Archive for the ‘SWTOR’ Category

MMO MBA

March 31, 2012

As many of you know, I’ve been Star Wars The Old Republic for a few months now.  I’ve previously written articles on obtaining crafting schematics  (which to this day still gets more views than any other post on this blog) and tips for making credits in the game.  So I thought I’d comment on some common misconceptions and mistakes as they pertain to crafting for profit in MMOs.

If you’re making stuff in the game (i.e. crafting) and selling it on the auction house to make credits (i.e. profit), then you are for all intents and purposes a business person, or at least playing one.  It stands that concepts that benefit real-world business can also be of some use in running a virtual business in an online game (though much of what I’m going to talk about applies to real life, as well).

1) Time has value:  The #1 most common misconception I see in MMO’s is the idea that time has no value, particularly with regard to gathering resources.  Many players think that because they personally gathered the resources used to craft their goods (rather than buying the resources on the auction house), that those resources were ‘free.’  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Your time has value!  In fact, in an MMO, time is the true currency of the game, not gold or credits.  The time you spent gathering those resources was time you could have spent doing something else, possibly something that would have netted you more money, or that you would have found more enjoyable.  Therefore, you need to place a value on those resources you gathered, which will be factored into your bottom line (more on this below); at the very least you should value those resources at the going rate on the auction house, what you would have to pay to purchase those resources.

This ties in to the economic concept of opportunity cost, which is just another way of saying when you make a decision you’re weighing options between multiple choices.  Do you spend your time gathering resources or do you buy the resources and then spend your time crafting or doing quests or other things that you value.  Of course, this applies to life as well.  Every single decision we make in life has an associated opportunity cost.

Now, some players counter that they enjoy spending hours gathering resources and then making things cheap to help out other players.  And that’s fine.  It’s a game, play it the way that is fun for you.  But don’t be surprised if someone buys out all your cheap goods and resells them for twice the price (and don’t complain about it either…you asked for it).  Honestly, if you just want to help out other players, don’t bother selling stuff on the auction house at all.  Just hand them out.  That way you make sure it gets to someone who can really use and appreciate them.

2) Calculate your break even point:  A lot of crafters in MMO’s make things first, then sell later.  And they usually end up in a pricing death spiral.  Few of them take the time to actually figure out how many credits it’s costing them to make something.  Often this is because they fail to take into account opportunity cost; i.e. what they could sell the raw resources for vs. what they could sell the finished good for.  Many times you’re better off selling the resources rather than making the item (from a financial perspective, at least).

After you figure out what it costs you make the good (using the going market rate of the resources used to make it) then check the auction house to see what that item actually sells for.  If it sells for at least your break-even cost, then you can consider trying to sell that item for a profit.

Related to this, don’t try to be the low price leader.  In an MMO economy there is no such thing as a low price leader.  You’ll only be working harder for less money (crafter burnout from this was very common in Star Wars Galaxies).  Walmart can get away with being the ‘low price leader’ because they’re able to achieve amazing economies of scale due to their size and by leveraging technology.  There are no economies of scale in an MMO!  Whatever economies of scale exist in an MMO only exist if the developers build them into the game…and most developers don’t.  Another reason MMO’s don’t have economies of scale is because their economies simply aren’t large enough to accomodate them.  The USA has about 300 million consumers; most MMO servers have, at most, around 10,000 consumers (EVE Online is a rare exception with about 100,000 players–but still relatively small compared to real world economies).

3) Know your market:  Meaning, focus on one area or category instead of trying to do everything at once.  Once you get a handle on your ‘area of expertise’ you can then expand to other niches.  This also helps you recognize opportunities, such as when a new comer sells their goods far to cheaply…you can snatch them up and resell them at the going rate for a tidy profit.  It also helps you recognize when it’s time to start looking for new opportunities.  If some portion of the market is hot, you can bet that it will attract competition.  Without a corresponding increase in demand then prices will inevitably drop.  Don’t get trapped in a pricing circular firing squad!

