Posts Tagged ‘Videos’

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SWTOR Sith Inquisitor: “Treachery Can Break Even The Mightiest Foe”

May 13, 2011

Late last night Gamespot posted a new video along with an exclusive Q&A, the curtain-raiser to what was expected from today’s Star Wars: The Old Republic Friday reveal — the Sith Inquisitor class update.

First, the video. Love the deception, love the force lightning, love the calm and cool-headed attitude of this badass Zabrak chick who is the very model of an upstanding emissary to the Empire. When considering most of the class videos that came before, it’s also a breath of fresh air to see someone who isn’t brutishly running around bashing in people’s skulls. As Daniel Erickson pointed out in the Gamespot interview, the Inquisitor is the “thinking-person’s Sith”; their strengths are in treachery and manipulation.

But if I have to nitpick, I can’t say I’m a fan of the “warlockian” outfit used in the video. I hope having to endure those monstrous shoulderpads isn’t part of the “rigorous trials” process on the long journey to unlock the secrets of the dark side.

If I haven’t already made up my mind to play a Bounty Hunter, I think I would have seriously considered the Sith Inquisitor. In the words of lead combat designer George Zoeller:

“Through advanced class and skill selection, the player can mold this class to fill any of the traditional roles of characters in massively multiplayer games.”

Yeah, especially in light of the bombshell that dropped last month updating the Inquisitor and Jedi Consular to tanking classes. I predict the two classes will fill similar roles in the game, and while I’ve only seen the Consular in action, if the Sith Inquisitor displays even a fraction of the same versatility I witnessed…well, I stand by my declaration — that in terms of gameplay, I think these two classes will probably be the most versatile and interesting to play.

However, I’m still going to have to give the SI the edge here — nothing beats being able to zap people with force lightning coming out of your fingers!

That said, the Sith Inquisitor Advanced Classes are very different. Assassins wield double-bladed lightsabers and they have the potential to fulfill damage, support, or even tank roles. Sometimes they even get to wear cool ninja-type armor like this! Now that’s an outfit I can learn to love:

Sorcerers, on the other hand, rely more on force-based abilities to do battle — lightning strikes and force storms are the kind of powers you find in their arsenal. They can also use the force to control their enemies or heal their allies.

Sorcerer armor style, however, is a little more distracting. I don’t even really know what to say. It’s like sci-fi meets shamanism. I love it, but at the same time I don’t — it’s a great look, but it’s also going to take me some time to get used to seeing it in the Star Wars universe:

As with every class update, the information also includes a known associate/companion: Khem Val, a member of force resistant and not-so-pretty Dashade species who according to his description sleeps dormant in the tomb of Naga Sadow on Korriban, waiting for a worthy Sith Inquisitor just like you to come along to finally wake him from his stasis. I assume you don’t do it with a kiss.

And of course, the ship — the same one that Sith Warriors use which was first revealed in their update — the Fury-class starship . Or what I like to call the love child of the Millennium Falcon and an imperial TIE Interceptor.

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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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Rift: So That Was It For River Of Souls

April 18, 2011

River of Souls ended with a fizzle...but at least I got a ghost horsie out of it.

Ah, Rift. I’ve been having a lot of fun with the game, and up until now I think everything has been running rather swimmingly. But as much as I love to stay optimistic, I also gotta call it as I see it. Trion, while the final two phases of the River of Souls were a great idea, looked like a fun time on paper, the execution left a lot to be desired.

Granted, my experience was on Faeblight, one of the most heavily populated US shards; your experience may have differed. If everything went smoothly for you and the worst thing that happened was a bit of bad lag, I am happy for you and I’m glad you had a great time. But I  have to look at the overall quality when I comment on how the entire thing was handled, and one of the major factors that separates a fiasco from a success when you try and launch a world event more or less simultaneously across your entire game is ensuring that all your customers get a relatively uniform experience across the board — especially when one of the major draws of your event is that everyone can participate.

