Waiting on perfection: An SW:ToR story…

Today I had a chance to get on the official SW:ToR forums and do a little chatting. The topic was “My take on Talent trees. Dual Spec, and ACs”. I commented and was immediately quoted with a good albeit not entirely thought out retort but it got me thinking. This brings about my topic for this week. Here are the excerpts from the conversation to get you up to speed…

I really don’t care either way, what I do care about is pressure from the outside influencing the game…
Let Bioware release the game before starting threads that turn into “Bioware could / should / will /would / might have done something wrong“…

The other guy…
Hmm, I can’t agree with that.  Sometimes the time to change what things are is before you get things halfway started.
Like right now, I’m having some home renovations done, but they’ve set things up a certain way.
I can’t say I like it, but now that it’s done, I’m kinda stuck with it unless I want to pay a higher price than I want.

While I understand the house reference, it’s not a very good one… The games budget far exceeds a 50-100 dollars purchase on the game so far, and until anyone (including me) has become a subsidizing evangelist for SW:TOR we have no right to “make changes“…

Back with a vengence...

I think the last time you guys heard from me I was probably neck deep in links trying to sort out a few things about SW:TOR... That has obviously changed, as we now know a launch date, have more insight on the game itself and all in all the quality of information has been stepped up 10 fold.

To get you up to speed on whats going on with me and the recent changes....

I decided to change up the look of MMO Syndicate because honestly I got tired of looking at a grey screen and realized that the articles I have/will write will be better viewed in this format. I will soon be working on a blogroll (Addition to Rags I Read) in the near future and I'm tackling a response topic to a VERY old article (written in 2009 I think) about the WoW versus the "Insert MMO name here" debate focusing on SW:TOR. It will likely be followed up with a speculation of opinions made by real MMO market analyst...

I will be writing quite a bit until the early access is granted to me (SW:TOR) about many things but my focus will likely switch over to SW:TOR for quite a while as I have been asked to be an officer in a world ranking progression guild (Paradoxum)...

Otherwise, Glad to be back, hope to get back to work on the "Blogless blogger" project and keep it going once in the swing of things with ToR...


Launch of a new site, writting a program...

Touching base again. This time to let you guys know I'm working on a new project for SW:TOR, called the "ACC" or Advanced Class Calculator. You can find more information on it @ swtortools.com. The site hasn't seen many updates since I started working on the project but I try to keep others updated VIA twitter (@swtortoolscom) on the site. The program is a stand alone .EXE and it is just now in the alpha stages (I have a working .EXE on my PC). The beta will obviously not be coming out until the NDA is lifted. If you have any questions or suggestions please ask them @ swtortools.com.


Vacation, MMO Crunch, and me, OH MY...

 Just wanted to touch base with my two loyal readers, I just got back from a mini-vacation on Lake Gaston for the 4th and have been a bit under the weather after being bit by a Black Widow spider. I'm not dying nor am I even sick anymore as my abdominal pains have lessened and the bite area was never noticed so there's no pain there.

To catch you up:

In the next week, I will be submitting my first article for MMO Crunch and I will be working on a statement to the post made by Klep over @ Troll racials are OP (and boy do I have a lot to say). The next few days may be a bit dry as I make my transition from blogger to blogger / writer but I promise no less than the sub par crap I already give you now (maybe after being bit by the spider I will have super-human writing abilities).

Besides the spider bite and the massive amount of sun I got on my mini-vacation not much else is new, so without further ado behold me signing off.....


I told you so: A World of Warcraft story...

Today MMOcrunch published an article on the indefinite trial (Free to play) model that World of Warcraft unveiled with the release of patch 4.2 . This being said I would like to share a bit of a conversation I had a month or so ago (maybe two) about the current state and business model of Blizzard Entertainment. The conversation was started by Chris over at Game by night and a few comments were made as weather or not the free to play model was on the horizon. Keep in mind that this has been lingering in my head for about a year or two since the development of the Blizzard store. Here area a few key quotes from the conversation and if you would like to read the entire article and conversation please feel free.

