SWTOR Player Housing: Like A Boss!

Now there's a nice place for a house.

Now there’s a nice place for a house.

Most of us need a place to call our own. Whether it’s decorated with works of art or discarded pizza boxes, a personal space is something many people are willing to spend time and money on. Player housing is no exception.

SWTOR has been missing such an amenity ever since its launch. For those of you who are yelling ‘your ship is player housing!’, let me just tell you why you are completely wrong, not to mention how you have completely misunderstood the concept.For a start, the game devs have admitted that any time a change on the player ships is required it makes them ‘cry’. Like a number of things in BW’s heavily modified (and in some respects broken) version of the Hero engine, making changes is tricky. The player ships are a particular issue because they have so many hooks for conversations and other aspects of progression. Changes cannot be made without risking the whole rat’s nest falling down around your ears. In fact you can only sit in chairs on your ship because it’s a frequently reset instance. If it wasn’t, you’d break the game and this is why sitting in the persistant world still can’t happen except as an emote.

‘But you can customise your ship,’ I hear the stupid cry out. No. No you can’t. You cannot truly customise your ship in any way – placing a training dummy does not count, so don’t waste your breath. In fact if that is what you understand ‘player housing’ to mean, you need to look at Rift, Wildstar and any number of games to educate yourself. Just as an example, in DCUO the player housing includes an ‘Armory’ that allows you to save and quickly switch between gear builds. Sound enticing?

With the introduction of SWTOR player housing, the team has wisely started fresh. No pre-existing knots to work through, no muss, no fuss. Finally the RP community gets a little love, finally (I hope) players get somewhere to meet up on Raid Thursday, or whatever your schedule is.

Also, everyone needs to remember that we DO NOT KNOW what the expansion will be, only that it will INCLUDE player housing. It’s highly unlikely that half a dozen apartment options is going to be the totality of it.

Sure, we could always complain that the SSHP (Super Secret Housing Project) uses resources that could otherwise be utilised to create more Ops, Flashpoints etc. But this is an MMO, which means its players have broad and divergent interests. You can’t please everyone and you shouldn’t try. What you should do is pick your battles. I, for one, think this battle is worth fighting.

Simon is a long-time senior contributor to The Oceanic Gamer and also has his own blog

Massively: Are They F2P Snobs?


This post originally appeared over at Simon’s blog – do yourself a favour and check it out.

As a serious journalist, such questions are anathema. However since I’m not a journalist or even entirely sane, let me respond to this post’s title by saying “Yes. Yes they are.”

So what do I mean by ‘snob’? Basically it’s someone who wants to hang out with society’s cream, while diminishing those they feel are inferior. In this case Massively appears to think that any game that is not subscription based is inferior because none of its feature columns are established F2P hybrids. There are two exceptions, but they don’t really count. One is a sporadic column on LotRO, penned by a staff writer. The other is Star Citizen (yes it has a form of subscription) which still has enough anticipation buzz to warrant the cost of coverage.

So why has the talented and always amiable Larry Everett had to put the Hyperspace Beacon in a brown cardboard box and move it to a new home? Well in my poorly researched opinion it is either a case of too few people clicking to it or (more likely) that they don’t want to give SWTOR the elevated level of coverage.

I can only, and will only, speculate on the reasons behind that, but as the title of this asserts I believe it to be snobbery. Somehow Massively feel it drags their site’s prestige and credibility down by covering a game that many feel (incorrectly) is a failed enterprise. Better to cover games that haven’t failed (because they haven’t been released) or games of modest success but possess great kudos in the community (EVE Online).

In the meantime the Hyperspace Beacon is alive and well at http://www.hyperspacebeacon.com/ – or follow everyones favorite wookie on twitter @shaddoe​

The good news is Larry still pens a column for Massively about the upcoming (sub based) Elder Scrolls Online.

SWTOR Game Update 2.3.2: Full Patch Notes


Patch 2.3.2 hits this evening with the servers going down for 4 hours today, Sept 4 – 3am PDT, (8pm AEST). The patch notes are already live so enjoy:

Game Update 2.3.2 Patch Notes



  • New Vehicle! The Desler Nomad is a new rare drop from the final boss of all level 55 Hard Mode Flashpoints.
  • New Feature! Players can now purchase Cartel Coins in-game through the “Add Coins” interface within the Cartel Market. (details under Cartel Market)
  • Vendor Update! Emergency Medical Table and Mood: Outraged have been added to the Bounty Supply Company Vendor. Each item is bind on pickup and available for 1 credit to all players, regardless of Bounty Supply Company Reputation rank.

