Posts Tagged ‘User Interface’

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Rift: My Storm Legion Tour – Player Housing And Dimensions

October 25, 2012

In this final post of my tour of the Rift: Storm Legion expansion, I will talk about what Community Manager James “Elrar” Nichols showed me of the highly anticipated Dimensions feature, perhaps more widely known as Rift’s housing system. Remember how I said in my last post that I was saving the best for last? Well, while I can’t speak for others, I have to say this was personally my favorite part of my almost two-hour tour. (You can find the first part about new zones here, and the second part about dungeons and raids here.)

I confess I was looking forward to my tour of the Dimensions feature the most, and believe me when I say it didn’t disappoint. First of all, I almost feel like it could have constituted an expansion all by itself. The fact that we get this intricate housing system plus two huge continents of PvE content and the dungeons and raids in Storm Legion is just starting to sink in.

Second of all, I am beginning to get a deeper understanding of why the Rift team prefers to use the name “Dimensions” rather than the term “housing” when referring to this feature. Sure, it may also sound better for marketing, but to me the plain and simple truth is, the word “housing” just doesn’t cut it; I don’t think it’s really enough to describe the sheer scope of we’re being offered with this expansion.

For this part of the tour, Elrar took me several dimensions in order to explain how the whole system works. The first one we went to, “Elrar’s Bar”, was a relatively simple endeavor in the Stone Flask Tavern location where I was allowed to muck about and get hands-on with everything. The first thing Elrar told me to do was to look up. The surroundings clearly showed that I was in the Stonefields area, but what I saw above me was most definitely not a Stonefield sky. Yep, it was one of those things Elrar had put in to customize his own little corner of Telara. Pretty!

Here, I was shown the basics and given an explanation of the system. I was told you can own multiple dimensions, but can only have one active. As to why, Elrar clarified that this is because the feature is still so new. Indeed, testers have suggested letting players have more active dimensions, but before the team can expand the system further they have to make sure current conditions won’t crash out the system. But in the future, who knows what’s possible? This feature will continue to be expanded. I didn’t press for more information, but it seems that in the meantime if you wanted to switch active dimensions, doing so is as simple as having all your items packed up into a box before moving.

As to how to gain ownership of new dimensions, I got the impression that they work a lot like many other items in the game — some will be easily accessible, while others will have varying degrees of rarity, with the rarest dimension “keys” being highly coveted and requiring the appropriate level of investment to obtain them.

I asked Elrar when is the earliest a player can have access to his or her own personal dimension. His answer: through a quest you can get at level 5, or in other words, pretty much as soon as you complete the tutorial area. That’s pretty great news; Rift developers are aware that not everyone who will be interested in housing will also be interested in questing, leveling, endgame, etc. and their goal is to make the Dimensions feature as accessible as possible. This will also allow newcomers to the game access to a huge part of the Storm Legion right off the bat, since I was told the bulk of the new areas in the expansion, i.e. much of everything else I saw on the tour, will only be available to level 50 characters.

Next, a closer look at the controls and decorating tools. As a “friend” of Elrar, my character had access to his dimension, though each player will have the ability to further customize these options to designate who can visit, place items, or make changes, etc. In the dimensions UI, you can also set whether or not you want your dimension private or public, but more on that later.

If you look at the screenshots, you can see that the UI is very intuitive. Clicking on the wrench icon will give you access to a bunch of options, allowing you to take an item and move it along multiple axes, or rotate it, or scale it, etc. You can do this with virtually every item. In this next shot, I took a formerly normal-sized stool and shrank it into a size fit for a dollhouse. In the screenshot after that, I was playing with the height of some of the furniture. Want a bed that floats in mid air? Sure, you got it! Can’t jump high enough to get to it? Create yourself a flight of floating steps using books! Pretty much everything seems possible.