Faeblight, heh, saw a server queue with wait times that were 8 hours or more during this event. At one point, I looked at at the server list and saw that at least 20 other servers had queues too; poor Wolfsbane for example was up close to 700 and counting. Not all of them were so bad, but adding it all up, that’s still hundreds if not a few thousand people who were left out in the cold, helpless to do anything but watch as the wait times to get in only increased.

I say all this as someone who was actually lucky enough to have been online through the whole thing, gotten to participate in killing the bosses and witness the opening of the River of Souls raid instance and the whole shebang. Hey, I even got all the event achievements and was fortunate to loot a Spectral Horse earlier last week — but I still can’t pretend I didn’t see the hiccups. At the same time, I can’t bring myself to be that hard on Trion. They’ve no doubt done their hours and days of testing…but who could have predicted the sheer number of players that showed up for this event?

You might say, “Oh, that’s no excuse, they should have seen it coming.” Perhaps. But even I couldn’t accurately tell how many people were present at some points of the event, the hordes all packed tight in one place at the same time. It was bad, crazy bad. As you can see from the video I took below, it was literally impossible for me to say how many were there, seeing as the game could only handle showing me those who were standing in my proximity.

I’m sorry the video was so long and that nothing really happened in it, but I was hoping I was going to catch the beginning of Phase 3, and the wait was longer than I thought. But it’s a good illustration of what I described above — you can see as I ran around, players who came in and out of my little “island” phased in and out; in a way it’s almost comical. Caer Mathos might have looked empty on my screen, but no doubt every single inch of it was occupied.

The masses were a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you got to experience the full effect of the event, and think “Wow, this is truly epic.” This part they did right. On the other hand, this made the lag intolerable. For my husband who was running Rift on his gaming laptop, it got so bad that his casting bars weren’t coming up and even if they were, the world bosses were appearing unattackable. I’m running Rift on a pretty powerful machine and had it a little better, but even then it could barely handle the event.

I noticed other problems, like area NPCs taking a long time to show up on the screen. This made trying to travel from zone to zone an exercise in hilarity. As players showed up to a hub in droves, the Porticulum Masters took their time to appear, and when they did, dozens found themselves standing on top of the NPC — and given the lag they probably didn’t know it! To their credit, most people moved off when they realized what happened…but of course by then others had arrived, and the cycle started all over again. Getting anywhere was nigh impossible. Doubtful that these little things made themselves apparent as MAJOR problems during testing.

While I admit I may have been more amused than frustrated watching the confusion play out before my eyes, these little hiccups, when compounded, resulted in taking away from the overall experience. And from start of Phase 2 to the end of Phase 3, it all lasted only about 30 minutes. Considering how long Phase 1 ran and how it was all supposedly ramping up to this moment…I hate to say it, but it was kind of anti-climatic. And because it was so short, a lot of people I know who were stuck waiting in queues missed it completely.

I was a little disappointed, but please don’t think I’m holding one botched event against the game and ignoring everything else that Trion has accomplished. Parts of it was poorly planned, especially the decision to make a free weekend coincide with the event, but I’m certainly not going to cancel my sub in a fit of rage or any such nonsense. Despite the complications, let me congratulate Trion for surviving their FIRST major event. It was a learning experience, no doubt. If nothing else, I’ll look to see how they will improve their events in the future.

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SWTOR: Becoming A Jedi Knight

March 25, 2011

Another week, another Friday where I get use this blogspace to talk about my thoughts on the latest Star Wars: The Old Republic update. Today’s reveal — the Jedi Knight Character Progression video.

Okay, so while I don’t remember when I watched the original Star Wars movies for the first time, I do know it had to be somewhere in the late 80s when I was just a little tyke and at the time my parents were transferred overseas. So what would you do if you happened to be a little kid stuck in the outskirts of some foreign city, where at the time there was not much to do and no such thing as Saturday morning cartoons (and even if there were, you wouldn’t have been able to understand them)? You watched your beloved 70s and 80s movie trilogies on VHS, over and over and over again! It was all we had. And that’s how I fell in love with Star Wars.