Cartel Market


      • The MR-36 Sniper Rifle is now a Super Rare item.
      • New Feature! Players can now purchase Cartel Coins in-game through the “Add Coins” interface within the Cartel Market:
        • This feature requires that players opt-in before it can be accessed. For additional details, please refer to this News Article.
        • Subscribers receive a 50% discount on the first purchase made using the in-game feature. Please note: this offer does not apply to Cartel Coin purchases made using the website.

New Items

**Please note that Cartel Market updates are dynamic. Changes listed in Patch Notes may take effect up to several days after the patch is made available.**

      • Players can now purchase standard single-use White and White Dye Modules individually on the Cartel Market! Cost: 1000 Cartel Coins.
      • Players can now purchase standard single-use Black and Black Dye Modules individually on the Cartel Market! Cost: 2000 Cartel Coins.
      • A new Emote is now available on the Cartel Market! Complete your musical group with the Emote: Sing unlock. Cost: 400 Cartel Coins.
      • A new Emote is now available on the Cartel Market! Watch as a strange force possesses your mind with the Emote: Possessed unlock. Cost: 400 Cartel Coins.

Bug Fixes

    • The Chocolate and Skull-Faced Lobel pets can now be placed on the GTN.


    • Resolved an instance where players could experience a twitchy or swinging camera when moving the mouse.
    • There is now a Warning Dialogue Box when attempting to send in-game mail to an “Unsafe Recipient”. An “Unsafe Recipient” is any character name that is not in the sender’s Guild, Friend List, or Legacy. This warning can be toggled via Preferences.
    • Experience and Valor penalties for Free to Play players now apply beginning at level 20 instead of level 10.

Bounty Contract Week

    • Made adjustments to Kingpin Bounty Contracts:
      • These contracts now grant a Bounty Brokers Association Official Token of Exemplary Achievement (Purple Reputation Token) as opposed to a Bounty Brokers Association Official Certificate of Accomplishment (Blue Reputation Token).
      • Individual Kingpin Bounty Contracts can be completed only one time during each Bounty Contract Week.
    • Characters above level 27 are no longer able to accept Hutta and Ord Mantell Bounty Contracts.
    • Music now fades to the background properly for Republic players during Bounty Contract Week conversations.

Companion Characters


    • Treek now summons as intended in all instances.
    • Treek’s dialogue outside of cinematics has been corrected. She now has more than one thing to say and no longer requests conversations on the ship when one is not available.


  • Collections now refers to the “Bounty Supply Company” instead of “Bounty Supply Corp.” to match the proper Galactic Reputation Faction name listed in the Legacy Menu.
  • Several items have been updated to correctly indicate rarity.
  • The Frogdog Practice Jersey can now be previewed in Collections.
  • The Mercenary Contract (that grants the mission to obtain Treek) has been removed from the Toys section and now only appears in the Special section of the Collections Window.
  • Once the account-wide unlock for Emote: Flourish is purchased, the reclaim button locks as intended and no longer allows an additional purchase.
  • The Emergency Medical Table updated in Collections to display under the Toys and Bounty Supply Company Reputation categories, and this item no longer indicates that it can be obtained via the Cartel Market or unlocked account wide.
  • Mood: Outraged has been updated to display in Collections under the Emotes and Bounty Supply Company Reputation categories, and this item no longer indicates that it can be obtained via the Cartel Market or unlocked account wide.

Flashpoints and Operations


        • Republic players are now granted the appropriate alignment points in Hard Mode.
Black Talon
        • Group Finder now matches the first four players of any role for this Flashpoint, as it is now role-neutral at levels 10-14.
      • Group Finder now matches the first four players of any role for this Flashpoint, as it is now role-neutral at levels 10-14.

Items and Economy


      • New Vehicle! The Desler Nomad is a new rare drop from the final boss of all level 55 Hard Mode Flashpoints.


    • Vendor Update! Emergency Medical Table and Mood: Outraged have been added to the Bounty Supply Company Vendor. Each item is bind on pickup and available for 1 credit to all players, regardless of Bounty Supply Company Reputation rank.



      • All levels of the Global Legacy Unlock: Fleet Pass have been adjusted:
        • The base cooldown for the Fleet Pass ability is now 9 hours for subscribers.
        • The base cooldown for the Fleet Pass ability is now 12 hours for non-subscribers.
        • Legacy Fleet Pass I, II, and III now reduce the ability cooldown by 3 hours each.
      • All levels of the Global Legacy Unlock: Legacy Travel and the Quick Travel ability have been adjusted:
        • The base cooldown for subscribers is now 25 minutes.
        • The base cooldown for non-subscribers is now 45 minutes.
        • Legacy Travel I, II, and III now reduce the ability cooldown by 5 minutes each.
      • New Legacy Unlock! Players can now purchase a Guild Bank for their personal starship under Global Unlocks: Other.