Items aren’t just limited to furnishings. I already mentioned the way you can customize the sky with a projector, and there are also music boxes to add to your dimension, letting you set the perfect mood. With a click of a button you can bring up a list of all the items in your dimension, and actually doing so was how I came across a peculiar entry called “Dimensional Bartender.” Yes, Elrar has his own personal barkeep. I stood by as he served up a line drinks and then watched with amusement as Elrar’s character promptly chugged them all down.

From what I saw and heard, I got the impression that there will be various methods to procure dimensional items, with the most common items being easily accessible and obtainable, and those rarer and more unique items likely requiring more time and effort invested in the game.

Later, I was shown several other examples of dimensions and what their owners have done to them. The impressive display of creativity and user-created content simply boggled my mind, and left me with no doubt that this feature will have a profound impact on the Rift community.

Elrar had described dimensions as being virtual neighborhoods, a social system that is easy to access, share and explore. Indeed, there were many open to the public which you can enter from anywhere in the world. I could also see that a bunch of them were highly recommended by other players using the feature’s rating system. It occurred to me that certain dimensions can even have the potential to become in-game tourist destinations (“Hey, have you seen the ____ dimension?” “OMG, you have GOT to visit the _____ dimension!”) In fact, we ran into many other players while visiting the public dimensions.

In this dimension, the decorating has started in this corner of the house. Everything seen here has been placed there by hand.

In this one, the owner built the entire second floor from scratch, just adding to the basic structure of the house provided.

This next dimension features a boat in a lovely little grotto. I was told that the boat, also constructed from scratch, is made up of about a few dozen or so separate pieces — again, all placed by hand. This is sort of what I meant when I said that the term housing just doesn’t seem sufficient to encompass this feature. This is about way more than maintaining a home in a game, it’s also about the complete freedom to build and share anything you can imagine.

To further illustrate that point, here’s another dimension Elrar showed me. The owner has made a jumping puzzle out of it! Literally, the sky’s the limit. My own personal limit here, however, would be my crappy platformer skills. By the way, did I mention that I’m notoriously bad at jumping puzzles in MMOs? Not surprisingly, I didn’t get very far on this. There will be no prizes for me.

One thing I do know for certain now: there will be absolutely no jumping whatsoever required in my own dimension when I get Storm Legion.

Here’s a couple more screenshots to show two versions of the same building structure template, but their owners have done very different things to its exterior. The second house has been cover with rocks, creating a cave-like stronghold complete with hidden entrance, and which even has an added second floor.

Here are some more examples of fun things other players have built in their dimensions. Some of it almost puts me in mind of Minecraft on steroids.

I think housing is something a lot of people enjoy and would like to see implemented in more MMOs, so I wasn’t surprised when so much of the buzz I’ve heard surrounding the Storm Legion expansion involved the dimension system. But now I know it’s also because of the lengths that Rift has gone with it. They seem to have embraced it completely, intending full well to deliver their promise of giving players the ability to unleash their creativity and transform their dimensions into anything they want.

I actually thought of the Sims at one point, and considering what a big fan I am of the building and decorating capabilities in those games, I definitely mean it as a compliment. Can you imagine the potential for roleplayers? For everyone? My mind is swimming with the possibilities.

And so ends the write-up of my Storm Legion tour, I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience and thoughts. I was initially unsure of how I was going to present all this, but ultimately decided just to write about what I saw and heard from my guide and lay out everything as they were shown to me. I couldn’t help it, though; I just had to gush a little when it came to Dimensions. If you haven’t gathered already, I was very impressed by this feature.

Again, I want to say thank you to the Rift team and Elrar for this wonderful opportunity. But of course, I must also curse them now because I’m tempted to resubscribe right away and not to wait at all to buy the expansion.

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SWTOR Beta Test: The Obligatory General Impressions Mega-Post

November 18, 2011

The time has finally come — you know, where I start assaulting you all, my poor readers, with my impressions of Star Wars: The Old Republic from general testing over the last five months, now that the NDA for testing has been lifted.

