SWTOR Chapter One: The Phantom Argument

I want to begin today’s post with a mini-rant that’s been brewing in my mind for a while now.  Basically, I’m more than a little tired of the tactic that some commenters — not necessarily here, but across many MMO blogs and forums — use to discredit and downplay a blogger’s enthusiasm for a game they’re getting into and enjoying.  The tactic goes somewhat like this: “Pfft, they’re always on about the big new thing, but come three months from now they’ll be gone!  They’ve done it before!  So their opinion should be scrapped.”

I want to stress that most readers I’ve encountered aren’t like this, but the ones that are irk me to no end.  First of all, I’ve yet to meet a single person who has only played one game — period — in their life and has yet to leave it.  Maybe some chess people, I don’t know.  Being a gamer means that you do shop around, try new things, and — yes — move on from time to time.  It’s part of the hobby.  Stopping playing a game, even one you’ve poured months and years into, doesn’t necessarily mean the game was ultimately bad, but that it was just, for you, time to move on.  Second, it’s a cheap shot that uses an ad hominem attack to try to undercut what’s being said by going after the one saying it.  Third, I think it’s a good thing for MMO bloggers to be trying (and getting excited about) all sorts of games, because it does make for varied and entertaining reading.  Some people settle down for a long time; some don’t.  Good to hear from all types.

Anyway, rant over.  I’m still completely geeked out over SWTOR and I don’t care what that says about me.  I really am having a very, very hard time playing anything else at the moment.  It doesn’t mean it’s the Best Game Evah, but it’s quickly shot up into my top five MMOs of all time.  But enough about the meta stuff, what have I been up to in game?

An Agent on holiday

Being in a guild that had a server-first level 50 means that there were a few moments where I felt the old pressure to race, race, race onward and “catch up” with everyone else.  Fortunately, I’ve resisted this, and probably for the best since I can’t devote gobs of time in game anyway.  It was heartening to hear from the devs that a “vast majority” of the playerbase is still under level 30, and in a few more weeks none of this leveling epeen business will matter whatsoever.

The Agent was an excellent pick for me for a main character, and I’m feeling fully satisfied with that decision.  It’s not uncommon to see a fellow Agent out and about, but we’re certainly not as overpopulated as the Force-using classes, so there’s a little hint of specialness at play here.  And as an Operative, I’ve got so many options in each battle that it doesn’t get old: Stealth ‘n stab, AoE blasters-n-boomers, healing, etc.  Stealth has to be one of the greatest things for this game, because when you’re trying to plow through a quest and you don’t want to stop every two steps to take out another group of enemies, you don’t have to.  You have that choice.

I’ve quickly filled up all four hotbars and am feeling a little bit in despair that I’ve got more abilities and items coming my way than I’ll have space for slotting.  I certainly hope this is one of the UI improvements that BioWare is working on.

And hot dang is custom gear a hoot to work with.  I keep modifying my look based on what new gear comes down the pike, but it’s kind of neat to not be as obsessed with stats (since mods are used for them) and instead just grabbing what looks coolest.  I’m finding flashpoints a valuable source of cool-looking custom gear, so that’s gotten me grouping quite a bit.

Speaking of grouping, man am I tired of the “SWTOR is just a single-player game” schtick.  I really don’t get this.  It is no more and no less multiplayer than pretty much every other MMO on the market, and I’ve seen people grouping up all the time.  The multiplayer dialogue and social points and extra XP and heroic quest rewards all promote interactive play, and it’s certainly gotten me to team up with family, guildies and strangers on a pretty regular basis now.

Chapter One fade to black

I really, really wanted to get through the first chapter (out of three) in the game with my Agent before the winter break ended, and stayed up fairly late last night to make it so.  This was partially due to me just enjoying the story and wanting to see how it was all going to play out in the first big climax of the plot, and partially due to wanting to secure my legacy name.  No spoilers here, not really, but I was pretty happy with how the Agent’s first chapter concludes.  I predicted at least part of it, but still it was satisfying and I was impressed that BioWare (a) made me return to past planets, like Hutta, that had me going “Wow, has it only been a couple weeks?  Feels like forever!  It’s so small now/!” and (b) used unique sets and cinematic techniques to tell the conclusion.

