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Quote of the Day: “The Truth Hurts” or “Why Does Everything Take Longer?”

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Mr. Justin Olivetti had a gem of line in his latest post today:

I just kind of assumed the game would have them level up rapidly as with any other BioWare title, but I guess I should’ve realized that this is an MMO, and MMOs mean “Everything takes longer.”

Where’s the dialogue option for “Friend Zone”?, Biobreak

“There is a Disturbance in the Force” or “SWTOR Several Players vs Player”

January 19, 2012 4 comments

Slightly imbalanced!

Empire < Republic.

I don’t know what it is about the Dark Side of the Force, but clearly it is very alluring to human beings. With the Empire outnumbering the Republic forces by a considerable volume, it was only a matter of time before the imbalance in the PvP blew up in the Republic collective, melting faces. My question is this, did no one really see this coming?

Now I love BioWare. Aside from the mediocre Dragon Age II, I don’t think they have released a game in recent memory that has entertained me beyond expectations. What boggles me is how is it possible that so much time, effort, energy, money and resources were poured into a top of the line AAA MMO, and the multiplayer aspect of it is broken? Take Tol Barad for example. It is an open PvP zone most of the time, and anyone can come and go as they please, except for when every 2-3 hours there is a power struggle with both factions vying for control of the zone for the next 2-3 hours. The horrid mechanics of Tol Barad notwithstanding, what is great about this zone is that the system throws everyone out at the start of the fight, and brings in an equal number of players to face off. If 10 horde queue and 20 alliance queue, only 10 from each side will get in to ensure the fight is balanced.

Despite sinking millions of dollars into SWTOR, and, as my friend Matthew would claim, “revamping and or polishing the best WoW has to offer”, somehow they missed this little possibility. The forums are now ablaze with players up in arms about the whole fiasco, some even saying they are thankful for it, because now they can quit before the payment cycle kicks in after the first free month. Ouch. Offering incentives for players to come slaughter one another in world PvP is a great idea, if BioWare can ensure that the an equivalent number of players from either faction will engage in battle. Given that BioWare already had data indicating higher numbers in one faction, this should never have happened in the first place.

I have always been partial to being an early adopter. The initial feedback about SWTOR is positive, not overwhelmingly so, but the kind that piques your curiosity the more opinions you peruse. However, it is BioWare’s solution to this and similar future debacles that will determine if I ever invest in the title. And yes, I too will be joining the Empire!

Blog Post of the Day: “20 Excuses to Ditch Your Family for SWTOR” or “(10 really)”

September 27, 2011 3 comments

High Latency Life strikes pure comedic gold: 20 Excuses to Ditch Your Family for SWTOR

My favorite:

6. Your girlfriend is pregnant with twins. You didn’t have insurance to get an ultrasound, so you got your head stuck in her vagina trying to look for a heartbeat.

“And SW:TOR has an Official Launch Date!” or “Is There too Much to do in Star Wars at Launch?”

September 24, 2011 3 comments

Say goodbye to your loved ones. Those vacation days you have been saving, better put in the leave application for them as well. Get ready to get fat, and stock up on caffeine pills and energy drinks.

Via Massively, Dr. Ray Muzyka and Dr. Greg Zeschuk (co-Grand Poobahs of Bioware) announced that Star Wars: The Old Republic will officially launch on December 20th, 2011 for North America and December 22, 2011 for Europe.

Just yesterday BioWare released some information, including a seven minute dev diary,  on the companion system in Star Ware: The Old Republic, and provided some additional details today. They seem like a cool new addition to the game. There will be over 40 different companions of all kinds of background representing various races in the universe. Some will be driods. They are all completely customizable. You can change they way they look, the abilities they use and the their tactics. Interacting with them through the affection system unlocks additional dialogue options and allows you to get to know your companions a little better. They all have complex pasts and personal motivations and storys.

All of this is well and good. Syp had a nice post up yesterday about how he loves companions in his MMOs, and how he is really excited about their inclusion in SW:TOR. I had a question for him, which I asked him in the comments section, but busy as he is, he hasn’t found the time to reply yet. I will copy-paste said comment below:

I have to ask you one thing though. Do you think BioWare is putting too much into it? I mean when WoW launched, it was an elementary MMO. The WoW of today in all it’s complexity with all its mechanics, systems and sub-systems is a result of years and years of evolution in the MMO genre. It just seems to me that SW:TOR has too many things in it at launch. Every time I turn around, some new feature is being announced, be it companions or crafting, or interactive cut-scenes, or personal ships, or space combat. Do you think its wise to throw so much at a new player, and you know there will be a lot of new players that will get attracted by the SW brand who have no idea of MMOs?
What do you think? Do you think Star Wars: The Old Republic will be too unforgiving to a new player at launch? Or do you feel that all these new features will instead provide the player with a much more comprehensive and holistic MMO experience?

