Posts Tagged ‘Bonus’

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SWTOR: Massively Yours

November 21, 2011

Gathering for a world boss.

Now that the gag order has lifted from the Star Wars: The Old Republic beta test, I want to get something off my chest. This is something I’ve wanted to talk about for the past few months, but every time the topic comes up I’ve had to hold my tongue because of the NDA. Well, no longer.

For a while now, it’s made me very uncomfortable whenever I go on Twitter, the forums, or other gaming community websites and see people apply the term “single-player MMO” to SWTOR in a deprecatory way. I’m sure we’ve all seen the type of comments. You know, the kind that imply SWTOR isn’t a real MMO, or that it’s just a single-player RPG pretending to be one, or something along those lines. It was so far-reaching at one point, that I began having my own reservations when I first got my invite to general testing, and wondered if SWTOR would not turn out to be the MMORPG I’ve been looking for.

Looking back now, I was crazy to have been worried. Even after just a week with The Old Republic, it was clear to me that this is a gen-u-wine, bonafide massively multiplayer online game, with all the delicious goodness that comes with a very large number of players interacting with one another within a persistent virtual world.

So I got to thinking, out of all the recent MMOs currently on the market and in development, why does SWTOR get singled out like this (pun intended) more than any of them? I mean, yes, it is possible in the game to level from the beginning to level cap solo, but if that’s the definition of a single-player MMO then a lot of current games would fall into that category as well. But I just don’t feel any game gets abused with the “single-player” label as much as SWTOR does.

I have a few theories, but I do believe the single most important factor that leads people to this misconception about SWTOR is the fact that it boasts story, companions, and a quest line unique to a player’s class. Well, if I’m correct, then this has proven to be a double-edged sword. Arguably, these features are the biggest draw about the game, but they may have also given some people the impression that SWTOR is merely a single-player experience disguised as an MMO.

Perhaps it is also BioWare’s reputation as a developer of AAA single-player RPGs. When people hear the name, no doubt their recent successes like the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series spring immediately to mind. And yet, it is true that SWTOR is their first venture into the MMO space, so it’s only natural to to be curious whether or not BioWare can break from their long history of developing single-player games in order to make this monumental leap.

The thing is, it is highly likely that BioWare knew full well from the beginning that proving they can handle an MMO was going to be an uphill battle. I say this, because I’ve seen the way their game goes above and beyond to encourage interaction and socialization between players, as well as provide plenty of opportunities for group play:

  • Group Quests – Around half a dozen of these on each planet, intended to be completed with 2+ or 4+ players. The former are sometimes soloable, but the latter are definitely not. They mostly reward commendations or very nice blues.
  • Flashpoints – SWTOR’s version of instances, designed to be experienced by a full group of four players. In addition, some FPs have bonus objectives within them that require the involvement or cooperation of two or more people to complete.
  • PvP Warzones – Success in a SWTOR WZ often requires strategy and understanding of the rules and objectives, e.g. Huttball (dear lord, don’t even get me started on how many times I’ve seen a player who doesn’t know how to pass, or run a ball back to their own end zone). A group of random players will likely be at a marked disadvantage against a premade whose members are coordinated and knowledgeable
  • World Bosses – Most planets have one or two that I’ve seen. If the live game will be anything like testing, world bosses will also drop some very rare loot. For example, the boss droid on Alderaan has a chance of dropping a white crystal that as far as I know, you can’t get anywhere else in the game (at least in that build at the time). I’ve defeated world bosses with as few as four players, while others take more. The aforementioned Alderaan killer droid, for instance, took ten of us including a few high 40s to just barely take him down.
  • Crew Skills – Sometimes, crafting will require getting necessary materials from crew skills you may not have. While the Galactic Trade Network was still being tweaked in testing, many of us turned to direct trade with our friends and fellow players.
  • Datacrons – Here we get to the activities that are more specific to SWTOR. Datacrons are an optional element of the game, and are objects placed throughout the worlds for enthusiastic explorers to find. A few are easily stumbled upon, but most require some poking around the entire planet. Once you located them, however, the true challenge is figuring out how to get to them. I’ve encountered DCs that require everything from creative thinking, solving logic puzzles, finding unconventional paths, or yes, even grouping.
  • Social System – As I’ve mentioned before in an earlier post, I love this feature in SWTOR and it’s the only MMO I’ve ever played with something like this. It is completely optional once again, but it’s a nice perk. To gain social points, all you have to do is group up and participate in group conversations. Every time you win a convo-loot roll you gain the maximum number of points for that roll. Even if you lose the roll you gain points, just less. Racking up social points will help you gain social ranks (I, II, III, etc.) and each time you go up one you get a nifty little title. And the best part of all, rare cosmetic and vanity items from social vendors become available to you!
  • Bonus XP – Thanks to my guildies for helping me confirm this, but I believe that unlike most MMOs, experience is not as reduced per mob kill for group members who are at a similar level, so you’ll be progressing faster. In addition, there are ways to gain bonus XP in groups — completing a class quest with your buddy will reward you with some XP when he or she completes it even if you don’t have it in your log, for example. Doing “bonus” type quests with others will also reward you some extra XP if you complete it in a group. It is a HUGE incentive, making it in a player’s best interest to group up whenever possible.

Thinking about it now, throughout my journey from 1 to 50, if I had seized upon every single opportunity presented to me during my time testing in order to take advantage of the above, I would have easily spent 25-33% of my time grouped up. Maybe even more. So you’ll forgive me if I really don’t see SWTOR as a “single-player MMO”, or at least not any more “single-player” than the bulk of what’s out there.

