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.

What do we really want?


We want more exotic dancers in Star Wars The Old Republic! Uh… maybe?*sigh*

So many people have so many different ideas about what the game will be. We are getting a lot more information now, some of it dribbled out to us on a weekly basis and some gleaned from interviews that we find with staff members. And most of it looks very cool. But what are we looking for in a Star Wars Old Republic MMO? I mean besides seeing a young Carrie Fisher in a metal bikini again? There are a gazillion things that we want, but…seriously.

Well first of all, we want a cool story. Just a thought, but I think they have that covered. No matter what anyone may think of Bioware, they do tend to have cool stories. The twists that they throw at the players are legendary at times. I mean, how many people knew who the primary character was in Knights of the Old Republic before it was exposed? Yes, they seem to have a have a pattern they follow, but it works for them.  The bottom line, as always is simple. People buy the games and enjoy the games, so they must be doing something right. Even people who hated MDK, Mass Effect and Jade Empire had to admit that the stories were well done for the most part. For many games, story has always taken a backseat. After all, what kind of story was in Asteroids, or Donkey Kong? Now players want more. We want cool stories with intriguing characters, plot twists that take us completely by surprise, and a sense of completion at the end of the game. We don’t want ‘Oh, we have to wait for the sequel to find out what happens. Grr.’.

Second, we want action, but there are stipulations. The days of mashing the shoot button down and running through a video game are over. We want to feel heroic or evil depending on our preference. One problem with today’s games is that action seems to have become the single most dominant factor. Games that were stealth based, such as Splinter Cell, are now about how fast you can kill people. In MMOs, action was almost always there, but it could be hard to find. You had to walk all over the place to find those blasted gnolls/orcs/undead/demons/whatever, to kill them to finish the quest. Once you found them, you had the chance to fight, but you had to find them first. Now most games seem to be going the way of Call of Duty or Medal of Honor. Shoot now, shoot later, shoot some more and then try and find the mission objective after you blew up the building it was in. Oops, it was a hostage. Oh well, they deserved to die for being a hostage. That seems to be the mindset of many games these days. Maybe it is just my own perspective, but that is what I see.

Star Wars video games have always had action – The Empire Strikes back for SNES. Star Wars: Battlefront 1 and 2 in particular were fun. And yes, you had to shoot fast and straight to survive. It didn’t help a lot when you got hit by the blast from a Walker, but it was fun. And that is the final thing we want. We want fun. The problem is, everyone has a different definition of fun. My definition of fun is sitting in a hole a long way from the battlefield and shooting bad guys in the head from long range. Boom! Headshot! Evil, yes, but fun for me. Other people want to get into vehicles and shoot big guns and crush their opponents under treads, mechanical feet, whatever. Yet others want to run into a melee with knives/swords, whatever and duke it out mano a mano. For each type of player out there, there is a different definition of fun.

So, for Star Wars The Old Republic we want story, action and fun. And we want it all with the feel of Star Wars. Star Wars Galaxies pre CU, may it rest in peace, (Yes, I know it still has active servers but it is dead to me. Let SOE rot in the deepest level of Hades!) had that feel. You were there, when the bugs/glitches and sheer stupidity of the SOE execs did not ruin it. Not every Star Wars game that has come out has been able to do that. Most of them have had the characters, the ships, or something right. But few of the games managed to get everything right. The original Dark Forces did a great job in delivering what we wanted. Bioware delivered with Knights of the Old Republic.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am very optimistic about this game. MMOs are designed to cater to many different kinds of players. I will be able to play a ranged combat specialist. Others can charge into battle with lightsabers and the Force. I cannot help but expect cool stories from Bioware, given their track record.  Just seeing the in game footage that we have seen so far, the action looks amazing and very ‘Star Wars-y’. The ability to take on multiple bad (or good) guys at once is very, very cool. And as for fun? Big guns and the ability to use them! What more could I ask?

