The evolution of LFG groups

Today SWTOR is updating with patch 1.3, which will include a LFG (looking for group)  functionality. That means if you want to find a group for a flashpoint/instance, you will be able to bring up the LFG tool and select your chosen destination and the roles you are willing to fill in a group (ie. tank, healer, dps) and the request will enter a queue. When the group is ready, you’ll be notified and will be able to jump into your new shiny pick-up group to complete the instance. (You can still also use the old fashioned method of putting the group together yourself via friends list/ guild/ general chat.)

A lot of MMO players feel that this type of group-creator tool is now mandatory in any game which contains group content. That is an indication of how popular these tools have been in WoW and other games which offer the facility. It could also be argued that battlegrounds also have this functionality, where you queue separately and are placed in a random group when the instance comes up. So it seems like a good time to evaluate how random groups are doing in WoW, partly because I’ve seen a couple of posts come up on my reader over the last week that suggest that people are having issues.

First thing to note is this– The general idea with the random group finder is:

  • It should be quicker to find a group this way than by other methods, and also less hassle. This assumes a lot of people are queueing and with a decent mix of class roles, so that the maximum time you have to wait for your instance is reasonable. Also some people have an aversion to talking to anyone else in game so this way they can group without ever having to do so.
  • Playing with a random selection of people means you’ll end up with a mix of player skill/knowledge in the group but should hopefully be good enough for everyone to complete the instance. That is to say: you can’t be too fussy if you voluntarily sign up for a random group, but the mix should be manageable.
Since WoW introduced LFG (in Wrath) the way people use the tool has changed, depending on the position in the patch cycle and difficulty of the instances. I remember when it first came in I had a new level 80 Deathknight and threw myself into LFG to gear her up, and it was amazing. The groups just zipped up, most of the players were decent (or at least the instances were easy which made everyone look decent) and the gear and tokens flew like water. People were generally happy as long as you seemed to be actively helping the group and it was viewed as a great success.
Later Blizzard added extra inducements to players to queue, in the form of a group buff and extra rewards for whichever role was the most in demand in the queue at the time — usually tanks but occasionally healers. My experiences with using LFG were occasionally amusingly bad, but generally worked out well. Some groups were a bit rubbish but the vast majority were fine. Players in general started to feel more stressed in LFG groups as some of the hardcore players weren’t tolerant of people who didn’t play at their level, wanted speed runs, and criticised other people’s performance even when it was perfectly adequate for the instance. (ie. somehow they forgot that random means random.) So on the whole things were working out well, even though tanks and healers in particular were feeling the strain of expectations, and dps were beginning to be quite judged on their dps.
Getting that mix of experienced and inexperienced players into the queueing system means that both sets of players need to have an incentive to grind instances. Typically this has been extra tokens and the lure of a short queue and fast run. At the beginning of an expansion or after a new patch, everyone is after tokens so the queue is populated and there are plenty of good players to pad out the mix. (This is both good and bad, because some of them are elitists who ruin other people’s experience with their unreasonable expectations.) But right now, at the tail end of a WoW expansion, experienced endgame players are not very incentivised.
WoW did also convert the daily LFG bonuses into weekly bonuses, where instead of getting a bonus for the first LFG you run per day, there are seven bonus LFG runs per week so if you want to log in on Wednesday night and do seven runs, you can get your weekly bonus in a lump. This may well have incentivised hardcore players to do this very thing rather than spreading their LFG queuing more evenly across the week. So it could be that if you are unlucky enough to be queueing at the end of the week, you are more likely to end up with a bunch of worse players. I don’t know if that’s the case, I’m not in WoW at the moment so can’t test it. But it is possible, and would mean that Blizzard had sabotaged their own LFG system and forgotten that the primary need is to keep a variety of players in the queue at all times.

The Grumpy Elf and Stubborn both report recent experiences with very poorly performing PUGs in WoW. If random players are queueing evenly, this probably shouldn’t happen because you should generally get a mix of good and poor players.

My usual reaction would be “You chose to queue for a random group, don’t complain if the random players you got were rubbish,” but if this is more than a few isolated experiences and has become a trend, it may speak to something more systematic in the player base. As well as hardcore players having no incentive to queue, what would make other players actively not care about trying to play well. Or just adequately. For example, my experiences in PUGs in SWTOR where none of us really knew what we were doing were still positive, the groups worked together to try to figure things out. There were enough MMO dinos to explain concepts around tanking and healing to people and the instances were mostly tuned so that we could manage them.

