[SWTOR] More impressions, is crafting broken, locating screenshots

There’s a dilemma that hits every gaming blogger when a new release comes out and you have limited time. And that is how much time to spend playing vs how much time to spend blogging about it.

cammal

I’ve been playing a fair amount of SWTOR lately, and am unashamedly really enjoying the game. Particular high points so far have been:

  • Class quests. A storyline doesn’t have to be brilliantly original if it’s well told, and these generally are. Arb and I were up late the other night, reminding each other that we needed to go to bed … but just wanting to find out what the next twist in the story was. The storytelling is clever (or manipulative if you prefer) in encouraging you to relate emotionally to what is going on. For example, I found out my contact was under attack by my current enemy and stormed back across the city to let nothing stand in my way as I wiped them out – which is quite appropriately vengeful for a sith warrior really. One of my guildies  decided to switch from darkside to lightside because of lore and something that happened in his class storyline. Scott Jennings relates the point where he succumbed to the lure of the dark side. (I think he’s playing Sith Warrior and I think I know the part he means.) At the same time, no story is going to have this effect on a player unless the player is willing to immerse themselves and allow it to happen. If you hate reading, point out the plot flaws in horror films in the middle of the cinema, and think its lame to care about stories then you’re going to have a very different experience. I did also like the suggestion I read somewhere on rpg.net that if you are a Sith Warrior, any time someone gives you a quest you should have the conversation option to execute them for insubordination. (It would make for a short game, but a bloody one.)
  • Characterisation of NPCs. Not all of them, for sure, but the writing and voice acting means they don’t have to be just blobs giving out quests if you’re willing to go with it. I do also quite like my class companions, it might be different if you hated them. Grand Moff Kilran (in the Black Talon Flashpoint) also has the most punchable voice of anyone I’ve ever met. I so hope you get to beat him up at some point. We had more fun in that flashpoint when we agreed we all hated him and picked all the most belittling responses we could.
  • Companions. It’s funny how my responses to quests are affected by which companion is with me. Vette likes it when I tell quest givers they are idiots and give them lip. Quinn approves of being polite to quest givers, especially if they are empire military types. He really is a Young Conservative at heart so I doubt that romance is going anywhere – on the other hand he’s also really really useful and keen to help and offer advice and he gets amusingly tongue tied if you flirt with him. Plus he’s a healer.
  • Group quests: we’ve done some as guild runs, others with random people, but they’re a nice way to switch up the feel from solo questing if you feel like it. The rewards are also good, but optional.
  • Flashpoints: As above. The social conversation mechanic is fun in practice, and far less irritating than you might think from reading about it. I haven’t run all of the flashpoints so far, because the way they are laid out (you have to go back to the fleet etc) tends to break up the flow of questing. But it hasn’t been hard to find groups when I have wanted to, and it’s been fun to have content to run with guildies when we are feeling sociable.
  • Guild! It’s fun to be guilded with some fellow bloggers, some of whom I’ve never played with before. So I’m enjoying the socialising, hanging out on guild chat or voice chat.
  • The morality: This is bound to be vaguely controversial because the light side/ dark side choices don’t have much effect in terms of game mechanics and the general shape of the storyline won’t change much either. And yet, I think more about the stories and the choices I make. Some of them I see discussed more widely because players disagree with the writing. I hope at least one of the quests will be as discussion-priming as the demon possessed boy in DAO. And the fact that’s possible is why I love the morality meter. And because it makes me think more about my character and where she’s coming from (she’s a spoilt sith aristo who takes lightside choices because she /can/ rather than out of any deep affiliation. And yet, sparing people just because you can may be a step on the path to something better …)

Find the screenshot

If you are wondering where SWTOR puts its screenshots, check two things:

  • Under preferences, check what key is bound to the ‘take screenshot’ option, it may not be the one you are used to.
  • On WinXp, the screenshot directory is My Documents/ Star Wars – The Old Republic/ Screenshots

Is Crafting broken in SWTOR?