Solo-oriented players need not fret though! You can still play the game and complete your entire class story by yourself — nothing in your personal storyline will require a group. And as you can see, much of what I listed above is completely optional, and the advantages you gain are extra perks but definitely not of the game-breaking variety. But SWTOR is a huge game, and your class story will only be a fraction of the content — I do urge everyone to participate in group activities once in a while. If you’re a hardcore solo-er you’ll still have a lot of fun without ever having to group up with another player, but be forewarned you may also be missing a lot of good stuff!

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The Way Of The Preorder

September 22, 2011

Let me just say I have nothing against Gamestop; as a retail store they’ve always treated me fairly and the employees at my local branches are always friendly and chipper. Yet I don’t find myself shopping there often, only because as a cheap ass gamer chick I always seem to find better deals offered elsewhere.

So, when I preordered Harvest Moon: Tale of Two Towns for the 3DS at Gamestop, my friend asked me why, and I got all embarrassed and made him promise not to laugh at me if I told him the reason:

This damn thing.

I don’t normally allow myself to be baited by physical, tangible bonus items because God knows there’s already a big box full of my video game memorabilia collecting dust somewhere. But frivolous and mundane as it is, there’s just something about this stupid, infernal Alpaca Plushie. Its beady black stare compels me.

It also made me realize something about myself — I’ve never really gotten into this whole business of preordering stuff. I average at about one game preorder a year, if even that.

But I see a lot of gamers do it all the time, and I just wonder why do you do it? I used to think it was kinda pointless, because I only buy special editions like once in a blue moon, and I know that even if I wanted something bad enough I’d just show up at the store bright and early on the day of release and pick it up then anyway, preorder be damned.

Okay, so clearly there are exceptions. Suffice to say the areas of game marketing and publicity are ever evolving, but at least for me, these are still the only three reasons why I would ever preorder games nowadays:

  • Money credit or bonus. I don’t think anyone can argue with a sale or a good deal, which is why if I do preorder I always go with Amazon because they seem to be throwing those $10 and $20 credit offers like candy.
  • MMOs. Sometimes it’s for early beta access, but more often it’s for the in-game items. This only makes sense to me because MMOs are multiplayer games where pixelated goodies can actually be displayed and appreciated by an audience other than myself. On the other hand, I don’t usually go out of my way to preorder single-player games for their in-game exclusives. Be it character skins or special weapons, it’s just not as much fun when you can’t show off your swag.
  • Stuffed domesticated camelids.
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Exclusives, Exclusives, Exclusives

June 16, 2010

Exclusives! It seems to be the way of things these days, game companies and retailers offering bonuses up the wazoo to the point I can’t even keep the number of special items straight anymore.

Obviously, I started thinking about this topic in light of Cryptic’s decision to put Star Trek Online pre-order bonus items in their C-Store. Even though my own STO account is lying dormant right now, it’s hard not to follow news about the game because one can almost always be certain copious amounts of drama will follow anything that happens. Anyway, pre-ordering customers and lifetime subscribers who have spent money to collect these “exclusive” items were understandably upset.

I can empathize. In an ideal world, exclusives should be exclusive, not something made available to everyone mere months after launch. But the thing is, we don’t live in an ideal world where all MMOs are successful like World of Warcraft, a game that for all intents and purposes have still kept their exclusives exclusive. It’s a sad truth that most MMOs will never see millions of subscribers and none will last forever. With so many games flooding the market right now, it’s becoming necessary to expect pitfalls within a game’s life cycle and the ensuing money-sinks.

To stay sane, I have to believe in general that companies aren’t out to deliberately screw over their customers. I do actually believe they want to honor their promises and have their exclusives remain just that…but they’re also in the business to make money. And sadly, sometimes it’s not pure greed but just the need to stay afloat. I don’t know for sure if STO is in this rocky boat, but obviously, most companies will have the foresight to work in a paragraph or two in their Terms of Service, usually along the lines of “We reserve the right to change or limit order quantity, price and availability of any product or service without notice” or something to that effect.

In the end, it’s because of this that we as consumers can rage and complain all we want, but there’s not much else we can do about it, infuriating as it is. I wouldn’t say the corporation gets to walk away unscathed either though. Make your customers upset and fall back on legal-speak one too many times, and people will start to lose confidence in your products and services, which is a very damaging thing to a company in the long run.

I’ve learned something from this. Admittedly, I’m easily dazzled by the promises of exclusives and special bonuses myself…*recalls my Age of Conan puma pet obsession*. I’d have it all if I could. Needless to say, I was pretty miffed that the only STO pre-order bonus available to me in Canada was the Constitution Class Cruser offered by Gamestop/EB Games, but in hindsight, maybe this was a good thing because it did spare me the decision and save me money. Now that these pre-order items can be bought piecemeal in the C-Store, a Liberated Borg officer or a Mirror Universe costume can be mine if I want them, just four and a half months after I bought the game.

Yeah, maybe Cryptic made these “exclusives” available way too soon (I did notice still no playable Borg though…smart move), but despite the grumblings, a lot of players were able to benefit from this. This is a good thing for people who missed out on the opportunity to get these items, and for the folks like me who weren’t even offered the choice.

Still, this whole situation just serves to remind me the importance of making a purchase decision based on the game itself, and not the bonus items. In a world of ToS agreements and markets where MMOs rise and fall, going forward I’ll certainly be more grounded and guarded when faced with the offer of exclusives. I’ve noticed that it has become a lot easier to get swept up in the advertising hype these days, now that more and more retailers are offering special pre-order, collector’s edition, or time-limited items and this trend doesn’t seem like it’s going to die down anytime soon.