    • Some Achievements no longer display in the Achievement Window as though they are complete, when all requirements have not been met. These Achievements will no longer appear as stuck in the Achievement Tracker in some cases.
    • The Hoth Achievement “Whiteout” now correctly refers to the Pantran Whitefang World Boss as “Snowblind.”
    • The Hoth Achievement “Hell Hoth No Fury” now correctly refers to the Pantran Whitefang World Boss as “Snowblind” and no longer claims to have a 30 minute time limit.
    • Players will receive the correct Achievement for completing these Explosive Conflict Operations encounters:
      • Firebrand and Stormcaller on 8-Person Hard Mode
      • Firebrand and Stormcaller on 16-Person Story Mode
      • Colonel Vorgath on 16-Person Story Mode

Missions and NPCs


        • Updated the mission text for several missions to indicate that players must use their personal starship on steps that require travel to Coruscant or Dromund Kaas.
        • [DAILY] Galactic Conflicts and [VEHICLE] Aratech Ice: These missions now update properly upon completing the Esseles Flashpoint on Hard Mode.
Daily Area Missions
          • [WEEKLY] Czerka Takeover (Republic)/[WEEKLY] Czerka Dissolution: The mission text now refers to the faction-appropriate Anti-Toxin mission.
          • Anti-Toxin Recovery (Republic)/Anti-Toxin Acquisition (Imperial): Updated the Mission Log and Tracker text to properly point players to the Mission Dropbox upon completion.
Class Missions
Bounty Hunter
          • Joy Ride: Players are now informed that Mako is required for the step “Slice the Ship’s Door” if a different Companion Character is active.
          • Public Relations: The bonus mission “The Price of Betrayal” no longer advances by defeating enemies other than the intended Treacherous Republic Troops.


        • The Republic Soldier on Hoth’s Clabburn Base now understands that gravity should affect him and is no longer floating.
        • Tauntaun Handlers see the diverse value of their product and no longer refer to their Tauntauns as military “hardware” or “arsenals”.
        • PvP Vendors in the Outlaw’s Den now have voices and move their lips.

Bounty Contract Week

      • Kreegan Ramar, the Tatooine Kingpin Bounty, now uses voice modulation when speaking.


  • Players who log out or are disconnected while in a Warzone queue no longer become stuck in the queue on all characters.
  • Upon initially entering a Warzone, ability tooltips now display the correct amount of damage dealt.



      • All Imperial players can now reach the lore object to obtain the “Invasion of Balmorra” Codex entry, as it has been moved just inside the Balmorran Arms Factory.
      • Players who manage to suffer the horrid fate of death by Sarlacc digestion are now granted the Codex entry and Title “Worm Food.”
      • Defeating the Unleashed Maelstrom Terentatek within the Maelstrom Prison Flashpoint now grants Republic players a Species Codex entry.
      • Terentatek have been removed from the Tython Bestiary requirements.
      • Players are now able to unlock the “Ithorian” Species Codex entry.
      • The tourism board of Makeb has corrected an error in their system, and the Planetary Codex entry is now available to visitors.
      • The following Codex entries have been moved to a new “Lost Knowledge” category and no longer count towards planet totals:
        • Champion of House Thul (Alderaan)
        • Conqueror of Balmorra
        • Master of the Burning Way (Belsavis)
        • Conqueror of Corellia
        • Liberator of Corellia
        • Ice Wars Veteran (Hoth)
        • Of the Bane Brigade (Hoth)
        • Shadow Hunter (Nar Shaddaa)
        • Scourge of the Underworld (Nar Shaddaa)
        • Venom Drinker (Quesh)
        • Venomous (Quesh)
        • SIS Operative (Tatooine)
        • Primeval Explorer (Tatooine)
        • Mandalorian Bane (Taris)
        • Scorcher of Worlds (Taris)
        • Ambassador of the Republic (Voss)
        • Ambassador of the Empire (Voss)


    • Updated the Belsavis World Map to include additional roads in the Tomb area.

Miscellaneous Bug Fixes

  • Imperial players can now access the Quick Travel Bind Point for Tarisian Dawn on Taris.
  • Corrected a rare issue that would prevent characters who had not logged in for a time from loading into the game.
  • Class names will now display the proper feminine form in most instances in French and German.

