Thursday, October 20, 2011

SWTOR Press Embargo Lifted

  The press embargo lifted on Old Republic today. This isn’t the NDA. That is still in effect. The press embargo is on professional gaming sites like Massively, IGN, etc. The lifting of the embargo basically means they can now post articles from their time in beta. Basically what BioWare is doing is giving the press a head start so they can get their articles out. Likely the next step is the lifting of the NDA, and then a deluge of blogs, Facebook, and twitter posts from people who have been in beta. You lucky dogs, I hate you all, well, not really. But my jealousy makes me powerful.
I find the timing of the lifting of the embargo interesting. The sort of thing that makes you go “hmmm”.  You see Friday is the start of the Blizzcon which is Blizzard’s big annual convention. By lifting the embargo the day before, BioWare has ensured a flood of new information on the Old Republic to compete with any big reveals coming out of Blizzcon. I wonder how much conversation on the show floor among the participants will be dominated by TOR news?
The Blizzard guys are very busy with Blizzcon prep and by releasing the day before, at the height of preparations, they give Blizzard little time to respond, if they would have been inclined to do so anyway. I think Blizzard will largely ignore SWTOR outside of maybe some snarky remark by one of the Blizzard big wigs at the keynote or opening ceremonies.
Surprisingly, I find myself reticent to dive too deeply into these new articles on the Old Republic. Part of what excites me about the game is the newness. New systems, new zones, new mobs, new everything. Every bit of prerelease information I get will take a little bit away from the awe of the new things I’m going to see.
My main concern is story spoilers. One of the best moments I’ve ever had in the video game was the big reveal/plot twist in the original Old Republic. If I had known that going in, it would have changed everything about how I experienced the game, and it impacted every one of my replays. So I really want to avoid story spoilers. But at the same time, I’m very curious about the systems that I’m going to be experiencing over the next couple of months.
Here’s a quick sampling from around the interwebs of what is being said.
The Escapist: “BioWare's promised to bring meaningful storytelling to the MMO genre and, based on the starting planets at least, that promise has been fulfilled.”
Massively : “Here is his final thoughts :At the end of the day, TOR surpassed my expectations a wee bit. I loved the world design and enjoyed the leveling gameplay for what it was, but I found the story elements unnecessary at best (and downright distracting at worst). Ultimately the early portions of the game are well-made and it's likely going to keep Star Wars nuts and themeparkers happy for a while. For those of us who realize that MMOs were meant to be more than casual combat games, though, I'm afraid Sir Alec Guinness said it best when he said this is not the MMO we're looking for.”
My personal favorite came from 1UP.
1UP: It's World of Warcraft with Lightsabers, and it's amazing"  & "It's not groundbreaking, but it sure is fun."
Ask a Jedi has a great roundup of all the coverage here:
http://www.askajedi.com/2011/10/20/press-testing-embargo-coverage-roundup/
Christmas can’t get here soon enough!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

SWTOR Character Creation Part II – Advanced Classes

(Disclaimer: game is still in beta, subject to change, blah, blah, blah)
The character creation process in SWTOR is a series of cascading decisions that renders you with a character that is hopefully sufficiently custom.

Last time, we talked about the base or story class. Today, I want to talk about taking your character to next level, literally. At level 10, you get to pick your advanced class (AC). While at first glance, this may seem reminiscent of the specialization choice from World of Warcraft, I think you will find that the AC is much closer to what most MMOs call a class. Generally, a specialization in World of Warcraft limits you to one trinity role. Feral Druids, I see your paws up in the air, I know, now put them down. In SWTOR, each Advanced Class has one or two trinity roles it can spec into. 

Let's look at the Republic Advanced classes. Jedi Knights choose between the Guardian AC (Tank/DPS) and the Sentinel AC (DPS). Jedi Consolers choose between the Sage AC (Heal/DPS) and the Shadow AC (Tank/DPS). Troopers choose between the Vanguard AC (Tank/DPS) and the Commando AC (Heal/DPS). Smugglers choose between the Scoundrel AC (Heal/DPS) and the Sharpshooter AC (DPS).

Your advance class opens up three skill trees. Two are exclusive to your advanced class, and one is shared with the other advance class available to your story class. Let's look at an example. The Jedi Knight Guardian advanced class trees are Vigilance, Defense, and Focus. Vigilance is your single blade dps tree like the Warrior's Arms tree in WoW. Defense is the tanking tree. Focus is a lightsaber techniques tree and is also available to the Jedi Knight Sentinel. In addition to Focus, the Sentinel has access to the Watchman and Combat trees which enhance his fighting ability.

At the time of this writing, respecs work like vanilla WoW. You go back to your capital city (Coruscant for the Republic and Dromond Kaas for the Sith) and pay an ever increasing fee to switch specs. It is important to note that this is for changing your spec within your advanced class. For example, this respec would be used to change your Tank specialized Guardian into a DPS specialized Guardian.

The cost for changing your advanced class scales with level and according to Devs, it becomes prohibitively expensive after about level 30. This is changing from a Guardian to a Sentinel. (See disclaimer) Once you pick your Advanced Class, that's what you are.

