16/06/2015

KotFE Trailer & Updates

I have to agree with Syp that KotFE is a terrible acronym, though I liked the suggestion of one of his commenters to intentionally misread it as "coffee". SWTOR coffee! Still, fitting "Knights of the Fallen Empire" as a whole into every other subject line for the next couple of weeks would just be a pain.

I actually stayed up to watch the official expansion announcement at E3 last night. It was disappointingly short to be honest, but we did get to see the CGI trailer for the expansion afterwards, and some more bits of information were dropped in an IGN interview after the presentation and in a Polygon article. I haven't been this excited about an MMO expansion in a long time.

First off, the trailer:



I felt like a complete dork when I managed to completely miss the killing blow during the final duel the first time I watched it. I was like: "Yay, they are deactivating their lightsabers because they just remembered that they really love each other...! Wait, why is the one in black falling over dead?" I felt so much better when Syp admitted to initially being confused by this as well.

I think that one of the most upvoted comments on the YouTube video sums up my own feelings pretty well: "Awesome!  But I still have no clue what's going on." Which is a nice segue to start talking about the bits of information we did receive. As usual, if you just want a run-down of all the facts, Dulfy or TORCommunity have got you covered. Personally I want to focus on sharing opinions though, and put the new information in context with the speculation I posted two days ago.

First off, it has been confirmed that it will be possible to start a character at level 60 and completely skip the old content. (Also, the level cap will be raised to 65.) I hope Bioware is preparing a good tutorial - the idea of letting people jump right into the story sounds nice in theory, but being faced with four hotbars full of buttons you don't recognise is likely to be much less well-received (the numerous comments from WoW players calling the author of that article an imbecile for struggling to play his boosted character serves to nicely underline the message in my opinion).

It's also been confirmed that the factions will essentially become irrelevant, as your character will wake up after several years of being frozen in Carbonite to find that both the Republic and the Empire have retreated to their home worlds and are basically insignificant. However, so far Bioware has not elaborated on what gameplay effects this might possibly have. (New, shared hubs? Cross-faction queuing? Guilds? All unknown at the moment.)

As far as companions go, it's been confirmed that there will be five new ones, and that you'll also have to work on re-acquiring your old companions since apparently they scattered when you got frozen (or something). The latter worries me a little because adding sensible reasons for players to hunt down forty old companions doesn't sound like a thing Bioware would do in a post-class-story world. Rohan even speculates that we might simply lose some companions in the process, which I would hate. Don't take away my stuff, Bioware! I'm pretty sure that this would create significant amounts of outrage from the playerbase as well, because you can bet that no matter who they might decide to cut, it will be someone's absolute favourite.

Bruce Maclean also had this to say on the subject of companions: "You're able to recruit help and additional companions from an expanded cast, including companions who were previously exclusive to other classes. Building that alliance involves going to all the planets in the galaxy and doing activities and missions that build faction. If you want to recruit a character who's favorable to the Mandalorians, you'll be able to do missions for them. You want to recruit a character who hates the Hutts, you'll do missions to build your alliance standing against them." So maybe they are going to put a bigger focus on companions than before...

The notion of new class stories hasn't been officially rebutted yet, but frankly, I feel that if there were going to be any, they would have been talking about them by now. Instead they've only been talking about "streamlining" the existing class stories so that you can complete them even faster, though I'm not sure how that's supposed to work. Epic XP bonuses for all class missions, forever? Travel passes that instantly take you from the entrance of one phase to the next? Reduced mob kill/clicking objectives? I can't say any of this sounds particularly thrilling to me.

Overall, I'm simultaneously super excited about everything that's been announced, as well as a little worried. I'm definitely getting Cataclysm vibes off this one. Unlike Blizzard, Bioware is thankfully not planning to destroy its "old world", but the thought of it potentially being banished to insignificance still stings. They keep talking about wanting to get back to their Bioware roots, to what players really want, but to me that also implies that what we've had so far is somehow lacking - not in terms of quantity, but in quality, and I just don't agree with that. Obviously you can debate whether individual patches were better or worse than others, but I've never felt that the game wasn't "Bioware-y" enough. It has always struck me as an excellent hybrid of single-player RPG storytelling and MMO features. I don't see a stronger shift towards single player as a good thing, as I fear that it will just throw the game off-balance. Shadow of Revan's frequent use of personal instead of group phases was annoying enough as it is. In light of that, I don't find Jeff Hickman's reassurance that they haven't forgotten about MMO fans and "flashpoints and operations and raid bosses and PvP and that stuff" very reassuring.

