Official Kick Off Day of KOTFE 4.0a…My thoughts PT 1.

Star Wars The Old Republic-10-26-2015 22-41-35You know, sometimes there is so much to write you about you start pondering just how you will be able to get all of it out and make sense. For the last week I have been a part of the early access on SWTOR: KotFE and have been having an absolute blast. Key point in this release: STORY LINE!!!! Hmm let me make it clear just in case you didn’t quite get it…STORY LINE!!!!!! There. That should clear up any misconceptions that I have seen amongst the disgruntled Gammorean crowd (best I could think up for trolls…what can I say?). I decided with all of this massive information I wanted to talk about, I would go ahead and break it down in a series. How many parts will largely depend upon what I do or do not cover with each post. This first will deal with the story line and a bit of what I experienced during it’s process. Some game mechanics will be mentioned in the aspect of identified bugs and progression points. So, without further a due…welcome to SWTOR 4.0a! Wait a sec 4.0a already?!? Ya there were some initial mechanical bugs they were working on. Patch notes cover down on the issues, though I think other glitches aren’t completely addressed. We will go further into that a little later.

The Story. It blew me away! I hadn’t expected to be called onto Darth Marr’s fleet and requested to assist with an Immortal Empire incursion. But it continued to get better by the Star Wars The Old Republic-10-20-2015 19-49-15moment. Yes, there is a ton of cinematics and really I felt like I was in a movie at times. There was an immediate urgency to what was going on. And umm having a billion fleet ships appear in front of you with no where to run…ya I was already not liking this Eternal Empire. Now there have already been several walk throughs posted on the internet. If you want to go see someone elses’ game play go for it. I hate following those things because I like to see what happens on my own decisions based upon my character’s personality.  But death for people you know can and will happen. Oh and yes, there are old companions you can put a bolt through. I’ll give an example later. For the moment, I will say it felt like a race against time. I mean your current team is locked into the docking ring and can’t get on board or off. The Eternal Empire is punching through with assault troop shuttles and boarding every corridor. You are trying to make split decisions that affect the lives of your crew and those on board Marr’s ship. It ain’t easy kid! Ultimately it will come down to you deciding whether or not to go ramming speed or evac all the crew out. I’ll let you figure out what happens either way. Remember, decisions have consequences. Down the road, these critical decisions may very well haunt you or …you may gain new allies.

Star Wars The Old Republic-10-20-2015 19-33-58This is the basis for everything that you do throughout the first 9 chapters which have been released. Like I said, there are a ton of walk throughs, but it’s far more exiting if you just experience the whole thing yourself. Plot twists and turns abound. Of course you link up with Valkorian pretty damned quick. You also get to meet his charming children (Vaylin is my favorite Daddy’s little psycho child).  Of course you are offered the world at your feet. But what will you do? Take a knee…or fight? Again, choices my friends. Speaking of Valkorian, Darin DePaul did just an Epic job at voicing Valkorian! Really to the point, every single voice actor who participated in this expansion really really knocked their character’s voices right out of the park. I am truly amazed by what they were able to create. All of the main cast characters just made the Immersion hit right home for me.  So my deepest gratitude for their hard work and dedication. Hat’s off to Bio ware for choosing such fine voice actors. At any rate, you get grabbed into the story line pretty damned quick. Get ready for a roller coaster ride of plot twists back and forth. One thing is for sure, Valkorian (The Sith Emperor reincarnated) seems to be one step ahead of EVERY ONE’s plans. That includes his own family. Some of his lines are epic in nature. It makes you feel like you are dealing with the devil himself. Rightfully so, but again there are many plot twists involved. True to Bio ware’s roots, the story line is engaging and in my opinion some of the best work I’ve ever seen in an MMO. Their ability to blend single story with MMO is really outstanding work.

