5 Jan 2012

That 6AM Moment

Have you ever had that moment when you’ve been playing an MMO for so long that you lose track of time completely? Where the darkness outside slowly gives way to grey sunlight? Where you mistake the dawn chorus for someone playing Angry Birds nearby?

When I started playing Star Wars: The Old Republic with my wife, I expected her to be a moderating influence on me. Alas, unlike Syp over at Bio Break, Molotovchicken has been playing MMOs for longer than I have. As a result  we’re both having so much fun that we’re egging each other on. Just finish this zone. Just finish this class quest. Just finish this planet. The next thing you know it’s 6AM in the morning and you’re wondering where the time has gone.

That’s Bioware’s biggest hook though – the story grabs you by both hands, pulling you through the game. It might still be Kill Ten Rats in places, but by golly these Republic Rats have got away with it for long enough and their actions are an insult to the Empire!

Ahem.

Ir’s not been a perfect experience – we’ve encountered a few bugs caused by trying to be in the same instance for class quests. While it works most of the time there was an interesting moment where I was forced to wait outside the Spirit of Vengance while my wife finished Act One of the Bounty Hunter questline.

There’s also been the fun of ignorance. Because we’re taking our time and playing together we’re doing more of the 2 and 4 man heroic quests and exploring each of the planets we visit. Sometimes this means finding things that we’ve not seen before and “investigating” them…

I know that there will come a time when the content will run dry, but at the moment I’m having more fun than I’ve had in an MMO for a very long time. But thinking about the fun leaves me feeling conflicted. Part of me is screaming that it’s just a BioWare RPG bolted on to an out of date MMO chassis and that I have no right to be having fun. Another part of me responds by elbowing the first part in the ribs, telling it to shut up before it kills the goose that’s laying the eggs of purest fun.

I’m beginning to wonder if sometimes it’s better to look back on the journey once you’ve reached your destination. Trying to do it en-route might mean that I miss something really cool on the way.

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16 Responses to That 6AM Moment

  1. Gravity says:

    It’s now 1.21am as I write this, and I really should be in bed. SWTOR does it. I so relate to your post ;)
    Gravity recently posted..What is an “augment” slot?My Profile

  2. Dvotee says:

    I don’t have SWTOR for this very reason. Playing less WOW, started playing LOTRO and now im a Skyrim addict but I am being good and trying to keep to 1am latest but failed a couple of times.

    I’m just getting too old for all these late nights *he says looking for slippers*
    Dvotee recently posted..Goodbye 2011 and hello 2012My Profile

    • Gazimoff says:

      I know what you mean. I’m over 30, yet I still keep playing these games until crazy hours at weekends.

      It also bodes really well for Mass Effect 3, something that we’re both looking forward to!

  3. Cym (@Cymre) says:

    I haven’t tried SWTOR, Rift or Skyrim and I really don’t feel the urge to. For me there’s just so much I want to do in WoW and I’m OK with that. I remember when I first started playing I would be up at 4.30 to 5am in the morning though.
    Cym (@Cymre) recently posted..Through Your Interface – 3My Profile

    • Gazimoff says:

      That’s the great thing though – if you have a game that you’re getting enjoyment out of then there’s no reason to switch. Otherwise you end up with a Steam library of games that you’ve bought in the sales yet never find the time to play them. Not that I’d know anything about that, of course ;)

  4. Targeter says:

    Looking up from the monitor to find that I’ve played SWTOR all night? Yeah, that was modus operandi during Early Access week; but now that I’ve returned to work, I still find the allure of playing all night so tantalizingly reasonable. After all, who needs sleep right? I can work just fine after playing an MMO all night, I swear! At least, I’m still trying to convince myself I can.
    As for that “Mysteriously Defeated Jedi” … that caused one of my few cursing outbursts. As in, ‘click, what does this do here, OH GOD THAT THING JUST F*****G KILLED ME!’ And much laughter was had at my expense in general chat. Of course, I could warn my guildmates about it … but what would be the fun in that?
    Targeter recently posted..Targeter’s MMO Year in ReviewMy Profile

    • Gazimoff says:

      Yep, we did that for a few days of Early Access too. Then we had to pack everything up and spend a good week or so with the in-laws. It was agony, I tell you.

  5. Attic Lion says:

    I keep wondering where this enthralling story that everybody else seems able to access exists. Thus far I’ve gotten an agent and a BH into the mid-30s, a warrior, smuggler, and inquisitor to 20-ish, and a knight, a consular, and a trooper to 10 and I still cannot find this mythical beast. The best I could find was the ending to the Agents CH1 line, which was a really strong finish to a fairly bland and forgettable plot. Too bad CH2 is awful thus far.

    While some of the characters are interesting and there are even a few examples of good writing sprinkled around; the stories and plots that I’ve seen vary between “ok, if unremarkable” to “the hell is this shit?”

    I dunno, everything I’ve seen thus far is on par with or inferior to the last “pick between two arbitrary, opposed moralities” game I played, which was inFamous 2.

    • Gazimoff says:

      I think it’s tricky when you’re comparing it to other RPGs. For an MMO, the storytelling in SWTOR is fantastic. When you compare it to even other BioWare games like Mass Effect, it’s not as great. It’s all relative.

