Star Wars: The Old Republic Captures My Attention

Right, it’s been just about a month since I last posted, and there’s a couple of reasons for that:

1)      I’m pretty busy with work, college work, applying for a job and the job application training for students that I lead.

2)      I started playing SW:TOR with a couple of friends

Yes, I know … after spending the better part of 5 years on World of Warcraft I went and started playing another MMO. I promise I won’t get crazy addicted to this one … maybe.

Star Wars: The Old Republic is a very enjoyable game really, despite what the recent internet chatter is implying. Below Is an account of my impressions after a couple of weeks of gameplay. Keep in mind that this is my opinion and does not represent anything else but that.

Alright, I fired up the game and downloaded the patches. First thing I had to do was put the graphic settings on very low. Frankly, that’s not normal. Granted my pc isn’t great, I know, but it should at least be capable of running the game on medium. I have extremely long load times (everyone seems to have that for some planets). This appears to be a problem that some players have despite the quality of their rig.

                       

So, I made myself a Pureblooded Sith Warrior (advanced class is Marauder – Favourite of the month apparently) and started my trials on Korriban to become a true Sith complete with red Lightsaber, Force Choke and a seething hate for everything alien or Republic. The story missions are awesome. The class story sucks you in right away and the trademark BioWare speech choices are flawless. It’s almost a direct copy of the Mass Effect speech system really. The only problem I really have is that I just can’t be arsed to watch every single cutscene for every single quest (no matter how short those quests might be). If you watch everything you’ll ‘lose’ hours of your day. Don’t get me wrong though, I like it but sometimes I’d prefer the good ol’ quest text.

Furthermore, as I advanced in levels I was and still am baffled by the extremely large amount of cash sinks in the game. You have to pay for extra bag space, mounts, repairs, legacy rewards, respecs, skills and lots more. Skills especially get insanely expensive for the cash flow you receive around level 25. An augmented item on the Galactic Trade Network will easily set you back 250 000 credits. Level 50 mount skill is also around 250k, not counting the mount itself. One of my friends said that BioWare overrated the potential in-game economy, and I reckon he’s right.

Finally, the PvP is great fun, it has to be said. There’s basically 4 warzones – the usual really; 2 warzones where you cap and defend bases, a Strand Of The Ancients-type warzone and a Capture the Flag warzone in the form of Huttball. Which warzone you get is completely random which is great, no more abandoned battlegrounds like sometimes happened to me in WoW.

Also, there are only 2 level brackets: Pre-50 and 50. Pre-50 everything is peachy and I felt like a goddamn battering ram playing my Marauder. But once I hit level 50 I only encountered fully equipped PvP steam trains and all I could do felt like hitting them over the head with my limp red noodle (read: Red Lightsaber). The difference is mind-boggling and very sudden. But, that is not a flow only this game has. Truly, I have no idea how to fix an issue like that other than give some basic PvP gear to every fresh level 50.

In summary, it’s a good game if you’re able to look past the (many) flaws like I did. I’m having a lot of fun for my money and in the end that’s all I really care about. I don’t sit around whining and crying in trade chat, and if you are doing just that you should really go play a different game because you’re ruining my fun, you asshat!

Niels Van Hellemont

PS: May 4th is Star Wars day so May The 4th Be With You!

30 Day Game Challenge # 19 – My Favourite MMO

Hah! This one couldn’t be easier … Since I spent 5 years playing this game it’s bound to be my favourite MMO. I am, of course, talking about World of Warcraft. I spent a couple of years on a private server with a friend or two after which I moved on to the official version. I reckon I was the biggest noob on the realm for a couple of months, until I got into raiding. I joined a raidguild and switched my main character from a mage to a Holy Paladin. Turns out the class was exactly the right thing for me. I became quite adapt at healing and in Wrath Of The Lich King I changed factions and joined a higher-ranked raid guild where we managed to kill Heroic Lich King after about 100 wipes I think.

