Why Swtor is so much fun

I finished up Ilum on my Imperial Agent the other day and I dinged level 56. Now, when Ilum was released the level cap was 50, it was raised to 55 for Rise of the Hutt Cartel. I’d accidentally leveled past a whole expansion worth of content.

This really made me think. Sure I watch the XP bar sometimes because I like the whoosh of the ding, I also like to make sure I’ve not screwed up somewhere and I am the right level for the planet. However, aside from that I quest for the story and the levelling is very much a byproduct. That explains how I managed to accidentally level a lot higher than intended.

Now I am a subscriber. I know that the xp is throttled somehow for preferred/f2p and so their experience would be different. However, from my perspective since the launch of Fallen Empire I get experience from everything and it’s awesome. The bar just jumps and it’s effortless, I’m just playing the game and the level is secondary, it’s unimportant, it really ceases to matter.

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The Fallen Empire

I haven’t blogged about swtor since April, when I said that the 12x boost was coming into effect for subscribers. I thought that I would be playing a lot of swtor this past summer. I only wish that could have been true. Instead I was rather ill and not in a good way, the sort of illness where you feel too bad to even play games.

In my post about the 12x boost I said I was “wary but excited” as I worried what the boost would mean for the games longevity. I thought that if I played through all the class storylines, then I would be ‘done’ with what I loved most about the game.

I need not have worried. I only took one class through their storyline – Imperial Agent. I started another – Jedi Consular – but I’m only level 21. That is all I managed. I have yet to touch the classes of Sith Inquisitor, Smuggler or Trooper and my Sith Warrior is still on level 17 and due for a restart as it’s been so long. I didn’t even max my Jedi Knight, which is now on level 47 so very close to the end.

The release of the next expansion reminded me it’s been a while since I played. I actually forgot to cancel my sub so I have another six months as it renewed by accident. So what are my current thoughts on the game?

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Diving back into Landmark

I have a few posts in the pipeline. One on Marvel Heroes which just added achievements! Another on the reality of the Swtor 12x boost, one on Age of Ultron when I eventually manage to see the movie (I can’t wait!) but it’s the newest post in the pile that has my attention.

I never really should have signed up for the Landmark Alpha but I was too excited about the game to wait the year or so until release. I wanted to try it out for myself. However, with having to gather all the materials, then losing them in wipes, I never really got into the game. I know it’s beta and that’s the whole point but I am a very bad beta tester, I didn’t want to waste my time gathering only to lose everything.

Well the devs have said that’s the last wipe, that they will only do claim wipes from now on. Given the template system, all people have to do is login and pick their spot and they are in the same position. From this point on, aside from more bugs and missing features, there’s little difference in my opinion between this and the eventual ‘launch’.

Right so what’s different from the last time I played? What are my ‘first impressions’ when logging in this time?

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Wary but Excited

In my last post on Swtor, where I talked about why I resubbed and what I liked about the game, I mentioned the 12x experience boost that had been available for a limited time to purchasers of Shadow of Revan. I said part of me was sorry that I had missed it, as the class quests were the best part of the game. The other part of me was fine with it as the planetary quests were good too.

Well, on May 4th aka Star Wars Day, the 12x boost is back for subscribers. No definitive word on when it’ll be over but the date given is ‘in the fall’ so it’s going to be around for a couple of months.

When I read that announcement my immediate thought was “I’m going to be playing a lot of swtor this summer” and that’s likely still true. However, thinking about it beyond the initial excitement I’m wary for what it means for the longevity of the game.

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Why I resubbed to Swtor

My history with Swtor has been very up and down. I started this blog not long after I started playing the game, so the whole process has been chronicled.

I played for a while at launch, unsubbed after six months as I’d stopped playing, always choosing to play Warcraft when I had time to play games. A year later I tried to play some more but the f2p model annoyed me, and my computer was having issues. Six months later I tried playing f2p again, got annoyed and this time resubbed for a couple of months. Again I wasn’t playing enough to continue the sub. Just over a year later, and we’re back in present day, and I’ve resubbed once more.