Is there anything specific you would want in the game? (Keep it family friendly please…)

Picture one of many at http://www.supershadow.com/pictures/princess_leia_gold_bikini.html

I can hear people. Whoa…

People have heard a lot about Star Wars the Old Republic since its announcement. We have heard about story driven a MMORPG, which is actually nothing new. Most MMOs have story. World Of Warcraft has a story, IF you can find it. And IF you can stand to read each block of text for each quest. I know I couldn’t. Bioware is well known for making gripping stories so we can expect a cool one. What else? Combat. Every MMO out there that succeeds has cool combat. From the sheer nastiness of the combat medic in the original Star Wars Galaxies, to the utter coolness of a sniper shot felling Lord Recluse at the end of a Statesman’s Task Force in City of Heroes, to dropping a Bane mech with a single careful torqueshell rifle shot in Tabula Rasa (may it rest in peace), to running in shouting ‘Leeeeroy Jenkins!’ at the top of your lungs in World of Warcraft. Just kidding. Anyway, from those types of MMOs to the grind, grind, grind, run away, grind, grind, grind, RUN AWAY of most MMOs, combat is a major factor. Even Star Wars combat really is not anything new. Some of the looks and moves are cool, but again, most of them have been done somewhere. Most of what is in MMOs has been done to death in other MMOs. What IS new for Star Wars: The Old Republic is the amount of voice over.

Everyone who has played a recent Bioware game knows about voiced NPCs. Dragon Age Origins, and Mass Effects 1 and 2 both had HUGE amounts of voice acting, both by the main player characters and the supporting NPCs. Add to that the lines from some of the bad guys and other NPCs and you have major coolness. One of my biggest gripes with older MMOs is I wanted to hear things from people in the game. Not just the big shots, the major quest givers, but from others. Many MMOs recently have added sound bites to major quests. The biggest gripes I had with Star Wars Galaxies and World of Warcraft was that there was always silence when the characters were talking. They would say ‘Hi’ at times, but no more. The quest was all given in text form. And it got annoying. We had the journal for text. I want to hear the voice of the person I am talking to. I know, I know, I got spoiled by Mass Effect, but can you blame me?

Sound effects in games have come a long way from things like ‘Pong’ and ‘Asteroids’.  You know, ‘ping’, ‘bang’, ‘zot’ that kind of thing. Arcade games had cool sound effects and even voices sometimes. But the processing power of the Commodore 32 or similar home entertainment consoles simply couldn’t handle the load. Sound, sure. Realistic sound and voice? Not so much. The main reason they introduced cutscenes to games was to immerse the character in the game. Because, let’s face it, the actual gameplay was not immersive for a lot of games. Come on, how immersive is the grind in WoW? I tried, I really tried to immerse myself. But it didn’t work. The only MMO I ever really managed to immerse myself in was Star Wars Galaxies, and we all know how that turned out.

The whole point of a video game, any video game, is a suspension of disbelief. We play video games to get away from reality for a while. Some of us may play them too much but all of us play them for the same basic reasons. We want to be able to lose ourselves, if just for a time, in the game. We want to have fun, we want to be excited, we want to go ‘Oh MAN that was cool!’. Sound effects are just one of the many ways that game designers draw in their players. Graphics, music, plot, action, all of these are important. But if the sound is ‘meh’, the game will likely be remembered as ‘meh’, if it is remembered at all. From the few video clips we have seen of in-game footage, I personally do not think Bioware is going to have that particular problem. Of course, many of the sounds are well known. Lightsabers of course are truly distinctive. And then they said the magic words. ‘Fully voiced’

As far as I have been able to determine, it has never been done before. Heck, as far as I can find, it has never even been TRIED before. The work involved is just too huge for most game developers to even attempt. To make every single NPC, every single quest giver, or quest participant, speak is just…whoa… Just the coding for the voices had to take years. And such voices…

We judge people, on a daily basis, by how they sound when they speak. Yes, we look at them, but their tone of voice is one of the major factors in how we judge. Are they angry? Sad? Happy? How do they feel and why? Tone of voice tells us a lot. It makes the characters come to life, which is one reason things like opera and theater are never likely to go away. Movies are fun, but the raw emotion that can be portrayed live has no substitute. Now a video game is not live, the conversations will never change, well, not quickly or easily. But to be able to hear how a person is feeling… That is just ‘wow’!

