A Solo RPG Player on SWTOR, MMOs, and Groups

I already gave an overall review of BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic and mentioned that I’d been sucked into buying the game. For the most part I run my characters solo through this MMO but there are times when you must have a group. This will be my take on how groups have worked for me in SWTOR.

Let’s be clear: I’m shy and I’m self-conscious about being a noob. I won’t go around asking people to be in a group because, great heavens, what if they say no?! But I want to see all the juicy Star Wars universe BioWare has created and that means working within their multi-player system.

Thus I rely on what are called, in MMO-speak, pick-up groups or PUGs. I’ve done half a dozen and my experiences have been universally positive. For all the bemoaning on the SWTOR forums about people spamming the chat window with LFG (or looking-for-group) requests all I’ve ever had to do was be near the start of one of the instances and I’ve been invited to join a group.

Sideline Wednesday: The Champion's Side, Chapter 37

Struggles and Striving

By the afternoon Sebastian and I talked through our discontent we’d spent hours together in one parlor or another, chatting politely with yet another noble family that simply had to host the Champion one time more than their neighbors. We’d danced a hundred stately rounds when I couldn’t face another boorish rich boy who’d never done anything more exciting than walk through Lowtown once on a dare.

His presence at these balls and dinner parties gave him unprecedented access to the nobles of Kirkwall. I often tried to deflect attention to his cause. Talk of betrayal and murder in Starkhaven meant a welcome relief from scrutiny, short-lived though it might have been, and genteel Sebastian made quite the impression on the ladies of Hightown.

The prince’s genuine sorrow and piety won their hearts but no breath of scandal ever touched him. Their husbands found him honorable and masculine enough to be likable, as well. In fact some of them told him how much they enjoyed his company much more aggressively than their wives. He told me of their advances in hushed tones and oblique language.

Double Monday: The Double, Chapter 39

I Could Have Danced All Night

Kaidan gave that honeyed, throaty chuckle that did strange things to my insides. Over the course of our relationship I’d found myself doing things just to hear it that I would once have considered beneath my dignity.

I’d pulled goofy faces behind the back of Captain Anderson in Council meetings, danced a little jig of mockery during one of the ambassador’s tirades, and tried to juggle pistols in the Mako on the way to a tense mission. Though we’d all cracked up, high on adrenaline, when I’d dropped one and nearly shot Garrus in the leg, we decided that last little stunt had been a bad idea.

Maintenance hadn’t been too thrilled about patching the hole, either. The surprise factor had been worth all of the grief I’d taken, though. Kaidan gave me an excuse to crack the badass Spectre fa├žade from time to time, to be a juvenile prankster more interested in a successful joke than saving the galaxy. Because I’d learned to loosen up with him I found it easier to do so with other people, letting go of some of that military rigidity behind which I’d so long hidden.

But it was a long way from practical jokes to wearing a scrap of a dress and attending a masquerade ball. His eyes sparkled behind his own mask, a wild affair that stretched from the corners of his mouth to a point a good two inches above his hairline, thus hiding his tell-tale waves and that dimple that made me want to nibble on him. He could have been any tall, fit Human on the Citadel.

Double Monday: The Double, Chapter 38

Who Was that Masked Man?

I took another tour through the weapon shops on the Citadel, picking up what upgrades we could afford and drooling over the shiny guns that were financially out of reach or simply impractical. I also had to pick up a pair of dressy shoes, as my usual boots would at best look bizarre paired with that tiny, stupid dress. Those I left at the store to retrieve later.

Unable to put it off any longer, I returned to the SR-2. As EDI began to announce my arrival I interrupted. “EDI, do you have to announce to the entire ship that I’ve left or returned?”

“How else will everyone know who is in command at any given moment, Shepard?” the AI responded in a perfectly reasonable voice that yet betrayed a suppressed hint of laughter. For the second time that day my palm met my forehead. I swear the AI had grown a sense of humor. I could also hear Joker laughing over the com from his seat at the controls not far from the airlock where I stood. They’d probably cooked this up together, the weasels.

A Dragon Age Fan’s Review of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Release Date: November 11, 2011
Platforms: PC, X-Box 360, and Playstation 3
Price: $59.99 (all platforms) or $149.99 for the Collector's Edition

Skyrim, the name of the fifth installment of Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls RPG series, has become a major buzzword since the game’s release. People the world over post tweets and Facebook updates that allude to their having popped up for a breather but intending to return to Skyrim.

But if you haven’t yet been sucked into the wide-open world of Nords and trolls and elves and giants, and particularly if you have played an older Elder Scrolls game and didn’t care for it, you might be wondering if Skyrim is for you. The wild popularity and constant claims of addictive play make a pretty convincing case for giving it a try, after all.

To help you decide, I’ve tackled a few of the issues I see with the game and outlined the reasons I keep playing despite them. I’ve written about the important aspects of any RPG: the story, the role playing for which the genre is named, and interaction with non-player characters (NPCs). And, inevitably, I’ve compared Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls to BioWare’s Dragon Age.

Sideline Wednesday: The Champion's Side, Chapter 36

Growing Pains

During this quiet void after what we came to call The Year of the Qunari, I happened upon a book about Shartan, the elf famous for helping Andraste free the slaves a thousand years before. Naturally my thoughts turned to Fenris, with whom I had fallen into a delicate friendship laced with tensions we tried to ignore.

I wandered up to the mansion one night when I knew he’d avoided The Hanged Man. Most nights he joined us but he also had Donnic and a few others over for cards once a week or so and some evenings he simply didn’t come. After so long alone it sometimes made him very uncomfortable to have so many people near, even if most of them were his friends.