“Lambasting the SW:TOR Launch Strategy” or “Losing to the Hype”

August 22, 2011 13 comments

Syp’s rundown earlier of the inevitable juxtapositions between the two MMOs prompted this post, as well as a GameInformer story from a few days ago about how EA plans on limiting the number of copies at launch to save on server load.

Let is first start with the GameInformer story from the 18th of August, reported from GamesCom: “…EA revealed that they will be purposely limiting the number of copies available at launch, both for retail and digital.” lolwut? This makes little to no sense to me. When World of Warcraft launched, I remember going to Pyramid Mall in the town of Ithaca, upstate New York on launch day to pick up a copy from BestBuy. The store was sold out, so I left dejected, thinking I will revert to City of Heroes until I can score a copy. Before I took the bus back up to campus, I realized that there was a Target in the same mall, and I decided to go check it out. Lo and behold, some 20 odd copies of WoW were still sitting, completely untouched, on the store shelves. I bought a copy, went home, installed, updated, and loaded into the world as a Tauren Hunter named Xanthus.

Launch day was hell for WoW. The problem wasn’t server crashes (at least not in my case). The problem were the server queues and the fact that newbie starter areas were so overwhelmed with new players that it would take 10 times the amount of time to complete a normal kill quest, even in a full five-man-party. Blizzard responded astutely and rapidly by deploying and doubling the servers in record time, and within the first few days, the situation normalized.

The problem I have with this setup from EA is the same thing that happened to the starting areas in WoW. I fear that at launch, with copies limited and rabid fans clambering over one another to get into the severs (to reserve names, if nothing else), will result in a fairly terrible launch day experience for the players. The smarter thing would be to a) not limit copies, and appropriately respond with servers ready to be deployed at the last minute if the incoming horde clogs all of the intergalactic internet tubes, and b) limit the number of players that an log into a server to the optimal server load. Limiting copies at the start seems like a poor business and strategic decision. Oddly enough, the developers believe that limiting copies will actually ensure the best launch experience. It makes some sense I suppose, but the larger strategy still seems suspect.

Syp says, “I can’t imagine the fever pitch that it’s going to reach by the end of the year”. End of the year? Try now! It would be a challenge to spend an hour in my reader without some blog, news website or hype machine blowing up with the latest and greatest from the BioWare camp regarding Star Wars: The Old Republic. I didn’t think I would invest in it. I didn’t think cared enough to because early adoption sucks 9 times out of 10, and it turns out to be a lot better if you go in a few months down the line when things are more streamlined and the major bugs have been squashed. But maybe I am not strong enough. Maybe I am just not strong enough…

“Good News of The Day” or “Star Wars: The New Quests”

December 15, 2010 2 comments

After recent talk of Star Wars: The Old Republic being the biggest MMO failure, comment courtesy of a Bioware Mythic employee, it was a relieve to read Brianna’s hands-on experience with Star Wars: the Old Republic. The report is full of interesting tidbits and gameplay information. But there was one particular paragraph that stood out for me regarding the quest structure.

One particular quest really impressed me because I was able to change my decision midway through. A pair of Jedi Masters tasked me with determining whether or not their apprentices were involved in an illicit affair. When I confronted the Padawans, I decided to allow them to bribe me to keep my mouth shut about their romance. (I broke character, but I wanted to see what would happen.) The Masters didn’t seem to believe me, but they took me at my word. Later when I returned to collect my bribe (a rare lightsaber crystal), I got the option to refuse to accept it, which earned me the loving couple’s loyalty. I wish I’d had time to finish the area, because I’d love to see how that turns out (and whether I’d have gotten to use that crystal in my saber). Something tells me it doesn’t end happily, except for me as a player. Can you imagine how a quest like that would go in any other game? Click click click auto-complete click next quest. But in SWTOR, I was riveted.

Brianna Royce, Hands-on with SWTOR’s Jedi Knight on Tython, Massively.com

Given my own posts as of late, whew?