So I was watching the Jedi Progression video and thinking to myself, “Hey, this looks pretty cool,” but at about 0:36 where the Yoda-ish theme song kicks in and the droid pipes up with its little trill, I suddenly I found myself feeling a little choked up. This is going to sound embarrassing, but I don’t know how else to put it. It was like being pulled back 20 years ago and watching Luke Skywalker take his first step from being a naive farmboy to becoming a seasoned Jedi Knight all over again.

And then it was over. Subsequent armor sets started reminding me of the prequels era and pulled me out of my heavy cloud of nostalgia. Don’t get me wrong — the armor sets themselves were stylish, fashionable and overall looked very, very cool — but thinking about Episodes I, II, and III always tends to have that “smelling salts” effect on me. For a few moments there though, the powerful music and the image of that Jedi reaching that momentous milestone in his evolution — igniting and marveling over his first ever lightsaber — almost had me thinking about ditching my Bounty Hunter plans and going with the Jedi Knight for my main. Luke Skywalker’s “hero’s journey” was one of the things that made me love Star Wars so much. They’ve even got that pose from the poster down.

The fact that the Jedi Knight was the class I played in the Taral V demo probably also had a hand in making me feel this way. The wide range of abilities I had to play with impressed me, and that was only just a small subset of what was available. I know I said before that I had very little interest in the force users, but it’s one thing to say that before I saw the Jedi Knight in action, another to have actually experienced the joys of breaking a vine cat’s face in with my lightsaber.

What it all boils down to, though, is the epiphany I had after watching the video — I think I understand better now why someone would want to play the Jedi Knight. You see, I’d always thought of it as a “typical” decision, but now after the video and reflecting upon my own fond memories, I kinda feel bad about that. This update has made me think that perhaps it would be more accurate of me to replace “typical” with “meaningful” instead.

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Bounty Hunters? We DO Need Their Scum!!!

March 4, 2011

*Ahem* Pardon me while I go and have a nerdgasm — OH YES YES YES YESSSSSS THAT’S IT RIGHT THERE!!!

Okay, now that that’s out of my system, if I even have any readers left, I solemnly swear to never ever do that again. But as you know, this week’s Star Wars: The Old Republic Friday update is the one I’ve been waiting for — not-so-patiently, I might add — for more than half a year now ever since Bioware started rolling out the class videos and profiles. In fact, I’ve actually been geeking out since early yesterday afternoon, as that was when IGN first released their exclusive coverage on the Bounty Hunter video and interview.

Yes, the Bounty Hunter. My class of choice, the one I’ve set my sights on for my main character ever since it was announced, has finally gotten its update.

I love how each class trailer so far has featured a “hook” or a main theme to build the video around. For the Trooper, it’s honor and duty. For the Smuggler, he’s like “I’m-the-man-who-can-get-the-job-done”. For the Imperial Agent, it’s all about the suave.

For the Bounty Hunter, your only concern is the DEATH MARK. *Cue thriller-suspense music*

Gotta love picking out the little details in the video, stuff like delivering your bounty frozen in a block of carbonite. As usual, Darth Hater has picked out a lot of other interesting things in their dissection, which is definitely worth checking out. You can bet I’m looking forward to playing with all those abilities!

On designing specific missions for the Bounty Hunter class, Writing Director Daniel Erickson had this to say in the IGN interview:

The Bounty Hunter is his own man and always needs space to stretch out, so as much as possible missions take you into situations you won’t see with other classes. Conflicts with authority figures on both sides, stand offs with other individualists, and, of course, the epic chase are all important parts of designing a Bounty Hunter story.

I have to say, I think that’s what drew me to the class in the first place. Most of the other classes seem to be beholden to one authority or another. The Trooper serves the Republic. The Imperial Agent serves the Empire. The Jedi serve their Order. And so forth. I love how even the NPCs will apparently react most differently to the Bounty Hunters and Smugglers (the latter, of course, being the other class in the game seen as more of an “outsider”).

