Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Rose by Any Other Name...

Community strongman Georg has been busy once more, doling out information left and right.  Today, he had a few choice quotes regarding how character names will be handled in SWTOR:

Will we see multiple Darth Vaders running about?
As you probably already have guessed, well known names from the extended Star Wars universe will not be available to players, so you don't have to worry about running into Darth Vader.
And what about hyphen/apostrophe-usage in our names?
Yes to hyphens.

Yes to apostrophes.

No comment - yet - on titles or surnames and the like...

... I'm sure we'll talk about such things at some time in the future though
There we have it.  Does this change anyone's prospective names?  Are you planning on including any hyphens or apostrophes now?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Community Artist Spotlight - redding

The SWTOR boards have no shortage of talented writers and artists, and one user in particular who has been very active as of late is redding.  Redding has contributed a number of images to the Big Art Request Thread (now in its third iteration).  Here is just a sampling of the SWTOR-themed images redding has contributed:

Make sure to check out redding's Star Wars Gallery too!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Sell All Grays" Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

Georg Zoeller was back in full effect on the forums, continuing to respond to the discussion regarding Companions being able to sell off lower quality items.

Georg said:
We're really looking more at this as the movie equivalent of a menial task. 

If it doesn't matter to the story at hand, movies rarely show people doing the boring tasks of their daily routine (brewing the coffee before drinking it, searching for the remote in the couch before turning on the TV) in real time. Why? Because they focus on the heroic, interesting stuff, they focus where the action is.

Same for us - we want to you focused where the entertainment is, not held up simulating repetitive tasks for the sake of simulation.

Now, don't get me wrong - a certain amount of simulation is often helpful to ease the player into the world and make them feel at home ("Hey, I know how this works - it's just like ....!") - but we are definitely focusing a lot more on the not-so-standard, action, romance or story heavy elements of your experience.

In this specific case - your companion is a vital part of your character. Without her (or maybe a group member instead), your combat effectiveness and options are reduced, your downtime lengthens and, well, you are without a companion. 

Example: As a Shadow, your enemies' position relative to you is of tactical importance in battle. Without a group member or companion to distract or engage an enemy, it is very hard to get into an advantageous position behind the target during battle to use some of your more devastating opening moves. 

So, to counter your suggestion that this should take more time - we don't see a good reason for that. Making the less interesting parts of MMO game experience (like, eh, selling grays) take a long time at the expense of the interesting parts (like introducing fleshraiders to your lightsaber, shooting first or even dancing with your companion next to the sarlacc pit) is not the design philosophy we're going for.
Hey, Sarlacc dancing is something I can get on board with!  A fair number of people have expressed concerns that many traditionally social interactions are going to be supplanted completed between our Companions and our Ships.  Well fret not, because Georg is on the case!
You are right, players need a reason to return to social hubs from time to time. 

Here are some reasons why 'selling grays' is not that reason in The Old Republic:

- Players have no incentive to interact with other players when selling grays. You're just forcing them to return to a hub. There are better reasons (e.g. trainers, turning in quests, etc.) that reward the player for doing the same thing, which creates a much more positive attitude to begin with.

- It's something you have to do with high frequency and creates implicit dependencies, that we then have to balance. In TOR, whenever you go into combat, you usually fight a substantially larger number of foes than in other MMOs. As a result, your inventory fills up quicker. We obviously can adjust drop rates down to change that, but that also means that if we address drop rates for any other reason, we implicitly change the frequency at which you have to return to town. 

- Frankly - nobody has ever told me "Man, I went to town to sell grays, it was soooo awesome!" 

To address your concerns, here's a small list of reasons for you to return to a social hub in TOR, and as a bonus, how we view each reason from a player perspective:
  • Various vendors. Positive: I get to buy stuff.
  • Crafting benches. Positive: I get to make stuff.
  • Banking access. Positive: I don't pay bills there? 
  • Trainers. Positive: I get to learn new stuff.
  • Quests / Follow-up quests. Positive: I get rewards.
  • Meeting friends (much easier at a known location than randomly in a snowstorm on Hoth). Positive: I meet friends.
  • Spaceport access. Neutral.
  • Medcenters. Neutral, arguably negative (I failed).
  • Speeder Transportation Service. Neutral.
  • Your inventory still fills up with items, so it's not like you never have to return to town. Probably Neutral: since I get a lot of credits for the non gray stuff.
Lastly, adding a feature to the game ('companions sell grays') and then balancing it in a way that it becomes undesirable to the player by the meas of penalties ('can't use companion for a long time') would be bad design. When you create a feature for a game, it is either strong, stands on it own and has been designed to account for potential issues, or you don't do it. You don't add it and then try to balance it out with something negative.

Ultimately, it's not like this is a super ground breaking feature. It's just different from what other MMOs do and I can see how that is out of the comfort zone for some. That's fine - every once in a while someone needs to question these kinds of conventions, or we'd still be stuck with 'lose half a level' XP death penalties as the genre standard.
Well, has he soothed your fears sufficiently, if you were worried about this?  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Toiling Away for Your Guild

Peons hard at work.
SWTORCrafter asks today, "How can a guild best support their crafters in SWTOR?"  While this largely depends on the game, I feel that much of the onus is actually on the Crafter in this scenario.  The Crafter and their crew must first explain why it is in the best interest in the guild as a whole to assist you in your endeavors.

