a rebuttal, of sorts

I was reading a post over at We Fly Spitfires and felt the urge to comment. This isn’t something I do often on foreign soil, but it’s been known to happen. It’s not for any particular reason, mind you, I just rarely see the effort involved in making the lurker->community member transition to be a useful one. But that whole dynamic is another post entirely. I actually like reading Gordon’s stuff as we have similar sensibilities when it comes to MMOs. We Fly Spitfires is one of the few gaming blogs that I deign to add into my “Gaming” folder in ye olde Firefox toolbar.

At any rate, my flow of thoughts on his Old Republic review turned into a fairly lengthy rebuttal, so instead of dropping a deuce on someone’s front lawn I thought it would be more appropriate to post here and let the magic of trackbacks do their thing. Direct quotes are quoted, although things are fairly out of order. You can read his full review here. My rebuttal starts with a cold open regarding launch in general. Check it out after the fold…

Launch was arbitrarily set to capitalize on the holiday. The game wasn’t ready for launch. Does that mean it was a complete and total catastrophe to launch early? Meh. The game, generally, works fine and is very, very enjoyable for most people.

I’ve barely bothered with space combat because, frankly, the few times I tried it the whole experience felt out of place and utterly superfluous. I’m sure it will appeal to some people but, honestly, I’m at a loss as to why BioWare even bothered to include it and can’t help but feel they would’ve been better off allocating their resources somewhere else.

Space missions and PokeWoW occupy the same sphere of WTF. If it floats your boat they’re great and nothing anyone says to the contrary has any merit whatsoever. For me, I enjoy stepping out of the regular game and into space as a short respite between major gameplay achievements. Time vs. reward, it comes out just as positive as grinding in my experience and some of the missions are just plain fun. Different strokes, I guess.

I need to be totally honest here and get this out or I’m going to choke on my own bile of hatred – the racial and class selection in SW:TOR absolutely stinks and skill trees are all utterly boring and predictable. There, I said it.

You’re spot-on with regards to the available races, but it seems fairly clear that they will be rolling in over the course of the content patches this year. I believe there have been some blueposts to the effect of legacy bonuses and whatnot as well. Overall character customization is lacking in general, but that is entirely subjective on my part. I tend to have “a type” when I’m building my toons and rarely go off the rails once I’ve found what I like. 10,000 hairstyles aren’t enough if you only find two aesthetically pleasing, right?

I’m one of those vain people who likes his character in MMOs to look cool and, perhaps more importantly, unique and interesting. SW:TOR certainly has a lot of itemisation and variety of costume design which is great but, unfortunately, you do notice that there’s a tendency to end up looking pretty much identical to everyone else of the same class. It also doesn’t help that weapon selection is linked to Advanced Classes meaning that, for instance, every Commando will always use an Assault Cannon and every Bounty Hunter will always use pistols. I think it’s a bit of a shame that weapons selection isn’t a bit more freeform and, if anything, linked to Skill Trees instead of Advanced Classes.

I have to call BS on the itemization issue…well half of it at least. They restricted weapons too finely, but they were doing so to in conformance with the iconic characters that epitomized that advanced class. I looked for the developer diary that states this explicitly but came up empty. I find the TOR website only marginally usable on a good day, but I assure you, it’s there! I disagree with that choice, but I understand why they went that route. Unfortunately the classes are somewhat designed around that now so changing it will not be a simple undertaking. I hope it happens, mind you, but I’m not holding my breath.

I could not disagree more with the visual customization, however. I’m as vain as anyone I know when it comes to dressing up my electronic dolly, but I’ve found TOR to be very solid in this regard. As of last night I have 8 different pieces of orange gear that represent different looks I liked. Since they’re orange I can bring them up to current stats any time I want. They could have made the core mod concepts easier to grok, but it’s not that challenging to understand. I’ve had the same two sabers on my Marauder since 25, simply dumping new hilts as they become available as needed. I think the PvP sabers are cheaper to socket for PvE vs finding new hilts for mid-40’s, so that may change tonight… Long story short – I look how I want to look in most respects. My only frustration is that almost every really, really awesome looking helm out there is for Juggalos and not Marauders. Marauders seem to have been screwed on a number of fronts now that I think about it… I’m looking at you, Dark Side vendor. &#03232_&#03232 I’m sure I’ll cover that in another post after I hit 50.

Gordon mentions a bunch of other sections of the game in his pseudo-review and is pretty spot-on. Light/dark, companions, PvP, et al.

Glitch-wise the game launched in the same state or better than WoW did. If anyone claims different they’re looking at WoW through intensely rose-colored goggles. For as much flak as it was taking, the pre-launch guild was pretty fricking awesome. About 10 of my guild were into head-start by day-2 and we didn’t have to futz around to grind out ‘x’ credits or make chat channels or herd everyone into vent, we simply created our first character and were guilded. The system held my preset officer ranks so we instantly had 3-4 people who could invite and take care of any alts or people who weren’t web-registered. The concept was superb and only marred (slightly) in execution. All new MMOs should run with that idea for launch and iterate through more improvements.

Things the game needed to have before launch:

  • Basic UI Customization – moving elements, more action bars/buttons and scaling.
  • Dual-Spec – Self explanatory. MMOs live in the elder-game. By not having it at launch you’re tainting “the grind” outlook many people have. Very, very few people want to level as a tank or healer. It’s self-defeating and unfun. Take a lesson from Rift – choice is superdoubleplusgood. I’m in full-on avoidance mode with this right now in the guild. Do I start recruiting healers now? I know I don’t have enough to run 8-man ops despite 20-some active players in the guild. Off-topic, another post, etc, etc.
  • Follow-through on the web stuff from launch to a full-fledged web portal. I honestly didn’t think that wasn’t going to happen. It just seemed like a no-brainer. Apparently it was a no-doer for BioWare, though.

As you can see, that isn’t something you’d welcome in the comments section of your blog. Well, maybe you would? I have no idea.