When you know your market, you’ll also develop an idea of the market’s sustainable demand at a profitable price point.  Meaning, just because you can make 100 blaster pistols doesn’t mean the market will buy them all, at least not anytime soon.  I’ve seen this in SWTOR with the high-end implant market on my server.  People jump in, make a dozen of the same implant, but only a few of them sell.  Then the sellers panic and start dropping their prices, which leads to a deathspiral to the point where implants sell for less than the cost of the resources used to make them.  Now the same thing is starting to happen to Grade 6 starship components (and it’s being casued by some of the same players).

Knowing your market also means knowing the market for the resources you depend upon.  Check the auction house for resources at least once a day (and don’t forget to check out your competition, while you’re at it).  If you find resources going for less than the average price, buy them if you can afford to do so, even if you don’t need them right away (storage cost in most MMOs is very cheap).  Lower resource costs means more profit, and you never know when those resources will come in handy.

4) Identify Unserved/Underserved Markets:  There’s a saying, if you want to get rich, find a need and fill it.  And the MMO analog to this is, don’t do what everyone else is doing.  If everyone is making Grade 6 starship components on your server, it’s probably not a good idea to get into that market (though it may be a good idea to gather and sell the resources they need 😉 ).  Look to see what goods are not being offered.  It may be they aren’t being offered because there isn’t any demand for them, but it may also be an overlooked niche.  If you read the trade/craft forums, you’ll see ‘common wisdom’ freely dispensed…only this sells, that never sells, you can only make money doing X.  In my experience, the common wisdom is usually wrong, so don’t be afraid to experiment and test new markets (and this applies to ‘sub-markets’ as well — there may be excessive competition in high-end implants, but the market for low-level implants may have been overlooked).

It’s not always easy to recognize an opportunity, but the best tool in your arsenal is the auction house (in SWTOR it’s called the Galactic Trade Network, or GTN).  The auction house provides an instant snapshot of the state of virtually every aspect of an MMO’s economy.  It’s a powerful tool, and something that doesn’t have any real world analogs (the closest would be something like E-Bay or NASDAQ).  At a glance you can identify overlooked opportunities, saturated markets and you’ll come to recognize your competitors and determine their modus operandi (for instance, maybe they are trying to be the low price leader).  Also, pay attention to trade chat and trade forums.  If you notice a lot of requests for something that isn’t being offered on the auction house, that may be an opportunity for you.

Another time to be on the lookout is when a new major content patch is imminent.  Major updates usually introduce new crafting schematics, change game systems and sometimes render existing items unobtainable (creating ‘legacy’ items which may be in demand by collectors).

I’ll end this post with a piece of ‘common wisdom’ that I believe is true.  If you’re looking to make a lot of money in an MMO, but don’t like the business or crafting aspects of the game, then you’re probably best off just selling resources.  In my experience, you can make more money through crafting and playing the market, but you’ll still make plenty just selling resources and it’s a lot easier to do.

Cheers, and good luck to you.  May you become wealthy, in-game at least, if not in real life. 🙂

SWTOR PvP

February 9, 2012

I’ve been playing BioWare’s SWTOR for almost two months now, and have greatly enjoyed the storylines for each class, the crafting and the space combat.   However, a few weeks ago I was bitten by the PvP (player-vs-player) bug and found something new to love about the game.

I’ve mainly played in the warzones (i.e. battlegrounds in WoW), and though the game only has three warzones so far, it’s like every battle is a unique game.  I’ve gotten to the point where the only PvE I do is my class storylines (though it shouldn’t be any wonder that doing the same quest for the third, fourth or fifth time would get a bit…old).  Which is another nice thing about PvP in SWTOR:  you can level up entirely through PvP if you want to.  Haven’t tried open world PvP yet, but I’d like to at least check out the PvP zones on Tatooine and Ilum, even though I’d probably be ganked by roaming death squads.

There were a few things that took me a while, and a bit of digging, to find out about PvP, so I thought I’d post some useful information that might help others that are new to PvP, or thinking about trying it out.

First, there are two tiers to PvP (in warzones, not open world):  level 10-49 and level 50.  If you’re under level 49, the game automatically bolsters your stats up to roughly level 49 so that you’ll have a fighting chance.  And in my experience, the system works pretty well.  A really low level character (say 10-16 or so) still has a hard time, but mainly because they don’t have most of their class abilities yet, especially the crowd-control abilities, like stuns, snares, roots and pushes/pulls.  Also, it’s very useful to have the sprint ability, which every class gets at level 14.  Additionally, this tier is not terribly gear dependent, so you don’t necessarily need to have the best-of-the-best gear to be competitive.

