I’ve been thinking about questing in SW:TOR.
Oh, oh, I mean doing missions. We don’t do quests in TOR, we do missions.
And at the heart of those missions is the dread “kill ten rats” objective. There’s really no escaping these ten rats. The best a game can do is to sugar-coat it, voice-over it, and hope we enjoy ourselves so much that we forget that we’re just killing ten rats over and over again.
I believe if someone had a better way to do it, we’d already have it. Most things are redundant in some form; games, jobs, hobbies, most everything we do has some form of ridiculously redundant elements. We like to either downplay the repetition or do things to mask it.
And I think Star Wars does a decent job of de-ratting their missions. Here’s why:
The Illusion of Choice
Every time I’ve been given a special option to choose how to complete a mission, I’ve enjoyed the mission and remembered it. Deep down it’s silly to enjoy that mission more, it’s still clicking on 6 buttons after killing several packs of mobs. No matter which choice I make those 6 buttons and packs of mobs are non-negotiable if I want to keep doing missions in the area.
But give me a choice to make – poison those troops over the course of weeks or make ’em dead via overload here and now? Subvert the mad scientist by bringing the 6 quest items to his assistant to tamper with first or give him the actual results?
And suddenly I’m engaged in the game. I’m role-playing because I have to decide if my character is the subversive type. Or the merciful type. Or…
The conversations with NPCs don’t “matter” for the most part. The cut scene may play out a little different if you’re rude to the puny humans trying to bother you (and I do love how they quiver before me) but it’s still the same quest and maybe a little rep gained or lost from your companion.
But that’s another thing. I enjoy playing the mini-game of “What should I say to this dude to make Khem Val love me more?” My character has changed because of this companion. At its heart, this is classic min-maxing and power-leveling. And yet, I get way too much joy out of disrespecting those puny humans to get Khem’s approval. Way too much.
Freedom of Expression
When it’s all said and done, people love and value ways to express themselves. And for all the arguments to be made that there’s no real expression in a video game because there’s millions of people playing and only a handful of “expressions”, we still need them.
Going back to a real life analogy, it’s the same reason people spend excessive amounts of time personalizing their signatures, their websites, blog headers, gravatars, profile pages. Does any of that actually matter? It does because it matters to the person expressing him or herself, even if a signature or a template will look more-or-less like the other billion on the internet. We enjoy that stuff for some reason.
Though… There is one place where I’m consistently pulled out of the game to remember it’s just an RPG. It’s whenever I have to make the choice between light side and dark side. Sometimes, the light side choice is right up my alley. Others, it feels forced, for instance you let some d-bag live (who totally deserves to die) because it’s the “right” thing to do. I do feel like “choosing” light or dark at the beginning of character progression locks you in to stop role playing and always click on the black triangle or white star when it pops up.
So has SW:TOR given us enough self-expression and illusion of choice to make us kill those ten rats again? Time will tell, specifically, when we start getting closer to max rank (where it takes more and more quests) and making alts and end up doing the content again.
Filed under: for fun, gameplay | Tags: a sith can dream can't she?, inquisitor, when Khem Val fails you
Here’s what I want for Christmas in TOR:
- A click-to-cast heal interface
- a speeder
- for Khem Val to stop -1(ing) my fairness and even temper
- faster-loading conversations
What are you wishing for this week?
Got FPS problems? Turn off your shadows.
Even if you don’t have “problems,” you may notice considerable game improvement if you turn them off.
Bring up this menu by hitting Escape:
If you’re having troubles with conversations, you can also try checking this option for speeding up loading times for cut scenes:
Happy Launch Day!
Filed under: on gaming | Tags: inquisitor, mmorpgs, n00bs, world of warcraft
One of the biggest reasons I hesitated getting excited for SWTOR was that I wasn’t ready to be a n00b just yet.
That was also my largest complaint with WoW’s Wrath to Cataclysm changeover. Dramatic overhaul of healing systems and grouping mechanics. During Wrath I loved blogging about my learning experiences, posting helpful (to me at least) tips, and ranting. I wasn’t ready for Cataclysm.
When I discovered there were only three tiers to Cataclysm and that Mists would potentially be coming out in 2012, I was… so not ready to be a n00b all over again.
So, my hesitation to play TOR. I am a huge Star Wars n00b. I don’t know much about the universe. Droids, lightsabers, light side, dark side; okay yeah I know about those things. But that’s pretty much it. I knew to play this game I would (and will) have to learn a whoooole lot of things. Not just a new game. How to interact in that world. The lore. Oh, my god the lore.
I should have known it wouldn’t be a problem. Getting started was ridiculously easy (if you ignore queue times). The “what you need to know to jump in” is minimal.
And the quests are heavily story-based. Sure, I knew that SWTOR would be… But as far as user experience it’s ingenious. My journey started the way every story ever has started: with one character. Little by little, we’re fed the lore we need to understand what’s going on in the world. One quest, one conversation, one codex at a time. I’m sure loremasters find enough to keep them occupied. And for n00bs like me, there’s enough grounding to know where to go and see hints of what is to come. The iceberg is there, but I only have to deal with the tip right now.
My post title is misleading. I still am very much a n00b and I am okay with that. It’s great to be learning a new game again, to be at the start of something big and shiny and new. All possibilities.