Tag: SWTOR

Fixing SWTOR’s business model

The big announcement

Last week, Bioware teased a big announcement for yesterday. Yesterday, the announcement happened and, judging by the comments over on Massively Overpowered, most people found it lacking. The announcement was about being able to recruit the popular HK-55 as a companion and getting to play the droid in an “exclusive Episode”. The thing is, to qualify for that exclusive episode, you’ll have to be subscribed to SWTOR from now until august 2016.

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As i’ve mentioned more than once, SWTOR- to me- is still a subscription game. Bioware put too many restrictions on free players, even if you’re a “preferred” player (e.g. those who bought the box). I think in itself, this subscriber reward feels….ok-ish. I don’t care much about HK-55. But i agree with one point made several times by players: this doesn’t really qualify as a “big announcement”. And when i thought about the trouble Bioware seems to be having with its subscriber rewards, one thing came to mind: SWTOR isn’t sure what business model it’s using.

Business Model confusion

It’s free-to-play

You can start playing Star Wars: the old republic now. Well, after a lengthy download. After that, though, you can log in and play up to…well, i’m not so sure about that. Is it the base game? Or are some of the released expansions free, as well? I don’t know. Also, you’ll suffer some of the most annoying restrictions for free users in the industry. Use of 2 hotbars only, for instance. No running (is it still in?), no “hide helmet” option, ingame gold and dungeon-running as well as pvp match limits and so on. There are so many of them that i can’t even remember all of them.

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Of course, some of these restrictions get less annoying if you are a preferred status player (by buying the base game).

It’s a subscription game

If you choose to sub up, you’ll not only get all those restrictions lifted, but also access to all the available content in the game. And a monthly cartel coin (funny money) alotment. There are no restrictions whatsoever, but one thing that annoys me very much is that SWTOR basically sells the best cosmetic outfits, pets, stronghold items and what-would-i-know in lockbox-style “packs”. To make matters worse, there are many different packs to buy. For me, it is actually hard to search them for items i’d like to buy. Sure, Dulfy has it covered, but the ingame shop not so much.

It’s buy-to-play

The funny thing is- the content you unlock by being subscribed? You’ll be able to access that after you let your subscription run out, as well. If you sub now, you’ll get access to all expansions, chapters 1 to 9 of the latest story-centric expansion and you’ll still be able to play that content if you don’t sub next month. You’ll suffer f2p-restrictions, though (of course, there’s the possibility to unlock those with ingame-credits, as well). So this is the part where SWTOR is following the buy-to-play-route.

It’s not a hybrid, it’s a mess

Now, since this post isn’t a guide to SWTOR’s business model i haven’t done much research on restrictions, what you’ll get in the different states of the customer-producer-relationship. A quick Google Search didn’t show any interesting entries. My guess is…it’s too complicated. Even Bioware doesn’t bother with bringing their f2p matrix up-to-date. What’s stated there concerns the base game only.

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Fixing this

So, with Bioware’s intentions kept in mind (they want us to sub)- how would i go in and improve what they have? I’d make it a hybrid with an emphasis on being buy-to-play.

I’d give the base game out for free. Also, i’d only put restrictions on stuff bots and gold sellers use to do their work- ingame-mail and -chat, auction house, currency cap, no rest xp. You would also be able to lift all these restrictions by spending the 5$ needed to get “preferred status”.

Then, sell all expansions and chapters of the Fallen Empire storyline seperately through the cartel market(!). This would allow for a real subscriber reward: being able to let the sub lapse and simply buy the content with saved up funny money.

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Subscribers would get some bonus xp (think 12XP buff; subscribers would be able to go from 1 to 55 with class story missions only, but make it optional) and access to all “DLC”, of course. For the time their sub is up. Let it lapse and you’ll lose access. But of course, you could go on and simply buy the expansions in the cartel market.

Obviously, Bioware can’t do that anymore, because they’d take something away from people. Everybody who subscribed and directly cancelled the sub has access to the expansions now. So Bioware need the hefty restrictions on free players to get those people to keep their sub going. Without taking something away, they’d have to give access out to all of those customers and i really don’t know if that would be viable.