So what would make players actively ignore this in favour of just running off and hitting random stuff? Could be that they’re kids. (This may be a bit unfair to kids but we don’t really expect them to know how to play nice with others if they haven’t been shown — or in other words “blame the parents.”) Could be that they’ve learned from interaction with LFG that they can do what they want. Could be they just don’t give a shit (this quite likely happens in low level or easy instances). Or is this a natural evolution of LFG functionality, that the more hardcore players will hit the queues hard at the start of a patch/ expansion but will exit the system in large numbers as soon as they have got all the goodies they need, leaving it to less experienced players? And even then, why would less experienced players be so bad? Or does that truly represent that average player who queues for LFG?

Have you experienced player quality in LFG dropping recently if you play WoW? I’m quite looking forwards to trying the new tool out in SWTOR when I get home next week, I have a fairly new level 50 Bounty Hunter healer to play around with.

Battlechicken’s Hymn of the Old Republic

In online games, devs and exploiters play a constant cat and mouse game in which as the stakes are raised, players are subjected to more and more intrusive online monitoring systems. Just to make sure we aren’t cheating and to try to keep our games free from bots, hacks, cheats, and so forth.

You will see similar issues with firewalls and virus protection programs. There is a tradeoff between safety and being able to actually use your hardware/ software unimpaired. And the other tradeoff is around false positives. That is, people who actually weren’t doing anything wrong being pegged by the system as a potential cheater. In the social care field, we talk about the tension between the roles of care vs control. That is to say: you want to support your users to have fun, live their lives, and do the things they want to do. But at the same time, it’s your job to make sure they don’t harm each other or abuse the system. That tends to make workers veer towards the paranoid side, which is a very bad thing if it ends up harming innocent users.

If anyone is following Battlechicken, you’ll be aware of her running battle with the Bioware customer service team, after having been banned from SWTOR on account of a false positive. It’s not pleasant reading, full of form emails which won’t even explain which dodgy program she was allegedly running and lack of communication from the CS team. So it’s nice to read that Bioware (finally) did the decent thing, contacted her, apologised, and reinstated her account. And they are now reconsidering how they will respond to this type of customer service issue – hopefully they’ll be able to learn from the experience.

I wonder how many players would have just quietly dropped the game, upset, on receiving the first email and not tried to fight back and argue their case. I wonder how many would have kept trying after the second and third form email.

Anyhow, props to both Battlechicken and the CS team (who are after all just trying to keep the game safe for players) and hopefully some good lessons can be learned from this.

[SWTOR] Server transfers– A New Hope?

EUservers

It has been a busy couple of weeks for Star Wars: The Old Republic, what with the server transfers and announcements at E3 about new content heading our way before the years’ end. Plagued by aggressive love/hate reactions from the more vocal aspects of the playerbase since well before launch, it perhaps is not surprising that the recently announced server transfers have set the cat among the pigeons. One thing that Bioware have learned from Mythic’s experience with WAR is that once you have decided to go for mergers/ transfers, don’t do it half heartedly.

The first time my WAR characters got pegged for a server merge, I went with it. The second time was harder, and by the time we had a third server merge I was gone already. The SWTOR agenda has been to designate a fairly small number of destination servers and offload lots of origin servers to each one. I do understand that being asked to switch servers, possibly with associated namechange if your character’s name is taken, is a disruptive experience. But it’s so much better than waiting for  long slow server death (which has been a current factor for many WoW servers for awhile, although Blizzard hide it with cross server LFG and BGs) that I’m thrilled that Bioware are taking it seriously. It has been an unqualified lift for my gaming, and I’ll come back to that later.

The screenshot here shows the EU servers as of 5pm today, so not yet peak evening time. It’s clear which the destination servers are here: they are the ones at the top which do not have light loads.

So how is transfer treating people?

I feel for players like Shintar who are wrestling with the decision about whether or not to go, and Kae for whom the disruption of a namechange killed his connection with the game.

My experience has been different.

SWTOR is coming up now on the 6 month mark and sad as I am to see them leave, I’m not really surprised that many of my guildies are drifting away and have been clear that they don’t plan to renew. You could assign this to SWTOR endgame or simply to the fact that most players don’t stick with a new MMO for more than 6 months. It’s very difficult to get estimates on average subscription length for MMOs – my guess is that there’s a huge swathe of players who don’t stay past the first month, then another who drop out at 3 months, probably increasing until the game hits a plateau of sorts. I imagine that older games tend to have a higher average sub length because the proportion of dedicated/core players is higher. (EVE probably has a relatively high average since they have so many players with multiple accounts as well as a generally longterm approach.)