The f2p model for Swtor is in some respects generous, as it does allow you to play most of the game for free, but in other respects it’s extremely annoying. I always resub if I’m going to be playing a fair bit as it’s worth it for the medical probes alone. They allow revival where you die, rather than having to revive at the nearest med center and then re-fight everything to get back to where you were when you died.

Everytime I play Swtor I enjoy it, so why my interest wanes and I stop playing is something of a mystery. I think it’s because of the way I play, purely questing for the class storylines. I don’t miss out on anything if I take a day, a week or months away. I’m not behind, I’ve just stayed standing still.

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Blizzcon 2014: Revelations or lack of them

I didn’t like Diablo 2, I definitely didn’t like Diablo 3, I have never played Starcraft, I’m not in the Heroes of the Storm alpha and I find Hearthstone a bit meh. When I think of blizzard, I think of World of Warcraft, that is the game of theirs that I play.

Now, the next expansion Warlords of Draenor releases in less than a week. Announcing the expansion after it, before this one is even released, would have been an odd choice. However, they have said they want to release expansions faster, they are planning on only two raid tiers which means surely it has to be faster. The next expansion will be wanting to release not long after next years blizzcon, there has to be a beta cycle first, so it can’t wait that long for announcement. I thought it was about 50/50 as to whether they announced it and they opted not to. I’m assuming that the announcement will be made at gamescon or something similar.

However, what I was sure they would do is talk about future patches. What would be coming up in 6.1 or 6.2, more about the future of the patch, something that we haven’t heard before. There was a big Warcraft panel yesterday and all of it just reiterated either what was in the 6.0 patch notes, or what they had said a year ago during last blizzcon. When I read the recap I was so glad I hadn’t bought a virtual ticket this year. Not giving any new information? That’s just wrong and in my opinion quite disrespectful. That this is hot on the heels of the longest content drought since the game was launched and it doesn’t exactly give a good feeling.

I’ve seen a few other people express this opinion in comments on WoWInsider, they have been stomped on for being cynical trolls. Why is it a bad thing to be critical about something you care about? If I didn’t care then I wouldn’t say anything. Now it’s possible that something new will be said during today’s panels. I certainly hope something new is said as otherwise this con offered nothing for Warcraft game fans. There was of course the movie which finished shooting months ago and is set for release in 2016. Seriously? It’s kinda hard to get excited when it’s still that far away.

Anyway, enough about Warcraft for the moment. The big reveal of the con was the new IP Overwatch, an entirely new game, a team based shooter. The suspicious part of me is sure that this was part Titan, as somebody must have been working on this as it can’t just have come out of nowhere. I thought that the footage of the game world was very Pixar, I wondered if it was aimed at kids but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The gameplay footage looked relatively polished and the beta is at some point next year.

My problem with it? It’s a shooter. I can’t play first person as I get really badly motion sick. I have enjoyed in very small doses games like Sanctum but even in small doses I pay for it afterwards. Plus it just seems to be a team based game, so you always have to play with others and it looks like it will be all PvP, so playing against people not an AI. Even if I didn’t have the FPS issue I don’t have enough friends to play, and I don’t really like PvP as I suck at it.

The new game is obviously not for me but I actually feel bizarrely sad about that. I might have thought the animation was aimed at children but I enjoyed it anyway. I got a real superhero vibe from it and I love superheroes. I was hoping all the way through that the announced game would be an MMO RPG, so like Warcraft but this whole new universe as I would have played that in a heartbeat. The graphics looked fantastic, I loved the world and the settings, the powers looked good, it was light and bright and it was superheroes. I love Marvel Heroes but at the end of the day that game is about smashing stuff, it’s a dungeon crawler not an RPG, I want a superhero RPG.

However, it’s not an RPG, they don’t want to give themselves competition I guess. It’s a shooter and that makes me sad. I love shooters in theory, being the hero, taking down the bad guys, it being a lot more real and immediate. There’s no quests or raids in shooters, they aren’t that kind of game so it’s more immersive. I wish I could play, I want to play, I really really want to play. When I was a kid my cousin had a shooter game, and he had a plastic gun that connected to the console, I wanted one so badly but I can’t play shooters. I try and play shooters and I get physically ill, so all the wanting in the world can’t change that.

