rowyn: (current)

Playing SWOTR has been pretty fun.  Using Origin's website to buy and use the game?  Not so much.  Setting up my initial account and purchasing the game took about 8 rounds of "You missed a spot!  And oh, we randomly* blanked out some spots you didn't miss, see if you can guess which ones!  Guess wrong and there's another round!" Which was not as fun a game as it sounds.

 

* Really, it was random -- not even "we always erase the credit card".  More like "you left off your phone number so we blanked out your email confirmation" and then "Now we decided to blank your address" followed by "let's just give you a whole new form! Except your name,  what the heck, we'll keep that."

 

Last Friday, I got my early-access invitation, which came with a code I had to set up on their website.

 

On Monday, Lut said, "You need to be sure to register your product code. Noooo, not the early-access code that you already registered and couldn't get without ordering the product.  This is a different code."   So I dug out my original order confirmation, looked for the correct code (helpfullly not labelled the same way as on the site), and plugged it at the website along with all the information I'd provided when I bought the game.   I guess having your exclusive ordering page talk to your accounts page was too much trouble to code.  But Origin did now confirm that I had a registered product.

 

I still didn't have a subscription. "But that doesn't matter," Lut said. Because every MMO ever gives a month's subscription when you buy the game. Since you can't actually play the game without it.

 

This morning, I tried to login to SWOTR. The engine declined: "You do not have an active subscription. Click here to get one."

 

...

 

SIGH.

 

I clicked the link.

 

"The website is too full. You have been placed in a queue.  This page will auto-refresh when there's room."

 

...

 

You have a queue. For your website.  AWESOME.

 

10 minutes later, the page refreshed to display my account. I clicked on the button for subscribing.

 

2 minutes later: "Do you want to subscribe or use a game-time card?"  *subscribe*

 

3 minutes later: "Pick one of these subscription periods."  *click 90 days*

 

2 minutes later: *pick subscription period page finishes loading completely* *click 90 days again*  *click "continue"*

 

2 minutes later: "Sorry, your request has timed out. You can try refreshing?" *refresh*

 

2 minutes later: "There's been an error! Sorry." *click only button available, for "back to swotr.com"*

 

"The website is too full. You have been placed in a queue.  This page will auto-refresh when there's room."

 

10 minutes later: SWOTR.com main page. *click "my account"*

 

"The website is too full. You have been placed in a queue.  This page will auto-refresh when there's room."

 

2 minutes later: My account page comes up.  *click subscribe*

 

2 minutes later: Subscribe or game time? *subscribe*

 

3 minutes later: "Pick your subscription period.  Ha ha!  Just kidding. Not actually done loading yet. Wanna wait another few minutes for the next error code?"

 

2 minutes later: No, gotta get to work, sorry. It's been no fun at all, Origin!  See you later, if I don't decide it'd be easier to contest the charge for buying the game in the first place than to get through your website to subscribe.

Posted via LiveJournal app for Android.

rowyn: (current)

I forgot to mention this in my giant post yesterday, so it gets its own post. Another thing I like about SWTOR:

 

The clothing is androgynous.  All of it.

 

Everything the women wear looks exactly the same on the men, and vice versa.  If it looks like a shirt + vest on a man, it looks like a shirt + vest of the same cut on a woman.  If it looks like a floor-length skirt on a woman, it looks like a floor-length skirt on a man.

 

So far, all of the PC clothing I've seen has been modest -- not just "no cleavage", but no skin showing below the neck.  (Almost everyone wears gloves, even).  The most revealing clothing available is tight pants, and even those look like pants, not spandex.  That's pretty much it.  There are some NPC dancers and background characters in slave-Princess-Leia-style outfits, but I haven't seen anything like that on the players.

 

The only downside is that the clothes are pretty much all in neutral colors, and the 'skirts' are tailored to look like the jedi robes from the movies.  So neither men nor women can really look feminine.

 

Minor quibbles aside, I just love the design choice. The avatars look great and nobody looks like they're running around a battlefield in lingerie.

Posted via LiveJournal app for Android.

rowyn: (current)

About 12 years ago, I was an EverQuest fanatic. EverQuest was one of the first generation of its kind: a big-budget, graphics-intensive, Massively Multiplayer, Online, and (theoretically) Role-playing Game.  Its precursors were the text-based Multi-Use Dungeons, which had been around since the 80s with much the same mechanics but no graphics to speak of.

 

I played EQ obsessively for three years. When I finally quit, I was burned out on the leveling-game genre: kill monsters so you can get xp so you can gain levels so you can kill bigger monsters so you can gain more xp so you can gain more levels GOTO 10.