And well, there’s also my crush on Boba Fett…that is, before George Lucas went and destroyed all his delicious mystery.

Anyway, yes, you can probably roleplay a rogue Trooper or Agent or a “grey” Jedi, but the Bounty Hunter doesn’t need any excuse not to serve anyone. It’s just as he says in the video, “The only law in the galaxy, is the one a man makes for himself.” In fact, I think IGN even picks up on that, if their question about Bioware’s decision to ally Bounty Hunters with the Dark Side is any indication. Given the nefarious roles which many Bounty Hunters have played in the Star Wars expanded universe, I think it was the right choice. The only choice, perhaps.

Doesn’t mean I’m necessarily going down the dark path. Most likely I’ll be playing the class following my own moral compass. Who knows, maybe I’ll only hunt the bad guys. I may work for the Sith, but I’m a Bounty Hunter, I can make those kinds of decisions without clearing it with them first.

On inspiration for the Bounty Hunter class, Erickson states:

Before originally planning the first chapter of the Bounty Hunter I read every Bounty Hunter comic and book I could get my hands on. Dengar is a particular favorite both for his complicated friendship with Boba Fett and his gritty, old cowboy attitude towards life.

I see a lot of potential for this class. There have been so many Bounty Hunters featured in years and years of Star Wars history. From Calo Nord to Aurra Sing, from Bossk to Cad Bane, from Boushh to IG-88. Lots of big names to work with and ideas to draw from, so hopefully they’re not relying so heavily on Boba Fett for inspiration the same way the Smuggler class appears to be stuck on Han Solo. Erickson’s mention of Dengar and “a very diverse group of companions” available to the Bounty Hunter are good signs of things to come.

The Bounty Hunter’s role for the Empire is similar to that of the Trooper on the Republic side. One could say that they are arch enemies. Within the class, the roles are divided as follows : the Mercenary advanced class can take the role of ranged damage dealer or healer [and] the Powertech advanced class can take the role of close range damage dealer or tank. The skill trees for these advanced classes offer various ways of sub-specializing these roles (e.g. burst vs. sustained kind of damage dealing roles, etc.)

I do prefer playing classes with multiple utilities, so I’m glad the Bounty Hunter has Advanced Class options to either go tanking or healing, in addition to dealing damage.

And I suppose if we’re looking at roles and abilities, the class does have clear parallels to the Republic’s Trooper. Lorewise, however, I’ve always personally thought of the Smuggler as the Bounty Hunter’s natural “mirror”. As already mentioned above, they’re both seen as the outsiders compared to the other classes. Erickson’s words about looking at classic Westerns for tone and texture as well as his quote about Dengar’s “gritty, old cowboy attitude” underscores the similarities to the Smuggler for me even more.

From the screenshots, it appears each specialization will have its own distinct look-and-feel. I guess it’s no surprise that the Mercenary Advanced Class is the one taking it to the Westerns.

The Powertech specialization on the other hand has the more “traditional” armored look, and this is probably the AC I’ll end up going with since I love playing with gadgets and I want to tank.

The Bounty Hunter also features an update to the Rattataki entry in the Holonet under Humanoids. They’re an interesting species, but not my thing, I’m afraid. They just creep me out. That, and I’m shallow and prefer having hair. Or hey, better yet, how about a pair of long beautiful lekku?

As well, a companion for the Bounty Hunter has been revealed. Meet Mako, the “Cyber Orphan”. I have to say, I’d expected another hard-boiled, tough-as-nails description for her, and I was relieved that I was wrong. After all, we already have two crazy chicks and that’s plenty enough for now! Mako seems down-to-earth to me. And everyone loves a geek girl.