Don't get me wrong, I really am very excited about this new story arc, even if it's currently a bit mind-boggling to think how we could possibly go from Vitiate threatening all life in the galaxy to some unknown Empire - one that nobody seems to have heard of before no less - kicking faction butt instead and becoming the focus of the entire game.

Only a couple of months ago people were ripping into EA/Bioware for not giving SWTOR the attention it deserves in such a year of Star Wars. I think they've just proven that they definitely have big plans for the game. I'm just not sure if they are entirely sensible plans. An MMO can't live off story alone. To stay subscribed continuously, I need reasons to long in when there isn't a new chapter of story to play through, opportunities to hang out with friends and have fun with them. Companions are cool, but they are no replacement for other players. Please don't forget that, Bioware.

12 comments :

  1. Yes, the death blow in the trailer was hard to notice the first time around. I didn't catch until my second viewing, and then it was easy to spot the next few hundred times I watched it.

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    1. I'm glad to hear it wasn't entirely obvious to other people either, at least not the first time. ;)

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  2. The only reason I caught the death blow was because I guessed even from the shorter E3 Teaser what would happen.

    I do have to say that I'm getting the feeling that BioWare are more out-of-touch with the MMO contingent of their fanbase than they're letting on. Whilst I'm ecstatic about more story and being able to focus once more on companions, this shouldn't be done at the expense of fundamental "MMO" functions; with older content being scaled up this seems to be our temporary substitute for anything new. I'm of course keeping my mind open to every eventuality, but it doesn't look all too promising in this regard.

    Time shall tell. It is indeed fantastic that EA are giving BioWare and SWTOR more attention, but to what extent this will "work" of course does remain to be seen.

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    1. Yeah, I don't want to seem pessimistic, but let's just say that my days of having blind faith into the MMO developer of my choice to get everything right are over.

      I couldn't help but think of Rav and how LOTRO lost its shine for her and many others when it more or less gave up on group content. Different game, and even there correlation does not necessarily equal causation, but it's hard not to see similarities. (Incidentally, that makes me all the more curious about Rav's thoughts on all of this!)

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  3. But yet if you go the forums and such in the website, people are screaming they didn't want this. Is why I made a title for a blog post. "Can't please them all apparently" because that is what it is. While some of us are happy for new content. Others are saying what a waste, and etc. I just wish the gaming community in general was better than what it is. Sadly though thats not the case. I've even been reading some negative comments about the new GW2 expan coming out. Who knows what these people think. It takes time to build things even in a virtual world, with the best computers out there. But eh, we'll just have to sit and watch to see what comes next.

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    1. I don't know, most of the reactions I've seen are positive. There will always be people who whine about everything. I just avoid reading sites where there's too much negativity too much of the time. :) Also, announcements like "we did what the players asked for" will also always inevitably bring out people who specifically want to say that they personally did not ask for this thing. (I may have done it myself once or twice. :P)

      Welcome to the blogosphere by the way! I briefly came across your blog before, just haven't had a chance to look at it more closely yet. :)

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  4. I've not come across the more recent issues with solo-only missions that you've alluded to in the past but this mirrors my annoyance with The Secret World. That game is such fun to play duo/trio with friend(s) that it is jarringly annoying to be told "you must solo this" just to maintain some arbitrary developer concept of difficulty.

    As I've posted in the past SWTOR is or was initially a great game to play cooperatively. If this new emphasis on story in the coming expansion is of the new "solo story" model then that will rip away one of the game's previous strengths...

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    1. I do find it somewhat frustrating that Bioware seems so oblivious to how good SWTOR has been at providing gameplay for small groups. It's like they don't even realise they are hurting some people's experience by insisting that everything is a personal story phase where you make your own choices.

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  5. I'm slightly weirded out by how much the trailer looked like it was for a single player game, or at least how little it connected to SW:TOR as it currently is. (It took me a second viewing to realize it was Korriban that the Twi'lek woman was defending.) And very confused as to what became of Vitiate, considering he was last seen eating a planet.

    Still, this could be pretty interesting.

    (Though I hope the original part of the game remains at least more or less as is, since I still enjoy it more than I've enjoyed the expansions.)

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    1. I think lots of people are confused by how this new story is supposed to connect to the current one. I'm sure Bioware is going to provide an explanation eventually... though whether we'll like it or not is another matter!

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  6. The thing that stuck with me the most is that Bioware is saying "we've got all of this new stuff to show you, but we're not destroying three years worth of fun to bring it to you."

    And that is the biggest possible learning from Cataclysm.

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    1. It's definitely a plus, but the way they are clearly intending for this to be a fresh start with a clean slate still reminds me of Cata in a way...

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