Posts Tagged ‘Forums’

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Funcommunication

August 9, 2012

Everyone gets those warm, fuzzy feelings for a company when they make a good product, but for me and many others that’s only a part of the story. When it comes to MMOs and the game makers that produce them, quality customer care and communication can go a long way in making up the rest of it.

A few days ago, my husband and I were playing The Secret World and had the misfortune of running into a bugged quest, one of those profoundly and irreversibly screwed up situations with a stuck objective which could only be fixed with a petition to a GM. It was the first time since I started playing this game that I had to do this, but I’d heard nothing but good things from many of my friends who have had contact with customer service, so I was admittedly quite curious as to what my own experience would be like.

Honestly? I was pleasantly surprised. On a Saturday evening, right smack in the middle of a busy celebration weekend, both my husband’s and my tickets were answered by a helpful in-game representative within ten minutes, and within another five we were all fixed up and ready to go. Let’s face it, bugged quests are irritating as all hell and no one ever likes running into them, but the sting sure is lessened by a prompt response and swift resolution to the problem. I was very satisfied.

Granted, based on the inevitable complaints on the forums, not everyone has been as fortunate. So maybe you can say that my husband and I just happened to hit the GM lottery.

Still, no one can deny the other ways that Funcom has attempted to reach out to their customer base and fans of their game. From their efforts, I gather there has been a push to improve customer service and communication since the days of Age of Conan, especially in the realm of social media.

For the most part, it’s been pretty effective on me. Recall the /headdesk inducing chat bug that plagued TSW for weeks, at a time when the game is still so new and getting to know your fellow players is of the utmost importance. Several choice words not limited to “unacceptable” and “game breaking” came to mind, but while I can’t speak for others, I know I for one was immediately appeased when I saw this update post and understood that they were working on it and that the problem was more complex than expected. Well, that and Indiana Jones references get me EVERY TIME.

Between following @Morteia and @funcom_tsw accounts on Twitter, I know I can actually count on staying up-to-date with TSW happenings. In particular, I have also been impressed by Creative Director Ragnar Tornquist’s presence on Twitter, forums and game sites, interacting with players and answering their questions. Thus far, he has responded to pretty much every one of mine. As a player and a fan of his work, I won’t deny that felt pretty damn amazing. To see such a celebrated designer and someone so integral to the game’s development get so involved is very rare indeed and I gotta say much appreciated.

That’s not all. After watching this hilarious webcast from yesterday, I also have to give a special nod to the livestreams hosted by TSW devs about once every other week. With the hosts drinking beer and swearing up a storm (though given that PvP was involved, I can understand completely), the recording is most decidedly NSFW, but still I have to say its genuine and unscripted nature is what I love best about it and why I will always make the effort to tune in each time.

I know not everything can be revealed due to spoilers and I certainly don’t begrudge a company’s need to keep certain information hush-hush during development. And yet, I can’t help but feel that the kind of candidness I saw in yesterday’s livestream is a breath of fresh air at a time when it’s way more common to hear the dreaded words “We can’t talk about that right now” come repeatedly out of a developer’s mouth. Open and honest communication and Q&As like that give me high hopes for the future of TSW.

As well, aside from showing everyone that he is one cruel tease, Ragnar’s random revelations (yay for alliteration) such as Peter Stormare doing voice work for the game are quite significant. They’re not particularly telling, nor are they true game updates, but those little tidbits do a good job of letting me know that there are some big things up the pipeline to look forward to (can you say Odin and Norse mythology?!)

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The Unifying Force: SWTOR Allies & Adversaries

September 23, 2011

Those who have followed Star Wars: The Old Republic for a while might recall that way back in March (wow, has it really been that long?) BioWare announced their Guild HQ and Pre-Launch Guild Program. People began registering their guilds on the SWTOR site, setting up their forums and inviting members.

Of course, back then I was still guild-less and clueless, and aside from thinking that it’s kinda nifty that we were being offered this service, I was pretty ambivalent towards the news. I did, however, anticipate that the later phases might be where things start to get interesting.

But even I didn’t expect how much excitement can come out of just the simple act of linking guilds.

The story: On Wednesday, the Pre-Launch Guild Program officially transitioned into Phase 2: Alignment, prompting guilds to designate other guilds they want to play with as allies or adversaries so that BioWare will to put you all together on the same server. Now that I’m a member of the Republic Mercy Corps, when my guild leader asked us officers to start seeking other guilds to add — primarily guilds with medium to large player bases who are interested in rolling on a RP PvE server — I thought immediately of Multiplaying.net’s Delusions of Grandeur.