Rise Of The Hutt Cartel – Early Thoughts

and-another-thing‘And Another Thing’ is a regular column where one of the Oceanic Gamer team get an issue off their chest. If you’ve got a pet peeve or controversial issue you’d like to write about, drop us a line.

Finally the cone of silence lifts and we can finally spill some beans on Rise of the Hutt Cartel. Big question first, ‘Is it worth it?’ Easy answer: Yes, yes, yes.

So what’s it like? It is polished, visually impressive and a great boost to the game. While we’ll be talking about the game more as the release draws closer, I’ll limit myself to sharing a little of SWTOR’s outstanding feature – storytelling, or swtorytelling. Sorry.

As most of us already know, while this is Chapter 4 of SWTOR, it’s not Chapter 4 of your class story. This expansion is faction based, or a world arc if you prefer, so you just get to see events from your own side’s standpoint. There is a lot less voiceover in this chapter, with only significant missions threatening the health of your space bar. Incidental missions are, for the most part handled through terminals and, in my opinion, it’s an improvement. Quality voice acting is a good thing, but you can have too much of it. Especially when it blurs the significance of the mission. It’s a little like typing an entire email in bold capitals – it’s hard for anything to stand out. RoTHC doesn’t suffer from that and it definitely helps smooth out the story telling now there’s less background noise.

As to the quality of the story, it would be hard to complain. To the extent of the opportunityI had to play (thanks Eric), it felt at least as good as anything previously in the game. There is nothing that hints of reduced resources or a cash grab as some of the more cynical have suggested.

PS4 Launch Roundup: My Take

‘And Another Thing’ is a semi-regular look at key events or issues in the gaming industry. Written by Flash Point podcast co-host, dedicated tweeter and all round good guy Simon Potter – drop him a line if you want to suggest future columns.

After a two hour media spectacular in New York which brought parts of the internet to a standstill, Sony have begun the next phase of the Console Wars and announced the PS4.

What will it look like? We don’t know yet. How much will it cost? Again, they haven’t said. What we do know is that it will hit shops Christmas 2013 and that E3 is going to be Sony’s next media blitzkrieg.

The good news is Sony learnt their lesson from the Cell processor and the Emotion engine. Based on the x86 architecture, this machine is going to be a comparative breeze to code for (we saw it running Unreal 4), which eats into one of XBox’s big advantages. The upshot is the PS4 has an army of game developers behind it (‘a console designed by game developers for game developers’).

Obviously it’s easy to get swept away in the reality distortion bubble that these things create, but you are still left with an overwhelming sense that devs are genuinely excited about the new platform, and that means games. Lots of games.

So what about those games? Usually you only see tech demos at such hype-fests but we did get to see some real gameplay this time, specifically Killzone Shadow Fall. Not only did it look startling, even through an overloaded video stream, it also gave some solid evidence of the investment and momentum already in the industry. All the big players were there, MediaMolecule, Activision and their subs Blizzard (Diablo III) and Bungie (Destiny… squeeee!), Sucker Punch, Capcom, Square Enix and others. It really felt like an abundance of riches, just like they wanted it to.

Some interesting facts revealed:

  • You can suspend gameplay then jump back in later without reloading
  • A secondary chip allows background downloads, even when the console is off.
  • Heavy social integration – spectator mode and ‘share’ button.
  • With built in Gaikai tech, the PS4 becomes a games server to your Vita (and potentially other hardware, like mobiles and tablets)
  • Play a game while you download it from the PSN – no more demo downloads to try.
  • PS3 games not natively supported or emulated.
  • Current project to allow you to play PS3, 2 and 1 games on the PS4 or any other hardware through Gaikai tech (how that works with preowned is anyone’s guess).
  • Predictive game downloads (the PS4 knows what new games you’d like before you do)
  • The Dualshock 4 and stereoscopic camera, although whether this is the final look, is uncertain (PS3 boomerang)
Things not revealed
  • Whether online gaming will remain free or be folded into PS+
  • If a pre-owned market for PS4 titles can exist
  • Cost and appearance

It’s hard to say whether Microsoft’s job is made easier by Sony announcing first, but if I had to guess I’d say harder. As was pointed out by the founder of the original Xbox project  in his blog Stupid, Stupid, xBox!!, MS have been laser fixed on integrating their ecosystem across multiple devices. In doing that they’ve made the Xbox into a media/advertising hub. In other words they’ve de-emphasised the games.

