December 29, 2011

RP Feeling Pointless in SWTOR

So, here we are at the end of the year, been occupying myself with trying to get a guild under control and playing SWTOR. I think that much is probably very obvious to those who actually care, but there are some things I still think about when it concerns the gaming world. Today, I am going to talk about role-play in TOR, or actually, the lack there of because of the simple fact that BioWare has basically written your character for you removing any sense of self in that regard.

RP is something I was hoping to get back into but just frankly, there is a very huge wall that's in the way in SWTOR. Of course, this has been around for a while, with games being more like WoW in all sense, but it's most evident in SWTOR because, well, your character has a predetermined voice, predetermined lines and the choices, though have different flavors of them, ultimately have the same ending regardless of what actual choice you make in the entire conversation.

Now, I know there are going to be people that tell me "No, it's not true, your choice has meaning and impact" the real answer is, no it really doesn't. Any game altering choice comes towards the end when the NPC in question or item has lost its usefulness regardless of which direction you got. So if you gave an item away or kept it, or killed an NPC or kept them alive, the final answer has little bearing on the ending outcome.  Let me give two examples of this;

On the Esseles, you come across a situation that you can either go power down conduits or kill engineers. The power down conduits results in about 2 extra minutes in a circle that over all doesn't really add enough time to matter, while killing the crew just lets you access the elevator faster. The end result is the exact same regardless of choice there.

Same instance, this time at the end you are given a choice to either leave the Ambassador behind or keep her with you. Regardless of if you do or don't or you tell her of the plot against her, the ending is the exact same with a few differences in words spoken. The final result is this entire "Choice" system is a disguised choice as it really doesn't exist and in the end it's just arbitrary padding for the alignment system, and given how little that actually impacts, I would wager that the alignment system will be the first victim come expansion time as it provides no actual benefits or incentives and actually just arbitrarily restricts items that shouldn't be restricted. And the first situation above has absolutely no bearing on whether you escape or not because those engineers never, ever are mentioned again after that cut scene.

So, let's get back on the whole role-play thing.  Now, people tend to mistake a choice wheel as actual RP in games, hence BioWare often being labeled as some sort of guru in the RP gaming world. However, this is actually not the case. This is an interactive menu system, more akin to a choose your own adventure novel, or in this case with SWTOR, an interactive movie. While this isn't a bad system in itself, as far as role-play is concerned it puts a huge damper on the field for those people that actually enjoy to create and play the character they imagine.

Let me explain this. Most RPers tend to imagine their character. Now while there are many people who have an imagination as deep as a tea spoon, hence all the Darth Maul's, Yugiohs, and Naruto clones that wander around (let's not even get into super heroes in super hero MMOs) many more players actually spend time coming up with an idea, a concept and a personality for their character. They even spend time trying to think up habits, likes, dislikes and what they might even sound like. However, the conundrum created with SWTOR is a large part of that is actually taken away because the voice, the words and the personality is actually taken out of the players hand and put in a wheel that, even though you might pick a choice that sounds close to what you were imagining in your head, the actual words spoken by the character don't even sound remotely close to how you interpreted the response.

I've talked to many RPers about this, and many of them find that this actually kills the mood for RP for them. It's bad enough most MMOs these days do not support sandbox elements to help make a nice and viable RP atmosphere, but now they are pushing to actually removing the things we RPers spend time actually trying to create with our character. This, to me, is a huge step in the wrong direction.

Now, I want to make it clear I am enjoying SWTOR. I can see myself playing after the initial month. Though I will be honest there are many nagging QOL issues creeping up that are just pissing me off that should be ironed out now. Things like the UI, to the latency in PvP are part of those issues, but that's just a start for me, and I am sure there are many others. Things seem to be working well but as far as the RP, even being on an RP server, that just doesn't seem viable because right now I keep trying, but every time I get into a cut scene the whole mood is ruined because of a predetermined script.

December 8, 2011

Randomness with TOR

Alright, it appears I missed an entire month. Not surprising as I ended up staring at a few things that interested me. Also not surprising I still haven't written a review about DCUO, but what is there really to say about it? The game hasn't changed from its beta perspective and other than a few things here and there is still too easy, and pretty much is a mockery of that vaunted choice they claim to have in their system. Despite that I do try to log in occasionally to play with friends who insist on it. Free is free, after all, though Sony's practices are very suspect.

Other than that I've been playing things like Terraria, Minecraft and even had two weekends in The Old Republic. So, I kept getting distracted, a lot. This blog won't be so much of a review as me just sitting here shaking my head and how far the human gene pool has gone down the tubes these days. But first, I know people want to know what I think of The Old Republic, so I will sum it up quickly.

For people expecting TOR to be a revolutionary game, stop daydreaming. The game is pretty much WoW in every shape, form and fashion. People telling you it's not need to pull their heads out of their ass's. To misquote Yahtzee, TOR is average, boiler plate, run of the mill. It's a competent MMO with its only remarkable feature being how far it's stuck up its own ass. It passes no boundaries and pushes no envelopes. An envelope would move faster in front of a glacier.

Now people will probably mistake what I mean there, but I did enjoy TOR. I am not gaga over TOR, but I will say, the artwork is beautiful (anyone who claims the art or graphics are bad needs to stop bashing their head against the keyboard or actually turn their monitors on because you are batshit stupid if you believe anything of that nature and have actually played the game) and the talky bits, when they aren't standard MMO tripe do add something. But in the fashion of revolution, TOR has done nothing of the sort. Outside of the talky wheel non-sense you could transplant WoW or even EQ into the model and everything would translate almost flawlessly.

In fact, like Blizzard when WoW released, I am stupefied how game developers keep making the cardinal sins they do when it concerns their UI interface and taking out basic key features that have been standard since the second generation of MMOs. As of this writing, I absolutely hate that UI in TOR, and I will definitely be modding that up the moment we are allowed to.

In short, people that talk up TOR as if it is the second coming or think TOR is not WoW, EQ or any other previous MMO with a new skin, are deluded in a way that just need to get over it. TOR will undoubtedly pull large numbers immediately, but retention will probably not be its strong suit. People are leaving WoW now, and I doubt people are going to find TOR offering anything they don't already do in their previous titles, especially since BioWare have made it clear they are going to "follow Blizzard" which means they are most likely not going to do much to deviate themselves from the standard WoW design and formula. Just expect longer than normal update periods since they will have to record voices and crap for any type of update that includes new quests. And to close this off, again, while I know a few people will assume that I loathe TOR, they just need to get over it that TOR has not done anything remarkable or special in the genre. The game is good, I enjoy it, and may for even a few months, but it's not an MMO, more than just a theme park game with massively player options. MMOs, to me, are sandbox games, and a game like that has not been developed in years. And people that claim that TOR has sandbox features are so deluded they need to take their heads out of whatever drug induced fantasy they are in and come to realize MMOs haven't had sandbox features in a long, long time.