State of the Rez: Blogging, the NBI, SWTOR, and Trove

It’s been a busy writing week for me despite my lack of posts here on Waiting For Rez. In addition to the article I published on Thursday— the latest installment in the Dual Wielding series— I have also had to work on a piece for a church newsletter. The topic was on applying biblical principles in the workplace and it turned out well after several drafts and a lot of feedback. However writing the article took quite a few hours over several days and I didn’t have time for much else until it was finished. I hope to publish it at least in part on this blog in the next week.


That’s not the only thing I’m looking to publish either, I have quite a few ideas I’m eager to write about. To begin with, I would like to participate more in the Newbie Blogger Initiative. I didn’t have anything worth saying on the first talk back challenge on gamer gate and I fear that the topic for this second week— kickstarter and early access— is not of interest to me either. However I would like to contribute another screen shot for Murf’s #NBI2015Safari. I have no idea which prompt or screenshot I will share but I love the idea and I’m really glad he initiated it. I What I will be contributing to the NBI is a piece with suggestions on how to edit content for clarity. Although I’m participating as a newbie this is something that I would like to write and I feel I have enough experience on the subject that I can be helpful to other new bloggers like myself.


As for my gaming sessions, I haven’t written about them much as of late and there’s a lot that I would like to share. For starters, Star Wars: The Old Republic is still my MMO of choice and has been taking up the bulk of my time over the last two weeks. With the 12x XP buff I have gained eleven levels—my Sawbones Scoundrel is now 46—and I would like to comment on the whole experience but that will have to wait for the next Dual Wielding installment on May 28th. What I can say is that the boost has had both positive and negative effects on my enjoyment of the game. I like the accelerated pace because it fits well with my play schedule however it has inadvertently decreased content variety while leveling because at 12x XP I keep playing class story quests and neglecting all the other types of gameplay I enjoy like Warzones and Flashpoints and Galactic Starfighter. As a result I find myself less motivated to log in. However my decreased interest in SWTOR may simply stem from the fact that I have reached that 6-8 week mark when the honeymoon phase with an MMO ends and I have to decide whether I’m going to stick with it or come back later. For SWTOR the plan is to stay but to take little mini-vacations by playing Marvel Heroes and Trove.

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While SWTOR is still at the top of my MMO list, this past week I have also spent a lot of time leveling a Dracolyte (now level 16) and a few other classes in Trove. On that note, another article I plan on writing soon will cover the reasons why I’m playing it (and why I think you should be too!) All in all, there’s something relaxing about Trove. I log on and immediately begin to roam around exploring, gathering, stumbling upon random lairs and dungeons, and learning the various crafting and progression systems. With the release of the golden thread patch on Tuesday which added several quests that provide new players with a little more direction I ended up with an abundance of Cubits with which I purchased a couple of new classes. Trove is one of the most generous free to play games when it comes to purchasing classes with in-game currency. Everyone raves about Marvel Heroes (including me) but in this regard Trove wins. By the time I complete all the quests I should be able to purchase at least one more.

Basically I have the desirable problem of too many great writing ideas and too many great games to play. The hard part is having the self-discipline to forego both when there are more important things going on in my life, which there almost always is. That said, things are quieting down a little and I should have some extra time to write and game this week. I look forward to doing both and sharing the outcome here.

The Fourth Is Strong With This One

Happy May the Fourth to all of you Star Wars fans! I’m probably not what you would consider an avid enthusiast— the extent of my interest can wax and wane with time—but it’s still one of my favorite fictional universes. Considering my favorite MMO right now is Star Wars: The Old Republic I’m thinking about the franchise a lot more now than I have in a while, so today I offer you three reasons I like Star Wars.

