Patch Day: 1.1 and the First Sub-up

January 23, 2012 - 3:38 pm No Comments

The first 30 days of Star Wars: The Old Republic comes to a close with a decent-sized content patch and a few more promises concerning future systems and features. It’s a big day for players coming  to a new MMOG – the time to decide whether or not to sub-up and pay that first $15 monthly payment.

The first day live for SWTOR was December 21st, making January 20th the first day for early players to incur the monthly fee. The internets abound with polls on the subject; from one fan site to the next, they all want to know who is going to subscribe. After months and months of beta testing, a month of live play, and countless hours of developer footage, interviews, and “insider” news from fans, the time to ante up or fold the game has arrived. Read through the cut to find out what Patch 1.1 brought and some opinion on the state of the game.

Like every developer, BioWare made sure that the buzz around SWTOR‘s present and future was deafening as subscription fees came into play. Of course, there was also a fair share of negative buzzing, such as the conveniently missing cancel subscription button on the account management page. Conspiracy aside, BioWare has done everything they can do to earn those subscriptions – or have they?

Flashpoint: Kaon Under Siege

Patch 1.1 has brought the first new content to the game since launch in the form of a new Flashpoint, Kaon Under Siege. That’s great and all, but I actually feel a bit let down. While adding new level cap content is a boon for the end-gamers, I feel like BioWare could take a tip from Trion by adding content that everyone can enjoy. Look at the first patch RIFT received; it added a new raid for the endgame players to enjoy but it also added a world-wide event in which all players could participate. Am I asking BioWare to match the point? No, but I do think they could have at least made a Kaon Under Siege a “two-tier” Flashpoint in the same vein as they did with current sub-50 Flashpoints. This would have shown that BioWare was dedicated to advancing the game for everyone – not just the 50s. Plus, zombies, really? We haven’t had enough zombies in games and movies yet? The whole concept of the Flashpoint just doesn’t have the Star Wars atmosphere, if you ask me.

When Anti-Aliasing Goes Horribly Wrong

With patch 1.1, officially supported (ie. in-game option) anti-aliasing was introduced. For many gamers, AA is unnoticeable but for those that do recognize the difference, living without AA is like driving a Mustang GT with a speed regulator on it. Well, now we have it… well, we have an extremely buggy and highly lacking version of it. Setting AA to HIGH can cause many systems to lose holograms entirely (so you’ll be talking to thin air at your ship’s holocron) and even on LOW setting it can cause random screen flickers, especially in outdoor areas. For such a grand introduction after much ado by fans “unofficially” implementing it, BioWare fell entirely over themselves on this one.

Bug Fixes – Bug Introductions

Patch 1.1 brought many bug fixes (and nearly as many new bugs) to the game.

Every game, especially MMOGs, are subject to bugs. None have launched entirely bug free. But it’s been over 15 years since the first 3D MMOGs and, as a matter of progress, it should be expected that each generation of games should launch smoother then the last – especially when they spend many months in beta testing. SWTOR may only be a month old live, but beta testers have been playing the game for over a year. The most upsetting thing about the development of this game, to me, has been encountering bugs that were reported as many as six months still in the game.

Bugs. Seriously, nothing ruins a gaming experience more than bugs. While SWTOR is mostly successful in avoiding major, game breaking bugs (Ilum not withstanding), the sheer quantity of the little ones drive players crazy and severely damage the likelihood of continued subscriptions.

Some of the bugs I’ve been reporting almost daily since around the October 2011 time frame:

  • Preferences not saving between character change and/or planet change:
    • Options related to Dark/Light side dialogue selection
    • Font size changes in chat windows
    • Map zoom level
    • Tutorial window state (and where is the option to turn it off entirely?)
  • Taxi speeders showing no available connections (the map being entirely devoid of icons)
  • Gear comparisons constantly showing a schematic’s stats in the middle of the tooltip of an entirely unrelated item

Those are just a few of the bugs that drive me bonkers. There’s plenty of others that are constantly cropping up and causing my wife to scream at the monitor. Simply put, there’s just too many bugs in the game, some that have been in game for a particularly long time, for BioWare to be seemingly ignoring. BioWare needs to start punching out patches knocking out long bug lists.

The Future: Near or Distant Wishes?

James Ohlen, SWTOR Game Director, dropped a new video on the Community blog detailing some of the features currently being worked on and slated for… some future release. He mentions guild banks, legacy system expansion, new warzones, pvp ranking, and – most important to my tastes – interface customization. You readers know I have zero interest in pvp (anyone know a good Agent/Sniper pvp blog I can link to?) but anything that has to do with the UI grabs my attention like a bee to a flower.

The User Interface that Never Should Have Been

If you ask me, SWTOR’s absolute worst and most embarrassing “feature” is the UI. It’s crap – seriously, there’s no other way to put it. In fact, it’s such crap I’d rather have the XML-based UI from current-gen EverQuest then this load of Bantha pudu BioWare has passed off as a UI. The UI (and lack of macros) is the single point of failure in my wavering to sub-up. It’s that bad. In the new video, Ohlen shows off the “ui customization” as it currently stands. I’ll tell you this, if this is all we get come March, I won’t be resubbing.

Old School: EverQuest UI

One of the killer concepts of current MMOGs, for me, is the custom UI. Look me up on LOTRO-, EQ-, EQ2-, VG-, WOW-, and RIFT “Interface.com” websites and you’ll find my name all over them. I love to mod my UI. Now, I don’t expect SWTOR to have addons right now, but what I do expect from a $200 million dollar game is a more robustly customizable interface. I expect to be able to move and scale every window independently. I expect to be able to have more then two windows open at once (something our operating systems could do way back in the 80s).

Let’s be honest here, we haven’t had a “AAA MMOG” with a UI this bad since the 640×480 box layout of classic EverQuest.

To Sub or Not to Sub

So, as the deadline ticks over, my credit card takes the hit and I’ve taken the plunge – 15 bucks later and another month to go. However, my dollar is much more critical these days. If bugs don’t start getting squashed en masse and the interface doesn’t get customization before the next subscription fee, I won’t be resubbing. There’s just too many quality options available on the market today. BioWare has it’s two month break-in time – after that, it’s time for them to put the quality where their money’s at.

How about you? Has SWTOR impressed you enough to pony up the monthly fee? Leave a comment below!

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