So while I’m still enjoying the game, it has been with a patina of sadness for the last month or so, because I knew my guild was fading and I didn’t really have any plans for what to do next. I played my alts, I read the news, I hung out on my own. And so forth.

Now transfers have changed things quite a lot. I had characters on two different servers (one RP server and one PvE) and one of them was designated an origin server and the other a destination. I decided to transfer my RP characters to The Progenitor (the destination EU ENG RP server) and hung out on the fleet with my consular, with whom I’d finished Act 1. Fleet chat was buzzing, full of excited players who had either just transferred or were enjoying the new crowds. Within an evening I had found a friendly guild and joined a random instance group to run Taral-V and Maelstrom Prison. My new guild seem like a nice bunch, I was interested because they said ‘mature players’ which is usually a code for ‘we know you have a RL and aren’t too hardcore’ and they regularly have 15-20 people on in the evenings and run normal and hard mode Ops. I’m looking forwards to getting to know them better, and will see if more of my old guildies or friends are interested in a RP reroll as I’m sure they’d be welcome also.

alixa1

The fun thing about Consulars (aside from mine being the whitest white person ever created in a character creator ) is that however weird some of their gear can look, they still have much much better hats than Sith Inquisitors. Sadly I don’t have any great pictures yet of SI hats to link – that can be a project for next week. Also, although the storyline is widely held to be one of the weaker ones and certainly starts slow, I’m actually really enjoying it as of Act 2/ beginning of Act 3. It emphasises a) the diplomacy side of the jedi role and b) omg the Republic was actually falling apart as of the beginning of Act 3. How exactly did the empire manage to lose Corellia? (I am now motivated to finish the storyline and find out.)

The consular also develops a rather dry sense of humour, and I rather like her companions.

As for my old server, I’m sad to leave my characters and legacies behind. But it’s now a busy destination server too, with lots of new options should I decide to find another guild there. I suspect RP servers always tend to be my spiritual home, but am not ruling out checking out the scene in Nightmare Lands when I have time. After all, you never know.

So I feel reinvigorated in the game, and am planning to sub for another 6 months. I always meant to try to follow Tipa’s suggestion of spending a whole year in one new game to show some stickability and see how the game and community develop. This is the game I’m going to keep playing, and I’ll try to write at least one post per week to give some honest views on how things are going. I suspect strongly that I will also at some point roll another Sith Warrior because I just enjoyed the setting and storyline so much.

If anyone else is wondering about the transfers, I’d suggest just going for it. The upsides are so much better than the downsides.

[Links] Day of Reckoning for 38 Studios, soloing in MMOs, Diablo 3, Sony won the console wars?

Scott Jennings writes eloquently about the week when 40% of the SWTOR team was laid off, and 38 Studios (makers of Kingdoms of Amalur, and with an MMO in the works) imploded very publically.

I think the direction that our industry is going – the incredible amount of money wasted by EA on what was essentially a roll of the dice that came up 2 and 3, and the even more incredible display of massive hubris and utter incompetence on the part of Schilling and his management team, is killing the very concept of massively multiplayer gaming.

Everything I have read about 38 Studios going tits up makes me think that the management were a bucket of tits. (Yes that is the technical term.) Implausible business plan, lack of auditing on cashflow, taking on way more staff than they needed or could support, dicking around with staff. Unsubject writes in more detail on the financials. The only surprising thing to me is that so many MMO bloggers have sympathy for them – MMOs get cancelled in pre-production all the time, we should be used to it by now. I don’t care if it was run by a rich sportsman with a dream or a lameass banker, they screwed up.

Or in the words of Kevin Dent at  Kotaku:

I have a theory that Harvard Business School basically set this entire thing up so as to demonstrate how many ways someone can screw up running a business. If this is the case, heartfelt congrats to the Crimson Halls, you owned it.

I literally could not invent more ways to screw up than Curt Schilling has with 38.

I can’t entirely agree with Scott about the effect on MMOs though, because big budget AAA MMOs were already pretty much on the outs. You can tell this because Michael Pachter recently said so, and he only ever makes predictions after the event.

