Tobold's Blog
Monday, January 16, 2012
1001 Nights

In the story of the 1001 Nights (or Arabian Nights) the king of Persia decides that all women are unfaithful, and marries a succession of virgins, beheading each one after the wedding night. Scheherazade escapes that fate by telling the king the start of a story each night, so that the king is forced to let her live the next day to hear the end of the story. I can see certain parallels between the fate of Scheherazade and the fate of Star Wars: The Old Republic; right now SWTOR keeps me interested by telling me stories, but I can't help but wonder what will happen once the stories run out. In spite the huge rumored budget of the game, I seriously doubt that SWTOR has stories for 1001 nights. And I guess modern gamers are about as willing as the king of Persia to lop of their previous games' head and replace it with a virgin one.

My main, the trooper, is now level 36 and just started chapter 2 on Balmorra. I already got a bit tired of him, so this weekend I leveled a bounty hunter to level 12. Is it just me, or does the Empire have the better stories? There is a sort of intellectual honesty about the evilness of the Empire, while the Republic comes over as the people who would like to be the good guys, but never really manage. Rumors from PvP players waiting in queues have it that there are far more Empire than Republic players, and I wonder in how far that is related with the quality of the story. My third character is a jedi knight, but I decided to go dark side with him, and see how that works out. The jedi secretly corrupted by the dark side of the force, sounds interesting. Although the "secretly" part is more hypothetical, as he is running around with a "the backstabber" title he picked up on the Esseles.

After 1001 nights the king of Persia decided not to behead Scheherazade, but to stick with her, stories or not. It must be Bioware's hope that the players of Star Wars: The Old Republic go through a similar development: Stay for the stories, then stick around afterwards. Only that the content on offer after the stories run out is rather generic, and it is hard to argue how it is any better than what is on offer in half a dozen other games already. To me it does not appear as if SWTOR has any answers to the fundamental questions and conflicts that the raiding endgame poses in other games. The leveling game in SWTOR is less trivial than in World of Warcraft, but still a game of story-telling and doing quests is not a very good preparation or qualification for an endgame in which many participants expect excellence of execution from the get go, and have very little patience with people who would like to be learning by doing.
> Rumors from PvP players waiting in queues have it that
> there are far more Empire than Republic players, and I
> wonder in how far that is related with the quality of
> the story.

I wonder how much of that is related to 7 years of horde favoritism of Blizzard.
As far as I know in World of Warcraft Alliance generally outnumbers Horde on most servers, sometimes significantly. The observed "favoritism" is probably Blizzard trying to redress that imbalance. Thus soon we'll read about Bioware's "Republic favoritism".
i thought Horde was favorited in teh Americas whereas Alliance has been proffered in Europe?
I'd agree with the 'story' side of things being better on the Empire (a purely subjective judgement of course). I leveled a smuggler to 16, then a trooper to 22 on the Republic side of the fence and loved every second of it.

As a bit of a side project a friend and I started a pair of characters on another server with the intention of leveling them to 50 grouped the entire time. No point of XP gained that isn't gained by both. As we were both Republic on our mains we decided to go with a Sith warrior tank and a Sith sorceror healer to give a nice complimentary pair, see a different story arc play out, and make it easier to get a flashpoint going at 2am. Always better to be shouting for 2 dps when you want a group.

We're both agreed that it's just about the best gaming fun we've had in years. Watching both class stories play out is just great. I think there's something very refreshing about just 'being the bad guy' that has a lot to do with it. The vasy majority of games cast you as the knight in shining armour so it's fantastic to be the Black Knight for a change.

It was so much better I started a Bounty Hunter on the same server to see how the other starting world looked, and as the BH has basically the same gameplay as trooper so I could dive right in. That BH is now level 22 and very definitely my main.

Trooper and Bounty Hunter, same playstyle so what has me playing one more than the other? Being the bad guy!
Sometimes you confuse me...

what do you expect from an Endgame in SWTOR?
The observed "favoritism" is probably Blizzard trying to redress that imbalance.

Oh, geez. MMO-Champ had the statistics a while back, but on average Horde won more BGs than Alliance and have higher queues as a result.

Even assuming you are correct, don't you think that is a pretty ridiculous way of redressing imbalances? Giving over half of your playerbase worse content, in the hope they will switch sides instead of just unsubbing?

I've talked about Horde bias before, and the bottom line is that (PvP aside) it comes down to interesting intra-faction tension. Namely, Horde has it and Alliance doesn't. While I haven't yet bought SWTOR, what you are describing vis-a-vis the Republic sounds exactly what happens in Alliance "stories."

I seriously hope future MMOs can escape the nonsense that is two-faction gameplay. At least unless someone can actually do it correctly.
what do you expect from an Endgame in SWTOR?

I expect to be equally entertained, at the same level of effort, from an endgame than from a leveling game. Assuming you mean "want", rather than "expect", because obviously I don't have high hopes for SWTOR to deliver on this.

What MMORPGs generally offer is an endgame in which the density of content and entertainment is significantly lower than during the leveling game, and the player is expected to work much harder for those few bits of entertainment. The endgame is somewhat "saved" by a small and enthusiastic part of the population who thinks that working harder for content is better than what is on offer during the leveling game. But I haven't heard anybody denying that there is a fundamental gap between the two games. And that gap results in a high probability that any given player will either like one form or the other, but very rarely both.
@Tobold, @Firefox: I believe the ratio is in favor of Alliance on PvE servers and Horde on PvP. That would mean if TOR's Republic-Empire balance is similar to WoW's Alliance-Horde one, the imbalance is much lower than the one PvPers experience, perhaps even none or opposite (but the Republic players don't PvP).