New Companions:

Well a couple of them are old, but over all new. You get to meet Lana Beniko pretty quickly as you come out of carbonite (a story chapter unto itself). One thing I am very Star Wars The Old Republic-10-20-2015 20-34-36happy with is that Lana got a makeover. Her hair and face were softened up for a bit more realistic appearance compared to her days during the Revan expansion. I’m glad Bioware did this, she just wasn’t very well designed during Revan. T7 comes to your aid pretty quickly too (at least on the Trooper story). But you also get to meet Koth, HK-55, and Sena. These will be your core companions during the story line chapters. Each one with interesting personality traits etc and it becomes up to you to meld them into a team…based on your decisions. But none to worry, you will encounter other companions that you can use down the line as the story progresses. It was a jaw dropping moment of coolness when I found out my Trooper got to use SCORPIO on missions. Ya and she is awesome in the combat zone! Rendering of the new companions was done with precision and realism as far as video games go. No, you don’t get to dress up the new core companions any, but really they aren’t that hard on the eyes. Since they are so involved in the story line cinematics, it probably wasn’t feasible to allow for their appearance to re skin at your heart’s desire. Or at least not cost effective in feasibility. At any rate, they just look so incredible in their rendering and voice acting, I was extremely happy with the results. It was a small trade for me to not be able to mod their appearance.  cool thing is as you gain influence with each of your companions, they become more effective during combat regardless of the role they play. Me, I love them as healers, it allows me to burn through everything on whatever class I’m running.

Star Wars The Old Republic-10-21-2015 21-28-36As time progresses, you really do want to get these people with high influence for you. Their effects in battle are noticeable during heroics and solo missions. Also you will come across some old followers in the first 9 chapters as well as new followers. Build their influence with you and they will back you in every way. As for the new ones, I guess I am most partial to Sena during herioc missions, though Scorpio is my close second. Why Sena? Well, a melee healer/tank makes for fun on my Vanguard DPS. Aside from that, there is always something comforting about her voice (another terrific voice actress) when she reassures you that all will be well during the heat of a fight. It helps her light sabre and her shields are always popping so she can handle herself as well as any if you get separated. Anyways, I guess everyone will have a favorite.  Koth is pretty cool too, reminds me of Han Solo. His outfit is something I would pay Cartel Coins for if I could get my hands on it. To me, that would be a bad ass outfit to own.


In general, the story portion of the graphics is outstanding. I did notice some stuttering on my rig during scenes. Now, I own a mid grade machine (Alienware) and that is something that Bio Ware needs to take into consideration. Not saying to turn down their graphics, but be aware not everyone has a rig to handle the scenes. The rest of the issues were more often inconveniences. The no pants issue and no weapons issue on companions still is happening even after the most recent version so be warned. It is also being noticed on mercenary decorations (personnel) do not have their weapons even though the stance looks as though a weapons is drawn. Some hair cuts are still clipping into heads and clothing. Getting into a taxi and then “zoning” to a new area only to see the bike or taxi becomes invisible. Most of these are not game breaking just annoying. Hopefully future patches will resolve this issue.

Lag on Oddesan:

There were actually 5 instances of Oddesan (the place where you start your Alliance to go up against the Eternal Empire at the end of CH 9) still had significant lag issues and delays between 2-3 seconds. Again, I checked my Internet Up and down just to see if it was on my end or through the router. So such issue. Any other area I zoned through (Planets for Heroics) had no issue with lag. I am theorizing this is because of the huge amount of return subscribers (remember early access time) was more than expected on my server Ebon Hawk. This will be an issue if more players sub to see the content. Again, not game breaking just annoying every now and then.

Over all, the Early Access was a pure success in my opinion. Are there tears and crying out there? Yes, and they have every right to speak their minds. I don’t mind their tears either, they taste like wine to me. The execution of the release is pretty damned good and I consider my monthly subscription as well invested entertainment value with replay-ability. There are things that need tuning, but over all I’m pretty impressed.

