6 games I’m planning to play this fall

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I can’t believe summer is already over and we’re into September! It’s a time of transition in more ways than one, with the kids going back to school, my fall season starting, and many games and expansions coming out. So I wanted to give an update of what I’m thinking of playing this fall.

(1) WildStar 

With free-to-play less than a month away and Shade’s Eve a little after that, there’s tons to look forward to with WildStar. Right now I’m pouring my energy into my new Medic, hoping to get her up to a decent level and out of the path of the F2P crowds when they come in. I’m also stockpiling crafting mats so she can work on architecture and running daily challenges on other toons to get her housing decor.

(2) Star Wars: The Old Republic

Some time in October early access will commence for Knights of the Fallen Empire, and you can bet that I’ll be there on day one to start in on the new storyline. I’m really excited to see what this new format will bring to the game, and I’m always down for more story. The only question is whether or not my bounty hunter will be ready — she just dinged 50 yesterday but has yet to finish her personal story, nevermind the extra planets, Hutt Cartel, and Shadows of Revan.

(3) Fallout 4

This is mid-November, I believe. I haven’t pre-ordered yet, but I’m sure to get a copy. It’s Fallout — how can I not? Love me some good post-apocalyptic exploration, even if I’m not the hugest fan of Bethesda’s gameplay style.

My only pause is that this time last year I was all excited about Wasteland 2, and I haven’t even picked that up yet. Big huge solo RPGs are a major time investment, alas.

(4) Sword Coast Legends

Lots of great word-of-mouth regarding SCL from PAX, although I was already on board with this anyway. This is another September release, so it’s right around the corner. Now I need to find four friends to play it with!

(5) Project Gorgon

You haven’t seen any posts about this because I’ve been holding back a bit lately — WildStar and SWTOR are taking priority with various projects, and I know that I’m going to reroll as a Dwarf when PG finally gets that race out. That said, I do want to explore life as a cow and do some more research about the game. To the wiki!

(6) Marvel Heroes

I don’t have any one overarching goal right now in this game, which might be why my interest has faltered. Should I focus on gearing up Doctor Doom more? Beat cosmic trial on Squirrel Girl and get her raiding? Level up all of the heroes to 60? All of the above? None? Ah well, it’s all fun and games. I’m glad there are plans in the works to get more story content in for the coming year, not to mention the danger room.

Why can’t I get into SWTOR’s housing?

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The other day I was talking with MOP’s Jef, who was saying how he had just spent a few hours doing nothing but customizing his SWTOR house. I don’t find the concept of playing virtual dollhouse odd at all, but it made me think about how little I feel the urge to get into SWTOR’s housing system, even though I’m usually a housing nut.

I mean, housing drives 80% of my activities in WildStar. I run daily challenges for decor, I quest for money to pour into my house, I fight mobs hoping that a FABkit or a housing item will drop. I love flitting back to my private island and customizing my pad.

Then again, what is appealing in one MMO isn’t necessarily going to appeal in another. I don’t universally like all MMO pet classes even though I’m drawn to those types. Some games just feel off or aren’t satisfying. I loved dungeon running in RIFT but will never do it in WildStar because the combat and difficulty is different.

So what is it about The Old Republic’s housing that turns me off? Why am I not more into nesting there? I don’t think there’s any one reason but instead several, ranging from nitpicky to serious:

(1) There’s no convenient “go to house” button on my screen.

Yes, this is the epitome of laziness, but the fact that I have to open up a menu and then click another button to teleport to my house keeps home visitation off my radar. In LOTRO, RIFT, and WildStar, that house warp button is right on the screen at all times. Why can’t we have an ability that does that in SWTOR the same as the other teleports?

(2) I’m not the biggest fan of the hook system.

Listen, it’s great that SWTOR added housing, and you will not get any argument from me that its version of hook-type housing is better than what LOTRO did. There’s more wiggle room to position stuff, to be sure.

On the other hand, it’s still a hook system with far more limitations than an “anything goes” system that I’ve enjoyed in RIFT, WildStar, and EQ2. And having hook squares only allowing certain types of decorations to be placed annoys me greatly. This is my house, and if I want to put a couch on the ceiling, I should be allowed to do so!

(3) I never get housing drops while questing.

Where does everyone in SWTOR get all their housing stuff? That’s what I want to know. It certainly isn’t from questing and killing mobs, because I think I’ve only seen one or two housing-related drops ever since that expansion came out. I would have thought that housing stuff would be great quest rewards, but again, never see them.

Instead, I’m guessing that most everyone either buys stuff off the vendor, the cash shop, or the GTN. That’s practical, I suppose, but it takes the fun away from the game randomly handing me a fun item and then prompting me to go add it to my house. Plus, I’m never even reminded that I *have* a house when there are no drops.

(4) I still think of my ship as “home.”