What wonders Xbox 720 has in store is a mystery for the moment, but if Redmond isn’t feeling a little nervous right now, they’re not paying attention.

SWTOR: Server Merges Take 2

Last night, BioWare continued its concentration of players into ever fewer servers in both the European and North American zones.

This process started in June where they tried to lure people across to the designated ‘destination’ servers with promises of vanity treats. Unsurprisingly, not everyone nibbled at these virtual goodies and stubbornly stayed where they were. Last night the forced evictions occurred and all the remaining holdouts got corralled into their new, higher population residence. That wasn’t surprising and we all knew it was coming. What did raise a couple of eyebrows was that the number of destination servers had actually shrunk. North America now only has eight, down from twelve in the original merger strategy. European servers also lost two of their former destination servers.

Obviously this means that those unlucky enough to have had naming issues when they moved to The Fatman, Corellian Run, Canderous Ordo or Drooga’s Pleasure Barge are now faced with a further round of name conflicts as they settle in to their new, new homes. Even more concerning, Bioware has only just started the ‘High Population Server’ testing, which suggests that further mergers may be in the near future. The other possibility is that this infrastructure is for the move to F2P, but even if that’s the only reason it’s there it still doesn’t rule out further consolidation or redistribution of the existing player based, subbed or not.

One of the pluses to come with the mergers is an increase in character slots from eight to twelve. Players in the EU and North America can now grow their in-game family of alts if they choose, although that’s not the reason for the increase in space. For the most part it’s a basic solution to accomodate players who have more than eight characters spread across multiple servers. Even if you have more than twelve you will still be able to access them but won’t be able to create new characters until you reduce your count to below twelve.

It goes without saying (but I will anyway) that APAC players immediately noticed that we haven’t seen the character slot increase, although Bioware have advised that they intend for us to get them.

This begs the question ‘what else will we get?’ Since the additional slots came as a solution for one problem created with the server merger, something we’ve not experienced, will the increase in slots come with our own three servers being folded into one?

Time will tell. Either way you might want to create some placeholder characters, just in case.

SWTOR: Grinding The Gears

There’s nothing so embarrassing as trying to go up a hill in the wrong gear. You can hear the engine struggle and have to endure the amused smiles from passengers in other cars as they bomb past you. Unless you are a complete idiot, you will change down gears.

This is clearly BioWare Austin’s revised philosophy as BioWare’s Executive Producer for Live Services, Jeff Hickman, has pointed out in a recent interview with Zam.com.  Lets face it, BW has become notorious for offering up big promises of things ‘coming soon’ but for the most part it’s been a bad case of over-promising and under-delivering. It look like this is changing – hopefully.

While his responses include the usual soft peddle and PR spin where he tries to paint the move of offering a F2P tier as a considered move that’s part of a larger strategy guided by keen observation of the market place (as opposed to the market pushing them towards a cliff), he also offers some interesting morsels that will appear to hint at better days to come for the struggling MMO.

The first thing to mention is that Jeff Hickman overall sounds like a man who wants to make things right. If that is reflective of the general attitude in Austin then good things might be about to happen. There had been fears expressed by some that EA/Bioware might just throw token resources at the game to keep it ticking over but not put any great effort into re-energising it. However it sounds, to me at least, that a shift in focus and attitude has occurred and with it some actual progress.

The six-week update schedule, if they stick to it, should be achievable especially since they’ve already got a significant amount of content mapped out and built ahead of time according to Daniel Erickson. DC Universe Online manages updates roughly every month, so lets consider this a likely eventuality.

Now, onto Space combat. While many are vocal about this being an irrelevant and seldom touched part of the game, recent figures indicate that it’s popular.  While Hickman confirmed that hard mode missions would be available, he was decidedly evasive about any other developments saying only that there was a dedicated space team working on ‘lots of interesting things’. Granted that smacks of ‘coming soon’ but in the overall context of the interview it sounds more substantial to me. Apropos of nothing? Maybe, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say I think this sounds promising.

Then of course we have the much derided Great Acquisition Race. While many found this frustrating and far too short-lived, Hickman said it was full of foreshadowing and hinted at where the story was headed. Again, this at least confirms that Makeb, as a class-generic zone isn’t all we have in store. There is more story to come and for many of us, that remains the main attraction of the game. Once again, it sounds hopeful.

