Posts Tagged ‘NPCs’

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Read Lately: SWTOR: Annihilation

January 4, 2013

SWTOR AnnihilationI have to say Annihilation is probably one of the better Star Wars books by Drew Karpyshyn, which is quite a relief after the train wreck that I thought was Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan. It’s amazing what a good writer he can be when he’s not being rushed. Now that he is no longer at BioWare, I’m glad he left us with this before moving on to his future endeavors.

For a while we’ve known that Satele Shan, the Grand Master of the Jedi Order during this time in the Old Republic, has a “secret son.” We met Theron Shan when he first appeared in The Lost Suns comic. Now he stars in his own novel, which further explores his activities as an undercover agent and operative for the Republic, but the book also reveals a lot more about his parents’ history and his own mysterious past.

I could tell Karpyshyn had a lot of fun writing Theron’s story. It is my experience that characters in books based on movies/TV shows/video games, etc. very often read like caricatures and hardly ever feel like real people. However, I thought Theron had a clear personality right away, and even found myself taken in by his confidence and dry wit. I also enjoyed acquainting myself the supporting characters like Teff’ith the Twi’lek, whose weak grasp of Galactic Basic was a nice humorous touch, as well as finding out more about Master Gnost-Dural, whom fans of SWTOR will no doubt recognize as the keeper of the Jedi archives.

The story is pretty much your run-of-the-mill fare, but very entertaining nonetheless. There were of course the obligatory space combat and lightsaber battle scenes, but I was surprised at how well done they were. Drew Karpyshyn is extremely adept at writing good action, but I was even more surprised to see how skillfully he tackled some of the emotional issues in this book without making them sound overly contrived or sappy. Like I said, he can be very good when given enough time to develop his characters.

One last thing I should note: I listened to the audiobook of this, courtesy of my library’s digital collection. Though I’m confident to claim Annihilation as a solid entry to the world of Star Wars novels, in the interest of full disclosure I must also mention the possibility that the quality of the audio version may have influenced my opinion. For one thing, it was my first experience with a Star Wars audiobook, so I’ve only just discovered the talent of Marc Thompson, who is probably one of the best audiobook narrators I’ve ever come across. His voices are simply phenomenal, and together with the sound effects and music I was just blown away.

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What Do You Consider Content?

July 25, 2012

Yesterday, while browsing for some news on MMOs I must have suffered some sort of brain fart, because I don’t know how else to explain how I ended up in The Secret World forums. While there, a particular thread caught my eye — someone new to MMOs was expressing concern over the several “lack of content” complaint threads that were starting to crop up, and they were wondering just how well TSW holds up in this area compared to other games at launch. Oh dear. To be a newcomer and to find themselves in the general discussion section of an MMO forum. But anyway, I digress.

I think the answer depends. Firstly, I believe anyone should be able to play a game however they want without being crapped on for it. Whether you prefer to chisel away at the content slowly versus holding marathon gaming sessions is no one’s business but your own. But those gaming habits will determine your experience. If a game has 200 hours of content, someone playing 2-3 hours will probably never lack for things to do, as opposed to someone who plays 10 hours a day who will probably tap out that content in about three weeks. Players run all over the spectrum and there will always be some at both extremes, so these “There is not enough content!” threads at MMO launches are nothing new.

But I think the more important question is, what do people consider as content? Is it just quests and dungeons? Or is it more?

It occurred to me that what I may consider content, some people don’t. Speaking for myself, I consider “content” as generally anything I would actively need to put aside time to do. Last night, I calculated my /played to come up to about 105 hours and I’m only about halfway through the Scorched Desert in Egypt. That works out to about 30 hours per zone. It seems like quite a lot, but I’m afraid it might lead people to believe there is an abundance of missions or quests to do in TSW.

The thing to keep in mind is, I tend to try and do everything before moving on to the next zone. “Everything” includes missions, both main and side quests, but also activities like exploration, lore hunting, achievements, the whole shebang. It could mean running instances to PvPing to simply standing around “doing nothing” but cycling through each NPC’s dialogue options.

