12/02/2020

Reading Crew Skill Mission Text

Bhagpuss has been writing about being fascinated by EQ2's new Overseer system. As far as I can tell from his descriptions of how it works, it's very similar to the "waiting" mini-games that many MMOs have added to their optional gameplay over the last decade or so, and which often involve directing minions or hirelings of some sort. When I asked Bhag in a comment what he found the most interesting about it, he responded that he was surprised by how well the whole system was narratively integrated into the rest of the game.

SWTOR has of course had its own version of this sort of thing since launch, in the form of crew skill missions, even if they are very much on the simple end of the scale: You're always dealing with the same small number of missions, they don't tend to take a lot of time, and the only real way to influence the outcome has been to raise your companions' affection/influence level. I guess nowadays we also have guild perks and amplifiers to improve success rates and crit chance, but those are universal, passive buffs that don't really change the way you look at any given mission.

Bhag's comments about story integration made me pause and think though, mainly because they made me realise just how long it's been since I actually read any of my crew skill missions. These days I only really look at what they're supposed to reward, and maybe the duration/cost - but the actual "story" is something I skim right over.

So of course the next thing I did was to sit down and actually read the text for some of the missions that I've been spamming day in, day out - which just ended up reminding me of something that annoyed me whenever I had read them in the past:

You see, my main has diplomacy as her mission skill, the one mission skill that can award both light and dark side points. What has annoyed me in the past is that in recent years the text has rarely matched the alignment gain (as far as I'm concerned anyway)!

An Alderaanian noble who shares lineage with a renowned smuggler would like to see this particular relation quietly escorted into exile and "forgotten". - So you're basically asking me to abduct/potentially murder someone... and it awards light side points!?

Yet here's the counterpart of the same level: An allied smuggler was recently arrested for customs violations. Send a companion to ensure the smuggler is free to continue assisting the cause. Surely helping an ally is not a bad thing? But no, this one gives dark side points. And so on and so forth.

But okay, that's just diplomacy - let's look at some other profession that isn't tied to the alignment system in the same way. How about some slicing missions?

Taerab Starship Manufacturing is rumored to have a hyperdrive prototype that will cut fuel costs in half. If your companion slices into their files, you could reap the benefits of their research.

Ruthless financier Herron Morvis VII claims to have "confidential personal information" on dozens of corporate heads across the galaxy. Have your companion slice into his secure servers to find out what he knows.

Okay, none of these may be officially tied to the alignment system, but they do all sound a bit dodgy to be honest! Maybe that's another thing that's subconsciously been discouraging me: that I don't much like the thought of my character being tied up in these situations, so I just want to get the rewards without considering potential in-world consequences.

More seriously though, I think in practice it's just down to how basic, repetitive and inconsequential crew skill missions are. Most of the time their duration can be counted in minutes instead of hours, and you might well end up running some of them hundreds of times without anything coming of it other than you slowly growing your stash of crafting mats. How invested can you really get in that on a narrative level?

Then again, you never know when something will suddenly turn into an Easter Egg. For example there is an old diplomacy mission that has been in the game since launch and goes like this: The Sith Lords Anathel and Xarion are battling in the Stygian Caldera, disrupting Imperial trade. Your companion could persuade them to take their feud elsewhere. For years and years, these were just two random names... but then Onslaught came around and suddenly Anathel and Xarion were part of the story and on the Dark Council. So you never know!

6 comments :

  1. I used to read the mission text. It was a nice bit of flavor, but then I started sending missions out and forgot to read the text. At first I felt bad as I was missing a small part of the game. Eventually I just stopped caring as I had enough companions I just wanted to get the missions started and get on with playing the character doing the missions.

    I am annoyed with the Diplomacy missions. That's mainly because you can get both light and dark side points from the same mission. My main has been maxed light side and I dislike losing that max after doing a bunch of Diplomacy missions. For toons at max LS/DS rank I end up hovering over the mission to see if it is all one way or a mixed mission. Then I pick just those missions that fit the character. I really would just like to have Diplomacy work like the other skills.

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    1. Oh, all my diplomats strictly stick to the missions that match their alignment; always have!

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  2. I think I was talking mainly about the new set of Missions added to EQII, which use the Overseer system to tell exactly the same story as you'd get in a quest, only without any of the fuss and bother of actually going and kiling things. It's five stages that start with you meeting an NPC and doing the whole "get a quest" thing, only you don't get a quest, you get a Mission. There are four stages where the narrative tells you who you go and kill for a drop or where you go and steal something, then the final stage has you giving all the items to another NPC (who you never actually visit - it all happens in descriptive text).

    It's not a great narrative but it's *exactly* like a regular quest. The text could literally be dropped in as dialog for an NPC and you as the character could go and do the killing yourself. It's basically proof of concept for using the Mission system to run anything we've previously done as quests. Not that I'm suggesting that would be a good idea but it surprised me to see it was possible.

    Considering the system has only been in game for a couple of months it suggests huge potential, which I'm sure will never be fulfiled.

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  3. 100% unrelated as I avoid crafting like the plague and only ever craft for conquest and buy stuff on gtn if I have to rather than do stuff, but: I couldn't help but remember you when I did my little patch mission on my main - the very first refugee I gave supplies to called her by her earliest story title, and something trembled inside me as it felt like such an honour to be called that again, after being away for so long. Not even a 5 second interaction, but that alone was worth it. Made my patch :)

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    1. I forgot what class you said your main was (consular?) but my trooper also got a callback as one of the refugees said that she remembered her from Tatooine. :) Anyway, I'll write more about the patch update later.

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    2. Yes, she's a consular. The old lady tripped over trying to say Basenthor, but it was sweet.

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