I do have plans to expand upon much of the following in future posts (as if only one gargantuan wall-of-text won’t be enough, right?) But there are quite a few thoughts I do want to toss up on here first. I took a bunch of notes throughout my testing experience, which are a mess right now and which I should really try to consolidate into something coherent. While I love the game and had a lot of fun testing, much of this ended up being the basis for the “constructive criticism” I offered up during feedback, so hopefully this impression piece will come across fair and balanced. I aim to be completely honest.

Overall Thoughts

You’ll probably hear this a lot, but it’s true — the first thing that came to my mind when I first played SWTOR was “Knights of the Old Republic Online”. That is, if I was forced to reduce my description of the game to a diminutive label. I don’t like to, but if I must.

I get the feeling that BioWare determined their target audience early on, and that was how they approached the game. What I mean is, this is an extremely linear MMO and it is never going to be anything but a theme park, so if you are into sandbox type games, it is not for you. Likewise, if you loved KOTOR and came to this expecting to recapture exactly the same single-player experience, it also won’t be for you. Despite what you might hear, SWTOR is a massively multiplayer online game. You can play this solo, but if you want to get the most of it, at some point you’ll have to interact with other people.

I think too many people will expect this to be an revolution and the next step in how MMO games are made, but if so, you’ll be disappointed. SWTOR is simply another iteration of the MMO, taking many things that work and making them better, but it’s by no means a complete redesign of the MMO philosophy. BioWare set their sights on one thing and went about to do that one thing very well — and that’s story. The focus isn’t so much on gameplay, but on the interaction behind it.

Now, with all those caveats out of the way, I’ll say this — I’m a gamer of fairly flexible tastes, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I had with this game. Despite some nitpicky issues I had, in general my overall view of SWTOR is extremely positive.

Character Creation

I’m happy to say I found it adequate, though customization options are still not as robust as I would like. APB or Age of Conan this is definitely not, but there will still be plenty of choices available for you to fiddle around with to make the chance of you running into someone else looking exactly the same as you very, very slim. You can also have apostrophes and hyphens in your character name — a small, trivial detail, but it made me happy nonetheless.

UI

Not a big fan, personally. But then again, I was coming off from playing Rift (which came with a highly customizable and flexible UI right out of the box) and for a couple months this year, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm (whose UI I modded up the wazoo). While I played, I yearned for more action bars and a way to move my modules around, and other little things like see-target-of-target. For now, it serves its purposes though, and I give it that it’s very neat and clean.

Advanced Classes

Each class branches off into two paths, and you choose one to follow once you reach level 10 or so. Your Advanced Class is a permanent choice that then determines your role for the rest of the game. I tested both ACs for the Trooper class, and I’m pleased to say the two paths offer up very different and varied styles of play. As a Vanguard, I also wasn’t only limited to defense and tanking; I could also choose to be more damage-oriented if I wanted. Same deal for the healing-capable Commando. It depends on how you allocate your skill points, and this part can easily be respecced.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been praising SWTOR for the flexibility in their class roles — that is, the astute and observant player can quickly access a situation — say, in a flashpoint — and offer whatever support is needed despite the role they’ve been invited to play. You can be the DPS Jedi Guardian but still be a halfway decent tank on the fly, if it was suddenly required of you. The “hybrid” ACs enjoy this perk. I find the two that lack this advantage, however, are the straight-DPS Gunslinger and Jedi Sentinel, and I hope in the future BioWare will give them more utility in group play.

Combat

If you’re an MMO veteran, I’m sad to say you probably won’t find combat during the first 10 or so levels very exciting at all. To be fair, BioWare no doubt calibrated difficulty and complexity to balance the experience for gamers of all backgrounds, and to be honest, I would rather them err on the side of caution than risk frustrating newcomers to the MMO genre. So the bad news is, combat doesn’t feel “heroic” right off the bat, and some might even find it boring.

The good news, however, is that as you level up, the combat gets a lot more interesting. By the mid 20s, I was really getting into it. And by 50, I was having a ton of fun. The XS Freighter Fly-Over FTW.