Granted, there’s nothing rock-solid here and SWTOR has plummeted from keenly anticipated WoW killer to being written off as ‘a miss’ in the last EA earnings call. But this may be a blessing in disguise. Perhaps now that internal and external expectations have crashed, the game has a little breathing space to consolidate, reappraise and rebuild without the intense scrutiny and pressure. Perhaps there’s less need for the vague promises that gamers always assumed were directed at them but were merely coded messages to the stock market. Those messages caused most of us a lot of frustration and while I thought I was beyond believing or caring, this interview still leaves me oddly hopeful.

Even with so much else in the market right now, SWTOR can still turn things around. It will never have ten million subs but it can find its niche. SWTOR still has a lot to offer and under the right leadership there’s no reason it shouldn’t continue to develop and mature into a game with a substantial, stable player community. With luck it might even evolve into the game it was always intended to be before EA pushed it out of the womb prematurely.

[Image via Free Images Archive]

SWTOR: How many Cartel Coins to the Drachma?

Money. We all need it, we all use it. Without money we couldn’t get what we need, or more frequently what we merely desire. As we’ve all learnt over the past few years, the value of any currency bobs about like a dead Gungan in a fast flowing river, so what type of currency you get makes all the difference. What can you buy with it? Is it a silver dollar or a Zimbabwean dollar?

Which brings me to the bright and shiny new currency, Cartel Coins, that are part of BioWare’s new brand of bling to retain existing players and win back some of the jaded masses. By their own admission, they are struggling to keep people’s interest, either because players have become bored with the existing content, the game doesn’t play the way they want or offer the playstyle they like. Even worse, new games like Guild Wars 2 or upcoming expansions for existing games (WoW, Rift) are proving far more enticing.
The idea of rewarding those of us who are sticking with SWTOR with a rapidly increasing pile of virtual dosh is a good one and they’ve given us a rough idea of the sorts of things we can buy,  but they’ve given us no idea of our money pile’s relative value.

First of all, lets get a rough idea of how many coins you may have in your pocket when F2P and the new store finally hit. By my admittedly wonky math skills:

SWTOR goes free to play ‘this fall’, that being a period between Sept 22 and Dec 20. Pandaria comes out Sept 25. While I doubt BioWare are thinking that F2P can compete, they may still release it about the same time in order to reduce or mitigate churn. However it may be they wait until after this (perhaps for strategic reasons – or perhaps because they won’t be ready), but at a guess it would be late October when they can get a little more traction in the average gamer’s hummingbird attention span. After all, any uptick in numbers (F2P plus subbed players) they can get in the approach to and during the holiday season would be good news to report in the February Q3 2013 earnings call, since F2P subscriber numbers could be counted as forecastable income through micro-transaction earnings.

Back to my earlier point, assuming that you have been a paid subscriber  from Jan 20 2012 (after your free 30 days elapsed) through to say Oct 20 2012 you will have 150 coins per month up to Jul 31 (6×150=900) and 200 per month (3×200=900) after that, until F2P occurs (e.g. Oct 20). If you got the CE there’s an extra 1000. So what will 1800 (or 2800) cartel coins buy you? That’s the big unknown and the septic splinter in my dewback’s foot. Will it buy you a set of orange armour? Half a dozen stims? A vanity pet and a title? A mega awesome 200% mount or a 90% one that looks like a lawnmower and kicks you off whenever a level 10 trash mob gives you a dirty look? -cough- Grand Acquisition Race

Anyone who remembers the fine promises of the Collector’s Edition vendor will recall that not only did they never put anything new or interesting in there (EVER!), they actually took stuff out. Can BioWare be trusted? Not based on previous performance. I’d like to believe them, I’d like to trust them, but I can’t muster the strength anymore. In any case the entire premise is consistent with much of BioWare’s communication lately: broad promises with little detail. Perhaps by the one year anniversary we’ll all look back at the first turbulent year and smile knowing that all is now well and the worst is behind us. I’d like to think so.

To sum up, the real question is this: can something be an incentive when its value or worth is a complete mystery? Is this just a poorly defined carrot offered to those on the fence while the Devs and number crunchers scramble behind the scenes to work out how the hell this is all going to work? Or is this part of a considered strategy?

It’s an impossible question to answer, which is why I’m not going to try, but speculation is fun, it drives Reddit contributors insane and at the very least this is a matter that I think we all need to consider. If you are still playing the game and loving it, the cash donation of Cartel Coins is icing on a delicious cake. If the cake is starting to taste a little stale though, no amount of icing is going to help.

SWTOR F2P: Caution, Diatribe Ahead

As promised, key members of our team are going to give their thoughts on today’s announcement. First cab off the rank: Simon Potter.
There’s a time for being charitable and understanding and there’s a time to just say what you think… guess which this is?
Clue… I am angry, people.

