Yay! Wizard is out!

Wow. What an update a week or so back. Bioware seems to be really making sure that fans of The Old Republic are salivating. Well, first of all, they renamed Jedi Wizard. It’s about freaking time! Of all the choices they had, Jedi Sage was probably the best, but most of us knew that already, right? But then, the crew skills explanation… Whoa… I can see a whole bunch of people’s eyes going huge at that.

The advanced Jedi Consular class name of Jedi Wizard was apparently a placeholder title. Personally, I doubt that it was a serious name. I mean it, come on, this is Star Wars, not Dungeons and Dragons! The Sith may have Sorcerers, but that is what they are- Sorcerers. They use Sith alchemy and Sith magic, or at least they do in the Expanded Universe. Jedi are not, and never have been the wizard type. They have been called that on occasion, but it was almost always an insult.  Yes, they have mystical powers like wizards. But where wizards usually seek power for their own ends, be those ends noble or selfish, the Jedi do not seek power for themselves. And the name Jedi Sage is much more suited to a consular type anyway. A consular is supposed to be a teacher, negotiator, diplomat, truth seeker, not some half crazy man or woman in a pointed hat with stars all over his/her robe. We don’t need fireball spells in Star Wars. We have orbital fire support for things like that. I was pretty sure that the name Jedi Wizard was going to vanish and it did.

So, the new explanation of class skills. All I can say is wow. I like it. And there was a neat little thing hidden in there. Weapon types -“blaster pistols, blaster rifles, sniper rifles, and assault cannons”. Whu…? Wait a sec… Assault cannons? We get ASSAULT CANNONS? I want one! Is that the really big gun that the trooper that Malgus pulled to him was carrying in the Hope Trailer? If so, I really want one!

So, Armstech. The crew skill that will allow characters to build weapons. Speaking from personal, real world, experience, nothing else comes close to building your own weapon. Nothing else feels quite right in my hands now, besides the sword that I built. Admittedly, I built it from pre-built parts that I got from various sources, but I assembled it. No, I cannot forge a katana blade myself. Oh how I wish… That sword is mine. Every other blade I have handled, even a three hundred year old blade that my sensei let me handle once, has paled in comparison. So it just makes sense to have people build their own weapons, even if they are not the crafting sort normally. So I can build my assault cannon.

Ah, the memories. I remember pre-CU Star Wars Galaxies where the greatest of the artisans could basically demand any price for their wares, because they were simply better than anything else out there. The demands for resources were never ending. I remember being sent out to Dathomir and getting ganked there again and again just to gather rare resources for the guild I was in, so our weaponsmith could make the best polearms/swords/scythes, etc. In The Old Republic, you can just send a minion/slave/friend. But wait, there is a catch…

Do your companions like you? We don’t know if this is going to be like the approval rating in Dragon Age: Origins. We all loved slapping Morrigan around, didn’t we? I know I did. It does make sense.  A companion who likes you will work harder for you than one who is there because he or she is a slave or whatever. This is simple work theory. Happy worker = more productive worker, usually anyway. Make your workers love you (or fear you) and they will move mountains for you. Hey, it worked for the Pharaohs. The addition of rare and artifact crating ingredients will likely keep many players playing just to get some of those. I don’t know about you, but I will. I want an artifact assault cannon. Did I say that enough? I want an assault cannon!

Anyway, The Old Republic is shaping up to be a great game. Bioware has apparently learned from the mistakes of many other games, both recent and not. The crew skills and crafting seem to be well thought out and efficient. The whole system seems to be geared both to casual players and the hardcore, ‘I want it all and the best I can get’ player. People who like to build will be able to build. Those of us who like to just go out and blow things up will be able to do that and leave our faithful minions to sweat over the workbench while we are out blowing things up. With assault cannons!

