Friday, 23 July 2010

A Tourist In Tatooine

Post soundtrack: “A Fool Like Me” by Jmdee Beat feat. Tassel & Naturel

I was going to do a long post about Star Wars Galaxies, having spent a week playing the trial and mostly enjoying myself quite a bit.  But now I’m more interesting in a post about Everquest II, after spending a week playing the trial, and enjoying it so much I felt comfortable buying a copy.  Oh, and I (briefly) tried playing WoW in anaglyphic 3D.

Not your average Ringle.  It is your average Tatooine, however.

Anyway, at the top of my list of things to talk about is SWG.  While the population of the game is a shadow of what it was at it’s pre-NGE peak, as someone who’s something of a fan of the Star Wars universe (and who usually levels sans company), it was kind of a fun game to finally visit – sadly I was unable to play the game at the time due to a resistance to the idea of paying a subscription to play a game (an objection to which it would appear I’ve overcome) and the lack of a credit card at the time.

I left before the 14-day trial ended because, sadly it just didn’t quite live up to my expectations in many, often rather subtle, ways.  A fun game, just not quite as much fun as I wish it could have been (and I doubt there will ever be another MMO set around the classic trilogy time period, with the focus now on the Old Republic).  Some of the issues were simply because of the age of the title – the UI is pretty dire in many ways, and some design choices just aren’t fun or don’t make sense.  (The in-game auction house was pretty awful – and not just because of the lack of things being sold)

I never got as far as replacing my starter ship - still, it was fun blowing Z-95s and TIEs out of the ether.

The much-vaunted character customisation was indeed pretty impressive – sadly it was a little underwhelming when I didn’t really see any other players, to see what they did to make their characters different.  (It would actually have been great if they’d done something similar to droids, and allowed some degree of freedom in customising your companions – especially the ones you assembled yourself…  Ah, well, what might have been…)

Anyway, much of the game was fun, of course.  Space combat was a blast (quite literally) and, although grossly simplified from the days of X-Wing and Tie Fighter, was a lot of fun with a gamepad.  That is, apart from some bizarre respawn issues that left a couple of missions impossible to complete single-handed.  However that might simply be leftover from the high-population days where there were enough players to nullify that particular issue, or a bug, or maybe I was playing it wrong – I don’t really know.

Ground combat was pretty straight-forward, but it never really left me feeling I was in danger (unless I accidentally pulled an elite at the same time as my intended target).  It actually reminded me of Star Trek Online, only without the ‘assistance’ of your NPC crewmates.  (Admittedly that comparison could be due to the very small number of third-person sci-fi shooters I’ve ever played, giving me a very small pool of titles to compare it with)

Questing…  Well, that felt kind of tacked-on.  And considering that SWG was originally very much a sand-box game, perhaps ‘tacked-on’ is accurate.  (Incidentally, the ‘chronicles’ system, which lets you create – and sell – player-created quests using items dropped by npcs might have been interesting, if there were enough players to keep the system running.)

Unfortunately I didn’t get past Tatooine, so my screenshot folder is very salmon-hued.  And just as the landscape was all one colour, the droids were ridiculously lacking in variety as well.  Actually, I think the way droids were implemented (and the lack of variety among them, in-game) were one of the things I was least happy with.  (And not just because there were new-trilogy battle droids everywhere – ‘expanded universe’ only gets you so far, in my book) 

I think what killed the trial for me, was the number of times my planned sessions ran head-first into server downtimes and maintenance.  In the seven days I played, the server was already down for maintenance on two nights I tried to log on, and went down while I was playing on a third.  (It’s kind of an un-written rule, as far as oceanic players of US-based MMOs go, that any server downtime is timed to minimise the effect on US players by shifting it to NZ/Aus prime-time)  While it might just be bad timing on my part, the fact that I ran into it 3 days in the week I was trying to trial the game was really frustrating, and constituted this camel’s final straw.

Ah well, SWG was then uninstalled, and I decided to give EQ2 a try.  About 36 hours of downloading later, it was installed.  (Have I mentioned lately how much I really dislike streaming software installers?)

EQ can wait until next post, though – I should know better than to start writing at 2AM…  So, enjoy this little teaser of an upcoming post subject while I go throw myself at my bed.

Blurry eye-hurting image best viewed with red-cyan 3d glasses.