After you choose your Advanced Class, more abilities become available to you. A lot of them play off each other, and depending on the points you allocate to your skill trees, you can start to vary your strategy a little depending on the situation. Say, your tank’s health is low and your healer needs some time to catch up? My Gunslinger, even as a ranged DPS, never passed up the chance to run up to a mob just to kick him in the balls. It buys the group a few seconds, and while I was in melee range anyway, here’s a blaster whip and a cheap shot to the face too! A smuggler never wastes a good opportunity.

Crafting

It’s very…interesting. For better or worse, I can honestly say I’ve never experienced a crafting system like this. The great thing is, you can order your companions to do the grunt work for you, and so I can be happily questing to my heart’s desire while 3-4 crew skills are ticking away (at higher levels). Of course, this also means the process is less hands-on.

I’m generally not big on crafting in most MMOs, however, and in SWTOR I have to say I’m still not seeing a great incentive to do it, other than the fact I can keep working on it while I do my usual leveling. Plus, mission crew skills eat up your credits really, really quickly, so it’s something I still might want to save for later when I’m all leveled up.

Questing

Your class has a main story line, but there are also general planet quests that everyone else can get.

Class quests are the cream of the crop. These are integrated into your story, and this is where the innovation is, and what makes SWTOR so unique. Here, the choices you make will determine whether you are, say, praised by your commanding officer (in my Trooper’s case, this was General Garza), or get majorly chewed out by her (and boy, can she be a real nag). These quests are crafted to your class story, so they often turn out to be the more interesting, humorous, impactful ones.

Then there are the general planet quests, which I have to admit are similar to those in any other themepark MMO — but on steroids. Voiceover and cinematography makes these otherwise mundane quests so much more immersive. Unlike other MMOs where I have to read a wall of text, I never had to force myself to focus on a quest in SWTOR. It just happened effortlessly and naturally, because the objectives are always delivered with context and emotion. I actually cared about the reasons why I had to rescue 5 nexu pups from the dirty pirates, or salvage some poor refugees’ lost belongings. And at the end if I get to make a light side/dark side choice out of it, SCORE!

On top of these, there are also the “Bonus quests” which are almost always of your kill-ten-rats variety. They are scattered everywhere, and pop up around the same area where you are doing your quests. But they are labeled “bonus” and hence are completely optional. Often, you’ll find you are doing it and completing it while working on the main objective anyway. It’s extra experience, and no harm to you if you find you can’t stomach the grinding and decide to skip them. You’ll probably want to skip them anyway, if you find you are in danger of outleveling content.

Interesting thing I observed though — as much as you hear complaining about the tediousness of kill-ten-rats quests, every single group I’ve ever played with in beta always insisted on completing the bonus — even after the main objective was done. Never underestimate the desire for more XP, or how deeply the instinct is ingrained in us to be completionists, whether you hate KTR quests or not.

Dark Side/Light Side

Not all decisions are black and white, which I was surprised to see. Some definitely are — but it also greatly depends on whether or not you want to roleplay your character, and if so, what class you choose.

I will say one thing though — going full dark side is freaking tough. Nothing makes you feel more like a bag of crap than screwing over a group of orphans, so congratulations to you if you can find it in yourself to soldier on through the tears or berating you get from your quest giver afterward.

Planets

In a word, they are HUGE. So huge, you will be crying tears of joy by the time you get to buy your first speeder. Quest indicators on the map are almost a necessity; otherwise, the game is so big you’d never be able to figure out where to go.

They are also gorgeous. Even wastelands like Tatooine and Hoth are places of beauty, and BioWare has captured the atmosphere of these and other Star Wars planets very well. Other, lesser known planets like Belsavis and Voss are also given the same detailed treatment. Every planet from Nar Shaddaa to Corellia has its own unique charm. There’s plenty to explore, especially if you’re into hunting down datacrons. Most of them you won’t come across while playing, the majority will be off the beaten path and you really have to poke around the entire planet to find them. And that’s the easy part! Then you have to figure out how to get to them…

PvP

I admit, I didn’t do a lot of PvP, other than a warzone here and there. I did play on a PvE test server, however, and so that’s probably why my opportunities to engage in fighting other players were minimal.