 

Lut has remained a big fan of the genre, and so I've tried a number of MMORPGs since then. City of Heroes grabbed me for several years, mostly in spite of being a levelling game rather than because of it.  I burned out on City of Heroes last year, but kept my subscription through this year and have continued to play once or twice a month with [livejournal.com profile] terrycloth.  I still think CoH is a great game, with features unmatched by any MMO before or since. (It's not you, CoH, it's me.)  But most of my friends have stopped playing and the game doesn't engage me anymore.

 

In November, Lut joined the beta for Star War: The Old Republic for a couple of weekends. Largely on the strength of watching him play it, I decided to buy it.  [livejournal.com profile] terrycloth, Lut and I preordered it a week or two ago, and we started playing in the early-access period on Thursday and Friday.

 

What I Like

 

Conversational options
Typical MMO quests/missions/adventures/whatever start something like this:
* Click on NPC marked as "quest giver"
* Read a block of text describing what the quest involves and why the NPC wants you to do it
* Click on "accept" or "decline"

 

In SWTOR, getting a quest involves an actual conversation. With spoken dialogue (and subtitles).  And shifting camera angles. Facial expressions! And choices of what your avatar will say. 

 

Granted, your conversational options are limited and sometimes badly described. (Description: "I hope I'm not wasting my time." Actual speech: "If this is a waste of my time, I'LL MAKE YOU PAY!"  o.O )  You get at most three options, and the conversations go much the same direction regardless of what you say.  The main game-mechanical impact of your choices is getting you light-side or dark-side points. Most choices give you neither, but occasionally you get a moral choice to make -- kill this guy or spare him, help these people or rob them, etc. -- and depending on how you make it, your character moves towards light or dark. Later in the game, this will effect what equipment you can use. 

 

Sometimes the moral choices make you go o.O.  One quest has a choice between "poison these slaves quickly" (light side) or "poison them slowly and painfully (dark side).  Lut and I rather felt this should be "dark side" and "even more dark side". Another quest offered "give this medicine you rescued from the bad guys back to the Republic soldiers who owned and need it (dark side) or to these refugees who stole it and also need it (light side)".  Which both seemed like reasonable good-guy options to me.

 

But even so, I find the storylines and the use of machinama scenes and voice acting engaging and entertaining. This is the reason I got the game.  It may not be quite up to the quality of, say, Mass Effect 2, but it's pretty impressive given the breadth and scope of the game.

 

Class Story Arcs

 

Each class has its own story arc, of which that character is the star. 

 

[livejournal.com profile] koogrr once said that the pinnacle of WoW character development was to become one of the elite units in Warcraft 3.  "Not one of the heroes. You'll never be a hero.  At best, at the very top of your game, you'll be a valuable unit."  SWTOR does not make you feel like a walk-on part in the star NPC's story.  It puts you on center stage. This is good for player morale, and bad for universe versimilitude. The game feels less like an MMO than like a four-player game to me.  My smuggler groups with [Bad username or site: lt.warhound @ livejournal.com]'s Republic trooper and [livejournal.com profile] terrycloth's Jedi counseler, and we ignore the rest of the players because if you have more than one of each class, the class stories don't make sense. In fact, you can watch and help other players with their class quests -- unless it's the same as your own. "Only one member of this class per instance". Because the conceit is that you're the only one to retrieve this unique artifact, the only one whose starship was stolen by this crook, the only padawan of this jedi master, etc.  There's only one Luke Skywalker rescuing only one Princess Leia, and you're him.

 

I think this was a good choice on the developers' part, but it does feel a little like surrender.  The difference between an MMO and a four-player game that lets you auction items to the entire userbase is, it turns out, pretty negligible.  The dream of a virtual world populated by real humans who will roleplay with each other remains unrealized in the genre. (Go try a MUCK or Second Life for that.)

 

Regardless, the class-based story arcs are pretty interesting and fun.  This is the first game where I may play all the classes just to see all of the stories -- although I can see a large fraction of the other stories by grouping with characters of the other classes.

 

The Little Things
Most MMOs these days have an internal email system. You check your mail box and can pick up messages, items, and credits from other PCs.

 

SWTOR has this too.  Except that you can also get email from the NPCs.  That NPC you helped escape might send you a thank-you note. Or a gift. Or a warning.

 

It's a little thing, but it's another way of giving you the sense that what you did mattered, that the world is different and your life is different because of your choices.

