Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling reports from the front lines* of the Massively Multiplayer Multiverse.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Just the Two (Four) of Us: Observations and Suggestions for Duoing in SWTOR


So I (and everyone else and their brother) got in to the "stress test" beta of SWTOR this Thanksgiving weekend. Reams have been written about the quality of the game and the story. But I think most people have already made up their minds about whether they are going to play, and we bloggers are all simply preaching to our respective choirs. I want to talk a little about partnering up with a single fellow player, say a spouse, for long term duo play. Chris over at Levelcapped beat me to the punch on one aspect of grouping:
Playing with two people is great; playing with two people who each have a companion is awesome. It’s like a wrecking ball swinging through content. To some, that may sound like the End Of The World As We Know It, but as I’ve said before, I’m all about the progress and, in this case, the story.
So I intend to play at least one pair of characters with my lovely bride, Sctrz. (An Aside: I want to point out that, much like others have mentioned doing, I played classes I wasn't sure about or flat out had not intended to play when the game goes live: Trooper, Agent, Knight, Consular. Their stories have me completely hooked; I now want to find out what happens to each one.) Anyway, we both roled the Imperial Agent on Saturday and Sunday. Now grouping with others allows you to earn social points, which are somewhat like faction points, unlocking titles and gear that you would not otherwise have access to. If you have a Significant Other Leveling Contract (SLC), this aspect of the game becomes pure icing on the cake for characters under the SLC.

One of the newer (for beta) opportunities for partnered characters is the ability to spectate the NPC conversations for the your partner's stories. This is great if you are different classes and and don't care too much about spoilers; it gives the player whose story is being shown a bunch of "free" social points (normally distributed by roll on the conversation wheel). The problem with roling the same class is that you can only ever be a spectator in your partner's story, even if you are at the same point in the story. Then they have to watch you. This might be good for those who want to see how different conversation choices play out. You can split off into your own story rooms if you want, but then you lose those few social points because no one is with you.

During the non-story quests (Are they quests or missions? Even BioWare isn't sure.) you "compete" for responses to the NPCs and this can be amusing if one of you is playing Light Side and the other is playing Dark Side. Everyone gets Light/Dark credit for their choice, but the player who wins gets to slaughter or set free, much to the dismay of the other (usually Sctrz, in our case, since I often chose the Dark Side.)

Another issue with playing the same class for your SLC is that, at least initially, you end up with the same companions. They can be customized, but not to the point where they don't both look like the same character. This didn't cause confusion, but was odd. At higher levels with more companions to choose from, this would not be as big a deal.

One last issue: if you play the same class, you will be competing for armor rolls. Different classes, even those with the same level of armor (light/medium/heavy) will still be looking for different stats.

So on Sunday and Monday evenings, Sctrz and I decided to play Jedi. She roled a Knight and I roled Consular. (The picture is actually one I had taken on another prior consular. [EDIT: I just realized all the screenshots I took automagically appeared in a new folder in My Documents!] Meanwhile, if you have Google's Picasa downloaded and running, it will make pictures everytime you hit Print Screen.) This went a little better for a few reasons, some game related, some interpersonal. Because I have a well-above-average sense of spatial relationships and map reading ability (Yes, I've been tested. Go Army!), and because I have soloed my way through countless hours of WoW, STO, and other games, I have a tendency to make my own way through the game world and expect Sctrz to follow. She, in turn, often feels like I am still soloing and she is just tagging along. So I made a conscious effort to discuss with her the questing options, what to do next, etc. I did say to her at one point, "You decide where we will go, and then trust me to get us there." From my perspective, at least, this worked better and we had less friction. I invite her to comment and you, Dear Reader, can get her side of it.

Anyway, having the two different classes on the same starting planet meant that we saw both stories (for the most part). If you're not interested in spoilers for the other class, jump into the story area with your partner, so they can get the social points, and take a biobreak or you can help with fights and such, and ignore the "cutscenes."

We play next to each other, within easy earshot of the two computers, and the SWTOR conversations tended not to sync up for various reasons. This was distracting, so we each put one earbud in and then could hear each other without our computer sounds getting in the way. I'd kinda like stereo, and we could use headphones with Ventrilo I suppose, though that would be odd: sitting in the same room, but communicating over VOIP.

The two classes complemented each other very well, even though before level 10 and the Advanced Classes, basically every class in the game is DPS only. She would jump in, vibroblade swinging, and I would stand off just a bit, force-throwing objects at the target and only occasionally swinging my blade. As Chris said above, the content is not difficult to solo, but running through it with a partner is great. Once we got our companions, around level 7 or 8, it was even better.