      I’d be interested to hear what you’d hold up as an example of good storytelling. For me it’ll always be Shenmue, even though it’s ten years old now. There was just something about that Japanese RPG that was incredible to me.

      • Attic Lion says:

        I don’t know if you can authoritatively say that TOR has fantastic storytelling for an MMO, partially because Bioware is bollocks for telling stories. Biowares strengths have always been decently compelling world building along with fun and interesting characters. But when it comes to complex stories they don’t even bother trying, as can easily be seen in that chart that circulates around the net all the time.

        Admittedly, those two things puts them ahead of pretty much all of the competition in the MMO field as well the gaming industry as a whole in the story department, but let’s not pretend that that means anything particularly special.

        Even Mass Effect, which I particularly enjoyed even though I don’t plan on touching the 3rd game even if armed with a 10 ft pole and a Steam sale, doesn’t have an amazingly good story. But the characters are fun, the gameplay is fun, and the writing tends to be pretty good, so that can be forgiven.

        The main differences I’ve found between Mass Effect and TOR (story wise) are that 1) there are fewer characters in your personal story in TOR than in ME, especially ME2, because Bioware seems to consider gaining a new companion as a reward to pursue, rather than an base part of the game. This is especially glaring because the personalities for the companions all too often violently conflict with the character your class is given.

        For example, Vette is a constantly obnoxious pain in the ass if you’re trying to play the arrogant dark side warrior and Kaliyo is a damn anarchist while your agent is trying to be James Bond. My agent didn’t get a 2nd companion until I was level 28 on Alderran, then to add insult to injury Vector is a mechanically worse companion than Kaliyo is if you’re a sniper like I am. On the other hand, I would have given quite a bit for Kaliyo to be my smugglers companion because Corso is an annoying twerp of a farm boy who acts like a petulant teenager. In contrast, Mass Effect, lets me easily remedy Kaiden being a wishy-washy wet blanket by swapping him out with one of 3 other companions you can easily get within the first 5 hours of the game and then never speaking to him ever again. Except for ordering him to kill himself of course. Or in ME2 you can pretty much instantly swap out Generic Black Man or Ms. Chipmunk-Face out for Badass Firefly Reference Man as soon as the tutorials are done; and then Calibrations Dinosaur; Tinker, Tenor, Alien Salamander, Doctor, Spy; Crazy Bald Girl; and Poor Substitute for Wrex are each less an hour away from your grasp.

        2) There’s some very obvious shortcuts taken with TOR that lessen the overall quality of the writing. The non-story quests are the most obvious and painful example. There are far and away too many instances of canned responses your character utters that totally interrupt the flow of dialogue. Each and every instance of this shit takes me out of the game and lessens my ability to enjoy things. I understand why they exist, but I can’t overlook them. Oddly enough, different classes seem to get varying amounts of them. They were far more prevalent on my BH than my smuggler.

        I could also talk about how little things I don’t like about the individual class stories, like how whoever wrote the smuggler story apparently has no grasp of how time works, but this is already too huge so I won’t.

        As for good examples of storytelling? I’ll just use inFamous 2 again, it’s not stellar but it does a very admirable job of setting up and giving some depth and characterization to its villains and heroes. The storyline is acceptable even though some of the hinted at subplots are never resolved in a satisfactory manner. And the endings both had good emotional payoff and closure, the Good ending more so than the Evil, but they were both enjoyable even if the Evil ending had some real LOLWUT bits. I wish more real comic book superhero stories were that good.

  6. Ravven says:

    While admittedly I would rather have been on a romanic holiday somewhere warm, with fruity drinks, I have to say that playing SWTOR with the hubby has been like a (virtual) holiday. We have had so much fun levelling and exploring together; it’s been a while since we’ve been able to do this together. I am so loving it. He even pretends to be jealous over my fascination with the ongoing romance between my Sith Inquisitor and her pirate companion. :)

    And I would never, never talk about things like this with non-gamer friends and family. You all know what I’m talking about.

    • Gazimoff says:

      I know what you’re talking about! Luckily I come from a family of gamers – my dad is a heavy Civ addict while my brother is a keen Steam bargain hunter. But yes, work is somewhere that gaming discussions are somewhat limited :)

  7. Kadomi says:

    You capture exactly everything that I meant with my last blog post. I yet need to post about the things that bug me about SWTOR, and boy is its chassis dated and needs WORK. Also, I think they will have issues with retention once people run out of story content.

    But until then, wowza, how much fun is it to play this game with your SO? I couldn’t name any other game that would do this so well.
    Kadomi recently posted..SWTOR: the best duo experience everMy Profile

    • Gazimoff says:

      I can’t remember how long ago I had this much fun playing co-op over more than one session. We’ve had some blasts playing Team Fortress 2 and a few giggles playing WoW, but nothing like this. It’s been incredible.

  8. Yes, I’ve had those moments, to answer my question.

    You make a good point. If your having fun, without having to really think about it, then that’s it. The more you try and analyse everything, like we have grown to do, it ruins it, period!

    Good point for us all to learn,

    - Jamin
    Jamin (@JaminToTheTop) recently posted..One year has passed…My Profile