The fly in the ointment will be balance. The developers have stated their goal that Guardian and Sentinel DPS are close enough to be viable, but the devil as usual is in the details. The natural question then is why pick a Sentinel if the Guardian can do comparable DPS and switch to tank, but the Sentinel can only dps. First point is the devs have communicated the cost in time and credits of the respec is not trivial. I think this is somewhat naive. One of the first requests that will be made after launch is a way to teleport back to Coruscant, or teleport to the raid. Cost will be group sourced as necessary. In WoW, I had many a specialization paid for by the guild.

The answer the devs are hoping for to the question of why would any one be a Sentinel is: because their character concept is a Jedi who dual wields. Only Sentinel's can do that, and if your fantasy is to be like Anakin dual wielding lightsabers, you'll pick a Sentinel, and be very happy with our choice. Character concepts harkens back to our pen and paper days playing RPGs. I’m curious to see how they translate into the MMO space.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Today’s Post

I'm going to delay what I was going to post today until Monday, because  today I want to talk about the passing of Steve Jobs. You can read my thoughts over on my Writer’s blog.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

SWTOR Character Creation Guide Part I: Story Class

(Disclaimer: game is still in beta, subject to change, blah, blah, blah)
The character creation process in SWTOR is a series of cascading decisions that renders you with a character that is hopefully sufficiently custom.
When most people think about creating a character in an RPG, the question of race and role/class is usually foremost. While SWTOR has all three components, the way it breaks down might not be readily apparent to those who haven’t read deeply on the game yet.
This first choice is your story class. There are 8 possibilities, 4 per faction. On the Republic side, your choices are Jedi Knight, Jedi Consoler, Smuggler and Trooper. On the Sith side, the choices are Sith Warrior, Sith Inquisitor, Imperial Agent and Bounty Hunter. This choice determines the you class story which guides you throughout the entire game in a series of 3 chapters. Each chapter is longer than the original KOTOR, if you played that.  Unlike other MMOs the majority of the game is made up of class specific quests, and each class has its own story. If you play as a Jedi Knight, and then you reroll as a different class, say a Smuggler, you will see a completely different set of quests*.
*I’m going to digress for a just a moment to correct a bit of hype. The devs are fond of saying that you won’t repeat a single quest if you reroll and that’s technically true, as long as you change factions. If you reroll on the same faction, you will see some of the same quests. There are three kinds of quests in SWTOR: Class Quests, World Quests, and Galaxy Quests. Class quests which are specific to your story class. World quests which are quests everyone of your faction gets on that world. Galaxy quests span multiple planets and again are the same for everyone on your faction. So if you reroll in the same faction, you will repeat the world quests and galaxy quests.
This choice of story class will also determine which model of starship you’ll be flying around in. Despite my love for the Republic, even I must admit that the Sith ships look cooler on the whole.
An example of a Sith Ship: Fury
An example of a Republic Ship:1473134-ca_jedi_ship03_full
Really, no contest.
Your choice for your trinity role is still fairly open at this point. The only caveats are if you want to heal, you can’t pick Jedi Knight, or Sith Warrior. If you want to tank, you can’t pick Smugger or Imperial Agent. That’s it.
You will be able to customize facial features, hair, tattoos and other aspect of your appearance. Already you could have two very different characters, even if you chose the same story class. At level 10, you get to pick your advanced class (AC). This is closer to what most MMOs call a class. Each advanced class has one or two trinity roles it can spec into.
Next up, we’ll look at the Advanced Classes more in-depth.

Monday, October 3, 2011

No Longer Viable

I talked to my raid team leader last night, and it’s apparent that our raid team is no longer viable. Our raid leader is going to take some time and decides what he wants to do. I’m doing the same. Wich did a fantastic job of running our raid team, but he couldn’t keep guys interested in the game. We simply took too many loses, too quickly to recover.
The question now what do I do. I seem to be at a crossroads. I still enjoy raiding and haven't even seen the last two bosses in Firelands.
The first problem is I really have no desire to continue raiding on my Hunter. I switched from tanking on my Paladin Tank to DPS as a Hunter for Cataclysm. I've done okay but it's clear to me I'm struggling as a DPS. For some reason the Hunter rotation just didn’t click with me. I don’t know why. I was fighting to stay out of the 5 hole when we ran two tanks and struggled to stay out of 6 hole when we ran one.
I tried switched from SV to Marks with the idea being a higher ceiling would let me achieve better numbers. It didn’t help. When we would bring in other hunters they would out dps me even though I out geared them. I’ve went on EJ, TKA Something, Warcraft Hunter’s Union, but my numbers didn’t improve much. Something just wasn’t clicking.
So I don’t want to continue on the Hunter, but I would like to keep raiding. My preferred toon would be my Warrior, but he's got more greens than a house salad.
One option is to gear him up and try to find a new raid team. But we are about 10 or 11 weeks away from SWTOR's release. Does it make any sense to try to find a new team when I'm less than 3 months out from changing games?
If I don’t try to keep raiding, is there any point in keeping my account active?
But what if SWTOR gets delayed?
Another option would be to try for Trade Chat PuGs. I don’t know how well they are doing on my realm, but getting in one might be hard without the necessary Achievements.
Bottom line is I like raiding. It's something I still want to do and I still have months until Star Wars.
I’d love to hear any suggestions or advice you might have?