21/03/2016

Is KotFE Keeping You Engaged?

In over four years of playing I've had my fair amount of ups and downs with SWTOR. When Bioware announced the first server merges I hated how they were handling the whole thing, and I loathed it when they originally announced the free-to-play conversion. Then there was the time my first guild died a slow death, or when my current guild had a reorganisation that left me out in the cold for a while. And of course there've always been periods where I got a bit bored of the game and focused on playing something else for a while. That's not really a problem per se, but a normal part of being an MMO player I think.

Still, I seem to be entering another one of these phases and I'm feeling oddly conflicted about it. I wasn't even sure if I should write about it at all, because sometimes not thinking about something actually does work and lets you brush it off more easily, but I've decided that this isn't one of these cases and that it's more likely to be the opposite - that I'll feel better after having gotten it off my chest.

Basically, I think it's KotFE. I still think that the story is great and all that, but, well... while I didn't think very highly of the people who loudly announced that they were going to rage-quit the moment Bioware revealed that they weren't going to release any new group content in the near future, I can sort of feel the effects of that design decision slowly creeping up on me by now, and on my guild as well. We still run operations every week, and I enjoy the variety, but nonetheless... It's been over a year since we last got a new operation and we still don't have an ETA for the next one. It does get a bit boring and it's noticeable that several guildies have been losing their lustre and aren't as interested in running ops anymore, not to even mention doing anything outside of ops nights.

I'm kind of joining their ranks to be honest (I probably spend more time writing about the game than actually playing it right now), but as I said above, I feel oddly conflicted about it. Part of me really wants to replay the KotFE story a couple more times. While being more attentive to every little detail for my Chapter by Chapter series, I've noticed all kinds of interesting tidbits that I missed the first two times around. (For example, look at the crowds to whom Arcann announces the Outlander's crimes at the end of chapter one and you'll spot some familiar faces.) And just how many times have I thought or said that I really need to get my agent into the new content so I can see what chapter seven and ten are like (which are particularly relevant to agents)? Yet every time I log on, I think of all the other chapters that I'll have to go through first... and then log off again.

I have one guildie who has completed KotFE and even the associated Alliance grind something like eight times or more and seems to have loved it, but I just... can't. It reminds me of this post I wrote literally just before the KotFE announcement about how all the new story stuff they'd released up to then was nice, but it's not fun to play through the exact same arc over and over again within a short period of time, especially alone. KotFE definitely suffers from the same problem, even if the devs tried to spice it up with class-specific bits of dialogue here and there.

The whole situation also reminds me of my relationship with Dragon Age: Origins, which was my first Bioware game and had a huge effect on me. After my first playthrough I found out that there was quite a bit of variety in the way things could pan out near the end, depending on your choices, and I kind of wanted to see them all, but I never actually managed to complete a second playthrough. I rolled up half a dozen alts to see all the different origin stories, but most of these characters didn't even make it past Ostagar (the first zone after the introduction). The few that did eventually pass that milestone then went off to die (figuratively) in the Deep Roads, a long zone full of tedious trash fights that just didn't seem worth the bother to me.

I suppose you could ask why it matters - if I'm happy to sub for one new chapter a month, I could just play that and then do something else the rest of the time, right? And it's true. But it just doesn't sit right with me that my "home MMO" should feel like there is nothing for me to do (that I want to do and that's also worth repeating), and as I said, part of me does want to tackle those additional story playthroughs. I just can't make up my mind whether the associated downsides are worth it or not.

Are you happy to re-play KotFE's chapters on all of your alts? If not, what else do you do to keep yourself entertained?

22 comments :

  1. I only encountered SWTOR about 3 months ago, so being burnt-out or bored of what to do at endgame certainly cannot apply to me; since I still have many storylines to burn through and many ops not yet encountered.

    That being said, I can definitely see why some SWTOR veterans might not like the current Bioware emphasis on KOTFE. To date, I have only went through KOTFE once, from a JK point of view, and I am not that motivated to went through KOTFE multiple times. Maybe I am only excited to do it from an Imp side another time.

    I think maybe this is due to the nature of story. Although it is a good story with excellent cinematography, I felt I am on the rails/feel handheld most of the time. Bioware promises different choices early in the game matters and changes subsequent events dramatically, but I can only see that there is only one signifant change after chapter 10, based on your decision. The story also felt driven by long cutscenes; rather than player agency.

    If the story was more involved and changes dramatically based on your action, maybe the SWTOR veterans would not mind as much. They are unhappy that new ops/flashpoints had to be put on hold, for a story-driven expansion that are less engaging than earlier promised by Bioware.