When we hit level 10 and finished in the starting area, we headed to the space fleet to choose our Advanced Classes and crew skills. It only makes sense to pick complementary ACs when you're partnering with someone, so I went Sage and dumped points into healing, while Sctrz chose the dual-wielding Sentinel, figuring we could depend on our companions to tank. We accepted a quest to the first Republic Flashpoint, "The Esseles." We thought we'd try it even though there were only two of us, with our companions. I was gratified to see a notice pop up that recommended "2+" players for the flashpoint. We got all the way through to the last boss without any real problems, but just couldn't quite get him down. I would've liked to go back at level 12 to see if we could down him, we were that close at 11.

[EDIT, thanks to Chris] One last thing about duoing with different classes: Unless you choose classes that are on the same starting world, you will be at least level 10 before you can partner up on the second world. There isn't really anything for the Sith to do on Nal Hutta, for example. We are only talking about 1½ evenings of solid play at the very beginning, however, so take it for what it's worth.

So DL:TR version:
  • Duoing with a partner/significant other is not only viable in SWTOR, but fun.
  • I recommend choosing different classes, but this is not absolutely necessary.
  • Even when you do choose different classes, it shouldn't be too difficult to stay close in XP, assuming you have an SLC.
  • At least some of the Flashpoints are perfectly doable as a duo with companions, but you may want to be a level or two higher than if you were in a full group of four players.
This wall of words became quite expository, even though I strove not to spoil anything. Once again, I was thrilled with the opportunity to participate in the SWTOR beta, and look forward to playing solo and with my lovely bride when the game launches.

10 comments:

  1. Ya know... you make me wish I had a partner in gaming to play SWTOR with now. :D

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  2. The only, only, only thing that kinda irks me is that unless you and your friends are playing the same category (Jedi, or trooper/smuggler, or Sith, or BH/Agent), you've got that prologue period to contend with before you can meet up with them. At that point, you might as well not even be in communication with them until you can hub-up after the prologue, for all the good it will do you.

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  3. @Stillwater, Ja it's a blast.

    @Chris, Doesn't irk me exactly, but I had intended to address it in the post.

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  4. I had the exact same thing happen with my bounty hunter as you. I picked it because the class concept didn't interest me in the slightest. Not only did combat turn out to be a blast on the class, but now I'm flipping to find out how the story turns out. It will probably be the first class I play at launch...

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  5. Playing with my hubby makes gaming so much better. Even better, 2 RL friends play and viola we have 4 for TOR! Seriously, we were laughing and having a good time playing together. It was buggy and sometimes frustrating (will Vette EVER shut up?!)but I am an Elf Fantasy type person, not a SciFi type, and even I was hooked.

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  6. @Yeebo, Yep, I'm settling into an Agent I think.

    @Cheryl, Agreed. I love playing with Sctrz. And don't worry, even with midichlorians, Star Wars is pure Fantasy, IN SPACE!™

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  7. So how did it work out with both of you playing Imperial Agents? I guess you weren't allowed in each other's IA phases (unless you checked off that box in the options, but I don't really know how it worked, never tested)?

    Playing the same class can be awesome, especially if you end up different specs. My husband and I did that in WoW when we both rolled druids, he was the tank and I was the healer, and we pretty much wrecked everything in our path. But we ended up having to roll against each other for gear and druid tokens :\

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  8. @GeeCee As I said in the post, I thought we'd be able to share the stories and conversations as the same class, but it doesn't work that way. Whosever story it is, the partner is just a spectator. Then they have to flip. Realizing that ACs can possibly complement each other, I still intend to role a different class than Sctrz. It just seems to work better. WoW is more forgiving in this respect, because the dialogue is printed out, and you're never "sharing" the conversation. I just feel the cons of playing the exact same class out-weigh the pros. Most of those are eliminated by playing different classes.

    To start, I'll be playing Agent to her BH. We'll have to decide whether she'll tank, DPS, or heal; then I'll choose my AC and talents to complement hers. The companions will make it easier, because we can round out the roles with them.

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  9. That's sort of the combo my husband and I chose during beta, but using the Republic classes. I was the trooper and he was the smuggler, and it worked quite well! We always play a healer/tank team, so since the Smuggler can DPS or heal but not tank, he went the scoundrel route and I took up vanguard duties.

    Along with our companions, we were pretty much unstoppable, though some 2+ heroics were harder than others and we had to strategize for those (CC, bounce aggro between his tank companion and myself, use my healing companion for back up healing, etc). It was a real blast!

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  10. That's our plan. Glad to hear it tested well. :)

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