Still…i think this would be the way to go, but that’s just me. Maybe they like the complicated setup they have, because for me, i can tell you how i decide how to play SWTOR: don’t play, don’t pay. Want to play, sub up.

Random thoughts

Misc

So my last post was published about 2 months ago. The thing with blogging, and i guess with playing MMORPGs in general is that it’s a hobby that drives itself- at least that’s the way it goes for me. If i’m enjoying myself, find a purpose in a game or writing about playing them, my time in game as well as writing here goes up. If there’s some kind of obstacle, be it work, RL-stuff, singleplayer games, other hobbies, interest in playing and writing goes down. The last two months have been a mix of those things- while i’ve still been busy in the MMO world, the real world also needed attention. Since this place is for MMOs, let’s focus on that part.

The guild/community

The (MMO)-time around and after that last posting went into planning and setting up the guild/community i’d like to build with a few friends. We developed a ruleset, actually quite similar to what the Remnants of Hope have in place, played different games in our dedicated group (The Secret World, for instance) and waited for Wildstar’s free-to-play transition to happen- to then begin recruiting and growing the community.

Unfortunately, for now it doesn’t seem to work out so well. We’re getting along, and what we have- the dedicated group of people who know each other- is great, but there are two things that didn’t go as well as we thought they’d go.

Recruitment, for instance. We put in a process similar to what i’ve seen elsewhere- submit an application form, go into a 4-week-probation while jumping some hoops (forum posts, ingame activity, stuff like that) and close that up with an interview. This process mainly had two goals: first, to dissuade people who weren’t really interested in the kind of community we want to build (reducing applications), and second to keep member counts low and find out whether recruits were a good fit.

As it turns out, this doesn’t seem to fly with the german gaming community. Of course, there could be more reasons for having received only one application in the first month of Wildstar f2p (and that one not fitting with our goals), but combine this restrictive recruitment process with a very small (5 people) and casually playing community and it seems to go nowhere. I’ve been part of a newly founded community before, and that one also started small (3 to 5 people), but we’ve never had that kind of trouble. In fact, we started recruitment in Guild Wars 2’s beta and were already 20 people when GW2 launched.

So for now, we’ve removed that recruitment process- at least officially. We’ll watch for the same stuff behind the scenes, but we don’t discourage people to apply for membership anymore. Of course, there’s not much need to. The first month of f2p is behind us, the number of players looking for a guild is low, the german parts of the Wildstar forums not very active anyway. We don’t expect a sudden rush into our walls anymore.

All the better, though, because it seems all of us are busy elsewhere. Wildstar activity isn’t very high, there’s a lot going on in other games and real lives, as well. So right now, we’re not really looking for more people, although it wouldn’t hurt and could inject some life in terms of activity in Wildstar if some people would join in. We’re still aiming for the “small and cozy tight-knit” type of community and i’m done with looking for other guilds- i’ll continue to try and build the community we started in the way we’d like to build it. And i’m patient. It’s not really about Wildstar activity or member count. What’s important for me is the situation 5 years down the road. I want that community to still live at that point, maybe with a roster of 10-20 players who are really close andplay different games together.

Wildstar

Talking about Wildstar- it’s great. It’s fun to play, it is interesting and it can offer wildly different things to do from session to session. It’s also the first MMO where my crafting ability is further developed than my adventuring ability. A little playing of the market and i’m sitting on my first platinum at level 22. Don’t know if that is very good- probably not- but i do know i wouldn’t have that much ingame gold if i wouldn’t have traded with other players.

The most fearsome costume i could find
The most fearsome costume i could find

Sometimes, it’s too much. When Shade’s Eve and the Hoverboard event were live, there were so many things to do that it was staggering. I’ve played a “normal” session yesterday, following the world- and zone story in Galeras and it was huge fun and almost liberating to simply ignore the event stuff. I’m still surprised by the size of the zones. Galeras is huge and varied.

Wildstar is also one of the few games where i can see a real endgame for me: collecting things like mounts & pets, costumes, recipes, building up the housing plot, soon hopefully the neighborhood as well as some pvp and pve-related stuff, diving deeper into the story, explore maps and making some ingame gold all seem viable options for endgame activities in Wildstar.

