Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, meandering, muddled mind.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Another Dead Horse: "Clunky Combat" in TSW

Shoutout to the TtV crew!
It being the Halloween season, both Syp and Belghast (You may be able to tell how many blogs I actually manage to read on a regular basis. It isn't a long list.) have posts up today  about The Secret World. Belghast's post was a recruitment piece, promoting the virtues of the game. While Syp had some creepy screencaps. Perhaps inevitably, the topic of TSW's "clunky, slow combat" came up in the commentary, and Tanek finally offered up a possible explanation, at least from his perspective. I decided to write a rebuttal; however, Tanek did point out that TSW is one of his favorite games. But it is in spite of the combat, rather than a result of it.
Scooter, checking the mail
"Fighting with fist and blades I have not felt like most skills give any feel you are actually fighting anything. For most of my skills [those that don't involve knockdowns, etc.] there is no feedback beyond watching the enemy health bars tick down."

Name a game where this is not the case. None of the MMOs I have ever played effectively mimicked how a real battle with swords would play out. SWTOR, for example, makes some attempts to vary the animation to account for blocks, etc. But all too often the characters swing their lightsabers and weather blaster bolts with only a floating red number and a gap in the health bar to show for it. WoW was even worse, with dodge calculations happening entirely in the background.
Sometimes, I mash buttons.
"Some of this may come down to play style and choice of weapon, . . . the game decided that instead of your assist target being yourself or a group member, it picks the enemy or an inanimate object."

If you're trying to directly target characters in the battle area, I can see how this might be a problem. As a healer, I target using the party/raid frame (the default will do). This is an old habit I picked up playing WoW.

Mouse-look/target mode:
"I have come to like using what some call mouse-look mode. . . but it seems to only work when that was exactly where you had your cursor when you went into mouse-look. There is no easy way to temporarily use the cursor if needed to do something like click a loot roll button on screen (to be fair, the only game I have seen do this in a way I like is DDO. . .) Switching targets can seem a bit random. . ."

This seems to come down to preferred playstyle. I've never used "mouse-look" as described. (When I left-click-and-hold, the camera around my character. Right-click-and-hold cause my character to face the same direction as the camera. Holding both down, makes my character move. (Yes, I realize this is fairly normal behavior for MMOs post-EQ.) By default, reticle-based Target Mode in TSW is toggled by hitting "T" on your keyboard, and works consistently as far as I can tell. Toggling out in order to mouse click the UI or whatever is no more difficult than many other games where Target Mode is the norm and not just an option (e.g., The Elder Scrolls Online). As an aside, reticle targeting being the default is the reason Scooter and I never got into TESO. And if Tanek hasn't found a satisfactory toggle method outside of DDO, that's cool. But then TSW's is simply one of many combat systems he must not like.

Be the bullet.
"This is not always a problem specific to combat, but movement is TSW can seem somewhat 'floaty.' When fighting multiple enemies in an area that is not flat, this can lead to some interesting situations where you might have trouble avoiding environmental damage because you just… can’t… jump… on… that… ROCK!"

Again, this is not a problem unique to TSW. I've played plenty of games in which jumping and uneven surfaces were problematic at times. This is due to a discrepancy between the generally more intricate visual details of the game world vs the generally much simpler polyhedrons used to calculate collisions in the game environment ("hitboxes"). Hitbox Dissonance affects everything in this list, really.
Overall, I would say that combat in TSW is on par with most other MMOs I have played. Having said that, I do have my issues with it. Though I still consider it one of my favorite games, I haven't played TSW in quite a while because I developed an extreme dislike of the AEGIS system the devs implemented with Issue 9 ("The Black Signal") and the Tokyo zones, making an already fairly long per-mob time-to-kill even longer.
A Looonnnnggg Time to Kill
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after the fact. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


A few days ago, Syp posted his thoughts regarding the changes and features of the upcoming SWTOR expansion, Knights of the Fallen Empire. I hadn't looked to closely at them, myself, and refrained from commenting until I had. Vulkk has a digest of all the changes, @IronWeakness sent me this Ootinicast, and Scooter sent me this link from MMORPG.com. Anyway, going back to Syp's post, here's my take on the various points he covered:

Creating a new level 60: Most people I know already have or are scrambling to get a character to level 60 and prepared to jump into the new content. Having boosted an essentially new character up to 60 in Rift (for the Nightmare Tide expansion), I can safely say I will not be taking advantage of this offer. I may get all of the abilities and and a decent set of gear, but I doubt there will be a corresponding "cash" infusion. And the boosted-to-500 crew skills won't necessarily be great either, when I can't afford the high-level crafting recipes.
Crafting/gathering: "You'll be able to gather any resource no matter what your skill level (although your level determines how much you get)." This is like how fishing turned out in WoW and a few other games, where if you're too low, you'll just end up with trash, but at least you're skilling up. I like it. I'm guessing Scooter will like it, too, since we've both encountered nodes while going through our story that we were unable to harvest. I don't generally craft in MMOs because the gear never seems to be as good as what you can get from rewards or loot.