Yes, I understand why BioWare couldn’t allow us to customize the interiors of our ship for cutscene purposes, but I say that the devs were short-sighted in that regard and should have made it work anyway. For my character and for me, my ship IS my home. I have a convenient teleport ability to get there. I use the ship all the time and enjoy its practical services, such as accessing cargo space. It’s small and neat and the place I always go between missions.

That’s the home I want to decorate with my trophies and gadgets.

My apartment? It’s like a summer cottage that I occasionally visit but don’t really need. Sure, I can throw in some interactive services like mail and whatnot, but there’s nothing it can do for me that fleet can’t. I’m not so ostentatious that I feel that I need a second home in a game.

Anyway, I told you these were piddly reasons, but if I’m being honest, they’re why SWTOR’s housing gets very little interest from me. I’m not writing it off entirely; I should invest some time in sprucing up my pad at some point. It’s just not on my radar.

Update: Ack, I totally forgot a major pet peeve, so consider this #5. The interface to select housing items is really, really wonky to work with. You can only see a few items per page and have to wrassle with filters (hook type, etc.). I just want a BIG HONKING LIST of what I have at my disposal in an easy-to-read format.

SWTOR: Knights of the Fallen Empire’s most exciting new feature revealed

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AUSTIN, TX — BioWare, creator of Star Wars: The Old Republic and industry innovator in capitalizing middle letters of studio names, announced to the world that it had one major feature up its sleeve for the upcoming Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion.

“We are proud to reveal that BioWare has been working on cutting-edge wound animation technology and will be implementing these exciting advancements with Knights of the Fallen Empire,” Studio Creative Director James Ohlen said.

The new tech will allow studio animators to add an additional pose for wounded NPCs and heroes, bringing the count up to two. Ohlen revealed that not only will characters whose legs are shattered, bellies shot up, and heads caved in by lightsabers instinctively clutch at their left-hand side — but now be able to grab their right-hand side as well.

“Truly what a glorious age we live in,” he said. “This will allow our storytelling team greater flexibility for those inevitable moments where players’ psychopathic characters callously inflict grave injuries on bystanders and office drones in the name of building up ‘dark side points.’

Players are invited to try out the new injury animation on the test server by attacking a clone of Corso Riggs.

Should SWTOR do away with side quests entirely?

Reader Pedge sent me a question about SWTOR on Twitter last night:

You really need to make an article calling for the end of side quests. Star Wars The Old Republic’s massive story XP boost is letting me skip everything but the plot. And it feels great.

I mean, who would have wanted to see Luke Skywalker actually go into town and pickup those power converters??

I feel like it’s a film moving along at a great pace. I just wish they would keep the idea and just have the story line. No more kill these or fetch these. (Although SWTOR does have a “kill so many ” quest system as you go into the area that your doing your story in. But that I don’t mind.”

It’s funny because I was just talking to guildies the other day about how much better the game feels with this 12x story mode versus the old do-every-quest method. For starters, it’s so much easier to track your character’s story when it’s not being broken up by hours of filler. I used to praise the loading screen summaries just because they’d remind me what my character was supposed to be doing.

I’ve long since become an advocate of MMOs having fewer but more involved quests. I think we’re past the days where “hundreds of quests” is a compelling feature bullet point on the back of a box. It’s why I love The Secret World’s dedication to making you focus on only one main quest at a time with more narrative and steps than an average MMO mission.

We know that while BioWare will be turning off 12x this October, the studio has also said that it will be streamlining the 1-60 leveling process somewhat. I’d probably guess that means they’ll keep in the character and world storylines and perhaps the bonus series with increased XP and rewards for those while ditching most of the side quests.

In some cases, it would be a shame to lose those side quests. Lots of voice acting went into them and a few are pretty decent. Not to mention that side quests do offer more opportunity to get to know and influence your companions and rack up those light/dark side points. But for the most part I’d agree that now that SWTOR has grown, it has more than enough meaty story content to hold it up that it doesn’t need the crutch of the side quest any longer.

You can see BioWare’s already leaning in this direction anyway with Yavin, etc., as the side missions are just quick tasks you can pick up that don’t have any spoken dialogue or cutscenes associated. They’re tasks if you want the rewards and to grind out rep, but skippable otherwise.

Join our SWTOR guild!

On a different note, our guild — Nefarious Intent, Imperial side on the Ebon Hawk server — has opened up recruitment and become a sort of unofficial/official Massively OP guild. We’ve had tons of recruits in the past few days, and if you’re looking for a home, the easiest way is to “/cjoin massivelyop” and ask in that channel for a guild invite.

SWTOR: Good, bad, I’m the girl with the gun

gr1In Army of Darkness, Ash sums up his role as an antihero with the phase, “Good, bad, I’m the guy with the gun.” In an alternate take, be blows off the head of a demonite and grows, “I ain’t that good.” Either way, he projects that attitude that while he may technically be on the light side, he’s only just… and he’s willing to toe the line if it amuses him or if the bad guys push him too far.