I think that’s what really makes me disappointed in Overwatch. That I would love to play it but something physically prevents me. I would much rather just hate the game itself and maybe the more we learn about it, the more it’ll suck. Who knows?

There’s still a day of blizzcon left. However, from what I remember of my virtual ticket last year all the news was dealt with on day one, there were just additional details on day two. I don’t expect anything earth shattering but I will read the reports anyway. Warlords of Draenor launches in five days, Mists of Pandaria you really outstayed your welcome.

Minipost – Shadow of Revan Brings A New Hope

What I love most about Swtor is the class quests. Levelling the different classes, questing, all that class story, that is the game to me. I also love the companions, the dark side and light side choices. I just love the whole questing experience in Swtor, it’s absolutely brilliant.

However, when the first expansion was released – Rise of the Hutt Cartel – it didn’t include any new class quests or any updates to the companion storylines either. I just checked and I don’t believe it added a new companion either, though it might have done. Anyway, from my point of view it was disappointing and a little concerning. They have also released a couple of mini-expansions with Galactic Starfighter and then Galactic Strongholds.

There are a lot of posts in various different places where people stated their opinion. They said that class quests would not bring in enough profit, compared to what they would cost, and that they would never be revisited. I didn’t like this but resolved not to worry about it as I’ve only completed the Bounty Hunter story, and forgotten most of it already. I still had a lot of class quests to complete.

This did mean that Swtor had an expiration date. I don’t play it nearly as often as I should, whenever I play Swtor I enjoy it a great deal and wonder why I don’t play more often. The answer is that I need to set aside a few hours per session, as it isn’t something easily played with a small time limit. As the game has been out nearly three years, and I’ve only completed one class, that means it’s going to take me a long time.

However, I liked the Bounty Hunter class. I didn’t like the spec I chose, I went Powertech and I should have gone Mercenary. However, as the specs are mirrored on the Republic side, when I roll a trooper I will pick the opposite spec which I think is Commando rather than Vanguard, that way I get the complete experience. Anyway, that’s off topic. I loved the Bounty Hunter story, the companions, the lore, the approach, everything and it would be so awesome to play that character again. Right now, it’s level 50 and it’s mothballed as the class quest is done.

There weren’t really any unanswered questions with the Bounty Hunter storyline. There were however unanswered questions with the Mako companion storyline, which given that the companions are different for each class make it like a class storyline. This should be followed up, the story had more to go. As a class it did too, it was open ended and as the top Bounty Hunter in the galaxy, someones going to try and tear me down. Plus I think I killed a sith, though there was a choice there, I didn’t have to, I could have aided him instead but I’m a light side Bounty Hunter. There could or should be repercussions from that.

What I’m trying to say is that this quote that there will be some kind of class storyline continuance in Shadow of Revan is amazing news. It’s proof that they aren’t just going to abandon that aspect of the game and that they will be adding to it. They might not add to it very frequently, or add as much, as we would like but that feature of the game lives. As, in my opinion, it’s the best feature of Swtor I think that’s great news. Obviously the proof is in the result, this expansion isn’t released until December, so no-one knows until then what these new class storylines will be like.

Though even if they aren’t a good continuance, it’s still proof that, the class storylines are still on their radar for development. That can only be a good thing. I really want to play Swtor now. I just don’t have the time.

Clear Measurable Progress

Ah finally a gaming post to break up the writing obsession. I had a spare few minutes yesterday, not long enough to really do anything but long enough that I started clicking round all the sites I check for updates everyday. The Grumpy Elf has a sidebar where he links to other blogs, this updates somehow with their latest post. I clicked on a couple and one of them made me think, and not even really about what they had written.

This blogpost said that they had boosted a level 90 Horde for the Double Agent achievement, that they might finally try and see the game from the other perspective. This reminded me that for a long time this was a goal of mine, to complete Horde Loremaster. When I quit Warcraft I didn’t even feel like doing this, I was just burned out of the game completely I guess. My perspective had narrowed and focused so much on endgame, that it tainted every other aspect of the game.