  1. Friendship Ties- My interest in Star Wars started with a group of friends from my high school days. I began collecting comics in Jr. High but as for the rest of my favorite fictional playgrounds, I didn’t know much about them until I was a senior in high school. Star Wars, along with Dungeons and Dragons, Lord of the Rings, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 were all introduced to me by this group of seven guys and as such any fondness I have for those franchises stems from the memories I have exploring them all for the first time with my friends. In fact, this winter I’m hoping to reconnect with several of my high school buddies with the release of The Force Awakens.
  2. Extended Universe- One of my friends from high school was an avid reader and let me borrow the Thrawn trilogy. I instantly fell in love with the Extended Universe. Since then I periodically go through phases where I binge on Star Wars books and since those first three I have read around thirty additional titles. Looking back, I would say the books are what I like most about the franchise which is why I am saddened by the decision to rewrite the time period after Return of the Jedi, turning my favorite Star Wars sagas into mere legends. What I like about the Extended Universe is the focus on family relationships, family legacy, and a deeper look into particular cultures within the Star Wars Universe. One of my favorite series is Legacy of the Force for (among many things) the insight it provided into the Mandalorian culture and the family and community relationships of Boba Fett.
  3. Theological Exercise- There’s nothing distinctly Christian with regard to the philosophizing about the Force that goes on in these books but they have still provided me ample opportunity to think about real life moral, metaphysical, and theological concerns from a Christian perspective. For example, the fall of Jacen Solo and the views Luke Skywalker expressed in Legacy of the Force were great illustrations of the effects pragmatism can have on our moral reasoning, especially when under duress. Even if the Force is fictional, a lot of the musings presented in the EU books are rooted in real life religious and philosophical questions and I like the process of examining different perspectives.

WoW Clones and the Point of Divergence

Labeling an MMO as a “WoW Clone” is generally meant as an insult. Such games were developed to match the features and mechanics of World of Warcraft in order to duplicate its success but in actuality the popularity of WoW has been a singular event in the history of the genre. To some extent the criticism is warranted. Foregoing creativity and risk in hopes of making a quick buck is hardly a development tactic to be applauded however two of these games have been in continued development for 3-4 years and warrant a second look. Both Rift and Star Wars: The Old Republic began by closely approximating the gameplay of WoW but since their launch have diverged along their own path offering players a “WoW that was” or a “WoW as it could have been”.

As someone who enjoyed World of Warcraft for several years, I am biased toward games of similar mechanics and feature lists. I enjoy storytelling on rails, instanced group play, and traditional combat but I haven’t always agreed with the development decisions Blizzard has made over the last 12-18 months or the features they have neglected to improve in favor of others. Garrisons for example are an interesting addition but the transmogrification system is grossly outdated. At a time when nearly every other MMO is improving cosmetic customization for player gear this is a significant oversight. And so I find myself enjoying the type of MMO WoW represents but not the game itself in its current state.

However when I take a look at both Rift and SWTOR I see games similar to WoW that have developed along very different paths. Looking at their evolution over the last 3-4 years is like catching a glimpse of two possible alternatives to the current iteration of WoW, a multi-verse of MMO development as it were. Each game features many similarities to the MMO they were developed to mimic but since their creation both games have changed systems, mechanics, and feature lists independent of WoW’s own development cycle.

Consider talent trees for example. In early 2012 all of these games featured three branching skill trees for each class and a pool of skill points for players to use in order to customize their characters. From the beginning Rift brought an interesting twist to this system by allowing each class to choose three options from a broader selection of skill trees called “Souls” and the game continues to maintain this approach. WoW on the other hand has eradicate the branching trees in favor of three talent choices offered every fifteen levels and relative freedom in adjusting those choices on the fly. SWTOR held out on traditional talent trees up until the end of last year at which point Bioware adopted a talent system of their own featuring three tiers of seven choices of which players could choose seven total across all tiers by level 60. There are limitations in place that prevent overpowered combinations (like players choosing all seven in the highest tier) but overall the system offers more choices than the one in WoW.

Did you prefer the branching skill trees that World of Warcraft offered prior to the launch of Mists of Pandaria? Rift provides you with that choice and from the start has doubled down on the character building freedom that the system offers. Or have you liked the stream lined talent choices MoP introduced but wish for a little more flexibility in choice amongst the tiers? Then you may want to try SWTOR’s implementation of talents in their discipline paths. The point is not that one design choice is inherently superior to the others, but rather that for those of us who enjoy the MMO model presented by Blizzard in World of Warcraft, we now have alternatives with slight variations. Sure Rift, SWTOR, and many other titles may have been clones of WoW at their point of launch but since then they have developed independently. For my preferences these two games offer features and mechanics that I enjoy more than those present in their parent MMO. If you enjoy World of Warcraft but haven’t sampled either of these “clones” in the last two years I’d highly recommend you do so. They may have been replicas at the start, but since that point of divergence both Rift and Star Wars: The Old Republic have matured into MMOs reminiscent of World of Warcraft but refreshingly distinct.