Saturday, May 25, 2019

Up On The Roof : SW:TOR

My subscription to Star Wars: The Old Republic is due to expire in a couple of days. I'm still playing regularly, so I'd probably have renewed for another month if it wasn't that I'm going to be away for the first two weeks of June, driving around Andalusia and Extremadura, drinking wine and looking at castles.

I'll almost certainly re-sub as soon as I get back. I'll be starting a twelve-week course of chemotherapy then, a follow-up to my surgery earlier in the year, and it's very likely I'll be off work for much of that so, depending on how well I tolerate the drugs, I could find myself with quite a lot of time to play and blog about MMORPGs.

That's what I call a picture window.
It occurred to me yesterday that before any of that happened - specifically, before the sub lapsed - there was one thing I ought to do. Spend my credits.

Perhaps the most obtrusive and potentially frustrating of all the restrictions placed on Free to Play accounts in the hope of persuading tight-fisted customers to open their wallets is the currency limit. F2P players can only hold 200k. Preferred status raises it to 350k.

Is it that a lot? It sounds like a lot. Until you play you can't really be sure and even then it takes a while to judge. The income stream you see at low level tells you next to nothing about your future earning capacity..

Reckon we could fix a bungee rope here, Corso? I'll let you be the first to test it.

All MMORPGs end up feeding more cash at higher levels but the degree to which it changes varies hugely from one game to another. In Guild Wars 2, for example,the cash you get from mob drops and "quest" rewards does improve over time but any increase is functionally meaningless, going from a few copper to a few silver in a game whose economy runs on gold.

If you want to make money in GW2 you have to go out and grind for mats to sell to other players, or play the Auction House flipping game. There's no direct route to a fortune. In EverQuest, on the other hand, the monetary value of quest rewards increases very significantly as you level up and NPCs will pay hundreds of platinum pieces for commonplace, higher level drops. You can make bank doing nothing but adventuring.

TOR is very definitely at the EQ end of that scale. Last night I decided I wanted to reach one million credits on my Smuggler before my subscription ended. I'd already passed a couple of hundred grand to my Agent but that still left the Smuggler sitting on just over 600k.

Hmm. I didn't think it would actually let me jump down here...

It took me no more than a couple of hours running Heroic Missions to make the extra 400k I needed. That really puts the 350k Preferred Currency Limit in perspective. It's about one session's income at Level 50, which does seem astonishingly mean-spirited.

The reason I wanted to hit a million was housing. Of course it was. Housing is the one thing guaranteed to make me dig into my savings in any MMORPG.

TOR's housing is not at all bad. Yes, it is a hook system, automatically rendering it inherently inferior to all free placement systems, regardless of any other factor, but as hook systems go it's a good one. In this case, though, my desires had nothing to do with decoration and everything to do with living space.

First time I've ever seen anyone make a feature of lack of safety protocols.

My Smuggler has the Coruscant Stronghold and the Agent has the corresponding version in Dromund Kaas. Both begin with three rooms. Those alone would probably be enough for most casual players, were it not for the many tempting, locked doors. And the view.

OMG the view! In the Coruscant apartment, as you gaze through the huge, panoramic windows at the sky, you see the traffic streaming past, the cranes silhouetted against the horizon, the skyscrapers and the clouds. In Dromund Kaas you see the endless rain pouring down the glass, the city outside blue with possibility and longing.

And you see your balcony. Each home has a huge, curving expanse of flat plasteel just waiting for you to come outside and enjoy. There's a pad fit to land a speeder and the low walls above the fatal drop speak volumes about health and safety regulations in a galaxy where life is cheap.

Can you run inside and fetch me a cushion?

Opening each extra room in your Stronghold costs money, either Credits or Cartel Coins. Most of the unlocks are very reasonable. I'd already bought my way to the upper floors and opened most of the rooms in Coruscant even before I subbed, just as a way of staying under the miserly 200k cap.

Opening two stairways and five rooms had cost me less than 200k in total. All that was left was the Garage at 250k and the Balcony. The Balcony costs a million, twice as much as all the other rooms added together. And it's worth it.

I was in two minds whether to open Coruscant or Dromund Kaas. It would be very helpful if you could wander around an empty apartment before buying, as you can in EQ2. Maybe you can but if so I don't know how to do it.

I do know how to google though. I searched for "SWTOR Strongholds" and found a website of that exact name. And they have video tours. Here's the one for Coruscant. The part that shows the balcony begins just after the nine minute mark.