One of the interesting things about this story though is that both Bioware Austin and 38 Studios put out pretty decent games that got some critical acclaim. Neither Amalur nor SWTOR are bad games, and both were reasonably successful in the market. Just their funding model needed more than ‘reasonably successful’ – in 38 Studio’s case it is because their management can’t handle simple maths and in Bioware’s case it’s because for some reason EA felt that ploughing unfeasibly massive amounts into the game was going to pay off. (Nice bonus for players I guess, because it does feel lush.)

SWTOR will be profitable, incidentally.  It will just take a few months longer than EA predictions and that’s why it is being seen as a failure. Whereas in fact it sold more boxes more quickly than any other western MMO in the market and has fairly decent retention figures for an MMO, even allowing for number massaging. In any case, they’ve just announced that patch 1.3 (which will include a random dungeon finder) is going onto the test server imminently and that they have plans to consolidate servers into super-servers, which are both needed updates.

Shintar shares some hopes and fears that she has for the new patch.

Anyhow, it’s sad for the staff, obviously. But we’re in a recession and MMOs are risky business at the best of times, and these things happen (especially when your management are a bucket of tits, which isn’t really the case for Bioware). Hopefully they’ll find something else swiftly. I’ll miss Stephen Reid/Rockjaw, he was a great CSM.

Soloing in MMOs

Keen also found time to muse this week about why people solo in MMOs (remember in my last incredibly wise words of wisdom to new bloggers I noted that soloing vs grouping was one of THOSE topics?), claiming that MMOs aren’t single player games. So why do devs want to try to mimic single player gameplay?

I am referring to the open and deliberate act of making a very core part of a MMO into a single-player experience as if the players were offline.

Bernardparsnip at Diminishing Returns reflects on players who might want some of the advantages of mas…sive games without the disadvantages.

I recognize that there is a demographic of players that want the benefits of an MMO – a persistent world, frequent content updates, a player-driven economy, opportunities for PvP and cooperative play, without the disadvantages inherent with playing with others.

Azuriel takes a different tack and wonders whether MMOs really do suck as single player games.

…in a very real sense I consider the average MMORPG these days as a much better single-player game than the average RPG.

My view is that we’re seeing traditional boundaries between single player and multiplayer games come crashing down around us, and players may not yet be sure exactly what they do want. This sense of wanting all the benefits of massive multiplayer games (like a vibrant player based economy and instant groups whenever you want them) without the negatives (like having to actually talk to anyone or rely on other players in any way) is very strong in the current crop of games.

I think Journey laid this out most neatly with having other players viewed as friendly but nameless entities, and Dee wonders if maybe the public quests in GW2 will have the same effect. But it won’t ever be the same as the sort of communities that more forced socialising will bring together, we could end up with people playing side by side but always on their own.

Ultimately I’d like to see more gating in future games, allowing players to build up communities of interest in games of their choice. What if I want to play EVE but without having to play with the more sexist, racist, homophobic players who seem to populate it (going by forum posts at least)? This is going to become more and more of an issue for anyone running online games in future, I suspect, as players lose their tolerance for playing with random dickweeds. (This will come to be seen as one of the negatives of MMOs that people would like to avoid.)

Zubon has a really smart post about how different games attract a different type of player and suggests people flock to games which seem to be populated with players like themselves.

But there is a flaw in his argument, which is how exactly are you going to find this out? If I search round EVE blogs and forums, I’ll find a lot of very aggressive posturing and the aforementioned sexist, racist, etc. language. But I do happen to know people who play EVE who aren’t like that, so it isn’t universal.

Similarly, WoW is so large that it probably contains communities of just about every MMO player type under the sun if you can find them. So characterising it as the McDonalds of MMOs isn’t quite true in terms of the playerbase. It’s more of a mosaic than a least common denominator known for poor but consistent quality.

While LOTRO is justly known for its attention to the setting, I’d also say it was a haven for more mature gamers and for RPers. But that was before it went F2P and it may have changed since then. So how would a new player know?

So while I think Zubon makes a good argument, it just places more emphasis on how /the community/ constructs explanations of what type of player different games attract and then communicates it. And bloggers bear a lot of the responsibility for this. When I write that my guild in SWTOR are laid back, friendly, casual players and raiders, people will assume this is normal for the game. It probably is! But you’re just getting one player’s view.

Redbeard tackles a similar topic from the point of view of new players in WoW at the moment.

If Blizz is serious about bringing in and keeping new blood, then they have to address the social issues in WoW.  This isn’t Pollyanna country, and it ain’t EVE, either.  People like to be welcomed and respected and tolerated.  If they feel the environment is toxic, they’ll move on.  You can’t expect a new player to blindly stumble through all of the social pitfalls and land in a good guild without guidance, and likewise you can’t expect someone to blithely ignore all of the social issues that some players bring to WoW.