In conclusion, this week’s update was a good one. Jedi Wizard is GONE and good riddance. Armstech looks well thought out and accessible even to casual gamers, which was the idea. You don’t HAVE to spend 8 hours a day playing just to get that fat loot to craft the flux capacitor to attach to your gun to make it good. Although you likely will be able to play that much if you wish, and I likely will be playing at LEAST that long a day for the first couple. I really want an assault cannon now. Have I said that enough? Give me an assault cannon! When in doubt, get a bigger gun!

Hi ho… Hi ho… It’s off to play we go…

Well, well, well, what have we here?

We got a tasty tidbit in the latest update, didn’t we? Crafting is looking very good, and this is coming from a Star Wars Galaxies veteran. But it wasn’t just the crafting, was it? There were also those interesting sounding side missions for the companion characters to do. Whether it is treasure hunting, diplomacy or other types of things, it sounds very interesting. Side missions and mini-games almost always spice things up.

I think the first mini-games I truly remember, not counting the puzzles in old games such as Donkey Kong, Contra and Pitfall, were from the first Knights of the Old Republic. The gun turret scenes, the swoop races and Pazaak, ah, the memories are sweet. But… blowing Sith fighters up, while fun, did get repetitive. It brought back fond memories of flying in the gun turret of the Otana in X-Wing Alliance. Good memories of exploding Imperial ships. But even then, how many times can you listen to Carth say ‘Incoming Fighters!’ without going ‘GAH! Not again…’? Pazaak was fun, and I even found an online version, fan made of course. I have to admit I found the swoop riding annoying, but that is normal for someone who doesn’t have the best reflexes.

Bioware has introduced a number of mini-games into their regular games in more recent years. KOTOR 1 (I try to forget KOTOR 2 most of the time) had the workbench as well as the other mini games. Mass Effect had the circle that you had to pass your pointer through to unlock things/defuse things/etc. Mass Effect 2 had the bypass and hack mini games. Even Jade Empire had the flying game with the Glorious Dragonfly. But as in most games, especially in recent years, crafting is starting to take a larger role. It used to be ‘Oh I need something, I will go kill ‘x’ number of zombies/goblins/dragons/whatever to get money to buy it’. Now, it is ‘I will go out, kill ‘x’ number of zombies/goblins/dragons/whatever to get pieces to make it.’ But the time involved in crafting has always detracted from the time spent going out and playing. Unless you are one of those strange people who likes to play as a builder, you get a bit annoyed at times having to spend time crafting when you could be blasting stuff/hacking things/ etc.

This little teaser from Bioware seems to have set things on their heads again. Now you don’t have to spend time at the workbench yourself. Your ever industrious companions will work for you, even when you are mean and turn the lights off on them! You can even have them working on things when you are offline!

That was always my major problem with crafting in MMOs. Either you cheat, with a macro or something, or you cannot compete with people who do things like that. I always wanted to play the game, not get bogged down trying to find the best ingredients to build the perfect set of Sith underpants to beat that nasty Jedi in some Level 15 quest. Now you can send your faithful minions, er, slaves, er whatever… to go do these things. And what you can send them to do… wow… How many other games have companions where you can send them to gather things? Larian’s Divinity 2: Ego Draconis, had runners you could send for ingredients. But for them to actually make things for you while you are not playing the game…? Whoa, that is cool.

In the update, we see the bounty hunter companions. I am assuming, carefully, that the same types of skills –gathering, crafting and mission- will be available for all classes. Now it is very likely that the missions will be VERY different. A Sith Inquisitor will likely have very different missions for his or her companions than a Republic Trooper would. But the basic idea will be the same. While you are out doing whatever it is you do, your companions will be hard at work back at your ship, or off doing whatever you ordered them to do.

I like this idea. I like it a lot. One of my gripes with KOTOR was that when I was out and about, the crew never moved from their spots. I always wondered when Carth went to the washroom and where. Was there one in the cockpit of the Ebon Hawk?

Over to you. What do you like in mini games? Are you as enthused about this idea of crafting as I am?

Put on the hardhats people…

Lets build!

