Revisting SWTOR Part 2

Getting back to talking about SWTOR has been really difficult for me. My feelings about everything is extremely jumbled and teasing these things out is not straight foreword.

Let’s Start With The Good Things

Nothing has really changed with the level 1-50 storylines, and they are definitely still worth seeing. The best way to see all of the storylines is to level with three other friends, each playing a different class. This way you won’t have to go back through leveling again (which can get pretty tiresome) and you’ll still see all of the storylines which interweave with each other in interesting ways.

When it comes to the Rise of the Hutt Cartel there is only one story per faction, and both are worth going through once. My recommendation would be to do the Republic story first, but it doesn’t matter very much. Making the content from this expansion available to F2P people is one of the better changes BioWare has made as it encourages less stratification of the player base.

The best change which has been made recently is the addition of Galactic Starfighter. For anyone unfamiliar with this addition, it’s free-form space battlegrounds. I had more fun in these battlegrounds than I have had in a long time playing and characters can take part in battles at any level because it’s the quality of your ship and your skill which matters not the lvl of your character. Here’s a short video I made soon after this feature launch where I was playing with one of my friends.

 And Onto The Bad Things

My biggest issue with SWTOR for a long time has been how they chose to run their F2P system. This aspect has gotten a bit better over time but I still often feel like I am being strong armed into giving them money. Most things can be bought with credits, but it takes a lot to get enough, especially as a first time player. I had a bit of a leg up because I had Preferred status.

The biggest annoyance I have with the F2P model they went with is it stratifies their players. Remember how I said the best way to experience the class stories is playing with friends? Well you’ll want to make sure everyone is either subbed or is F2P together. When I first started playing again I accidentally aggro’ed  too many mobs and sadly I died. I was quite happy to see I had the option to rez right at my body. Naturally I thought to myself “oh cool, I guess they let you have a certain number of rezs at your body now.”

The next day I was working on clearing a four person Heroic with a friend. We unfortunately pulled a pack we were trying to avoid and died. Much to my chagrin I had no option to rez at my body. There was only the one time. Just once. Now for my friend and I, this wasn’t a huge deal because he was willing to run back with me. If I had been running with a group of strangers  it would have been a bigger deal. Especially since the area to rez was outside the instance and there were a few mobs which needed to be killed before zoning in which makes running back take even more time.

Another issue with playing with friends who are subbed when you aren’t is they will level twice as fast. To even this gap out the F2P player will have to spend a fair amount of time playing on their own to just stay even with their friends. Some of this discrepancy can be mitigated by buying the experience boosts in the Character Perks Menu. There are six lines and each line only affects one area. To fill out all the lines all the way would cost 150,000 to 275,000 credits depending on which lines you buy. Alternatively there is the “Ultimate Leveling Bundle” which contains all the XP unlocks for 5,125 cartel coins (4,100 sale right now) which would run $$39.99 with a few coins left over.

Another thing which really rubbed me wrong is some of the restrictions on what rewards can be selected after completing quests. I don’t in general have a big issue with not having some of the rewards available. Quests have two level of rewards, automatic and optional. Restricting optional rewards seems fine, not awesome but definitely livable. However there were a few quests where both of the automatic rewards weren’t available to me, which just really rubbed me the wrong way. I mean an automatic reward should be automatic.

So is playing F2P really worth it?

SWTOR is still a lot of fun and like I said even if nothing else interests you seeing the class stories is fun and interesting. Though my recommendation would be to sub for a month or two and see all the class stories you want and then unsub. Playing F2P isn’t really worthwhile and more than likely will just be a frustrating experience for most people. Which is just all around sad because overall I really enjoy playing SWTOR. Their current business model just makes me resent giving them money.

Neverwinter’s Gateway

During Beta Weekend 4 Neverwinter let players preview their Gateway web-portal which is basically your access to all your character info from a webpage.
Character Select

After you first log in you are taken to the Character Select screen where you see a listing of your characters and can pick which one you want to select. In this example I only had one character made. After you select which character you want to look at you are taken to the Gateway Home Screen.

Gateway Home

As you can see my character was only level 9 at the time I took this picture so Professions is greyed out because you need to be level 11 to learn professions. Also I was not in a guild when I took that screen.

Here’s the Character Sheet page. I am assuming at some point the red outline of what looks vaguely like a minotaur will be replaced with an actual 3D model of what your character looks like. You can see all your stats in the bottom section and if you mouse over your items you can look at what the stats are (which helps for finding upgrades through the AH).

Character Screen

If you look at the left edge of this screen you will also see there is a menu which will take you to any of the other pages without having to go back to the home screen.

