Monthly Archives: January 2012

Kung Fu Cooking Girls
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Posted in Media, Short Film | 2 Comments

SW:TOR – Space Battles (and other minor updates)
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I dove into the flight combat in SW:TOR head first. Overall, not bad, not bad at all. The space combat in SW:TOR is not like most star wars games. Some will hate the changes, but I personally find it’s an … Continue reading

Posted in Action, Gaming, MMO, RPG, Uncategorized, War | 1 Comment

Star Wars: A New MMO Hope…
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How many times have you heard the words “WoW killer”? I’ve heard it for virtually every MMO to be released since World of Warcraft became king of the hill. Whether it was a positive (This game is so amazing it’s going to finally kill WoW!) or a negative (This game will never beat WoW). Most of these statements revolve around “amazing new feature never seen in an MMO!”. But whether they realize it or not the game publishers fail at one very important aspect of an MMO, heck for any game, and that’s polish.

Blizzard’s games are not consistent best sellers because they always have the most innovative new features, or the shiniest graphics engine, or even the most content available. What makes their games so great is that they are polished to a shine. They test thoroughly and remove as many bugs as they possibly can (or just write damn good code to start with) before releasing a game. We’ve waited how long for Diablo 3? I’m sure it isn’t because the content isn’t ready, I’d bet money it’s to make sure the delivered game is as flawless as possible. During my last year of WoW, I can’t remember a single bug I encountered. Their games “just work”. In my opinion, this alone is what sets Blizzard games apart from everyone else in the industry.

But I digress, this is supposed to be a review for Star Wars: The Old Republic (SW:TOR), and my first two paragraphs are all about WoW…

After a month of hemming and hawing over whether I should purchase SWTOR (When will companies realize that free trials result in considerably increased sales?) I bit the bullet and purchased a copy. I had very reserved feelings about this game, I knew I would be comparing it a lot to Star Wars Galaxies (R.I.P.) and that could easily ruin my SWTOR experience.

In reality, it does look like SWG, but then any star wars game should look similar to each other. The similarities however, stop at the looks.

SWTOR like so many MMOs before it, is essentially a “wow-clone”. It’s gameplay and UI are too similar to call it anything else. The gameplay and fun of SWTOR is all well and good, but nothing that would surpass WoW’s. As one video review put it, if you like fantasy games, stick with WoW; if you like sci-fi, give SWTOR a try.

But one thing we’ve learned over the years is that you will never beat WoW by trying to copy it. And I named this post “A new MMO hope” and I did so for a reason. SWTOR has one feature that blows WoW out of the water. And that’s voice acted quests. Instead of reading a couple paragraphs and clicking accept quest, or more common, ignoring a couple paragraphs of text and skipping straight to accept quest – SWTOR has no text boxes. The quest givers talk their couple paragraphs of text instead, emoting where appropriate etc. And you’re given dialog responses to choose from. Some give Light side of the force points, others Dark side, but many give nothing at all other than allowing you to shape the conversation as you wish.

Completing these same quests is just as rewarding. You’re often given a choice of how to complete a quest. Many times you can simply be a mercenary – “Stop talking and pay me already” or else given a light side and dark side choice of how to complete the quest. Do you kill the murderer or turn him in to the authorities for a trial? What is even better is that they made a great deal of effort to make these choices not so black and white. Do you expose the senator for the crimes he committed against the gangs? Or do you look the other way knowing the games deserved it? I’m making these examples up of course, but I hope you get the idea. Quite often I have to sit and think about what I want to do or say in order to match my morals, or my characters morals. Having no clear answer gives you a sense of purpose in your questing. Unlike every other MMO out there where you usually accept every quest given to you, simply because you have no choice in how the story plays out. You either rolled the “good faction” or the “bad faction” – and that alone decides thousands of quest results from that point on.

To me this is a break-through in an MMO. It could even be a “WoW-killer”. In every other MMO I always start with the intention of reading as much of the quest stories as possible. But in the race to level as quickly as possible, or to keep up with the rest of my group, I soon start accepting quests without reading them and think “I’ll read them before I turn it in”. Before long I am turning them in without even doing that. And way too soon I am 500 quests into the game and do not care anymore what the quests have to say. All that text written for people who don’t take the time to read it. It’s a shame if you think about it.

Of course on the other end of the spectrum is the hundreds of quests who don’t really have any meaningful story. “Go kill 8 yaks and I’ll give you XP” has been seen time and time again. (http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2008/11/14)

In SWTOR I’ve read or more accurately heard every word from every quest giver. I’ve made choices based on my morals, or what I thought would be aligned with my morals. I’ve even made choices I’ve regretted. And supposedly my story-line will be slightly different than the person next to me’s based on those choices. And because all of this is voice acted with no text to read, I sit there and take it all in. My group mates will have to wait if they are ahead of me, because gosh-darn-it, I want to hear this. I want the full story of what is happening in the Old Republic. I also want to know exactly what the quest giver is proposing so that I can make a proper decision. All of this adds up to choices that actually feel like it matters what I do.

Star Wars : The Old Repubic – voice acted quest dialog example

If you’ve read all this, thanks. I know I’ve wandered off on some pretty distant tangents, I might have to edit this post and re-write it for clarity. But I hope the message I wanted to get across was comprehensible…

  • Blizzard’s games are the cream of the crop because they “just work”. They are polished and virtually bug free. SWTOR may not have that level of polish, but Bioware at least realized the importance of a finely tuned game. Something most MMOs failed to realize. It’s not perfect, but then, neither was WoW in it’s first year. I think as SWTOR progresses it should be able to catch up on the polish factor, or at least come close enough to not be a deciding factor.
  • While most MMOs have plenty of story, it is almost always overlooked by most players. Even those who want to take in as much story as possible wind up glossing over most of it simply because of the way it is delivered to them. In SWTOR you take your time, and because of the presentation, wind up finding out most if not all of the story line.
  • Unlike most MMOs you a lot of flexibility in how you interact with NPCs and quests. You don’t simply accept a quest, you are given choices that affect how the story and your character progresses.
  • And while you pick “republic” or “sith” factions when you start, you have the flexibility from your choices to be “Light side of the force Sith” or “Dark side of the force republic” (or vice versa).

Because of all this, what you do in SWTOR feels like it actually matters.

Anyway, that’s my review. In the end I’d say this game is worth buying if you enjoy MMOs. Doubly so if you enjoy sci-fi or star wars. Triply so if you care about story lines. Quadruply so if you want to feel like you aren’t just another minion among the “massive”, but rather an important part of the story, capable of shaping it to whatever ends you seek. Dark, or Light.
Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments