- Time commitments, feeling tired, had to stop doing something.
- It stopped being fun and started being a chore.
- I didn’t log in for a month.
- Then I found I could only find time to play once or twice a week.
- It was always offline on Tuesday nights, one of my free nights.
- I noticed that I’d rather play World of Tanks for 1-2 hours a night than SWTOR.
- Then I started playing the WoW AH to fill in time…
TLDR: initially promising, ultimately disappointing.
(Original feedback to Bioware in plain text, tonight’s reflections in italic)
Biggest problem: on minimum graphics the game causes my two year old Gateway P-79 laptop to shut down from overheating. This has damaged the graphics card. At best I can get 20 minutes of play now, which is insufficient to do group activities. So I’m choosing to play less demanding games instead. Ultimately I went out and got a new gaming laptop, but it would have been nice to have held off from that purchase for another 6-12 months.
Launch: pre-launch guild creation was good, however the chat bug which disabled Guild, Party, and Officer chat on my account was vexing to say the least. I didn’t feel well served by customer support in resolving this. This bug prevented me from leading my guild, or engaging in group content. Lesson learned: do not try and set up a guild when you still have an ongoing guild commitment elsewhere. Its hard to find time to do both justice.
World design: the lower level worlds are the best. By the time I reached level 40+ worlds, the design was feeling stale and repetitive. When I reached Corellia, I was forcing myself to finish quest lines just to see the next bit of my class story. Playing the game had become a chore, rather than fun. On Corellia, being surrounded by buildings I couldn’t enter, made the game feel fake. Also, it feels weird that I am not sharing the same game universe with the both Empire & Republic players on all the worlds. Levelling my second toon into the 40s, the process feels a little easier, but I’m still dreading Corellia.
Travel: is tedious. First, running through starports is really dull. I often reach a starport, think about the long run ahead of me, and then log out of the game. Second, speeders look weird, travel slowly, and don’t let me bypass mobs that I dealt with on earlier quests. Being constantly pulled off my speeder by mobs I defeated in earlier quests ruined any sense of progress and accomplishment in the game. This has been slightly improved in terms of travel through Starports now being possible while mounted on a speeder.
Grouping: I don’t have time to waste hanging around the fleet hoping to find a group for instances. Watching trade chat is not compelling gameplay. If I’m waiting longer than a few minutes, what I want to do is log out of the game and switch to a game where I can do stuff. They still don’t have a good Looking for Group tool, consequently you will mostly miss out on heroic (2 or 4 man world content) or instanced content while levelling.
Starship mini-game: the low level scenarios were interesting. I was able to identify mistakes in my gameplay, and correct them. When I realised that completing mid-level scenarios required grinding commendations for ship upgrades I stopped playing them. Three months later – its still tedious and I’m still avoiding it.
PvP: I have avoided this entirely. I don’t find WoW-style pvp gameplay compelling. I play World of Tanks for an hour or two each night instead. None of the scenarios available at launch appealed to me, and the concept of not being able to avoid Hutt Ball was a big turnoff. World pvp looks broken to me, and I was quite surprised that you made it so broken, given that the problems Blizzard has had with designing open world pvp zones are so well known. My flatmate put it best “I’m grinding through gameplay I don’t enjoy playing to get better gear that will enable me to be more effective at gameplay I don’t enjoy. Why don’t I just stop grinding…”
Endgame: I started the questlines on Illum and the prison planet and died of boredom. When I looked at the amount of grind required to acquire upgrade modules, I rebelled, and just said “No” to daily missions. I also found that I just didn’t enjoy playing my class, so once the class storyline was done I was finished with it. I still have not gone back to the Assassin.
Companions: I don’t regard the robot that comes with the ship as a companion. Companions have been a big disappointment. Levelling an assassin tank I really wanted a healer companion, but had to wait until Hoth. Levelling a Bounty Hunter healer, I really want a tank companion, but I don’t have one yet. I was really disappointed at the companion story for the Inquisitor’s medic companion, maxing full affection resulted in …. some obsequious dialogue. I remember sitting in front of the screen thinking “That’s it?!” Once the Bounty Hunter got its tank companion, it was far superior to the Assassin tank player character + companion. Maxing out companion favour does now result in a small in game boost (+20 presence with other companions).
Talent trees: design feels old and dull, the approach Blizzard is taking in Mists of Pandaria just blows the SWTOR talents out of the water. Choosing talents that boost my effectiveness in a single ability by 1% really doesn’t feel like an interesting choice. With the Bounty Hunter, perhaps 3-4 of your talent choices result in gameplay changes, the other 35 odd choices just make you 0.5% better at what you do.