This in turn made me consider again my number one complaint about Warcraft’s direction. It made me think about the games that I do play and what they have in common. The answer is very simple – clear measurable progress.

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The 2015 Advance Pack

Marvel Heroes is a free to play game but nothing in life is free. I wrote a post some time back talking about how I personally felt I got more out of the game, by spending a little. So it’s no secret that I’ve spent money on this ‘free’ game. I think I may also have said in that post, and if I didn’t then I’ll say it here, that I much prefer this free to play, spend what you want business model.

What you pay and when is entirely down to you. The choice is yours, if you choose not to pay anything then all the content is still available. You can play the game from here until it shuts down (which is hopefully a long time from now) without spending a dime, or anything more beyond your initial investment if you choose to pay something. Contrast this with Warcraft where you have to pay for the game, then keep paying to access the game. If you don’t keep paying then you are shut out, unable to access what you have already paid for.

Anyway, recently Marvel Heroes announced their second Deluxe Advance Pack for the upcoming year. I bought the one for this year and I’ve been really pleased with it, so getting this next one was an easy decision. In fact bizarrely for a ‘free to play’ game, my biggest regret with Marvel Heroes is that I didn’t discover the fact that it existed until launch. As I definitely would have been interested in the Ultimate Pack, that was one hell of a deal.

That’s beside the point so back to it. There’s this thread on the Marvel Heroes forums where a poster basically says that they don’t like the 12 heroes chosen for the pack. It could have been a good thread where people posted their ideal pack, but given the aggressive and negative tone he took, it was more of an attack than a fun “what would you have liked?” thread. So I didn’t respond to it but it made me wonder. I like the pack as it is, but if I’d been a Gaz dev having to choose the lineup, what would I have picked?

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Minipost – Guild Wars 2

I looked at Guild Wars 2 before it was released. There was a lot of hype about it and I was curious. A friend of mine was really interested in it and couldn’t wait for release. However, my curiosity wasn’t enough to overcome the barrier to entry. I had no idea if I would like the game, there was no free trial and a hefty box price. So I decided to wait until there was a free trial to see if I liked it before I paid for it.

That was a good call.

I know the game was released two years ago. There have been a number of free trial weeks and offers during that time. However, this week starting today was the first one I learned of in time. I started to download the game yesterday and it took hours. I should check actually how much hard drive space it requires as I had to leave the PC on overnight in order to download it, it was only at 60% when I went to bed. However, it was completed this morning and the trial began so I logged in.

What did I think?

Well for my birthday in May friends of mine had bought me the original Guild Wars. They love that game and wanted to share it with me. However, I didn’t like it. It reminded me far more of Diablo than it did of Warcraft and not in a good way. I found the combat unintuitive and strange. I didn’t like the UI and the graphics, well it is an old game. I thought that Guild Wars 2 being much newer would be better, well it wasn’t.

For anyone that liked the original Guild Wars then I’m sure that Guild Wars 2 felt familiar and comfortable. I didn’t like Guild Wars and after playing Guild Wars 2 for just half an hour I was sure that I didn’t like the new version any better. The graphics are improved but the movement is the same jerky, smooth (I’m aware that’s a contradiction), unconnected, headache inducing. The combat is the same, I can’t get into it or understand it. The UI is the same mess, unfamiliar and unwelcoming.

I know I should probably give it more time but those first 20 minutes are important. There’s a developer feedback thread on Marvel Heroes forums asking about how to improve those first 20 minutes. Where people either become fans or get put off the game altogether and that is absolutely true. My first 20 minutes of the Warcraft free trial saw me buy the base game, and expansions and set up a subscription. Now Warcraft has a lot of problems as a game, don’t get me wrong but it was the first real game I played. I wasn’t a gamer when I was introduced to Warcraft, everything was new and strange but it was also comfortable. I could work it out, it made sense and it flowed well in a way that Guild Wars just doesn’t.

The free trial of Guild Wars 2 continues for another week but I doubt I’ll login again. I’ll delete the game from my computer and put a big mental cross next to the game. There is nothing about it that I like. I’m glad for the opportunity of the free trial as my curiosity has now been satisfied. Guild Wars is not for me and never will be.