Escapist Podcast: Bonus: Star Wars: The Old Republic Round 2

Bonus: Star Wars: The Old Republic Round 2

Because well we like talking about Star Wars: The Old Republic, and we take some time to respond to a few of the review comments.

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Two tangentially related items. 1) We got our new replacement audio equipment in, hurray! Thanks to everyone for enduring that last few episodes. 2) We changed it so that the whole backlog is available on iTunes, not just the last 10 episodes.

Ahhh, the old Revan debate.

Oh boy, this'll be a doosey.

Put my ranting cap on here.

Disclaimer: I have not played the game personally, I'm just going from these podcasts and friends who've played it.

Major thing is that, yes, it seems like it plays like they wanted to make KotOR3 but then someone reminded them it was an mmo. In theory having such a unique character built up on your choices, then releasing it into an mmo environment, is a pretty novel concept and pretty damn cool in my book. While most choices will mostly be thrown to the wayside, inevitably content may appear that is a bit more personalized, or even just flags that are apparent on a character to say, "Hey, I chose this, This is how my character rolls." In alot of MMOs the initial content is primarily single player, so Bioware just threw in the kitchen sink to make that part great. Eventually it has to be about the multiplayer though. I won't say that an MMO needs to have amazing "end game" massive raids and such, but it does need something to do when you are max level. The comment was made that one might be fine leveling a character to 50, finishing their storyline quests, then canceling the account. This does not bode well on a subscription based game. If a single player game with choices is what you want, then you can find a single player game with choices, without paying a subscription.

On the point of end game content, it really depends on the style of game. In FFXI, you really had to work to level. I played it a good while and only got to level 44 of 75. In that game there was much more focus on the leveling so there was much less in the way of endgame content. In fact, new expansions would have you scale down to the level of new encounters, so you didn't need max level to experience the new content. Mind you, the major flaw in the game was that incredibly slow pace that never let you get to max level. Regardless, if the style is to get to 50 relatively swiftly, then you need something to do. If you are just getting to 50 then scrapping it or putting it in cold storage, then the work making a character to insert into this Multiplayer world seems wasted. Mind you, again, this is still a fairly fresh game and players are expected to still mostly be single player as they settle into a world and control scheme, true end game content might just be waiting a month or two. Point is, one must consider if this is a "Massively" Multiplayer game, a multiplayer game, or a single player game with occasional multiplayer elements. If you're fine with however it is, good on you, having fun is having fun. It just sounds weird to consider it an MMO then.

Well, I don't think this thread can take much more ranting of this magnitude, so I'll leave it there. I still want wookie jedi though. Or to dual wield a lightsaber and double lightsaber like in the trailer. Maybe for the first expansion....

On a secondary note, this is someone trying something new and strange, and that's good, period.

Odd to say period when you can just type a period, but tangents.

And it is an online game so more can just be added down the line if it is felt to be lacking.

First off, love this podcast. I love the fact that you guys have even made a little "bonus" section for ToR as that's my current digital crack as well.

I'm very disappointed, however, with a particular comment Steve had made. He claimed that you don't get to express who your character is by how you play the game and I sincerely beg to differ. I'm currently playing a Jedi Knight who's as chivalrous and kind hearted as you can be in the game. Choosing the path of the Guardian seemed like a natural extension of his personality with his protective nature and natural zeal to put himself in danger's way first in order to protect the people and values of the Republic and the Jedi Code. I constantly strive towards seeing my allies never taking a single hit and purposefully use all of the skills available to me to keep the attention of every villain we face. My character dedicates himself to the studies of superior lightsaber combat in order to deflect blaster bolts with superhuman reflexes and parry blows that would crush a lesser Jedi's guard.

Or, you could say I spend most of my points in the Defense tree.

MMOs are what you make of them, including how you choose to play. You can certainly look at a game like the Old Republic and say you can't make as much out of how you go about things compared to a game like Skyrim, which is probably true, but you also miss out on great roleplaying opportunities because you consider your definition with a much more narrow view. Considering you seem to constantly question what should be allowed in a roleplaying server it was disheartening to hear that you don't consider the simple act of building a character's skill set to reflect their personality roleplaying.

Good podcast! I have to say I don't have much truck with MMOs, at least not the ones that are similar in structure to WoW and I haven't played ToR. However you guys still brought up a lot of interesting points about MMOs and RPGs in general. Especially to do with the differences in how they structure their stories.

Pardus which is a little browser based MMO I play has almost zero developer created story, as far as I'm aware even the official backstory was actually written by a player. However there's a huge history of player interactions there, with players setting up their own forums and creating governing bodies for various factions.