The level 50 tier is much more gear dependent and can be pretty brutal if you haven’t PvPed before.  At level 50 you can start getting expertise gear.  Expertise is a PvP-only stat which increases the damage you do to other players and reduces the damage you take from other players.  If you don’t have any expertise gear then you won’t do much damage to someone who has a high expertise score, and you’ll take a lot more damage from them as well.  So if you think you want to give PvP a try, probably best to do it with a character under level 50, where expertise doesn’t really come into play much.  If you really like it, you may want to start a new PvP alt from scratch.

When you participate in warzones you get four things:  Credits, Experience Points, Valor and warzone commendations.

  • Credits – Usually 1-3K credits per match, which is more than most quests pay out at low levels.
  • Experience Points – The amount you get varies depending on how well you do and whether your side wins the match, but the lowest I’ve seen is around 4K and I’ve seen up to 20K xp for a single match.
  • Valor – Valor levels is sort of a measure of your PvP awesomeness…or at least your ability to put in a lot of hours PvPing.  It does three things that I’ve seen so far:  1) It unlocks PvP titles for your character; 2) The character with the highest Valor level is usually made the Ops Leader of the match, which gives you a few perks (which I’ve rarely seen used); and (most importantly) 3) you need to be Valor level 60 to buy Battlemaster PvP gear, which is the best PvP gear you can get.  You’ll usually get at least a few hundred Valor points each match.
  • Warzone Commendations – This is basically your PvP currency, used to buy PvP related gear.  You can also convert them into Mercenary commendations at a 3-to-1 ratio (it sounds like a bad ratio, but you get so many warzone commendations it doesn’t really matter…you’ll have enough comms to buy gear for all your companions and still have some left over to burn).  I’ve gotten as low as 20 commendations in a match to more than 70, it just depends on how well you do.  You can save a maximum of 1,000 warzone commendations and 1,000 mercenary commendations.

The amount of rewards you get from warzones depends on how well you do, which in turn is measured by the number of medals you earn during a match.  Medals are awarded for achieving certain objectives in the match.  For example, killing an opponent in single combat is good for a medal, as is inflicting (or healing) a total of 75K or more damage, inflicting (or healing) 2.5K in a single hit, guarding an objective, killing 10 or more opponets, etc.  There are a lot of different objectives and you won’t get them all.  Inflicting damage seems to be the way to get the most medals, unless you’re good at diversifying, such as dealing damage and healing.  Personally I find it hard to fill two roles in a match, but others seem to manage it.

If you can get 3-5 medals in a match, you’re doing alright.  If you get more than 5 medals, you’re doing great.  The most I’ve seen in a single match is 11 medals!

Something else that helps is MVP votes.  At the end of each match, everyone gets one vote for who they feel was the MVP of the match for their side.  Each MVP vote you get nets you a few extra commendations and a little extra valor.  I usually vote for friends first, then healers and then the lowest ranking character on our side (trying to help out the newbies a little).  Lately, though, it seems like most players don’t even bother voting; they just exit the warzone as soon as they can.

You can also do daily pvp quests which reward additional XP, credits and a locker which contains a level appropriate green item (which you can sell if you don’t need it) and some warzone stims.

One thing that really confused me at first was how to get the high level PvP gear.  There’s three grades of level 50 PvP gear:  Centurion, Champion and Battlemaster (Battlemaster being the best).  The game provides pretty much 0 guidance on how you go about getting Battlemaster gear, so here’s how it works:

  • When you hit level 50, you can buy Champion Gear bags from the PvP vendor.  These cost 200 mercenary commendations and 200 warzone commendations.  If you play solely in the warzones and convert warzone comms to merc comms, that would be a total of 800 warzone commendations, or roughly a dozen matches (assuming you do well).
  • You can only have one Champion Gear bag at a time, and you have to be level 50 to open it.  This means if you’re under level 50, you can buy one and save it to open when you hit 50.
  • The Champion bag has a number of Centurion commendations in it.  You use these to buy Centurion grade PvP gear (most items take around 30-40 comms to buy).  There’s also a small chance that you’ll get a Champion item token.  You can trade this token for a single Champion grade item.   For example, I got a Champion belt token, which I traded for a Champion grade belt.
  • To get Battlemaster gear, you have to complete daily and weekly PvP missions, which consists of winning 3 daily matches and 9 weekly matches (there are also daily open world PvP missions, which I haven’t tried yet).  When you complete a daily or weekly PvP mission, you have a choice of picking a Champion bag or a Battlemaster bag (which requires Valor 60).  Obviously, if you have Valor 60, you’ll take the Battlemaster bag.  Otherwise, you have no choice but to take the Champion bag (see above).  The Battlemaster bag holds a number of Champion commendations, which can be used to purchase Champion grade gear (again, usually 30-40 commendations per item).   There’s also a chance it will contain a Battlemaster commendation.  Most Battlemaster grade gear requires 1 to 3 Battlemaster commendations to purchase (some only cost 200 merc and warzone comms, but still require Valor 60 to purchase).

And finally, a bit of advice for those with level 50 characters wanting to try PvP for the first time (from my experience):

  1. Be patient.  Progress will be slow at first, until you can pick up a few pieces of expertise gear to increase your damage output and decrease the amount of damage you take.
  2. Be prepared to die…a lot.  Really, at first you’ll go down like a sack of potatoes.
  3. Be prepared to do very little damage, until you get some expertise gear.
  4. Which means you won’t get many medals at first (hence #1, your progress will be slow).  There were some matches where I got 0 medals, which translates into only about 20 comms per match.
  5. With 2 & 3 in mind, you may want to consider respecing into healing or tanking (guarding) for a while, if you can.  Neither of these roles is dependent on expertise gear, so you should get at least a couple of medals each match (meaning 40-50 comms, a significant increase).  Once you some expertise gear, you can go back to DPS (which is more fun, imo).  Also, healers and tanks sometimes get more MVP votes, even if they don’t score a lot of medals.
  6. If all the above bothers you, but you still want to give PvP a try, then roll up a new character for a PvP alt.  Do PvE quests until you hit level 14 (when you get the Sprint ability) and then qeue up for the warzones.

I hope this information is of use to other PvP newbies like me.  Cheers.

SWTOR: Making Credits

January 4, 2012

Here are a few tips for those who are having money problems in SWTOR:

1) The #1 rule of making bank:  Never, ever, buy anything unless you absolutely need it.  For the most part, gear you get from drops, quest rewards or from planetary commendations will be more than sufficient to get you through to level 50.  You don’t need all blue and purple equipment, especially when it will become obsolete in a few levels anyways.  Wait until you hit level 50 to max out your gear.

2) The #2 rule of making bank:  Don’t rush through leveling your crew skills.  Your gathering skill should be sufficient to acquire the resources needed to level your crafting skill.  Crew mission skills like Diplmacy or Underworld Trading are only needed to get the rare mats to craft blues and purples, so you’ll need to level these skills eventually, but you don’t have to rush through it.  Also, only buy the crafting schematics you need for you and your companions.  Use these to level your crafting skill, and if you RE and get schematics for blue and purple versions you can try selling the upgraded versions to make a little extra cash.  Later, after you’ve maxed your crafting skill, you can work on getting the other schematics and REing them.

3) When you hit level 25, plunk down 48,000 credits for speeder training and a new speeder.  The later maps become quite large and a speeder will help you complete quests faster, which in turn will help you earn more credits.  Thus, the expense is really an investment.  However, do not buy Speeder II training when you hit level 40.  The cost is 210,000 credits (plus the cost of a new speeder), and you only go a little bit faster.  Save the speeder upgrade for later when you have the spare cash.

4) Be sure to do your daily space missions.  Good XP, good credits.  Even after the missions stop giving XP, they still pay the same amount of credits (and space commendations).  And new bonus missions open up as you level, giving more xp and credits.

5) Sell everything.  Try putting greens up on the GTN at least once…they may sell, and you’ll get more than a vendor will give you. Sell spare resources on the GTN as well.  Loot all that junk, too, and vendor it.  It really adds up.