So it’s been great fun and it’ll continue to be- i’ll go slow, because i’m done with planning my freetime around MMORPGs, even if i want that community of ours to grow and prosper, level to 50 in Wildstar and so on. I won’t try and force things down my throat anymore.

Guild Wars 2

In that sense, something strange happened. One night we went into Guild Wars 2 in our dedicated group- and i loved it. In contrast to The Secret World, where the fact that we we’re running in our dedicated group is the main source for the higher enjoyment, in Guild Wars 2 it was the zones and the fact that it was fun to play and easy to remember. I’ll make it short- i caved, despite my best intentions to wait for a discount for HoT i bought it and i am glad i did.

Star Wars: the old Republic

The story of Knights of the Fallen Empire is really, really good. I’m in chapter 5 now and while i’m asking myself where the MMO went, i’ve heard that it will return once one has finished all the story bits. As a matter of fact, i’ve heard more than once that SWTOR is now more MMO than ever. I’m looking forward to seeing that and thanks to that gifted level 60 character, i can.

Hacking terminals

I’m sorry, but the 12XP game experience wasn’t for me, so i didn’t play anything to level 60. Playing without the 12XP boost felt a waste at that time, playing with the boost made me dislike all the travelling and fighting in-between the story. It’s the same for KotFE, really. Whenever the story stops to let me “play”, i’m kind of annoyed and want to get back to the story as fast as possible.

Now, i think Bioware has it right: there’s the story to follow in the 60+ level bracket, and if you play on the core worlds, you’ll be able to follow the planetary storylines as well as the class stories comfortably. While i haven’t tested it yet, i think this is the ideal pace for SWTOR to be an interesting, engaging and varied MMORPG. Of course there’s other helpers. Level-Syncing is great, as are soloable dungeons.

MMOs from asia

6 years old and still going strong and being beautiful

Now, there’s a topic for another day. I wanted to write about that, today, but this will need to wait. Some time last week, i started asking myself if there’s a reason why asian MMOs and the Korean audience are so different to us. I was looking at the korean audience, especially, because it’s quite easy to find out what the top MMORPGs in Korea are at any given time. Even if that site is in Korean you can find out the games easily when using Google Translate. So Lineage, Blade and Soul, Maple Story, Aion and Icarus are the Top 5 MMORPGs in that list. You’ll also be able to find World of Warcraft, ArcheAge and TERA quite quickly. The thing is- i looked into that Top 5 and was surprised at how different a european toplist would probably look. Surprise turned into curiosity, so right now, i’m also dabbling- and i really mean dabbling- in Aion and TERA (and maybe some closed beta).

I’m thinking that these games must have something– and don’t even try and tell me it’s all about slow PCs and internet cafés- there has to be more at work here. Systems, gamer culture, gameplay, whatever.

Project Trinity: calling it quits in august

I’m late on the whole Blaugust thing, so i think that ship has sailed, although i might be looking into how it works and maybe join the ranks because participating might be fun. I’ve been away for the last three weeks, at a place where i couldn’t read my mail, use Twitter in a meaningful way and read/write WordPress blogs. No, i haven’t been to the moon, only china. I’ve been following the news, though, mainly through Massively Overpowered and i’ve read some of the non-Wordpress blogs.

Celondim, where elves begin their journey
Celondim, where elves begin their journey

Anyways, three weeks gone from any MMO gaming opportunity does change one’s point of view. Interestingly, the games i’ve missed aren’t Final Fantasy XIV or Star Wars: the old republic but open world games like Lord of the Rings Online and World of Warcraft as well as full-featured themeparks like Everquest 2. Of course, all three of these games also featured heavily in the news- EQ2 with its TLE servers, Lotro with the coming server merges and WoW with the expansion news- so that might also be at work here. With WoW, i can honestly say that i wanted to play even before news of the expansion broke. I still do want to play, but the subscription is keeping me at bay for now. What i might do, though, is to level the classes i’m most interested in to 20- that would probably be the Shaman, Druid, Priest, Monk and maybe Paladin.