These come with wonderful spats and betrayals. Of course they're not really on the same par as stories made by an actual writer but they're far more dynamic and allow players to literally forge their own stories. Some of the more invested players have had quite an impact on the game. One legendary defection resulted in the theft of one of the my faction's best warships and the destruction of a starbase that housed tens of thousands of "people". The event happened a couple of years ago yet thanks to the nature of the game and its albeit small playerbase those actions still influence inter-faction diplomacy today.

I think the best point they made is that the leveling is FUN now. In other mmos I would be grinding and grinding just because I couldn't wait to get to the top levels when I presumed that the fun would really begin.

In SWTOR I dread level 50 because I find the story so enjoyable and I know it's going to end ...

So, I don't have a level 50, yet, but I keep seeing people that are looking for groups for Flashpoints (think dungeons) on Hard Mode. It seems that every Flaspoint in the game has a level 50 version. That's a lot there. Then there is at least one Operation (think raid) and more to come. Pretty sure this weeks update adds some features as well. If you're looking for end game content right out the door, you will be disappointed, I guess. But I also think you're playing the game in the wrong mind set.

But here's another thing. This game isn't easy. Tanking seems much harder than it was in WoW. And healing can actually be fun. As in, I enjoy healing. I played around with two healers in WoW, a Discipline Priest and a Restoration Shaman, and though I never got either to the max level, I can honestly say that playing as a healer was boring. On my priest, there were whole boss fights that I could have skipped because no one got close to dieing (throw a Power Word: Shield on the tank and grab a drink) and it wasn't much different on my Shaman.

Contrast that to my Mercenary healer. While I keep keep my whole group alive, there are times, even with the best tanks, that I have to heal everyone. No one is safe. Ever. And using my abilities wisely is key. Putting points in the spec right, using the abilities to their fullest, and maintaining my resource properly is the only way to survive. And unlike other healers in other games, I can still bring the pain. Playing in a Flashpoint, I saw a group of standard enemies appear beside my group and no one was hurting yet, so I unleashed my "Death From Above" attack and destroyed the whole group right there and proceeded to heal my allies again.

HellsingerAngel:
I'm very disappointed, however, with a particular comment Steve had made. He claimed that you don't get to express who your character is by how you play the game and I sincerely beg to differ. I'm currently playing a Jedi Knight who's as chivalrous and kind hearted as you can be in the game. Choosing the path of the Guardian seemed like a natural extension of his personality with his protective nature and natural zeal to put himself in danger's way first in order to protect the people and values of the Republic and the Jedi Code. I constantly strive towards seeing my allies never taking a single hit and purposefully use all of the skills available to me to keep the attention of every villain we face. My character dedicates himself to the studies of superior lightsaber combat in order to deflect blaster bolts with superhuman reflexes and parry blows that would crush a lesser Jedi's guard.

I suppose that's true. You definitely can express a sort of attitude in how you build up your character and how you approach each encounter. I will say, I DON'T think there are as many or as varied ways to express that in TOR as there are in Skyrim and Deus Ex where your mechanical options are much more open-ended. While the agent can sneak around some, most of the encounters in TOR are about killing everything you see. That doesn't leave much room for players to try new things.

Hoplon:

Empire has a similar flashpoint at level 35 - the Boarding Party/Foundry Flashpoint pair (it's two separate Flashpoints, but the stories are intertwined such that you must complete the Boarding Party before it makes sense for the Foundry to be run anyway, and this is enforced mechanically.)

I was very disappointed by the Flashpoint, incidentally.

The idea of the single player games brings up the question: would this have worked using the Dead Island mechanic of a single-player game with the ability to know others are nearby and able to connect with them?

krellen:

Hoplon:

Empire has a similar flashpoint at level 35 - the Boarding Party/Foundry Flashpoint pair (it's two separate Flashpoints, but the stories are intertwined such that you must complete the Boarding Party before it makes sense for the Foundry to be run anyway, and this is enforced mechanically.)

I was very disappointed by the Flashpoint, incidentally.

Much better than the "grind elite mobs" flash points. those are sorely disappointing

Hoplon:
Much better than the "grind elite mobs" flash points. those are sorely disappointing

I'll give you that point. It's a Flashpoint with a story, even if the story is a stupid one.

Hmm.. it seems like you;re still downplaying (or outright avoiding) two topics that did come up in the review feedback thread. First, that the RP aspects of TOR only seem to take so much precedence simply because they are force fed to you. Second, that the more free form RP that exists in other MMORPGs is actually a better form of RP than the prescripted 3 choice, 2 branch RP that exists in TOR (particularly given that you even concede in the podcast that any real sense of illusion that your TOR choices really matter is just that, an illusion, and are honestly rather limited in scope). Regularly, I wouldn't have any issue with opinion being given in a review but the way the statements are phrased in the review, it comes across more as (incorrect) statement of fact and less as "this is how I feel."