Rants and Raids...

Disclaimer: Rants and raids, is just a spot for me to vent my frustration with whatever I see fit. Sometimes it will be about game development, sometimes it will be about other websites, and other times it might be about whats going on in my currently sub'ed MMO. Either way, its my time to vent and if you don't like it don't read it!

In a world where mobile phones have better replacements being built before they even hit the shelves, I don't see how anyone in the world could have been surprised with the news that was announced by Massively.com about Gods and Heroes Online. It seems that the media hounds over at Massively.com will write anything and call it newsworthy. This being apparent when they allow writers like Jeremy Stratton to publish articles of little or no actual fact that resemble more of a "fanboy" rant than an actual article meant to compare the design of two games.

The point is that we as gamers should be tired of getting strung along by these types of stories. We should embrace what is good and reject what is bad as we do with the games that we play and don't play for these respective reasons. We should realize that the quality in which we receive news is just as important as the actual piece of information being fed to us. I for one am tired of seeing half-ass stories about Gods and heroes out selling Rift and other older games (which buy the way was only on Steam ). I mean really? Was this an intentional troll or an unintentional one, because honestly it couldn't possibly have been anything else. I also wonder if maybe it was just a poor excuse of an inflation trick to make others think "Oh wow, people are playing this game let me go buy it quickly, see what it's about!", I mean we are dealing with AOL here.

Draw conclusions...


In response: An underwater tale...

This issue was brought up by

Whats bad about water and underwater combat in MMO's? This was likely eluded to from the recently released game play videos for Guild wars 2.

I picked a few key quotes, have a look:

Nils said: There are some things where I have trained myself to suspend disbelief. I don't want to need to take a piss every now and then. Really.

But giant fireballs 2000m below the ocean's surface? Warriors that happily jump into the salty water with their plate mail? Rogues that don't fear about their leather armor? And do you know what it feels like to stay in salty very cold water for that long? The pressure ?
Syl said: @Nils
"When did you last see it in real life?"

Oh come on, seriously that question from you? ;) if we tried answering this consistently, we'd have to erase at least 50% of the features that make MMO worlds magical and fun.
to me there's no immersion loss here; just like I love to fly on a gryphon or hurl firebolts, I love exploring underwater themed zones. it's part of the magically enhanced "Me". ^^ but I guess it depends on whether you prefer the 'medieval/historic' MMO approach over the epic fantasy one or not..

All who weighed in on the comments were right, the downsides are phenomenal, the upsides are marginal, and the realism vs. fantasy doesn't work for most (some like realism, some like fantasy). If you embrace the fantasy, you alienate those who prefer realism and vice-versa.

The reason I believe that games embrace water is because 90% of any fantasy based MMO's takes into consideration the realism of the elements. Earth, wind, water, fire, life, death etc. With this said it would be illogical to believe that creatures of the water could survive on a planet (world) with no water. Furthermore there would be no way to justify the reasons for said creatures to ever come up to the surface unless they have been in some way or another effected by those who live on the land. There lies fantasy vs reality, and why water is a part of the game and a mechanic we will likely be dealing with forever. Mixing magic with knowledge was the actual bridge to science (real world applications of science) and this is how fantasy survives.

On another note, the feeling of the "unknown" is a big deal for MMO's and some people approach a  world of fantasy with a certain amount of real fear. This is what the development team hopes for and designs the entire surrounding on the fact that it evokes some sort of emotional reaction from you the player.

My personal opinion? I like it when it fits the bill, and sometimes it just annoying. The Z axis can be a little overwhelming, on the flip side, I can't tell you how many times I've realized I was in trouble (PvP wise in open world WoW) and went running for the water to get away from the harasser (I play a druid). I like the water zone in cataclysm to a point but I have NEVER finished it.  It can get discombobulating and the distance checks are a bit of a disaster when playing a ranged class since there are no real reference points but, all in all most developers either nail it or destroy it in terms of fun.

