29/11/2013

Missing The Small Touches

I wonder if I'll ever get over the fact that there won't be any more additions to the individual class stories in The Old Republic. I mean, I understand why the devs decided to go down that road and it's not as if I'm about to quit the game over it, but finishing the last of the class stories last month certainly made me wonder. Before that point, it always felt to me as if there was a nigh endless potential of stories to explore in the game, something that I was never going to catch up with. You have to admit that it sounds brilliant in theory, to think that every major patch was going to add a unique new piece of content for up to eight different alts. I'm not surprised that it's not actually financially viable with the amount of subscribers the game has, but that doesn't mean that I don't still love the concept. I think there's a part of me that still dares to dream that some day, somehow, the devs will come up with a way to give us more class stories without completely breaking the bank.

The problem I have at the moment is that with no more class stories to come, alt play is kind of doomed to end in boredom eventually. I feel that right now my main motivation to play alts is the reputation system, because they give me the option of binging myself on new content whenever a new set of dailies is released and allow me to save up a lot of rep within a short time in order to use it later. Yet every time I play through that content on another alt, it's more or less the same. Yes, I can choose from a handful of different conversation options, but those quickly come with diminishing returns. I have to admit that I can't quite fight the feeling that Bioware has been slacking a bit when it comes to tailoring new content towards different classes at least on a small scale.

One example of this are class-specific lines. In the original levelling game up to fifty, almost every time you have to make a choice in a conversation, at least one of the options is tailored to your class. I even remember reading an article or an interview somewhere way back when, where someone from Bioware talked about how this was an important opportunity for the writers to distinguish the classes from each other, especially the slightly similar ones like knight and consular. They should never sound the same because they are totally different! Supposedly.

Makeb really made me notice how much that has changed. I quite enjoyed my first playthrough (on Republic side), and didn't think it was particularly problematic that my trooper sounded a bit... "sassier" than usual. Her lines still seemed to fit her well enough most of the time. But then I went back to go through the whole story again on my smuggler... and all her lines seemed to be exactly the same, word for word. I couldn't quite decide whether that meant that my trooper was joking too much or my smuggler was too serious; the point was that they sounded the same! I might've been a bit more forgiving about similarities between the two types of Jedi for example, but there's just no way a trooper and a smuggler should give the same response to everything. It was particularly disappointing since prior to expansion release, Bioware had been emphasising that even though the class stories in the original sense were gone, the dialogue on Makeb would still feel uniquely tailored to our character. In reality I saw even less evidence of that on Makeb than there is in the generic planetary story arcs from release. I can understand why the class stories turned out to be too much work to maintain, but are things really so bad that they can't write and record a couple of extra lines for each conversation (without changing anything else) just so the classes don't all sound the same?

Another area of detail where I've noticed a drop-off in quantity and quality is that of companion affection gains from conversations. Maybe it's just me, but it seems to me that companions barely have any sort of reaction to most of our dialogue anymore these days. And I'm not talking about actual voiced interjections here, but the simple little pluses and minuses under their portraits that tend to show up during conversations. So, you know, no voice acting required or anything, just someone to add "Vette: likes this" or whatever to each conversation option.


I can't find the source right now, but I distinctly seem to remember Njessi mentioning somewhere that she was surprised that her love interest seemed to have no opinions whatsoever on her character flirting on Makeb, something that is pretty much a guaranteed "-1 of shame" with most companions that you're romantically involved with during the original levelling content. Ever since the expansion I've noticed that these little indicators seem to get harder and harder to come by with every new quest. Your companions will probably still have an opinion on your light/dark side choices, but seemingly not on anything else you say.

You'd think that this is something that shouldn't matter that much, but it's really a little thing that adds a lot. It feeds my imagination to know what my companions like or don't like, and makes me picture them high-fiving my character afterwards, or giving her a serious frown. It can affect the way I make decisions, knowing that my current companion will or won't approve. When they suddenly stop having opinions because nobody at Bioware could be bothered with the busywork of adding the numbers for forty different companions, the game definitely loses something.

1 comment:

  1. I think that the class stories are a "never say never" situation right now. Bioware is pushing hard to keep the game moving, but once they get some breathing room, I'm sure there's stuff on the drawing board they'd like to implement.

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