Jan 24, 2015

Free to Play: The Old Republic Pt 1

So this will be the first of my free to play entries about Bioware's Star Wars: The Old Republic.

First some backstory about my involvement with the franchise to date.

I came across Knights of the Old Republic 2 back in 2005, picked it up for a good deal and it immediately sucked me in. I did two complete playthroughs right off the bat - first one hardly completing anything (only unlocked one character's Jedi path, side quests largely ignored etc) and the second I completed as much as I possibly could.

It was a blast! Fantastic, engaging story mixed with dialogue that (compared to anything else at the time) made if feel like you actually impacted the game by the choices made. In depth item system complete with upgrades and crafting to be able to outfit your team as you saw fit.

I came across the original KOTOR after that and didn't finish it. I missed the crafting system too much and eventually another game took over. Pretty sure it was Halo 3. I still enjoyed what story that I saw, but just didn't have enough of the crafting element to keep me as heavily invested in the crew.

I played Mass Effect and enjoyed it so when I heard that SWTOR was coming out, I was ecstatic. I coveted the collectors edition, was disappointed in the US only release, bought an overseas copy and jumped on in.

And I didn't make it to level 20.

I probably chose the least interesting class (Republic Jedi of some description), but coming from KOTOR2, I was expecting to have much the same story and mechanics plus item system that I had come to love. It didn't and the main reason was that I was no longer the special little snowflake. Elder Scrolls Online has had the same issue.

I wasn't the lone hero, collecting my crew to save the galaxy. I was just another face in the army and needed their help. I wasn't the leader, I was just a follower under the command of NPC's giving me quests. Like I said, I didn't make it past 20. I know it suffered greatly from content issues and the ever present comparison to World of Warcraft, which tends to kill most new MMO's before they have a chance.

So now I am starting again under their free to play system. I already am feeling the chafe that comes with most free to play mobile games - buy this special currency to speed things up, buy upgrades, get things quicker. Even more chafing was that they restrict Purple items to a pay-for-equipping system. You get a sweet piece of loot - but to use it you have to buy an AUTHORISATION FROM THE CARTEL MARKET.

They have restricted your choice of race down to Human, Cyborg and Zabrak (at least on the Sith side), restricted the character customisation options, number of characters per server (2 per only) and even rested XP. Only subscribers get the full offering, "preferred status" (paid for something at least once) players get what they paid for plus a few extras like an extra dungeon run or battleground queue.

There are the standard things like guild and chat restrictions, but they aren't so much of a big deal. I do think that their free to play model is a bit too nickel and dime for my tastes though. I have only just collected my first quests  with my Sith Agent, so we will have to see how these restrictions feel as I play.

EDIT: After trying to reactivate my old account (which WAS a subscribed account at one point), I found out that I have no choice but to call an overseas number to take off the security key for my account, which is no longer on my phone! Annoying as shit! Particularly due to free to play players getting absolutely no access to customer support!

SECOND EDIT: Tried to Hide Head Slot - NOPE! Locked behind paywall. Subscribe or cough up microtransactions. I don't think I will last long playing this. At least WoW's "trial" allows you to just play the game up to level 20 with disabled chat etc. I enjoyed raising my level 20 Panda Hunter and finding the BiS weapon and armour for him. The level cap was never an issue! I would prefer that SWTOR went that way because the constant micro transactions are ever present, jammed in your face at every turn and lock away so much.

Jan 9, 2015

Two and a Half years later...

So you know how in TV shows when there is something grandiose or incredibly naive said by a main character, then it hard cuts to when it comes back to haunt them? This is sort of like that, without the haunting.

Here's a quick recap of the gap:

16th October - Move home to prepare for Baby
22nd October - Start work for Virgin Australia as Pit Crew
2nd November - found out that our "daughter" was really our "son" (mistook his man parts for Umbilical cord! Atta boy!)
10th February - Got engaged!
4th March - Harrison! Surprise! (More on this later) Also, Bye Virgin!
18th March - New Job (Yay at the time - boo right now haha)
2014 - Harrison Walks, Harrison Talks, HARRISON LEARNS HOW TO PLAY VIDEO GAMES
October 5 - I meet Destiny
November 13- I Explore Draenor
November  24 - First flight in two years - aerobatics. And it wasn't all it was meant to be.
December 26 - I explore Revolutionary France with a guy called Arno

Seriously have just been nose to the grindstone building a little life for my little family. Aside from highlights, I have not been up to much. I add in the games at the end because I do want to talk about them, though much has already been said.