Still, with all this longing for the mentioned games, i still don’t want to leave SWTOR and FF14 behind. While i don’t have very pressing goals in FF14 for now- the expansion has launched and i’m way behind the curve again, i do want to level one character- possibly the Jedi Sage- in SWTOR to 60 before the expansion hits in october.

A long road ahead
A long road ahead

And then, there has been news, as well. Bad news.

Funcom is looking for a merger/acquisition. Now, we all can take a guess what that will mean for the future of Funcom’s games. Personally, i’m hoping for the best, which would mean no jobs lost, all games remain intact and get the same kind- or even better- attention in the future. But i wouldn’t bet loads of money on that outcome. So, while i really don’t know what the outcome will be, i’m kind of bracing myself for shutdown. And that would be bad on so many levels. Especially The Secret World is a great game, i’ve come to respect Funcom for what they do. I’ve also found it quite sad, really, Funcom is one of these companies providing us with games from the genre we love. I think it’s time to ask ourselves some uncomfortable questions- concerning business models, for instance. Or maybe not- maybe they’d be in an even worse state if their games would still follow the sub model. What i’ve found really disheartening, though, is that- again- there’ve been comments welcoming these news, thinking that it would be well-deserved and things like that.

So, TSW needs to go back into my rotation. It might not- and let’s just hope that won’t be the case- be around much longer. The same goes for Lotro, really. We don’t know when it’ll end, but i think the best guesses would lean towards a 2017 closure…maybe. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, either.

Coincidentally, those are the only two games i ever bought a lifetime sub for. At least for Lotro, i got my money’s worth. For years it had been my “return-to” MMORPG and i loved it- Lotro is one of the most relaxing MMORPGs out there. It’s also very atmospheric and the landscapes still look stunning. I’ve never made it through Moria, though. With TSW, it’s even worse. While i feel i got a good deal there, as well, neither my /played time nor my progress could serve as proof for that.

So when i thought about ways to shrink that roster down to my usual three, i realized that it isn’t really possible. I want to experience FF14, SWTOR, TSW, Lotro, EQ2, maybe WoW and/or even more games when i feel like it. I also want to make some progress in all of them. And there’ll be releases this year, as well. Wildstar f2p, Blade and Soul, the Repopulation.

For now, the most pressing concern is to reach level 60 with my Jedi Sage before the SWTOR expansion hits. With 12XP, i think it’s very possible, even for me, if i concentrate on the story mode and leave other things like crafting, the strongholds etc. out for the time being.

Lotro is for fun, but i’d really like to progress through Moria to see what lies on the other side. It’s also the game i’ve been playing since our return home on tuesday.

For now, i’m done with forcing myself into a schedule/a roster of MMOs, and i’ll simply do and play what is fun to me. “Of course”, you’ll say, because that’s the way one should do it- but there’s still the knowledge that i don’t really play that much- reaching significant progress in all these games with my available time might be quite difficult. I’ll try it that way, anyway.

adelbern5

When the closure of Tabula Rasa was announced, i was quite sad- i really, really liked the game and miss it to this day. Then, i decided that i wouldn’t continue to play it as i’d lose my characters/the game anyway. Nowadays, i often wish i would have decided the other way round- to try and experience as much as possible. With the news coming from Funcom and a refound love for Lotro, i’m not really in the mood to limit myself right now.

Project Trinity: june finished, up to july

June went over quite ok for Project Trinity- at least i think so. Raptr is having trouble tracking FF14 when you launch it in DirectX 11 mode, but i think it has been the most played MMO for me last month. I played a bit of SWTOR, as well, and some TERA. The Secret World fell somewhat on the wayside, but really, that is to be expected in these summer months.

The last week has been crazy here- yesterday we almost broke heat records in the city where i live- we had 40 degrees celsius (104 Fahrenheit), the nights didn’t cool down under 25 degrees celsius (77F) in some cases, so all we did was finding ways to escape the heat. So there hasn’t been much writing and playing lately, and this might stay that way until the middle of this week.

Well, summer’s generally the reason for this blog being a bit quiet at the moment- i don’t play that much and what i play is not much of a new experience.