I had such good times playing this game, and not because of the game itself but because of the people I met there who still continue to be friends even if I don’t play the game anymore.

PS: I’m not a fan of the way Blizzard is taking it’s cash cow, Kung Fu Panda wtf?

Join us tomorrow for day 20!

20 December Is A Bad Release Date For Star Wars: TOR

Just recently BioWare finally gave us a release date for their highly anticipated story-driven MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic. Turns out the game will be released on 20 December is the US and 22 December in Europe.

Now, I believe this is a terrible date to release a game such as this. There’s 2 distinct reasons for this, 1 is personal and the other is more business/marketing related. let’s start with the business aspect here.

I can understand that even a successful developer such as BioWare can’t pass up on the boost that a holiday release can give to a game. Though, releasing a title such as this so close to Christmas seems like a mistake to me. The end of the years is traditionally packed with triple-A games and 2011 is no different. There’s Skyrim, MW3 and the likes. I’m guessing that a lot of RPG fans will still be spending most of their time playing Skyrim, thus it seems like they won’t have a lot of time to invest into an MMO. It might be a good idea to have it close-by for the weeks after Christmas.

Besides, are we even sure that the game is polished enough by 20 December? An MMO is never finished, but it seems to me that they’re pushing hard to make that holiday release, and that might be at the expense of higher quality.

The other reason why I think this is a bad date to release TOR is because I’m a student. Being a student in Belgium means that you’ll have exams in january, which means that I HAVE to study during the Christmas holidays. I’m not sure when the exams are in other countries, but the last thing I need around Christmas is a game that I’m dying to play lying next to my on my desk while I’m trying to study.

Besides my concerns here, I have no doubt that the game will sell incredibly well because of a pretty effective marketing strategy and the high anticipation amongst avid MMO players.

What do you think about the 20 December release date? Good, bad or are you indifferent? Let me know in the comment section!

/Niels

Pre-Played: Star Wars – The Old Republic

Since the success of World of Warcraft everyone wants a piece of the MMO cake. The alliance between EA, BioWare and LucasArts is taking a shot at pushing WoW off the MMO throne with their upcoming game, Star Wars: The Old Republic. I’m here to tell you a bit more about this highly anticipated game.

Even though developer BioWare doesn’t have any experience in making an MMO, their resumé is more than impressive enough to set some high expectations. Since Baldur’s Gate, the developer has been the authority in the field of western RPGs. Just think of their recent success with Dragon Age and Mass Effect. BioWare isn’t quite ready to hand over their title as lead developer in this field. Their other Star Wars project Knights of the Old Republic is still appearing on more than one ‘best of’ lists. Is it any surprise that this game serves as the basis for BioWare’s newest Star Wars game?

Own story

Star Wars: The Old Republic is set to take place 300 years after Knights of the Old Republic, a couple millenia before the events of the movies. There is a temporary ‘peace’ between the Jedi and the Sith, but a new conflict is about to start. In The Old Republic players will be able to choose one of two sides to witness the story from the perspective of one of eight available classes. This makes for 8 different storylines, that intersect at certain points, but who are different enough to encourage the player to try out different classes.

The story will be quite expansive, as we’ve come to expect from BioWare. It looks like The Old Republic will have more to offer than just missions where a certain number of enemies has to be defeated. Like those dreaded kill quests in the original WoW … Kill 50 of these, and then 30 of those! Anyway, back to The Old Republic. The storytelling will be reinforced by the fully voice acted dialogues of both the NPC’s and the players. Dialogue plays a major role in the outcome of quests. It’s even possible to have a conversation between the quest giver and the different player, where each player chooses a dialogue option and the game randomly calls upon a player to speak.

Specialisation

An MMO like The Old Republic needs more than just a good story though. That’s why the game will offer more than sufficient possibilities to alter a character to your own taste. For this, there are many options, like choosing your race (human or otherwise), the before mentioned 8 classes and 1 of 2 specialisations for each class. A class in itself only offers a base for the skills of your character, whereas the specialisations is for well … specializing.