 

Theme

 

The Star Wars theme is captured well, without actually using characters or storylines from the movies.  The use of music and the hokey yet beloved scrolling yellow prologue text are good touches.  The jedi have that same sense of being the good guys and yet their code isn't as pure and sensible as one might hope.  I am not a big SW fan, in fact, but I find it very well done.

 

What I Don't Like

 

Coding problems
You have to set your keybinds and preferences for each character, which is not uncommon to MMOs yet still annoying. More annoying is that the game forgets your preferences occasionally -- if you don't want to use the "cover bar", you need to turn it off every time you log in and occasionally in the middle of a session. I eventually resigned myself to using it.

 

The autofollow command, which is seldom very good in an MMO, is completely useless in SWTOR.  It cannot follow a character moving in a straight line on level ground for fifty yards.  It's that bad.

 

Game Mechanics
This is very, very subjective.

 

I am at best a mediocre player of MMOs.  I am slow at targeting mobs, slow at figuring out which mob everyone else is attacking, or which one is being held and shouldn't be attacked. I have basically no sense of direction and am slow at figuring out the path I'm supposed to take to get to any given location.

 

I pretty much play this game by following Lut and Terry, looting the mobs they've killed, and now and again healing them or tossing fire at something that was tough enough to survive their initial volley.  Come to think of it, that's how I played CoH, too. I find myself regretting that the conversational options don't change if you've got a group, because there've been times I'd like to have said to a troublesome NPC, "Oh no, no, kiddo, your problem isn't messing with *me*.  Now, messing with the jedi and the boy scout here -- BIG MISTAKE."

 

SWTOR amplifies my incompetence a great deal. My 15th (out of 50) level smuggler has at least 20 powers.  There's a bunch of ranged attacks, including  a few damage-over-time, a few straight damage, a charged shot, a couple of explosives, a few melee attacks, a power to recharge my powers, two heals, a buff, a stealth power that I don't actually know when I'm supposed to use, and some other stuff I can't even remember much less know what to do with it. 

 

I can effectively use about 6 different abilities in a fight.  I don't really want more than that. Maybe when I've been playing the game for a few hundred hours I'll feel differently, but to be honest, I was never enthusiastic about having more than ten powers in CoH, and CoH hadn't given me nearly this many by level 15.  @.@  I keep getting upgrades to existing powers, too, so I don't think I'm supposed to be just ignoring some.

 

Oh, and the 'cover bar' that I didn't want needs to be re-arranged every time I get a new power, because it doesn't automatically get anything.  So I need to periodically comb through my giant list of powers figuring out what does what and needs to be where, and trying to arrange things so there's a chance I will be able to remember which buttons to push in the 1.5 seconds before Lut and Terry have killed whatever mob I had targeted.

 

I am sure for many people, this is great fun, but for me it just reminds me how I have no idea what I'm doing and suck.  v.v

 

SWTOR attempts to help with directions by providing a minimap that's too small to be useful when navigating between quests, and a big map that usually needs to be navigated up a level or two before I can find what I'm looking for.  If I try to figure out where I'm going without just following Lut and Terry, they'll have arrived before I start moving.  Obviously, this is a problem with me and not the navigational system, since it works fine for them.  The various maps do helpfully mark where my other group members are, so I can usually manage to stay glued to them.  The maps are often twisty, with a lots of walls/mountains that you can't walk through and have to run around, making the minimap's "target thisaway" icons pretty useless.

 

Tl;dr version:

 

* As far as combats go, the game plays a lot like all the other MMOs out there. 
* As far as navigation goes, it's more annoying than CoH for me, mostly because there are more nested maps and the zone maps are twistier.

 

A Zillion Simultaneous Quests

 

Generally, you pick up all the quests you can find for an area, then run around that area doing them in geographical order.  I find this pretty meh.  I lose track of the story threads when there are so many competing ones.  In CoH, where you had travel powers and moved quickly across the city, doing one story at a time worked great.  I guess this is more in-theme for Star Wars -- "we'll do some extra good deeds while we're down in this cess pit anyway" but meh.

 

Few Instances

 

I'm spoiled by CoH, where most of your missions were instanced.  Most of the Star Wars content isn't. They cut down on player competition by having lots of zone instances -- there might be hundreds of people in Black Sun territory right now, but only twenty or thirty in the same version you're in.  Still, we've only done one group-specific instance so far.

 

Level-Specific Grouping
Like every other game except CoH, you need to group with people your level. If your friend is 15th and you're 8th, you can't even get to the same planet as him, much less help him with his missions or he with yours.  This shouldn't annoy me because it's "every other game but CoH", but it does.