“Star Wars: TOR & TFU2” or “The Force is Strong With These Trailers”

June 16, 2010 2 comments

I have no words. First up is the trailer for Star Wars: The Old Republic. The second trailer is for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II.

Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my shirt.

“Steve Ansell is my Long Lost Twin” or “Couldn’t Have Said it Better Myself”

March 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Via Steve Ansell, commenter on Kotaku, regarding the news that SW:TOR is their biggest project in development ever.

I won’t lie: I am incredibly psyched for this game, more so than any other game I can recall. Everything about it is just “right” on so many levels so far.

• It’s got Bioware, which is a big plus. • Bioware is pushing the story element, so the game shouldn’t bore people with only repetitive “kill 10 rats” quests.
• It’s on no tight release schedule and has been in development for a long time.
• It’s got a big distributer behind it which isn’t Activision.
• It’s approaching the Star Wars universe in a serious, methodical way.
• It was use Bioware’s method of making decisions to affect your character’s story and development, which works perfectly with light/dark sides of the force.
• Bioware isn’t Cryptic. I can’t stress this enough.
• It’s Star Wars people! Violet lightsabres and the force!
• Did I mention it’s not being developed by Cryptic?

I just hope I get chosen for the beta. I signed up my hopeful entry many many months ago.

So do I Steve, so do I!

“Inheritence” or “Jumping is Overrated”

November 18, 2009 Leave a comment

Werit had a nice post up yesterday about how the production values for Dragon Age can be seen applied to SWTOR.

But I wonder if all the irritating things will apply as well. A short list:

  • You are a Jedi, or a Sith, but despite a being able to crush your opponents with a thought, you haven’t ever figured out how to jump.
  • Or swim. In fact, you are hydrophobic. You hate water to the point that you can’t even so much as walk in water, let alone swim.
  • Although you are a badass in the universe, and boast a complete mastery of the force, you can queue up only one attack at a time; multiple attacks cannot be queued. It hurts your brain to do that.
  • Despite an “advanced combat tactics engine”, at times you will enjoy standing around, admiring the scenery, while your friends repeatedly plant their faces into oncoming fists. You know, for fun.

This is one of those few times I sincerely hope I am wrong. BioWare has crafted a masterpiece, but there are some minor nuances that make some aspects aggravating.

Maybe the folks at BioWare exude their own lethargy into the lack of athletic activities in their games? What is the average BMI at BioWare anyway?

“Darth Kirk” or “Jean-Luc Kenobi”

November 11, 2009 4 comments

Over the course of last week, plenty of news came out of the BioWare and Cryptic camps regarding their upcoming space-age MMOs.

Going Online Where No Star Trek MMO Has Gone Before

Star Trek Online will be released on February 2, 2009. This is very disturbing for me. Please understand that when I say I am a Star Trek fan, I don’t mean I liked John Cho reprise the role of Sulu as a Katana-wielding martial artist. I mean I own every episode of every series (except the animated one), and I have read all Star Trek books, including all volumes of TOS and yes, the narcissistic verbal diarrhea from William Shattner masquerading as works of literature.

I have been fairly blunt in my criticism of Champions Online in the last month or so. The game grew on me post-launch in unexpected ways. But the sheer lack of polish, compounded by the plethora of bugs / design flaws have taken their toll. I last logged in on Halloween, made this post about the sorry state of affairs in the game, and I haven’t gone back since. Of course it doesn’t help that I have WoW’s upcoming patch, EvE’s every changing world of political and regional conflict, Dragon Age’s anti-heroes and Borderlands’ cell-shaded, head-splattering goodness to keep me from it.

But I digress. Cryptic pushed out Champions Online on a strict deadline. Frankly that is commendable, considering the industry is notorious for development, publishing and release date delays. But there is a fine line between sticking to the deadline, and compromising content and design elements to satisfy the production timeline. In their bid to enter the fray during an economic downturn, Cryptic ended up relinquishing quality over release date rigidity. Blood Moon, the highly anticipated mini-event, aside from the incredibly fun PvP elements, was an unpolished, grind-infested and ill-designed abomination that may have turned away more players than it attracted.

