A view from the ignoramus: the first 25 levels of SWTOR

Last night I hit Level 25 on my primary toon, a Jedi Sage. Although it’s just a number, it is the half-way point of my levelling (yes I know not time-wise but you know what I mean!). It got me to thinking about what I’ve found confusing or hard to understand over that time.

Even though I’ve lived and breathed SWTOR for the past couple of years, I’ve had a very purposeful approach when actually playing: I’ve taken the ‘ignoramus’ angle. What I mean by that is, I’ve not read up extensively on how other people play, nor have I read and tips guides etc. I’ve gone into the game to play it like any first timer would, albeit with an extensive WoW-playing history. It’s one of the reasons it’s taken me a lot longer than some to get to Level 25, with the others being that I’ve regularly stopping and admiring the scenery and I’m also listening to all dialogue.

So, it’s with this mindset that I’ve compiled a list of stuff that didn’t make sense to me initially. Hardcore players may laugh – that’s obviously your right, but this is for the more casual or newer SWTOR player with less MMO experience. And yes – I know there’s a codex, in-game help and the keyboard shortcuts guide if you bought a box copy – I ended up referring to these when I needed to. However, I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to mimise the time I spent reading text on how to play the game I should be playing.

And for the record: I can honestly say levelling up my Consular / Sage has been the most fun I’ve ever had in an MMO by far, so don’t see this as a negative attack on SWTOR more broadly.

With all that, onto my gripes:

Item modification

I’m not sure I’ll get a lot of agreement here but I find this as confusing as hell. You receive modification options dropped by enemies, others are provided as quest rewards and you can also buy them. So far that makes sense. It’s the actual process of making a modification that I found painful – right clicking on the modification just gives you the error message that the item can’t be equipped. I then realised you need to CTRL-right click on the item you want to modify, and select the mod from your inventory and drag it to the slot you want it in. It’s all a bit clunky really.

The other thing that continues to baffle me are modification stations. I’ve done zero homework on them, but they further muddy the modification waters and I’ve used them once I think.

Suggestions for improvement:
– right clicking on a modification opens your main window to start the process
– once this window is open, right clicking on the modification auto-installs it in the right slot

The Map

Overall I LOVE the SWTOR map that comes up when you press ‘M’ on your keyboard. It trashes the hell out of the WoW map. That said, I still find SWTOR a little confusing to get around. It took me at least a week after getting my ship at Level 18 to work out how to get back to it if I’d used my Fleet pass (each class has it’s own hangar where your ship is waiting, even if you didn’t use it to get there). I only realised by when I moused over a non-green Elevator icon on the Republic Fleet map. Also, working out where you are in the overall context of things is really only possible by using the Galaxy Map on your ship.

The other main gripe is the fact that you can only have one thing selected at any time on the map for viewing. I’m constantly switching between options, mostly between trainer, crew skills trainers and Quick Travel Points.

Suggestions for improvement:
– let me zoom out the map to see where I am in the wider scheme of things
– a portable galaxy map for those who get ships perhaps?
– a permanent Quick Travel option back to your ship
– allow multiple types of NPCs to be viewed on the map

Galactic Trade Market

This gripe is simple and related to the map issues described above. Finding a Galactic Trade Market kiosk isn’t obvious by any stretch of the imagination. In the first 25 levels I stumbled across a GTN once. If you switch on that view option in the map it’s easier but otherwise you really need to keep your eyes peeled. Sorry to mention WoW again, but the Auction Houses there stand out much better and tend to be the central feature of the large cities. Surely the only real option to engage in trade should be front and centre?

Suggestions for improvement:
– make the GTN more prominent
– allow GTN access from your ship

Run Like Hell

This one isn’t a huge gripe for me, but I know it is for a lot of other people. Because the worlds are so huge, I’ve seemed to spend a great deal of time walking and then running backwards and forwards. As a relatively experienced MMO player I was smart enough to understand the importance of picking up all the quests in an area and being as efficient as possible in handing them back in. Even so, I seemed to spend a lot of time running over the same territory. For me that was an opportunity to explore and I’m guessing that’s the intention. Once you have a vehicle it certainly get’s easier. The Quick Travel points are a godsend at times, although the 30-minute cool down prevents too much reliance on them for levelling.

Suggestions for improvement:
– allow vehicle access a little earlier than Level 25
– reduce cooldown on using Quick Travel points to 15 minutes

The Wrap-Up

After 25 levels of gameplay, I obviously have some whinges but none of them have stopped me enjoying the process a very great deal. Some harsher critics say SWTOR is half-baked – I couldn’t disagree more. For every time I’ve been frustrated by the issues above or even smaller stuff, there have been ten times I’ve been wowed by the look or feel of the game. That doesn’t mean things can’t improve and I have no doubt they will. Making those improvements will take a very good MMO to a potentially great one, and that can only make everyone happy.

