Dec 9, 2011

Posted by in All The Galaxy's A Stage | 14 Comments

All The Galaxy’s A Stage: The Role Player’s Hidden Grind

All The Galaxy’s A Stage is a regular column at Ask A Jedi with some lofty, creative goals.  On one hand, we will be discussing and exploring meaningful topics to support the role-play experience and community.  On the other hand, we also want to introduce the casual Role-Player to the writing-acting experience that can add so much more to an MMORPG like Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Share your perspectives and experience as we co-create magical story in that galaxy far, far away!

During game testing I had a chance to take a quick peek at social and alignment gear. And what I found was a mixed-bag. On one hand, there is social and dark/light sided clothing that offers richer wardrobe opportunities than you can get with quest gear alone. On the other hand, it appears that getting some of the snazzier looking clothing is going to take some significant effort.

Socially Acceptable

Social gear is gotten from social points.  Every conversation dialog you participate in gets you points. If you’re in a 2, 3 or 4 player group and enter a heroic instance you are going to get social points. Specifically, you get a point for each player in each response if you don’t win the roll, and two points if you do. When rolling with a 4-player group you will get 8 points when you win and 4 points when you lose.

But what does 8 or 2 points for each moment of dialog actually mean?  Well, the scale on the character sheet seemed to go up to at least a thousand points. I was not clear (since I did n0t get into many groups) as to how this works over time. On average there seemed to be perhaps 3 to 5 opportunities for dialog in a heroic quest. I suspect we will be looking at between 10-20 points per heroic quest run. Approximately 60-70 heroic quests will be needed to cap out that first tier of social points, assuming 1,000 social points is the target.

That does it! I hate these pants, and I'm simply done with this grind.

That does it! I hate these pants, and I'm simply done with this grind.

In considering these numbers this I will confess I’m of mixed feelings (and somewhat wary that I may be grossly under-estimating the required total). In my experience I have tended to luck out and found a social outfit that has worked early on into such endeavours. However, I’ve got a sinking feeling that social gear is going to be one of the more heinous grinds in the game. I don’t have a problem with heroic quests, or grouping with others on my class quest. But I do want to RP, and suspect I’m going to covet gear for characters that will take a very long time to get.

On the plus side, social gear appears to be moddable. This means enhancements, armouring and modification upgrades will lead to social gear that is far more functional while still offering the cosmetic look. With the right planning and assuming that such gear is competitive in game, this actually renders the need for an appearence tab somewhat moot.

In Perfect Alignment

I will confess that when it came to alignment that my Jedi chose light-side all the way. However, players do get the option, regardless of faction, to go for light or dark-sided alignment choices. Upon taking a look at alignment gear I will confess that I was curious enough to want to get a chance to try them on (although the lack of gear for the gray-sided amongst us is a bit disheartening).

After a few weeks of game testing I got my Jedi to Light IV. To get that I had to get into chapter 2 as well as use Diplomacy as my mission skill. Diplomacy is the only mission skill that can yield alignment points. It also happens to provide the rare resources for Bioanalysis (which is used to make med-pacs, stimulants, adrenals and impants). But it should be noted that I happen to enjoy crafting, and had no problem in working this side of the system. As a result, I could easily see myself getting Light V (the top level, which would be matched by Dark V) in a month or so of questing.

However, I cannot assume that I am a good representative of the typical role-player in this regard. Why? Because, I like to quest in PvE content and I like to craft. And let’s face it, there are plenty of role-players who will only quest because they have to.

The reality is that the really interesting alignment-driven gear appeared to require both high level in morality as well as a high character level. There were definitely items that asked for Light V and level 50. If you’re hoping a truly saintly or devilish appearence, you will have to work for it.

A Preview Of What Is To Come

Although it was not always working in Beta, I did successfully get to preview a piece of companion clothing by holding down the shift-key as I right-clicked on it (although that sequence may be wrong). At other times this did not work (I would get an empty preview frame). However, the potential for a preview (try on) feature before you guy is significant! If I can preview vendor-items then at least I can judge for myself if I want to invest the effort.

That said, I’ve come to a conclusion that clothing that results from both social and alignment points is a hidden grind for role-players. Personally, I will be fine with this grind since I like the PvE and crafting elements of the game, and enjoy taking some time out to play through the story and quests (which, let’s face it, is an infinitely improved experience for RPers over other non-story driven MMOs). However, I have the feeling that some RPers are going to be a little dismayed by this. Some RPers want to get on and RP. And this is a hurdle that has to be overcome.

