Posts Tagged ‘Companions’

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Why Don’t You Handle This?

November 12, 2010

Today’s Star Wars: The Old Republic update is a closer look at the inner workings of the crew skill system. After last week’s announcement about crafting, I have to say I was anticipating an update like this. But what I didn’t expect was how informative this update is. Pardon me, I’m too used to SWTOR information trickling out to us week-by-week at a slug-like pace, so it came at a bit of a shock when almost all of my questions about the crafting system were answered in a single update.

What I understand is that we have 3 main categories of crafting skills: Gathering Skills, Crafting Skills, and Mission Skills. 3 Crew Skills slots are also available to your team to train in from among these categories. You can fill all three up with Gathering Skills if you wish, but that would also mean no more slots available for anything else from the other categories. Crafting Skills, on the other hand, are very specialized so you’ll be able to devote only one slot to crafting. Finally, any number of your Crew Skills can be a Mission skill.

First time playing, the most reasonable choice would probably be to go 1 Gathering Skill, 1 Crafting Skill, and 1 Mission Skill. But if making a ton of credits is your desire, the choice of taking three gathering skills and making a “raw materials mule” is there. If you wish to master all the crafting skills available, however, just be prepared to make as many alts.

Elegantly simple, yet I can appreciate its little intricacies as well. Describing this system as “World of Warcraft with a twist” doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

Companion’s backgrounds will also determine how effective they are with certain skills, as will their opinions of you (so I guess whipping my crew into submission is out then?) As for the concerns about whether or not your own character can participate in crafting, we now know you can gather or scavenge yourself if you wish. Participating in crafting or missions, however, I’m not so clear on. But if crafting ends up taking up real time…mayhaps you won’t want to stand around waiting 6 hours for something to finish. By the way, who else smells that mobile app coming a mile away?

Anyway, I know I’m going to sound like a raving fangirl here, but the crew skill system is the best crafting system I could ever ask for. It’s true. It’s perfect…for me.

Just this morning, I was writing a comment to someone explaining how crafting feels like a chore to me, and how much I’d rather focus on leveling instead. The truth is, when I’m online, I want to quest. Not craft. So when I heard Dallas Dickinson say in the video “We want you to be able to enjoy crafting, without having to take time out from your adventures”, it was like the clouds separated in the heavens and the birds started singing sweet songs in the trees. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again — I’m not big on crafting. So that’s why I’m excited. Oh, the irony.

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Younglings, Younglings Gather ‘Round! SWTOR Crafting and Warzones, Hrmm?

November 5, 2010

Okay, we can all let out that collective breath we’ve been holding. The hell you say?! Star Wars: The Old Republic is actually shaping up to be an actual MMORPG?!

Now you can strike Crafting mechanics and PvP info off of that list of things the community has been hounding Bioware to give out. People speculated that a big announcement would be made at an EA press event in Europe after @SWTOR tweeted this a couple days ago, so the hype was through the roof when the news came in early this morning. Darth Hater shares all the yummy deets.

I just want to say that I’m not a big time crafter by any means. More often than not, this is how things play out: I would grudgingly try to work on crafting in the beginning, only to go “Aww, screw it!” soon after when my gathering capabilities fail to keep up with my character’s leveling. In most games, crafting feels like a chore, something I tinker around with only after I’ve reached the level cap and finished all the other fun stuff, and I’d so rather be saving the world than chopping up some beans or working the bellows. Whatever, my point is, I’m no crafting connoisseur…but I can still recognize an attempt to break new ground when I see one. When people heard Rich Vogel say that SWTOR’s crafting system will be very similar to what WoW has but with some “twists”, I think many got worried. But in fact, outside the inherent characteristics of crafting, I don’t think it sounds much like WoW at all.

You mean with the Crew Skill system I get to order my companions around to do my crafting and gathering for me? Whoa, this is going to send me on an even bigger powertrip than abusing bridge officers in Star Trek Online. In my eyes, Bioware nailed several birds with one stone. It’s nice to know that I can be the “manager” and that crafting can continue behind the scenes when I’m out adventuring, or even when I’m offline. They’ve also solved the problem of preserving the “heroic” in your characters; so for example, the snooty Imperial Agent can get his crafting done and still wench and schmooze his way across the galaxy without once having to dirty those silken-gloved hands. Finally, this also means that the companion system has been given an even greater role.

