Thursday 8 March 2012

Hope is generally a wrong guide, though it is good company along the way

I tweeted the other day about patching both SWTOR and STO while Total War: Shogun 2 was installing, and a couple of my dedicated followers (lovely young ladies, judging by their definitely not stolen profile pictures) were kind enough to suggest a link to something that had been really helpful for them in Star Wars: The Old Republic. The fact that their tweets were identical was obviously just proof of the old adage about great minds thinking alike, rather than confirmation that a pair of randomly named accounts tweeting heavily obfuscated links were spambots picking up on any mention of SWTOR.

Being at something of a loose end I thought I’d take a look at what they were promoting. Convincing though the heartfelt endorsements were, I still took basic security precautions and slathered the keyboard with gin, drank a couple of shots of antibacterial hand sanitiser and donned a welding mask to foil the hackers who take control of your webcam then stare into your eyes to read your mind and steal passwords (I originally tried not knowing any of my passwords so the mind reading wouldn’t work, but there was a slight flaw with that system. After that I trained a hamster to randomly generate and memorise a password so to access a game or site I just had to command “Boo! Enter Dungeons and Dragons Online password!”, but I had to abandon that system as the week after creating a home shopping account with Sainsburys a mysterious order was placed for 700 bags of peanuts.)

Sure enough, three or four redirections later, the links led to a SWTOR levelling guide making all manner of AMAZING promises. Now it may be that it really is a fantastic resource and the myriad tweets are from genuine fans, but it seems a smidge more likely to be a scuzzy operation employing spammers. Much like a seedy Gentleman’s Specialist Interest venue, if you were seduced by the gaudy neon and alluring posters into paying the steep price of admission you’d probably find a couple of bored looking women in their underwear handing out information that could be gleaned from game forums with a bit of searching.

A levelling guide seems especially superfluous for SWTOR as I can’t think of a smoother levelling experience in any other MMOG, especially at launch. No extended grinding, no desolate zones with occasional token kill-quests, no “hell levels”. Sidestepping for a moment the question of whether a smooth, guided levelling experience is a Good Thing or Symptomatic of the Decline of Western Civilisation, most MMOGs have needed patches, expansions and/or major zone revamps to knock off the rough edges of launch and fill in the gaps labelled “ADD CONTENT HERE”. If you follow the story quests of your class in SWTOR you can hardly go wrong, and though they alone aren’t enough to get you to the cap you can also pick up solo or group (heroic) quests in the same zones, you can run flashpoints (instances) from the main fleet, participate in PvP or fly space missions, all of which net further XP; a levelling guide (or two minutes on the forums) could probably point out which is the most efficient, but if making a bar go up is your *only* goal, regardless of the mechanism, why not buy a pack of felt-tips and some graph paper and knock yourself out? It’ll be much cheaper.

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