Legendary status: "Beat all of the personal storylines, get a fancy icon next to your name." Sure why not. I want to finish them all anyway. My question is, does this refer just to the original stories or all the way through KotFE?

Companions: Companion stats will not longer be dependent on gear, but will be uniform for their level. So their clothing will be purely cosmetic. This is a great change, in my opinion, because I have quite a few companions currently in Imperial pilot gear (because it was free!), so I can adapt it as needed. With KotFE, I will be able to outfit them how I would like rather than be limited by stats (or armor type). Strangely, this was a major bone of contention for a number of people commenting on the MMORPG article. "Affection is being transformed into influence, which will reportedly affect how well that companion functions in combat." If I am not mistaken, up till now, Presence affects combat effectiveness, while affection affects crew skill effectiveness. Hey, anything that helps combat right? Especially now that gear stats will not be a factor.

Cartel market companions: "Buy companions from other class stories? Or a grab-bag of new, non-story ones?" I don't really care either way on this. I didn't buy Treek, and see no need for HK, either. With companions being able to fulfill any role, I will be able have whomever I want accompanying me. I am attached to any given companion (or not) because of the way my own character has interacted with it. But other than the class companions' stories, they may as well be battle droids for all it really matters. I don't need companions from other stories to play the game.
Share keybind: Like Syp, I really think this should be standard on MMOs in 2015. In SWTOR's case, I think this comes too late for me, though. I have my stable of alts full on Ebon Hawk, and don't really have any toons anywhere else, except a really lowbie Warrior on Bergeren Colony, whom I have also already set the keybinds for.

Temporary ability bars: "A good idea for situational skills." Is this feature user configurable? I'll have to see it in action. My main ability bar already changes when my gunslinger is in cover, but I haven't really seen much need for situational bars thus far.

Legacy datacrons: "Now they'll be made retroactive. . ." So if I've gotten these on any one character, the buffs will be accrue to all my characters? Or do I need to run them again? The reason I ask is that I noticed my Legacy achievements don't show all the work I did on my Agent that reached 50 and the end of the original story before they implemented the achievement system. I really don't want to run another Agent just for the Ach-points. But I might consider the datacrons one more time if it's the last time ever.

Leveling and level-scaling: The new leveling process will be streamlined, but will not be quite as fast as the current 12xXP buff. I suppose this is acceptable; although once I've gone through the planetside stuff on one character, I have little desire to repeat it. The things that I've shortchanged myself on in this regard are the social points and perhaps the LS/DS points that Scooter and I tend to rack up when we do the planetary stuff.

Level-scaling seems to be quite a bit more controversial. I personally prefer the optional mentoring system Trion implemented in Rift, where I can blast past lowbie mobs at my natural level or scale myself down to whatever level I choose to increase the challenge. However, as Syp pointed out, the auto scaling done in Guild Wars 2 seems to work pretty well. While mobs in GW2 are never trivial, they aren't usually much trouble for characters who've been down-leveled.

Fallen Empire chapter interface: I have no experience with the GW2 Living Story that Syp refers to; I mostly avoided that stuff when I did play in Tyria. As far as replayability, I have that full stable of alts to level, I doubt I'll be repeating much content on any single character (aside from flashpoints or operations if Scooter and I participate in those).
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Friday, October 2, 2015

No Sleep Till Makeb

(with inspiration credit to SWTOR Guild "No Sleep Till Kessel") Of course, SPOILERS abound for the Agent and Bounty Hunter stories below. Heck, I spoil all the Empire class stories by the end of this.
Ginie's Final Gambit
Scooter and I have brought our third and fourth SWTOR characters, respectively, to the end of their original storylines. She chose not to break out of her Corellian torture and kill everyone in the room the way I did on Versteckt. (An aside, more than ever, I find his German codename fitting. At the end of the story, Cipher Nine is completely erased from any and all records, truly becoming a cipher.) Pursuit and eradication of the Star Cabal powerbase followed, with a final confrontation with Hunter, Cipher Nine's adversary through the bulk of Chapters 2 and 3. She also reached the end of her Vector conversations, getting to see his true eyes for the first and only time. With Imperial Intelligence being dismantled and parceled out to the military and the Sith Lords, the Minister gives Ginie the opportunity to disappear completely, serving the Empire from the shadows, autonomous of any organization.

