6 things that bug me about MMOs that I like

bugmeI think we’re always loathe to outright criticize MMOs that we really like in fear that it will push players away from games that are otherwise terrific. But if you are too scared to do so, then you gain blinders and lose perspective.

Thus, this is my small Monday morning measure of attaining balance by admitting to six things that kind of really bug me about MMOs that I like.

WildStar: For a game that has made such a big, big deal about customization (and excels in this in many areas), the fact that classes can wield one and only one type of weapon (set) vastly annoys me. In most MMOs you can choose from different weapon types and experience different visual flair and animations, but here? What you got at level 1 is the same at level 50.

The Secret World: This game’s wonderful storytelling and nuanced body language is sometimes undercut by faces that are ugly and border on the uncanny valley. The facial art style doesn’t gel for me the way that it should and serves as an irritant when I’m trying to get into the tale.

Marvel Heroes: This game’s social tools are really lacking, I’ve found. There needs to be support to join multiple supergroups, better supergroup tools, and a proper LFG tool. Fast track these, Gazillion!

Star Wars: The Old Republic: I do love that the game has housing, but coming from other MMOs like RIFT and WildStar, it can’t help but fail to live up to the industry standard. I am not a fan of the clumsy hooks and placement interface that makes sorting through one’s decor far more tedious than it should be.

RIFT: Such ugly armor. Such ugly. It makes the awesome wardrobe system weep in frustration. What is up with the armor artists in this game? Why must we all look like first drafts of a ninth grader’s fantasy portfolio?

Neverwinter: Cryptic not only failed to live up to the insanely high standard it set for character creation in City of Heroes, but failed to live up to the industry medium in this respect. I am stunned how hard it is to make good or interesting-looking characters in this game with the sub-par customization options on display. Do they even know how hair looks?

SWTOR: Bounty hunting’s more fun with Mako!

mako1At the SWTOR endgame, it kind of stinks that your interaction with your companions is limited to finishing up their storylines and the occasional combat quote they throw out. Going through the bounty hunter storyline is reminding me of how fun it is to have a companion there for color, commentary, and even ethical influence.

For starting companions, I have to give it up to Mako. Lots better than some other starting companions I’ve seen. Little young and naive, but she’s also got a wickedly funny streak to her that’s made me chortle more than once during dialogue bits.

mako2Hey look, that’s the new (third edition) Yeeti on the right there! I agonized over skin color, particularly the traditional blue, the movie green, or this bright pink/peach/red hue. Pink won out just to be different from the blue Chiss.

Also, it’s not a Star Wars story without some implied incest, right?

mako3Star Wars: Big Important Desk of the Old Republic. I would totally play that.

I did try out the other Mako heads that I was offered early on in the personal story, but none of them fit her as well as this one.

When Mako isn’t there to be snarky during cutscenes, I’ve been sending her out on a non-stop series of crew mission runs. I figure that doing the 12x thing also means that I’m not going to be spending as much time on each planet and could easily outpace slicing node level requirements. I also picked up treasure hunting for when I get more companions, because I’m really going to need those companion gifts to make up for the lack of dialogue encounters that will offer influence points. Plus, it’s pretty amusing to me to send out the crew to bring back gifts that I’m going to be giving right back to them. Like handing a relative a gift card and telling them to go shop for their own birthday gift.

Financing all of those crew missions will be my operative’s task; I’ll get to do a bit of farming here and there. Got her well over a million credits the other night, which is nothing to regulars but was a first for me. Trying to decide how much money I’m going to be sinking into expanding and decking out my stronghold, as it’s been somewhat neglected.

Battle Bards Episode 55: Star Wars: The Old Republic

swtorposterA long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, three Battle Bards decided to give Star Wars: The Old Republic its own show (finally). While we’ve talked about SWTOR many times before on the podcast, this week we’ll go full-on space opera with our look into what made this soundtrack both memorable and maddening!

Episode 55 show notes

  • Intro (featuring “Star Wars Main Theme” and “Peace, the Jedi Consular”)
  • “Main Theme (Clash of Destiny)”
  • “Shapa Keesay (Shape-Shifter)”
  • “Romance”
  • “Tatooine, the Desert Sands”
  • “The Occupation of Balmorra”
  • “Revan’s Theme”
  • “Bravado, the Smuggler”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Jukebox: The Witcher 3, The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot, Dragon Quest X
  • Outro (featuring “Yesterday’s Jawa”)

Listen to episode 55 now!

SWTOR: Why is it so hard to play the bad guy?

kronkEvery time I roll up a new SWTOR character, I keep having the best of intentions to walk down the dark side. After all, my operative is pure light (with a few revenge-related hiccups along the way), so it’s all about seeing how the other side lives. But the weird thing is… I’ve never been able to stick with a dark side character for very long. I simply cannot connect with one.

It could partially be that most “evil” choices are of a sociopathic nature, playing to murder, betrayal, and utter greed. Extremes aren’t always that attractive. But I think a more important aspect is that I’m always looking to connect with my character, and while I might make noise sometime about being the rebel anti-hero in a game, there’s a line that gets crossed when my avatar becomes the bad guy or gal.

Playing an evil character, for me, satisfies a morbid curiosity about what may happen if I pull the red lever. It may even be gratifying to not always play by the goodie two-shoes rules or to put annoying NPCs in their place. But very rarely does it end up endearing that character to me.

Weird as it may sound, I genuinely care what NPCs “think” of my character. I certainly do care what I think of him or her too. When I am helpful in a quest or perform some feat of justice, it makes me smile inside. I become endeared to this character, because they’re what I’d envision I would do if I was in their place and had their capabilities (and utter fearlessness of death).

