Archive for August, 2010

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You Came In That Thing?

August 20, 2010

A short space combat video was revealed earlier this week on the Star Wars: The Old Republic website, so it makes sense that they would tie the Friday update in to it as well. The new page “Starships” has been added to the Holonet (guess this also means more material for future updates) and currently only features the two classes that have already been confirmed: Corellian Defender (formerly the Vanguard?) for the Jedi Order, and the Fury-class for the Sith.

Presumably the other four ship slots that are still blanked out are the ones for the Trooper, Smuggler, Bounty Hunter and Imperial Agent classes, but based on the space combat trailer I think it’s possible to make informed guesses as to which one is for which. Ship models are apparently designed specifically to match the player class types, but as far as I know other than the cosmetic differences they’ll all function pretty much the same way. Keeping things fair and all that jazz.

A Fan Friday was also released, complete with a Developer Corner that reveals the names and some details of the remaining Advanced Classes. I concede I felt a little awkward reading through a couple of these. If anything is subject to change, I sure hope it’ll be some of the names.

Trooper: Commando and Vanguard
Smuggler: Scoundrel and Gunslinger
Jedi Knight: Jedi Sentinel and Jedi Guardian
Jedi Consular: Jedi Shadow and Jedi Wizard

Bounty Hunter: Powertech and Mercenary
Sith Warrior: Sith Juggernaut and Sith Marauder
Imperial Agent: Operative and Sniper
Sith Inquisitor: Sith Sorcerer and Sith Assassin

Eep, “Jedi Wizard”? Really, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I just take comfort in the fact that at least both Advanced Classes for the Bounty Hunter sound respectable.

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Now Let’s Blow This Thing And Go Home

August 18, 2010

Yesterday a new Star Wars: The Old Republic space combat video was released as a special for Gamescom 2010. Short as it was, I was very excited when I saw it.

I was also able to pick up the latest issue of PC Gamer yesterday which features space combat in SWTOR, so I wanted to wait until I had the opportunity to peruse it before I put my thoughts together. It was nice having some reading material to go with the awesome imagery from the new trailer, because in a way the footage and the new article complemented each other very well. Like sources have already confirmed, space combat can be described as a “tunnel shooter”, but damn…being on rails has never looked and felt so good.

There are several things I took from the PC Gamer article. First is that while space combat is an important and anticipated feature in SWTOR, gameplay is likely to be a heavily directed and controlled experience. Second is that for better or worse, Bioware is taking space combat in very specific direction, and that is to capture the most iconic and memorable space action moments from the movies and somehow recreate them in their own way for the game, so I would be expecting to do some trench runs and asteroid dodging.

My gut feeling is that the devs have a very good idea of what they want players to see and feel while they are experiencing space combat, and presumably utilizing things like “hot spots”, cinematics and a “tunnel shooter” style is their way of strongly steering us towards all of that.  After thinking about it, I realized I don’t have much of a problem with this. So space combat isn’t going to entail a “fly-anywhere-you-want” type of gameplay, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done well or won’t be fun. In fact, I’m more comfortable with the fact that Bioware appears to have a clear direction in which they want to take space combat, as well as concrete goals they seem to be actively pursuing. Despite all the information we’ve gotten on space combat in the recent weeks, I still get the feeling that Bioware is being really careful when it comes to the topic; it’s a fine line between feeding the hype and releasing what they know they can deliver.

In any case, I think they have been pretty transparent with what they have revealed so far. On rails or not, I would rather have a polished space experience at launch complete with well-defined objectives than a half-assed, muddled end product that doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going, which might be the case if they were trying to please everybody. I’m certainly not trying to appease people who are still less than impressed by SWTOR’s space combat, but what I saw from the video did indicate to me how much care and work must have been put into it — everything from the ship movements, visuals, sound effects, voice work, music, etc. A part of me does kinda hope that the quality of the trailer might have at least lifted the spirits of some of those who were disappointed before.

