Friday, July 31, 2015


A couple days ago, WoW announced that they are going to announce their new expansion at Gamescom. It just so happens that they are going to announce it right after they report their subscription numbers, which are almost certainly going to be down. This led to some talk about how it will affect SWTOR's expansion plans in October.

I really don't think the two will have any affect on each other.  Blizzard may be announcing the expansion, but the odds of it happening this year are quite low.  They usually take a year after announcement to release the expansion.  So while the Gamescom hype may go to Blizzard,  it will subside once October rolls around.  BioWare already announced Fallen Empire anyway.

More importantly, WoW and SWTOR are very different games, more so once Fallen Empire comes out.   WoW will add X Raids, X dungeons, and a load of mostly uninteresting quests which are just used to level the player.  SWTOR won't be releasing new group content at the start, instead concentrating on the questing/story experience and making existing content relevant for everyone.  So, I think they have different audiences now.

And playing SWTOR isn't an all or nothing affair.  With the new episodic approach, they can take a couple months off from SWTOR to play WoW.  Then, come back, pay $15 and get everything they missed.  I don't just play SWTOR (although it is my main game), and I suspect a lot of people are the same.

Plus, Star Wars.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Brothers, new story

BioWare, Courtney Woods specifically, put out a new story in anticipation of Fallen Empire.  This one centers around the twin brothers we saw in Sacrifice, Thexan and Arcann.  I was really happy to see this since I have been wanting to find out more about the new bad guys.  We only had the trailer to go off of, now some actual details about them are starting to emerge.  We did learn some interesting things.

The Zakuul Knights revere their Emperor as a God, not just a leader.  The Emperor also slayed someone or something called Izax.  That is likely just some flavor though, I don't know if we'll ever find out more.  Thexan seems pretty reasonable, not all that stuck up or maniacal.  Pity he dies.

We also find out the name of the Sith Twi'lik in the trailer, Darth Atroxa.  She's has her fans, for some unknown reason.  All she did was point, and get defeated.  I tend to think of my Sith the way Bane did.  That if one is defeated, they deserved to be as they were weak.  Of course, Bane is not even born yet so maybe I should not think of them like that.  Atroxa was bested by Arcann, so her fate should be sealed.  We didn't actually see a body though, so who knows.

The most interesting tidbit to me was this quote:  “This campaign was his vision,” in reference to Arcann.  It really makes me wonder about the motivations behind this war.  Is it all just to please their father?  That's quite a lot of resources for such a non-strategic task.  It also means that maybe there is more to the Emperor than just wanting to conquer everything.

Also amusing was the Emperor calling the Sith 'quaint.'  I always find it interesting when bad guys encounter other bad guys.  There tends to be some interesting interactions.  Just what kind of bad guys are they, if the Sith are just quaint?  I'm looking forward to finding out more.

Monday, July 27, 2015

My new favorite companion

That would be Doc, on my Jedi Knight.  I just started to interact with him and I really love his attitude.  He's always how I imagined a Smuggler to be, but instead he's a Doctor.  He plays great off of my righteous-type Jedi.  So, sorry Kira, you will be sitting on the bench.

Forge Link

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Yavin IV Stronghold is Awesome

Yesterday, SWTOR 3.3 came out and with it, the Yavin IV Stronghold!  This sucker is pretty pricey, but is also very well done.  I actually had to go buy more Cartel Coins so that I could unlock the larger outdoor area.  I can't spend my precious credits, those are for decorations.  I am quite impressed with the space BioWare has given us.  Here is the intro:

 Video is from Forge, of course :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Skyforge, I Don't Know

By all accounts, I shouldn't really be playing Skyforge.  It doesn't have a strong IP which I like.  It is almost an Eastern-style game, but not quite.  There are no Dwarves.  It has a suspect business model, and a suspect track record (Allods).  There is nothing that really makes it unique.  But here I am, playing it.

What got me to try it was the Roman aesthetic you start out with, and the 13 classes which looked pretty cool.  It turns out the combat is kinda fun, the story isn't half bad, and you can get missions done in under a half hour.  So it kinda works for me.

I'm a bit disappointed that I am no where near playing a Gunner, or that the beginning Legionnaire armor set doesn't seem to be an option in the game.  How awesome was that?  I can't believe they don't let you wear it after you become an Immortal.  Ah well.

I'm not sure if Skyforge will have long term appeal for me, like SWTOR does.  But it is a fun diversion for now.  We'll see if I crack open the wallet for some Premium time.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Choice in SWTOR

One of the things BioWare is stressing with Fallen Empire is that Choices will matter.  In the game up until this point, choices have been mostly superficial.  There were no long term effects.  This wasn't always the case though,  in beta you could actually get companions killed and such.  This was taken out due to complaints.