The Sith inquisitor, for example, is one of the Sith classes that uses the force. The first specialisation, the Sorcerer, is based on the emperor from the movies. The Sorcerer can give support at range by using lightning. The Assassin, which is based on Darth Maul from The Phantom Menace (Episode 1), is a melee-oriented fighter and uses a double-edged light saber (or whatever that’s called). Even though classes share traits and walk through the same storyline, the specialisations make for more than enough diversity which in turn makes the game have 16 more or less different playstyles. Look below for a list of each side’s classes:

The Jedi

The Sith

 

 

Trooper

Bounty Hunter

Vanguard

Commando

Powertech

Mercenary

Smuggler

Sith Warrior

Gunslinger

Scoundrel

Juggernaut

Marauder

Jedi Knight

Imperial Agent

Guardian

Sentinel

Operative

Sniper

Jedi Consular

Sith Inquisitor

Sage

Shadow

Assassin

Sorcerer

Flying and exploring

Next to the quests on the many planets in The Old Republic universe, space battles also play a major role in the game. Even though it’s completely optional, every player has access to his or her own spaceship. This ship can also be adapted although it’s not clear to me in what way. What is clear, however, is the fact that there is a possibility to explore different worlds in your ship. Of course, you’ll occasionally have to navigate through an asteroid field now and then.

Although it’s always hard to predict if an MMO has any chance for success, the quality of The Old Republic is not to be underestimated. BioWare’s way of telling a story is unique and is suited for an MMO, on top of that the game looks beautiful, especially in comparison with other MMO’s. Star Wars: The Old Republic could be the gold egg everyone has been waiting for since the arrival of World of Warcraft. Beneath all those fancy cutscenes and dialogues it’s a good old-fashioned MMO. The Old Republic will be released on the PC somewhere in 2011.

Watch the trailer below for a little teaser of epicness yet to come.

A game from BioWare in the Star Wars universe with all the awesome music and lore? This is one game I’m willing to pay top dollar for! What do you think of it? Let me know in the comment section below and be sure to follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook!

/Niels

World of Warcraft is losing subscribers

WoW subscribers Chart until 2009

Not to worry though, World Of Warcraft is doing just fine. WoW is still the best selling MMO by a mile. Furthermore, Activision released mind-dazzling revenue numbers earlier today. So why such a (large) loss in subscribers? Well, the level they’re at now (+11 million) is pretty normal after a release of an expansion, granted the numbers are dropping faster than in previous expansions but that is mostly due to the fact that players are devouring content a lot faster than say in The Burning Crusade. Because the game is more oriented to the casual player, rather than to the (semi-) hardcore ones.

I myself recently stopped playing after 5 years. Why? Because I think it became boring. This brings us to a second and less positive explanation for the loss of suscribers. Since Cataclysm (and partially during Wrath Of The Lich King) I hear a lot of players complaining that the game is boring and extremely repetitive and catered to the casuals. I can certainly relate to that as it is the reason why I quit. I used to be a pretty avid WoW player, in a top 500 guild and one of the better Holy Paladins around. Bragging aside, it was extremely fun to beat encounters and get gear upgrades.

The constant need to upgrade your gear became extremely repetitive for me in the end. With every content patch new raid content was released with new boss fights (albeit with the same mechanics, fire = hot remember?) and new gear. So basically, you had to start over once a new patch was released. Until that point I was still enjoying the game to its fullest, mind you. Then, with the release of Wrath Of The Lich King Blizzard implemented the Heroic modes. They’re essentially the same bosses, with one or two extra mechanics and upgraded loot, which was in effect the same loot (same name, same look) with slightly better stats. This basically meant starting over again gearwise, with essentially the same encounters. I can certainly understand people getting bored of that.

Moving on to the third cause for the steady decline in subscriptions. Time to face the facts, World Of Warcraft is an aging game. It’s been around for 6 years or something like that so it’s only natural that players move on to different games after a while. Games who often learned a lot from WoW but added in new features, and better graphics. Fortunately for Blizzard no MMO has come to close to beating them, even though really valliant attempts have been made by DC Universe Online and Rift. Maybe we’ll see another dent in Blizzards subscription numbers when the new Star Wars MMO is released, who knows.