Still, my beta guildmates who were involved in a lot more PvP had much to say, and one who has a lot of experience and enjoys PvP gameplay immensely thought it was lacking in SWTOR compared to most other MMOs. To quote him, “3 warzones and 2 open world PvP areas makes SWTOR PvP worse than Warhammer which was head and shoulders above SWTOR PvP.”

I’m no expert, but from the handful of times I’ve PvPed in SWTOR, I would also have to admit it’s nothing very special.

Space combat

Didn’t like it. Well, okay, maybe “didn’t like” is too strong a term. Let’s just say I didn’t “feel it”. I test it once every build, and never really go back to it. BioWare has made many changes and improvements to it over the past few months, but I came to the conclusion very quickly that it just wasn’t my thing.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s great for what it is — a little side-game designed to be a fun distraction to the main game. While it’s on rails, it’s also fast-paced and quite challenging (but you can upgrade your ship to help with that). If you feel like varying your activities a little, you can always jump in, grab some space combat action, jump out. The problem is, I enjoyed my class story and the planet quests way too much, and often that was what I’d rather do. To be honest, this to me is a good thing — it’s what I call a “happy problem”.

Grouping

There were concerns that “story-mode” would make players feel like playing a single-player game, but I really didn’t get that feeling. On top of group quests and flashpoints, BioWare has added a lot of features that really encourage grouping. I just adore the social rank feature, for one. Being in a group conversation and involving yourself in “convo-loot” rolls will rack you up social points. Get enough social points, you gain social ranks. With social ranks, you buy social gear and goods. I came across a Jedi Consular one time decked in a full Leia gold-slave-bikini outfit, and it was awesome. Yep, social gear. So fans of vanity and cosmetic items will probably like this. Not to mention being in conversations with others is a lot more fun than expected.

Doing a CLASS quest with someone else can get a little tedious though. The most you get to be is a spectator, watching your friend go through their cutscenes. It’s almost like living their story vicariously through them, so if you don’t want spoilers, take this time to grab a drink or take a bio break.

Flashpoints

Most impressed I have ever been with an MMO’s instances. Still, not all FPs in SWTOR were designed equally, that’s my feeling, but I do have a few favorites — Esseles, Maelstrom, etc. It’s not so much the boss fights and the combat (though, as I’ve alluded to before, that can be quite interesting in a full group) than the execution and presentation. The FP isn’t just another instance you zone into and clear, it’s a self-contained story you become personally involved in. The ones I liked best were the ones that also gave you a ton of opportunities to make light side/dark side decisions.

Meanwhile, things are constantly happening around you, like exploding consoles or crashing ships. It’s an environment that’s hectic and alive, made even better by high production values — graphics, sound, cutscenes, cinematography, music, etc.

Another reason to do FPs — for the stories that are part of the game world. In your mid-30s, there’s a couple great FPs that shouldn’t be missed, and I won’t say anything more because it’s a big ginormous spoiler, but those who enjoy Old Republic lore will be very pleased.

Companions

They are a joy to have around! I was initially worried about seeing a ton of other Corso Riggs or Bowdaars running around the world ruining my immersion, but honestly, after a while that just fades into the background. It almost becomes like seeing someone else with the same combat pet, which is sort of what they are but also so much more.

You end up with five companions (not including your ship droid) by the end of your class story line, and classes don’t all receive them at the same point in the story/on the same planets. Each has different skills, and you are free to switch them in and out depending on what your situation calls for.

With most conversations you’ll have a chance to gain affection with your companions. I like how gaining it is easier than losing it, i.e. I often receive 15-20 points when I do something my companion approves of, but when I don’t I only lose 1 point (unless I really piss them off, in which case I can lose hundreds, but you see it coming a mile away). They each have their own history and personalities, and become a big part of your character’s life. You can please them or you can mess with their heads. In the case of Vette, my Sith Warrior kept the slave collar on her and generously zapped her with it all the way into the mid-20s. She never did warm up to me, as you can imagine.

