Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Your Thirteenth Assignment: WILKOMMEN SWTOR!

Alpha Base, this is Agent Ancestor.  I have tapped into the communications network and am forwarding all related intelligence to you.  There seems to be an ample amount of beer, lederhosen, and bratwurst.  Preparing information packet.

This week kicked off Gamescom in Germany, the European equivalent of our own Penny Arcade Expos (PAX).  I didn't really expect too much from Gamescom since PAX Prime is just 9 days away.  Oh how wrong I was.  How very wrong.

Bioware hit us over the head on day zero (yes, Gamescom hasn't even officially started) with some content bazookas.  Up first?  Confirmation of beta test weekends; now Dr. Ray Muzyka said "open beta weekends" but he misspoke according to Community Manager Stephen Reid.  So, no open beta, but I expect the beta weekends to be very, very wide.  Hopefully wide enough to allow a certain Agent to play.  One can hope!

Next is the big reveal of the Eternity Vault operation!  Sixteen Bioware employees got together and showed us how bad they were at the game.  No really, they sucked.  We'll do way better.  It was nice to see the operation live, but I'm not going to lie to ya'll ... it's very similar to every other raid I've ever done in any MMO.  I mean, it was definitely a Star Wars experience, it had droids and lasers and escape pods and whatnot.  There's even a cinematic part at the beginning where you escape your ship, but still.  It was a raid.  I don't really know how far out they can go with raids and still make sure the players understand what's going on.  I was happy to see it, but it was standard game mechanics.  And I'm ok with that.

Finally: guild testing.  Guild beta testing is active.  No, Scum and Villainy hasn't been invited yet.  I'll give you a moment to weep.  Our adversary guild doesn't have an invite either, unfortunately.  I'll update you if this changes.

So, with all this information from Gamescom, what does it leave for PAX Prime?  We won't be getting a release date, so get that out of your head.  I think what we can realistically expect is a dissection of the September beta weekends, as well as an explanation of how the pre-order early game access will work.  We'll probably also get a deeper dive into the Eternity Vault operation, as well as more info on PVP and how it will work.

One thing is for sure; with the glut of WoW news this week, Bioware will really have to drop the hammer on us at Gamescom and PAX Prime to compete for the headlines.  I expect great, great things!  Fly safe, shoot straight.  For the glory of the Empire!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Your Twelfth Assignment: Line in the Sand

Alpha Base, come in.  I am stationed above the Republic transport Esseles and using the Imperial warship to hide my Phantom.  The Esseles is currently crippled ... wait, what's that?  The engine room just got vented.  Magnifying image ... are those bodies?

Lock and load, agents!  This past Friday we got a look at the Esseles flashpoint for our intrepid Republic counterparts (aka, the guys who will lose the Galactic War).  The video was narrated by fan favorite Dallas Dickinson who seems utterly surprised that folks are watching the presentation.  "Oh hi, I didn't see you there.  Want to watch the Esseles?  Cool, let's see how the team is doing."  He's just so classy.  Anyways, Dallas Dickinson isn't the real draw here.  The fact that all the douchey Republic players are evil is!  Watch that video right now.  Right now!

Ok, watched it?  What turdbags!  "Oh hello there faithful, hardworking engineering crew.  Oh yes, we could take some extra time and save you guys, but hey, we're all for the quick and easy path.  Enjoy vacuum, assholes!"  I mean, seriously!?  Those are Navy engineers, not just some mercenaries or transients.  FYI, that's exactly how I'm going to play my Jedi Knight.  Arrogant prick.  I think it'll work well.

So, the real point of this post today is to highlight the morality choices laid out in TOR.  In the Esseles flashpoint, there's a very clear choice between right and wrong.  The Republic players, who were probably trying to impress their digital girlfriends, choice to be hard asses and vented the engineering bay.  In the Black Talon flashpoint, Imperial players have the option of killing or sparing the captain of a vessel that ignores a direct order.  These type of morale decisions are prevalent in Bioware games; they make the RPG stand out in MMORPG and have earned Bioware critical acclaim.  Let's take a look at how they craft these story moments.

In nearly every Bioware game, there's generally a *big* choice to be made near the end of the game.  Whether it's Revan's destiny in KOTOR, the fate of the Water Dragon in Jade Empire, Shepard's views on saving the Council in Mass Effect, or the choice of the Grey Warden in Dragon Age: Origins, Bioware games have thrived on presenting the player with the ultimate "line in the sand" moment.  There are definite tells when the line in the sand is coming.  I'll help you identify where that line is.

First Clue!  You're going to a far off place. 
If you have to travel a long distance through some sort of one-way portal, then it's a line in the sand.  Better get all your stuff together before you go!  The game lets you know when this is happening; ie, the Omega 3 relay in Mass Effect 2, the trip to the Star Forge in KOTOR, headed off to fight the Archdemon in Dragon Age: Origins.

Second clue!  He/She's gettin' frisky ...
Your romance options will light up like a Christmas tree when you get to the line in the sand.  Think of it as Bioware's way of saying, "Baby, I may not make it back tomorrow so let's make tonight special."  Your romance partner will display obvious signs and you'll get that trademark fade to black scene.  Bow chicka bow wow!

Third clue!  You have to make a huge choice ... just not yet.
Before approaching the line in the sand, Bioware often gives you something to mull over.  Morrigan's offer in Dragon Age, the Illusive Man's transmission before heading to the Reaper base, the Water Dragon's question before heading to the capitol, and Bastila's dialogue before heading to the Star Forge are all great examples.

Fourth clue!  The big bad is around the corner.
Your archrival/enemy/hated adversary is literally breathing down your neck.  Now it's time give him what for.  Line in the sand by its very definition.

Lines in the sand will be different in TOR because there is no saving and going back ... when you make your choice, you make it.  You have to live with it.  Choose wisely.

And don't be a douche.

Fly safe, shoot straight.  For the glory of the Empire!