Let's take EVE Online, for example. In EVE, my corporation and I would regularly sponsor “Mining Operations” for the benefit of the entire Corp. In EVE, almost 95% of every item or ship that you see floating around in space was originally made by a player. It was a lot easier for people in EVE to understand how the raw minerals that we were gathering could directly benefit them because the same raw materials that we were extracting from space rocks, could then be used to craft any number of things.  As a Tailor or a Leatherworker for example, how would you convince the plate-wearing Tank that he really needs to give you a hand?  The answer hopefully is that the Tank is an awesome person and would gladly help you regardless, but not everyone is so lucky.

Much of it depends on what all we'll be able to craft using our Crew Skills.  With three of the skills still locked away in the depths of BioWare mountain, it's unclear for example, if the Armormech Crafter will be able to craft all wearable armor or not.  The skill is defined on the Official SWTOR site as having "the ability to work with hard metals and electronic shielding to construct all types of personal armor."  If they do indeed craft armor for everyone, convincing others to assist you will be much easier.

The Scavenging Missions UI
Another great feature of the Crew Skills system is that not everyone even wants to craft, or even gather for that matter.  As a Crafter, you'll want to quickly identify those people in your guild and work out some sort of exchange.  Some of them may be more than willing to hire out their own Companions' services, running Scavenging missions for you while they're offline.  This could end up working to everyone's advantage, as long as your guildmates have a free Companion.

While you can still go out and Gather resources yourself, it sounds like the bulk of this can be offloaded to your companions.  We may not need to organize a "Guild Crafting Night" per se, but I think that it'd still be a great idea to do so.  Some of my most enjoyable MMO moments have come out of random events like these, because of the people I was with at the time.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Of Pixels and Shinies

YouTube user Logun24x7 has posted a video chronicling not only how SWTOR's graphics have progressed until now, but also showing how they stack up compared to other MMOs.

Have a watch.

While he probably could have found better photos for the other MMOs, they're really of no concern to me.  The bottom line is: SWTOR is looking good, and it's exciting to see how the art direction has matured.

If anything, this really highlights the need for a robust Character Creation system.  We've seen several different body types shown so far (skinny, muscular, and rotund), which is promising, but it will all come down to the face.  What varieties of "decals" will we be able to use for each character?  How will our character's alignment (Dark Side vs. Light Side) ultimately influence how we'll look?

As Logun states, with other MMOs, your character is usually seen from the "chase cam" perspective.  While face customization has always been important to folks, it's arguably more important in SWTOR simply because of the amount of time we'll be spending looking at our mugs during cut-scenes.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Sell All Grays"

Georg Zoeller stopped by the main SWTOR forums today, as he has been doing fairly frequently lately, and dropped this tidbit regarding Companions:

In TOR, you indeed have the option to command your faithful (or scornful) companion to make a trip to the nearest market to lighten your backpack and fatten your wallet by selling objects of purely monetary value.

As you command your (possibly hateful or even loving) companion to do so, which they will only agree to if you are not engaged in hostile activities and they are convinced your life is not in immediate danger, they will arrange for quick transport to the closest market and return after a short while (roughly a minute, subject to tuning) with your hard earned money.

It is assumed you trust your (trustworthy) companion in so far as to accept whatever they tell you in regards to the prices they negotiated and will not undermine your (purely professional) working relationship with them with potentially insulting questions about taxes, fees, union dues and other applicable fees.

In other words, yes you can do that.
I can get on board with that.  It's clear that BioWare wants the Companion to be something more than just a mobile DoT effect.  I don't want to read too far into Daniel Erickson's comments regarding "setting up shop," or "opening your own business," but it seems like the Crafting aspect has the possibility of being much deeper than the system in many other MMOs.  I appreciate a player-driven economy, and I do hope to see some sort of option available to throw myself into that role when SWTOR launches.

The Joys of Beginning Anew

It's about that time again.  Coffee is brewing.  Knuckles have been sufficiently cracked.  Mynocks have been gently plucked from exposed wiring and several Ewoks have been punted for good measure.

And now, I breathe new life into this oft-neglected little journal.  Fiat lux!  Well, no.  On second thought... Fiant tenebrae!

Like most of you, I've been following SWTOR since October of 2008.  In that time, I always had an urge somewhere in the recesses of my mind to put pen to paper, so to speak, and write a bit about what we were seeing.  I've done a proper job on procrastinating though, so flash forward to now.  There still aren't nearly as many SWTOR-centric blogs as I had imagined, so I figured, "Why not?"  While we're certainly not first out of the gates, there's quite a bit of room in which to maneuver and so far, I'm in good company.

Interests-wise within the game, I expect to focus quite a bit on crafting and PvP.  I've done the raiding scene in a number of other games, and while I'm not going to rule out participating in SWTOR Raids, I'm certainly more interested in the smaller-scale flashpoints.  The Companion Skills system really piqued my interest as a dedicated crafter, so expect to see a few posts here and there regarding that.

So for the meantime, pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable.  There's quite a bit of work to do on the site to make it presentable, but I suppose the default styles will have to do for now.  Cheers for stopping by, and I do hope to make it worth your while to return eventually.