Star Wars: The Old Republic has been live almost 13 months to the day, and I feel it’s time for me to chime in with my views and opinions as well.
I’ve been playing SWTOR since the 2nd day of early release, as an active subscriber the entire time, I want to make that much clear from the start as I will touch on Free to Play. Some of these opinions you may or may not agree with, but that is why this is an editorial, they are opinions. So lets begin with my “Wants and Wishes” for the next year, not all of these are issues or mindsets that Developers have to deal with, some deal directly with the Community of SWTOR or any game for that matter.
While SWTOR’s GUI is functional, but it is not all that pretty, now I know looks aren’t everything, but while functional the ability to make GUI Mods would be nice. I’m not talking about allowing people to redo the entire UI (though color schemes would be nice), but the ability to make add-ons that simplify certain aspects of game play. Healers have it rough in SWTOR in many ways a good add-on to put a button on Ops or Party frames to make healing a more simple procedure would go a long way. API’s for DPS and HPS stats we could display in a small window on screen would help players as well. Combat Log parsing works for the latter, but is clunky and time consuming, not to mention it doesn’t provide real time feedback. There are 3rd party apps that do so in an overlay, but why rely on someone else to do something the many MMO’s allow directly within their own system?
I’m cool with it, you won’t hear me say otherwise. F2P was a nice change, and one I feel was the right direction. Pay to Play is rapidly going the way of the Dodo in MMO’s there is so much competition with Social Games that are free such as the plethora of (Insert Word Here)ville games that something has to be done to compete for attention. A lot of geeks turned their eyes to the heavens and shouted in a voice heard throughout the land “The End is Nigh!”, yet here we are, still chugging along. Many new games being released or in testing are adopting a similar route as what SWTOR eventually adopted, or are going strictly F2P with an item mall. Firefall, Marvel Heroes, and Phantasy Star Online 2 just to name a couple going the F2P route. Previously games such as Lord of the Rings: Online, and Dungeons and Dragons: Online showed a hybrid model could work well in the MMO arena, they increased revenues dramatically after switching to a hybrid model.
What I’m personally not cool with is members of a games community using Subscriber status as something to hold over people. Let’s face facts, many of those Freeps (Free Players) are pumping as much or more money into the game monthly as you are. Just because they aren’t paying a sub doesn’t mean they are any lower a class of player as you. I myself play multiple games, and though most I subscribe to, there are some where the Hybrid or F2P model is especially enticing to me. For those that don’t know I’m , at the age of 35 no less, a full time College Student, half the year I have disposable income when I am able to work full time, the other half is lean, a Hybrid or F2P model gives me more flexibility to decide when and how I want to play without incurring costs I may not be able to afford. It also allows me to experiment in depth in games before I decide to subscribe or not, for myself and many others it is a perk a in depth test drive. If you are a subby take the perks and run with them, I do, but please have a little respect for your fellow human being, not all of them are trying to get something for nothing.
Bugs & Content
Every game has them, bugs. It’s almost impossible when you have software developed by a number of different individuals to avoid bugs. Just as every author has his own unique writing style, every programmer has their own set of techniques they prefer. Where one might use a case switch for one circumstance another a look up table, and yet another conditionals. Little things that have a tendency when updates are done and tweaks to allow for something easily get borked. It’s the nature of the beast, and something QA is constantly battling. There are a few that quickly rankle the player though, and that’s reoccurring bugs, such as the companion Lighsaber bug, and the ability delay. These need squashed for good, as they are more apparent. Killing them off would quite a lot of people.
Content wise, I’m happy there is plenty to do if you roll alts, even dailies aren’t time consuming unless you religiously run all of them on a daily basis. Myself I usually run Blackhole and Ilum that’s enough credits that I can pull close to 1 million every time 10 days. I occasionally run Warzones with sub-50’s I find that the play is more balanced than post-50 when gear has much more influence. With all the story lines and the variances due to LS and DS alignment there are a huge number of ways you can experience a character class. With Makeb on the radar (though no firm date yet) I’m interested to see how this effects my characters and will give me a reason to go exploring with my 50’s again.
Enough with the wants, let me take a few moments to talk about what really thrills me about SWTOR and why I continue to play it. There are tons of other games out there, but none in a long time has grabbed me the way SWTOR has.
