I hopped on a train from CT right after work and made my way out to the club on 36th street with dreams of some face time with Star Wars: The Old Republic. The new MMO due out on December 20.
I arrived at the location at 5:30pm knowing that doors open at 8 for the event. There were already about a dozen or so people in line. I quickly introduced myself and shook hands with a few guys at the back of the line. One was from Scotland who flew over for the con, another worked in Finance around the corner and a few other guys were blowing off work and wives from Jersey. The typical mixed bag of gamers. My kind of crowd.
Recently I have been playing Rift, which is I think the most current MMO, and TOR shares a lot in common. As you kill mobs that are part of your quest an alert pops up on screen, and to the right you have a heads up quest tracker. On the left upper it keeps track of loot. You can see the last few items you picked up.
The interface was flawless from the little I could experience. On the bottom right is your Heads Up Display map and if you are lost you can click it to bring up a map with you in the center as a cursor. The map is see through but you can follow your cursor around to navigate twisty turns. Fairly standard fare for good games, but surprisingly difficult for some to pull off. Dungeons and Dragons Online for example is one that does not do this well.
The gameplay itself did not bring a whole lot new to the table, at least that I managed to experience in my furious few minutes. The cover system is nice and I'm sure will be vital as the game grows, but the powers on the tool bar are reminiscent of the same button mashing brought to you by games like WoW and Rift. Hopefully the game will indeed have an efficient Macro system that will enable efficient customization of the button pressing. Rift excels at this and TOR should take that page of code.
From there I have little more to share. The graphics were good, but almost a bit dated! We have seen millions of screen shots and all sorts of videos of character progression so maybe that is the culprit. I do have a feeling however that the game engine may be a victim of it's own age. It has been in development for at least three years, having been announced on October 21, 2008. How much of the basic work was already done when that announcement was made? At some points I almost got the impression that I was playing an Xbox game on a 360. Know the feeling? The graphics were certainly good, and frankly with high action shooters you don't really want high res graphics slowing game play but I wonder if the very long development time has hurt the final game. Did the content overshadow the graphics? Having said that, the game textures were nice. The grass looked like it truly enveloped the toon and stuff far off had detail. I hope guys have the hardware to animate it.
When discussing graphics with Jeff Bass he seemed not concerned with some of the rigs described to him. Is this a good or bad thing? On the one hand you almost want him to say that the game is a graphics hog, that way you may get a truly ground breaking experience. On the other... it would be nice if a rig showing it's age could handle the game without expensive upgrades. Not every one has a power game machine!
So after my gaming I scored a couple of exclusive Empire T-shirts by answering Star Wars trivia questions, and had some free drinks at the open bar. I have to hand it to Bioware they spared no expense, though the chips were stale. :) I had some top shelf scotch and a couple beers, and paid not a dime short of tipping the bartender. There was no entry fee either. Bioware really threw the fans a bone with this event. Kudos to you for doing it right. I got to shake hands with some big names in other genres and make new friends with cool gamers.
Overall, my experience was great. I think that the game should come close to meeting it's MASSIVE expectations. It is playable and fun. The interactive quest system gets you into it, and the fact that you have choices between good or bad, and the game tailors itself to your choices is great. Quite revolutionary for an MMO. Most games have a relatively linear story line in which you are more of spectator watching events unfold. In TOR the story is uniquely crafted around your character and actions. Your friend can take part in it too and have their own actions influence events.
Here is some video! Nothing great, but it was fun. :)
As standard fare, the devs were tight lipped about any thing not already released. There would be no secrets divulged here. This was more of a "Come look what we created!" event. Plus we had some free drinks and good laughs.
I'm looking forward to playing with the friends I made that will be joining my guild, Jawa Nation.
If you want to join the guild take a look at my Jawa Nation blog as well!
Tell me what you think about what you have seen of TOR so far and what your expectations are!