While I was sleeping Swtor became a pretty great game… or maybe it was me that changed?

I’ve played Swtor on and off since it launched, a month here and a month there, I said this when I posted last week about medical probes becoming standard for all levels of players (not just for subs).

Back in the day I made a post at the height of my Swtor enthusiasm saying why it was worth subbing to both Swtor and Warcraft. A few months later I made a post explaining why I was unsubbing from Swtor, the primary reason being I was burning out of Warcraft and the mechanics of Swtor were too similar to be a change. That is true enough as they are both MMORPG’s but there was also another truth and I can’t remember if I acknowledged it or not – familiarity.

Familiarity is easy
It’s something that occurred to me when I was contemplating the launch of Warcraft Classic and what was different in that incarnation, than existed when I first started playing in Wrath era. I asked myself whether if I had started playing during Classic would I have actually liked the game? I’m thinking the answer probably would have been no because what kept me playing after the initial “oooooh new shiny game” and “friend recruited me” was the achievement system which didn’t launch until Wrath. That system gave my playtime structure. True I assigned myself completionist goals like levelling every class/profession etc. but I have to be honest the achievement system was the real draw. Plus I like collecting things and in Classic there was no mount tab, or pet tab (everything was in bags).

Now back to my point about familiarity. I understood the Warcraft systems. Just like Warcraft Swtor has added systems to the game over time and a lot of the collection/achievement type systems came I believe during Mists of Pandaria era. Something I think I overlooked in the past was how comfortable I was with Warcraft at that point. I knew the game extremely well, I was familiar with all the interfaces, I understood everything – I did my own stat balancing on gear for crying out loud. I didn’t just know how to do stuff, I knew how to do it well – I was 100% optimised, I was running a raid team – there was a depth of understanding. I just understood the game.

I don’t understand it now.

I took a 9 month break from finally killing Garrosh, to Warlords launch. I played Warlords for the first patch but I only levelled my main. Warcraft had made changes, so much was RNG-based in terms of gear and I still had my raider hat on, but no longer wished to raid, and anyway I quit. I didn’t come back until the final patch of the next expansion (Legion) and that sealed my fate. Up until then new systems/content/game changes had been incremental with each patch, and I had mastered each one before the next. However due to my break I suddenly had a ton of change/new stuff dumped on me at once. On one hand that’s good because I’m swimming in stuff to do, on the other hand I’m in a sea of confusion because everything is different and I don’t have a grip on the game anymore.

True I still probably understand the basics of Warcraft a little better because I had once mastered it but some days it doesn’t feel like that. I don’t know when Swtor added the systems I’m going to talk about. They might have been available for years, during many of my previous ‘one month here and there’ sessions and I just never noticed. This is why I’m saying that Swtor could have been this awesome for ages. It’s a matter of perspective – point of view. I’ve talked about this before in relation to how I view content in Warcraft now vs. when I had my raider hat on and was so dissatisfied in Warlords. You have to be in the right frame of mind to see things.

Levelling is outdated and pointless (for me at least)
I’ve said this about Warcraft repeatedly in posts when I’ve responded to Blizzard Watch breakfast topics about it. The levelling system just isn’t necessary anymore (to me at least) because what level I have is arbitrary and I don’t care – it’s about the content for me, the story.

I play Swtor for the story, straight up always have. I have never played in a group, always done the game solo. Due to my on/off again playing it’s taken me this long to complete 7/8 of the class storylines and I haven’t gone beyond that (not yet touched any of the expansions). Now in my medical probe post last week I touched on how xp gain was nerfed for non-subs. I said I had some boosts stocked up and it would be fine but as I started playing my Smuggler I realized it wasn’t. You see I just wanted to do my class story, which I belatedly realized was only possible during a 10x boost event, so not even being a subscriber would have helped.

Anyway, I had a ton of cartel coins saved up as I have never spent them, and I’d got a cartel grant for every month I’d subscribed in the past 7 years. I also have 3 character boosts from when I was subbed and granted expansions. I googled and if I’d used a boost then I wouldn’t have been able to go back and complete my class story. However, there was a boost available on the cartel market (Master’s Datacron) which took me to level 70 and left all the quests able to be completed.

So I got one of these boosts and applied it to my smuggler. I then got another one and rolled a new Bounty Hunter because that was the first class I rolled back in 2011 and for years I’ve been itching to redo the class story because I didn’t remember it so well but I remembered it was cool.

Now obviously these boosts gave me access to all my abilities at once and so I had to google for a guide so I knew what to slot into my action bar but in the space of 10 minutes I was set up to go aaaaaand best of all…

Warcraft have recently announced a version of this but I don’t exactly know how that will work in practice BUT what Swtor has is pretty sweet. If I go back to complete old quests in Warcraft at the moment I just smash everything and to be honest it gets a little boring after a while. Don’t get me wrong I love out-levelling content (like raids) and being able to go back and farm for mounts/pets/toys/transmog or simply just to see the place because I didn’t do it when it was current. Anyway, for stuff that I’m not ‘putting on farm’ just smashing everything because it’s grey isn’t exactly compelling gameplay. I also have to admit it means I don’t get a good picture of how encounters went. I have much preferred doing Eternal Palace with the new guild I joined because doing things as intended is more interesting.

So yeah I know that’s a bit contradictory but I guess I’m talking about options. Swtor’s level-sync puts you at the top level for that zone and with the companion encounters are still relatively easy but you do get to use some of your buttons. I know that Swtor’s system isn’t optional and people complain about that but it does something that I wish Warcraft would do – it opens up the world.

Due to level-sync I have this boosted level 70 Smuggler and I can run through the class story without worrying about being the right level, and also enjoy it as if I was the right level. It makes the content relevant and not boring because I’m not “going back” level-sync makes it like it’s current content.