Abilities: at low levels I got abilities too quickly to figure out what I should be doing with them. For the Inquisitor, signature abilities that make the class cool either looked dull in tank spec (force lightning) or were worse than useless as tanking tools (overload). Visually it ends up being a really dull class to watch in combat. Stab. Buzz. Stabby. Bzzt. Yawn. Ability overload is a little easier to deal with now you can adjust how the UI displays action bars. I still think having 30-40 abilities you use frequently is on the order of 10-20 abilities too many.
Music, Sound effects and Voice Acting: all good/excellent.
UI: I know you are overhauling this. My main feedback here is that I find it really hard to identify the abilities my opponents are using. I see strange coloured symbols and I’m not sure I should interrupt or not, and then its too late to interrupt anyway. The setup for healing also feels awkward. After years of using Healbot, Grid/Clique or Vuhdo in WoW, going back to pushing function keys to target party members feels painfully slow and prone to error. I still find it impossible to determine which ability I should be interrupting.
Sith Inquisitor/Assassin feedback: This is the class I really wanted to play, as the storyline pitch of a slave rising to power really appealed to me. In tank spec I was unable to complete the class questline solo, requiring help from other players on Voss (the dream boss) and Dromund Kaas (the fight with Zash). I was unable to identify what I was doing wrong in these encounters, and after the second set of armour repairs I gave up all hope of figuring out what to do as I simply couldn’t afford the credits to keep experimenting. This made me feel incompetent. The assassin does not feel heroic or awesome, when I fight mobs they die very slowly, and in an unspectacular fashion. In play, I found myself forced to watch a small display of buffs right above the action bars, rather than being able to focus on the onscreen action. I’m still sad about this, and I screwed up the characters name when doing the server transfer when Dalborra was launched.
Specific turnoff points in the Inquisitor story line:
– I liked Khem Val, until I realised a tank companion was useless to a tank spec class
– I liked Zash, and I felt the betrayal came too early
– Not being able to defeat Zash solo (I never felt competent to do anything challenging again after this)
– Not being able to choose a more useful companion to face Zash with
– I did not like Zash/Khem Val in one body
– I didn’t feel like I earned the big ship superweapon, I just had some NPCs walk up and say “push the button for us, please”
– last act confrontation just felt like grind, grind, grind, I was always reacting to the bad guy, never setting the initiative.
The Bounty Hunter storyline has been better, at least insomuch as that I never been forced to beg other players for help in finishing my class quests. It’s the Bounty Hunter that I will be doing a few more instances with, and trying to see some of the endgame content. In the end I’m just too comfortable being a healer than trying to be a tank in a system that makes it really hard to know what the hell your tanking abilities do, and forces you to look away from what the mobs are doing on-screen so the buffs that keep you alive do not expire.
Many things are executed well in the game, although the Auction House is painful to use. It looks good, and sounds great … but I struggle to want to play it more than 1-2 times a week. So it’s not going to replace WoW for me. It is nice that they launched servers based in Australia … but the maintenance schedule is such that they are offline most of Tuesday night, so its only a game ANZACs can play six nights a week.
Mechwarrior MMO … looks like its going the free to play, fixed arena map route, so if its like World of Tanks its going to be fun. My favourite mech of all time was the Marauder.
Mass Effect 3 … despite poor reviews of the ending, I’ll probably pick this up after the dust settled down. Femshep voice actor is the same for the feamle Trooper class in SWTOR.
Guild Wars 2, pre-orders start on April 10. I’m interested to see how a bunch of mechanics work in this: active dodging, no holy trinity, and a whole bar of mechanics for when you are ‘dying’ on the ground.
Mists of Pandaria for WoW, press exposure week this week, next week the deluge of information begins.
World of Tanks, patch 7.2 will rebalance the economy, and reduce the cost of mountable gear, so I am saving my silvers for bigger, faster guns. Just researched the Tier VII Josef Stalin tank … and so far its annoyingly fragile.
Dragon Age RPG, set 3 is in open playtest, so hopefully only a few months away. Recent sessions have reinforced my thoughts that you could do an entire gaming expansion based purely on a fantasy shopping experience.
SWTOR, patch 1.2 will fix a few things that annoy me. I’m having more fun now I’m back playing a healer, but I’m still not sold long-term on the game.
PVP: the Swiftsure
PVE: the Harbinger and JekkJekk Tarr.
http://torguild.net/oceanic/ if you want a population breakdown. Its roughly down the middle in terms of initial assignment by Bioware.
