What WoW can Learn from SWOTR

 I spent part of the weekend playing the new SWOTR beta. I really enjoyed what I got to see of it and I will most likely buy it when it launches. As I was playing it, I couldn’t help but compare it to WoW. Warcraft was always in the back of my mind even though I was wielding a light saber instead of an epic staff.

 Immersion

SWOTR does immersion very, very well. From the moment you enter the world you feel like a living, breathing part of it. You feel like you are able to make your own decisions and voice your own opinions and that you are able to affect the environment around you. It is very far removed from killing 50 boars for 8 livers because someone wants to make soup.

Grabbing a quest from a “mission giver” is an opportunity to speak with that person and find out more of what is needed for you to do. Why do I need to save those holograms? What would happen if that kind of information was to fall into the wrong hands? Everything is explained in a beautiful cut scene in which they talk to you – actual voice acting and conversation with your character. And your character talks back saying the words you wanted her to say! You have an actual voice – not just some random emotes or when you take fall damage, etc. I can’t tell you what a revelation that was to me. There’s my character talking with other people like I would do in real life.

 They have your personal story instanced so others are not running around in the background while you are doing your own thing. You can go into your own story and you can’t go into other people’s story. There was no squinting at the screen to try to find your quest giver or trying to make a /tar macro to find them because hundreds of other people are standing on them. It is just you and your mission giver having a private conversation, as it should be. I wouldn’t want the entire Jedi Temple knowing about my business so it makes perfect sense that I would be in private room.

The story of your character is also really nice. I can think of my Priest in WoW as a certain way. I might think she’s a sassy woman who never agreed with Greymane and told him to his face, in very colorful language, that he was wrong to lock away Gilneas. But, the fact of the matter is, she didn’t tell him. There’s nothing in game supporting my view of her because she’s very much a blank slate. Sure she has slain everything from kobolds to kings but so has everyone else. I can develop her story in my own head because I have the imagination to do so but I will never, ever see her actually cuss out Greymane or even tell Anduin Wrynn how very proud she is for him.

 In SWTOR, I have my own a story arch to work through. It’s not the same as helping Thrall on his epic quest. That is Thrall’s story – not Tobe’s story. Sure, I can tag along with Jaina in the ICC 5 mans but those dungeons are not about ME. They are about helping her find a way to defeat the Lich King. It was Tirion that killed Arthas and it was Varian that killed Onyxia – not Tobe and her raid group. Sure we downed those bosses and we got epic loot but we were not inherently part of the story.

 Interactive Cut Scenes

 When Cata dropped and we all got to Uldum we were amazed at the amount of cut scenes during the questing. I, for one, really liked it. I liked seeing my character doing things with the NPCs rather than reading quest text. I liked seeing her walking and interacting with them.

SWTOR really takes that idea to a whole new level with the voice acting and the choices you have to make your character respond. My Priest would not have stood by as that goblin was going to kill her without a word. No sir, she would have fought for her life instead of waiting on some man to save her.

I would hope Bliz will eventually head in this direction for WoW. We see they are willing to do cut scenes so hopefully they will integrate this idea into WoW. Perhaps the epic Varian quest we were promised could have some good cut scene/ interactive voice acting involved.

Low Level Questing

Another thing SWTOR got right was the low level experience. I felt like a powerful person right out of the box. I was a valuable part of the Jedi team as soon as I entered the world. Mission givers were happy to see me and acknowledged that I was yet still a learner but I had something to contribute to the higher good. I wasn’t sent on menial tasks such as collecting poop or arraigning a meeting between two lovers. I was sent to do things that mattered in the broader scheme of things. I really liked that. WoW has always had a problem with calling players “heroes” in one breath only to send them on ridiculous quests in the next.

At level one I felt like I had a good amount of abilities. I wasn’t spamming one button or meleeing as I waited for my one spell to come off of cool down. I didn’t feel like I was squishy but I didn’t feel invincible, either. It balances the two quite well. There is a real danger of your character dying but it’s not the level of frustration – it gets your heart racing in a good way. When you are out of danger there’s a real sense of “whew! That was close!”

Closing

 I really enjoyed my time in SWOTR. The music was sweeping and I felt part of a Star Wars movie while I was there. There was the most maddening lag inside of buildings otherwise I would have gotten a lot farther into it. I probably won’t get it on launch but I will in the new year once things have calmed down a bit.

When I played Rift it felt like the same old thing. SWOTR had a totally new feeling to it. And I really liked that.

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