Like some others I’ve been reading, my SWTOR character’s really gotten into my head.  It’s not just what the NPCs say and do, but more about what my Agent says and does that pulls me into this game.  Typically my character is pretty compassionate and looks for ways out of situations without mindless killing, but there was one point where she was dealing with a sociopath fallen on hard times and couldn’t be bothered to dredge up any sympathy as a result.  I saw the nice option and just couldn’t take it.  It’s not what she would do.

While you certainly can ESCape out of conversations in the middle of them to replay them, the fact you can’t just reload earlier save points gives your choices and dialogue more weight than in single-player BioWare products.  I’m constantly wondering what would’ve happened if I’d just done that other choice or said that other thing, but I know I have to live with what I did do.  That makes me consider options carefully, even when I realistically know that it’s just flavor text.

Chapter One concluded with a fairly epic confrontation that unfortunately was bugged out of the wazoo, which was a known issue that’s been mentioned more than once on the forums.  It took me quite a few tries to succeed in the fight as I not only had to combat the boss but struggle against the glitches that worked against me.  Speaking of which…

Time to go bug-stomping, BioWare

You know how you can love something and still see the flaws and call them out?  SWTOR is great, but dang is this a bug-riddled experience.  I’m not even talking about small typos or occasional glitches, but big stuff that really, really should’ve been caught in beta and fixed well before now.  It’s just embarrassing how many of them there are, including one of my favorites, when your companion character’s eyes or whole skin turns to this weird black-chrome finish.

If BioWare isn’t calling an open season on bugs with its dev team right now, then I’d be befuddled.  When you have such a polished game in most other regards sporting glaring bugs that everyone is seeing on a daily basis, it can’t but reflect badly on the focus of the company.  These need to get squashed ASAP, and that’s all I have to say about that.

19 thoughts on “SWTOR Chapter One: The Phantom Argument

  1. thade January 3, 2012 / 3:17 pm

    I agree with your opening comments completely. I’m both disenchanted with the people who are disenchanted with people that love new MMOs, and I’m enchanted with SWTOR. Unrelated. I had my own tirade today on a related issue; weird coincidence but I bet the “new year feeling” had something to do with it.

  2. thade January 3, 2012 / 3:20 pm

    That may be one of the most disjoined paragraphs I’ve ever written in a comment thread. Sorry for that.

  3. Syp January 3, 2012 / 3:23 pm

    It’s funny you write that, because I just read your post and loved it. Agree completely.

  4. Pliers January 3, 2012 / 3:44 pm

    I agree with most of what you’re saying. People discrediting the content of a post without mentioning anything in that post is crazy. SWTOR has been wonderful so far.

    It has group quests available, which is great (though I usually avoid them – they’re usually poorly located, and groups take a while to get to the area, and then someone goes afk…I just choose not to, but it’s a fine option), and something missing from WoW as they either removed group quests or made them soloable in everything but name.

    I’ve actually found general chat to be pretty helpful at answering quick questions, in contrast to a lot of the complaints I’ve heard about it being Barrens Chat 2.0, there isn’t much direct contact with others.

    However, the reason why I feel the merit in the RPG characterization is that I am frequently forced out of immersion in the game, and the AH is terrible. The conversations with NPCs take me out of the game. Having constant loading screens, including every time I get on or off my ship, or run a space mission, is frustrating. As someone who plays on an older computer, my questline at level 30 became almost unbearable, as I had to make about 13 trips for a glorified “deliver X to Y” quest. I spent more of level 30 in loading screens than playing the game. But I also realize my computer’s ancient status isn’t a fair indication of the game’s quality. The AH comment is largely because you simply cannot find what you want most of the time. The interface is terrible, and outside of your guild, you’ll probably work with whatever you have personally gathered. That’s okay, but in an MMO, I expect to be able to take advantage of the fact that there are thousands of other people playing. And having multiple shards just makes me feel like the game is emptier than it is. There may be 100 people on my planet according to the in game marker, but I’ll be lucky to see more than 5 of them before I move on to the next planet.

    A lot of these things you’ll find in WoW, or any other MMO. But this is a brand new game. It should be bursting with life. I’m loving the game, and spend more time than I should on it, but it doesn’t feel like a bustling new community.