Another thing I realized after reading the PC Gamer piece was that there is a lot of potential for space combat. All throughout the entire article was a sense of hope and suggestion that what we get at launch will continue to be a work-in-progress that may one day contain more aspects of space combat, perhaps features like difficulty levels, PvP and co-op gameplay or even missions in space that would affect players on the ground. The positive angle makes me think that people who maybe aren’t so happy with space combat right now can look forward to future possibilities.

There’s more to the article, but it would be too much to go into the finer details. A few things I do want to mention is that there are plenty of nice images (some that are very similar to what we see in the trailer) and a lot of interesting speculations, such as mission types and ship classes. Related to the latter, I noticed at least six different models of ships in the video and recognized the two that were confirmed (Corellian Vanguard-class for Jedi Knights and Consulars, Fury-class imperial for Sith Warriors and Inquisitors).

One last thing is that there was also an offhand comparison to the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron games when describing the gameplay. After watching the video I can definitely see that. Gotta say, I loved that game back in the day when I played it on the N64…just please, all I ask is leave out the repetitive, irritating “Rogue Squadron, where’s our cover?!?!” type dialogue, which quite possibly was the most annoying video game line of all time.

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Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Kicks Its Ass

August 17, 2010

In early 2005, a college friend of mine lent me his copy of Scott Pilgrim Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life. Its manga-like cartoony art turned me off at first, but by the halfway point I had grown to appreciate the comic’s fun, uniquely humorous and eccentric style. As a resident of Toronto, I was also delighted to see how so many of the city’s locations and landmarks were either referenced or featured in the comics.

The next year, the same friend invited me along on a trip to the Toronto Comic Art Festival at Old Vic College on our university campus. It was a chance to support our local comic artists and writers, as well as a chance for my friend to meet Bryan Lee O’Malley, the creator of Scott Pilgrim. I had become quite the fan at that point myself, and remember buying the first three volumes of Scott Pilgrim and getting a sketch of Knives Chau from O’Malley at his table. He signed my books and also threw in a copy of sketchbook prints.

Now in the summer of 2010, it was really neat to finally see the Scott Pilgrim comics actualized on the big screen in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Obviously, being a Toronto-native and a fan of the series, I’m biased and can hardly give an impartial  review, but I personally liked it a lot. Even my husband, coming from a more neutral background, found it entertaining albeit a little different and very strange.

For the most part, the movie’s tone stayed very loyal to the comics, though at the time I had not read Vol. 6 yet, which is latest and final installment that I just bought at the bookstore today. I was impressed at how the team was able to more or less fit the content of all six books into just under two hours, but the side effect was a very fast pace that made the movie feel like it had ADD. Because of this, I have a feeling that people unfamiliar with the series or story will either find Scott Pilgrim vs. the World a) irritating, or b) wonderfully refreshing, depending on your outlook.

Admittedly, a huge part of my enjoyment came from the down-to-earth depictions of the characters and the ability to relate to their situations. Gamer culture, geek culture and general pop culture feature heavily in both the comics and the movie, as well as a generous dose of the urban youth attitude and indie-rock scene that’s so unique to the city of Toronto. I still find it unsettling when I reread the books sometimes and come across parts that make me go, Wow, I actually know people JUST like that. Watching the movie was also a like a nice trip back to my home city. It brought a smile to my face to see signs for Pizza Pizza (my favorite place for pizza at 2am in the morning) or the inside of Lee’s Palace (saw a concert there once) and pretty much every single time I recognized a landmark like Honest Ed’s, Casa Loma or just about any other familiar street corner.

(By the way, Scott’s lament that $2.60 wouldn’t even be enough for the bus is true. Go to hell, Toronto Transit Commission, everyone knows TTC actually stands for “Take The Car/Cab.”)

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Some Love For The Republic

August 13, 2010

A heavy update from Bioware today. First, the entry for the Jedi Knight, a class that needs no introduction, has been updated in the Holonet, and the two Advanced Classes of Guardian and Sentinel have been confirmed.

There’s an awesome new video added for the class as well, though admittedly I’m more excited by the quality of the combat and movement animations than I am by the Jedi Knight class. Gotta love how the cheeky little punting of the Bounty Hunter into the Sarlacc pit at the end there has already been dubbed the “Chuck Norris roundhouse kick.” Anyway, compared to some of the older class videos, it’s really amazing to see how the graphics and animations have evolved. That, in my opinion, is the most impressive part of the footage.