Final Fantasy XIV

I went in, again, with a new character and created an even newer one to join Belghast and the Greysky Armada on Cactuar. This time, to change things up a bit, i started a Pugilist. It’s a nice enough damage dealer and quite fun to play, but i’m not entirely sure i’ll stick with the class (this character will be the last one, i hope)- the Arcanist seemed to suit me better.

As said, i haven’t played as much as i’d have liked, but progress comes quick now with the main story xp buff we were getting since Heavensward’s official release- i read somewhere that you only have to do main story quests now to get your first class to 50, and so far, this seems to be the case.

Star Wars: the old republic

I’m with a new character here, as well- or not new, but i’m not playing the trooper, which would be the one that progressed furthest. I like the Jedi Sage, i think it is what i expect of an MMO class i like to play.

Games of july

This month, i’m going to change things up, again. FF14 will remain the game i call my “main game”, although i always feel this one is the least preferrable when i don’t have much time- at nights like today, when i play an hour and half, maybe, more likely just an hour, i feel FF14 to be a bit too “complicated”. So we’ll see- if Raptr tracks that game, else i’ll guess, if it will become the most played this month, as well. SWTOR still remains there, as well.

For the third game, this month i chose Rift.

There are many things i like about Rift- the soul system, for one. The combat/gameplay feels good, almost as good as WoW’s combat. There aren’t many games that can do something like that. Rifts “housing” is crazy with all kinds of possibilities. The dungeons are fun and instant adventure, pvp and so on are viable alternatives to the quest grind. Also, after playing some of it, i can’t help but think about that when it released, everyone (read: me) thought the world to be very small. But compare even launch-day Rift’s Mathosia with almost all the worlds that came after, and suddenly, it seems vast. Also, it’s an open world, not zoned stuff.

I also think Trion has done a great job with the game. Sure, you could moan about some entry-level raid gear being sold in the store (over 200€ for two weapons), but this doesn’t really bother me. If someone’s stupid/rich enough to spend that kind of money on two weapons, so be it. But Rift has grown/improved significantly since launch, Trion added one of the most amazing housing features out there, they adapted the game to newer industry standards and they continue to create content/improve the game. Before Square Enix, Trion’s handling of Rift was the role-model on how to do a sub game/how to support your game after release. I still feel Trion does a great job on Rift and there aren’t many studios that improve their games like they did with Rift.

And lastly, i went in to check it out a bit and had fun. I know it’s not going to last if i do things like i always do them in Rift- the questing always gets to me- but i’ll be there as long as it lasts.

Project Trinity: ESO out, something in

So may is gone and with it goes the first month of my “Project Trinity”, where i choose three MMOs to play in a given month. For may, there have been varying results. Let’s take a look at the MMOs i played:

  • Star Wars: the old republic – 14 hours
  • Age of Conan – 2 hours
  • Final Fantasy XIV – 2 hours
  • Trove – 2 hours

All in all, i played about 24 hours in the whole month, which is a very low number, even for me. Reasons are the mentioned strike in the nursery/kindergarten, but also that when i limit myself to three MMOs and find me not wanting to play any of the three, i simply don’t play.

Trove is in there because of Ironweakness– he made me curious and so, one evening when i was looking for something casual (and also something to replace ESO in my trinity), i launched Trove.

As you can see, there’s not much to feed this blog on in this month. There are topics, of course- Wildstar’s free-to-play move, for instance. Lately, i’ve also (re-)found the urge to play many, many different MMOs. There’s Lotro, The Secret World, Guild Wars 1 & 2, Rift and now even Wildstar- all of them are possible successors for Elder Scrolls Online, which i’m also hesitant to drop.

There’s a reason for this, as well- for one, it’s nothing unusual that in times when you can’t play as much as you’d like to, the games you miss become much more desirable. I’ve also stumbled in continuing to play FF14 as well as SWTOR in a significant amount- with FF14, i usually need to put a little effort in first (as in: play x hours), before it becomes sticky. With SWTOR, following the 12XP put a dent in enjoyment.