Time permitting I will post again in the next day or two on my thoughts about the new leveling rules, Mechanics for Heroics and other sundry areas of interest. So far folks it’s a thumbs up all the way. There is enough to do after the story line that I have no problem logging onto Logan’Varo and continueing his goal to build a kick ass alliance and take down the Eternal Empire!

Till next time, keep your blasters clean and your hyper drives Revved!

Quick Impression of Patch 3.3.2 Optimizations

Star Wars The Old Republic-09-19-2015 14-09-38

Iz Da Graffix Betterz? lol

So I got home last night later than usual and forgot to ask my wife to hit the Patcher for SWTOR to download the latest patch. First off, even with my decent DL speed, it took a good 20 minutes to download. I wasn’t too frustrated about it, just was a mild surprise. So I went off and scanned about the Patch changes. Hmm…looky here! Optimization for graphics! Faster Load times! Ok that’s really all I saw pertinent. Now I own a mid grade Computer (Alienware something something. I’m at work so the specs escape me). Normally just about everything is on high settings with the exception of shadows/grass/trees and anti alias.

Supposedly, the anti alias was optimized for low to medium settings. Hmm ok, we will give it a whirl. Also the over all frame rate was to be increased. Well, I did some test runs. First out in Yavin. Why? Because there are a tone of trees everywhere and grass that really start grinding against your computer graphics to render and keep a decent frame rate. Normally I run the grass/shadow/trees on low settings. If they are on high, Yavin chugs down to about 35 FPS. Low, they tend to run around 50-60 which keeps me pretty happy. So I kept the anti alias at a medium setting and slid the grass  and trees up to mid point. Not bad performance. The optimization for my system actually kept the frame rate around 50-60 on medium grass/trees. Slid it back down a little and was rocking at 90-100 FPS. So far, the test was going well. But the next chunky test for rendering was on Fleet. So I popped over to fleet to check things out. Normally on fleet because the amount of shadows and character renders, things can get a little bogged down as I’m peeling out in my speeder bike. This usally bogs down to about 40-50. On real busy nights it grinds down to 35-40 tops. Well, pleasantly surprised, I maintained a 60FPS with pretty decent rendering times. Overall, I would say BioWare’s optimizations for graphics was pretty successful. Perhaps not perfect. Of course I don’t have  a high end rig either. This however, was a significant improvement and allowed the SWTOR universe to be a little more immersive with their graphics. Thumbs up for this one!

Load screens. So 3.3.2 was supposed to be able to speed up your load screens as well. I got mixed results on this. Going into War Zones was definitely improved. Going Shipboard to any of my Starships improved. Getting to Yavin had a small speed improvement (maybe 15 seconds? Ball parking of course). But I didn’t really feel as though planetary load ins were improved much. I bounced around some of my longer load screen planets (Tatooine, Hoth and Belsavis come to mind…see the pattern there?!?!). To be honest, I saw no improvement on those load screens at all. It really felt the same as normal. Now, I looked at my connectivity and it was really solid. No spikes in up/down data speed. Pretty consistent. My wife while on line was not down loading anything so I don’t believe it was an issue with my connection. Thing is, I wonder if the data pipeline is still over all bottle necked from the user to the server somewhere. I’m just not sure. While it didn’t wreck my game, the supposed enhancement failed to really impress me.

Minor Aberration: During one Warzone, a graphic error in rendering the skyline happened to the entire group I was with. The sky was black. Again, didn’t wreck the game…just an anomaly. We all mentioned it while waiting for the battle to begin. We ended up wrecking the Empire BTW (my pvp toon is on pub side, my Pve toons are Imp side).

So, overall, the graphics portion of the patch was a decent success. I won’t go far as mind blowing, but it was enough to keep me happy. There were some bug fixes as well by the way. Ones I’ve never encountered before but fixed. I’d love to hear from you readers to compare your experiences with this new patch. Tell me if the optimizations have been of help or hindrance? Did the Download go well or was it painfully long?