SWTOR Day One Wrapup

A perfect gaming day?  Just about.

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a (pseudo) launch day as good as this one for SWTOR, and I’m including RIFT’s stellar launch as well.  A week’s worth of planning and work came together as my schedule cleared for Tuesday, my wife lovingly took the kids over to a babysitter’s, and I was free to see what I could get done in game.  Turns out, a lot.

On a lark I tried to see if I could log in at 6:30, and lo and behold I could.  Servers were up about ten minutes after that, and I began the process of reserving the eight character names I picked out.  When I finally logged in, it was to a ghost town — not a single soul in the zone, not a single voice on the chat screen, nothing.  I’m not saying I was the first in game, but it almost felt like it.  The automatic guild invite worked like a charm, and it was great to see guildies popping in over the hours as the waves of invites went out.

(On a sidebar, please note that I’m not gloating over those who didn’t get in today — I feel bad for those who couldn’t, and I know how I’d be feeling too.  Looking forward to seeing you all in game!)

I had no large agenda for the day other than to just enjoy the launch and take my time, and so I did.  No leveling rush, no trying to speed off the planet, I spent most of the day on Hutta with Yeti, my Chiss Imperial Agent.  At no point did it feel overly crowded, although I’m not sure what the numbers were or how many instances of the planet were going on.  But mob stealing?  Clickie stealing?  Not even present.  Even chat seemed subdued after the first few minutes of ecstatic glee, as everyone went about just playing.

First things first, as I spent about 20 minutes fiddling with preferences, taking screenshots, and chatting with friends.  Like unboxing a new computer, slipping into an anticipated MMO is something best done slowly as to savor it.

I quickly got attached to Yeti there — the Agent’s female voicework is well done, and it was surprisingly easy to slip into roleplaying with her.  A bit snarky, but genuinely nice, almost always preferring lightside/non-violent solutions if need be but not shirking from dirty work if it had to be done.  I’ve heard that the Agent is the best-kept secret of the game, and as scores of people flocked to the Force-using classes (egads, the /who lists were so lopsided in this regard), I was grinning mightily as I shot, stabbed, stealthed, and conned my way through a great spy story.  It’s the little touches that made it great, like having to disable listening devices in a room or pitting one faction against another, but after a while I was just grooving in it.

The first ten levels did help me figure out what my advanced class — Operative — would be.  Sniping is nice, but I don’t really like having to do the whole “stationary cover” thing.  I’d rather run-n-gun, opening up with distance attacks then closing for some nasty vibroblade action.  I made sure to do all the quests, and I actually wanted to anyway — the cutscenes, decisions, conversations, and plot twists are compelling stuff.  In fact, I think I could tell you the outline of most of the quests I performed for the entire zone, which is a first for me in MMOs.  I also hunted down the three Datacrons (mostly one-shot stat-boosting devices) and enjoyed gaining my first companion so I could tackle the heroic areas.

Once I finished up with Hutta, I explored the Empire station (which is nearly identical to its Republic counterpart), then saw a Black Talon group forming and I went for it.  That was a ton of fun too — a quick hour of constant movement, combat, and action.  I was very curious how the multiplayer conversation worked, but it feels so natural that you don’t even think about it after the first time.  You just pick your choice, the computer rolls to see if you won, and whether you did or not you get social points (but you get more points if you win).  For both of the major decision points — killing the captain and what to do with the general — I won the rolls, so I got to direct how the flashpoint proceeded.

After that, hey, I had a PvP quest, so what the heck — I did some Huttball.  And as much as I hate PvP, Huttball turned out to be a blast, with a funky announcer, crazy action, and incredibly stupid Empire players who were sitting ducks most of the time.  I even scored, which made me feel proud!

I almost hate to gush because I know there’s accusations of fanboyism out there when one does, but holy moley, I just had a blast today, more fun than I’ve had with a game in a long, long, long time.  Like, I don’t want to go to bed kind of gripping.  It feels so polished, so intuitive, and so involving that my initial launch impressions are that BioWare actually pulled it off.  I think this has every chance of being a monster hit for the new decade, and whether it is or not, I know I’m going to be playing for a long time to come.

 

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28 thoughts on “SWTOR Day One Wrapup

  1. Matt December 13, 2011 / 10:42 pm

    Oh God, the jealously… it BURNS! Nice write up. I can’t wait to get in. I’m in Australia, and we didn’t get confirmation that we wouldn’t be IP blocked from playing until late August, so that’s my place in the queue. Hopefully soon! I enjoyed the Smuggler in Beta, but even though everyone else is one, enjoyed the Sith Inquistor a smidge more so will be playing that when I finally get in.