For june, the third spot will go to The Secret World. I was tempted to leave SWTOR out this month, because i feel current play times don’t really justify two subscriptions. But SWTOR just felt so fitting to me in these last weeks that i don’t want to let it lapse. I might opt out of the 12XP, though.

Another nice addition to TSW
Another nice addition to TSW

Good news on the strike, as well: nurseries/kindergartens will open again on monday, after four weeks. I can’t imagine how parents with less flexibility coped with that, it was difficult even for us; and i’m quite flexible.

All that gives me hope to be able to put out some of the more “column-like” posts this month; i really want to do some of those. All three games on my list are capable of filling those in, and i’m excited to get some more time in MMORPGs this month. Let’s hope it works out.

I have a break-out-condition, though. If there’s news about either Lotro’s “episodic content” or on the release date of Guild Wars 2’s expansion, i might switch things around before the month is up. But my guess is that won’t be necessary.

Dual Wielding: not the bonus xp you’re looking for

Dual Wielding: A series featuring two bloggers writing on one topic and answering the question, “If the pen is mightier than the sword, what happens when you dual wield?”

Don’t miss out on Ironweakness’ take on the subject.

Introduction

When my current favourite game, Star Wars: the old republic, activated the bonus experience gain for class quests, i was excited. With this bonus, a max-level character seemed to be within my grasp in a reasonable amount of time. I enjoy planetary questlines, but the possibility to have one character at the level cap quickly was a very welcome one- credits would roll in faster, i could experience the most recent content additions and might even be able to join a guild and be able to play with the other members. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite pan out that way.

Mind you, this is from the perspective of a player who hasn’t ‘done it all’ on another character but tried to play his first character to level cap with the 12XP bonus activated (i didn’t come far, but that’s mainly because of a kindergarten/nursery strike going on here).

Effects on the leveling experience

Our last topic in the Dual Wielding series was all about the leveling process. My take on that involved a lengthy process, neverending at best, that accounted for all activities being provided by the game while still being heavy on the story side, giving weight to content, providing choice and not turning around when endgame comes.

I really liked this environment
I really liked this environment

If we take a look at 12XP with these entries in mind, you can already see the problems i am facing with it.

Neverending

Leveling with 12XP activated is a quick affair. When i was using it, i felt like hurrying from quest(hub) to quest(hub), sometimes gaining even two levels for returning one class/story mission. Usually, the rotation went like this: get the story quest, go into the area where it takes place, finish the quest, return the quest, visit the class trainer, read about the new abilities, continue through the storyline.

While this isn’t exactly like buying a high-level character as a newbie in Everquest 2, related to the skills, it did have similarities. Sure, i was reading what the new abilities were doing, but i couldn’t really test them- in the early stages, you would outlevel even the class quests quickly. Reading alone doesn’t provide a lot of insight- after a while, i didn’t know what my skills were doing.

Screenshot_2015-05-21_22_46_57_361451
Now…why are spaceships in the Star Wars making sounds when in space yet seem to be of no disturbance hovering over big cities?

 

Now, this might change a bit later on, and maybe there are class stories that are more centered around fighting and allow you to experiment with your skills, but muscle memory won’t build up.

Choice/weighted activities/use of all activities

With 12XP, SWTOR becomes what i call a “quest grinder”. There are some really great and interesting games out there that i have trouble to connect with because they’re basically all about questing. If you read everything, immerse yourself in the questing experience and go off-the-rails on your own from time to time, there might be some variety to be experienced anyway, but these games (Lotro and TSW, for instance) are basically all about the questing. After a while, this bores the heck out of me.

12XP isn’t forcing itself on you- you can deactivate it or apply other work-arounds to lessen the effect it has on your leveling experience- more on that later. But if you were to make full use of it, you’d just do the class quests. I read that you can experience the class story this way in about 10 hours of playing, but it would take me longer, personally.

Crafting falls off the side in this case- of course, you could still try and level your crafting by sending your companions out to gather resources, but all by yourself and by only doing class quests, you’d be very short on resources. Also credits. The characters i played with 12XP in mind were broke.