Now, what is Blizzard going to do to slow down, or halt the decline in subscriptions? Well, since a lot of players are burning through content they decided to just deliver more content. Morhaime said “We need to be faster at delivering content to players, and so that’s one of the reasons that we’re looking to decrease the amount of time in between expansions.”

I’m not sure this is the right approach, making people ‘start over’ more. Sure, new content always makes for surges in subscription figures, but the goal is to retain those subscribers is it not? Or am I missing the big picture here? Neither do I think that faster and more new content is such a good idea. In the end, they’ll end up rushing every new patch and expansion to a point where quantity takes over quality. Personally, I would prefer slower content releases in favour of better quality, which is what I came to expect of Blizzard after playing Warcraft, and World Of Warcraft. Blizzard delivers awesome gameplay AND stories, it would be a shame to see that take a turn for the worse …

Do you think the world famous MMO is approaching the end of its life, or do you think WoW is long from being written off? Let me know in the comment section below, it’s always interesting to hear other people’s views on this.

/Niels

Gaming can help develop poor countries

Hey there guys. Today I came across some numbers on gold farming and they baffled me really and that’s when I started thinking that the practice of gold farming could really help poor(er) countries in their development.

'Gold farming workshop'
'Gold farming workshop'

While game operators expressly ban the practice of selling in-game currency for real-world cash, gold farming is lucrative because it takes advantage of economic inequality and the fact that much time is needed to earn in-game currency. Rich, developed country players, wishing to save many hours of playing time, may be willing to pay what amounts to substantial sums to the developing country gold farmers.

That pretty much sums it up really. Gold farming is the nail in the coffin for a lot of developers and players. For instance, take World of Warcraft. Blizzard is spending huge sums of money and time on keeping gold farmers and sellers out of their game. People playing World of Warcraft also get extremely annoyed when a gold farmer is camping all the good spawnpoints (and they often have hacks as well). And it doesn’t just stop with acquiring the gold, they need to sell it as well hence all the really annoying gold ads in Trade Chat (private messages, spamming, forming url’s with corpses). And have you ever wondered what happens to all your gear and gold when you get hacked? Yeah that’s right … it gets sold back to people for large sums of money.

But today, we’ll be looking at gold farming from a different point of view namely the developing countries. There are approximately 100 000 people in China and Vietnam that play online video games like World of Warcraft just to collect gold and rare items. They then sell these virtual items to western players, who don’t have the time or motivation to make the effort themselves, for (a lot of) real life money. A study of the World Bank estimates that these virtual goods are worth at least 3 billion dollars. According to the report, practices like these ensure that developing countries can grow faster because of these so-called gold farmers.

In China, companies have been founded where employees don’t do anything else but play games to collect virtual currency. Next to that, they also try to develop software that automatically collects gold and items. Even though game developers do everything in their power to stop them, the 8 largest chinese gold farming companies have an annual revenue of 10 million dollars.

As you can see, gold farming does have benefits for at least one group shareholders. Though I doubt that selling virtual currency as a third party company will ever become legal, it’s definately a booming business as more and more people engage in online gaming. Gold farming will remain a source of great frustration to players and developers alike, and I have no doubt that many many jokes will be made about it (like the clip below). Certainly something to keep an eye on!

Please also check the clips below, one is a comical song and the other is a documentary about gold farmers. Worth a look!

/Niels

MMORPG’s – why are they so massive?

Hey there guys and welcome to another one of my articles. Today I’m going to talk about MMORPGs and why they are so popular. MMORPG stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. Quite a mouthful isn’t it? MMOs as I will call them from now on are online video games where players compete, work together and socialize with each other. There can be thousands upon thousands of people online at the same time.

Continue reading “MMORPG’s – why are they so massive?”