6) You don’t have to train every class skill.  They get quite expensive at higher levels (around 32,000 each at level 46-47).  If you find there’s a skill you don’t use much, don’t pay to train it.  You can always go back later and pick it up when you have more credits, if you like.

7) Odds are you’ll have one companion that is best for combat.  That’s the only companion you need to worry about outfitting, and as with your character, the rewards you get from quests should be more than sufficient to keep them combat effective.  Don’t spend any credits outfitting your main combat companion, at least not until you hit level 50.

I think that about covers it.  Have fun.

SWTOR Crafting – Getting Schematics

December 28, 2011

I took a look at this blog’s stats and noticed December 27th was the busiest day yet.  More than one person found there way here doing searches for how to get crafting schematics in SWTOR.  So I thought, why not help out?

There are four ways to get crafting schematics in SWTOR (that I’m aware of).

1) The most common method is to simply buy them from your crafting skill vendor, located on the fleet base and most major settlements.  As you level up your crafting skill, new schematics become available, so you’ll have to return to the vendor periodically to buy new, higher-level schematics.

A word of advice on buying schematics…don’t buy them all.  Most of them are useless, especially at lower levels, and you’ll likely go broke trying to keep up.  Just buy (and RE) the ones you need for your toon or your companions, and forget the rest, at least until you start to craft mid-20 stuff (Biochem implants have done well for me starting around level 29).  Once you get close to maxing out your crafting skill, you can think about buying all the schematics and then REing them.

2) Which leads to the second most common way to get new schematics:  reverse engineering.  When you RE something you’ve crafted, there’s a chance you’ll get a new schematic for an improved version (it is automatically added to your list of schematics).  Then you can RE the improved ‘blue’ version for a chance to get an even better ‘purple’ version.  At low levels it only takes around 6-8 attempts to get a better schematic, but at higher levels it seems to take more attempts (not 100% certain on that though).  At low levels, RE can be a good way to get more resources back to craft more items and level a little faster.  At higher levels you may be better off selling the stuff, depending on what you’re making (in Biochem medkits and buffs don’t seem to sell worth a damn, but implants sell well).

For the most part, I’d only RE mid-range stuff that you can use on your toons or your companions.  Once you’ve maxed out your crafting skill, then RE to get purples to sell (presumably you’d have the credits to afford to do this by then).

3) The third most common way to get schematics is through crew missions, specifically Investigation, Slicing and maybe Underworld Trading (not sure about this one).  These schematics are not BoP, so you can also purchase them on the GTN if you lack the appropriate crew mission skill.

4) Finally, some schematics drop off mobs in the world.  If you’re looking for advice on what mobs drop which schematics, sorry I can’t help you.  You may want to check a SWTOR database, like Torhead.

However, I’m sure some of them are super rare schematics that only drop in raids.  Why?  Well, WoW does it, so why the hell not SWTOR, right? =\

Anyways, hope this post has been of some use.  Cheers.

SWTOR Crafting

December 22, 2011

Originally I dismissed crafting in SWTOR as, more or less, a clone of WoW’s crafting system.  While that is fundamentally true, there is more to it than I originally thought.

I’ve played quite a few MMO’s, and one of the things I like to do most is craft.  The robustness of the crafting system is one of the standards that I measure any MMO by, and in my experience Star Wars Galaxies crafting was, by far, the best system yet implemented (even after the NGE debacle).

SWTOR’s system takes the basic WoW-style crafting model of get schematic, find resources and combine into a finished good, then adds a new wrinkle to it in the form of reverse engineering, which I’ve mentioned previously.  Reverse engineering your own crafted items has a chance of providing a new schematic for a slightly improved version of that item (i.e. RE a green item to get a slightly better blue item).  Then, if you RE that blue item, you have a chance of learning a schematic for an even better version of the item (i.e. a ‘purple’ item).  Something else that is nice about RE, though it takes some effort to get a ‘purple’ schematic, it doesn’t take days and days of grinding.  You can usually get it within a dozen attempts.

(For those unaware of how MMO’s grade items, a color code is used where ‘white’ items are the basic form, ‘green’ are slightly improved, ‘blue’ are a little better than green and ‘purple’ is the best, or close to the best (depending on the system there could be one or two better grades than purple)).