Here is the current issue with SWTOR crafting: there is one gathering skill that makes money as if it was going out of fashion, with no associated risk. It is Slicing. If you just want to make money and don’t care about making stuff, take Slicing as one of your crew skills and send all your companions off to find lockboxes all of the time. You will eventually make good bank.

It’s not that all the other craft skills are bad. Cybertech and Biochem in particular can make plenty of things that people will buy. I’ve made enough from Biochem (I can sell implants as fast as I can make them, nothing else really sells so far) to buy my speeder training et al so it’s not by any means bad, but you have to work at it. They just probably won’t make as much as you would from Slicing because you have to acquire materials and then take the risk that a) other people won’t buy your stuff from the auction house or b) competition will drive prices down so that you won’t make much of a profit.

Armormech, Synthweaving, Armsmech and Artificing all make plenty of nice gear that is at least as good as anything you will find elsewhere. But there is competition from quest rewards, PvP gear, and drops from flashpoints.

At the end of the day, it’s the lack of risk in Slicing – it’s guaranteed money – which makes it so unbalanced.

It will also be interesting to see the effects of Slicing on the market. There are fewer people crafting to sell on the AH at the moment because the game is new out, and lots of people take gathering skills (incl. Slicing) as they level. But the prices they sell at are set by the Slicers since they have most money to spend on the AH.

[Dragon Age 2] Initial Impressions

da2_act2 Hawke and companions in Act 2 – other companies please note how armour on women can look cool without showing lots of thigh.

I am a big fan of Bioware games, I loved Dragon Age Origins despite its faults, and I’m enjoying the heck out of Dragon Age 2.

Things I love about DA2:

  • I enjoy that it’s all set in the same city and that you WILL get to see how people, NPCs, and factions change and interact over time. Some of that will be connected to things you have done, and some won’t. We very rarely get this type of setup in games, it’s the holy grail of phasing in games like WoW, but single player games can do it better.
  • (Downside: It’s all set in the same city and surrounding areas. Areas do get reused. The city itself doesn’t really change all that much through the years, not as much as most real cities probably would.)
  • I like that in Act 1 I was an unknown noob in the city whereas by Act 2 I have an actual mansion in Hightown and some finery to wear (admittedly the finery looks like a school uniform but it’s not armour!) I’ve no idea what Act 3 may hold in store. It feels as though there is a simulationist element (e.g. you could imagine a game where you have to build up your resources in addition to doing the quests) even though there really isn’t.
  • I also enjoy seeing how actions I took in Act 1 are affecting people in Act 2. Some of this I think is fairly subtle but focussing in on one city does allow this type of storytelling.
  • I’m enjoying the writing, and in particular the companions are great. I don’t LIKE them all, but I enjoy them all as characters. Aveline is a particular winner and a character type we don’t see all that often – she’s a straight edge city guard who tries to do the right thing but isn’t very good at out of the box thinking. The scene where you try to help her chat up a fellow guardsman is painfully hilarious. Her banter with Isabela is also awesome. Varric is also possibly the best written dwarf ever.
  • (Downside: I’m not sure how great a character Hawke really is. Certainly she has a talent for kicking arse and taking names, especially on casual difficulty levels. I am having fun with her, but I keep feeling that the NPCs just seem like better characters.)
  • I also ended up with Anders (pictured on the left) as my love interest, despite the fact he’s quite possibly totally hatstand. Still, at least Hawke got to find out whether a wizard’s staff has a knob on the end :P I find that Bioware take their love interests terribly seriously in this game, it’s all twoo lurve and moving in together after knowing each other for a few years, and not so much a quick shag and then off for breakfast (I guess you’d probably have to play The Witcher for more of the latter.)
  • I enjoy the faster pace of the fighting and I have no issues about turning the difficulty down if a fight is hard. I like having the options and 2H warrior Hawke is rather awesome at mowing down mooks. (A handy talent since mooks seem to teleport into fights in constant waves.)
  • Does DA2 feel rushed? I’m not sure. Certainly there is a lot of resuse of areas, dungeons et al. However, it is supposed to all be set in the same city. I’d say possibly rushed but at the same time, what they were trying to do does work.
  • Giving the character a family to use as plot points does work. There is a whiff of the ‘dependent NPC’ to it all, ie. getting extra character points for having dependent NPCs whose sole purpose is to get into trouble and need rescuing or provide fodder for NPC enemies, but I feel that giving a PC more background in terms of friends, family, and other history does provide for some good story hooks.