This is a big one for me, I’m a Star Wars geek, I’ll freely admit it. Every year for Christmas my Girlfriend purchases me a small Star Wars themed item, often for my Birthday as well. I have Death Star USB Drive, a R2D2 USB hub, SW’s themed Christmas ornaments, a Star Wars lanyard I keep my Security Key dongle, and some keys on. I even have the Wookie Cookie recipe book…Boba-Fett-Uccine is delicious! Having a game that feels like it fits even if it’s Extended Universe is a great boon. We all knew that the Jedi were almost wiped out by Vader and the Emperor by the time of A New Hope but the attention to details that the developers of SWTOR took to make pieces of the SWTOR game familiar while being drastically different pleases me. The Smuggler’s XS Stock Light Freighter screams Millennium Falcon much the same way the Bounty Hunter’s D5-Mantis oozes Slave I for example. I’m also fascinated about the planets we get to see in SWTOR, descriptions of them have been around for a long time, seeing them visually represented is a treat.
The similarity of many of the technologies presented firmly fit into the revised vision of Moore’s Law, which shows technological advances in computing slowing after a certain threshold unless new technology replaces it, yet increasing at a set determinable pace; we also see a fictionalized Type III civilization on the Kardashev scale which categorizes different stages of civilization based on technology available to them, in this case a civilization capable of interstellar travel. We also have hints at one individual who has achieved ability to, and plans to thrust civilization into Type VI status, the Emperor, who wishes to conquer a new Galaxy, through a combination of Sith Alchemy and Force Techniques. It’s the mix of plausibility mixed with pure fiction that I think holds me to Star Wars, not just the game but the franchise in it’s entirety.
You always get a few bad apples, it never fails. But on the whole SWTOR’s in game community isn’t bad. I’ve played a lot of games and though I’ve seen more polite general chat’s I can honestly say I’ve seen a lot worse. It’s easy to find people to answer questions, and often it is rather easy to find those willing to form groups for some of the more difficult missions, even without the Group Finder. There are flaws, for starters the economy of the game rapidly bloated, once you hit the level cap credits are so easy to acquire through daily missions that some resources quickly went beyond the affordability of the more casual player.
Free to Play didn’t help in this regard, the more desirable items often exceed the credit cap put on Freeps, though as long as these “Rare” items are available via packs on the Cartel Market the price should eventually go down. A good example of this is the new Lightsaber Crystals, the Pink-Purple and the Cyan-Blue crystals initially were selling for outrageous prices. They had a level requirement of 10, yet had the same stat perks as those restricted to level 50 obtained through crafting. After a couple of weeks prices quickly decreased, from close to half a million credits, at start I’ve obtained many from other players from between 25k and 80k credits. I’m not going to beat my head against the wall on this but I will say it did nothing to help those who gain pleasure from crafting. The only other thing I find agonizingly painful about crafting is Skill Requirements on some items. Bio-Chems can create re-usable med packs, but you need enough skill to craft one to use it. These items become non-trade items for the most part because of this. Cybertechs have the same issue with grenades they are able to craft. They are there, they can make full use of them, but no one else can. This approach simply does not make sense to me. On the whole unless you are Free to Play crafting is a good thing, the ability to craft your own upgrades and enough character slots to pursue all the various crafting skills is a boon, though at the same time it makes a player regulated economy impossible.
SWTOR on the whole is a good game, it’s not perfect by any regard, but neither are you, the developers , or me a perfect person. There have been a lot of things unfairly said about the game– “It’s WoW with Lightsabers!”, “Nothing is orginal!”, “There isn’t enough content!” etc. But I look at it this way, WoW has become the industry standard, at peak it had around 12 million subscriptions, getting compared to WoW isn’t a bad thing, if a game is good enough to show that level of game play then something was done right, I also remember that WoW wasn’t “Orginal” many of the concepts in WoW were borrowed from games such as Everquest, and most importantly I remember that this is a young game. Ultima Online has 14 years on it, Everyquest has 13, and WoW has 8 years. Check back in a decade and see how far Star Wars: The Old Republic has gone in terms of developed content. I fully expect this title to go through the same growing pains every other MMO has, which brings up another funny little thing. Memory. I’ve played and still play some of the longer running titles, after a while the memory of what was, and the reality of what was get blurred. It happens to us all, unless we’re keeping a running log of all the patch notes in our pockets as a quick reference.