 

Tl;dr
"If City of Heroes could match the conversational scenes for the storylines, I'd rather be playing it."

 

Other Stuff
Crafting works much the way it does in games like WoW and Warhammer: Age of Reckoning.  You gather bits and combine them to make stuff and to improve your making-stuff skill.

 

The nice thing about crafting in SWTOR are that it's a crew skill -- you get NPC companions and they do your crafting skills for you.  This doesn't make a huge difference -- you still have to give your crew orders and you still have to tie up inventory/bank slots with crafting bits. But it does mean that you don't have to pick out the crafting bits and put them into the special forge or whatever. You don't need to carefully organize your stacks of crafting bits so you can find them later. Your crew will pick out what they need, as long as you've got it somewhere.

 

I kind of like the crafting, but I always have kind of liked crafting in various games, so that's not saying much.

 

Anyway, I've only been playing for one weekend, which is nothing in MMO time.  But I'm enjoying it overall, despite my incompetence and laments.  It's a good game.










Posted via LiveJournal app for Android.

rowyn: (innocent)
I travelled to New Hampshire this weekend to visit my parents and my brother, his wife, and their kids at their summer home by the lake. Last time I was here, it was August, which is probably a better time to do it. This weekend it's been too cold to swim, though the weather was pleasant enough for a nice walk this afternoon with my father.

My mother is an avid player of computer RPGs. She tries pretty much all the major MMORPGs and many of the single-player CRPGs. So she got a copy of Champions Online a couple of weeks ago. She hadn't been able to play it because a problem with her computers Internet connection had rendered Champions Online unable to run, but on Saturday my brother got it working for her. My nephew played quite a bit of Champions after that, since my mother didn't want to lose herself in a new game while company was here.

But my brother's family left early this afternoon, and after I got back from the walk with my father, my mother suggested I play it while she watched. “Aren't you a little bit curious?”

I wasn't, I'll admit, curious enough to sign up for the open beta, much less download the game, but I was a little curious, so I sat down next to her to fiddle with the game.

I spent a fair bit of time playing with the character generator, since my mother and I both agreed that costume design would probably be the highlight of the game. I'd been told the Champions Online costume generator was annoying and fiddly to use, which I think undersells it. A few bits of it were unintuitive or hard to adjust to, but for the most part I enjoyed playing with it; the color picker was especially pleasing to use, as you could mouseover colors and watch them change in the character window; very slick. It had less variety in some areas than City of Heroes – for example, all the options I was were skintight – no suit jackets or blouses, though perhaps I missed them. And no digitigrade legs at all. But it had some neat things City of Heroes doesn't. The character I designed had fish-style frills all over, a long swishy lizard-and-frill tail, scaley skin, and tiger stripes. Not something I could make in CoH.

I got into the game and ran about for a few minutes, watching my character run around on all fours using “beast stance”, which was pretty cute, and running through the first kill-ten-rats-go-talk-to-the-instructor missions. Then I got to the mission that teaches you how to block.

When I ran over to the trainers that are supposed to shoot at you while you block, there was a fallen chair nearby. The key that interacts with NPCs is “Z”, or you can double-click on them. Double-clicking didn't seem to be working, so I hit “z” to tell the trainer to shoot at me. Instead, I picked up the fallen chair.

Picking up the chair replaced all of my combat options, including block, with “Hit target with chair” commands. “How do I drop the chair?” I asked my mother.

“I don't know. Owen had this problem too but I don't remember how you fix it.”

I tried hitting the attack keys, and got “NO TARGET” errors. “Maybe if I have an enemy targeted I'll throw the chair at him.” My character, unused to walking on only two legs, waddled over to the enemies she'd fought earlier with a chair held in both hands over her head. I tried to throw the chair at one of them. “TOO FAR FROM TARGET”, the game told me. I moved closer to the target and tried again. My character wielded the chair like a club, whacking the target with it. She did not drop it.

I beat several enemies to death with the chair, which made a reasonably effective weapon and showed no signs of wearing out or being dropped. My mother laughed helplessly next to me as I poked around at the controls and the help menu, and typed things like “/drop chair” in at the command line. (“UNKNOWN COMMAND “/drop”.”) “This is the funniest thing since Lum tried to fly an airplane in WWII online because he couldn't figure out how to fire a rifle,” she said.

I giggled too. “'I have fired a rifle in real life. It was NOT THIS HARD,'” I misquoted. I exited out of the game and tried to use Google to get the answer, unsuccessfully. I ran around some more in-game. I considered exiting the game and re-entering in the hopes that I would no longer have the chair when I came back.

