Friday, July 6, 2012

Things SWTOR Did Right

This agent is recharged after a rather mellow holiday week; I hope you all had a safe and fun holiday.  Today we'll talk about something that's been bugging me for a while now ...

Star Wars: The Old Republic ... it's a game that's very, very, very popular to bash right now.  On one hand, you've got BioWare, former golden child developer who literally could do no wrong.  They are now tarnished by Dragon Age 2 and the debacle of the Mass Effect 3 endings, as well as being gobbled up by EA.  On the other hand, you have corporate whipping boy Electronic Arts.  People seem to hate EA just because they are EA and for no other reason; sure there was some stuff in the early 2000s about working conditions (that have been rectified), but for the most part it seems that EA is rather hands-off on its teams.  It reminds me of the Microsoft hate of the 90s and the current Apple hate (but the folks who hate Apple are totally right and Apple is a terrible company that needs to die a horrible, agonizing death.  Steve Jobs was also a pompous asshole bully and a jerk to everyone with a pulse, so fuck him too).  Mix in some first time MMO developers, a few missteps here and there (features missing at launch, some antagonizing from devs in the forums) and viola!  An instant cockstorm of hatred for the game other people called 'the WoW-Killarz' even though BioWare stayed far, far away from any such talk.  But for all the perceived 'failures' of TOR, let's admit it folks ... BioWare did a lot of things right.  Let's take a look at a few.

Fellow agents, let's admit some things.  Questing in 'that other game' really, really sucks.  Questing in MMOs, generally speaking, sucks so hard it could star in its own pornographic film.  TOR forever changed the paradigm of the themepark MMO when they introduced auto-completing questing, holocalls, and cutscenes.  The impact of this cannot be stated enough!  Before TOR, in order to complete a quest, you had to mount up and head back to town to talk to the individual quest giver.  How antiquated.  TOR has obliterated that model completely by offering self-completing missions, holocalls that allow a buddy to head to town and turn in a mess of quests without you having to go anywhere, and cutscenes during questing that pull you into the story.  Some folks like to downplay this, but really.  Guys.  You don't have to go back to town all the damn time.  This, if nothing else, should be reason to celebrate like a loon.

Permanent pets, anyone?  Not just regular pets; pets with stories and goals and interesting dialogue, even potential romance.  Try having a conversation with a Barrens Raptor or a Hyjal Moth.  The companion systems is so completely integral to gameplay, so completely new, and at the same time a throwback to TOR's KOTOR roots.

Class Stories
Not since the heady days of The Burning Crusade had the idea of class-only quests reared their head in a mainstream MMO (with the exception of LOTRO).  Most games were moving toward a bland, generalized experience peppered only with same-size-fits-all stories.  Not TOR.  TOR completely blows the lid off of the 'general consensus' by offering a personalized, class-based storyand making it the main feature of the game.  It's a gamble as it will drive some players away (they won't be able to get 'into' their character), ultimately it is the game's strength.

Game Systems
AOE looting.  Companion crafting.  Crafting from your bank.  Companion missions.  Space mission mini-games.  Need I go on?  I pity any MMO that doesn't feature these systems in the future.  The ability to craft items from materials in your bank ... I mean, I don't know if there's been a more important change.

Knights of the Old Republic came out in 2003, and for many fans that was the defining RPG of the decade.  Never before had we seen such a fleshed-out, personal story told in the Star Wars universe, one that was arguably better than the prequel movies and on par with Zahn's fantastic Heir to the Empire trilogy.  It oozed the Star Wars feeling from every pore and absolutely gobsmacked you with a fantastic twist.  TOR features the same feel, the same world(s).  TOR strives hard to emulate that same awe and wonder we had in 2003, and for large swathes of the game, succeeds brilliantly.  I mean, who didn't grin like a loon when fighting HK-47 during The Foundry?

Non-Bracketed PVP
SWTOR may not have been the first to do this (Warhammer featured a bolster mechanic), but the choice to eliminate brackets in PVP was inspired.  Not only did it open wide the gates of organized PVP, it also introduced PVP to the masses using a very friendly, quick system.  Look, I've not been a major PVPer before; sure I did Wintergrasp and some battlegrounds in WoW, but frankly it wasn't my thing.  Now though ... now I'm a low-level PVPer on a couple of characters and absolutely loving it.  Huttball is equal parts brilliant and frustrating, Novare and Alderaan are supremely balanced, and Voidstar is a hellaciously tough place to assault or defend.  And deciding to remove all the restrictions was a masterstroke.

Story-Mode Operations
The LFR tool may have been released in WoW in November, 2011, but idea was firmly placed in the SWTOR beta since 2010.  The lowest level of raiding (called 'normal' back then) was designed to allow almost everyone access to the continuing story in SWTOR, no matter their talent level.  Now certainly gear requirements to get into the operation were in place, but for the vast majority of players, Eternity Vault and Karagga's Palace were accessible.  And that's a good thing.

All in all, TOR's had its missteps.  It's not been all roses and blowjobs.  But let's also not lose sight of what TOR has done so incredibly well.  Fly safe, shoot straight!  For the glory of the Empire!


  1. Hey, get out of my head! That is almost the exact article I wanted to write today because the continuius bashing of SWTOR really starts to piss me off.
    It is also a very well-written article.

    I really digg the class-stories. After my Imperial Agent reached level 50 I almost immediately rolled another one, so I can play throug the story again. Other people go to see their favourite movies at the cinema ten times in a row. Replaying my favourite class is a loot cheaper. :) (I also don't really know what to do with Th'ane'a after she reached max-level. Can't wait for BW to extend the class stories!)

  2. I don't hate EA because it's fashionable. I have solid reasons for hating on EA:

    1.) Origin is spyware that AGGRESSIVELY scans your system. Not only does it look at your entire hard drive, it eats up most of your CPU while it's scanning.

    2.) EA forces shortened development schedules on Bioware. These shortened schedules are why Dragon Age 2 reused areas so aggressively. They are also why the ending to Mass Effect 3 was a rushed hack job. EA is directly responsible for Bioware not being Bioware.

    3.) EA embraces DRM.

    So you see, the hate on EA must continue. If your voting for a company "that needs to die a horrible, agonizing death", you can't go wrong by casting your vote for EA!

    1. You know that you can quarantine Origin with Sandboxie, right? (coincidentally, if you care about the security of your rig, quarantining the programms that connect to the net should be one of the first things you do.)

      Not an EA fangirl, but I also don't see the point in whining about things for which easy fixes are available.

    2. I'm simply trying to get the truth of what EA is doing to consumers out there so people know. If consumers revolt against these shady practices, companies will be forced to deal honestly and fairly. We consumers have the power, but only when we act in large numbers.