I love live events. These nuggets of content give a static themepark game a sense of life as well as a break from the daily grind. Star Wars: The Old Republic is eight months old, and the newest content is approaching its two-month birthday. The game needs a refresher. A live event was certainly well-timed and much-needed.
Unfortunately, live events, like any game content, are a bit of a gamble, especially if you've run a live event in the past. No doubt, players will compare the current live event with the previous one or the best one, and if the current one doesn't exactly match up to the standard of events of the past, then players are certainly going to feel cheated. And despite my continued love of the game itself, I have to admit that the latest live event, The Grand Acquisition Race, fell short of all expectations.
The mistakes were obvious right from the start. BioWare released the promotional video for the event a day early with no announcement about when the event was to begin. Many of my friends in the game scoured Nar Shaddaa's promenade for any sign of a Chevin representative, to no avail. I had seen the announcement in the morning, but it wasn't until I had returned from my daily errands that afternoon and logged into the game that I learned of the forum post informing us that the event hadn't started yet. Event coordination 101 states that you should always have a date (or at very least a timeframe) associated with your event or people are going to assume that it has already started.
I did enjoy the set-up for the event. The Chevin are an interesting species, and had this event lasted a bit longer, I certainly would have written up a Holocron File on them. As usual, the story fit smoothly within the world arc and timeline. In my opinion, SWTOR needs more fringe and underworld factions rising to prominence within the current political vacuum. Using the Imperial Intelligence and Republic Strategic Information Service for the characters that are still loyal to their faction makes for great storytelling.
However, the impact of a story is lost when the execution is a mess. On Tuesday, when the event started, players could easily find the Chevin on the promenade, and of course, the quest that appeared in our mailboxes was a nice touch. But unfortunately (and for no apparent reason), players did not have access to all the items on the Chevin's scavenger list. To make matters worse, we see could parts of the quest that would be available over the next three days, but inexplicably, we were unable to interact with the items.
I understand that you can't "win" an MMO, but many people like to be the first on the server or guild or group of mild acquaintances to have finished a specific quest line or event. When a chain is spread out over multiple days without a clear reason or a very large carrot to bring people back, it's not more fun -- it's annoying and frustrating.
HeroEngine is actually a very robust and technologically advanced engine for creating games, and the technology the SWTOR developers have added to the base engine makes the game fully capable of keeping up with any MMO currently released. This makes me wonder why in the world it feels as if the implementation of the individual quests for this live event dropped us back six years.
During many of the quests, we literally saw queues of players waiting to be the next person to click on a world object that would not reset for the next three minutes. For example, when you attempted to unlock the crate with the Collected Writings of Tiethiagg on the Imperial side, you had to position a laser cannon to bounce off a couple of mirrors and hit a console on the other side of the room. Neat puzzle, right? Unfortunately, BioWare, in its infinite wisdom, did not lock the room for this quest behind one of those instanced-phased doors. So that meant that everyone on your server had to share the same console and only one group of players could use the console at a time. On my server, the line waiting to access this console spilled out the door and halfway down the hallway. It took at least three minutes for each group or individual to finish positioning the cannon and the mirrors so that it would fire correctly. If a participant hadn't paid attention to how the person in front of him did it, the wait was even longer.
The worst example of frustrating quests had to be the Akar Mediation Mask quest. This little number had the same faults of the Tiethiagg quest with an added griefing bonus. Clicking on a box in the middle of the expansion region of Dromund Kaas started a timer and popped out a sniffer droid. The next person in line couldn't click on the box until your timer was up -- yay. About halfway up the hill, the sniffer droid was attacked by a group of NPCs. Once these bandits were defeated, you clicked the droid to fix it and eventually find the mask.
However, once the droid became clickable, it was clickable by anyone in the area, not just you. On the first day this part of the event was available, a small number of players would cloak near where the droid was attacked and click on other players' droids. This didn't benefit them because unless they started the quest from the box, they couldn't finish it, so it served only to grief the player currently on the quest. I know what you're thinking: Just click the droid before attacking the bandit NPCs, right? Unfortunately, that was not possible. Once combat started, the game did not allow you to click on the droid. Since the griefer was not in combat, he could steal it from under your nose without your being able to do a thing about it. Thank you, again, BioWare.
Lastly, let's talk rewards for your frustration. If you finished the full quest line, you received a minipet and one of three possible titles. You also received Tokens of Enrichment during the course of the event. As you would expect, these tokens could be used to purchase items from the event vendor. For a level 50 player, these items are mostly cosmetic: a minipet, a speeder, a Tusken Raider outfit, and a bowcaster. (The weapon does have stats far below level 50, but you can add and remove mods.)
Don't get me wrong; I like that non-Force-user weapons were available, but unfortunately, half the classes and well over half the server population were cut off from gaining a new weapon from the quest line. It's disappointing that BioWare didn't think to add a new hilt or crystal or something weapon-related for Force-wielders to use. Again, event coordination 101: If you make a reward specific for one class, you have to make a reward for all classes.
Despite my misgivings over this particular event, I do believe BioWare will learn from these mistakes so that future events will turn out much better. Where do you sit with this event? Was it everything you'd hoped for, or were your frustrations similar to mine? What do you think the next event will be? Let me know in the comments.
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!