On the other hand, some players who are ambivalent towards things collecting lore items or talking to NPCs and who partake in those activities casually or only when they come across them incidentally, can argue that stuff like that adds flavor, not true content. Fair enough. Others will point out that repetitive activities don’t count, like dailies or dungeon grinds, and there I might even have to agree.

In the end, it comes down to the kind of gamer you are. Granted, I’m nowhere near the end of the game so I don’t know for sure, but I’d say if the number of zones plus the quests and instances they contain are all you’re willing to consider content, then TSW probably does not have as much as other MMOs like World of Warcraft, or Rift, or Star Wars: The Old Republic at release. That said, TSW isn’t for everyone. The more I play the game, the more I get a “niche” vibe pouring off of it.

So if on the other hand you’re the type of gamer who likes to poke their nose into everything, there will be lore items to find and read, NPC monologues to listen to, rare mobs to hunt down, outfits to collect, achievements to complete, nooks and crannies to explore, weapons and talismans to craft, and the list goes on. I’m aware that not everyone will agree, but that’s all content to me. TSW is about more than just a quest and dungeon grind and there’s really no reason to rush to a “cap”; I believe they made it so every aspect of the game is meant to be savored, a special treat for those who enjoy delving completely into unexplored worlds.

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The Secret World: Little Photo Album Of Horrors

July 5, 2012

Note: While none of these screenshots are going to be terribly revealing, I have to say this anyway to cover my ass: some of the following images may contain itty-bitty elements of spoilers. If you have plans to play The Secret World and would like to head in with completely fresh eyes, you may wish to avoid this post. I have also ordered the images from least to most spoilerific.

Wish you were here!

Nick: Look Dear, what a nice, quaint looking town sign.
Laeyn: Oh, oh! Let’s take a photo in front of it together like the annoying tourists that we are!
In the distance: BRAAAAAAAIIIIIINNNNNNNS…

Zombies and fire, not good bedfellows.

Excerpt from the Templar’s Guide to Zombie Defense Training:

Always exercise caution when encountering a zombie on fire. Flames do not affect the undead as it would for humans in that it unfortunately acts as a poor deterrent; however, given time the zombie will eventually be neutralized due to the normal processes of combustion. In other words, flaming zombie kabob. While not necessarily an unwanted result, it’s what occurs in the interim that poses the biggest problem.

This does not bode well…

Kingsmouth town is full of disturbing images like this one, leading you to wonder what might have happened to the poor, hapless bastard who lost all that blood.

Yes, that WTF expression is completely justified.

The denizens of Kingsmouth — or those who survived, anyway — are a pleasant folk, just trying to make do the best they can in a bad situation. Unfortunately, I think being holed up in the middle of a zombie apocalypse has made a lot of them a little loopy. Though in the case of Scrapyard Edgar, it is entirely possible that he might have been like this to begin with.

I hope to hell that you’re not contagious.

Here’s an interesting article about Ragnar Tornquist and how his film background may have influenced TSW’s direction, which I found very enlightening (thank you to @PaganRites for originally pointing me to the link). From the cinematography and high production values evident in the game’s cutscenes to the quality of the script and talented voice work — it all make so much more sense now.

Mommeeeeeeee!

One of my favorite screenshots, not only because it is visually arresting, but also because the quest itself almost made me wet my pants.

Tarantella: “I’m sure ‘Not waving blades around in aircraft’ is on something like page 2 of The Templar Health & Safety Manual, Laeyn. Didn’t you read it?” Hmm, evidently not.

Guest screenshot from fellow cabal member Solaris, from our all-guild run of the instance Polaris (for quest Dead in the Water). Not much to say about this shot that wouldn’t be a spoiler, so I’m just gonna leave you with “Can you say, Cloverfield moment?”

I call this pic, “The Stand.”

Another shot of our heroes: Thermic, Tarantella, Laeyn, Solaris, and Dutty facing down a boss in Polaris. Being specialized for damage but possessing even just the wimpiest of defense abilities immediately elevated me to the position of main tank. A promotion on the battlefield, as it were. Taking a more focused path to tanking may be in order, but what impressed me was how quickly I was able to move some stuff around and still perform quite decently.

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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.