I find that last point important because I do plan on utilizing my companions, but I don’t want them to simply feel like combat “pets” or be conversation fodder. But I’m even more curious about companion mechanics now than before. Would they determine or limit how many professions you can master? Can companions die, be dismissed, or abandon you? Considering how certain companions will be  better at some mission types than others, I wonder where that would leave you.

Moving on to PvP Warzones. PvP again is not something I’m personally into, but I’m not going to let that color my opinion on the new information, or on the following video featuring the Alderaan Warzone experience:

Sure, it has all the stylings of a staged fight, but it’s no less impressive.

Warzones are an option when it comes to PvP, particularly for those players who prefer battleground style combat, squad against squad vying to complete an objective. To be honest, I really didn’t expect Warzone objectives to be so specialized and so…integrated into the story? I admit, I had been expecting something more “game-y” with flags and points, since I wasn’t sure what kind of priority PvP had in development. I doubt I’ll be participating that much in Warzones, but I’m still happy to see that so much thought has been put into setting them up. When Bioware reminds us at every turn that story, story, story will be the focus of everything in SWTOR, they really mean it. Anyway, even with one Warzone detailed, open world PvP confirmed, plus hints of a possible arena system, the game still probably won’t satiate the most hardcore of PvP fiends, but I think for many players it will be okay.

Last but not least, the good people at Bioware have come to their senses and are giving us the chance to rename the “Jedi Wizard” advanced class for the Jedi Consular. I personally voted for “Seer” but the more popular choice of “Sage” doesn’t sound too bad either. One way or another, any of the new choices would be better than naming a class after a derogatory term for a Jedi Knight or a juvenile slang term for “cool”. As in, “Wow, it’s so “wizard” when companies heed their fans’ opinions, and even better when they give us a chance to get involved!” So go check it out!

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The Mission Of Imperial Intelligence

October 29, 2010

Out of all the classes in Star Wars: The Old Republic, I’d always thought the Imperial Agent would be one of the least played at launch. Popularity-wise, they’re no force-users, and in terms of having an iconic status, the class is still no match for the Bounty Hunter, Smuggler, or Trooper. Plus, what we knew about them before today was scant at best. Until now, the details on the the Imperial Agent had been much like the class, elusive.

When the Friday update hit, the Imperial Agent came roaring into the spotlight along with boatload of new information. And God knows I’m also a sucker for anything that includes a video:

I love the 007 undertones — great kiss, great accent. And apparently too cool to stick around to look at explosions. But suddenly, the underdog looks like a winner. Dammit, how do you do that, Bioware?

The class now has its Advanced Classes detailed: Sniper and Operative. The former sounds like a “ranged rogue”, which is exactly as expected, but to me it’s the latter that looks a lot more interesting to play. Like the Smuggler, the Imperial Agent will have healing capabilities and the Operative tree will have the talents to handle those duties.

Kaliyo Djannis was revealed to be a companion for the Imperial Agent. Based on her description, I have to agree with a couple people who’ve said she brings to mind certain existing female characters from Bioware — a bit of Jack from Mass Effect 2, a bit of Morrigan from Dragon Age: Origins. And 100% crazy. Boy, wouldn’t she be a joy to romance! Assuming this “Cannibal-Demon” thing is just a name and she won’t go praying mantis on you after sex.

Also revealed is the gorgeous looking X70B-Phantom. I imagine if Aston Martin ever made a starship, this is what it would look like — sleek and technologically stacked, just how an Imperial Agent’s ride should be. But that’s not what’s making me feel a little jealous. No, what strikes me is how the interiors look so much better than the others we’ve seen so far. Watching the video clip, it’s like peering into a penthouse suite of some 5-star hotel, complete with *ahem* king-sized bed. The insides of the others look like dingy scrap yards compared to this luxury yacht.

And finally, we have the Chiss as a new entry on the Inhabitants page. In Star Wars lore, the most well-known Chiss is probably Grand Admiral Thrawn, who served the Empire brilliantly in the Imperial Navy. When deciding which species can be playable as Imperial Agents, this probably made the developers decide on the Chiss, even though the Empire was already biased against aliens in their ranks even in the SWTOR era, as shown by the discrimination faced by the Epicanthix agent in the novel Fatal Alliance. I don’t know if this class will end up being playable by any more species other than human, but despite the restrictions they had to work with, I think the Chiss was a sound choice.

Now I just can’t wait until they do the Bounty Hunter.

