10/09/2015

Starting Off on the Wrong Foot

I have a level 11 Sentinel that has spent the past year sitting on Ord Mantell, waiting for a friend I was supposed to play with to come back. This week I finally logged onto her and took her back to the fleet. It was time to move on, and I've had plans for her for ages: I've been meaning to replay the Jedi knight story for a long time and I still don't have a Sentinel at max level. However, I also wanted to use this opportunity to tell the sad story of her friend that never came back, because it shows how easily a game can be ruined for you by starting off on the wrong foot.


There's nothing sadder than being the only remaining half of (what was supposed to be) a levelling duo.

For the purpose of this story, let's call my friend Cuddles (not his actual name). Cuddles is an Englishman in his forties, married with no children and always very busy with work. In some ways he's the stereotypical "modern gamer" that MMO developers talk about when they argue that they need to make more content that can be completed in short, bite-sized chunks. I originally met him in World of Warcraft but we stayed in touch even after I stopped playing that. He tried out SWTOR at launch and even bought a collector's edition, just in case he'd end up liking the game. However, his interest quickly evaporated - I believe that the last time I saw his Shadow logged in was when he was levelling on Tatooine.

Two years later, he suddenly decided to give the game another try. I can't remember why, but I'd like to think it was because my blog posts about it were so awesome. We talked about classes and I said that the consular takes some time to get going. As he couldn't access his old account anymore, he decided to create a new one and rolled up a trooper this time. Not being someone to do things in halves, he immediately subbed up for two months... and then hardly played during that time, because he was always too busy.

Finally we agreed on a date when we would spend some time playing together. I had rolled up my new Sentinel specifically for this purpose. After finishing Tython, I took her off to the fleet for all the various bits and bobs such as choosing an advanced class (pre-discipline system) and picking up crew skills. I figured that Cuddles would have completed the starter planet by the time our play date came around and we could then be able to do the Esseles together. It was going to be awesome!

Once the actual day rolled around however, Cuddles' trooper was still only level nine and still busy on Ord Mantell. No problem, I thought, we can do the heroics on Savrip Island together! No, actually he was about to go into the volcano base for a bunch of quests. Also fine by me, I just wanted to play together in some fashion. I invited Cuddles to a group and made my way over to the right area on Ord Mantell. I was baffled to see him die over and over again. I vaguely recalled having some challenging encounters in the volcano base as a new player, but nothing that bad!

When I finally reached him, I could see why. He wasn't really healing up enough between fights, but more importantly his rotation consisted of hammer shot, hammer shot and more hammer shot. I asked him why he wasn't using some of the better abilities he'd already got, and I believe he said they were too expensive? He hadn't really groked the way the ammo system worked at all. There was also something about the way plasma cell could trigger a dot and how he thought that this meant that he should be using hammer shot all the time... I don't remember the details, only that it made some twisted kind of sense if you really wanted to look at it that way. I felt a bit embarrassed as I explained to him that he was doing the WoW equivalent of trying to kill everything with auto-attack. It's not like he was a stranger to MMOs or gaming in general! He was even more embarrassed than me I think.

Anyway, he knew what to do now and we proceeded inside the volcano together. With my Sentinel already having her advanced class and her first companion, we made short work of everything. However, with how many mobs and quests are in there, we were still busy for half an hour so. Since Cuddles had already been playing for a while before that point, he was starting to feel tired. I tried to encourage him - there was only one quest left, his class quest!

I was really looking forward to how that would go. Without spoiling much (even though I think that spoilers are not as much of an issue for the story on the starter planets), it's safe to say that the trooper story on Ord Mantell ends with a twist. We entered the phase for the last quest he had left, and I got ready to watch the cut scene. How would he react to the big revelation? I was so excited. However, only a few seconds in I was booted out of the cut scene. I can't remember off the top of my head, but we probably killed some mobs and I was scratching my head in confusion. What had happened? Next thing I knew, Cuddles was already back in Fort Garnik. I don't remember the exact words of our conversation, but it's fair to paraphrase it like this:

Me: "What just happened? Why are you already back in Fort Garnik?"
Him: "I was getting really tired and just wanted a cup of coffee, so I simply space-barred through this last conversation."
Me: ...
Me: "But didn't you want to know what happened? It was the class story, no less!"
Him: "Same as usual, obviously. I saved them, everybody thanked me, blah blah etc."
Me: !!!

I awkwardly explained to him that this wasn't what had happened at all and brought up the option of resetting the mission so that he could see what had actually happened... though of course that would have meant fighting his way back to the inside of the volcano base. Unsurprisingly, he didn't choose to do that. He was super bummed, logged off and never came back to the game (though he's still my friend, luckily).

Even if I've decided to take my Sentinel to new places now, this story will always stick with me, because it shows how opaque even simple things can seem to a completely new player, and how a couple of badly timed mistakes can completely suck the fun out of the experience before you've even had time to properly get into the game.

7 comments :

  1. Replies
    1. There is no punctuation to accurately express how I felt at that moment.

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    2. Did he not know he was playing a Bioware game?

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    3. He was, but like I said in the comment below, the MMO-ness of it all may well have caused a bit of WoW mentality to slip in at that point.

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    4. You know, I think I need a drink after that.

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  2. This reminds me a bit of the WoW habit of skipping quests text :)
    Maybe your friend simply doesn't enjoy the storytelling mechanism of SWTOR? Class quests are my favourite part of the game, but tastes are different...
    I guess your friend would never use the WoW Storyline addon that's becoming so popular :)))

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    Replies
    1. Well, Cuddles enjoys Bioware's single player games, so I don't think it's that. It may well be however that a bit of "WoW mentality" snuck in there when he got tired.

      I don't really get that WoW addon (if it is the one I saw a video about). Scrolling quest text has been in the game since launch and there's a reason people always turned it off. And seeing an enlarged image of the NPC in the middle of the screen hardly helps immersion? But then I stopped understanding what makes most WoW players tick a long time ago - it was part of why I left; I just didn't fit in there anymore.

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