Join The Gripe

Ok it’s your turn: what has annoyed you levelling and why? Post away in comments, it could make for an interesting discussion.


  1. My Biggest gripe so far while levelling is the broken resource nodes. After the servers have been up for a few days it seems more than half of the resource nodes are then bugged and can’t be harvested. At times this has impacted negatively on my character levelling progression as I’ve had to revisit areas below my level to ‘catch up’ my crafting skill level. It can also be a source of frustration since you see the resource on you map to fight your way through mobs only to discover you wasted that effort as you can’t harvest the resource anyway. Hopefully, this gets addressed in the near future as it’s a fairly constant annoyance for me.

    • Thanks Rob, I find C2-N2 still remotely amusing but I can see it’d wear off. And good to know I’m not the only one that finds the inconsistency in responses to crew quests i.e. they say they’ve failed when they haven’t.

      The other points are great ones that will hopefully be fixed.

      • I have a new gripe. Patch Notes and the list of bugs fixed is awesome. What isn’t awesome is when things listed as being fixed are still broken.

  2. What I agree with you on:  I agree that the GTN need to be in easier to access locations and that you shouldn’t have to hunt for them.  I will agree that having a quick travel point in or near the ship hangers would be great.  I do not think there needs to be a quick travel point in the ship itself.  I also agree with you that the world map should be a zoomable map from the sector of a planet you are at all the way to the galactic map. 

    What I disagree with you on:  I disagree with access to vehicles sooner.  Prior to getting to worlds such as Tatooine there isn’t much need for them as it doesn’t take long to traverse the maps for the first few planets.  I disagree with you on item modifications simply due to the fact that your idea is not flushed out enough.   multiple items that a character can have can be “orange” items, or items that can be modified with upgrades.  CTRL+right click on the item you want to modify from your character screen is not combersome and with your suggestions is still necessary as simply right clicking on the mod to open the modification screen most likely will not open up the item I really want to modify. 

    So far the only complaint I have is the long 90 second cool down to use Medpacs for healing while questing.  My Jedi Sentinel is not designed to tank, and will not get a healing compaion until the late 30s…. so far I have gone 26 levels with bearly surviving many encounters which are supposed to be solo content.  I would like Med Packs to have a much shorter cool down, 30 seconds, or at most 1 minute.

    • Again, some brilliant points. On item modification, I agree I probably didn’t flesh that out well but I just find it very confusing so I assume a person new to MMOs will find it even more so. It’d be fascinating to see the data on how many people get through to max level without doing any or little item modification 😉

  3. I don’t mind getting my transportation at level 25, but what I don’t like is the lack of info about there being differing colors on other planets. I was lucky enough to read about it before I bought mine so I knew I had a few cosmetic choices.

    I actually submitted the map zoom out as some thing to update while in beta. I would also like to be able to zoom out a little farther from my character.

    I don’t need access to the GTN from my ship, but maybe giving me the option to send my companion to put some stuff in the cargo hold would be cool.

    Please make hovering over signs say some thing. It’s quite annoying to hover my mouse of a sign and it say nothing so I then have to interact with a vendor that I find out I don’t want any thing from.

    Non-transferable commendations is another one. I hate being stuck with one or two. Let me trade them in for credits one time or something. Maybe transfer them to another character that can use them.

    • Some great suggestions right there! On the vendors, I just mouse over them in map view to know what they are but agree a title would be much easier.

    • You can actually change your Character Camera zoom. There’s a Camera distance option in the Preferences section. The default is very in close to your character. I didn’t figure this out until I was level 35 or so.

      • Thanks. A person on Google+ told me exactly where to find it. It is set at 19% by default. I upped mine to 40% which seems to be just about right for me.

  4. Evil Midnight Bomber says

    Item Modification: 
    They fixed that back in Beta – you _do_ have to pick the item to modify, but then you can just right-click the item you want to put in (the mod) and it will go there. Then click Apply, and done. 🙂 Modification stations are unnecessary – they were there back in Beta, and at that time, you needed them – you couldn’t just willy-nilly click on things and mod them out in the world – you had to come to a mod station. They just haven’t removed them yet (or removed the ability to mod free-style wherever you are.). That said, a Mod station is a handy thing – you don’t have to wander through your inventory or character panel to find the item you want to mod – you can just open the Mod Station, and there are all your modable items, in one nice place.

    You CAN zoom out. Sort of. If you’re in a Bunker/Cave/Non-Instanced Place , and you open the World Map, you get the “I’m in a Bunker/Cave/Non-Instanced Place” view… there’s a small map in the lower right of the World map – click on that, and you’ll see The World. And your place in it. 🙂 Clicking that small map again takes you back to the Bunker/Cave/Non-Instanced Place map.

