Thursday, December 1, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic II

This is another entry about Star Wars: The Old Republic, an up coming MMORPG set in the Star Wars Universe. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you can get a summary here. That is also where the first half of this review can be found. Once again, if you aren't a geek or a gamer this post will be entirely meaningless to you. Feel free to skip it.

With the launch of SWTOR fast approaching, I just have a few more things to address. One pertaining to the game itself, the others pertaining to the website and features contained therein. After the first two paragraphs, this is going to seem like one big long complaint, but it's more like me trying desperately to comprehend the thought process behind what's going on because it makes no logical sense.

First of all, this week the launch build went live for beta testers. This means, for the most part, this is what the game will be like on launch day. While several proposed ideas seem to yet be missing (the ability to match all of your armor to your chest piece for example), one thing you will notice immediately is that many of the framerate issues have been fixed. Developers finally acknowledged the severity of the game's memory leak (mentioned in my past review) and have been working to get it patched up before December 20th.

This means that those of you with lower end computers may not have to shell out as much for upgrades as beta originally lead you to believe. Like I said before, the game is not graphically intensive at all. Aside from the impressive scenematics you should be able to run everything on medium or high just fine so long as you meet the listed minimum requirements. That said, if your computer is older than three years it's about time for an upgrade anyway.

Another thing I wanted to talk about briefly is the website's pre-launch guild management. I hadn't bothered listing my guild until just this afternoon because the system is remarkably flawed. At a glance, it's a superb idea: let players who have preordered reserve their guildname and login day one already in their guild. Friends can easily find your guild in the registry and apply for membership so that you all wind up in the same place come launch day. That sounds amazing, how convenient and considerate! But there's a catch, a rather drastic one at that... you have absolutely zero control over where your guild is placed.

What's basically going to happen is that, come launch day, your guild will be ported onto a random server loosely associated with the interests your guild selected at the time of its registration. Not so bad if you selected that you want to be on a PVP or PVE server, as you'll undoubtedly be shuffled off to one of those. Pretty bad if you want to play on an RP server because there is no option to specify whether you want to play on an RP-PVP server or an RP-PVE server. So, chances are high that your entire guild could get dumped on the wrong server type.

This is also a nightmare if you have friends in guilds other than your own that you'd like to be on the same server as. If it doesn't manage to port you to the same server, you'll have to reroll anyway and hope your guild name isn't taken on the server you actually want to be on. Basically it nulls the entire point of having a preregistration feature.

While there is an ally/adversary feature which lets you select other guilds you'd like to play with/against and attempt to put you on the same server, even that isn't guaranteed and  you can only have three total. Not even three of each. Allies have to be the same faction as you are and adversaries have to be the opposite faction that you are. If you're like me, with several dozen friends in several dozen guilds, this only further makes preregistration almost entirely useless for anything other than the possible recruitment of strangers.

The only redeeming benefit to this feature was that it bestowed upon you your own guild site and forums. Which to most people is a great boon as otherwise they have no ability to get these sorts of things up and running themselves. Even this however is pointless. Two weeks post-launch this feature is going away. Which means that essentially whatever guild community you've been fostering on your nifty provided site is going to be gone too. You may as well have hosted your own to begin with.

Long story short: you're where you would've been had this feature never existed at all come launch. I can't complain too much, as I'm sure on paper this idea worked well, but in practice it just doesn't work at all and seems to lack any foresight whatsoever. Let's be frank, foresight is a pretty important skill in maintaining a functioning community, especially when that community is composed entirely of gamers.

Finally let's talk about account security. As I'm sure many of you have noticed over the last few months, Bioware seems freakishly obsessed with your account's security, to the point where they're ironically compromising it. Every week or so they send out a mass email telling us that our passwords have been voided and to visit their site to create a new one. Thing is, the more you have to input your account name and password, the more likely you are to have your account information compromised. Because let's face it, not many of you are creating entirely new passwords every time they prompt you to do so -- and I can't blame you. By the time the game has launched you'll have no idea what the frak your password is anymore.

Offer account authenticators, make us answer security questions upon login, submit us to email verification when we attempt to login from a foreign computer, but don't make us enter our account name and password every time we try to navigate to a new part of the website. If the keylogger you downloaded from that HOT SCHOOL GIRL WOMAN SEXY LADY link didn't snatch your info before, it will definitely have now.