Okay, so I didn’t suggest them for completely selfless reasons, even though DoG is pretty much the only guild I’m familiar with at the moment that has registered themselves as RP as well. I do know some friends from DoG already, and have already entertained thoughts about how cool it would be if could play together on the same server. So I was thrilled when they expressed interest in being our guild’s allies and making our sister Empire guild their adversary as well.

Before I knew it, my guild officers were getting really excited, we also had dark side-oriented DoGs expressing interest in rolling alts in the Imperial Mercenary Corps, my notifications were going off every two seconds due to Twitter and email conversations, new categories in our respective forums were set up, new relationships were formed…it was just a flurry of activity which got my internal SWTOR hype-o-meter all worked up again.

I guess my point is that it doesn’t always require important game information or a fancy new trailer to drum up excitement; sometimes, it’s the features that encourage community and friendships that have the most meaning to the players. I know it is for me.

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SWTOR: Guild Me Up

March 9, 2011

A rather big update on the Star Wars: The Old Republic official website this morning as BioWare unveiled their Guild Headquarters page and their Pre-Launch Guild Program. Totally unexpected, and there was even a moment there where I had check myself to make sure that today was indeed still Wednesday. Yep. Two days before PAX East. Kinda makes me wonder what else they might have in store for us on Friday for their weekly update, and over the convention weekend.

It’s starting to get real. In fact, when I read the forums, I have a sneaking suspicion that most people are more excited about what this Guilds update implies than they are over the actual update itself — that the release of SWTOR may be closer than we think. I’m always wary when it comes to getting my hopes up, but even I have to admit there’s something in this. A system to encourage your playerbase to form and reserve names for guilds does seem like something you would implement not too long before launch.

I  have to say this is probably one of the coolest and most interesting social features I’ve ever seen from a game. Allowing players to form and join guilds now is just a part of this update; Bioware is also giving them their own site to help them recruit, manage, and maintain their guilds. Of course, players can still set up their own websites if they please, but I think having a centralized area on the SWTOR network complete with public and private forums and the ability to connect to other players is pretty handy.

Admittedly, I find myself a little lost right now. My excitement and instinct tells me I should start shopping for a guild right away. After all, I’ve practically locked in on my faction and class choice, and I already know what kind of server I’m looking for. Still. I know it’s silly, but I’m the kind of person who likes to keep their options open until the very last minute. 99% sure that I’m going to go Empire and Bounty Hunter is still 1% chance that I can change my mind. Besides, we haven’t seen all the class videos yet. Who’s to say the Jedi Consular won’t blow me away and make me drop everything and take up the lightsaber for the Republic? I’ll grant you it’s not very likely, but it’s still possible. It comes down to me finding it difficult to make decisions until I have all the facts.

There will be ample time to make the decisions, no doubt. We are, after all, still in the earliest phase. Phase 2: Alignment and Phase 3: Deployment are where I think things will start to get interesting. Guilds that partake in this Pre-Launch Program and the allies and adversaries they have linked up to are at the complete mercy of BioWare’s sole discretion as to which server they’ll be placed. On one hand, I foresee much distress and angst if large groups of people end up being split up, despite the BioWare’s best efforts. Seems inevitable that this can be a source of potential backlash, and BioWare probably knows it too. Speaking of which, am I the only one who noticed how many times they make it a point in the FAQ to cite the Terms of Service and offer no guarantees?

On the other hand, I can’t really see BioWare doing anything half-assed. In setting up this system, they must have thought ahead and taken the steps to ensure the transfers will be implemented smoothly. In spite of everything, I do cross my fingers and hope for the best.

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SWTOR: Through Victory, My Chains Are Broken*

February 18, 2011

*Not applicable when dead.

Another month, another Fan Friday for Star Wars: The Old Republic, featuring fan creations and forum goodies for the community.

Frankly, I am shocked — SHOCKED! — that they are able to pull off such a wide range of expressions using a Sullustan. Though, what the heck, #1 and #4 appear to be the same smilie, and #6 is a good reason why this species should never ever ever be given teeth. Good god, get that thing away from me.

Of course, no Fan Friday is complete now without a Studio Insider with another Community Q&A installment, and Concept Artist Diego Almazan explains the process of how he created his concept for the Sith burial ground.

I really wish they had included a bit of lore to go with it. Personally, I find it fascinating that this Sith tomb or temple is also described as a “prison for the dead”. You see a lot of cases of cultures constructing temples and large necropolises to honor or immortalize their dead, protecting the tomb’s contents and grave goods from the outside…usually not the other way around.