  2. rav4ge December 13, 2011 / 10:44 pm

    Wow, great to hear. I’m really glad SWTOR released (for early access, at least) when it did, and I’m even more glad to hear everything is working out. Looks like my whole next week with this game will be well spent!

    -rav4ge

  3. Buhallin December 13, 2011 / 10:49 pm

    Thanks for the review, Syp. There was so much griping and moaning about how horrible the launch was because they didn’t let everyone flood the servers I haven’t been able to get a read on how the game’s actually going. My wife’s playing next to me right now (Agent as well) and I’m incredibly jealous – my own preorder didn’t get registered until November (wife bought me the CE as a present but Best Buy screwed up the early access code)… Just looking over her shoulder it looks flawless.

    My wife plays largely to play with me – in seven years I think I can count the hours she’s played without me without running out of fingers. But she’s been going solid for the last two hours. For all the griping of the hardcore MMO players (many of who are seriously arguing that it would be BETTER to have crashes and multi-hour queues than have to wait their turn) I think she may be a datapoint on TOR’s true success – just as WoW was a success not just for capturing the current EQ and DAOC and CoH players, but for bringing in people who’d never played games before. I see TOR on the exact same track, and it’s a good one.

  4. Chris December 13, 2011 / 11:36 pm

    I hope I get in tomorrow. Its like going to a swimming pool with your trunks and sun tan lotion and seeing everybody having a good time,but the gate is locked and all you can do is just watch. Brutal.

  5. SIonnach December 14, 2011 / 12:04 am

    Sionnach here. Ran around you a bunch today with my BH. I am totally loving the game so far. Got in to IMC as well. Look forward to running with you and the guild.

  6. Rinvan December 14, 2011 / 12:11 am

    Its good to know that things went well on day 1 of head start. I pre-ordered rather late so will not be playing until the 18th or 19th I believe.

  7. Canazza December 14, 2011 / 3:54 am

    I don’t mind waiting a little longer to play the game, but my fear, as always, is that my character name would be taken. They could have atleast let us pick a server and create a character, even if we were then told we’d have to wait.

    Or, you know, at the very least tell us which wave we’re in. I think it’s the uncertainty that’s causing the most friction. Will I get in today? Tomorrow? Friday? I just don’t know. By Friday all my friends will be around level 20 and I’ll just be starting. I’ll have missed doing the low-level dungeons and group quests with them.

    It’s an annoyance though. Nothing that’d stop me playing the game, cancelling my pre-order or going crazy on the forum over, like some people have claimed.

  8. Werit December 14, 2011 / 8:15 am

    Aha, PvP!

  9. Barona December 14, 2011 / 8:19 am

    I totally concur with your review, Syp. I got in at just after 6am and everything went very smoothly. Once I got the video settings adjusted to what I wanted (my only gripe was that the “keep these settings” timer for changing resolution was just a few seconds longer than it took to actually change my monitor, so I had to be a fast clicker), the launch was essentially bug free.

    Seriously… the biggest launch in MMO history, and it is BUG FREE on Day One? Unheard of! Massive props to Bioware. I was able to spend all my time focusing on the story, staring in awe at Coruscant when I first left the spaceport, and just having a blast.

    Naturally, we will see how this scales as more and more are let in, but based on beta input, there seems to be a better than average chance of things going well.

  10. dexxter December 14, 2011 / 8:21 am

    It’s going to be a sad decade for MMORPGs if this is going to remain the highlight.

    I want to propose to you a simple exercise, one which I really hope you’ll ponder upon for 10 seconds at least.

    If SW:TOR was a game launched in 2004 that had been dominating the market for 7 years now and was still played by 10 million players… and WoW would launch this December (in its current form, not the vanilla one), what would your reaction be?

    Would it be totally different from your current one? In the sense that you would still enjoy the old game better?

    Anyway, I find it very important to overlook the “freshly launched” factor when deciding if I want to play / buy a game or not, because it often leads to very screwed up results.

    In this case, if you wash away all the new launch craziness, SW:TOR remains a MMORPG that’s 90% game-play mechanics that were outdated even in 2004 and 10% voice-overs + single-player like quests. I definitely do not want this to be the new standard in MMORPGs.

    Ignoring the “freshly launched” syndrome also shows a very funny trend: lots of people are making fun of WoW and how outdated it is, how silly it has become, etc… but they’re jumping with both feet into SW:TOR, a game with almost exactly the same features and mechanics. I understand that you might enjoy this other game more, but why are you fooling yourself thinking you are playing something completely different?

  11. smore December 14, 2011 / 9:20 am

    @dexxter
    If something was outdated 7 years ago, why do people keep playing it and demand more of the same?

