Sunday, April 28, 2013

[SW:ToR] Shuttled




I've been enjoying the expansion. Because of the reports that Makeb itself wouldn't provide enough experience to hit level 55 I picked up the Macrobinocular and Seeker Droid. I enjoyed the traveling around to older planets. It keeps the game from feeling limited as only focusing on a new area makes any expansion feel small. (Even the large area of Pandaria in WoW felt small in time when it was the only place most of our quests were at.) Because of all the travel, it is nice when time is short to have lots of options to move around quickly. One of the options that gets overlooked are the old Fleet Shuttles because they aren't being used for their original purpose.

The fleet shuttles are from the earliest days of the game, pre-Group Finder. The ostensible idea was that while you quested on a planet you'd be in general chat looking for a group while you quested. Once you had a group put together your group would travel to your planet's fleet shuttle, pick up the feeder quest, shuttle, and then head to the instance portal on the fleet. Profit!, and thus a server community would be built. At least in the minds of the Bioware devs.

Unfortunately it didn't work that way. As a practical matter, unless you were in a static group or had a guild of were folks were at the same level (mostly) this tended not to work. It was hard enough putting together a group for the planet's heroics - everyone seemed to be trying to hit the endgame - as it was to find an instance group. Even worse, if you were on the wrong side of a faction imbalanced server, say, Republic on the late Keller's Void, you were even more screwed. I never saw instances on my Republic toons until the server merge to Jedi Covenant and the emergence of the Group Finder.

The nice thing about the Fleet Shuttle is that it doesn't have a cooldown nor does it cause a cooldown on your Emergency Fleet Pass or legacy Fleet Priority Transport. That's handy when your Emergency Fleet Pass is still the 18 hour one or you haven't unlocked the legacy one.

Here's a list of what taxi location you need for the various shuttles for each planet.



Planet Taxi location
Alderaan (Imperial) Outpost Bolym
Alderaan (Republic) Wardpost Duval
Balmorra (Imperial) Glorinth Imperial Outpost (landing location)
Balmorra (Republic) Bugtown (landing location)
Belsavis (Imperial) Imperial Command Post
Belsavis (Republic) Republic Watchtower
Corellia (Imperial) Imperial War Camp
Corellia (Republic) Republic Outpost
Coruscant Senate Plaza Taxi
Dromund Kass The Wall Speeder
Hoth (Imperial) Leth Outpost (Fleet Shuttle is on the other side of the base)
Hoth (Republic) Outpost Senth
Nar Shaddaa (Imperial) Lower Promenade
Nar Shaddaa (Republic) Lower Promenade
Quesh (Imperial) -None-
Quesh (Republic) -None-
Taris (Imperial) Toxic Lake Garrison
Taris (Republic) Waypoint Station Aurek
Tatooine (Imperial) Toxic Lake Garrison
Tatooine (Republic) Waypoint Station Aurek
Voss (Imperial) Fort Kodentha
Voss (Republic) Ken-La Outpost

Monday, April 1, 2013

WoWed out


[Given the date I'm posting this, I do have to say this isn't an April Fool's joke.]


Today I cancelled my WoW account. The game has reached a point where it isn't fun and I don't have the desire to login and complete those few things I still had some interest in. (A couple of titles, a couple of older legendaries.)

Now, WoW is still the wildly successful 800 lb gorilla in the MMO market, so I don't want to come across as if I was saying it was a bad game. It's not. What has happened is that what I want out of WoW isn't there and probably won't ever be there. I've finally gotten tired of the Red Queen's racetrack of gearing, WoW-style. Gear has become this short-term consumable that's ongoing irritant. You hope to get a drop from RNG, then you have to enchant it, gem it, reforge it. Then if you get another piece of gear you might have to redo it all once again. Long gone are the days of just equipping something and going. Of getting a drop meaning something special because you knew you'd be using it for a long time. Add to that the mentality of 'You Must Be This High of an ilevel to raid' and gear is an unpleasant stick.

(I am aware of the irony of dropping WoW and playing SW:ToR, given SW:ToR heavily imitated many WoW systems. While it isn't particularly logical, all I can say is that I'm having fun in SW:ToR whereas I'm not in WoW.)

Another issue is that I've played WoW for a long time now. I've been playing since 2006. That's a long time for anyone not in a guild with strong social bonds. Over the years I've all the boss fights, quests, battlegrounds, done a large number of achievements, and so on, and so forth. It's become difficult for Blizzard to do anything fresh. Even when they do something fresh (the new talent system, for example) that thing isn't enough by itself to attract me. Sequel-itis wears out even the best games. Even your favorite eating place would get boring over time if that's the only place you ate at.

At this point it is time to focus my attention on other games. Time to try different eating establishments and broaden my tastes, as it were. Perhaps one day I might go back and try my old favorite -- they nicely keep my seat available to their credit -- but maybe not. We shall see.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Late to the event


I finally got around to do doing the Gree event the second time around. The first one I skipped as I was a bit busy at work. I was also pretty burned out on any sort of dailies after doing a bunch of them in WoW to get my main there exalted with all of the factions. (Since my main there works on the reputation achievements the grinds were effectively mandatory. Having been the primary tank for my guild unlocking the valor gear was a motivator, as well, for the reps.)