Diablo 3

Clearly we haven’t had enough posting about D3 yet. I’m still having fun with the game but slowing down now that I’m in Hell level on my barbarian. I don’t know that I can honestly see this as an evergreen game I’d be playing months from now (especially if Torchlight 2 and GW2 and updates to SWTOR are coming out). The Auction House is definitely impacting on the game’s lifespan in my view, and they haven’t launched the real money AH yet.

Hugh at the MMO Melting Pot (who you should follow for excellent daily aggregations of MMO blogging) collects some more views on the auction house.

The Ancient Gaming Noob has played both Diablo 3 and the Torchlight 2 beta and gives a thorough comparison between what he has seen of the games.

Milady explains why she thinks Diablo 3 is a wellmade mistake.

They had many years to consider how to best mine money from their users, and Diablo III in its entirety is what they came up with. From Blizzard’s perspective, the gear barrier is there so you are forced to buy to continue; the barrier to grouping in Inferno is built so you cannot be too effective at higher levels, and are forced to grind on your own and buy loot; the enforced multiplayer exists solely to apply peer-pressure to your gearing up, so you need to resort to the AH to play with them.

Rohan argues that Elective Mode in D3 is a mistake.

Green Armadillo lists a lot of things that D3 is not and wonders if Blizzard were right to keep the name.

And Gevlon explains why he thinks D3 just doesn’t work as a competitive game.

Straw Fellow defends Blizzard’s decision to require D3 players to be always online.

Microsoft and the Console Wars

Microsoft may face a ban on imports of the XBox 360 into the US and Germany because of patent infringement. I assume they’ll settle with Motorola out of court, but it would be an amusing way to lose the console wars.

It would be nice to think that the patent rats nest might get sorted out sometime soon, but since there is no real sign of that happening, better hope your favourite manufacturer knows how to play the game.

And finally …

Berath ponders why there are so few gaming blogs focussed on shooters, given how many people play them.

Xintia explains why Bioware are great at telling stories but bad at designing games.

And Melmoth waxes lyrical about the general chat channel in TERA.

What was fascinating about the channel was that it had become a microcosm of the blogosphere: nearly every general topic that I’ve seen repeatedly touched upon over the past five or so years of blogging was mentioned in this one place, all in the fast forward nature of a back-and-forth conversation between people whose attention was invariably elsewhere. I quickly found myself privately playing Cassandra to any topic raised, knowing full well the future of each discussion, where the disagreements would come from, and the conclusions which would be drawn.

[SWTOR] A live event! Starring rakghouls, pets, and blowing people up

(If you are reading this post because you are hoping to find a detailed walkthrough of the Rakghoul Plague event and associated quests and rewards, you can find that here at mmo-mechanics. I want to talk more about the storytelling and how we experienced it).

Yesterday, Bioware surprised the player base by launching an unexpected and unheralded live event, which looks as though it will last for at least a week. It starts on the fleet/s, or if you are like me starts with your partner yelling across the room “Log in, we’re going to Tatooine….”

This is because the first indication players had that something was going on was via announcements over the fleet about a dangerous contamination on Tatooine of the rakghoul virus from Taris. News terminals also appeared on the fleet, which played a cut scene of news announcers talking about the dangers and the imperial edicts that rakghouls should be destroyed.

rakghoul1

(the announcement said that people should on no account go to Tatooine, so clearly all player characters took this as a sign to head out there immediately!)

I’m a bit unclear on the actual process by which players found the event quests and location, since by the time I got there, my guild were sorting themselves out and there was a lot of voice chat around getting everyone to the right spot. Or in other words, I found out via other players rather than through Bioware’s carefully crafted cut scenes and NPC announcements in local chat. However, more patient players or people who like exploring will find all the information they need in the town by the Tatooine spaceport – wandering around and clicking on anything that glows is a good way to start.

There’s plenty of colour text and background to the situation as well, from the TV screens on Tatooine offering a news report where a reporter explains that all rakghouls or suspected rakghouls are to be terminated with extreme prejudice, while a guy transforms into a rakghoul in the background behind her and is shot by imperial soldiers, to regular NPC announcements from an imperial official on general chat.

None of this, incidentally, is delivered via quest text from an NPC with a quest symbol above its head.