    I hoped that Bioware in some way could incorporate new ops in the remaining KOTFE episodes up until August. Or maybe they already have new ops planned that will tie neatly with post-KOTFE endgame. Otherwise I am afraid more SWTOR veterans will be bored and left the game for good.

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  2. I have yet to get all the way through what there is of KotFE. The story is so on rails, I feel like I could walk off and let it play itself. (Also, the combat is flat out boring. I don't know what they did, but it was a mistake.) Yes, part of the problem is that I'm not very interested in the story KotFE wants to tell, but it just feels so flat compared to the earlier parts of the game. And so generic. And Lana, at least as far as I got, seems to be the main character - she saves the Outlander, she gathers people or tells the Outlander who to gather. You're a combination MacGuffen and figurehead. (And either Voldemort, er, I mean Valkorion or Lana must be drugging you, since you're strangely unconcerned about having a powerful Sith Lord in your head.)

    I admit that playing it on an insta-60 probably doesn't help, but I feel like the story makes poor sense if you're not Force Sensitive, and none of my 60s are. And trying to do it on an existing character would just feel wildly out of character since the Outlander is so limited in reactions and has little interest in either their old crew or in what's going on, beyond following Lana's instructions.

    However, I still really enjoy the base game and have been content to play lower level characters or mess around checking out some of the Heroics that it's now possible to do solo.

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    1. I've been thinking about what's off with the combat in KotFE but haven't quite been able to put it into words yet, though I have a theory already. Watch this space!

      I agree that there's a strong feeling of "being someone's puppet" in the new story so far. While the game will always impose limitations on what you can do, it does feel odd that after five years of being frozen in Carbonite, your character's main worry is how to get revenge on the guy who did the freezing instead of trying to get their act together (finding their old companions, figuring out what's going on at home etc.). It requires more suspension of disbelief than is healthy.

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    2. As a JK, I have a ton of interrupts and I love using them. With 4.0 though, they de-emphasized them in PVE big time.

      These days when you face a champion mob it's going to be immune to all you're special abilities. Of course, they have some big CC that YOU'RE not immune to! :)

      So the only thing you can do is put up with being CC'd and slowly whittle them down with a simple rotation. It's the same rotation you've been using for 65 levels, so you don't have to think about it at all.

      I say put the interrupts back in. A CC war with these boss mobs while you're also executing your rotation would be way more interesting. Suddenly you'd have to think about the best way to space out you're limited CC to minimize his annoying abilities.

      You don't even have to make his abilities more dangerous. The simple fact that you can play this "lock him down" mini-game will make more engaging combat.

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  3. yeah I have been putting off getting my alt thru KOTFE.
    I have done KOTFE on my Sorc and Sentinel. I play a sightly dark side/neutral path on my Sorc and a Purely Dark sided on my Sentinel, and the story were very similar. I don't want to lose my companions and then spend 6+ hours getting them back so they can craft stuff is the reason I don't want to do the story line again.
    I have just been doing the weekly priority HM with my guild and even that is getting a little old.
    ~Ychak

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    1. I agree. Part of the reason I am hesitant to repeat another run of KOTFE, is because I don't want to lose my favourite companions without knowing the time frame of when I am getting them back. I know that post-Corellia their interaction with our toons are fairly limited; but still...it sucks when you are alone in the Defender post-KOTFE..missing them already, especially Kira & T-7.

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    2. Yep, losing your companions is another turn-off for sure! I didn't think I was that attached to most of mine, but the thought of them going away (and facing an uncertain fate in the main storyline) is somehow not pleasant at all...

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  4. I'll be playing the latest chapter tonight hopefully (was away) so I'll have some thoughts on it and KOTFE tomorrow probably. So far I'm not feeling terribly engaged. Maybe I binged a bit too much on the game in the run up with the 12x? Also the start of the monthly chapter releases coincided with us reviving the levelling trio group of Imperials and I find it less appealing to solo play in a game where I am also putting in the hours on a static group. Given that I prefer the later to solo play I'll probably be unsubbing for a few months for a partial break from the game. The story is dramatic and well presented but somehow I think it really compounds the linearity of storytelling in general which makes me not want to repeat it on multiple characters in the short-term.

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  5. The short answer to the title question is no. It wasn't a conscious decision, but finding myself spending 90% of my gaming time in LOTRO (of all places) should say enough. I have been planning to write a post about this for some time now, so I won't go into much detail here, but I'm generally feeling the same as you.

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    1. Looking forward to reading your full post on the subject!