I would assume that a Sith burial ground meant they interred their own people here. Did that include any ancient Sith lords? Because that really says a lot about how they viewed their masters. Which I guess isn’t really all that surprising, given what I’ve learned recently from reading some Star Wars books. At the moment, I’m working my way through the Darth Bane trilogy by Drew Karpyshyn and even though it takes place more than two thousand years after the events of SWTOR, it talks enough about the old self-destructive ways of the Sith Order, where Sith plotted against other Sith in a never-ending cycle of distrust and infighting.

In any case, I liked the concept art of the tomb itself. Looking forward to seeing what it would actually look like in-game.

It’s a pretty light week, even I have to admit. Questions in the Q&A are mostly from folks who are worried about one thing or another, and answers are predictably and maddeningly vague. I am hoping they are saving some big news for PAX East, at which I am definitely going to stop by their Booth 912. And if the pattern holds, next week might be the Bounty Hunter class video and update. Come on, Bioware, make it so!

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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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Who’s Who In The Galaxy

January 7, 2011

Three new biographies were added on the Star Wars: The Old Republic site today, which I’d normally just take at face value, until it was pointed out in the forums that we’ve actually heard of one of the entries, Jewl’a Nightbringer, more than a year ago in a Developer Walkthrough video when she was mentioned by the NPC Mako.

First of all, even though the article does mention her winning the Great Hunt, I don’t think I would have remembered to make the connection, so kudos to Aeterno, whose post was the one that caught my attention. Second, I thought it was worth pointing out because it really confirmed what I’ve always thought about these biographies and other similar updates — that they’re not trivial for those who really want to get into lore of the game. These characters aren’t just innocuous names thrown in for filler; presumably, each person with a biography page has his or her own story and a place in the galaxy, even the ones we figure are less significant and have never heard of. But like in the case of Jewl’a, maybe we have, and just forgot or plain didn’t notice.

I’m a big fan of using history and character lore to construct a sense of immersion, and like I’ve said before, these aspects contribute in making our virtual worlds richer and fuller places to be. There’s a lot of potential in these new entries — for example, I have to wonder if perhaps Darth Jadus has already personally infiltrated the Republic under a secret and influential identity, based on some of the keywords in his description. It could explain why they’re not letting us see his face for now. And regarding the political rivalry between Supreme Chancellor Janarus and General Garza of Republic Special Forces, come on, who doesn’t like a good old government leader vs. military honcho story? Last time we had a Biographies update, I said I would love to learn more about the NPCs in-game, and now I more confident that we’ll have the opportunity.

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Flesh Raiders Sound So Dirty To Me

November 19, 2010

Yep, today’s Star Wars: The Old Republic update is November’s edition of Fan Friday — a community feature that showcases things like fan creations, game concept art, new avatars and a small Developer Corner.

Except today’s developer insights have been expanded into a Studio Insider article, giving us a closer look at some of the creative processes behind the game. Today, concept artist Diego Almazan details the processes behind creating a set of Flesh Raiders.

If I recall correctly, these are the brutal marauders your Jedi will have to fight on your starting planet of Tython.

Also included in the update is a new Community Q & A section. Couldn’t have come at a better time, if you ask me. The recent string of Friday updates have garnered a wide range of comments, complaints and praise. For some fans, an information downswing can lead to disappointment and frustration rather than much needed revelation. Going by the reaction on the forums for those weeks, it would seem that no one gives a crap about Fan Fridays or lore updates.

Look, I care about any and all news about the game, but I can also see the problem here. Spring 2011 is about six months away. People are anxious. They demand details. Combat! Economy! End game! Guilds! PvP! Bioware won’t release information on anything until they feel it’s ready, and I applaud them for it. But that’s not going to fly for a community in an uproar that demands to know everything RIGHT NOW NOW NOW. My guess is that’s why Q & A was added, to promote two-way communication and to attempt to mollify complaints concerning the lack of dev interaction with the community. Sure, it might not be all the information, but for now, it’s an opportunity to reach out, combat the negativity and put a few real or imagined worries to rest.

Some good questions in there, can’t wait to see more. This probably isn’t a very significant thing to get excited about, but it did pique my interest to see helmet on/off toggle confirmed. All risk of romantic kissy scenes and awkward bonky bonky moments aside, I didn’t spend half an hour customizing my character’s face just to hide it behind a clunky helm!