JJT has a smaller number of larger guilds, with a greater proportion of US based members. Harbinger (Har-bin-jer) has a larger number of smaller guilds.
Carpe Jugulum was assigned to Harbinger, so we’re staying there. Some guilds are going to move to Harbinger, others will form a guild on each server. I think the numbers favour Harbinger, so go there if you want people playing in the New Zealand/Australian time zone. Harbinger also has an alphabetical order advantage, and is possibly a ‘cooler’ name.
It was interesting being in a long vent meeting with 30+ guild masters. Lots of talk, much of which hit control problems, in that we can’t control what individual guilds and players choose to do. Conversation was friendly, and I hope the community sticks together. There was a resolution to go and tell the forum trolls to STFU.
So now I’m waiting to see when I get an e-mail telling me I can log on. So I spent some time tidying up my inventory stocks in WoW, selling off the last of my merchandise. At the end of it all, I have just over 1.5 million virtual gold.
This advice is based on the mistakes I made in a Beta weekend, and the most frequent “WTF?!” questions in general/guild chat.
1. Advanced Class
At level 10 your character will get an option of choosing one of two classes (e.g. the Sith Inquisitor can choose between the Sorcerer or the Assassin). This is a permanent, non-reversible choice. While you can reset your class talents in the game, the ability to change Advanced Class is not in the game, and might never be an option in the game. If you get this choice wrong, you will have to replay the character from level 1.
Related to this, make sure to train your advanced class skills when you level up. Advanced class skills are not displayed on the same page as your standard class skills, you need to hit a tab to bring up the advanced class skills. Don’t be the guy in a mid-teens heroic group/flashpoint, who has to spend twenty minutes running back to the trainer. Speaking of which, its probably worth checking the first time you do a flashpoint that everyone in the group has trained their advanced class skills.
2. Modifiable Gear.
You want to keep modifiable gear. Its called “Custom Gear” and its identifying colour in game is orange (yes, that’s the same colour as almost-impossible-to-get legendary gear in WoW). By adding modules into modifiable gear, low level items can remain competitive as you level. So if you like the look of something, you can keep it, rather than having to vendor it two levels later to equip something with better stats. You should get a class weapon that is modifiable on the way to Level 10 (for Jedi/Sith its a lightsabre).
To get modules, you will need an appropriate crafting skill, be friends with a crafter, or be willing to spend credits on modules for sale in the Galactic Market Kiosk (the Auction house). You may see people refer to the Galactic Market as “GM”, which in other games would be a “Game Master”, well, not here.
3. Bind Point Reset.
When you move to a new world, your bind point (what would be a hearth stone in WoW), resets to the bind point at the new world’s starport. So if you move from Coruscant to Taris, and hit your quick travel ability to jump to the bind point, you will end up on Trais, not Coruscant, even if Coruscant was the last place you deliberately set your bind point to. Quick travel has a 30 minute cooldown, so wasting it is annoying. Edit: bind points appear a bit more useful, when you use quick travel you get to choose which bidn point you want to go to on that world.
4. Time is Money.
One of the most effective things you can do to boost enjoyment of an MMORPG, is to ensure your character minimises travel time between locations on the game map.
Your starship is free, all you have to do is compete your class quests, and you should get it around level 15-16. Upgrades will cost you a bit though (see below). At Level 14 you will also get a 35 percent sprint/run ability while you are not engaged in combat, so its worth handing some quests in and going back to the class trainer when that happens.
At level 25, you can spend credits to purchase a speeder from a vendor (on most worlds or at your faction’s Fleet Headquarters). Rank 1 training grants a 90 percent speed boost and costs 40,000 credits, so you will want to have that much cash on hand when you reach Level 25. The speeder itself costs 8,000 credits (and if you purchased the Collector’s Edition you may want to save for the VIP speeder that costs 1.5 million credits). At Levels 40 and 50, you can purchase Rank 2 and 3 training for 100 and 110 percent speed increases (and you’ll want to have a pile of credits for this too).
Somewhat related, its worth spending a few credits on increasing your inventory space. The more you can carry the less often you have to stop questing and run to the vendors (and if you have your crew busy crafting and missioning while you are questing, your bags can fill with stuff quickly).
5. Ships, Ship Upgrades and Ship Quests.
My main advice here, is don’t try a ship combat mission without spending a few thousand credits on basic ship upgrades. Having more health, shields and weapons makes the missions significantly easier. Every quest I tried without upgrades installed was a complete failure.