General opinions vary, but for the most part, your either for it or against it. The realistic view of things is that game worlds will continue to develop underwater worlds for us to explore, and we will either deal with it or find another medium to get enjoyment out of.


Penny Arcade gives a birds eye view of SW:TOR...

This is not an article written by me it is an article written by Gabe over on Penny Arcade . This article is not meant to be a review just an enthusiast's perspective of the game. Gabe being a WoW player can appreciate things that set it apart from WoW as well as make it familiar to the quintessential MMO gamer.

So I was actually able to get into the current friends and family beta for Star Wars: The Old Republic. It wasn’t too hard since technically I do have a friend over there. The tricky part is that Bioware, like a lot of places thinks of PA as “media” and they don’t want media playing it yet. I explained that we aren’t media, we prefer to think of ourselves as “enthusiasts”. They let me in but I had to pinkie swear that I wouldn’t talk about the game here on the site, or anywhere else for that matter. I’ve been playing it for a little over a month now and last week I asked if I could share some of my impressions with you all. It took some begging but finally they agreed and to their credit they didn’t ask to see what I was going to write first. Honestly they had no idea what I was going to say which must have been a little scary considering this is PA, but lucky for them I actually really like their game. So this isn’t a review or anything even close. What I’m playing is the beta and honestly changing all the time. I just wanted to share some of my impressions.

First of all, a lot has been made about the new “fourth pillar” of story telling. Is it really all they are making it out to be? In my personal opinion, yes, it really is a big deal and let me tell you why. In the short time I’ve been playing SW:TOR I have already given more thought to my character than I ever did in all the years I played WOW. I’ve had to make hard choices with my Bounty Hunter that have made me honestly think about who he is and what he’s like. At first I intended to play him as a real asshole but some of the moral quagmires these quests put you in just aren’t that black and white. Do I do what gets me the most credits? Do I stay loyal to the person who gave me the job even it means hurting Innocent people? As a result of all this I have a character that is a hard ass bounty hunter who has a soft spot for people in trouble and children. The only thing I could tell you about my WOW character Dudefella is that he was a mage and a hell of a good dancer.

Of course all MMO’s now are going to have you taking quests but I think the big difference here is that I tend to care more about these quests. I will admit I am not a quest reader when I play an MMO. I click and click until it’s accepted and then read the breakdown on my way out to wherever the wolf bladders are. Playing a class in SW:TOR is like playing a single player Bioware game. People are talking to you and you’re deciding how to respond and making dialog choices. Turning the quests into an interactive experience makes me care a lot more about them. A quest is still a chance to get XP, money and loot but it’s also an opportunity to advance your character towards the dark or light side based on your decisions. In most MMO’s taking quests is what you do so that you can go play. In SW:TOR, taking quests is playing.

Obviously the setting is a big draw for me but I played the last Star Wars MMO and hated it. So just setting a game in the Star Wars universe isn’t enough for me. With that said I was curious if the Old Republic would be “Star Warsy” enough. I mean, we’re talking about 4000 years before the movies. Would that world look anything like the three films we all love? The reality is that I think it’s almost too much like the movies. It turns out that 4000 years before Jabba, the Hutts were still crime lords surrounded by Twi’lek dancers and had a habit of feeding people to exotic beasts. For the most part everything you expect to see in Star Wars is there and it hasn’t changed much if at all. I guess the idea is that the Star Wars universe has sort of plateaued. I could hazard a guess that the constant battle between the Jedi and the Sith have kept the universe in a perpetual state of either war or re-building...but if I said that I would be a huge nerd.

Anyway I can understand why they did it from a design stand point. They want people who are fans of Star Wars to feel at home here. The result is that it’s easy to forget that all this is taking place thousands of years before Luke Skywalker kissed his sister.