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There Aren’t Enough Scoundrels In My Life

September 24, 2010

Han Solo to Bioware: I think you just can't bear to let a gorgeous guy like me out of your sight.

Another Friday, another Star Wars: The Old Republic update. The Smuggler class gets its profile filled out today, receiving new entries under “Specializations”, “Known Associates” and “Starship”. This class was probably still one of the least popular as recent as two months ago, if forum polls are any indication, but I think more eyes are turning to these dashing rogues now that a steady flow of Smuggler information has started to become available.

A thought occurred to me while perusing the new entries. “Gunslinger” and “Scoundrel” for the Advanced Classes, a Wookiee named Bowdaar as one of the choices for your companion, and the very Millennium-Falcon-like XS Stock Light for a starship. Yes, all very iconic. But I can’t help but think they may have gone a little overboard with the Smuggler.

Bowdaar looks like my cousin Nimo.

Don’t get me wrong, I think being iconic is a good thing. Iconic draws fans of an IP to the game. Iconic is familiar and nostalgic. Iconic lets people live out their childhood fantasies of being like the blaster-slinging, smooth-talking, handsome, mischievous and swaggering Han Solo. But here’s the deal, you gotta take Chewie and the Millennium Falcon too. That’s just the way it is.

Ultimately, I’m sure there will be adequate customization options and multiple companions to choose from at launch, but today’s update has made me consider the “No two Smugglers are exactly alike” statement that has presented with the information. Okay, I don’t doubt any would be exactly alike and I know I don’t have to choose the Wookiee companion if I don’t want to, but what I see behind today’s update is Bioware’s intention to make the Smuggler class experience one based on pure imitation.

Starship: XS Stock Light

The truth is, every other class is also based on imitation and is an emulated experience to an extent, so I don’t know why I’m assessing this in the Smuggler specifically, though I suspect it’s because the blatant Han Solo fantasy in which the class is steeped in is so in-your-face that it’s hard to overlook. His influence is in the outfits, the weapons, the ship, and even the attitude and animations.

In this, I really can’t fault Bioware, since and Han Solo is by far one of the most recognizable Star Wars characters in the mainstream population and I’m aware there aren’t too many other prominent Smuggler archetypes in the IP to work with. However, I do hope Bioware can incorporate enough of their own ideas for a Smuggler beyond what we’ve seen in the movies, so that when I make my own Smuggler she can distinguish herself as her own character and not just another “female Han Solo”.

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Dragon Age: Origins – A Run Of The Mill “Witch Hunt”

September 9, 2010

Note: Rest assured, no spoilers until the second half of the post, after the warning and the image.

It’s been a busy week, but somehow I managed to find the time to play the Dragon Age: Origins – Witch Hunt DLC. In preparation I had allotted myself ample time, but in hindsight, I need not have bothered. It was so…short. The whole thing couldn’t have taken me longer than 2 hours to complete, even with a few breaks in between. Granted, I have never before purchased any DLC for this game so I have nothing to compare it against, but for $7 I had expected a longer campaign.

Issue of length aside, I’m not disappointed, but I’m not impressed either. I’m frustrated by its mediocrity more than anything else, considering the fact Witch Hunt was proclaimed as the final DLC for Origins. The gameplay felt needlessly rushed and took us to many areas that were previously seen before, reused for this campaign. The story behind the adventure itself was intriguing and well put together, but was quickly overshadowed as soon as it became clear that it was only a means to end — that is, to find Morrigan. After that realization sunk in, it was hard to continue the game without feeling like I was trudging through a chore.

There were plenty of things to like, of course, such as the companions. Your trusty Mabari hound rejoins you for this adventure, as well as two new characters: Ariane the Dalish elven warrior and Finn the human mage. They both grew on me, tough-as-nails Ariane who is actually quite adorable and charming, and Finn with his over-the-top sense of humor. Between the two of them, you have enough funny banter to last a lifetime. Many other humorous gems are scattered throughout the content, if you care to look.

Regardless of how I feel, I’m not sorry I purchased Witch Hunt. Like it or not, it did bring closure — Bioware’s own brand of strange and messed up closure, maybe, but it’s still closure. I hate to be cryptic about it myself, but in the end, whether or not Witch Hunt delivered all that it promised really depends on who you ask. Only read on if you don’t mind spoilers.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

After aiding me on my quest to destroy the Blight in DA:O, Morrigan revealed she had been manipulating my human female noble PC all along to further her own gains. She slipped away and then — and I quote — “was never heard from again”. That is, until now. A paltry year later. Yeah, never say “never”.