Is this being telling the truth? Is he/she/it about to blast me? It adds a layer of suspense, and immersion to the game. Just the clips that we have seen show a great deal more emotion that is shown in most games. Not that we expect anything less from the makers of Mass Effect and Dragon Age.

Personally, I think it is about time. I want to immerse myself in the story. I want to feel the tension, the fear, the grittiness that is Star Wars, especially during the time of the Great War. I want to hear the fear in someone’s voice as they beg for their life before I blast them. But again, I am not a very nice person when I play games. I want the game to stand out. I want it to be epic. And if it is anything at all like the clips that have been shown, I don’t think that will be a problem.

From the Imperial Agent and Bounty Hunter quest footage clip:

Czerka rep: “Do you know who I am?”

Imperial Agent: “I couldn’t care if you were the queen of Naboo.”


Over to you. Are you looking forward to the voices as much as I am?

Latest walkthrough demo dissected

The dynamos over at Darth Hater have posted a brilliant pic by pic dissection of the recent demo walkthrough released. Here’s a tiny sample:


The walkthrough video is obviously the most detailed look at SWTOR to date and at this early stage, things continue to look promising. Not that BioWare are likely to intentionally release unpromising info 😉

WoW Cataclysm: why it adds strength to SWTOR

The big MMO news to come out of this weekend is the trailer for the next World of Warcraft expansion, called Cataclysm. Before I start talking about it, have a look for yourself if you haven’t already:

As a WoW player, I have mixed feelings about well known areas in the game having their appearance changed so much. That aside, it looks like an excellent expansion. Here’s why I think Cataclysm adds even more fuel to growing fire that is Star Wars The Old Republic:

1. Proof of longevity

As a Warcraft player since the original 2D version in the 90’s, I’m still surprised at the longevity of the franchise. For me, WoW lore has never connected in a big way. That said, Blizzard have put some effort into that aspect and Cataclysm takes another big step in expanding the lore side of things. The Star Wars Universe arguably has the most comprehensive lore of any game franchise, so SWTOR‘s longevity appears assured. I can already picture the trailers for SWTOR‘s third expansion and it’s hard to imagine they won’t stake as bold a claim on story development as WoW has.

2. It’s about guilds

One of the touted features of Cataclysm is a new guild progression system, something that’s been totally missing in WoW to date. It’s safe to say that SWTOR is factoring in the primacy of the guild in a big way, and now they’ll have some time to watch Blizzard try their hand with increased guild functionality and learn from any glitches that occur.

3. Attractive grind

One thing WoW have improved over the years is leveling. They’ve tried to make quests a little more varied and the achievements system hasn’t hurt motivation either for a lot of people. You can be sure BioWare have scrutinised these aspects closely and have the luxury of ensuring better variety from Day 1. I for one will be disappointed if there’s not some sort of formalised achievements system – more on that in an upcoming story.

4. Alts out the nose

Any MMO needs it players coming back for more and more. Leveling up multiple characters is something common to most and WoW’s next expansion makes that even more attractive with a wider range of quests in the lower level areas. SWTOR may have a different approach to leveling but the attractiveness of creating multiple characters and leveling them is key to long-term success, if combined with compelling expansions.

The sum-up

The purpose of TOROZ isn’t to constantly compare SWTOR to WoW, but it’s fair to say WoW is the dominant MMO and they’ve both made some savvy gameplay decisions as well as delivered some dud ideas over the past five years. That evolution can only benefit up-and-comers like SWTOR, who can innovate on what’s an incredibly deep vein of MMO history.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – what about Catalcysm do you think is good evolution (or even revolution) and do you think any of it is the same old stuff?