The form of the improvement varies depending on what you are crafting.  For example, Biochem can ultimately make reusable ‘purple’ medkits, so once you have one you never have to buy that type of medkit again.  Weapons and armor, however, add new stats or even mod slots, which allow a user to modifier the item as they see fit.  Thus, when you RE something, you have a chance to learn different variants of that item, then when you RE those variants you have a chance to learn even more variants.  In other words, there’s a lot of variability and it seems to me that it would take great deal of expense and effort for someone to master every variant of an item at every quality level.  This is a good thing, in my book, because it means that instead of everyone making exactly the same items, different crafters will have different schematics, and thus a degree of differenation even within the same crafting profession.

It gets even better, though.  Crafters also have a chance of creating a mastercraft version of an item,which includes additional bonus, or possibly a mod slot.  Therefore, every crafter has a chance to create items that are, if not quite unique, at least highly distinctive and rare.  This gives everyone a chance to compete, provided they’re willing to put some effort into it and can find a way to differentiate themselves.

So, while SWTOR’s crafting systme isn’t quite as robust as the SWG gold standard of crafting, it still presents a very engaging system with plenty of room to explore and create unique and interesting items.

SWTOR Space Game

December 20, 2011

So, I’m totally sucked into the awesome that is Star Wars The Old Republic, but I’ve mentioned this before when I participated in a couple of beta weekends.

One aspect I’ve really come to like is the space game.  Many have derided it as a crappy arcade rail shooter, and there is no denying that it is indeed a rail shooter.  But, I feel, it is a particularly well done Star Warsy rail shooter.

Primarily I like it because it is easy to grasp and play and lets you concentrate just on blowing stuff up and enjoying the terrific scenery.  It has a very cinematic feel to it, whether you’re dodging asteroids or weaving between capital ships in a massive space battle.  The space missions also give nice XP and tons of credits, which is also nice. 🙂

However, the system isn’t perfect.  In beta I played a Republic trooper and got to try out the first five space missions.  I was quite disappointed to discover that as Empire, you play the exact same space missions.  Even though you’re on the other side, you still have the exact same objectives.  Everything is pretty much the same, except the way the ships look.  I was really hoping for different space missions on each side.

Another disappointment is that, being a rail shooter they are all scripted.  The only variable really is what you blow up when (or what blows you up when).  It would be nice if the missions were designed to throw in a little variability, say for example randomizing the timing of a fighter wing or the arrival of a frigate or destroyer.  That would reduce the predictability, make them a bit more challenging and increase their replayability.  However, not being a programmer, I have no idea how difficult this would be to do.

The devs have mentioned big plans for space combat in the future, so hopefully some of my concerns can be addressed.  And maybe they can add multiplayer to the space game.  A little PVP might be nice, too.

SWTOR Early Access

December 15, 2011

My early access for SWTOR started yesterday, so posting will probably be light for a while.  I may post a few things about SWTOR as they occur to me.  Otherwise I’ll be busy leveling my Bounty Hunter.  Cheers.

Additional Thoughts on SW:TOR

November 30, 2011

The SW:TOR weekend beta ended Monday night for me.  After four days of playing, encountering only a few minor bugs, I have to say this is one of the best MMO’s I’ve ever played, whether in beta or full release.

First off, BioWare’s work with Mass Effect shows throughout SW:TOR.  From dialogue choices in the quests, to companions (and earning their affection), to lightside/darkside options and even navigating the galaxy map, all heavily influenced by Mass Effect.  Unfortunately, the combat system was not influenced by ME, which is a shame to me.  I’d have preferred a more action oriented shooter type combat system (maybe something like Tabula Rasa), but given all the cool light-saber animations Star Wars requires, I can see why they opted for a more traditional MMO-style combat system.