Before she left, Morrigan made it clear she did not want to be found, warned me not to follow her. That would have been fine with me (the two of us were hardly BFFs) but of course that was before I knew she had her way with Alistair, who is now my king and husband, and conceived a demon baby. That’s not something you can ever let go, no matter who you are.

Witch Hunt promised to yield answers to the mysteries of Morrigan, but not surprisingly, for every question answered, two more took its place. In this way, Witch Hunt felt more like an intro to Dragon Age 2. “Change is coming” is the message to take away from the conversation you have with Morrigan at the very end. I am told her child is safe and “innocent”, and that Flemeth is my true enemy. It is hinted that both of them may play a big role in the future of Ferelden, if not my own.

I don’t know if the answers I personally got were adequate. To be fair though, by this point there are so many possible outcomes for the player character, the resolution I was expecting  may be wildly different from another player’s. My PC’s main motivation for hunting the witch was to find out what happened to her child and what her plans with him were (at the time, it appeared the baby was left on the other side of the Eluvian by himself. Way to parent, Morrigan). For others who may have played a male character and got to romance her, their goal might have been simply to reconcile with their lost love, which apparently, you get to do if you play your cards right. After reading what happens in that ending, even I have to admit it’s a good satisfying and heartwarming (again, in Bioware’s strange and messed up kind of way) conclusion.

For me, Morrigan and I exchanged a few words and parted ways. I believe I could have killed her, which would have been an awesome ending too, but I was not out for her blood when I started this campaign. After all the chaos we’ve been through, it’s enough that the two of us ended things on good terms.

After contemplating what I know, however, I’ve decided that Witch Hunt seems to have a strong bias for PCs that got to romance Morrigan and take part in her dark ritual. It’s a path I’ve always wanted to take myself, if my character hadn’t been a female. Perhaps that’s a goal for my next playthrough.

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KOTOR II – Taking Off

July 7, 2010

Finally, I was able to put aside several hours tonight to focus on Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. I can’t promise this post won’t contain any spoilers, so heed this warning if you have any concerns about that at all.

Respect the T3 unit!

I’m not very far into the game yet, but already I can tell that much of what I’ve heard about the darker tone of KOTOR II is true. First of all, the Peragus Mining Facility isn’t exactly the happiest place in the galaxy, and the dead bodies lying all over the place certainly don’t help. The companions I’ve met so far, while interesting and thus far benign, nonetheless still give me the creeps. Even the amicable Atton Rand seems like someone I should be watching out for (I can’t help it, after the emotional roller coaster that was Carth Onasi from the first KOTOR, I’m suspicious of all and any pilots who say they just want to “help”). And Kreia…well, do I really need to explain why she creeps me out? Gotta love T3-M4 though; those utility droids never get the love they deserve. I also feel especially attached to that little bot, seeing as how I played him more than I played my own character during the first couple hours of the game.

Anyway, I just got off that rock and am now on my way to Telos (leaving a trail of death and destruction in my wake, which is par for the course). Despite this ominous start to my adventures, I gotta say I quite liked that whole introduction section to the game, perhaps even more than I liked Taris in KOTOR. And that’s really saying something, because I adored Taris in the first game. I just felt that my goals and the overall experience on Peragus was much more focused, and the atmosphere was such that I set about my tasks with a more pressing sense of urgency.

I’m also very impressed with the writing so far; some of the dialogue I’ve encountered is fantastic. My conversations with the HK-50 droid, for instance, are going to stay with me for a long time. By the way, I noticed he didn’t stop using the “condescending” prefixes even after I told him to knock it off, that bastard.

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SWTOR Companions: Prospects For Fan Writing

May 29, 2010

Note: I know I’m a little later than usual when it comes to discussing the Star Wars: The Old Republic Friday update, but reading the new information on companions as well as the IGN interview really gave me a lot to think about. Before I continue though, a word of warning: I didn’t realize there was going to be so much gushing and girly-ness when I wrote this. I guess I’m feeling giddy because I’m going away for the weekend.

I think a lot of people are concerned that the companions in Star Wars: The Old Republic will take on too much of an important role, and start discouraging grouping and social behavior. Frankly, I’m not too concerned about that. Granted, if anyone can make the idea of playing with AI companions seem more enthralling than playing with real people, it would be Bioware’s talented writing team. But personally, I’m into MMOs to play with others, so having companions isn’t going to stop me from being social.