First of all the biggest change in my life - Harrison.

My last day at Virgin Australia was also to be my last day of being a "Kidult" (adult who really isn't haha), although at the time, I didn't know it. As I kissed Blondie (As my Fiance will be known from now on here) goodbye, worried about her expanding belly and Braxton Hicks (fake contraction pains) and headed off for an 8 hour bag room shift. Bag Room is how your bags get from the conveyor belt at check in to the plane. It is thoroughly boring. After an uneventful morning, I trudge in to the lunch room for my break and check my phone. Blondie is in hospital, but I shouldn't worry it is just a precaution.


The rest of the shift was a mixture of saying my goodbyes to some of the crew that I got to know and worrying about how Blondie was going. 4pm rocks around and I am escorted out of the security controlled area (having turned in my clearance badge). I check my phone. Blondie is in labour, I need to hurry or I might miss it.


Harrison was born at 0115hrs weighing a tiny 2.83kgs (6lb3oz) and I had the absolute privilege of being able to deliver my son. For all men who are squeamish about the thought of not only watching the business end of a baby being born, but catching them and cutting the cord - don't be. It is the single most amazing thing I have done and probably will ever do. No words can ever describe the pure joy that holding your firstborn for the first time.

Harrison was supposed to be born in April, he was 5 weeks early and so had to stay in hospital for a week so he could be monitored and fed through a tube. Once we got him home, learning to wake up to the sound of a crying baby is much easier than I previously thought. You become so attuned to the noises they make that the minute they hiccup, you burst awake and dash to their side to make sure they are ok. Super scary for a first time parent. As I had two weeks off in between jobs, Blondie and I managed to work around 4 hour sleep cycles. Feed Harrison, 2 hours later, feed again. In those two weeks, I managed to watch Dragon Ball Z from Raditz to Frieza. All the while nursing this little human back to sleep with a bottle (expressed milk, not formula). For the next 9 months, we watched him become aware of his surroundings, interact with them and finally move around. By December, he was walking assisted against walls/couches. By February, he was just walking.

It is amazing how quickly it all happens. It is more amazing how fast they learn after that. Since he began walking, we had to make sure we latched more drawers closed, bought a baby gate to keep him out of other areas. He learned to manipulate objects - pressing buttons, sliding doors, throwing items, riding his scooter - at an insane pace. He turned 1 in March and kept learning and learning, faster than anything. At 1 year and 10 months, he can operate a touch screen smart device ("Hi, who is this? Emergency? Oh god, our toddler got a mobile and called you, I am SO, SO SORRY PLEASE DON'T ARREST ME"), understand that the baby latches on kitchen drawers keep them closed so he can use the handles to climb up to reach the counter ("HARRISON WHAT ARE YOU DOING UP THERE?!"), hold a pen correctly, play basic games on phones/Nintendo DS, knows that spacebar makes daddy's guy jump in WoW (Here Harrison, have your own (not connected) keyboard), knows the mouse makes everything work (NO YOU CAN'T WATCH "TOOT TOOT" FOR THE FIFTIETH TIME ON DADDY'S COMPUTER), you drive the car by steering the wheel, the chorus to Lego Movie "everything is awesome" (mostly) and a million other things that you see and think - wait you couldn't do that yesterday.

In short - he has turned my life upside-down, taught me why my own mother was so worried about me growing up (its scary how much you love a child and would do anything for them), made me wonder at the intelligence of babies, made me tired, made laugh, made me cry ("NOT DADDY'S BALLS (OW)") - and I love it. Even after a crappy day at work, having a little one man fan club run at you shouting "DADDY!" when you get home, never fails to put a smile on your face.