Not that the Jedi Knight class doesn’t look like it would be a hell lot of fun. Out of all the classes, however, I think it’s the least likely one I’ll play because all the others simply look so much more interesting, though I have no doubt they will be overwhelmingly popular at launch. Come to think of it, despite the iconic nature of the class, I haven’t personally met anyone so far who has said they will be rolling a Jedi Knight as their main when the game releases. But hey, maybe the new information and trailer might manage change a few minds.

Also, as a nice follow-up to the playable species revealed last week, the Inhabitants section has been updated with an entry on the Miraluka. *shudder* The idea of their vestigial eye sockets still creep me out no matter how many times I look at them.

As well, the newest installment of Blood of the Empire.

And look! Some droid love! He’s so cute…

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A Puppy Makes A Good Travel Companion, The Ebook Reader A Close Second

August 12, 2010

Three things I learned this week: 1) being told by my husband at 10:30 on a Monday night that I’m going to be whisked off right away on a 6-hour road-trip to Massachusetts for an impromptu social visit with the in-laws made me very unhappy with him, 2) traveling with a 15-week old puppy stinks…literally, and 3) I love my Kindle. When you’re traveling, spending hours on the road and hitting up places that don’t always have internet access, ebooks and readers are the only way to go.

1. Between me and my better half and Strider, we traveled with enough baggage to completely load up a Chevy Tahoe. Have you seen those SUVs? They’re as big as boats, and we managed to fill one up. With all that stuff already, I’m not about to add 3-4 more books to the pile. With an ebook reader, it’s not a problem. It’s lightweight, compact, and fits nicely in my purse.

2. No need for bookmarks. Which is nice, because when you’re reading in your seat and a carsick dog clamors up on your lap and throws up all over your shorts, making sure you don’t lose your page is like the least of your worries.

3. Growing up in the city, I did a lot of riding in subways and public buses, and it always amused me to watch as nosy passengers leaned this way and that in order to try and catch a glimpse of the cover of whatever book their closest neighbor is engrossed in. I have few pet peeves, but it does bother me when I’m trying to read in a public place and people do that to me. I love how people can’t tell what I’m reading when I’m with my Kindle. Look, if I want to sit in a park or rest area or in a cafe reading Twilight, that should be no one’s business but my own, okay? Not saying that I’ve actually done that…

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Weighing In On SWTOR Space Combat Rumors

August 9, 2010

Here’s generally my rule regarding rumors and hearsay when it comes to high profile games — take everything with a grain of salt. Unless it is information that has come through official channels or has been talked about or confirmed by a dev or the company, I don’t usually write about it until more has been substantiated. That said, there has been rumors over the last few days about the state of space combat in Star Wars: The Old Republic, and it all started from a write-up about an upcoming article on PC Action, a German magazine (Google translation of it can be found here).

The story has led to an explosion of speculation and interpretation, people claiming SWTOR space combat will be “on rails” or nothing more than a “tunnel shooter.” While devs have not made anything official yet, what they have done is acknowledge the discussions and encourage feedback on the forums. That’s not a confirmation by any means, but it does give me the impression that there might be something to this story. That’s part of the reason I’ve decided to write about this, but the main motivation has been of course Hunter’s post on his take on the topic.

Back in June, Hunter and I made a friendly bet with each other about whether or not there will be space combat in SWTOR. A few weeks ago, it appeared victory was mine! But little did I know that our simple little wager would become so much more complicated. The crux of the issue, of course, is defining what space combat actually is. And for the most part, I agree with him — there has to be a line drawn somewhere. For example, I think we would both agree that a turret based shooter, space combat is not. That’s why I was a bit concerned when I heard the first murmurings of “on rails”‘ and “tunnel shooter”, because I started wondering what this might mean for our bet. Hey, on the bright side, at least I’m not QQing about the actual game! I’ve got 10 credits and my pride riding on this, people!