Silverleaf, meanwhile, spares the Chancellor of the Republic, but slays both the Jedi Master and the Sith Lord who had sought to manipulate him to their own ends. With his name cleared (sorta) and his reputation legendary, the Rattataki mercenary turned Bounty Hunter rides off into the Black with his crew. They're ready for any job—if the price is right.
Scooter's stature relative to mine is very similar to that of Mako's to Silverleaf.
Having completed all the Empire original class stories, I think I am ready to rank my preference for them:

4) Sith Inquisitor (my somewhat androgynous Tollkirsche): No matter how I look at it, the inquisitor is almost a spectator in his own story. While there is some strength shown here and there, he gets duped into service by Lord Zash, who then attempts to steal his body. Only chance and the intervention of Khem Val saves him. Then he accumulates power to fight Darth Thanaton (who has an irrational suspicion of her, especially after Zash disappears) only by acquiring the spirits of dead Force users in a Sith ritual; who, by the third chapter, are threatening to take over his body anyway by driving him mad. He constantly looks to his team, seemingly perplexed, as Zash (now sharing the body of Khem) finds the answers for him. In short, the inquisitor spends a great deal of the time having stuff happen to him rather than driving his own plot forward.

3) Imperial Agent (for me, Versteckt): My issues with the agent storyline are well documented here on the blog. Mostly, I didn't like the brain washing / mind control stuff in the second chapter. I also had a hard time with the characterization of some of the companions (OK, Kaliyo) who really had no business being on the payroll. Thirdly, though this not directly related to the story, why does so much of the agent gear look like the Imperial Navy? That makes no sense for a character that spends the majority of the time under cover. None of this was helped by the fact that it conflicted with my fairly in depth character backstory for Versteckt. But I learned my lesson: SWTOR characters should not get the same sort of backstory that I devote to other MMORPGs. I've said it before, but the story was much more satisfying this time around. Two years ago, I disliked the Agent's storyline and would have dropped it if not for Scooter's enchantment with her Bounty Hunter. Perhaps part of that was that we were doing the planetside quests as well, so the class quests were dragged out over the months it took for us to complete our run. Watching as Scooter played through cleared up some of my misunderstandings about the story, but that was only enough to get it out of the bottom spot on my list.

2) Bounty Hunter (Silverleaf, of course): I've read other people's opinions that the BH story is perhaps the least cohesive, and certainly the least integrated with the rest of the stories. While I disagree with neither contention, I see nothing really wrong with the more episodic nature of the story. Plus, Hunters follow solidly in the footsteps of Boba and Jango Fett, the most badass Bounty Hunters in the SW universe (though honestly, this is mostly reputation). Mostly, the Hunter does what Bounty Hunters do both in Stars Wars and in Real Life. The Hunter arrives on a planet, finds his bounty, gets paid. Obviously, there are consequences for earlier exploits later in the plot. And Mako brings up a good point on Nar Shaddaa, how often is the line blurred between Hunter and Assassin?

1) Sith Warrior (my merciless marauder, Morrenia): In my opinion, the most well developed of the Empire storylines, and maybe the whole game. Heck, they even had two versions of one of the companions, something I'm not sure any other class has. Granted, some of the warrior story is clearly based on the character of Darth Malgus, with shades of Darth Vader, but I still consider it the best of the Empire stories, from the machinations of Darth "Butterball" to the intrigues of the Emperor's Hand, to the betrayal of Malavai Quinn and the eventual execution of Baras on the floor of the Dark Council chamber. This was the story that I couldn't wait finish, in a good way.
One of the first pics I actually got of Team SilveGin all together.
So what's next? Scooter thinks we can get at least Team SilverGin and our Sith to level 60 and through the Hutt and Revan stories before the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion launches later this month. I am not so sure, but last night after finishing Chapter Three, we took the Hunter and Agent through the initial quests on Makeb, capturing the Skyhook and "unlocking" that hub. Silverleaf is 53 and Ginie is close behind at 52. Hopefully, we'll be in position to jump right into KotFE when it goes live.
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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

And Then There Were Two

The couple that slays together . . .
I got an invitation a few months back to join Azrael and Adarel in an ongoing chat on Discord. More recently, the folks from Multiplaying and the MMOShow invited me to their Slack, another collaboration service. Honestly, other than dipping my toes in, I haven't logged into either in quite some time.

Discord. Slack. Raptr. Anook. The field of social media for gamers seems to be exploding. Add in VOIP clients like Ventrilo and Teamspeak, and company-specific chat services like Battle.net, and we've never been more connected as gamers. It's a little overwhelming, actually. I have easy access to Twitter and some other, more generalized, social media sites at my office. But even G+ was unreachable for at least a year after it launched, and I still am not as fully engaged there as I am on Twitter.