My mother couldn't stop laughing. “I have put down a chair in real life! It is not this hard!”

Eventually I stumbled on the right command. It turns out that the same key that interacts with NPCs also interacts with objects, and hitting it when you're holding an object causes you to throw it. So hitting “z” again threw the object away from me. Yay! I can block again! And, more importantly, finish the newbie learn-to-block quest.

I played a little more, did a few more quests, some of which were cute and heroic much like City of Heroes missions, like blasting at rubble to free trapped citizens, or rescuing them from menacing bug aliens. I made second level, but couldn't find the trainer and didn't really feel like figuring out how the whole stat-power interactions was supposed to work. Playing with the character generator had almost had me thinking of getting the game, but actually playing the game un-sold me again. There was nothing particularly wrong with it, but I'm just not that into the whole leveling-game experience right now.
rowyn: (content)
I don't remember now if I've done this before or not. [livejournal.com profile] terrycloth was talking about playing EQ2, which reminded me of all my EQ war stories. These are not just gaming stories, no. These are "When I was a kid, we walked uphill for ten miles in the snow to get to school, and WE LIKED IT" stories.

Then [livejournal.com profile] koogrr encouraged me to reminisce, so blame him.
Tales from a Bygone Era )

Weekend

May. 13th, 2002 12:47 pm
rowyn: (Default)
I think I'll write about my weekend. I hardly ever write about how I've spent my time, it seems.
Want to read about my humdrum ordinary life? )

Grah.

Apr. 2nd, 2002 12:54 pm
rowyn: (Default)
I could go back to work but I’m not quite up for that yet. If I went back to work now I could…not leave early because I promised Glinda I’d get Horrible Nightmare Project #4 to a significant milestone today.

Sigh. I’d rather leave early. This project is a frustrating mess and I’m not going to talk about it because, hey, this is my lunch hour and my own time so why should I?

I told Brenna last night that I’d run Rasheeka on Thursday. I’ll probably compose my log starters and whatnot on Wednesday night. Hopefully I can resist the urge to play MagicOnline, which has occupied a significant chunk of my time lately. I started playing in small tournaments by myself. I have discovered something: I am bad at this game. I have rarely been so bad at a game, especially a game that I like. Normally, I’m a little above average as players go. Seldom the best person I know, but usually competitive. At Magic, however, my play is just plain bad.

For a while, I thought this was because of poor deck design. There are two basic types of competitive Magic play: “constructed” and “limited”. In Constructed, you take your entire library of cards, put together a 60 card deck from it, and then play against others who’ve done the same. In Limited, you buy somewhere between 45 and 60 or so new cards, then make a 40 card deck out of them. As you might imagine, Limited offers rather fewer options than Constructed.

Having already decided that deck construction is HARD, my dozen or so forays into competive Magic were all in Limited events. And I lost. And lost. And lost. And occasionally won a game because my opponent didn’t show up, or just happened to be worse than I was. My rating sunk from its starting value of 1600 to somewhere around 1550.

I’d heard a few people saying “Limited is harder than Constructed”, which I thought was ridiculous, but on Sunday I decided, what the heck, I’ll give Constructed a try. Then I can have a lousy rating in another form of Magic.

I picked out a deck I’d played against Lut the night before, and which had done surprisingly well, given that it was based on what I thought was a stupid concept. (Creatures with protection against colors, or other creatures, or effects. I had thought that it was too unfocused to be effective, but it actually worked). I tweaked it a bit, then entered it in two consecutive 8-man tournaments on Sunday morning. I placed second in both. Whoa, I thought. How’d that happen? By contrast, I’d run through 4 or 5 single-elimination Limited events on Saturday morning, and lost in the first round of each.

I’m still no killer in Constructed—I played in one or two more that I didn’t place in, and my rating is still holding at 1600. But that’s a big improvement over immediately sinking.

As I played in a limited event on Sunday evening, and lost, I reviewed the errors I’d made in play back in my head. There were several times where I had neglected to do something logical, or even blindingly obvious, and if I’d done any of them, I would have won. The same thing happened later that night in a for-fun match against Lut—I lost because I made very simple, basic mistakes.

And it clicked with me: there’s nothing wrong with my deck designs. I don’t need advice on how to build a killer deck. I need to understand—quickly—what the deck I have does. I’m guessing half the reason I’m better at Constructed than Limited is because I’m less error-prone in playing with a familiar deck and familiar cards.

Maybe there’s hope for me yet.

Well, back to Horrible Nightmare Project #4.

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