Now that BioWare is back on their original vision, there have been a number of complaints about choices mattering.  Some think a save point is needed, others think the choice consequences, no matter how far down the line, need to be spelled out.  Then there are the types who just want to have everything and lose nothing.

In order for choice to matter, there has to be some meaningful effect.  And to make it meaningful, there has to be some unknown aspects.  I'm sure, in the case of a companion dying, BioWare is going to make sure you know the consequences.  However, other story effects they probably will not.  If you don't like a consequence, well, that's where alts come in.

This new direction is fine with me.  It is certainly something new in the MMO space.  I'm interested to see just how far BioWare takes the choice matters mantra.  Also, will choices extend beyond seasons?  If the season 1 finale can end in different ways, how will that affect subsequent seasons?  Should be interesting.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

One Hour of Content?

During a recent video about Fallen Empire, Ashe (aka Lady Insanity) mentions that each Chapter will contain at least one hour of story content.  Apparently, she is being given access by BioWare, which is good for her and us.  Remember, BioWare's plan is to release one chapter per month.  At first, I was taken aback by the one hour number, it seems so short.

However, she later clarified that she meant actual story content, like cutscenes and dialog.  Not the total gameplay time.  Ok, that's a bit better.  But just how much is that actually?  I looked around Youtube at the SWTOR videos people had posted.  It turns out, the Prologue for the Trooper story clocked in at about an hour.  That's just story remember, not actual fighting or anything.  Alternatively, it looks like Ziost amounted to around 30 minutes of story content.

If BioWare is able to provide, at minimum, that each month I think I will be pretty satisfied. I'm still a bit skeptical that they can pull it off at a quality level.  That's a lot of content every month.

Trooper Part 1:
Trooper Part 2:

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Schrödinger's Malgus

When is Darth Malgus both alive and dead?  When BioWare decides to share with the community, of course.  During the San Diego Comic Con story panel, BioWare showed off some concept art of Malgus in carbonite.  Then they followed it up with a CGIp clip of him being brought in by the brothers.

While there was mostly rejoicing, BioWare had to step in and make things difficult.  Charles Boyd, a SWTOR writer tweeted:

That's disappointing, but not really a denial that he is in the game.  It makes sense that it was cut as it wouldn't really fit in the Sacrifice trailer.

However,  why would they go through the effort of making it if Malgus was somehow not involved with Fallen Empire?  It's not like it was 5 minutes of work.

Also,  I can't believe someone would have thought it was a good idea to show something like this just to say it is not in the game.  They know people would get excited.

That being said,  there could be any number of explanations.  Maybe Malgus in carbonite is just a trophy in the Emperor's room.  We might see it, but never interact with it.  Maybe Malgus gets released at the end and is involved in Season 2?  Maybe we get him as a Stronghold decoration?

I hope he is in the expansion.  If he's not, it isn't a big deal though.  He's just the cherry on top.

Monday, July 13, 2015

What I like about the Fallen Empire Story

On the surface, the Fallen Empire story isn't extremely interesting.  A new bad guy appears and threatens the galaxy!  It's pretty standard.   When you consider the Republic, it's almost boring.  The good guys versus the bad guys.  However,  what get's me interested is the Sith.  They are supposed to be the ultimate bad guys.  How do they react to getting pretty much wrecked by someone else?

The interactions with some of the more fun Sith (like Darth Marr) should be really interesting.  I'm really interested to hear their take on it all and how they plan on reacting.  Hopefully, we get to track down some of them as a part of building the Alliance.  We know Lana is involved, but she is pretty tame as far as Sith go.

We don't know much about the bad guys (Eternal Throne) motiviation yet.  So it is hard to say how interesting they will be.  The whole dynamic between the Eternal Emperor and his sons (well, son) are interesting.  Plus, there is a daughter involved somewhere.

Can't wait!

Friday, July 10, 2015

No New Operations in Fallen Empire

That is, of course, the headline most people are taking from the latest SWTOR blog on the upcoming Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion.  You can also add Flashpoints to that.  As expected,  a segment of players is upset and being quite vocal about it.  I can't blame them, I'd be disappointed too if the part of the game I liked wasn't getting new content.

Although, just talking about what's not in is doing a disservice to BioWare as there was a lot more in that developer blog.  BioWare is fundamentally changing their instanced group content.  11 more Flashpoints are getting a Solo mode, making the total 14.  All of the Flashpoints are getting a Tactical mode.  This makes them available from level 10 on to the cap.  Hard mode Flashpoints will also all be available from level 50 to the cap.  All of the Operations (raids) will scale and be available at the level cap.  Also, new rewards.