    I’m not disagreeing with you overall, or your point about RPG vs MMORPG, but I do have some of the same experiences, and can see why people characterize it that way.

  5. Warsyde January 3, 2012 / 4:13 pm

    I think the readers who complain about people switching games are the die hard fans of one particular game who started reading a blog when the blogger was talking about that game. The blogger eventually moves on . . . but the reader is still invested, and not interested in talking about other games. They want to talk about THEIRGAME, and *blogger in question* is supposed to be a THEIRGAME blogger! They expect a dedicated franchisee, rather than a gaming enthusiast.

    I have friends who have played WoW since release without every letting their subscription lapse. I . . . can’t even comprehend it. They play other games, but only sporadically, WoW is their gaming home.

    It would be as if Blessing of Kings started talking about SWTOR! Oh . . . wait . . .

  6. bhagpuss January 3, 2012 / 4:41 pm

    I completely agree with your opening section. The more MMOs we all play and the more we discuss them, the better. And it’s absolutely the blogger’s inalienable right to write about whatever he darn well pleases on his or her own blog.

    The downside is that for the period of time that someone is focused on an MMO that I can’t seem to find any interest in at all, then no matter how much I’ve enjoyed that blogger’s thoughts on other MMOs I’ll struggle even to get through the articles on the MMO I’m so uninterested in. This is currently happening to me big-time with SSW:tOR, I had precious little interest in the game before it released, but the more I try to force myself to read about it, the more I begin to move from not being interested in the game to actively disliking it.

    For that reason alone I for one will be quite pleased if it does turn out that people begin to lose enthusiasm and drift on to other MMOs in a few weeks. Doesn’t need to be back to whatever they were writing about before – anything that isn’t Star Wars related will do!

  7. rowan January 3, 2012 / 5:30 pm

    Anyone who saw my almost day-long rant onTwitter this past Friday knows how I feel. I crystalized my feelings around the twin facts that people often think their personal gaming preferences are the Truth™, and that they frequently–perhaps unintentionally–insult the intelligence of other players when they express those opinions as fact.

    That said, I have been delighted with SWTOR so far. I am not as far along as you are in the IA story, Syp, but moving along nicely. I also have a Sith Assassin progressing toward that Chapter 1 denouement / Legacy title. Which one gets there first will depend on how much I play with my beloved wife over the next week or so.

  8. Loire January 3, 2012 / 5:36 pm

    I’m probably one of those players from your opening paragraphs but I wouldn’t discredit your writing solely because I scoff at your play habits. Nor, as mentioned above, do I wish you would only write about “my game”.

    From my personal experience I mock the “tourist” style of MMO gameplay because it’s different from me and we humans tend to dislike difference. I have always been the “stick with your virtual world” kind of guy, having never spent less than a year playing an MMO that I got into (except WAR). Perhaps it’s thanks to how I was raised(misguided loyalty and all that).

    Either way I continue to read Biobreak, and continue to take stock of Syp’s opinion (touristy carebear and all) because he’s a great writer with an obvious passion in genre who generally knows what he’s talking about (touristy carebear topics and all). I’d like to think most of us who softly laugh to ourselves when we see he’s onto a new Flavour of the (6)Month(s) do so without discrediting his opinion or his blog.

    Though, you’re totally a LotRO guy for life Syp. Just admit it.

  9. whwestman (@whwestman) January 3, 2012 / 7:25 pm

    I wouldn’t worry about it. I *want* to know about what is capturing your attention at the time. We seem to have frighteningly similar taste in games. You have been my pied piper to Fallen Earth, Rift, and even Allods and I don’t regret it for a second. You have me anticipating Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World as well. I did manage to find SWTOR on my own since I am a gamer who knows exactly where he was in May of 1977 🙂

    I am glad you seem to be enjoying it as much as I am.

    I also chose an Operative Agent and love being able to do absolutely everything in the game – melee,ranged,stealth,and healing.

    Keep up the good work!

  10. ScytheNoire January 4, 2012 / 2:27 am

    The bugs and major problems (mostly missing features) is driving me nuts.

    But the story is what keeps me going. So even if don’t fix all the issues I have with the game, I still figure I got about six months worth of story to play through all the classes.

