When we -- the press and other fansites -- gave our impressions of Star Wars: The Old Republic, we were at conventions or at lower levels in the game. Level 28 was the highest I ever reached in any beta, and conventions set us on a predetermined path. At that time, I was completely impressed with the level of polish the game had received. I still believe that this game has fewer bugs than a good chunk of MMOs; however, there are certainly more bugs in this game than I'd expect from a single-player release.
I could probably spend a whole article just listing unintended issues with the game, but I do like to be the voice of reason as well. On top of that, I want to see SWTOR succeed. Therefore, beyond just talking about bugs, let's deal with the overall issue of why these critters pop up in the first place.
Visual issues are far from game-breaking, and I probably wouldn't even talk about them in this article if I had not pointed out that some of them didn't even exist in a convention build. Those of you who have followed my work for over a year know that I loved DC Universe Online, but one of the biggest things that bugged me visually was the situation with capes. I didn't like that they would constantly clip with the character body and get stuck inside the character model. So when I played the Taral V instance at PAX East last year, I specifically pointed out that my Smuggler's butt-cape did not clip over his feet.
Now that I've played multiple characters -- including some with butt-capes -- I have seen nearly every single piece of flowing clothing clip over various parts of the character model. In fact, these butt-capes appear to be the worst offenders. Whether it's the bottom half of a Jedi robe, the back of a Trooper's armor, or the loincloth of the slave outfit, they all clip poorly with the body on various occasions, and worse, they also tend to get stuck in the torso of the character model. For instance, every time I hop out of a taxi on my Sith Warrior, I have to jump up and spin around in order for my suit to fall into place correctly.
Although I could rant on and on about visual issues, we should probably turn our attention to issues that matter to most players.
The first time I tried a hardmode flashpoint, I was warned to stay close to my groupmates in the Black Talon instance because the final boss would bug and start one-shotting players if we spread out too much. Then when I ran Kaon for the first time, the group leader said, "I hope we don't bug this time, like I did the last couple of times." These kinds of statements are an odd trend in SWTOR. I've played a lot of MMOs; I expect new content to be bugged in most games. However, BioWare gave itself the reputation of being polished. The studio's mantra before launch was "We will release when it's ready." Why is it then that I hear about bugs in a good chunk of endgame content?
I enjoy running the Black Talon instance because of the social and dark side points, but every time I've run it on hard-mode, the last boss bugs out on me. She enrages really quickly, one-shotting at least one player, and the quest ends before the flashpoint is completed. Others have reported dying in random areas of operations. And let's not even get in to the infamous /getdown bug or the spawn point camping in Ilum.
My favorite bug (and when I say favorite, I mean that it likes me a lot, not that I like it) is the falling-through-the-world bug. I probably experience this bug a lot because I play a Sith Warrior, but it can definitely happen to other classes as well. Basically, if you leap to someone, particularly someone on a different level than you, and you are pushed, pulled, or grappled before you land from your Force charge, you will very likely be pulled through the world. Oftentimes, this manifests such that the whole world around you disappears and all you see is the background matte painting. But every once in a while, it does something really special. On a number of occasions, my client registered my landing point as somewhere quite different from my landing spot on the server. This resulted in my not receiving damage from traps and the like, but at the same time, I could not damage anyone either. The only way around it was to pray that an enemy player found my server location and killed me so that my position would reset.
A couple of my friends tell me that BioWare's Q&A is notoriously bad. From my experience, that's not the case. I ran into only a few minor issues with the DragonAge and Mass Effect series. That said, I did not jump into those game until after they had been released for at least a month. That could be part of BioWare's development cycle. TOR is a much better game after a month, right?
There is a trend among the bugs: They occur primarily at endgame. If there had been more endgame testing, then it's quite possible that we would not see these bugs at all. I cannot speak to pre-launch endgame testing other than to say that I didn't know anyone who was a part of it. I can, however, say that post-launch endgame testing is extremely sparse because the public test server does not allow you to character copy from a live server. Stephen Reid did mention that this will be changing in the near future: "We're working towards enabling character transfers so you can move your own character across and test new patches. Other ideas to allow the testing of high-level content have been explored, but ultimately character transfer is what we want to allow for everyone."
BioWare is making great strides toward fixing the issues, but PTS character transfers will allow us to help out the most.
The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!