I’m hesitant to talk too much about the mechanics since like I said they really are changing all the time. I can say that coming over from WOW, it feels very familiar and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I’ve checked out the basics of most of the classes and they each feel unique. Dropping into cover with the smuggler gives you a whole new action bar similar to popping stealth with a rogue. At level 1 a Jedi Consular can tear a chunk of debris from the earth and hurl it at an enemy. Zapping the shit out of someone with force lightning is just as fun as you think. Firing up into the air with your jet pack and then raining missiles down on enemies does not get old. I will never get tired of slicing a guy in half with my lightsaber and then watching as my character lifts the blade over his head to block a blaster shot from behind without looking.

I don’t want to drill down into too much little stuff about the game but there is one feature I have to tell you about because I think it is really cool. If someone in your party is off grabbing quests while you’re selling junk at a vendor you would have to wait for them to share the quest with you later in any other game. In SW:TOR you get a little message that someone in your party is taking a quest and do you want to join via holoprojector. The first time I saw this I actually said out loud “Shit yeah I want to join via holoprojector!” and sure enough your character appears there in all his or her shimmering blue glory. You can interact with the NPC right alongside your partner. It’s a little touch but believe me when I tell you the game is full of smart little bits like this.
I honestly think they are making something unique and fun here. I’ve enjoyed my time in the beta even more than I expected and it just continues to improve. I’m excited to see what the final product ends up looking like and how people respond to some of its ideas.
-Gabe out

Immersion into the story seems to be the name of the game, and here all the while everyone was making the entire quest dialog / decision system look like an over rated PoS. I'm glad to hear that the story dictates the game, because the other way around just seems to be the norm these days.

I'm also glad he took the time to realize that while the terrain is familiar for most Star wars fans, it's not a bad thing, it just is what it is... (PS. Holoprojectors what? I almost "stickied" my keyboard...)


Loot systems and you...

After spending some time looking for a SW:TOR guild and getting tons of responses after a post I made in the  "looking for guild" thread, I realized I had plenty to think about and even more to write about. So the topic we're about to discuss is not only controversial but very personal.

The loot systems...
Loot council Pros / Cons:
  • Pros
  • Puts the groups needs before the individuals.
  • Allows a lesser geared player to catch up in the event of a replacement situation (healer had RL issues and had to be replaced).
  • Cons 
  • Allows one person or a group of people to dictate the progression of a larger group.
  • Does not require nor reward hard work..
  • Does not reward diligence or work ethic.
  • Can be tainted with favoritism.
DKP Pros / Cons:
  • Pros
  •  Rewards those who show up on time and put in the work.
  • Rewards diligence.
  • Cons
  • Can be abused with DKP hoarding.
  • Can be tainted with corrupted data (addons / Website data corruption)
Roll lockout Pros / Cons:
  • Pros
  • Everyone has a fair chance at loot.
  • Promoted selflessness.
  • Less drama.
  • No Favoritism
  • Cons
  • Requires luck
  • Can be skewed by player banding (X player rolls for Y player so Y player has more than 1 shot at a roll)
  • Can be frustrating never winning a roll per raid ID.
If you have any Pros / Cons to add to the list please leave a comment and I will try to edit them into the post.

The idea for the next few weeks and hopefully some of you from the SW:TOR forums made it over here, is to find out the most popular type of looting system and why. To keep the poll from being skewed I would like to ask that everyone please only vote once and please don't change your answer after voting unless you have a good reason, and in the event that you do change your answer please leave a comment listing why you changed your answer.


How mass media killed the gamer...

verb /ˌrevəˈlo͞oSHəˌnīz/ 
revolutionised, past participle; revolutionised, past tense; revolutionises, 3rd person singular present; revolutionising, present participle; revolutionized, past participle; revolutionized, past tense; revolutionizes, 3rd person singular present; revolutionizing, present participle

Change (something) radically or fundamentally
  • - this fabulous new theory will revolutionize the whole of science

The Point...