Okay, all joking aside though, Hunter and I can at least rest assured space combat will not play out like, in his words, a “duck hunt.” From the community manager’s post on the official forums:

UPDATE [1]: To clarify, Space Combat is not a Turret Shooter (this is probably obvious after seeing the screenshot but some people were mentioning it in the other thread).

That’s great news for both of us. And my own prediction for space combat remains the same — most likely scripted and instanced, possibly including cinematics, at these designated “hot spots” that players can travel to in order to initiate the action. The information in the PC Action write-up hasn’t really refuted that. To be honest, I think most people expected a polished and worthwhile space experience, but nothing overly elaborate. After all, SWTOR is first and foremost an MMO, not a flight simulator. The main game is driven by the individual class stories; space combat is and has always been a “side game” in my mind, perhaps even optional. Predefined paths, limited weapons, or repeatable quests be damned, I think as long as the gameplay doesn’t feel trivial, or that it’s thrown in as an afterthought, I would consider it space combat.

The problem is that it’s just so subjective. Realistically, Hunter and I might not even be able to settle our bet until the game launches and we get to try out the space content for ourselves. But I think that’s okay though. The most important thing is, I consider Hunter a good blog friend, and what has come out of our friendly wager is an opportunity for me to discuss news about SWTOR with someone else who seems just as passionate about the game as I am. That’s always a good thing in my mind, because God knows the blogosphere is the only place I can find others with whom to share my enthusiasm and love for SWTOR. No doubt we’ll both be keeping our eyes out for more information on this subject. I for one am not giving up convincing him that I’m owed my 10 credits!

Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, let’s take some time to think about the PC Action write-up. Even if it all turns out to be true, is space combat being on rails and pushed along from behind really that bad? Jaramukhti, a commenter on this blog, has likened this style of gameplay to Star Fox, which like he pointed out was an awesome game with some pretty fun flight mechanics.

Like I said, and like what Hunter has already alluded to, if you were looking for game with a huge emphasis on space combat and free flight, an MMO probably isn’t what you should have been looking for in the first place. Bioware has never claimed SWTOR would be a game centered around space combat, so why demand it to be? On the contrary, what they’ve always emphasized is story and we should expect all development to be built upon that. Personally, I’m happy enough with the fact that space content is even included. Hence I’m neither excited nor disappointed about the article.

It’s truly perplexing to see words like “ruined” and “deal-breaker” when it comes to the discussions I’ve seen pop up in the last couple of days about this topic. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I can’t help but wonder how people can be so affected (read: freaked out) by the new information that’s come out about space combat, authentic or not. In my view, misgivings should be reserved for bigger things instead of wasting energy complaining about something that’s an “extra” and that has never been touted as a main feature. A few weeks ago, we didn’t even know for sure if there was going to be any content based in space, let alone space combat. If the game excited you before then, why should these new rumors change anything?

For what it’s worth, I am looking forward to seeing the upcoming issue of PC Gamer that’s due on newsstands in another week or so, now more than ever. Hopefully, some answers about space combat will be provided there.

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Return Of The Pup

August 7, 2010

You may have noticed that I didn’t post as much last week. That’s because I’ve had my hands full since Monday, having virtually no time to game at all while taking care of our new puppy:

We fell in love with him even before we got to meet him, when the breeder showed us pictures of the litter. And when we finally got to look at the puppies last weekend, he turned out to be the sweetest, most playful and affectionate of the bunch (Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are already an exceptionally friendly breed, so that’s saying something). We knew right then that he was the one for us.

Funny thing is, afterward the breeder told us she had given all the puppies nicknames to make identifying them easier. The males all had names like Maximus, Titus, and Spartacus…that is, except for our pup. Believe it or not, his nickname had been “Aragorn”, because she thought there was something “kingly” about him. Ah, did I mention we’re both big geeks and that my husband is a huuuuuuge Lord of the Rings fan? It was almost like a sign.

Never underestimate my ability to completely nerd up a post. While we loved the idea of our puppy having a LOTR name, “ARAAAGOOORN!” wasn’t something we wanted to be yelling out loud in a public place like a park or in front of our neighbors, so we decided to go with the Heir of Gondor’s more neutral-sounding alias instead, and named him Strider.

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