And last but not least, it’s not a real update unless it’s also got a ship reveal. Bounty Hunters will be flying around in a Kuat Drive Yards D5-Mantis Patrol Craft. Seriously, where do they come up with these names? KDY and its subsidiary Kuat Systems Engineering, however, was also the manufacturer responsible for the beloved spacecraft of Boba Fett, the original Slave I. Its influences can clearly be seen weaved into the D5-Mantis. Not the most luxurious-looking ship (seriously, that bed in the video looks like I’ll need a tetanus shot after sleeping in it), but it can fight and that’s all that matters.

Still, I would have appreciated a little more description. Like, what kind of cargo space am I looking at? Where can I pack and load my frozen carbonite prisoners for safe transport? Come on, it’s not like I can insure that crap!

Anyway, as Jaramukhti (I so wish he had a blog for me to link! Really!) pointed out from a quote from a dev, this update was probably intended to have been last week’s reveal, following the pattern of releases. Hence this week, we get something like an update-and-a-half. Which turns out to be more information and details on SWTOR at PAX East.

I can’t believe it’s next week. Seriously, the time has just flown by. At BioWare’s Booth 912, they will be providing hands-on gameplay experience for the Republic Flashpoint Taral V and the starting origin worlds. I’m not sure if I want to try for the opportunity. Strange, but in being so emotionally invested in SWTOR, it has also become one of those games I don’t want to get so intimately involved with before release. That, and I can’t promise my hands won’t be shaking so hard from excitement and delirium. I will, however, probably do my darndest to attend any presentations and Live Q&As.

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SWTOR: Regrets And Mistakes Of The Great Hyperspace War

February 11, 2011

Today’s Star Wars: The Old Republic update is a new timeline video, chronicling the events of the Great Hyperspace War and the role played by the Sith Lord Naga Sadow.

Okay, so it looks like “Jedi” Master Gnost-Dural has toned down on the blatant rah-rahing over the Sith emperor in this week’s timeline, but say, doesn’t he still sound awfully bitter at the end there? And I could swear there’s almost a tinge of satisfaction when he talks about the Sith return to exact revenge against the Republic. His message was like one big “you guys totally blew it” and subsequently rubbing it in the Republic’s face.

Mark my words, I think there’s something fishy up with this Kel Dor, and he’s going to come out one of these days and make them look like a bunch of fools! God knows the Jedi has seen more moles than a dermatologist’s laser.

In all seriousness though, I have to say I’m getting a bit lost. I have to admit they did less in this timeline than they have in the previous ones in trying to link its contents back to SWTOR. It’s all relevant in that it’s lore, of course, but I can’t help but think if I’m starting to feel a bit lost, how foreign these timelines must all feel to someone just generally interested in the game.

Note we’re going backwards from the time of the game to uncover the root of the conflict between the Republic and the Empire, so in a way it makes sense that the further we get the more things will start to get a little extraneous. And now we’re at about 13 centuries before the signing of the Treaty of Coruscant.

This is treading deep into Tales of the Jedi and other Knights of the Old Republic comics territory. I noticed that a lot of the art in the video, including the costumes of Naga Sadow and others on Korriban are not only beautifully done but also very striking, but these were actually concepts established by comic artists back as early as the 90s.

I think I’m going to have to dig around my graphic novel collection to brush up on the stories again, strengthening my suspicions that the goal of these timelines isn’t necessarily to show players what to expect in the game, but instead it is a means of linking SWTOR to the ideas and stories behind the world of the Old Republic that has already been floating around for years. A way of saying, “Rest assured, folks, we’re going to be doing everything we can to tie SWTOR to the Star Wars mythos!” and “Hey look, there’s more of the Old Republic out there if you want to give money to Dark Horse and check it out!” at the same time, so to speak! :P

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It Happens In A Flashpoint

January 28, 2011

Late in the evening on Thursday, Gamespot published a new article about Star Wars: The Old Republic Flashpoints so it wasn’t surprising to see that it was also the subject of today’s update. The new entry titled Flashpoints Overview is pretty scarce on information, though it does include a new video featuring a first-look at Taral V, a mid-game (level 32 and above), Republic only flashpoint (Darth Hater also has a cool dissection that’s worth checking out):

Here’s a random thought that possibly might only interest Hunter, given our little wager over the number of planets we think there will be at launch — with the reveal of the Taral V flashpoint, could we expect the presence of other individual self-contained instances like this scattered across the game on many different worlds? This led me to think that the famous “dozens” of planets claim by the devs could have meant these worlds as well, and not just the fully explorable ones released so far. I think our bet came forth from that quote in the first place, which is why the thought struck me.