Now that we have that out of the way, I would like to go into it a bit further with MMO's. First let me say that this article will be solely devoted to the development and security of SW:TOR and after reading an article over on Massively and watching the comments pour in, I realized that the word "revolutionize" can single handedly be the fall of this games launch. It seems as though the people commenting have some preconception that "ToR" will and needs to be some ground breaking MMO.  In all honesty, I will be happy just to see it succeed on the merit that its "Fun", you know that word that used to mean something to gamers, before we became too cool for games. Can it just be fun, can we decide to just receive it as it is with no hype and preconception?

Take the game as a game, it's not a way of life and it's not a life changing decision, it's a game, nothing more and nothing less. At $50 it will be a little steep, but at least you get 30 days of play time to figure out if it's just a nice looking box to add to your shelf display, or the game for you. "ToR" will be what you make of it, buy into the hype and you will likely be disappointed, play the game for what it is and you will likely be pleasantly surprised. Don't let the "Usurpers of opinion" dictate yours.


"A decade of kids" ....

I wanted to share this with others, you can either read this and take with it what you will or you can read the source over at epicslant.com. It was something I was not expecting to ever realize but the more I wrote the more I realized it was true.

From my post dubbed "A decade of kids"

If I may, I would like to share on this subject. To share I have to give a bit of background but I will keep it brief.
I have played World of Warcraft on a competitive level (server first guild) since I started playing World of Warcraft. The day that I decided to leave was a week before Rift was launched (head start program), as I played Rift (CB1-CB6) and realized I didn’t enjoy playing “WoW” (After the GM and Co-Gm of my guild my best “WoW” friends decided to leave the game for IRL reasons) anymore I became more and more scarce to my guild, and more and more apt to play Rift. I played Rift to end game content (“Greenscale” / “RoS”) and found myself wanting for a different reason.

Later I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the game, it was the people. The people make the game, the addiction isn’t the progression or the gear, or the satisfaction of killing a boss. The addiction is teamwork, knowing that you’re with a guild / team that has gone to hell an back with you and the not so obvious respect and comradery you have built with your brothers and sisters that spent hours together through thick and thin, just to wipe over and over again to get another step closer to that final goal, which is influential, but also a goal that can only be set and met with the people you call a guild.

I realized this after playing Rift to end game. I’m not trying to bag on my Rift guild, I just never got that family “I’ll go to war with you brother” feeling that I had with my “WoW” guild. It was only a few days after telling my Rift guild that I was leaving the game that I realized why I was really leaving. Somewhere between taking that step away from “WoW” and taking that step forward to the unknown, I figured out what gaming especially in MMO’s was about for me, and I believe that if more people took that step back and looked at the situation they would realize as well that gaming isn’t 100% about the game. A lot of it has to do with who you play with.

I can positively say that I would likely have quit playing “WoW” a long time ago had “Oldschool” and “Strife” my two very best “WoW” friends quit sooner. I can easily say that the reason I left Rift was because I couldn’t take one more day with my guild or server for that matter.

A lot of people blamed game play and homogenization of class mechanics and abilities for the reason that Cataclysm has been a colossal failure (which it was not) , but I think after a generation of people playing “WoW” together, real life called those who were just starting their lives to come be part of the real world, and the late bloomers and the older crowd (my crowd) that was already grounded in the real world were just left behind. Everyone got shuffled around and it was no fun anymore. All of those people that we had worked our tails off with to get T1-T9/10 were gone and replacing them was like replacing a family member, it’s just not gonna happen. A “decade of kids” grew up on us and left us to be part of the world, I did it after college, I left gaming only to come back to it after I had kids of my own. They will be back, families will form again, people will dominate content in some new game endlessly and effortlessly as they did before, and it will be fun again, but for most of us that played World of Warcraft in all of it glorious splendor it will never be the same until the next generation of “Almost adults” joins us and the “decade of kids that grew up” come back. Sadly I don’t think “WoW” has many more years to unite the masses, but another game will, that’s for sure.