I watched it. Then I watched the Dromund Kaas one. All that rain looks better from the inside. I went for Coruscant.

Of course, had I thought of this a week ago, I could easily have earned enough credits to buy both. I still could, I guess, in the forty-eight hours before my sub ends. I will, eventually.

There's no need to hurry. That's the real joy of housing in MMORPGs. It persists more persistently than any of the supposedly persistent features upon which the genre depends. Buy a house and it holds its relevance, value and utility for the lifetime of the game. Tell that to your armor or your weapons.

You know spectacular sunsets are caused by air pollution, right?
If anything keeps me coming back to TOR for the long haul it won't be the story or the combat. It'll be the housing. I can imagine logging in after months away just to go out on that balcony and watch the sky change color.

I guess I probably should start thinking about getting some furniture if I'm going to stay. I wonder if you can buy a rooftop pool?


  1. Strongholds have some lovely vistas. I've unlocked the basic areas in most just to see the layouts. It really feels like the devs had fun with designing them and they all feel visually different from each other. I actually like the hook system over free placement because it is easier for me to lay things out aesthetically with the hooks.

    I do have one stronghold where I put my three banks (character, guild, legacy), the GTN terminal, and a few other useful bits of furniture in the entrance room. That lets me pop in and out quickly while I'm out and about on various planets. I use the Nar Shaddaa one as it was a freebie stronghold when the feature was released. All of my toons can get there without paying extra. You can go to the opposite faction stronghold, but if you aren't an agent or smuggler it costs credits. The lore is that you have to pay to get smuggled in. :chuckle:

    Oh, one amusing bug from when Strongholds launched is that it was possible to get to the opposite faction capital world, thus causing some unexpected PvP. You would go to the opposite faction stronghold, delete/deactivate that specific stronghold and the game would very nicely drop on that capital world. That got fixed, but I wonder if there are any characters still on the opposite capital world.

    1. That's interesting. I have two characters with Strongholds, an Agent and a Smuggler. They both have to pay to use each other's Stronghold but only 250 credits and the text does talk about smuggling themselves in. The payment is for bribes etc to do that. I assumed that was thje standard fee for anyone to use the opposite faction's housing but maybe it's more expensive for non-sneaky classes.

      The difference between hook systems and free placement is that hook housing is pure decorating whereas free placement is building. If you can put anything anywhere you can re-purpose furniture as building materials, something that builder-decorators have been doing/did to enormous effect in EQ2, Rift and WildStar.

      I'm not talented enough to do that (although Mrs Bhagpuss is and she did plenty of it for years in EQ2) but I can place one thing on top of another and that makes a huge difference in setting up a room to look as though someone actually lives in it.

  2. I've spent most of my credits in SWTOR on my strongholds. Like you, I just have the basic two. I never felt the need for more (the Manaan one is mildly tempting, but not enough to justify the expense). I've always felt SWTOR's housing is deeply underrated.

    The hook system is a bit more restrictive than more freeform building (though much less restrictive than people make it out to be), but strongholds have something most housing systems don't: An actual reason to visit. You can fill your strongholds with all sorts of useful items from mailboxes and auction house terminals to gathering nodes and exclusive storage space. Add to that the direct line to homeworlds and fleets, and I end up visiting my strongholds almost every session. They're incredibly helpful and convenient.

    1. I'm going to have to do a post one day about the utilities available in various MMORPG housing systems. I think there's a general assumption that most housing doesn't offer much in the way of utility whereas in my experience the opposite is true. I'm not sure how I'd go about checking ingames I don't play, though, because in the ones I do, a great deal of the utility isn't openly promoted or advertised - you only really understand just how many options there are as you discover them while playing.

  3. Good luck with your therapy!

    1. Thanks! It's kind of optional, in that it only offers about a 10-15% benefit on top of the operation, but I thought I might as well cover all the bases. I might regret that decision if I don't react well to the drugs but it's relatively mild as these things go and apparently most people do okay so fingers crossed!

  4. Another wonderful post. Tempted to check out SWTOR now thanks to you! Your blog has been a constant source of whimsical joy and entertainment for me. Enjoy Spain and I hope your therapy goes well.

    1. Thanks! TOR has been quite a surprise. I think I'm likely to stick with it for a while, certainly longer than I expected, anyway.

  5. LTTP but, sorry to here about the therapy but glad to know it is kind of optional. Here's to the return of optimal health!


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