Also, Peter Gabriel joke fail. :) Considering that Gabriel's albums are almost always rather famously short wrods (Up, So, Us, Hit, etc.) or are self titled (Peter Gabriel 1, 2, 3, etc.) it makes very little sense to name drop him for a made up album by the name of Pleasure Obligation.

If it wasn't a subscription game, I would be playing so much of it.

I dont understand this attitude that people have where they think because there are thousands of other people making the same decision somehow makes that decision meaningless, or non-roleplay.

An RPG I really enjoyed for its story telling was mass effect 2(not exactly a hardcore rpg I know, but I'm talking about the story, not minmaxing). There was one part of the DLC where I just couldn't bring myself to take the renegade choice, no matter how I was deciding to RP on that playthrough, purely because I found the story so moving. That right there is the RP experience for me in a nutshell, involvement in a story to the extent that you are thinking about YOUR decision. I am fully aware that other people have played the game and made the same or different choices. I am also aware that at any stage I could play the game again and make a different decision. Shouldn't this make the decision meaningless in the same way that people are complaining about in SWTOR? No, because what I decided to do when I was presented with the decision is what mattered to me. I guess I just perceive it as that I am playing a role within someone elses story, and that's ok to me.

StriderShinryu:
Second, that the more free form RP that exists in other MMORPGs is actually a better form of RP than the prescripted 3 choice, 2 branch RP that exists in TOR (particularly given that you even concede in the podcast that any real sense of illusion that your TOR choices really matter is just that, an illusion, and are honestly rather limited in scope).

I realized in my comments on the review that I'm not entirely clear on how different people view roleplay in MMOs, so I'm hoping you can share your thoughts (given that they seem to differ from my own). You differentiate the "more free form" RP of other MMO's from TOR's, but I'm not clear on the details. In your experience, does RP in MMO's base itself heavily on the story presented in the quests? For instance, if a roleplayer does the Barrens quests in WoW, are those considered part of their RP story? Or do they ignore quests that don't jive with the backstory they create?

You see, my impression of roleplay in themepark MMOs was that most of the leveling content was largely disregarded during RP, simply because if it wasn't, everyone would have just have variations on the same story events (i.e. no one's Barrens experience is truly unique based purely on the quests). Now if this hurdle exists in these other games like WoW, Champions Online, and Rift, why does it get more flak in TOR? I mean for a true RPer, why would the class stories in TOR pose any more of a problem?

It's worth noting that the class stories don't even make up the bulk of the content. Most of it is world quests that anyone can pick up, much like the typical quests of other games (except with cutscenes in place of textboxes). I wouldn't say anything is "force fed."

rsvp42:

StriderShinryu:
Second, that the more free form RP that exists in other MMORPGs is actually a better form of RP than the prescripted 3 choice, 2 branch RP that exists in TOR (particularly given that you even concede in the podcast that any real sense of illusion that your TOR choices really matter is just that, an illusion, and are honestly rather limited in scope).

I realized in my comments on the review that I'm not entirely clear on how different people view roleplay in MMOs, so I'm hoping you can share your thoughts (given that they seem to differ from my own). You differentiate the "more free form" RP of other MMO's from TOR's, but I'm not clear on the details. In your experience, does RP in MMO's base itself heavily on the story presented in the quests? For instance, if a roleplayer does the Barrens quests in WoW, are those considered part of their RP story? Or do they ignore quests that don't jive with the backstory they create?

You see, my impression of roleplay in themepark MMOs was that most of the leveling content was largely disregarded during RP, simply because if it wasn't, everyone would have just have variations on the same story events (i.e. no one's Barrens experience is truly unique based purely on the quests). Now if this hurdle exists in these other games like WoW, Champions Online, and Rift, why does it get more flak in TOR? I mean for a true RPer, why would the class stories in TOR pose any more of a problem?

It's worth noting that the class stories don't even make up the bulk of the content. Most of it is world quests that anyone can pick up, much like the typical quests of other games (except with cutscenes in place of textboxes). I wouldn't say anything is "force fed."

I feel that, as the ability for a game to properly provide every RP option (or even most of them), the system where there is a locked set of options actually hinders RP. This sort of thing is fine in a single player MMO where you aren't given anyone to "bounce" your RP off of and the game has to do some level of prediction to allow character freedom and a cohesive storyline. In an MMO, however, you actually have other people and the creation of quality RP relies much more on those people than any direct connection to pre specified game content. I suppose it's sort of a PnP RP system where the game just provides the framework but doesn't box you in. Imagine you're playing a PnP game with friends and every time the game presents a decision point it only gives you two or three concrete options as opposed to the ability to converse and decide (and RP) with your fellow adventurers. I can't say for certain, but I'd imagine most people would consider that either a bad RPG or, at the least, just an on rails RPGish experience.