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  6. I feel like I've run out of things that I enjoy to "work on". That said, if there were too many things to work on, it would be grindy and I wouldn't have time for it.

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  7. I personally don't mind, but then again I tend to march to my own beat. I also haven't put all my eggs into one MMO basket since WoW circa early Cataclysm, because I know how that turned out.

    Considering my group content is limited to the occasional flashpoint and group quest, I can see that for someone who spends all their time in group content that this might prove an issue, but in defense of MMO designers everywhere it seems that the raid/ops/whatever people contain the hardest of the hardcore, and if devs feel that they can never keep their hardcore base satisfied for more than 10 minutes I can appreciate their focus on other priorities.

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    1. I think the jury is still out on how much "sense" it makes to invest in group content. LOTRO did that thing two years ago where they scoffed at raiders and PvPers as a worthless minority, and yet all I've seen since then is LOTRO fan blogs going quiet and the developers backtracking on that initial judgement (though I'll admit that I'm not following the game that closely, so maybe I'm wrong).

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    2. I think Monster Play was something that LOTRO didn't need, and that likely sapped resources away from other venues.

      Middle-earth is one of those playable worlds where you can argue that there's no real reason for playing the other side. Even in SWTOR there's an avenue for both the Sith Empire and the Old Republic to work together, but when you've got (essentially) Satan's Lieutenant in Sauron leading the other side, there's really not much cooperative leeway to work with.

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    3. One thing that I hadn't considered until now was that WoW has perpetually had issues for years balancing PvP and Raid content, and their current solution is to essentially make raid and PvP gear equal. Great for raiders, not so much for PvPers.

      If the largest MMO has major problems balancing out group content, imagine what it's like for smaller MMOs not named EVE.

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  8. The need to grind for boxes is what's keeping me from plunging every alt into KOTFE. It was fun for awhile, but the grind is too much.

    Remember, we still don't know if you need all star fortresses and max reputation to get the "best" ending in KOTFE. If you do, then starting the story on your latest alt is a huge commitment.

    I'm not certain I'm into huge commitments at this stage of my "gaming career".

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    1. Well, you wouldn't need to get the "best" ending on every alt. But it's true that that's one aspect of the whole thing that's still uncertain.

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  9. Ironically, for me, testing the new Warzone has really energized me into playing every day. I'm back to working (slowly) on getting to Valor 100 on my main. I'm also leveling two characters via PvP.

    I'm finding sub-max level PvP more enjoyable than max level. It may be my class (Sentinel) at max, but there's something nice about just jumping in and competing without having to worry about gear or expertise.

    As far as KotFE itself goes, I stay current with it just because of the podcast. Otherwise the story starts to feel too same-y after you've done it twice (once all light-side, once all dark-side). When I find myself space-barring through everything and wincing at yet another Skytrooper pack I know it is time to set that aside for a bit. (I also won't grind out the Alliance stuff on any alt. I've done it once on my main. That's enough pain. ^_^)

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    1. I'm definitely keen to see the new warzone too. :) And I agree about lowbie PvP, it's just less stressful; and there are also fewer incapacitating effects and such to worry about.

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  10. Hmm, I loved the story for the Xpac over all. I was engaged from the start of its release and didn't mind the lack of new end game content. I had to go away from gaming for about 3 months due to real life work issues. When I returned I saw SWTOR had released a new chapter. Thought it was interesting, ran through it. Did all of my toons through it till I was bored to tears. Then...nothing. I checked across the servers and while I saw my different contacts and friends still played, no one was on for several days at a time. Then it hit me. I was completely bored. The little chapter they released was just not impressive in the least. It was one of the things I was really looking forward to and that lasted all about 1-2 hours and the shine was gone. It's not the new endgame content that was lacking. It was the cheap one hour thrill that left me feeling jilted for a lack of robustness. Instead of a nice rich 3 course meal, I got crackers and water. I'm not mad and haven't unsubbed yet. I just haven't had the desire to return after the latest chapter. There hasn't been any posting on my blog for this game as I haven't had anything notable to write home about. So for the time being I'm exploring other games untill maybe they have released three or four of these mini episodes before I log back in. Personally working through Elder Scrolls Online for the time being as there is plenty to do there.

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    1. Funny that you should make a food analogy, because that occurred to me as well... though I wouldn't compare KotFE to crackers and water, it is better than that. Each chapter is more like a chocolate bar in my opinion... but even I wouldn't want to try and live on nothing but chocolate.

      (Nice to hear from you btw; I always wonder when blogs suddenly go quiet.)

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