Okay, who wants to build stuff? Whether it is swords, guns, buildings, starfighters, capital class starships like Star Destroyers or space stations like the Death Star… Um, wait a sec… No, I don’t think I want to build a Death Star. People tend to blow them up before they can really be used. And it is just so insulting, it was always those pesky small fighters doing it too. And the Millennium Falcon – every time that ship shows up, Imperial insurance rates must hit the roof. Man, if I were an insurance agent in the Star Wars universe, you couldn’t pay me enough to insure that huge pile of junk. Sure it has a really, really big gun on it, one that can destroy planets, but come on! It’s a massive risk to build one. No insurance company in existence is going to take a chance on it. So if you build it and some pesky Rebel scum blows it up like they always seem to, you are out of luck. And out several hundred billion credits.

So… Let’s stay small. Many games these days have some kind of crafting component. It can be something as simple as slots for sockets on your equipment that items of some sort can be placed in to enhance it. Who here played Diablo II? *Raises hand* The socketable items in that game were just too cool. You could make your gear do everything but sit up and beg. Same for KOTOR I. But was it really crafting? It was more enhancing an already crafted item. Players wanted more.

MMORPGs have incorporated crafting almost since the first ones. Games like Dark Age of Camelot, Everquest, City of Heroes and World of Warcraft have incorporated or added in a crafting element to keep players happy. But for the Star Wars fan, the pivotal moment was when Star Wars Galaxies came out. I remember the harvesting, the searching, the planning and then the building. I had one character who was an artisan, he was supposed to go droid engineer eventually, but I got tired of the constant work involved. And yes, it was work. You needed a lot of resources and not trash either. Better resources made better products and I still remember the sticker shock when I looked at some of the best items for sale on the bazaar and elsewhere. But players could make virtually anything in the game that other players could use. Anything from bio-agents for combat medics to starfighters and space transports after Jump to Lightspeed came out was feasible for players to build, if not always easy. But that was the challenge.

It was something else to do in the game besides grind. Admittedly, you had to find the resources first. Either you had to go out and mine them, harvest them, whatever, yourself. Or you had to pay someone else to do it for you, which could get VERY expensive. A lot like real life in some respects. I remember my first suit of composite armor for my commando character. It cost more than all of my starfighters combined. But it was worth it! Players will buy almost anything if it is available in a game. But if it is decent, gives them an advantage, or just plain looks better than the regular gear, you better believe the virtual items will fly off the virtual shelves.

So, what kind of crafting do we want? Do we want something like the system in City of Heroes, where you crafted items to improve your abilities? I still recall fighting Hamidon a dozen times, trying for a specific drop to make a specific piece. Or do we want to be able to build anything like in Star Wars Galaxies? I have to say that, speaking for myself, the crafting in that game and others like it was more than a bit overwhelming.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic I and II also featured customization. Customize your lightsabers, your blasters, your armor, what have you, you could make it better. The developers have stated on several occasions that customization will be present, but what kind or how much, we don’t know. I don’t know about you but I want to trick out my blasters. KOTOR II in particular had crafting out the wazoo. You could make all kinds of things. Weapons, armor, grenades, mines, swords, guns, you could make it all. So it stands to reason that The Old Republic will as well. They have even hinted that you can customize your personal starship, but how or to what degree, they haven’t said yet. Annoying, isn’t it? I want to put the biggest weapons I can on mine. What can I say? I like big guns.

Many players gain enjoyment from building things. Hence the popularity of the LEGO series of games. But not every player has 1) the time, or 2) the inclination, to sit around for hours and hours watching things be built. For myself, I want to be out blowing things up. But there is a distinct subset of players in MMOs who live to do one thing and one thing only. Build. And their work is generally in high demand. They can charge whatever they want for their services, because lets face it. They provide a service. Usually a very good service for those of use who lack the patience to grind, grind, grind, build, build, build. We don’t mind paying them for the convenience. We want to play, not work.

Over to you. What would you want to be able to build or customize in Star Wars: The Old Republic? Is there anything you would NOT want to see able to be built by players? For me, I really don’t want to see player-built Star Destroyers and Death Stars!