A unique feature of the Gateway is you can level your professions through it! The interface is really similar to what it is in game, the only downside is the duration to complete each task is longer through the gateway. You would really only want to level professions through the gateway if you are not able to login for some reason and you want to still want to level your professions.

profession home screen Profession Select Task

Profession task Task in Progress

You can also post and buy things off the AH through the gateway.

Auction House

This is the view of your inventory you get when you want to put something up. Of course when you mouse over an item you get a pop-up that tells you all the detail of the item.

Invetory

If you are in a guild there are a variety of things you can look at and check on from the gateway.

Gateway Guild Page Gateway Gnews

You can add events from the Gateway and update the information (if you have the ability to do those things in game).

What else could you possibly want to do through a web-portal? Well how about send mail to people in game!

Mail

I am not sure if once this goes live you will be able to look-up other players. You couldn’t during the beta weekend but it could have just not have been active.

Gameplay Screens

Just wanted to take a quick minute and post some screens that I took during gameplay this past weekend. Quick disclaimer though. My computer is nowhere near top of the line and the graphics settings were not even close to set to max. With that knowledge in hand lets look at some pictures 🙂

This is a picture of what it looks like when you talk to people to pick-up quests. You also see this screen when you turn in a quest as well.  Also this NPC is one you interact with a bunch and depending on what part of the story you finish you sometimes get an extra piece of loot from the chest in the backround to the left there. There is voice over, but you are not stuck looking at this screen the whole time. You can immediately Accept the quest and then either listen to VO as you go to do something else (or even start on the quest) or you can just cancel out the VO all together if you don’t care to listen to it.

I took this screen during a foundry quest I was doing (my character is in front the npc following me is the one you can really see there).  You see that gold and purple sparkly path there? That is the quest tracking path. You can turn it on and off using “Z” and it will show you the way to go to whatever quest you are tracking, even where you need to go to turn in quests.

That’s just a picture of my Great Weapon Fighter Half-Elf in town at level 12.

There are also Harper Agents at most of the quest hubs. You can talk to them to find out about local rumors and they will open up the foundry menu for you.

Action shot of me fighting during one of the Foundry quests. That person to my character’s left is my Companion whom I named Trevor. You can also see two piles of loot on the ground from mobs I killed before this picture.

Lastly, near the end of beta a bunch of people gathered up and took a picture in town. You can see a couple of the mounts (look at the bear in the middle!) and a few different spell effects.

Hope the pictures were fun and interesting for everyone 🙂

Professions

Over this past weekend I got a chance to play around with the professions system in Neverwinter some. At level 11 you can start learning the professions. You don’t need to find a trainer or anything, all you do is press “N” and the menu opens right up.

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This is the default menus for professions. As you can see the options are Leadership, Mailsmithing, Platesmithing, Tailoring, and Leatherworking. The first step for every profession is to hire someone who actually does the crafting for you. After you do that they will be listed in the bottom section under the “Profession Assets” Section. Also as you both level your character up and level your professions you will unlock more Task Squares. Eventually you will be able to have nine tasks going at the same time.

The next few screens show the process of hiring your first miner for Platesmithing.

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The first task takes 5 seconds, but after that they start increasing durations. The longest duration I saw during the beta was two hours but I also did not get much past level 3 of crafting. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rare Tasks at higher levels had multiple day duration. You can also pay Astral Diamonds to finish any task immediately. Higher level tasks obviously cost more to finish immediately

Overall I am a big fan of this system. I really like being able to craft anywhere, and that I don’t have to stand around crafting because for me crafting is a side thing to do, not really a main aim for me in a MMO. The option to be able to go run a dungeon while crafting is a huge plus.

Neverwinter Open Beta

Neverwinter announced today they will be doing their final closed beta weekend April 12th -14th. During this weekend we will finally get a chance to tryout all four professions (Leadership, Mailsmithing, Platesmithing, and Leatherworking). If you played during Beta Weekend Three you will be able to pick-up your characters where you left it and continue your adventure. You will be able to level up to level 50, and there have been many improvements based on the feedback they received from beta weekend three.

In addition to announcing their fourth closed beta, Neverwinter also announced that open beta will start on April 30th. All characters from closed beta will be wiped before open beta. They have also confirmed there will be no wipe of characters between open beta and the game launch.

Also as expected they are continuing to push their founders packs by offering the Hero of the North purchasers 5 days of early access to the open beta. People who have purchased the Guardian of Neverwinter Pack will receive 3 days of early access.

My speculation is also the Drow race is supposed to be held for 60 days after the game’s start. I am now thinking since they are doing a “Soft Launch” the Drow will be available based on the start of Open Beta and we’ll see them on or around June 28th.