We never knocked on one another’s doors. I called up from the foyer, surrounded by cobwebs and beams of moonlight that shone through the holes Fenris never could be bothered to repair. He could afford it but it never mattered to him. It did not, after all, belong to him.

Double Monday: The Double, Chapter 37

Checking In

Instead of whisking me off to my quarters, the traitorous elevator stopped at the CIC. How Kelly had known I was in there remained a mystery but her motivation did not. “Commander Shepard, you have another important message at your private terminal!”

I screamed internally at the interruption and reached for the button that would allow me to resume my short journey. “I’ll check it upstairs,” I responded and waited for the doors to slide shut. Nothing happened. I jabbed it two or three more times before I thought to look at its counterpart.

Kelly’s finger was still on the button outside the elevator. “How are you?” she asked, her voice dripping sympathy. I hadn’t spoken to her much since we’d returned from Alchera, being busy with Krogan puberty and pissy research assistants and all. She was taking this opportunity to remind me of her position as putative counselor about the SR-2.

With a suppressed snarl twisting my mouth I answered, “I’m fine, Yeoman. I would just like some privacy,” and glanced pointedly at her still-insistent finger.

The Dark Side Promised Cookies

Some of the darlings at the BioWare Social Network have persuaded me to give in to the Dark Side and purchase my very first MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic. They promise to play nicely and forgive me my newbie ways. The first month is included in the price of the game so if I really hate it I can find out without paying extra for the privilege.

For you, my readers, that means at least two more reviews of SWTOR. Once I’ve actually managed to perform group combat I’ll tell you all about, including whatever utter humiliations ensue from wandering off or clicking the wrong thing. My ego can take the honesty.

And I’ll offer an opinion of the story arcs, as well. I’ll start two separate characters: one for the group and a new smuggler to run solo and see how pick-up groups work for me once I know how to be in one. You know I’ve got to roll at least one Dark Side character to see how that goes.

So stay tuned: there’s a lot more Star Wars to come. I can’t promise any fanfiction, though Bioware does seem to inspire it, but I’ll definitely give you my RPG impressions as I go. At worst it will give me something to do while I’m waiting for Mass Effect 3 to arrive!

Sideline Wednesday: The Champion's Side, Chapter 35

After the Storm

It had been a year since I’d staggered out of the keep that no longer had a Viscount. In the power vacuum his death left Meredith expanded at an alarming rate and every inch of her bristled with unreasoning fear. Even mages who never left the Gallows, who had, until recently, supported the Templars, stood accused of plotting and nefarious deeds.

Things had gotten so bad that even Cullen, her second in command, had begun to question her judgment. Though he never admitted it in so many words he’d begun to shade the truth and then outright lie to her to keep her placated as best he could.

The haunted look he’d had when we’d first met, an artifact of some horrific experience in the Ferelden Circle, had faded in the first few years I had known him. Over the months after I was named Champion the deep circles beneath his eyes returned again. As Knight-Lieutenant he retained enough authority to do much without involving Meredith but he couldn’t have been more than ten years my senior and a good number of those he tried to command were much older.

Double Monday: The Double, Chapter 36

Dead but Maybe Not Gone

I took Urz back to where I’d found him and got a dead pyjack for a goodbye present. “Don’t eat Wrex,” I told him, rubbing my knuckles across his lumpy spine, “but the other clans are fair game, okay?” He slimed my leg one more time, rubbing against it, and then settled to his meal.

I said a fond farewell to Wrex, as well, though without the gift of vermin. He told me the Weyrloc women and children had begun to filter into the Urdnot camps. They would join his clan as his agents had defeated their protectors.

Then he relayed breeding requests from the females with barely-suppressed hilarity: several for Grunt, two for Garrus, and one of his men had sent one in for me. He seemed to have a difficult time getting that last tidbit out between the spasms of thunderous laughter.

Such a compliment cheered me immensely. Apparently I’d become acclimatized to the idea that everyone I’d met since returning from the dead wanted to get in my pants. I did a little dance of “no way am I sleeping with a Krogan but thanks for the compliment” and Wrex had to sit on that throne of his before he fell down.

Star Wars: The Old Republic: A Review for Solo RPG Players

Release Date: December 20 ,2011
Price: $59.95 ($379 if you want the Collector's Bundle)
Monthly Subscription: $15

I'm a complete and utter MMO noob (that'd be an inexperienced Massively Multi-Player On-Line game player, for those even less in the know than I). I decided nonetheless to take Bioware up on their invitation to beta test Star Wars: The Old Republic, or SWTOR as it's commonly known.

I love Bioware and I love Star Wars so what could possibly go wrong, except for the part where I had no idea what I was doing? So there I was, waiting for the SWTOR to start, waiting to review this brand new game, but still undecided: Jedi Knight? Imperial trooper? Smuggler? Bounty Hunter?

Half an hour before the game started I was reading through the SWTOR forum for some hints. I thoroughly intimidated myself by reading posts from people who had been playing MMOs for years, confused myself by wondering if I was supposed to be in a guild, and generally got so nervous I decided to stop reading.

This will be a long review so let’s be clear from the beginning: I leapt into the Star Wars universe as interpreted by the talented Bioware writers and the great voice actors with both feet. I played the game for three days, until five minutes before the test ended, trying to see and do as much as I could. Star Wars: The Old Republic offers expansive worlds and vast story lines that intertwine and split in interesting ways.