Story-related

This, of course, is the strong side of 12XP. If you don’t care about planetary storylines because you’ve already experienced them, playing only class quests is an interesting affair, story-wise, since there are no interruptions. One quest leads up to the next, the story is focused, you don’t have to play hours worth of other quests or flashpoints to continue with the next step. 12XP allows you to stay connected to your class story.

Effects on the staying power

In another edition of Dual Wielding, Ironweakness and i were discussing the viability of SWTOR as a resident MMO. Its’ strong points, in my opinion, were that the game makes use of the ingame currency, credits, and lets you spend it in many interesting ways and that by now, there’s a variety in content. The game is still a bit thin when it comes to non-combat activities, but there are strongholds and outfits, at least. One could also venture forth and go achievement hunting or fly a spaceship into battle.

Unfortunately, 12XP renders everything besides the class quests as side-content. Everything else is still there, but it isn’t even ‘optional’ anymore, basically everything else enters hobbyist territory.

For me, and going by the hints given by Ironweakness in some of his other posts, for my partner-in-dual-wielding as well, that made a huge dent in our enjoyment of the game. Nobody is forcing us to use the buff, of course, but deactivating it feels wasteful. Doing anything else besides class quests does, as well. While we do know 12XP is going to be around for a while, we don’t know how long it’ll be, exactly. In my case, i’m wondering if i’m able to level one class in the traditional way before moving on and play another class with 12XP.

The verdict

12XP is not the experience bonus i was looking for- as a matter of fact, i prefer 2XP- it gives a faster levelling experience without rendering everything outside of class missions “useless”.

There are ways around that, of course. You could deactivate the bonus, but it really seems to be a waste. In fact, i think that allowing to play through the game and being able to sometimes skip a planet or a dungeon is helpful in keeping the game fresh for alternate characters.

Another way i could think of is doing class quests only when they give less experience. Unfortunately, i lacked the time to test this, but if you’d, maybe, outlevel class quests by two or three (or four?) levels before finishing them/turning them in, they’d still give a considerable xp boost without rendering everything else a hobby.

Finally, you could also do them last- move to the planet they send you to, do the planetary story quest first (i received a hint by Shintar; just take all quests in the first hub of the planet, finish them all- there should be one quest left that sends you out to the next hub: this would be the planetary storyline) and then move on to the class story. This way might turn out to be similar to the previous one, but it is only viable for PvE-quest-players.

Personally, i think i’ll try all of these options, as well as playing with 12XP, on different characters. After all, i am willing to play the Trooper, the Sentinel, the Imperial Agent and another class (maybe Smuggler or Inquisitor), so i’d have enough characters to play around.

Remember, though, that this is coming from someone who hasn’t leveled to cap yet- if you already have, and experienced all the planetary content and/or can dash through the class stories quickly (as in 1-2 weeks, maybe), you can find enjoyment in playing with 12XP- the side-activities would be there, waiting for you and you’d even have credits to play around with them. If you take longer because of available time to play or because you enjoy doing this-and-that while playing, you might be better off by turning 12XP off.

Dual Wielding: the ideal levelling process

Dual Wielding: A series featuring two bloggers writing on one topic and answering the question, “If the pen is mightier than the sword, what happens when you dual wield?”

Don’t miss out on Ironweakness’ take on the subject.

Introduction

This time, Ironweakness’ and i chose to tackle another subject- the ideal levelling process. For me, this is a difficult topic since i never really finished levelling in most of the MMORPGs i play- so voting for a longer levelling experience seems to be quite the opposite of what i’d want- but since i am someone who likes MMORPGs to be “virtual worlds” with a heap of different activities and a somewhat robust economy, a longer levelling experience makes sense. So here are my thoughts on how levelling should be- in my opinion, of course.

Neverending

I do like the arbitrary level number next to my character’s portrait. It’s an easy way to gauge overall progress of that character in the game. I don’t think that journey ever ends, though, so the concept of a “max level” doesn’t appeal to me. Just take a look at the achievement list in your favourite MMO – the developers agree! But they put another arbitrary number on achievements instead of making use of the existing one, character level. I could, of course, use that arbitrary number to see where i stand in regards of overall progression within the game, but i don’t really see the point in adding another value instead of using the one that has always been there to do exactly that.