When you get out into the wilds of Tatooine to chase down the crashed spaceship that released the virus and help to contain things by murdering infected sandpeople, the daily quest shows up as soon as you get into the right area. I am assured that the quest scales with level (so as long as you can navigate Tatooine safely, you can take part), and the mobs that spawn for you to kill are related to your own level.

NPC chat in local channel near the outbreak is more about people trying to persuade imperial soldiers that they aren’t infected, no really guv.

rakghoul2

This leads to the typical daily quest setup where you have to kill some mobs, locate some items, kill some more mobs, collect items, then head off to another quest area and do it again, leading to a final encounter with a slightly tougher mob, a cut scene with LS/DS choice, and a final followup. Your quest rewards can be turned in at a special vendor for a number of items including weapon crystals and a pet pale rakling, once you have collected enough of them.

But there is more, including a couple of ‘secret’ quests. The walkthrough linked above discusses those in detail, but one of them involves becoming infected yourself. There are two ways in which you can become infected. Either you pick up the virus from being in the area (on one occasion I got it after just walking into the quest area) or fighting infected mobs, or you can catch the virus if another victim expires near you.

For ease of identification, one of my guildies here models the effects of the rakghoul virus.

krellinfect

It starts with a green aura, then progresses into glowing purple, and finally ends with you as a greenish smear on the ground after having exploded messily. This can all take a varying amount of time.

If you contract the virus you have two options. Take an antidote (which are now sold by stim vendors all over the game world, and also turn up as daily quest rewards) which cures it, or let it run its course and see how many other players you can infect. There is a quest associated with infecting other players that you’ll find out about once you have expired of the plague at least once. Clearly because this is an MMO there are already forum threads by people complaining of being infected against their wishes (although you could just move away from the infected person.)

As part of the daily quests and associated event secret quests, you will also be able to unlock lore about the rakghoul plague outbreak and how the sandpeople have been trying to find a cure.

rakghoullore

As you can see here, these end up in your codex under a new heading of “Events.” And if you get bored of dailies or blowing people up and want to try a different way to get event tokens, you can take out two new world bosses that have been drafted in just for the occasion. (As earlier, check out the walkthrough link at the top of the post for more detailed information.)

We had a lot of fun with this event yesterday and I’m hoping to find more time for pursuing secret quests and blowing people up over the next week or so. Bioware have done a super job with this event, and despite including a lot of standard daily-type quests, it doesn’t feel formulaic or forced. The cut scenes and voice overs from imperial news are excellent. I love how you can find information about what is going on by just going there and getting involved, there’s no questgiver on fleet who pops something up in your quest log but all the information you need is in front of you.

I also love how adding world bosses on Tatooine encourages players to PUG, since they’re going to be there anyway and presumably all want tokens.

It’s really very nicely done indeed. And here finally are some action shots of us fighting more rakghouls in the dunes …

rakghoulfight

Thanks to Arb for some of the screenshots!

[SWTOR] It’s a new day, it’s a new patch

My experience of playing SWTOR has been solidly positive, but it took a great turn for the better recently. Suddenly my frame rate improved massively, loading screens and conversations start seamlessly, and even hopping in and out of orbital stations is more of an interesting change of scenery than a painful speed bump. Amazing how much difference a new computer can make Smile (The old one was about 6 years old and has now been retired to less onerous duties.)

Oh, yes, there’s a new patch 1.2 also, featuring new high level content, Legacies as a way to earn perks for your alts, huge UI improvements, and the usual round of “PvP is now broken” feedback. (Although some people do also like it.)

What do you need to know about the new stuff?

Here’s a few useful links for SWTOR players:

mmo-mechanics has a guide for Empire players to the new Corellia dailies (I assume Republic players get their breadcrumb quest from the fleet too)

UI Cantina is a repository for UIs, which you can now download and use. Their ‘tips and tricks’ tab also explains where the .xml files (used to store UI information) will be stored, so to use a new one just save it in that directory. It is actually a hidden directory on Windows 7 so you’ll have to set your file explorer to show hidden files/ directories to check it. Look on this as a learning opportunity if you don’t know how to do that yet.

mmo-mechanics also have some UIs which you can download. I am thinking there will soon be plenty of UI related sites, if you know any good ones feel free to suggest them in comments.

legacy

This is a screenshot of the Legacy window. You will have to log in each of your characters to have them show up, and can then move them into the middle of the screen to define some relationships. You do this by holding the picture of one character over the picture of another who you already set up on the screen, and as you can see here some options for relationships appear. When you pick one, the new character will appear in the ‘family tree’. (Same sex marriages are allowed, incidentally.)