I think the key point I wish to make about this is – NOT WORRYING ABOUT BEING THE RIGHT LEVEL. I can just concentrate on the story (which is what I am there for) and enjoying that.

The reason I didn’t write this post yesterday was because I wanted to look more closely at the activity panel. There are different tabs and one of them is “solo” in which it lists heroic missions (basically world quests) and it also lists flashpoints (dungeons) and some of them (all the newer ones I believe and the older ones most important to the story) have a story-mode. This grants a companion droid (in addition to chosen companion) so your character basically has an AI group to complete the flashpoint solo – no group required.

I love this for two reasons 1) it completely legitimises solo play, it makes it a valid playstyle choice and presents the option there with no judgement. 2) there is a travel button!! The group-finder in Warcraft will auto-teleport you from wherever you are to the dungeon but if you want to do the place solo you have to find the dungeon yourself. This places solo play on the same equal footing.

Now there’s another couple of tabs, there’s a conquest tab in the codex which I believe is related to the current event and there’s the chapter tab for later expansions (which I haven’t investigated at all but which has a button for story-mode which I like).

Level-sync + heroic missions = travelling all over the Swtor universe for an appropriate reward (I’m not too sure what it is, looks to be some kind of tokens for a vendor). Whereas Warcraft tends to mostly abandon zones in favour of the new expansion ones. In later times the game has sent players to places in the old world (a huge reason why I adore class halls!) but mostly world quests etc. are all centred in the new zones. I have always felt this was a disservice to Warcraft because there’s such a huge wealth of content they should tap into. I think they are starting to do just that with timewalking and the re-made zones like Darkshore etc.

Anyway another reason why I really like the activity tab is due to familiarity/confusion that I mentioned above. I have always felt a bit at sea and unsure how to play Swtor, it didn’t feel as accessible as Warcraft but these tabs give me a way in. They spark a feeling of potential in my head.

Last point – efficiency vs. class fantasy
I said above that I was granted all my abilities at once due to boosting to level 70 and I had to read a guide. Well I took on a couple of mob packs after reading this guide on my Smuggler and I was dissatisfied. The mobs were dying but not in a fun way, a big button “blood boiler” was obviously doing something but not visually. I looked and it was a DOT so I replaced it with a different ability.

If I run into a boss that I can’t beat and need to play more efficiently I’ll use the button, otherwise I want cool buttons that make me feel like the class I have chosen to play. The old cliche “you get out what you put in” applies. If I just hit buttons then the game gets boring pretty quick but if I focus on the animations, on the abilities which embrace the class fantasy, then pretty soon I’m laughing out loud.

In Warcraft when I had my raider hat on I was pretty laser-focused on gear as a means of progression. That’s why I didn’t like the RNG nature of Warlords. It was hard to plot a path, especially as I wasn’t raiding and hate LFR. These days if the numbers on gear are green then I equip it and otherwise I don’t worry. Gear has become as irrelevant to me as levels – I am there for the content, for the story, and also for the collections. I know even less about gear and stats in Swtor and honestly I don’t care.

I think this lack of understand about gear in Swtor bothered me back in the day. That has carried on a little bit to present day due to the advanced classes. I remember back in the day I picked Powertech for my Bounty Hunter and later learned that wasn’t as good as Mercenary, and indeed ‘back in the day’ I did run into problems killing mobs/died a lot. So this time for my Bounty Hunter I rolled Mercenary but when I was looking at my abilities I noticed I was missing a couple of movement ones which I had really liked. I haven’t checked yet (I will) but I suspect that maybe they are Powertech only.

That makes me a little sad because of The Clone Wars. I’ve recently been watching a story arc on Mandalore so seeing Bounty Hunter types in action and it looks like their abilities have been divided between the two advanced specs. From a class fantasy point it would have been better to not do that. To this day I wonder why Swtor did this whole advanced class thing.

Anyway I don’t feel like I wasted my boost because I still have my Powertech Bounty Hunter. If I discover I do like that advanced class better then if I want to play in the future I can level it up (it’s level 51) or I could create another Powertech with one of my free boosts (level 60, or level 65 I believe I have). Those boosts lock me out of the class story but not the planets. There are some quests on Drummond Kaas which I believe I should redo before doing the Shadow of Revan expansion. I can’t remember how far/if I did them on my existing Empire characters so I could use my new boosted Merc Bounty Hunter, or boost a different class with the free boost.

When playing a game it’s about what is fun for the individual. My game is not your game and that’s what I’m really liking about Swtor at the moment – the options and flexibility the game systems offers for people to choose to play how they want. True I only have the depth of options I do due to my stock of cartel coins/boosts thanks to my previous months of subscribing over the years. That means I can look at the game right now as if it’s free but in reality it’s not. For someone else without those things available they might very well be annoyed with the game because the options cost money, which I spent in the past I guess and the benefits have persisted.

Levels are irrelevant, gear is irrelevant. Level-sync makes all content relevant and class fantasy trumps efficiency. These are things that Swtor is getting right (for me at least). In the past I’ve done posts about “What Warcraft could learn from Swtor” and to be honest I think that this ^^ about sums up what I wish Warcraft would learn. From my understanding levels are a holdover from the original D&D from which Warcraft is based? I could be wrong about that but wherever they came from, I think they have served their purpose and it’s time for levels to be retired. The only reason why I still like them in Warcraft is because then I can out-level and farm old content. However if they added a solo mode that would fix that.

Anyway I now have a problem because I want to play Swtor in addition to Warcraft, and the Lego games, and I might get a Switch next week and… /facepalm not enough gaming time for all the games 🙂