    After that, they better have this crap sorted out.

  11. Bronte January 4, 2012 / 9:12 am

    “First of all, I’ve yet to meet a single person who has only played one game — period — in their life and has yet to leave it. ”

    Clearly you need to meet my aunt Farida and her bridge crew!

  12. Moxie January 4, 2012 / 9:22 am

    Or my personal favorite: “Sure they say it’s fun, but what is ‘fun’? It’s not advancing the genre!”

    Haters gonna hate, dawg. Sometimes it blows my mind that gamers separate themselves into little camps that hate all the other little camps. Actually, competition is the best thing that could happen for the genre. Make the devs work for it. 😉

    But yeah, I’m loving SWTOR so far. I can’t promise that it’s where I’ll be in 3 months or 6 months or whatever, but it’s darn enjoyable for now. My biggest worry is that their story/cutscene approach is going to ruin me for other MMOs.

  13. Moxie January 4, 2012 / 9:55 am

    and by the way… I created an Empire-side Bounty Hunter the other night – I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around once I get my legacy locked down Republic-side. 🙂

  14. UnSubject January 4, 2012 / 10:09 pm

    The issue of players discounting bloggers who leave games is probably related to the hype cycle the precedes The Next Big Thing. The blogger can cover a lot of territory with, “This game will be the best ever! This game will be the best ever!”-style commentary, reposting and dissecting every comment from developers and previews, then gushing over their open beta experiences.

    It then looks a bit off when it takes them less than 3 months to give up on the game that they seemed so attached to, but the truth is that the game in your head is almost always going to be better than the game on the screen, or what sounded good on paper doesn’t work in reality, or even the feature(s) they were going to use get changed during beta and doesn’t work like they expected it to. It is perfectly acceptable to change your mind, but when you’ve very clearly staked out a position you need to be able to explain that change.

    Which is why I try to wait and see before getting too excited any more. SWOR was The Next Big Thing, but it has launched and now players can evaluate its reality, and I expect that Guild Wars 2 is going to be The Next Big Thing that this cycle will repeat for in 2012.

  15. Llokki January 4, 2012 / 11:32 pm

    @bhagpuss: “I had precious little interest in the game before it released, but the more I try to force myself to read about it, the more I begin to move from not being interested in the game to actively disliking it.”

    The question this raises for me is, why do you feel you need to force yourself to read these articles. If they’re on a subject that doesn’t interest you… don’t read them?
    No offense, but I thought it’d be kind of obvious that forcing yourself to do something you have no interest in would foster a dislike in said something.

  16. Telwyn January 5, 2012 / 9:31 am

    I’ve been following Bio Break for a while, and I think multi-game blogs are by far the most interesting. The wave of criticism against SWTOR almost caught me by surprise but then I’ve followed quite a few game launches since 2009 (when I started reading blogs/forums on gaming) and it’s a familiar enough pattern.

    I have found the voiced-story system to be surprisingly engaging, especially in multi-player groups. Interestingly enough my main comparison would be with Oblivion (don’t have Skyrim) which has lots of voiced conversations with NPCs – but SWTOR wins hands down. The voice acting in Oblivion isn’t great and the system mechanics are glaring obvious as so many responses are generic ones.

    I haven’t tried an agent yet, though will certainly at some point. Also I agree 100% re: grouping. I like to duo with a friend in most games I play and the difficulty level of general missions and the heroics is well tuned to this style of gameplay. Couple that with a decent guild and you can play a lot of your time in groups, which of course the social point system helps to encourage anyway.

  17. kinlayaus January 8, 2012 / 4:48 pm

    Totally Agree,

    I also roll an agent, sitting as around 44 Operative currently, the epic bugs on that final fight for my legacy seriously had me pulling my hair out…. ended up throwing my companion on passive, then running through the “boss” (no spoilers on who it is) and dragging him backwards. One seriously tough fight…

    Nice to see you are blogging about TOR & Especially as an Operative!

  18. Julie Whitefeather January 17, 2012 / 6:37 pm

    The blogosphere seems filled within individuals who feel that for their game to succeed all others must fail. Do I play a game until I don’t like it any more? Should I stay out of loyalty? Heck now. To quote Hawkeye Pierce, “If I don’t like a party I leave.”

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