Since my agent (shown) is a sleazy horndog, he’s probably slept with all the others so I’m mostly defining him as ally or enemy depending on what happened after that. I’m not sure yet why he earned the enmity of my Sith Warrior but let’s be honest, it wouldn’t take much to set her off. Let’s hope he has some good friends, as opposed to the bunch of weirdos he usually hangs out with.

The Legacy screen also shows you what abilities/  races/ special stuff you have unlocked or have yet to unlock. I think I’m now saving up a million credits so that my ship (and all my alts ships on this server too) can have a repair bot, which is nice in the sense of adding some long term goals. Long term goals are essential for player retention, so Bioware will now be hoping that plenty of other players are also now thinking “Cool, I’ll save up for XYZ,” or “Oo, I could make a True Sith Consular!” Anyhow, it works for me. I like that my alts can benefit from my main, and vice versa. Shame they all have to be on the same server but you can’t have everything.

One of the fancier bonuses is that if you have completed chapter 2 on any character, your other alts on that server will automatically get that character’s buff alongside their own when they cast it. So for example, all my alts now cast the Sith Warrior buff as well as their own automatically. This is actually a pretty nice perk for alts.

There are also perk abilities you can get if you have a character who is LS5 or DS5.

To make your armour match, open up the character window. You will notice a small tab around halfway down on the right hand side – click that for the armour matching option. You can then unclick the icons by individual armour pieces if you want a few non-matching bits too.

Anexxia has also posted a FAQ for patch 1.2 so if you have any other questions such as “Where’s the guild bank” or “where are the legacy vendors” check out her post.

Also, some random rewards from Bioware

Bioware is also giving out goodies to existing and former players. There are free pets for active players, free time for lapsed players and a free MONTH for anyone with a level 50 who has ever subscribed. That’s rather generous – Bioware are now becoming synonymous for me with being wildly generous, I remember they threw out free copies of ME2 with DA2 last year also and even then I thought, “That’s nice, if a bit unexpected.”

Tobold takes the logical assumption that this is all intended to encourage player retention. Comments in that thread compare this to recent WoW offers and to the sorts of offers that subscription magazines offer and don’t find it particularly out of place.

Naturally because this is Bioware, people are also complaining about the free stuff. Personally, free is a nice counterpoint to the money grabbing scams I’m more used to so I’m happy. But then I was planning to renew my 6 month sub when it’s up anyway, because I genuinely am still having a lot of fun with the game,  so possibly making me happy is not a huge win for Bioware.

My feeling is that in the same way that Blizzard have been free to experiment with doing all sorts of weird stuff to WoW, Bioware are being encouraged to try out just about any marketing trick that they can think of to see what works. And since there really aren’t that many successful subscription games, there is still a lot we don’t know about what really does attract players to themepark games that aren’t WoW.  I’d say good luck to them, if offering people 7 months for the price of 6 (which is basically how I’m interpreting this for me) works for them, then go for it.

And while I am not sure that I am the core target for this offer, I am still a keen player with a level 50 who is in a casual guild which regularly does the endgame instances and raids. And as anyone who has ever tried to run a casual endgame guild knows, ANYTHING which encourages max level players to keep playing is a boon for everyone in the guild who wants to run group content. So this might actually be a very savvy move from the perspective of social players. I’m curious to see how it plays out.

New Content

I haven’t run the new dailies yet but we had a crack at normal mode Lost Island, the new flashpoint, last night. We worked out strategies as we went along, people were still adjusting to various class changes, and I was tanking without any tanking gear so this was not perhaps an optimal setup. Still, it was good fun, the scenery is gorgeous (I will take a screenshot of the volcano next time), and we enjoyed learning the bosses as we went along.

It felt quite tightly tuned for a normal mode instance to me, but maybe that is just because we didn’t really know the fights. Highlight was the group’s reaction on spotting a platform in the middle of a lava flow with a boss in the middle, “Oh, knockbacks into lava” – and Bioware did not disappoint.

Have you tried the new patch? What did you think?

[SWTOR] Some of the upcoming changes announced at this week’s summit

So yesterday Bioware held a SWTOR guild summit, with panels, news about upcoming patches, livestreams, etc. swtor-life has a good summary of bulletpointed news items.

I’m just going to pick a few.