The game is pretty much a full-on themepark ride, which is par for the course these days in MMO design.  While I preferred Star Wars Galaxies’ sandbox approach (later changed to a sandbox/themepark hybrid with the infamous NGE), SW:TOR comes much closer to capturing the Star Wars experience than SWG ever did.  Usually themepark MMO’s start to bore me pretty quick.  But SW:TOR’s story oriented missions are done so well that you often forget you’re trapped in a themepark.  Likewise, the standard MMO quests are in there (Fed Ex, kill this, retrieve that, etc.), but the stories do such a good job of pulling you in you don’t feel like you’re doing Fed Ex mission #93, or the retrieve 100 rat tail missions #34.  The voice acting and mini-cut scenes for each mission help a great deal with the immersion.  The generic kill missions aren’t even given out by quest givers; they start automatically when you enter an area and kill one of the bad guys in it.  And they upgrade as  you proceed, usually with three or four stages.

I played a Trooper up to Level 19 and managed to get my first starship.  The starship serves as a means to travel about the galaxy quickly by interacting with a galactic holo-map.  Just choose the world you want to travel to and you go there, paying a small fee for fuel costs.  The map also shows space battles, which you may travel to and participate in (and get quests for).  Space combat is an arcade style rail-shooter, which is good and bad in my book.  On the good side, it allows you to focus on blowing crap up and admiring all the cool space scenery, without having to worry whether you’re traveling in the right direction or if you somehow missed an objective.  It’s also a very cinemeatic experience, flying around capital ships or space stations duking it out with one another.  On the bad side…it’s a rail shooter, with all the limitations and constraints that implies.  I enjoyed the few missions I played, but will they continue to be interesting the 10th or 20th time I play them?  I’m not sure.  There’s also some ship customization but I didn’t really get a chance to play around with it too much; from what little I’ve seen though, ship customization in SW:TOR doesn’t seem nearly as detailed as SWG was.   While I found it enjoyable, if you’re looking for a detailed space fighter simulator  you’ll likely be disappointed with SW:TOR’s space combat.

One other area of importance to me in an MMO is crafting.  Again, SW:TOR pretty much mimics the standard MMO crafting system, long established by WoW.  It’s a fairly simple system:  get resources, get recipe, spend resources to make item, skill improves so you can get better recipes; rinse and repeat.  The two minor twists on the system are 1) your companions do the actual crafting, which frees you up to do quests while they do the ‘grinding’ and 2) you can reverse engineer the items you make to get schematics for improved versions of the item, and a few of your resources back.  You can also reverse engineer loots that relate to your crafting skill (i.e. weapons if you have armstech, armor if you have armortech, etc.).  Not sure if RE’d loot items give schematics though.  Compared to SWG’s epic crafting system (still the best of any MMO I’ve played or heard about), SW:TOR’s system is completely uninspired, but I can’t say I’m surprised.  BioWare is in many ways travelling the road WoW paved, so they weren’t likely to blaze a new path in crafting, especially when the bulk of their players are more likely to be interested in living out their Jedi fantasies than being the best weaponsmith or armorsmith on their server.

However, that aside, SW:TOR is primed to be a big hit.  Every time a new major MMO comes out everyone starts talking about whether it will be the “WoW-killer.”  Well, if any MMO can kill WoW, it will be SW:TOR.   The bar for themepark MMO’s is about to raised a few notches.

SW:TOR Impressions

November 25, 2011

Got the chance to play in the SW:TOR weekend beta today for about 10 hours (so far).  I have to say that I’m very impressed.  I haven’t played in a ton of betas, but this has been by far the smoothest beta experience I’ve ever had.  In deed, SW:TOR’s beta is better than most retail release MMO’s I’ve played.

BioWare does a good job of hitting most of the MMO conventions that have developed since WoW’s appearance on the scene, though it does have the advantage of 12 years or so of MMO development hindsight.  I do wish it were more sandboxy, like SWG was (before the NGE), but I realize that isn’t what they’re going for, and probably wouldn’t work well given BioWare’s excellent track record of creating story-driven CRPGs like Mass Effect and Dragon Age.  It’s not a huge departure from the themepark style games that have become prevalent, but it does introduce a few new wrinkles, like companions.

All in all, I think BioWare has a winner here (not that there was a lot of doubt, I suppose).  I’m looking forward to this game’s release.  And now I’m off to play some more before the weekend ends.

SW:TOR FTW!

November 22, 2011

Got an invitation to the SW:TOR weekend beta next week.  Yay!

Now I just need to download a 20 GB file.  Boo!

In the meantime I think I’ll work on that S&W feat list I mentioned yesterday.

Cheers!