In my humble opinion, F2P isn’t the news although I welcome the change, if it’s done right. 

Bioware have plenty of good examples to follow and SWTOR should enjoy the growth and ongoing success of DCUO and LotRO. If they screw it up, they only have themselves to blame.

What really burns my brisket about this announcement is the mealy mouthed obfuscation from various spokespeople regarding this inevitable model shift. While they were just following orders, it’s perfectly clear that the weasel words were to cloud the issue so this announcement could be married to the EA earnings call yesterday. Perhaps they value their shareholders opinion and good wishes more than players? I think it’s a distinct possibility.

All the while BioWare maintain the ‘if we don’t talk about it, then no one will notice’, which I will be honest is really beginning to grate. Since BioWare have fired most of their community team, it’s no surprise that their communication has gone from uneven to non-existent to insulting. However at least one person at EA is honest, if not with player then with the investors. In the earnings call Frank Gibeau, President, EA Labels, referred to SWTOR as ‘a miss’. Well, that puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

To sum things up, if BioWare expect to keep the sudden influx of new and returning players informed, they will need to lift their community communication dramatically and perhaps try to be a little more honest and open. Too much spin makes people dizzy and nauseous.

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, let me assure you I still love SWTOR and am looking forward to the upcoming announced content, assuming we ever see it. After all they’ve promised a number of things that have yet to materialise. The game is only just beginning to hit its stride and I’m certain it will be a longterm survivor.

I still hate Taris though. 

Another Take On Guild Wars 2

Beta test weekends are tricky devils especially the final one, because you know its a stress test by another name. Not only that, but a wobbly first impression can put you off the game, even though you know it’s not necessarily representative of the final product.

With SWTOR, my first impression was not good. In fact it was so bad I can cancelled my CE preorder.

I’m not about to do that with Guild Wars 2. First up, a caveat. I only got to play for about an hour and a half, so this is superficial at
best. Also I knew next to nothing so I had no expectations at all, a complete tabula rasa.

Initial impression were promising with an elegant painted style that is throughout the UI and immediately marks the game out as something different. The character creation screens are logical and flexible enough to tweak your character to your satisfaction. Controls are fairly standard and even though it was a stress test weekend, there was no lag that I noticed, despite plenty of other players rushing about.

Conversations with quest givers are animated, but instead of trying to integrate them into the gameplay, you are gently lifted out of it as your avatar and the quest-giver hold their exchange in front of an elegant background.

Combat is engaging and fun, some strategy is a good idea as button mashing, even at an early level, not only gets tedious but won’t give you the best effect. One aspect of the game I particularly liked was that you are not made to feel like you are on some heavily scripted linear progression, a long standing frustration I have with some other games. Here, you don’t get led around by the nose but are encouraged to explore what appears to be a sprawling environment and locate events and quest-givers with only limited support from the map.

Even though I had such a limited time to try the game and despite not being hit over the head with plot points, I still found myself being drawn into the story. So that’s another tick.

Finally lets talk quickly about the graphics. One word – sweet! GW2 isn’t having to wrestle with a relatively untried engine. It looks
excellent, with detailed textures and draw distances that always remind you that it’s a big world out there. Considering I’m still using a creaky ATI 4850 and didn’t bother to tweak any settings I could quite happily pick up where I left off without touching a thing.

While I don’t doubt there are flaws, bugs and other irritations that I’ve yet to discover, I can honestly say I’m looking forward to
returning and waking my toothy cat guy from where he is currently laying down and sleeping deeply.

An Open Letter From A Completionist

Dear Mr Triangle,

As a bit of a obsessive completionist, I have the tendency to play every mission, explore every area and will not leave a planet until every one of you cursed equilateral demons has your creamy green filling. The idea of leaving anything undone or undiscovered fills me with horror. So you and your kind make for a long time between drinks at the Class Story Fountain. If you’ve ever watched a drama series on broadcast TV, then re-watched it on DVD you’ll know how those week long pauses dull detail and erode ambience.

So I decided to focus on closing those gaps to a minimum with a new alt while my bounty hunter went on a skiing holiday to Hoth. Obviously I went for a different class, that way I get to peek behind red force shields I haven’t been through yet. After all, I’m still a completionist. Thus, from my triangle frustration was born a new Sith Assassin, master of side-quest-avoidance, disdainer of completing World Stories and wearer of dresses. A Sith born of hatred. Appropriate, don’t you think?