While ships act as player housing, customisation is limited, the interior is unchangeable, but you can buy upgrades to improve your odds in combat. These are purchased from vendors at your Fleet Headquarters, but you actually need to take the upgrades back to your ship and then click on them to install them in your ship.
Ship quests can be picked up on board your ship. Ship quests are rail quests, and have been likened to an old computer game called “Starfox” (not one I played, but maybe you get the reference). Your ship follows exactly the same path through the mission zone, you have a limited ability to move up/down or left/right to avoid debris/asteroids/attacks, but mainly its about effectively targeting all the enemy ships and turning them into pixelated explosions. Hold the mouse button down to get continuous fire, unless you enjoy clicking mouse buttons three times a second.
Battles are short (under five minutes), not really PVP, earn you credits/XP and can fill time while you wait for other people to do stuff.
First, take a look at the guide here: http://www.skeletonjack.com/guides/crew-skills-for-swtor-made-simple/. Its the best one I have seen so far for gathering/crafting/mission skills in SWTOR (also called crewskills, as you get your crew/companions to do the work, as the designers said “Darth Vader doesn’t farm”).
“If money is all that you love, then that’s what you’ll receive.”
If you want to make easy credits, take Slicing. I have seen several people say that its the fastest way to make easy credits while levelling. Edit: the credits from slicing appear to have been balanced in line with other professions. Otherwise you can choose to be able to make yourself weapons or armour, but not both (at least on the same character, profession self-sufficiency is a major reason to level alts to support a main character). For the other skills my advice is:
Mission skills – don’t take these if you can’t stand unpredictable outcomes.
Armormech/Armstech – don’t take these if you are a force using class.
Artifice/Synthweaving – don’t take these if you are a non-force using class.
My expectations of the early game economy is that it will resemble a frontier/mining camp economy. Prices for everything will be ludicrously high in the first few weeks as people level their craft skills as rapidly as possible, while flicking the junk they have made onto unsuspecting marks for rip-off prices. I would recommend not buying anything off the GMK until you have you first speeder.
You should have one companion by Level 10 and a protocol droid companion on your ship when you get that around level 15-16. In my experience, companions work well out of the box, but its worth taking the time to learn a bit about your companion and what it can do. This pays off in social conversations, as you will have a better idea of what will gain/lose you favour with your companion.
Remember to upgrade the armor and weapons your companion has equipped (your protocol droid probably does not have a weapon when you first get it).
8. Quest rewards
You will often get a choice between an item of equipment, a lock box, commendations or equipment for companions. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer here. Going for commendations will usually allow you to get one or more blue quality items by the time you finish a zone. Commendations can also be exchanged in at vendors, on a 2:1 basis, for a higher tier of commendations, so they are not completely wasted if you forget to spend them. But a solid green item upgrade now, can be worth more than a blue upgrade later.
A lockbox will get you a random item, could be good, could be crap.
Companion items can be useful, in that they will change the appearance of your companion, so that it does not look quite so much like the thousand other identical looking companions wandering the galaxy. In beta, I found it hard to find upgrades for companions, so be careful about passing over companion items.
Treat others as you would like to be treated. Unlike WoW, SWTOR does not have an anonymous tool for quickly forming random groups for instanced content. If you spend a lot of time and effort alienating the other players on your server by acting like a dick, you will end up sitting alone in your spaceship. Remember that the behaviour you choose to display in game can get your account suspended or terminated.
My two specific tips here:
(1) in groups, do not roll need on an item unless it is an item you can use, and which is optimised for use by your class (if you pay attention to your quest rewards, you should figure out quickly what stats are optimal for each class).
(2) if you say you want to do a flashpoint/heroic group with someone, go and do it with them, do not make them wait for 30 minutes while you “finish just a few more quests”, “hand in just one more quest”, “Ooops, forgot to go to the trainer”, or “Hey, I forgot I have to make dinner, BRB”.
Enjoy the journey in SWTOR, but have a Plan B for when the servers fall over/go offline for maintenance, or you have to wait for other people. I’ll be downloading a few extra books onto my Kindle to cope with any SWTOR withdrawal symptoms.
The NDA has been lifted, so I can write about my Star Wars the Old Republic (SWTOR) beta experiences.
To sum up: it’s great fun for what it is, but don’t expect radical differences from other themepark MMORPGs already on the market.
I took part in the Oceanic test, which I think was specifically to test how the game worked with latency and lag out to places like Australia and New Zealand. I don’t think the servers were too stressed out by the number of players we had taking part, but overall I had no problems with latency/lag. Latency in general was lower than I usually see in WoW.