It simply may be because the economy is in such a terrible condition, the only way for these studios is to push content out quickly and make the quick bucks to keep afloat. And I can certainly sympathize. Most recently Mythic fired 80 employees, which allegedly makes up 40% of the workforce directly responsible for 90% of the content. Meanwhile, Electronic Arts cut 1,500 jobs. What that says for the state of the gaming industry and the MMO arena in particular remains to be seen. But the need to rush content is no excuse for some of the sloppy and downright careless work we have seen so far. In retrospect, it is sad how these little elements, which individually would have had negligible impact, now stand between me and another $15 for Cryptic, to play an otherwise exciting and adrenaline-pumping title.

So when I hear that merely four months after the release of Champions Online, the studio has a set-in-stone deadline for Star Trek Online, my heart sinks. The true tragedy of the matter is that my loyalty to the IP will likely force me to pick it up and play it, that maybe I will find a diamond in the rough. The initial impressions have been quite positive, so I remain hopeful. And hope (no, not love), is what makes the world go around.

Perpetual Entertainment, the studio that had been working on Star Trek Online for four years, shut down in 2008. On January 15, 2008, production was moved to Cryptic. Star Trek Online was officially announced on July 28, 2008. Last week, the release date was set as February 2, 2010.Technically, at release time, the game would have been almost six years in development. Cryptic is responsible for two of those years. So for all the criticism Cryptic has faced recently, maybe Star Trek Online will become the genre-bending space MMO that I have craved since the days of Earth and Beyond.

Pros and Cons:

  • (+) It’s Star Trek, and you get to be the captain of a ship
  • (+) 6-year long development title; Cryptic has spent over two years working on the game
  • (+) Cryptic already has an MMO launch under their belt
  • (+) You get to fight on ground in away teams and in space in tactical ship battles
  • (+) The game promises to build a lot of nostalgic lore moments from the series into the world
  • (-) Cryptic‘s track record for quality control and polished content isn’t exactly noteworthy
  • (-) Content past release has been sloppy, repetitive and uninspiring
  • (-) Like Champions Online, many features that sound exciting “might” be part of the game, like a Galactic, dynamic economy

Star Wars: Ye Old Republic

BioWare, normally, rests at the other end of the spectrum for me. I am, in many ways, their unpaid mascot. The news coming out of this camp has been quite heartening. Bear in mind that although I own every Star Wars movie, and have read quite a few of the tightly structured novels set in the universe, I am not as big a fan of the series as I am of Star Trek. So it goes a long way to show the studio’s credibility if I am still looking forward to the MMO.

For anyone who has played more than a few hours of Dragon Age: Origins on a high-end PC knows the game looks breathtaking. The first major skirmish between the King’s army and the Darkspawn horde gave me goosebumps in a warm, cozy, well-lit, room. Suffice it to say that BioWare is very well ahead of the curve when it comes to graphics and technology.

Yet, last week, they invested in a new occlusion culling technology from Umbra. In layman’s terms, the technology keeps track of what a player is actively looking at, and reduces the graphical intensity and polygon count of the unseen parts of the environment. This reduces the strain on the processor, freeing it up for more complexity and graphical richness in the immediately visible area.

Second, a new novel was announced that details the story behind the MMO. The release date is July 27, 2010, a full eight and a half months away. It would be natural to assume the MMO would be released after this date, ergo, the MMO is at least nine months away

Third, There will be no initial testing for the mac. This is great news. I hate macs. Justin Long can get bent.

Finally the Imperial Agent class was revealed by BioWare. I believe only two classes remain unknown at this stage.

If Dragon Age: Origins or Mass Effect were to serve as examples, we know that this is only the beginning of a torrential downpour that will form a flood of marketing collateral, eager to devour all in its path. We are barely seeing a trickle right now. You have been forewarned.

Pros and Cons:

  • (+) It’s Star Wars
  • (+) It’s BioWare
  • (+) Stellar storytelling; 12 full-time writers, some of whom have been writing for the project for well over 2 years
  • (+) Compelling morality dynamics in that Jedis aren’t necessarily righteous and pure, and Sith aren’t exactly evil or corrupt
  • (+) Its a fresh foray into an old IP. There is no reference to the movies, the game is set millenniums prior to the events in the Lucas films.
  • (-) Its a fresh foray into an old IP. There is no reference to the movies, the game is set millenniums prior to the events in the Lucas films. (See what I did there?)
  • (-) It’s over-hyped. Granted BioWare always lives up to the hype, but this is a colossal IP, and brings with it quite a rabid fan base. Any faceplants may be back-breakers.

Ominous Statement

Time will tell… only time. And Metacritic.