The rep grind has been pretty relaxed for me. By the time the event goes away again I should have enough rep and rep tokens banked to get me all the way to Legend. Not bad for a two week event. In future I'll be able to just focus on the dailies that give me the item tokens.

I started out at first doing the dailies on three characters, my Jedi Sentinel, my Jedi Consular, and my Sith Warrior.  Once I hit Friend and could do the Grey Secant quests I stopped doing the dailies on my Sith Warrior. I did do the one-time quest on all three. That one was fun, other than a few hiccups on Voss, as I got to get out and about on the planets instead of sitting on my ships or on the fleet. I even skipped doing dailies a couple of days when I just didn't feel like logging in. It has been nice to be at the point I do dailies when I feel like it and not feeling like I "have" to login and do them to keep up.

The pve quests were generally painless, though the pirate one could be a pain when you went for the 'end boss'. Having him spawn next to another gold mob can be problematic for a healer with a tanking companion. Still, it was a bit reassuring, in a twisted way, to see that Bioware still screws up mob placement even now. ^_^

The pvp dailies were the most surprising. On my server, Jedi Covenant, very few people were doing them. Turning in the orbs was quick and painless for the most part. I think the most I ever saw in line for the orbs was three people (including me) on one occasion  Other than that, it was pretty much wait a minute or so at the pylon and turn in your quest.

Actual pvp was limited to a few times when my group was doing the heroic in the pvp area for speed and once on the pylon/orb quest. The pylon pvp was actually funny as a there were several Consular involved and they kept blasting people back from the pylon. No one was hurt and I was just laughing at my keyboard as I had the image of a school ground shoving match going on.

I do hope Bioware brings back the other events. Even if they were once a year things, that would be nice. Definitely the Rakghoul plague because re-occurrences of a plague makes sense. The Grand Acquisition might not make sense, but being a bit selfish I would like to see it because I wasn't able to work on it while it was here.


All in all, I liked the Gree event and I'm ready to start working on the other reps (as I feel like it) when the Gree event is over. Kudos to them for a successful event.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

By the numbers


My son and I were talking about Richard Garriott's Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter game.  We were specifically discussing the 'personalized multiplayer' aspect of the game. He mentioned he wished he had more money to help support nudging the industry more towards this direction. I mentioned that even if the title was more of an indy hit, you didn't need big numbers to be profitable. Ultima Online is still running and it has around 100k subscribers. (Which, SW:ToR fans, is good news. EA will keep a profitable MMO running for a long, long time even if it doesn't have a WoW-sized player base.)

Later on I thought about how World of Warcraft effects everyone's perceptions of success, especially the ardent defenders of the game. Now, to be clear, I am *not* saying that WoW is dying. Far from it, but there are things in the subscriber numbers to notice and watch. At its peak WoW had 12 million subscribers (Blizzard press release for October 2010). As of date of this post the official subscriber numbers are at 9.6 million subscribers. The numbers have been lower, surged a bit at the release of Mists of Pandaria, and have dropped back down. Most of the defenders tend to focus on the raw numbers. To be fair, they rightfully say that WoW's numbers are still impressive (they are) and that most MMOs would love to have a player base equal to what WoW has lost. 2.4 million subscribers would stellar for 99% of the MMOS out there.

The thing is, the defenders haven't discussed the dip in subscribers from a business perspective. Any business (and Blizzard is a business first[1]) would be very concerned to have lost from 20% to 25% (at one time) of their market. Losing that many people means something has gone wrong. It could be internal mistakes or a failure to adapt to external changes. When you look at Mists of Pandaria from this angle you can see why some of the design decisions were made. Perhaps not as a primary factor, but definitely as a significant one. The loss of subscribers helps explain why Blizzard went back and recycled some of the concepts from Vanilla and Burning Crusade (tiered raids you have to progress through, alt-unfriendlyness, etc). Going back to systems, albeit with a fresh coat of paint, whict originally brought in a lot of subscribers is worth trying.

If we look at that loss a bit differently it can actually be positive for WoW in the long run. In some ways the loss is permanent. People's lives change and they just won't play an MMO, any MMO again. In other ways that loss is good if it means people went to a different MMO and are having fun. Ignoring the inevitable WoW-bashers in other games, most of the people playing other MMOs are having more fun with their current MMO than WoW. This is good for the industry as a whole when each MMO can find its (profitable) niche. More experients, more successes, more people playing MMOs (or MMO-likes, such as Shroud of the Avatar), even WoW. Having WoW (or any big MMO) can be nice because it gives us a common language to talk about MMOS in game terms. It isn't so nice when to succeed people try to imitate WoW or call themselves WoW-killers *cough*sw:tor/warhammer*cough*. As players we need those experiments to push the genre. Without it we're stuck with Blizzard trying to reinvent WoW each expansion and the inevitable stagnation and player-base decay that will occur. So the next time someone gets defensive about WoW's decline in subscriber, introduce them to the idea that it could be a good thing for WoW in the long run. :)

