanilla ice cream regardless of the sprinkles.
Unlike Rift, which in my opinion clearly tried to push the MMO genre with it’s dynamic events, the hundred-million dollar costing Bioware MMO doesn’t seem to push anything. With all the problems involved in stand-and-deliver combat, the holy trinity, kill stealing, boring quest design, etc. of vanilla MMOs, tacking on a shared single-player branching story feels flat. At least Rift tried to get people playing together in unique ways. Continue reading →