Having a guided locked choice system hinders RP in a world with freeform RP also creates conflicts that wouldn't exist otherwise. In TOR one define their character all they like outside of flashpoints and class quests, and they can come up with whatever motivation or belief system their heart desires, but as soon as they are put into a locked choice situation, they are immediately forced to choose whatever preprogrammed option happens to kind of sort of go with their character the best. It forces a break in character, RP and immersion. That's not to say that the generally ignorable quest stories in most other MMOs are the best thing for RP either, but at least in those games if I'm helping some guy kill wolves outside his farm I'm not essentially being forced into being told why my character is doing it.

Really, the best MMO that I've ever played for RP was The Matrix Online simply because the overall story wasn't 100% predetermined. Player agency and player created RP actually did impact the storyline, and the main characters in the storyline were actually played by real people so true RP was possible. I certainly don't expect TOR, or any modern MMO, to have this as it's prohibitively time consuming (and costly, which is part of why MxO ended up failing). It did show me, however, that a more freeform people oriented experience provides a much richer world than one of preset choices. While I hear your belief that trying to make the game more developed through enforced RP is the better route, maybe the best way to state my belief is to say that I feel the better MMORPG lets the MMORP define the world as opposed to the G, even if the G suffers slightly because of it.

I never listened to people missing to point of an MMO such much like these four people.

They are talking and reviewing everything about the story mode and how "great" it is. Everything is the story mode, everything is about the single player content. Nothing at all about the core of an MMO or a RPG. It's like playing the Origin stories of Dragon Age and it's very well presented, but you are completely missing the point of an MMO. Even worse in the review. Of course the single player mode is good, but it's not the point in a multiplayer game.

Everything they said or wrote in the review is about this one point, which makes about 10% of a good MMO. The leveling process is irrelevant to an MMO. Everything after the leveling process makes a good MMO or breaks a bad one. And that's why Star Wars ToR will fail and that's why people are actually leaving the game or criticizing it so much. Nobody thinks the story mode is not good, but in a MMO it is irrelevant, because it's all about the endgame. Of course you can start twinks and play the other side, but that's like playing another Origin story in Dragon Age and praising an MMO for the leveling content is like praising a FPS game for good looking guns. You are reviewing and discussing a single player game.

Endgame not mentioned at all, which is terrible compared to other MMOs. PVP is not mentioned at all. The ability lag in PVP is game breaking, but because it's not about the story mode, it's not even interesting for you. Illium is a complete terrible mess and it's PVP and endgame.The skill trees are bloated mess, 2007 WoW like. You have one cookie cutter build and that's that. And because there is no dual skill like in WoW you have to stay tank or healer even in PVP or DD even in raids.

SW ToR in it's core is an outdated game. But because you are only praising the make up of the photoshopped face Bioware is presenting you, you are missing all it's core problems. Wow has changes since launch, but SW ToR has just copied WoW as it was in the year 2007, where the skill trees were still bloated, there was no dual skill option and the PVP was about arena and a few battlegrounds. Because they spent so much energy in the make up you are praising so much, they completely missed keeping the core up to date.

You saying people are having a blast, while they are still slowly leveling. Yes, that's true, but that's not the point in a MMO game. The social interaction on the other hand is not working at all and that is the point in a MMO. Because the is no looking for group tool, people have to stay on the fleet, if they want to find a group, like 2005 in WoW. The economy is not working because the trade skills are not worth leveling. The auction house is maybe one of the worst in all MMOs up to date. You are getting all the good equip while leveling, you don't even have to visit the flashpoints.

In the long run, every MMO without a real endgame has failed. And SW ToR is missing the endgame, there is no reason to visit the old planets after you finished all the missions. Maybe for the holocrons, but that's about it. Remember WoW, when suddenly a high level player was passing you because he needed something out of this place or was just traveling through and was helping you with your quest, just because he or she was there. This will not happen in SW ToR because people are playing in it's core a single player game, there is no real reason to interact with each other. And that's the biggest problem of the whole game. Maybe you are single player gamers and it's ok for you, but for MMO players this a the deal breaker.

Multiplayer games and MMORPGs are all about social interaction. SW ToR does everything to limit the social interaction. Single player content, a companion, limited bubbles because of the technical limitations of the hero engine, space travel, which is a pain in the ass, limited sized levels, single player story content. If you negate all of this problems because of the pretty single player mode, then you completely missed the point of a multiplayer game as much as Bioware.

 

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