[1] Blizzard is a very competitive, very hard-nosed business-oriented company. If you look at when they release cinematics, patches, expansions and when their competitors do the same you'll find a fair amount of matching up on the dates. While they disinenuously say they develop on their own cycle without paying attention to competitors (a tactic Apple uses all the time) there are too many coincidences for them not to be trying to compete. Now if I was an Activision-Blizzard shareholder I'd be happy about this. If I was a competitor I'd try to make sure I was ready for Blizzard to mess with me.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

[SW:ToR] Spacebar

I've been trying to hit up a flashpoint everyday with my smuggler to get the daily planetary commendations. (Having a lot of adaptive gear creates that hunger for the leveling mods, dontcha know? :)) As I've been reaching the conversations pitstops I noticed that I was waiting on the rest of my instance group to reach the response tree. Having played since the beginning I had gotten used to everyone hitting the space bar to get through the conversation as fast as possible. Grab those social points and go, go, go. At first, I figured the other people were likely the casual f2p players being in the instance for the first time. Later I realized when folks were buffing me with all four buffs everyone now seems to be actually watching the events, even the long term subscribers. I don't know when people's behavior changed, but this is a welcome improvement as far as I'm concerned. Having and enjoying the story in the flashpoints is part of the fun and I had missed it during the spacebar-at-all-costs era.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Big in-game events


I was playing the ending arc of Chapter 2 of my smuggler's story line when a casual line by an enemy got me to thinking.  The line was to the effect that the Republic and Empire were officially at war. There was more, but the thing that focused my attention was the fact that Bioware never really showed the war starting. You can easily miss the fact about the war as you level because it was so quiet. It is easy to continue on up to Corellia not realizing this. (In fact, Voss's planetary storyline is such that it could easily be a cold war situation.)

For a game company that made story its Fourth Pillar, not seeing the events that started the war unfold is strange. That's a major story event, and big events should be shown to a player. If they happen in passing or in the background then they become minor and unimportant. I don't know how they would have included the start of the war, but having each class see or be a part of the start would have ratched up the tension in the game and added to the flavor.

This isn't to pick just on Bioware. Blizzard really messed this up with the beginning of Cataclysm. There was an event in two of the cities of each of the factions. An elemental invasion were if you slew enough elementals you could open a portal to four bosses for some quick loot. The problem was that fairly quickly only one of the faction cities gathered enough folks to kill the elementals. Since two of the four bosses were tied to each city if you wanted a drop from the other two bosses you were out of luck. Yep, it was pretty boring and uninspired as far as world events go. (The Mists of Pandaria non-event was even worse. There was none, just a showcase of a scenario that didn't make sense to anyone that hadn't read the book. Talk about disconnects.)

Now, when Cataclysm started you basically woke up in a set spot and moved on. Unless you played through specific low level areas (Darkshore, for example) you never even felt the impact of events. Heck, the Worgen starting zone literally has the Cataclysm happen off screen. As it was, it was a 'Huh? What happened? :shrug:' and move on moment. Instead of having us fear Deathwing or making a connection to us where he mattered, Deathwing became this empty threat that would torch a zone once in awhile. Instead of being this dangerous, intelligent if crazy opponent, he became this ineffectual blowhard that we put down while we advanced Thrall's life crisis. :sigh:

I think if Blizzard had let us be involved with the Cataclysm happening then it would have allowed us to make an emotional connection to the events. Ask anyone that played WoW if they remember the zombie invasion pre-Wrath, or the pre-BC event where a massive demon attacked the major cities. Those big events got us fired up and ready to go when the expansions launched. When we got to the final fight we could look back and have closure. So, my thinking is, if we could have tried to stop Deathwing at the start and *failed* then it would have A) let us see the start of the Cataclysm and B) allow us to get emotionally invested in stopping Deathwing. When we finally beat him in Dragon Soul it would have made for a much better sense of closure.

TL;DR: If a game company is going to have a big, world changing event, they need to let the players be a part of it. We need to see it unfold and be in it, even if on a periphery. Big events that happen in the background or off-stage are non-events.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

[SW:ToR] Leveling tip


One of the things I've found helpful while leveling characters is the ability to switch world instances. World instances are the that Bioware handles lots of players on a given planet. Too many people and you get lag and too much competition for mobs, resources, etc.. By having from 1 to around 120 people per world instance Bioware balances the feeling of having enough folks around to make the world seem active with the easing of excess competition.

All that said, sometimes you hit the leveling wave at the wrong place on a planet and have to wait longer than you want for mobs, quest items, etc. What I've found that can sometimes help is to manually switch world instances (if you've ever joined a group on a world to do a heroic quest and been moved you've encountered the automatic version of this).

If you want to switch just press M to bring up the main map and look in the lower right corner at the World box. If you see your planet's name and a number then you're read to switch. If you don't see the dropdown box then you're currently out of luck as there aren't enough people on the planet at the time to spawn multiple world instances. I've only seen Quesh not have multiple world instances. (Mainly due to Quesh being so fast and short.)


Choose your destination, click yes, and hopefully you'll be able to get back to leveling!


Note: You can generally only take this option once every 30 minutes or so. Occasionally you can bounce between instances without having the cooldown start.