First, let me describe the joy of ignoring the majority of your parasitic brethren as they hang impotently above quest givers. Most of them are now redundant, because, for whatever reason (maybe it’s because I’m awesome) progression through the class story has been fairly easy and a lot of fun. My ship was delivered promptly at level 13, Tatooine tasted my thruster exhaust just on level 25 and Alderaan at 29. World quest arcs have effectively ceased to exist and, with their passing, class quests are almost seamless. The erratic accent of my Sith Master sending me forth, still rings fresh in my ears as I return to report success.

While I certainly don’t advise anyone to blow off so much lovingly crafted content on primary playthrough, I can highly recommend disregarding you accursed hollow cornchips with at least one alt.

Obviously there’s a downside to all this. Up until now my method of gearing has been to find orange loot I like, then use the commendations from side quests to spec them up. Since my inquisitor doesn’t have that option he has to rely on PvP, operations and a good dose of space combat.  This is no bad thing because (as a solo player by nature) it’s forced me to explore aspects of the game I’ve previously been able to ignore.

So that’s what I’ve learned from avoiding you Benbenet’s of Grind and it’s that personal revelation that’s the whole point of this missive. If you play an alt, why not alt your play style as well? There are a lot of paths to level 50 – some faster, some less so, but they all have something to offer.  Retooling your strategies freshens the game up and proves Bioware has a point when they say you can play the game the way you want. Okay, that’s not strictly true as I can’t play Pazaak yet, but there’s more than one way to flay this particular feline.

As for my dress-wearing Inquisitor, he will continue to inflict evil as he explores the galaxy, all the while keeping his eyes open for a decent pair of pants.

So how do you play the game? What’s your modus operandi? I’d love to know, so why not leave a comment and tell us your pet strategy?

These are not the factions you’re looking for!

A long, long time ago in a land far away, there was a beautiful princess, handsome rogue, black knight, evil king and a brave lad about to take his first steps on a great adventure. Oh, did I mention the menacing castle, wise wizard and two bumbling dwarves for comic relief. Sound familiar? It should because Mr Lucas not only lifted a classic fairytale template but the childlike morality that goes with it. So, in SWTOR you tend to be pushed to one moral pole or the other in order to benefit from alignment rewards.

This was not always the plan though. Back in the hazy genesis of the game there was talk of having three factions: saintly, chewing-the-scenery evil and normal people just looking to make a buck. But as the game evolved that went the way of other ambitious ideas and we ended up with the binary factions each gaining one of the neutral classes. Perhaps they didn’t want to stray too far from WoW’s recipe or maybe three factions was more work than they could handle.

The ghost of the third faction still haunts the corridors of BioWare Austin, as has been acknowledged by the promise of neutral gear sometime in the indeterminate future. So, to draw a long bow, perhaps a third faction is a concept that could be dusted off and re-examined because the game could certainly benefit from it.

Now before I go further, this is a mental exercise so don’t go flaming about problematic details, we’re painting with broad strokes here. So grab some Giggledust and lets go down the rabbit hole…

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first, since much of the ground work is already in the game. The neutral faction already has two classes: Bounty Hunter and Smuggler. Now if my math is correct that leaves us a class short. Rather than introduce a new one I’m going to suggest ‘Revanites’ where neutraly aligned Republic and Empire plays could defect to, but probably not until level 50 once the class story is out of the way. Why complicate things.

Now we need a capital. What’s appropriate and easy? Hutt Space in one form or another predates either The Empire or The Republic and Nar Shaddaa rivaled Coruscant as a trade hub until the Kyyr system’s star went supernova and destroyed the Ootmian Pabol trade route, so we’ve got our capital city. Unless BioWare feel like building Bilbousa. Nah, didn’t think so.

So what’s the point of having a neutral faction? In a word – Endgame. To avoid changing too much of the existing game during levelling, specifically voiceover and story, a neutral faction would really exist to create added gameplay dynamics in warzones and, if it’s ever fixed, open-world PvP. Potentially it could help balance factions by allowing the two smaller ones to team up against the largest. Or not. Wholesale slaughter can be fun too.

More to the point, since endgame content is still a bit thin it gives Bioware the opportunity to develop new material that will make level 50 gameplay more compelling and stand out from other offerings in the genre.

Before I wrap this up, I’ll just say again, this is purely a ‘what-if’, it’s not fully thought through because I’m not a game designer. I also understand there would be a lot of work to make it happen, so don’t waste your time pointing that sort of thing out. But taking all that into consideration, why not join in this flight of fancy and tell us what would you like to see if a third faction was a possibility?

Throw a comment in below!