Romances with your companions are also possible, and I heard from several of my buddies they even got to marry theirs at high levels (my husband wasn’t too pleased to hear that). Corso and I never got to that point, but we did become a “couple”.

Story

I saved the best for last. This is where BioWare’s forte is, and what they have accomplished here is phenomenal. And looking around, that seems to be the general consensus.

I was sucked into my class story right from the start, and it just gets better and better the deeper you get into the game. You’ll probably hear me say this again and again over the next week — but I can’t get over how well done my Smuggler’s class story was, from level 1 all the way to level 50. As in, I wished I knew the names of the writers for my Smuggler’s story, so I can send them each a personal thank you note telling them how much they have enriched my MMO experience. They made me laugh. They made me rage. They made me giggle with girlish glee, they made me gasp in surprise and ask out loud “Holy crap, did that actually happen?!”

You should have seen me freaking out to my guildies in guild chat when I was around the mid-40s, going, “OMG OMG OMG the best thing ever just happened to my Smuggler but dammit I can’t tell you because it will spoil!”

Much more on this topic in the future, but all I’ll say now is this: kudos BioWare, you have officially proven that story truly does matter.

Hope you enjoyed.

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5 “Quality Of Life” Rift Features That Have Spoiled Me Silly

August 24, 2011

1. Sell all junk

Straight up time saver that spares me the chore of sifting through all my bags picking out the grey items to sell to vendor. Lord of the Rings Online has a similar function that allows players to “lock” items they want to keep and to sell the rest, but this is just way simpler. All my vendor trash is gone with one click, and I am left with my gold and a morbid curiosity — what the hell would my drink seller need with severed Aelfwar fingers and old roc beaks?

2. Mounts straight out of tutorial

If you have the tartagon from the digital collector’s edition, nothing beats being able to mount up and ride everywhere even as a lowbie level 6. Even if you don’t, in the world of Telara, you can ride a mount as soon as you can afford one. In many ways, that makes a lot more sense. It’s not like MMO worlds are like the real one where your character has to wait until becoming a pimply-faced adolescent to get a license.

3. AoE looting

I’m just sooooo damn lazy. There, I admit it. So if you were thinking of leaving a smart-alecky comment saying “Come on, MMOGC, it only takes a few seconds to loot a few bodies”…try again. Another cool thing — being able to loot mounted. So nice being able to backtrack, see a sparkly body you missed, loot and continue on your merry way without missing a beat.

4. Quest item bag

To be fair, I believe Rift only added this feature quite recently during one of their updates. Every friggin’ MMO needs this. I can think of very little else that infuriates me more than getting an “Inventory is full” message, and seeing that two-thirds of my bags are filled with crap only used, made, or obtained during quests.

5. Customizable UI

From day one, I was impressed with the modularity, flexibility, and customization of the Rift user interface. It’s rare to get something so polished right out of the box, without having to download any addons or mods. And when I started another character and wanted to use the exact same set up? IMPORT! Ah, heaven.

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SWTOR: Sith Have No Fear

April 29, 2011

Last month, we got to see a Jedi Knight Character Progression video from Star Wars: The Old Republic. Not to be outdone, the Empire gets a slick Friday update today, featuring a similar sort of video for the Sith Warrior. I like to think of the two classes as light side/dark side counterparts with similar play styles and abilities, but everything from the cinematography to the forboding music shows that they’re clearly different animals. For one thing, the guy in this very “scripted” video evidently does not have the same moral sensibilities.

Did the newbie Sith just run up and cut down that unsuspecting NPC from behind? Wow, that’s just…cool and sort of uncool at the same time. But hey, that Marauder “disappearing act” was impressive!

