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Monthly Archives: January 2012

One month in, and I’ve just renewed my subscription, which earns me the “exclusive” title of Founder. Well, me and everyone else who starts paying for a subscription any time soon, which actually makes it the scarily common title of Founder. I think I’ll keep that one in my back pocket; maybe a year or two down the line it actually will be a less common thing to have that title, depending on how the game performs.

As for how it is performing… well, all I have is anecdotal evidence, but I can’t say the number of players I see on my server (Kellian Jarro) is going down. The lower level planets are maybe a bit less busy as people spread out, but the number I see in the Imperial Fleet seems pretty constant. My local Tesco has the game on the shelves at the #2 spot in the PC chart this week, although there’s no telling with them wether this has anything to do with actual sales figures, marketing strategy or just the whim of the shelf stacker. Richard Bartle seems to think there are a lot of people playing the game who aren’t WoW tourists and that gibes with some of what I’m seeing, which is interesting… Rift did well by picking up a lot of ex-WoW players, but SW:ToR is the first MMO in years to fish significantly outside those waters. That doesn’t mean they’re going to get ‘dwarfs WoW’ numbers (although I’ll point out that it took WoW a while to get to even its first million subs let alone their current number). It does, however mean that TOR might be a lot more resilient to GW2 and Pandaria because it has a large player base for whom this is their ‘home’ MMO rather than being tourists.

In terms of my own status in the game – Seethe the Sith Assassin has just hit level 43 and is wreaking havoc on Belsavis. Assassins are definitely late bloomers but one of those classes I’ve found a joy to play because they have such a bag of tricks. Stealth is useful, but I’ve eschewed the Deception tree which is the one most focused on stealth attacks and melee positional DPS abilities, to split my points between Darkness (mostly tanky talents but some good utility and DPS boosters) and Madness (which makes for more of a short range melee/caster hybrid style). Performs well in solo PvE, no complaints in Warzone PvP, and I feel I’ve pulled my weight in Flashpoints both with respectable DPS output and being able to take on a loose mob or two, as fights in SW:ToR Flashpoints tend to include a large number of noral/strong adds as well as the elites. Other characters on the Empire side range from a level 26 bounty hunter downwards, and I’ve barely started trying the Republic stories, so there’s plenty of stuff for me to see even if I didn’t weant to repeat any content – and I’m having enough fun as a casual-ish Warzone player that I can see my self putting a lot of time into pwning with a lightsaber and the Force.

My main grumble is grabbing groups for Flashpoints – one I’m not alone in having. I don’t want to see a WoW/Rift style cross-server LFD, as I happen to agree with the devs that it wouldn’t be good for the still nascent server communities. However, having to stand on the Fleet space station spamming or reading general chat isn’t great either. It brings back old DaoC memories of hanging around looking for a group for much of an evening, and these days I don’t HAVE much of an evening to do that. I’d actually settle for a universal LFG chat channel so people can go out and quest or PvP while looking for a group. On the other hand, all of the “we need LFD” angst does raise the question back to some of the complainers (and I’m NOT looking at Stabs this time) – weren’t you the guys saying this was a single player game and not really an MMO at all?

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Spotted a few of these on the SWTOR forums over the last week or two…

“I haz bin banned 4 playing ur game!” “Oh no, you haven’t!”

Well, I suppose it is still pantomime season. Tip of the hat to Stephen Reid anyway, for being far more classy about calling someone out as a liar and a troll than I would have been. This is probably why I don’t do a job that involves diresct contact with real live customers 🙂 It’s also actually a backhanded compliment to Bioware that the trolls feel they have to invent issues to try and stir up the Internet Pitchfork Brigade!

‘Tis the season for MMO bloggers to make grand statements that they can regret, conveniently forget about or just possibly crow over at the end of the year. Since I’m currently holidaying with the family and have free WiFi but restricted to the iPad, so no SWTOR for a few days, I figured I’d meditate on the Dark Side (not easy to do while sipping a toffee nut latte!) and see what visions the Force will grant me…

The Old Republic’s first ‘proper’ content patch will set the game’s direction
It’s hard to remember, but when WoW first launched it was unclear what the endgame was going to about. It could as easily have concentrated on open world mass PvP – there was a lot of it going on, it fitted with the whole theme of Warcraft, and DAoC had shown you could build a pretty successful game around it. Once we got rolling with Molten Core, Blackwing Lair and Ahn’Qiraj it was pretty clear that this was a game all about raiding and gear progression. SWTOR is currently in the same position. There’s an upcoming patch with a bit of group and raid content, but that feels more like the odds and ends that were in development but didn’t make the cut for release. After that, though, we could either have the next tier of raid content to appease the vocal hardcore raider crowd, or it could be something more story-based – a new planet to explore, or even act 4 of the story for each class. If we get the raid, then SWTOR will indeed be WoW with lightsabers behind a veneer of more interesting levelling content (that people will skip anyway because the level cap is where the action is). I’d like to see them stick with the story approach and make it more of a game for the silent majority of players.

The Guild Wars 2 backlash will begin, and it will be terrible to behold
GW2 is going to be released, or at least in widespread beta, this year. That means that all the talk of how revolutionary the game is going to be will get exposed to the cold, hard light of reality. ArenaNet have talked their game up to an impossible degree, and their legions of Internet zealots have taken things further. They have pretty much implied that all other MMO developers are both stupid (for sticking with a holy trinity design when ANet can do a much more exciting style of gameplay) and wicked (for taking a subscription fee when ANet can provide a superior game without charging one). Since I don’t believe the entire MMO industry is a cabal of wicked, stupid comic book villains, the obvious conclusion is that the GW2 hype has overreached itself and the g will turn out to be either less revolutionary than promised, or to have flaws of its own.
That doesn’t mean it’ll be a bad game – just that it will disappoint its most rabid fans. And Hell hath no fury like a rabid fan scorned….

WoW’s post-Panda subscription drop-off will be even more precipitous than the one post-Cataclysm
Not a judgment on the Panda expansion per se, but WoW’s age is showing more and more, and there’s stronger competition on the field this year. Lots of old subscribers will come back and take a look, but I doubt many will stay for long.

Dark Age of Camelot and WAR will either go F2P or be closed down
With a successful launch of SWTOR, EA execs are going to look at Mythic’s games as being too small to keep bothering with. Better perhaps to close them and divert the resources to the successful game or to start work on the Next Big Thing. On the other hand, if Dominus carves a successful niche for an open PvP game then having the old grandaddies of the niche as F2P games could be an easy way to grab a slice of that pie. The dream outcome would be that if they can prove that there’s a market for that style of game, then Bioware Mythic’s next project may yet be DAoC2…

Well, there we go. But remember, always in motion the future is…

My Sith Assassin finished act one of her class story which also unlocks my legacy (a surname or group identifier for all of my characters on the server, and I’ve started earning ‘legacy xp’ which will apparently be useful for something one day). The point is, at level 32 she is now Lord Seethe Tremayne with an entourage of loyal and capable lieutenants, devoted followers who will fall to their knees and bow before her, her own heavily-armed starship and she is intriguing with and against Darths at the highest levels of Imperial society. And this is a mid-level character.

Contrast this with my old WoW character. Even at the level cap, and having helped defeat Ragnaros and Nefarian, he was a homeless vagabond without even a surname and forced to dig through piles of poop at the behest of goblins. At least Tremayne the lore master in LotRO had his own cottage, although in terms of followers he was limited to one skirmish soldier and a raven.

So I love the fact that SWTOR has character progression in terms of actually seeing the character progress- it’s not just a matter of doing ten times more damage and fighting mobs with ten times more hit points.