Let it take forever, because there would need to be a soft cap applied. I’d prefer the soft-cap-max-level to be high, though, to allow for tangible progress early on. Let’s say your maxlevel is 255; just let it take 3 months of ingame time to go from 254 to 255, i don’t care. It shouldn’t be reached, anyway.

Of course, the problem is skill/class progression, which is often tied to the levelling process, but that’s a topic for another day. For now, i’ll make it short and simply state that i prefer skill progression over class progression because it allows for horizontal character progression- see EVE or The Secret World, for instance.

Uses all activities

If we take another look at achievements, the funny thing is that there are achievements for almost everything- yet, in most games, the only things that grant you “experience” to raise your level are killing mobs and completing quests. In my opinion, everything an MMO offers should contribute to your characters’ progress in levels. Good examples are Guild Wars 2, where pretty much everything you can do rewards experience, but also Final Fantasy XIV by use of gathering/crafting classes and SWTOR, where, as far as i know, most things you do give some progress to your characters, although it won’t always be towards levelling them but provide the player with alternate currencies.

Is heavy on story

But please don’t let me be the chosen one. I want to see an MMO-story that actually makes use of all the other players out there and it doesn’t make sense that we’re all superheroes, demi-gods or immortals- if we were, we were the ‘normal’ ones in the setting and the world dynamics would change.

Story-heavy MMORPGs are often criticized for being too solo-centric, but i feel that, while this might be true for the MMORPGs that are released, it doesn’t need to be this way. There are great, story-heavy movies/books out there that don’t just focus on one character. The key is that those characters have different opinions, different goals and different motivations behind their choices. In my opinion, we could do this in MMOs.

I think Star Wars: the old republic actually gives us a glance at this possibility- when you are in flashpoints, dialogue opens up. As in normal quests, the player characters will be prompted to answer. Every player of the group may choose an option to his or her liking, but what is actually said- story-wise, is decided by dice roll. This allows for situations where something happens, story-wise, that wouldn’t have been your personal choice and is still very interesting to observe.

So i don’t think it’s impossible to do. Of course, creating story takes some time, so how much story there is for players to experience should differ from game to game (and budget to budget), but if you’re a themepark MMO, story is part of the package.

Gives weight to activities

This ties in with the previous point- not everything there is to do in an MMORPG is totally epic stuff- there’s going to be the basement full of rats, the odd delivery quest, the filler content. And also, baking bread, smelting iron and so on. A game that wants to provide a good levelling experience gives weigth to activities- for instance by not throwing tens of quests at us when we enter a “quest hub”.

The Secret World and Guild Wars 2 do great in this regard- TSW only allows the player to have one story mission, one main mission and up to three item missions active at the same time, making each mission seem more important and easier to follow. Missions in The Secret World are often multi-tiered, as well. Guild Wars 2 doesn’t have quests, at all, and makes heavy use of location instead. Be in place A and there’s this thing to do, in place B it’s another one (often even providing multiple ways to finish these quests- by collecting items, killing mobs and so on), dynamic events are location-based, as well. Only your personal story and daily/monthly achievements are similar to what you’d call quests in other games.

Doesn’t change at endgame

The ideal levelling process doesn’t suddenly change the game surrounding it when it’s finished- “endgame” and “levelling” should basically be the same game. I see no reason why raids should be a max-level-activity. Sure, if the levelling process is short and players enter and leave the corresponding level-brackets very quickly, it doesn’t really make sense to create complicated content before max level. If, on the other hand, the bracket in question takes time to traverse, there could be dungeons/raids or whatever for earlier levels. If you take a look at EQ2, for example, it does a great job at providing content for all group sizes at almost all levels- this should be the norm.

Gives choice

I think if we’re talking about a linear quest-driven-progression, there should be multiple ways to level through the content. World of Warcraft and Everquest 2 are great examples – you could level multiple characters without entering the same zones (or minimizing this) on more than one of them, because for every level bracket, there are more than one or two options in playing. But even if we’re looking outside of zones, crafting, exploring, gathering, these are all activities that should be rewarded by raising that arbitrary number of character level.