It's clear that this is not aimed at the progression raider or the veteran who has done them a hundred times already.  It is for the new player, or the one who is returning.  With the new leveling speed,  most of those dungeons would have been useless.  Now, they are available most of the game.  It seems like the plan is to keep it that way moving forward too.

This seems like an obvious step BioWare needed to take.  I'm not surprised there is no new Operation with all this going on, it doesn't seem trivial.  In an ideal world, BioWare would be able to make everyone happy.  But that is just not reality.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

What is BioWare's Plan?

SWTOR is embarking on a new business strategy with the release of Fallen Empire this fall.  It is essentially the same, subs and cartel market, but they are going about it in a different way.  They are making a much greater push for subscriptions.  All of the new story content is obtained through subscribing.  No buying of chapters in the market.

On the surface, I like it.  It is very simple.  When you sub, you get all of the story content that has been released up to that point.  Season One will contain 16 chapters, starting with the release of 9 in October.  There will be a break, then one chapter a month.  That puts the finale in July.  So, if you spend $15 in July (2016) you get all 16 Chapters.

They are also not charging extra for the expansion.  That means that Blur trailer, and all the work they did to change the game for Fallen Empire, has to be made up by subscriptions.  It seems like quite a risk to me.  That's months of work and a lot of money.

12xp is likely a good source of subscriptions.  When Fallen Empire hits, that will go away.  Instead, some form of it is going to be built in to the free portion of the game.  Players just wanting to do the original class stories won't have to subscribe.  Also, with the lack of attention to Operations and PvP, other subscriptions may also drop.

Will SWTOR gain enough subscriptions to justify the expense of this work?  How many people will subscribe on a monthly basis versus just once per season?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Back to the Future

While at the beach, we were up on the boardwalk and went into a toy store.  Just to look around mind you, I had no idea how many action figures were still being made.  Behind the counter, there they were.  Back to the Future action figures (Funko Reaction).  It's also the 30th anniversary of the series, so I guess it was just meant to be.  Not one to overpay, I quickly ordered them from Amazon.

It's hard to quantify how much of an affect Back to the Future has had on my life.  That can be said about a lot of 80's movies for me, like My Science Project, Explorers, and so many more.  They sparked my imagination,  which I firmly believed helped me succeed in life.

My favorite?  It might have to be Biff.  That reminds me, I once sent the actor who played Biff (Thomas Wilson) a note on Youtube and he responded!  We chatted a bit as we are from the same area.  It was awesome.

Monday, July 6, 2015

MMO Costs

The recent Blizzard fiasco where they are only saying Wardlords gets one real content patch got me thinking.  It really does seem like we got more for less in the old days.  WoD was more expensive, higher sub cost in many countries, and arguably delivered less.  The SWTOR expansion were really not that impressive from a size point of view.

I would have thought as the industry matured, and tech improved, it would be cheaper to create content.  That seems not to be the case.  Instead expectations, overhead, and bureaucracy has just increased.  I'm not sure there is any going back to the 'good old days.'  Even indie games have to meet expecatations which just is not easy to do.  This is all compounded by the fact MMO's are obviously not the major bread winners anymore.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Is SWTOR Crafting being cut?

Back from a mini-vacation!  It was fun, we went to the beach.  Had pretty good weather the whole time, which is pretty much critical when going to the beach.  I also did not get sun burned.  Yay!  SWTOR is still swirling with possibilities since the Fallen Empire announcement.  I've been thinking about crafting, and I think it is going bye bye.

Crafting, as it stands now, is tied to companions.  They have special bonuses and are responsible for doing crew skills.  In the expansion,  you lose all your companions initially.  You'll also have a lot more flexibility in how you build your roster of companions.  In fact, there is some Alliance system which will handle it all.  Crafting is also affected by your companion affection, which you have to work at to max out.

Not all opf this makes sense in a new world where companions can be killed, and you have choices in which companions you can take on.  It'd be strange to login to the expansion and find you have no more access to crafting since you have no companions. That's why I think a big change is coming to the system, possibly it being removed.

In one of the interviews (Polygon I think), the word 'streamlined' is used a few times.  We all know what that is code for:  simpler.  Crafting, while already simple, is one of those systems that could be removed.  Seriously,  what good is crafting right now?  It can make a couple of useful things.  It also isn't very fun or engaging.  The last serious update it got was with the Galactic Strongholds expansion.

It's not a secret that BioWare is making SWTOR more Mass Effect like.  And why shouldn't they?  Mass Effect is a very successful franchise.  I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting a Star Wars game in the Mass Effect style.  Did Mass Effect have crafting?  Sorta but not really.  You could upgrade things.  That seemed to work out for them though.

I love crafting, when done right.  The whole Wow-style kind of crafting has never been fun to me though. While I would hate to see systems removed from the game, I won't shed a tear if crafting is one of them though.