One thing I’m not so sure about is what replayability willl be like. I feel as though I have been doing all of the available sidequests and I’m not sure how different it would really be on a second playthrough, even though playing as a mage might be quite interesting.

My WoW Report

Boss: I told my son about you playing, what is it? World of Warcraft?

He said ‘I bet she’s like EIGHTY and EVERYTHING’, so I said ‘what level are you, Jack?’, and he said ‘12!’.

kizi1That is a legitimate exchange between my boss and myself while discussing whether I could have the week of Comic Con off work in 2011, on the off-chance I can sort myself out for going for a third year in a row. But it reminded me I have never really spoken about my return to WoW, a little intimidated by the number of WoW players amongst Spinks’ readership.

I left WoW just before Burning Crusade. I’d been playing since Friends & Family Alpha and was classically burned out on the game. I mostly played druids, in fact, it was a kind of joke that I’d played around 5 druids consecutively, bouncing between Alliance and Horde between various alphas, betas and the launch. This was at a time when druids were a little bit rubbish and although I played them to heal and because I loved all the hybrid goodness, I found things pretty tough. But mostly, I was burned out on the game and blamed it on the people, my last guild and the struggle of raiding Molten Core and how long it always took. So I left, and took a fair break from MMOs until I eventually landed on LotRO by way of the disastrous Vanguard launch month.

From that time on Spinks has still been playing WoW, and keeping me abreast of the changes. Some I was sceptical of, still harbouring some bitterness towards the game, but others sounded cool. Mostly, I never really felt a pull back to it, my account was gone and I didn’t want to start over from scratch even if I did go back. I’m pretty stubborn about things like that. So I ignored Burning Crusade and the launch of Lich King. I was pretty busy with LotRO also, and didn’t really have time for a second MMO.

But, last year sometime, in all the talks about Cataclysm, I thought it might be interesting to have another look, using the refer-a-friend scheme to play with Spinks. It wasn’t a completely successful first 3 months. While we enjoyed the added xp and summoning abilities, I kind of played one month on, one month off, so I didn’t get the full rewards for the r-a-f scheme. But it did get me to level 40-ish, which was over the hump of ‘how many freaking times have I done all these starter zones’. I picked a class I’d never liked previously, the shaman – and started to truly love it around level 30. Why a shaman? I was fairly sure I’d never want to play one in Cataclysm, I’d never managed to get one past level 5 before but with Spinks playing a hunter we could pretty much manage anything!

The dungeon finder really impressed, even when some of the PuGs created were rude, it was a nice break from grind if I needed it. Also, being on WoW meant I could catch up with my other sister who’d been chugging away soloing a rogue over there. Using realID meant that we could always tell when each others’ alts were on. And eventually I caught up to her level (I have more time on my hands!!). I had a really rough start to Lich King content and was really unhappy around level 70, but a few months ago I got to my first ever level 80 on WoW. And I adore shaman now, naturally – thinking of making another in Cataclysm. Yes, I have a problem remaking the same class over and over, I know this!

So Spinks has been trying to teach me about emblems, gearing up, heroics, tournament stuff and anything else I may need to do to be ready to raid. I tinker with it. I log on and do a dungeon or two, sometimes heroic, I head to Wintergrasp and I mine or muck around. While I’d quite like to see a raid, I’m not feeling really pressured to do so, and I think that’s been the real reason I’ve enjoyed my return to WoW so much. It feels quite peaceful to me without any pressure except to heal to a decent standard. Though I am considering switching to Spinks’ main server and possibly joining her guild there so I can explore the raiding side of the game.

I’m not the greatest player in WoW. I’m not trying to be, yet. But I’m no longer a snob about it either. It’s a great game, with the same grindy, rocky patches any MMO has. And sometimes it’s nice for me not to have to care and to just find a fun class and chill out with it.