View from the newcomer: what I want in Star Wars The Old Republic

I’m really pleased to introduce Phillip, who’s going to play a key role at TOROZ as a senior writer. As a veteran gamer who wasn’t born when the first Star Wars film was released, he’ll bring a different perspective to 2010’s biggest MMO launch. He’s also new to SWTOR, which provides some insights that may be obvious to the more dedicated but very useful at a wider level.

swtor-aug09 After spending an extensive amount of time in my youth playing text based MUD’s and MUSH’s, then followed by time spent playing World of Warcraft, Guild Wars and a brief dabble in EVE, I can say that I’m looking forward to the arrival of SWTOR. There are, however, a few things I’d really like to see when I finally embark on my virtual journey in a galaxy far, far away.

It comes as no surprise that a lot of functionality provided by WoW is a good starting point when you begin making comparisons or discussing features and functionality you’d like to see in an MMO, Blizzard have pretty much set the benchmark to which other MMOs are measured. In all fairness though, WoW is starting to look a little dated and there are only so many more raid instances one can bear before the time spent playing begins to become repetitive.

SWTOR, from what has been revealed, is aiming to make a story driven game it’s unique selling point in the market. From a gamers point of view I’m really looking forward to this style of play, but I do hope that it doesn’t follow the lines of endless fetch-and-gather, kill this and return that style quests of most MMOs and actually offers real, engrossing and immersive gameplay storylines. I’m very curious to see how this can be achieved in an MMO environment while involving a mulitude of players. If anyone can pull off a story based game it’ll be Bioware and they have the track record to back it up – I’m really looking forward to what they have to offer.

Secure trading and trust in the economy is another big factor in a successful MMO in my opinion. In this arena, EVE is incomparable. On the flip-side, its economy and learning to maneuver within it to make a profit, can be a steep learning curve for the average gamer. A lot of EVE gamers believe this complexity is a good thing, and I’m not one to disagree, however this can create a barrier to entry and isn’t very conducive to casual gaming. SWTOR should appeal to all age groups so it’s a fine line for the game designers to travel, the StarWars story is one that has been appreciated by all people and of all ages and it is imperative that the game is kept accessible to all.

Guild, factions, clans, groups etc, are another factor that will surely be included in the SWTOR. It’s obvious that the two main rival parties will be the Republic and the Sith Empire and similarities can be drawn to WoW‘s Horde and Alliance. The other thing I’m curious about is “guild” type groupings. One thing I do find limiting with other MMOs is the fact that you can’t belong to several at one time. I can understand in some cases why having only one faction may be necessary, but it’s genuinely limiting for those players that want to create a character with a varied and colourful background. Some sort of reputation based scheme may work, and I’m not saying it should be as simplistic as WoW‘s reputation system, which applies to NPC’s relation to a players character. I’m thinking that being able to have affiliations with multiple factions may be an interesting concept. It will be interesting to see whether or not the Republic and Sith Empire players will be segregated in the fashion you see on WoW. I would think being able to play some kind of double agent could be another very interesting form of gameplay.

There’s also a lot of speculation at the moment surrounding the final class/race sets that will appear in the StarWars MMO. There will be much secrecy surrounding the final line-up and I’m guessing that BioWare and LucasArts will want to keep some information close to their chest as a final surprise for the public release.

The gaming challenge for SWTOR

This post by Xaelyn, originally written for the SWTOR discussion boards, is simply brilliant.

It’s a comprehensive, waffle-free thesis on how World of Warcraft has kept its hooks in players, and how SWTOR needs to do things a lot differently.

As a WoW player myself, there’s essentially nothing I disagree with, and like most I want to see a very different experience in the Star Wars universe. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that if BioWare swap out Murlocs for Womp Rats for grinding quests, I’ll be pretty damn disappointed. Now, I’m off to earn my next WoW achievement.