. . . stays to together.
Needless to say, to even get to some of these "Facebooks for Gamers" that are blocked on the office network, I need to use my phone, something that is not exactly convenient to read, depending on the site, and what else I am doing during the day. And then, when I get on my computer at home, I don't generally get on any social media, but log into whatever game I want to play. Which, right now, is usually the fully voiced SWTOR.

I couldn't even tell what was going on.
Several years ago, when I started playing World of Warcraft, the quests were issued in text form. It was not difficult to participate in voice chat, because there weren't really voices in the game other than "atmosphere." It did become a bit of a distraction during the raids I participated in, where we used Vent to coordinate our efforts but which included audio cues for some major boss abilities—and again simple ambiance or story notes. To this day, I don't really know what the floating bone dude was doing in the bottom of Ice Crown Citadel. The last time I participated regularly in VOIP during actual gameplay was on Secret Mondays playing with the Knights of Mercy. It was sort of a "last straw" because we were never quite in sync on the cutscenes, and folks would talk over them.

Back in my WoW days, I regularly participated in the text guild chat while traveling by taxi to various locations. Mutiny (of Uldum) was a large and friendly guild, and there were several people online most nights. I was part of several guilds up through TSW and even the WildStar launch. But more and more, I find I don't really need the social interaction of a large guild; and certainly, voice chat is taxing when I am both listening to in-game dialogue and holding a private conversation with Scooter.

I know who has my back.
Scooter and I play as a pair most of the time. Since we're usually in the same room, we have no need for headsets or VOIP. The games we choose to play aren't very difficult even for soloists, so we have no problem as a duo. In the meantime, despite being aware of others supposedly in our guild in SWTOR (the remnant of Mercy Gaming), we rarely see anyone else online. That may change with the upcoming expansion, but will it really matter? Guilds in MMOs once filled a need for companionship in my bachelorhood, a need that is now satisfied by Scooter.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after the fact. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Bad Romance

As is my habit while commuting to work, I was thinking this morning about MMOs, and SWTOR in particular. Consider yourself warned: SPOILERS abound below if you have not been through the Warrior story. However, given that it's been almost four years since launch, I make no apologies for spoilers of the original class stories.

A few days ago, I finally finished the companion conversation series with Malavai Quinn on my female Sith Warrior. Not long after picking up Lt. Pierce on Taris, I decided he was a much better match for the lusty, action-oriented Morrenia than the proper, priggish Quinn, and tried to romance him. Doing research, I got mixed information as to whether that was even possible. The official site says no, but a few wikis say yes.
I convinced Scooter (on her Sorceror, Glember) to run with Talos Drellig (her healer) so I could have Pierce out as our Tank. His conversation preferences were a natural fit with how I wanted Morrenia's personality and character to develop, and I also lavished him with gifts to maximum affection. (I did hit max with Vette first, though only coincidentally.) Unfortunately, the most romance Morrenia ever got with Pierce was a single tryst. There is never a declaration of undying love or marriage or anything.

Meanwhile, Quinn, the old stick-in-the-mud, apparently tries to pull rank and run the Fury strictly by the book. This irritates both Vette and Pierce, and I essentially told them both to ignore him—that the ship was mine, not his—getting bonus points from both. And then, Quinn goes from prig to prick (never go full prick), betraying Morrenia at the behest of Darth Baras. I'd been romancing him (in case Pierce did not work out), but this made me just hate him.
My heart just wasn't in the romance after that. I attempted to continue on; but, in a sense, I was just leading him on in order to increase his affection. When it came right down to it, I snubbed Quinn, costing me 116 affection. But I got the achievement for completing the conversation series (which comes with stat buffs) and I was able to make it up to him through a hefty gift.

I really wish they'd made Pierce actually romanceable. As far as I know, while three classes have two potential romances for the male character (Warrior, Agent, and Smuggler), none have more than one for the female version. Partly because of the romance angle, SWTOR is the first MMORPG in which I have more male characters than females—some created specifically to romance the female companions. The later expansions introduced two more companions to romance. And included same-sex romance, to boot. So I guess they've covered all their bases?

While I still find Corso to be the most annoying companion (although I dismissed Skadge—the last Bounty Hunter companion—immediately; he's too much of a brute), I don't dislike him the way I do Quinn. I know I am not alone in wishing I could have killed Quinn on the spot, or even once the crisis was over. After all, in the movies and other fiction, Sith Lords have killed people for far less egregious transgressions. There have been those on the forums who've made cogent arguments for why the Sith Warrior would keep Quinn around, and also why BioWare removed the possibility of killing companions. But the meta-game reason (that he is the Warrior's healer) will be obviated by the upcoming KotFE expansion, when all companions will be able to serve any trinity role. All that's left is for the Warrior to finally say:

"Hey, Quinn, remember that time you totally betrayed me? He's yours, Pierce. Do with him what you will."

"With pleasure, M'Lord." *crunch*
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after the fact. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.