After viewing this, I can see the Darth Vader inspiration behind the heavy armor sets of the Juggernaut. The Marauder gear, however, is a little more baffling. The hoods and cryptic masks I understand and are even kinda badass, but what’s with the conspicuous shoulder spikes? Gah!

The second part of the update, the dev blog titled “Working on the User Interface” is also of interest to me. Thing is, UI is often a very sticky subject. I admire BioWare’s stance on trying to make an interface that will appeal to veteran and new MMO players alike, but the truth is no single UI is perfect for everyone right out of the box. Even an individual person can have multiple UI setup preferences depending on what it is they’re doing, what role they’re playing, etc.

I like how SWTOR’s interface is sleek, clean, open and discreet yet thorough enough in terms of displaying information players need to know, and I said as much when I had my hands-on experience with the demo. Still, what’s most important to me is modularity, flexibility, and customization. I would trade all the pretty bells and whistles for some adaptability. Simply give me the options, BioWare, and I’ll be okay with pretty much any UI you guys come up with.

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The Dialogue Wheel – Pros, Cons and the Falcon Punch

February 3, 2010

Playing Mass Effect 2 has led me to think about the dialogue wheel, the nifty little system that allows the player to choose conversation options when interacting with NPCs in the game. This isn’t my first exposure to it; I was familiar with the dialogue wheel from the original Mass Effect, and it has already been confirmed that Star Wars: The Old Republic will feature a similar if not identical system.

The idea behind it is pretty simple: the dialogue wheel comes up whenever you encounter an NPC you can speak with. Your dialogue choices are arranged around the wheel, and usually just a short snippet of a summary of what you want to say is shown. In Mass Effect, there’s even a pattern as to how these dialogue options are placed. Often, you’ll find the “paragon” or the goody-two-shoes option on the upper right, the “renegade” or the badass option on the bottom, and a more neutral option sandwiched between the two.

Given that the company behind the Mass Effect games is also the one behind SW:TOR, it’s pretty safe to assume that this pattern may be utilized in the upcoming MMORPG as well. Frankly, I’m pretty happy about this because I’m quite a fan of the dialogue wheel, though I do have some concerns. But first, let me go through the pros of this system:

1. It’s clean and tidy. A lot of UIs for MMOs are already way too cluttered, but the dialogue wheel is compact while still managing to serve its purpose.

2. It’s easy for the player to learn where everything is on the wheel. For example, in Mass Effect, whenever you wanted to learn more about something, the “Investigate” option will always appear on the left, and the “Charm” and “Intimidate” options are always going to be on the upper and lower left, respectively.

3. In my opinion, the most important advantage of the dialogue wheel is that for full voice-over games like Mass Effect and Star Wars: The Old Republic, you really don’t need anything more than the brief summaries that are shown. After all, what’s the point of displaying the full dialogue option when it’s just going to be read back to you seconds later?

And now for the cons. For the most part, the summaries on the dialogue wheel correspond well to what actually comes out of your character’s mouth…but sometimes you might just be surprised. The dialogue wheel leaves opportunities for players to select a response with the intent for their character to behave or say something in a certain way, only to have them end up doing something totally unexpected. For example, I doubt many people saw the following coming when they chose the dialogue option innocently labeled “I’ll shut you up!”

Sure, you can point out that any result would have been a renegade response based on the fact that the option was on the lower right portion of the wheel, but the last time I checked, sucker-punching someone in the face isn’t the only way to shut them up.

The fact that the summaries might not accurately reflect the full response is the biggest disadvantage of the dialogue wheel and my main concern regarding its implementation in SW:TOR. It’s all fine and good when something like this happens in a single player game like Mass Effect. Really hate the outcome of your choice? No problem, just reload and try again. But MMO players don’t often have that kind of luxury. While I have faith that Bioware will figure out a way to ensure their players won’t accidentally commit some major action without getting plenty of warning, not ever knowing for certain what your character might say or do will make many think twice before locking in on a dialogue option, thus making this system a possible impediment to the immersive experience and to a player’s overall sense of control.

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