    The “one type of map marker at a time” thing is annoying, true, but there is a work-around: In the lower LEFT corner of the World Map panel, there’s a tiny checkbox that turns on a magnifying glass. When using the glass, anywhere you mouse over on the World Map shows DETAIL in that magnified area – including multiple waypoint marker types.

    It would be nice if scrolling up and down while in the world map would zoom in and out of the area you’re in, up to and down from the full World Map.

    Regarding your “a permanent Quick Travel option back to your ship” – I strongly disagree with this, for the following reason: ‘realism’. You don’t have access to your ship if you’ve just walked/speeder’d across half a planet. Your ship isn’t just hovering around waiting for you – it’s parked in a hangar. Now, you CAN ‘Quick Travel’ back to the QT point AT THE HANGAR, which works pretty well. I would amend your suggestion purely to say “a QT point near the Hangars”.

    Galactic Trade Network:
    I highly disagree with putting it on the ship, but for a social reason: I’ve met a lot of people while chilling at the GTN. 🙂 That said, I’ve also never had any problem finding the GTN – it’s a clear marker on the Map anywhere there actually IS GTN access.

    If I were to change one thing about the GTN, it would be allowing a Search from any level, instead of having to drill through two or three drop down lists, run the search, and THEN allowing a text search. Full Text Search is an incredibly simple thing against any database system, and that’s really all the GTN is: a big database everyone is allowed to make entries against.

    Run Like Hell:
    I couldn’t agree more. Especially as an owner of the Digital Deluxe Edition: I have a STAP sitting in the cargo hold just gleaming at me… and I have to make lvl 25 before I can use it? I’ve seen other games where, when you get ‘special edition’ things, the level is lowered for the special edition owners – it’s one of those “marks of prestige” that you’re doing something someone else your level can’t yet.

    I also like the idea of a lower QT timer, although honestly, it’s not any lower in other large-map games. Hell, until last year, WoW was still at an hour. They only recently dropped to 1/2 an hour. And when I’m out and about in TOR, I actually rarely use the QT… perhaps once every two or three hours.

    One big gripe for me has been the dificulty of finding a PUG (pick up group) for the flashpoints. Guilds are still in that ill-formed stage right now, so most groups I find are PUG type, but there are frequent times when I can’t find a PUG to save my pug (dog, not group). I think a PUG finder like WoW had would be awesome.

    Oh, and BioWare owes us something VERY large for misleading us on all the pre-orders: the pre-order includes a “color changing crystal”. Every single person I’ve talked to has indicated that when they saw that, they all thought the same thing – the crystal would allow them to change colors (saber, blaster shot). Not that the crystal would be a color that wasn’t available via any other means. Black-Yellow isn’t a color, it’s an abomination: what self-respecting Jedi walks around with a blade with a BLACK HEART? “Color Changing Crystal” to most of us meant that you could pick what color the crystal would be. And the crystal is valuable for about 4 or 5 levels, and then it’s no longer valuable – it doesn’t level with you, it doesn’t change colors… it just sorta goes “ick”.

    And on the topic of Crystals – why are the YELLOW crystals the Best crystals available for purchase in the crafting of crystals? I know, you can unlock the other colors by disassembling what you craft, but come on.

    Anywho, some answers, and my two cents.

  5. I enjoyed this article as I also tried to experience the game with fresh eyes since I’ve been a long time WoW player.

    My personal biggest gripe is that the Map function (which is awesome in comparison to WoW – especially the original map they provided), but I hate not being able to look at different parts of the World map except through clicking the entrance/exit points; there often times where I want to find out where quest points are, but sometimes I just can’t drill through all of the exits to the location I want.

    I was definitely confused about why they had Mod stations when you could just directly change it in your Character sheet. On a side note, as another commenter pointed out, you can actually right click a Mod and it will fill in the correct slot once you have the Mods window open for a piece of gear.

    The GTN is just a total mess at this point and I rarely even attempt to use it due to the terrible UI design so having access to it is a total “meh” at this point.

    I also don’t mind the wait for a vehicle. Transportation should be a luxury (you do get a sprint in the mid teens) and they sized the world so that it’s not a total drag on gameplay before you get it.

    I think I understand the reason for the pre-order crystal being of limited use. The idea was to provide a short term bonus when you get started though it was rather silly that everyone you saw in the world had the same color lightsaber as you.

    As far as a QT to your ship, I think it would be nice, but instead, I would rather that there weren’t two levels you have to run through once you go to your hangar. I’d much prefer that you QT to the spaceport, go to your hangar and click on the elevator/airlock from there and you’re on your ship. Having to wait for things to load to go 20 feet to your airlock is just a waste of time.

    Another thing I wish they would have done better is provide a Datacron tutorial. I only stumbled upon what they mean and how beneficial they are to your character advancement.