Anyway, the update also lists the names of a few other flashpoints we can expect to see in game. It’s not complete, but it’s enough to see the availability of flashpoints to players on both factions and its apparent spread from early game all the way up to end-game. Nevertheless, I felt more information could be gleaned from the Gamespot article.

Some of the answers about Taral V in the Q&A from World Designer Jesse Sky are worth contemplating:

Taral V can be played in roughly 90 minutes, which is about the average length for a flashpoint. A completionist play-through would probably take more than two hours. If you have any stealthy friends, you might find them particularly useful on this mission.

Interestingly, in the video we actually get to see a quick glimpse of a “stealthy” player at work. Sky’s choice of words give me pause, and let’s just say I cross my fingers and hope that “particularly useful” doesn’t translate to “almost necessary”.

90 minutes is I think a fair length for a flashpoint, though I have to question what he meant by a “completionist play-through”. Does that simply mean clearing the place completely of all enemies? Or are there other little extras we can expect from inside these instanced flashpoints? It’s Bioware, so I had to wonder. Especially given what Sky says later on in the interview:

Flashpoints are repeatable by design, and we strive to include elements that keep them fresh for multiple play-throughs. The gameplay focus in a flashpoint is very tight, which contrasts a bit with adventuring in the open world, but it lets us empower players in some really interesting ways. For example, you might explore the area and discover a secret that changes the mechanics of a boss fight. Or you might make a story decision that alters the course of the gameplay.

The inclusion of little extras and secrets notwithstanding, that’s incentive enough for me to explore flashpoints, though Sky is still vague on what he means when he says they’re “sympathetic” to players who are tired of the “traditional” dungeon experience. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but having the best equipment found in flashpoints and other “reward structures” in place to me sounds like item progression, which on the face of it I wouldn’t mind so much but which I hope won’t be too greatly emphasized. Admittedly, I’d be a little disappointed if it were, but I can’t say I’d be very surprised either.

Personally, what motivates me isn’t the gear, it’s the cooperative gameplay. Speaking of which, that’s another thing I’ve been thinking about a lot — flashpoints are balanced around and intended for a full group of four players.

I know smaller groups make for more intimate and tight-knit interactions, and not that I mind getting cozy with my fellow players, but I do admit I’ve been perplexed by SWTOR’s group size ever since last year — especially in light of this post I saw on We Fly Spitfires last week, where Gordon points out that larger groups allow for more variety in party make-up. According to him, 6 is the prefect group size and 5 is World of Warcraft trying to be special, but Bioware seeks to one-up (or should that be one-down?) even Blizzard with 4-man parties. I look forward to seeing how the dynamics in a four-player group are going to work out in this game.

Finally, Sky ends the Q&A on a positive note, mentioning that they are heading into their “homestretch”. Despite rumors that surfaced earlier this week that SWTOR will be delayed for a September release, the devs appear to be giving the impression they are still on track, and as late as Tuesday evening, community representatives are still acknowledging a Spring release (thanks to Harbinger Zero for the link). Personally, I still very much doubt we’ll be seeing the game until at least late summer, and it wouldn’t surprise me even if the rumors for a fall release turn out to be true.

Would that be so bad though? Don’t get me wrong, I’m hoping SWTOR will come out sooner rather than later, but God knows I have enough games to keep me busy this spring and summer, and I fully trust Bioware to know when the right time is to release the game. I figure I’ve waited this long already, a few more months isn’t going to kill me…though on the other hand, sifting through the angst and vitriol on the forums that will come with another half year more of Fan Fridays just might.

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