None of us in real life are truly good, but I think that most of us aspire to be and are attracted to virtues lived genuinely. It shouldn’t be surprising that these feelings translate into video games, especially ones that seek to emulate (on a basic level) the moral choices we face.

Thinking of all of this, I had to pull the plug on my new bounty hunter. I just couldn’t play the bad guy, even over on the Empire side. I spent my monthly cartel coin allowance to unlock a Twi’lek and rolled up a new (female, because the male voice is way too deep for my taste) bounty hunter.

I made a game of seeing how quickly I could blitz through Hutta to catch up with where my old character was at. I think I clocked in at under an hour, picking light side choices all of the way through. This time around, the character “fit” a lot better and I was able to sink into the role. Sure, she may go dark side choice now and then if it fits the situation, but she’s not going to be cutting off any more heads and giving them to grieving widows.

SWTOR: Ravaging the Ravagers

op1I logged into SWTOR last night with lightly ambitious plans to work on my bounty hunter (who is now on Dromund Kaas, has a companion, and three speeders to boot). And while I did run one instance with him as a healer — with not one, but TWO heals at my disposal! — my plans got waylaid when my guild invited me to join in on a story-mode Ravagers operation.

Sure, why not? I don’t think I’ve ever done an op in SWTOR before, certainly not this past year due to the free-to-play restriction. But now I’m part of that special sub club. I had no illusions that I was going to add a great amount of DPS to the team (I’m only just geared enough for an entry-point to hard modes and operations), but I guess a little is better than nothing.

It’s always weird when you step into an instance where everyone else knows the fights intimately and you’re just struggling to figure out what the heck is going on. While everyone was kindly explaining over Mumble what to do, it still made me feel like a little child who was being babysat: “No, Timmy, don’t eat worms. Don’t stand in the fire, either.” But we had good healers and I didn’t die, so at least it wasn’t as embarassing as it could’ve been.

op2The one cool thing about raids is that the devs tend to put some really cool visuals into them. I rather enjoyed this romp around the backwoods (so to speak) of Rishi. The fights weren’t too tough — story mode and all — but I’ve been having some problems with this computer that it’s struggling to handle everything that’s going on. I even reduced my graphics to medium, but still most of the fights were stuttery, slide show affairs that further cemented the feeling of being semi-useless.

Although considering that I haven’t really played my operative in a good while, I was pleased that my combat rotation came back to me rather fast.

op3I think my guild liked me being there simply to show off what they had seen a hundred times before. Everyone had a good laugh about a couple of cutscenes where suddenly your character is surrounded by a team that’s made up of complete strangers, including Fat Jedi and Astronaut Dude. Where did they come from? Where do they go? It’s all a mystery.

In the end we were victorious and I came away with a small pile of loot upgrades, including two new implants, a couple of headpieces, and more. I followed up the operation by heading back to Yavin-4 and farming slicing nodes for a while. Another nice benefit of being a subscriber is no more 350K credit cap; now I can get as rich as I want. I’m rounding on a million credits now, although I don’t have any specific purchase in mind. Everyone’s saving up for the Yavin stronghold, which might be interesting to buy.

SWTOR: Bodyguards ‘R Us

star1One upshot of my recent Final Fantasy XIV adventures is that I’ve come to realize that I have a deep desire to not only get back into the MMO dungeon scene, but to be a healer too. And that is a bit of a problem with much of my current line-up — mostly TSW, WildStar, and Marvel Heroes — all of which doesn’t quite offer me the experience to do that. I’m not set up as a healer in TSW (and don’t like the healing branches anyway), WildStar’s dungeons feel too frantic for me, and Marvel Heroes doesn’t really have healing characters and the traditional dungeon.

So in a weird way, FFXIV ended up pushing me right back into SWTOR’s arms. I had previously written SWTOR off for the summer until the expansion, but when I read the recent dev diary about flashpoint and operation changes, I thought that it might not be the worst idea in the world to roll up a new healer-focused character. I even subbed up for the time being, mostly to try the 12x leveling experience, but also because it gets me some extra goodies and allows my level 60 to snag the Yavin-4 companion gear sets that were previously denied to me as a F2P player.

Another nudge in this direction came when someone told me that — and I had no idea why I was ignorant of this — the bounty hunter offers a healing spec. That was perfect for me, since it would let me stay in my guild on the Empire side and play a non-force using class.

starrrrrSo Yeeti, Yeti’s older brother, was born. I went with another Chiss because the other races weren’t clicking with how I saw the character, but unlike Yeti, I’ll be playing him dark side through-and-through. Kind of a cutthroat merc who might be nice to his teammates but will never turn down a chance to get even or make a buck.

The 12x experience really is so much different than the traditional route. I wouldn’t want to do this on my first time through, and even now it’s making my eye twitch to be passing up all of these other (now unnecessary) quests. But I do appreciate how the personal story isn’t being broken up, but can be experienced straight through.

And then there’s the fact that you complete a mission and jump up two or three levels in a go. I haven’t even finished Hutta yet and I’m already level 13. I’ve had to buy some armor to make up for the lack of helpful quest rewards.

star3Still lugging around this corpse, I guess in my side pocket. Better turn it in soon or she’s going to start to smell.

I’m fairly excited about the potential to start running dungeons soon and try my hand at the bodyguard spec. Apart from heals, Yeeti is eschewing most of the bounty hunter toolset to focus on blaster skills. Hey, it’s just a for-fun character, and I get more enjoyment out of running around blasting things instead of shooting missiles and darts and flamethrowers, so why not?

I am looking forward to seeing the full bounty hunter quest line. I previously played a BH a couple of years back and got through most of chapter 1, but little past that.