Instead, what I’ve actually been mulling over, are the prospects that SWTOR companions will have for roleplaying and fan lore. This may be a somewhat esoteric subject, but I’ve encountered enough fan writings on other peoples’ MMO blogs to dare hope that I’m not the only one excited about the possibilities.

RP isn’t something I usually do openly in-game, but I am constantly spinning out stories in my head and on occasion I will write them out. Long time readers of this blog will remember my strange attachment to Sleer, my Vulcan science officer in Star Trek Online. Or maybe it’s not so strange after all. I am reminded of a Nerf Herder lyric here (a band whose name is a Star Wars reference! Oh, how nicely this post is coming together…):

You don’t want a boyfriend
What you want is Mr. Spock…

Okay, so I admit I have a crush on Spock, and that Sleer is like my Spock from The Original Series. There are similarities between the two of them in the STO stories in my head (which I will never, ever, EVER put to paper because they’re just far too embarrassing). Sleer is my First Officer, he’s half-human, and I even dressed him up in TOS garb in-game. At the same time, I’ve also given him his own unique character traits and personality (or at least as far as a Vulcan can have a personality) to flesh out his relationship with my character T’Androma.

"Dammit, Sleer, pay attention to me!"

What can I say? I am a self-confessed mushy romantic. I read trashy Harlequins, watch weepy chick flicks, and “ooh” and “aww” over real life love stories. And so when it comes to games, it’s inevitable — whether it’s role-playing or writing back-stories for my character, I will inject a bit of romance.

And that’s the beauty of Cryptic’s character creator — they’ve given us a chance to work with a blank slate, to customize our characters and companions and write in their back-stories however we please. My only regret, however, is that other than them popping up every so often to tell you the status of your mission, there is absolutely zero interaction you can have with your bridge officers.

SWTOR companions, on the other hand, will contribute to your adventures in much greater ways. They are given motivations, personalities, traits like “honorable” or “roguish” or “flirtatious”. Hardly a blank slate, but their personalities won’t be set in stone either. Apparently, players can change their companions’ attitudes and moral leanings through an “Affection system” much like the one we saw in Dragon Age: Origins. I’m super excited about this. It means your interactions with your companions will be dynamic, even if the end results aren’t exactly what you had in mind.

Meet Vette, one of the Sith Warrior's known associates. I'm betting that she's probably romanceable.

Still, I think this will give roleplayers a whole different realm to work with. For the most part, it seems choosing SWTOR companions are about tactical options and strategies, but I have to admit, I’m pretty psyched about the fact you can romance them too. From Carth to Alistair to Garrus, I do love and use certain characters a lot just because they happen to be my Bioware boyfriends.

*mild spoilers ahead*

For example, I am reminded of my first playthrough of DA:O where I chose Alistair to fight beside my human noble in the final boss battle in the Dwarven arena. Amidst roaring applause, I asked him to kiss me after our victory, right there in the middle of the ring. The result on screen was cinematic perfection, the kind of scene you would see in epic romance movies after the hero and heroine has conquered some force that kept them from being together.

Yeah, I know that’s really corny and nerdy so feel free to make fun of me, but the only thing that pissed me off was that no one else was in the room at the time to witness that awesome moment. The point is, I already manage to pull this sort of thing with single-player RPGs, and I believe the nature of MMOs will make it even easier to roleplay beyond the main story line. I’m purely speculating here, but I’m guessing there will be fewer cases of finality, like the kind you’d find in DA:O where if you just so happened to be a poor little city elf, Alistair dumping your ass pretty much meant the end of the romance.

*spoilers over*

I’m sure the interactions with SWTOR companions will be heavily scripted affairs as well, but I think we all can still have our fun with them (and if you can get over the possibility of walking into a highly populated area with a few dozen versions of your companion standing in front of you). I am very much looking forward to shaping my companions through dialogue, building relationships with them, and expanding on the stories that come out of it. When the time comes, I can only imagine the RP perspectives we’ll be getting from all over the blogosphere.

Even though you might not have the complete freedom to build your team from the ground up the way you want, I think it’s a small price to pay to have companions with elaborate personalities that will actually interact with you. Or, you know, at the very least, acknowledge you’re alive when you walk into a room.

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