I only played a Jedi Consular, taking the Sage (healer) advanced class at level 10. After the starter zone on Tython, I went to Coruscant and then Taris, completing all those zones, before logging out in Nar Shaddaa. In play, it was a little like a WoW Paladin who also had substantial ranged DPS and crowd control options. Certainly by Level 15 I felt that the healer talents I had chosen were making a big difference. What was awesome though, was that even as a healer I could complete quests as easily as a damage dealing class thanks to the companion system.
I’m counting down the days to when I get to play the game again.
Opening sequence. You get the classic star wars yellow scrolling text, then a cut away of a ship landing scene, unique for each class, and it felt very cinematic.
Music. Its great, very star wars, and I love the way it swells up when you engage mobs. Audio, lightsabres went snap hiss and blasters went pew-pew-pew the way you would expect them to.
Companions. As a consular I picked up a “lizard” who was part of a mystic cult of hunters, so when I went healer, it developed into a tank. The AI is smart enough that your companions will not break your crowd control, it’ll kill all the other mobs first, then wait patiently for the CC to expire or for an attack order. The default AI settings were pretty good. At level 20 I was able to engage a world boss with over six times my combined health (companion + me) and defeat it after a fight lasting several minutes. Given that I accidentally pulled the boss when I used a Force Wave talent that bounces enemy mobs away from me, and it took me a minute to realise what was happening, I thought that was really cool.
Class story quests. I found the storyline engaging, although I stayed to complete all quests I could find in a zone before moving onto a new world. The moment when you craft your first lightsabre is very good. The large chunk of class-specific quests means that there is a lot of replay value for second and subsequent characters.
Visuals. Worlds were pretty. I liked the feel of post-apocalyptic Taris, a good moment for anyone who played the first KOTOR game.
Gear modification. With upgrades it was possible to keep your best low level items for quite a long time, rather than upgrading them a few levels later.
The Galactic Republic is so corrupt it made me laugh. Almost every Senator or officer I ran into was on the take somehow.
Combat. No auto-attacks, but the system seems good at turning to face when you execute an attack. Past level ten I would engage normal mobs at 5:1 odds without blinking, a nice heroic feel.
Jedi force powers … from time to time the game system would let you do things that were not in your standard ability list, like giving you a dialogue option for force persuasion or force lifting a broken door. That and the republican mooks tend to go “Oh thank God, a Jedi, we’re saved!”
Voice acting, I only hit space bar to fast forward through the voice acting a few times. Mostly excellent, I did find a few stock phrases grating after a couple of days.
Mob Grinding Quests are optional. Most of the “Kill Ten Stormtrooper” quests trigger when you start in a zone, but are not essential to finishing the main story quest. I like this feature a lot. Still, if you do complete all the kill quests, there is usually a nice reward at the end of it.
No macros, no addons at launch. Maybe later.
Starship combat is “on rails” rather than being in a full 3D environment. Its been compared to Starfox. That said, its completely ignorable as the quests are optional and it can be a fun way to pass time while waiting.
The default text is a light blue on a dark blue background, and its tiny. I stopped reading fluff text because it was too hard on my eyes.
Flashpoints (instances/dungeons) were hard. When you become eligible for the quests, you simply were not powerful enough for them. Both the Esselles and Bringing Down the Hammer were awful wipe fests for the groups I tried them with. The Hammer in particular had a boss fight on par with the difficulty of Cataclysm 5 mans in WoW (the boss had three different mechanics that would wipe you: adds, direct special attack, plus a random aoe attack) which I found impossible to heal – people simply died before I could complete the targeting/casting sequence – and I know I’m not a scrub when it coms to heals (I once made sixth for Heals-per-Second in World of Logs for my paladin).
Crafting is stuck in the old “make a thousand things no one wants” model to grind up towards the skill cap. On the plus side, your companions will farm for you, and can craft or carry out gathering missions for you while you do other things. The weird bit, the crafter on board your ship can only craft from the mats your character carries, and the crafted item appears in your bags, not back on board the ship.
For five man content, the UI is pretty much what you had in Vanilla WoW back in 2005. For tanks/damage dealers, this is okay, for healers its going to be a world of pain as you slowly click to target the person you want to heal, then click the heal you want to use. Compared to the one click healing of state-of-the art healer addons in games like WoW … it sucks sharp flinty ones, and is a major reason why I will not turn my Sith Inquisitor into a healer at launch.
That said, I did not get a chance to play with the raidframes, which look better in the gameplay videos I have watched.
It was fun filling out bug reports, not too much else I can say. I look forward to seeing my fellow testers in the game once it goes live.