Story Mode for Ops

Taking a tip from WoW’s raid finder, or possibly from the ME3 story mode, the plan is to rename normal Ops modes to ‘story mode’ with the explicit aim of letting casual players experience the galactic storylines (presumably making them easy enough to favour PUG raids.) I think they are making a distinction between galactic storylines and class/personal storylines, so you won’t miss any of your class story if you don’t raid.

Legacy System

If you want to set up an actual family tree between your characters, you will be able to do so. I assume this will include some non-blood relations such as ‘mother in law’ or ‘slave of’ so that your Chiss Bounty Hunter can have some sort of connection with your Pureblood Sith Inquisitor without implying that they sleep together. (Actually, given the companion romances, I’m not sure if they’ll let you specify romantic relationships between your alts anyway. What would Quinn say?)

Some of the stuff you’ll be able to unlock for your alts sounds fairly fun though:

  • Reach level 50 with a species in order to unlock it with all other characters.
  • Can Unlock Heroic Ability (i.e. Force Choke) among all other characters one you finish your story. (I could have a Jedi with force choke???)
  • Repair droid on you ship, can repair gear, but old items, sell items to improve crafting abilities on ship droids. Mailboxes on the ship
  • GTN terminals available on ships, very high up on the legacy system
  • Can trade items between anyone in your legacy, including those in the opposite faction
  • Multi-Spec system will be tied to Legacy system, not coming at beginning of 1.2 but it is on the way.
  • Will be able to place vocal restraining bolt on your droid.

Poor droid, I think a LOT of people will use that :) One thing this will mean is that people will be strongly motivated not to create alts on lots of different servers as the legacy bonuses will only apply to alts on the same server.

  • Most rewards can be purchased as opposed to unlocked via normal means. Some things will not be able to be purchased when 1.2 first releases, but will be able to purchase down the road.

Aaaaand heads up for what sounds like an upcoming cash shop.

Some Crafting and Economy Stuff

  • Most popular Crafting skill is Artifice, followed by BioChem

Biochem I can understand, it’s rather useful having endless potions/ stims, but Artificing? It’s not bad per se, but the only reason I can think why it would be the most popular is that lots of people are playing force users and find it cool to be able to craft their own crystals/ lightsabers.

  • 57% Empire vs 43% Republic across all servers, PvP servers much more Empire heavy
  • Sith Inquisitor is the most popular class, Smuggler is the least popular
  • Reusable BioChem items will be phased out in the future

Noooo. not my reusable Biochem stuffs! ;/ Wish they could just make them less powerful than the non-reusable ones. Oh well, I suppose prices on the stims that doesn’t disappear when you die will go through the roof.

  • Reverse engineering rate for better items has been improved in 1.2
  • Tooltip will let you know if you can learn a new schematic from reverse engineered items, chances of receiving the same recipe twice will be reduced

Those are both good changes

Random Stuff

Why does random stuff always get labelled as ‘roleplay’ I wonder

  • Male slave outfits incoming. (Well, that’s it for Quinn then.)
  • Animal mounts on the list for things to be added (Tauntauns, obviously.)
  • Will be able to add comments to friends in 1.2, hopefully will be able to write up a character bio for all your toons (OK, this legitimately is a RP improvement.)

Guild Stuff

  • In game guild calender coming, able to set events and show them to non guild members
  • Guild banks 100% confirmed to be in 1.2
  • Guild progression in the works, large project with no details released yet
  • Tax system is also on the way

I’m not so hot on the taxes, personally. What is it a guild is going to buy exactly that individual players can’t?

More Random Stuff (but apparently this isn’t RP)

  • Dual/Multi spec coming in two parts/ Part one will let you switch through skill trees, part two will let you completely switch gear as well.
  • More story coming this year (this YEAR … that could be December, just saying.) Same Gender Romance options coming with Story updates
  • Cross server/ cross faction communication possible down the line, no real details released yet (will be good because the Legacy system is encouraging players to play both factions.)
  • Cooler outfits coming for Republic faction, particularly at endgame
  • Quests for epic weapons, armor, and other items coming. May even require having characters on both factions to unlock

As far as patch 1.2 goes, there’s a longer article about it on ign.com which includes some (ominous?) rumblings about class balance:

Class changes in 1.2 include new abilities for the Warrior and the Knight, a nerf for the Bounty Hunter, and more. Every class will receive changes, and all skill tree points refunded so you can look over the trees again before deciding how to rebuild your class.

Any of the new stuff particularly grab any of you?