    Regardless, i believe the point where you are very mistaken is the 10% of voice-over + single-player like quests.
    First, you chose to ignore that 90%+ (estimation) of all quests in *any* MMO are single-player.
    Second, that voice-over and the individual storylines you so gracefully forgot provide context and motivation. A huge part of the playerbase will enjoy the leveling process (in addition to, not in exchange for the ‘classic’ endgame activities) and re-roll other classes just to see those stories.

    We are not “fooling ourselves” thinking it’s different. Having played all those other games, and now this, we *know* it’s different.

  12. Syp December 14, 2011 / 9:28 am

    @Werit – Put a sock in it!

  13. dexxter December 14, 2011 / 10:08 am

    A lot of the people that keep playing it are new to the whole MMORPG thing. Let’s not forget that WoW more than doubled the audience for these games by bringing in a lot of so called casuals… people that had never tried a multyplayer game before. And it still is bringing this type of demographic… and now SW:TOR will start doing the same thing, as the Star Wars franchise has a lot of power.

    When it comes to the veteran player-base, there is a trend that’s been growing for a while and it is close to reaching critical mass. People are getting more and more tired of the same game-play rehash that all the AAA MMORPGs have done since WoW became a success.

    And I have not seen anyone demand a game that must have WoW’s exact game-play but with more story and Star Wars. If you can pin point me to a decently sized thread in which people are demanding that SW:TOR should be identical to WoW and just add story and voice overs, I’ll shut up forever.

    Thing is, a lot of people like to settle for less and in their perfectly understandable drive of wanting to play something nice and new, lie to themselves that SW:TOR is new, different, a real progress, way more fun than that old game, etc.

    —-

    When I said “single player like quests” I meant the option of choosing your dialogue / ending, which is pretty much the main thing SW:TOR questing has brought in.

    Anyway, I’m glad you “know” that it is different and I hope a lot of time passes until you realize it’s not… I actually wish I’d be able to ignore the obvious and have fun once again in a “classic” MMORPG.

    I would be curious though to hear why you know it is different. Ok, I understand the appeal of single-player like quests, with choices, individual class stories etc. You like that and I get it… but please tell me what MMO specific features SW:TOR brings that makes it different from WOW, Rift, LotRO, etc. More specifically, how will your game-play experience be different? If you can give me 5 valid reasons, I swear to God I’ll go and buy the game right now.

  14. smore December 14, 2011 / 11:04 am

    “please tell me what MMO specific features SW:TOR brings that makes it different from WOW, Rift, LotRO, etc.”

    I think you answered your own question, at least the bit which makes me “know” TOR is different. It’s not the MMO-specific features. It’s the features which enable me to play however i like.

    There’s 8 single-player games (classes, even though the non-class quests would be the same) built in and on the top of that, there is the classic MMO feature-set which i still not tire to play and like.

    Instead of five game-play differences, i’ll give you one from life, but related to this game:
    after the last beta, my friends and i (all with 6-8 years of MMO experience) spent over a half hour discussing our choice for one of the early quests on the Jedi starter world. Arguing over the choice itself, and our respective reasoning and motivation to make that choice. The best part? We were playing the same faction, on the same planet, same class, same quest. Different choices, different motivation.

    The ability to choose (or the illusion thereof) is what sets this one aside from other MMOs, even if it’s so similar on many levels.

    I don’t hope to convince you to buy or play the game; although i hope one day you find the one you’ll be happy with.
    In exchange, i ask only that you don’t try to convince me that TOR is just more of the same, because for me – and a lot (*a lot*) of others – it isn’t.

  15. thade December 14, 2011 / 11:24 am

    This bodes so well it’s practically dripping in awesome.

    Also…your *wife* took the kids to a *sitter* so you could *play TOR all day*?! You need to buy that woman jewelry like yesterday, man. Lots of it.

  16. Buhallin December 14, 2011 / 11:30 am

    @dexxter: I was very skeptical about the rehashed mechanics too. Once I was playing, I found it didn’t matter. You create a false choice by asking what MMO-specific features are different, because what Bioware added is NOT an MMO-specific feature. They have well and truly broadened the genre, and even if the end result of the quests is the same the stories are actually involving.

    That won’t work for some people – especially MMO bittervets. But the problem with the same-old-same-old mechanics isn’t necessarily the mechanics themselves, it’s the boredom which comes from them. Bioware took a new approach to fixing that boredom, and at least for me it worked surprisingly well. Will it a year from now? Dunno, but the “Just a WoW clone” argument (which I have made myself in the past) is very wrong.

  17. foolsage December 14, 2011 / 12:06 pm

    Syp, which server are you on? It looks like most of the Council of the Secret Fire peeps will be rolling on Lord Adraas (RP-PvE).