Note this is just speculation and can be off the mark.

I don't know how much time the stories will mantain the players. I guess that the average player will stay more than 3 months. And a lot of bloggers are using the 3 months mark for say if the game is a success or a fail....

Spoiler ahead, don't read it if you don'a want be spoiled

By the way, if you try be a dark side jedi, the story ends diferently. Some decisions you made at the start of the story too change the story at the end (for example, if you choose kill that guy, he will not appear near the end for help you - or for attack you...)
/end spoil
"The leveling game in SWTOR is less trivial than in World of Warcraft, but still a game of story-telling and doing quests is not a very good preparation or qualification for an endgame"

While it does not completely solve this issue, the companion system helps a good amount. There is no solo content, only duo content. Tanking and healing are not exactly foreign concepts to a fresh level 50.

The other thing is expectations from others. It isn't hard to be better than a companion.
Having played a number of characters, the Bounty Hunter has one of the better story interactions (by which I mean NPC reactions, dialog options, etc., in addition to the actual story) and the Trooper has one of the worst.

The Trooper gets treated like crap by most of the NPCs it meets and spends a lot of time mired in political intrigue with ungrateful arrogant SOBs that make you want to join the Empire. The other republic classes aren't like that. Playing a Jedi is pleasant just because all the NPCs respect you from the get go.

The Bounty Hunter interactions are great though. You're either a kick-ass bastard, or a kick-ass noble bastard, and everyone knows it. People practically shake in their boots when you enter the room.
I second the suggestion that you create two characters with a friend and agree to ONLY play those two characters when they’re together.
It changes the story entirely and even opens up a little bit more to you than normal – especially if you play a tank/heals combo. I did this with a friend, playing Jugger-tank/Merc-healer. We were easily able to duo several of the over-level 4+ heroics which occupy the same place in the storyline as less challenging content. I’ve heard that DPSers – even using tank/heal companion combos – have more difficulty with this.

The NPC dialogue does change to reflect the fact that you’re in a group and that your group is well-known, lending a little strength to your pair’s story continuity. You get twice as much story for your time, and having another character there means you get a little variety in your canned dialogue. Especially if their decision-making process is slightly different to yours. It makes for a more dynamic, unpredictable, and less one-sided story. I believe Empire has a somewhat more exciting story, and playing Light-side in an overwhelmingly dark regime actually produces some incredibly satisfying results.

(Also, it’s highly amusing to watch an NPC greet the Bounty Hunter with a disrespectful grunt, but grovel and snivel in front of a Sith. How the NPC greets you is based off which character starts the conversation, btw.)
An unexpected bonus of levelling with someone for 50 levels is that you become intimately familiar with their strengths and weaknesses, which allows you to work very well with other players of the same class in raids, and fight them very effectively in PVP.
On the subject of PVP, I've noticed that on the Empire side it's a case of, "I hope you like Hutt Ball." There are some nights if you’re early enough you will get maybe a handful of Alderaan/Void-Star battles with the same repubs, but if you beat them too often (usually the case) they seem to give up and stop queueing. Could also be that they’re adhering to a bedtime. Then it's wall-to-wall hutt ball - the only one which allows Empire to fight Empire.

After several nights of Hutt-Ball-only PVP warzones, I've reached the conclusion that the early guild launch was designed to set the factions fairly evenly, and that they may well have succeeded in this, late-entry/unguilded players notwithstanding… However, on a RP server at least, Empire players seem to be far more likely to queue for PVP. Probably something about competitiveness, aggression, and the general evil of killing other players and feeling like an intimidating badass. The new Horde indeed.

You can balance the faction populations all you like, numerically, but that won't help you figure out which ones will queue for Warzones.

I have no doubt Bioware are keeping track of the PVP stats and examining heat-maps of performance demographics… but by God, I’d love to see some. Like you’ve said on the subject of World of Tanks: if the Devs are successful and doing their job right, PUG wins:losses should average around 50:50 over time. But I win a LOT more than I lose in PVP at the moment (one loss out of literally dozens of matches last week), and if I removed Empire vs Empire losses from the equation, it skews dramatically in my/Imperial favour. I am under no delusions of being ‘l33t’ or ‘pro’, and the classes are almost mirror images of each other, so I can’t help but think that there’s a demographic difference. Anecdotally, I could swear that Repubs pursue certain distinct tactics of their own, too.

It makes me wonder how much the psychology of choosing faction is related to the psychology of PVPing.
Think of notable Star Wars characters and then count how many of them were good guys and how many were bad guys.

Then compare their appeal to today's population. Would you be more akin to the stoic jedi who sit on their thumbs and let the world fall to pieces or more like Revan who actually did stuff.

People rolled with what their memories pushed them towards and there are a lot more Darth Maul fans than there are Anakin Skywalker fans.
On my server republic far outweighs the imps, however we hope that will balance out somewhat.

Personally I find the republic stories much more believable and interesting for the very reasons you prefer with it seems.

People considering themselves "good" is generally how it works in real life, but it's a lot harder to actually always make the right decision, ie saving hundreds by killing a few or whatever.

Either way both sides are fairly interesting with the light/dark options.

Funny though how my server seems to be completely opposite the majority, it's lightly populated and I like that, but seems so far to skew to republic heavily.

Im in what has apparently become the largest guild on at least republic side but prob the whole server, and it's sometimes hard to get pvp going due to lack of imps.

Especially because once our (or any I'd guess) guild gets a team together it usually destroys the opponents repeatedly. I'm hoping imp guilds form for pvp purposes.

I find the "honest" approach of the with sort of ridiculous, as it doesn't have a lot of basis in reality. Even the freaking nazis considered themselves "good".
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