The antihero is fun to both watch and play because he or she isn’t as strictly constrained by rules as the pure goody two-shoes hero. In a game where the Jedi attitude sickens me with their dull pious arrogance, it’s decidedly fun to play good in a different — and dirtier — way.

gr2So my bounty hunter has won the Great Hunt — what, did you expect that there would be a lose condition with this? Where the bounty hunter class would return home in disgrace and spend the rest of the hours in the game choosing snack options while watching the TV? — and been inducted into the super-sekret winners club. What does this mean? Well, more of the same, really: More contracts, more assassinations/kidnappings.

As a side note, I love how characters in SWTOR always make a big deal out of how much money they’re going to give you for various tasks, but it’s always a pittance based on the level. Talk big, pay little. That’d be a good summary of the reward system.

gr3I picked up a new companion, Torian, aka “Pretty Boy.” Here I am stepping on his face and showing him who’s boss. I do not think he’s going to supplant Gault as my companion of choice.

Man, SWTOR, what I wouldn’t give for more than one companion to be out at a time! I miss that from other BioWare games, where the companions would bicker and talk between each other. Here I have to make a tough choice who to bring and it always makes me feel like I’m missing out.

gr4Because who would want to miss out on Gault? Nice to know he’s got a quip ready for when a sniper repeatedly takes me down on Taris.

gr5So a product endorsement on Quesh turns out to be a silly trap by the Republic SIS and a Jedi padawan that I spared in an earlier chapter. Seriously, girl? I saved your life and this is how you repay me? I do not feel bad clicking the button to insta-kill you.

I’ve been thinking a lot about choices in storytelling games as of late between SWTOR and Telltale’s Walking Dead Season 2. Both games really want to lend the player agency in making decisions but struggle with how to genuinely allow the player to alter the story. In most cases, it’s cosmetic flavor — the story is a raging river flowing to the same destination no matter what while players can nudge the waters here and there for a different kind of splash.

It’s got to be terribly hard to try to come up with choices that won’t result in a massive branching off of the story into two or more divergent segments. That sort of branching might be more possible in a Choose Your Own Adventure book, where the resources required are some typing and a flow chart, but out of the question in games where you have to pay voice actors and take the story to a set conclusion, more or less.

BioWare’s made some noise about putting more into its choices and consequences with the fall expansion, so we’ll see if the devs have managed to crack this code.

gr6In other news, I’m now on Hoth and have met Blizz. I am a very happy Bounty Hunter indeed, because all I’ve ever wanted is a crazy Jawa at my side.

SWTOR: Fears of a Fallen Empire

fallenI’m really going to agree with Werit’s sentiments about SWTOR: Knights of the Fallen Empire and BioWare’s relative silence on talking up this game-changing expansion — especially in regard to the issue of companions.

Seriously, I’m OK with a lot of what I’m hearing here: a story reboot of sorts, a new enemy that unifies old foes (and puts everyone on the same story path), a monthly episodic rollout, choices that matter. But BioWare’s been either quiet or relatively unclear about how SWTOR will feel and function come two months from now, and that’s a problem. It’s a very serious problem when you roll in the question of companions.

I would say to many — maybe most — SWTOR players, companions matter. They matter in both a storytelling and a combat assist capacity, and over the years and levels we’ve formed some strong attachments to them. One companion outright costs money (unless your legacy level is quite high) and another one requires a planet-hopping scavenger hunt to activate. We’ve invested time in leveling up companions’ affection to see their own stories play out and gotten used to them fighting at our side.

So BioWare — how is this going to change in October? Because we really, really need to know.

We’ve been told that as the game shoots ahead five years into the future, we’ll be put in carbonite freeze and our companions will be scattered. We’ve been told that we’ll be able to re-acquire some of our companions as well as new ones. We know that if we sub up now, then we’ll get a new gunslinger companion in October. And we know that our choices may result in companions leaving and/or dying.

What we DON’T know is even greater. Will we be able to get back ALL of our former companions? If not, what happens to their gear? Their stories? Can we jump back in “time” to play with them? Is BioWare trying to give all players mostly the same companion set? Is it too difficult to get all of the voice actors back to record new lines? How much warning will we get if one of our choices will result in a permanent companion discharge? Will BioWare allow us to get rid of Treek and HK-51, which some players paid actual money for? Will the affection system endure? What about romances with certain companions?

I want to know. I REALLY want to know. Should I even bother getting attached to my Bounty Hunter’s companions as I level up right now or should I be prepared to never see them again after October?

I hope we’ll have the option to retain any companion we like. I would be rather put out if some of my Agent or BH’s companions never came back and would probably hold a grudge even if the new companions were great.

I’m a little concerned. A little worried. And if BioWare would just talk about these things, then maybe I could put those anxieties to rest while preparing for some serious fun.