  18. Cindy December 14, 2011 / 12:53 pm

    Yeah, I will not even pretend to be objective. I hate TOR with all the passion of a burning sun. Why? Because LucasArts killed my beloved SWG for it.

    I wish I could play it – I love Star Wars, Bioware games and WoW, so this sounds like a match made in heaven for me. But my blood pressure jumps 50 points whenever I see the mention of TOR, so no TOR for me.

    Good to hear the launch went well, and glad so many people are enjoying it. I will be crying in my coffee while I make a few final screenshots of Wrixwood Imperia, my city on Corellia.

    /cry

  19. Buhallin December 14, 2011 / 2:14 pm

    “Because LucasArts killed my beloved SWG for it.”

    You realize that this is pretty much just conspiracy-theory land, right? Yes, the decision probably had something to do with TOR, but not in a “Get that thing out of the way for the new hotness” kind of way. SWG has been on life support for years. A new Star Wars MMO was going to take away a lot of the player base who were there more for Star Wars than anything else. It’s eminently reasonable that Sony saw the writing on the wall, and decided that it was time to shut it down before they started losing money on it, rather than after.

  20. Malthus December 14, 2011 / 2:50 pm

    I got in yesterday in the second round. Unfortunately, I was at work and once I got home I had kids to put to bed and real life to take care of.

    After that though, I was able to log in. I played in the last weekend beta, and I have to say everything felt cleaner, more polished even though it had only been like what? Not even two weeks.

    I spent most of the night reserving names of my characters, who, incidentally, are rehashed D&D/MUD/WoW characters that I have been playing for years. They are my archetypes.

    I have been enjoying the character creation, as has my oldest daughter, who I often let be my ‘design consultant’ when it comes to MMOs.

    I have to say, playing Sith on Space Slug, and playing Republic on Vrook Lamar, I heard very little complaining of any type. I tried two classes I hadn’t in the Beta, Smuggler and Bounty Hunter, and found the voice overs to be terrific.

    The one thing I did hear constantly was praise for Jennifer Hale’s work on the Female Trooper. I have yet to make one, as I am still working on my male trooper.

    I enjoyed the beta, and I’m enjoying this even more. I can’t wait for my CE to arrive.

  21. Cindy December 14, 2011 / 2:55 pm

    Buhallin

    Have you played SWG recently? I can assure you that Starsider, at least, was hardly on life support. And the fact that SOE was actively developing the game – even adding atmospheric flight and air to ground combat AFTER announcing its demise, belies your statement.

    It is no coincidence that the ax drops on SWG the very week TOR goes live. TOR would not have lost a single sub because of SWG, but many of us would have played both games now will play neither.

    Look, I am glad you love TOR and all – have fun with it. Just please have the courtesy not to pretend SWG did not get screwed because of it.

  22. Cindy December 14, 2011 / 2:57 pm

    And I should have added that both SOE and LA have confirmed that it was LA, not SOE, who opted not to extend the license. SOE went so far as to note that it had “learned the hard way” to use its OWN IP, and not license it from others.

  23. Buhallin December 14, 2011 / 5:17 pm

    I think that’s an awfully skewed reading of things, Cindy. Whoever made the actual choice, it doesn’t really sound like Sony was clawing for survival tooth and nail. Concerning the “learned to use its own IP” comment, which presumably came from the first article below, I also think you’re reading what you want to read. You think it’s “Use our own property so nobody can cancel it!” I think it’s just as likely “Use our own property so nobody else can make a game with it to compete against us”

    However much you love SWG, the reality is that it’s been a flat game with no real growth for many years, regardless of the diehards. Faced with an impending exodus of players, they decided it wasn’t worth keeping going. Smedley says the license was up in 2012. If they really expected it to remain a viable game post-TOR, they certainly could have kept Galaxies up and running until the license expired. Why didn’t they?

    I’ll certainly agree that TOR was going to kill Galaxies, but it’s not some conspiracy on the part of LucasArts to remove competition. It was just going to be the natural result of a newer, shinier game in the same genre based on the same property. It’s pretty much just evolution of the market.

    http://news.softpedia.com/news/Star-Wars-Galaxies-Closure-Explained-by-Sony-211157.shtml

    http://massively.joystiq.com/2011/06/24/exclusive-smedley-on-the-sunsetting-of-star-wars-galaxies/

  24. Buhallin December 14, 2011 / 5:19 pm

    Last thought: It’s also hard to reconcile this quote from Smedley with someone who had the license termination crammed down his throat:

    “Could we have renegotiated? Maybe, but I don’t think that would be the right thing for the company.”

    I doubt that will persuade you, but unless you believe he’s lying through his teeth it seems rather solid.

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