Run, Jedi Run! You Have Only Prolonged The Inevitable

In the end though, this is an MMO, and game designers put in carrots to incent players to play. There is a shade of inevitability to this. If you are looking to an MMO as the backdrop to your RP, and you want that perfect wardrobe, you will have to take the plunge. If you can accept whatever wardrobe you get then this is all a non-issue. However, I don’t often bump into role-players who couldn’t care less about the in-game appearence of their character.

  1. John Eakins says:

    You get far more social points than that. I did 3 runs of the Republics first instance, The Esseless, and was well beyond the first social level (1000 points). At that point I’d caught up with my two roommates and their Jedi, tagging along with them through nearly all of the Coruscant content it was around level 15, that we hit social level 2.

    It isn’t much of a grind unless you make it one. It actually goes very very quickly, and given how much more fun the conversations are with two or three friends, the first handful of social levels should be quick.

    • Thanks for the clarification. However, for context, there are some role-players for whom even a single group run would be a grind.

      That said, less is more…RP.

      • I did just realize though, that Esseles is a Flashpoint and I was referring to Heroic quests. I agree that Flashpoints have many more dialog options than regular quests do.

  2. In the Thanksgiving Beta, I think that some social conversations gave different amounts of points (with same # of party members). For example, the last conversation in a flashpoint giving more points than the first.

    • Good to know.

      This is something that come launch we’ll get used to understanding. Theorycrafters abound and I’m sure alignment and social point formulas will be forthcoming soon enough.

      • Lord_Paladin says:

        Actually, you get 1 point per person in the group, but you get 2 points per person in the group if you win the dialogue roll. So in a full group, 4 points when you don’t talk,and 8 points when you do.

        • Indeed. But in the case where there are 2 members of the group and you lose you would get 2 points. Thus, the 2 to 8 point range. I did not want to assume that every group would be filled with 4 people, particularly given the ability for Heroic 2+ quests to be completed solo with a companion.

          • If the odds of winning a conversation is equal then you get an average of 3-5 points depending if you have 2, 3, or 4 people in the group.

            With two people, you’ll win half the time, thus 4*0.5+2*0.5=3. With three people, you’ll win a third of the time. 6*0.33+3*0.67=4. With four people, you’ll win a fourth of the time. 8*0.25+4*0.75=5

            So doubling the group doesn’t get double the rewards, and it comes at a loss of gaining companion affection.

            Food for thought.

  3. I don’t understand the need to rush and get everything so fast, I would they make obtaining these types of armors harder to get as it leaves a sense of wanting to play more to obtain your goal. And a feel of accomplishment when you actually do obtain. I hope they make obtaining cooler looking gear harder than what they are now.

    • But that is not how many role-players think. Consider this, if the actors in a play were told that they would have to work through many nights of performances before they’d get their costumes, they would likely baulk. It would be a stretch to hear them suggest that their costume is a part of them getting into the character. One only has to consider that the dress rehearsal happens before opening night to realize how important costuming is to the actor.

      And so it is with costumes for RPers in MMOs. Our costumes are a part of what we present to the world around us. What we wear contributes to the overall demeanor, and communicates subtle and not so subtle messages about the character we are playing.

      The article was not about the rush to get everything so fast, as it was a brief evaluation for those RPers that are hoping to get their ideal costume for the first nights’ performance.

  4. Great article, definitely gave me some points to consider. I like to RP, but in the past I’ve been more of a soloist. However I have joined a guild for the game and will obviously have some groups and parties set to go already. I think the idea of the social points, and rewards for the same, definitely encourage players to not just burn through stuff. Or perhaps play at a pace that’s comfortable for them.

    Previously in MMOs, I hadn’t cared much for armor sets from a looks perspective, just a functional one. The stats part was just over my head and I dIdnt have the time or inclination to focus on that.

    However, with SWTOR, I feel that the story and my guild will help make that “grind” you speak of more platable than other games and systems. It’s definitely a grind I’m looking forward to.

    • I agree with your point on support from the guild. This is particularly relevant for social points. One thing I found was that getting groups was sometimes a challenge. The main barrier in beta was being at a higher level than the weekenders and a lower level that the level 50 testers. Obviously, with game launch I won’t have the same situation but it did bring home the reality that having a guild means you’ve got people you know and trust to walk through a quest or flashpoint with you.

      Although that does bring up another point. Your RPing friends that know your character are now going to see your character make dialog choices that are not necessarily reflective of your character. There’s an interesting point of dissonance with this. It’s not a big issue, but it does remind me of that first cartoon version of Lord of the Rings. The way they portrayed the characters in that movie really did not match the image I had in my mind. And so, the images I form in my mind of the characters I know well will now be challenged at some subconscious level by what the game presents. Like I said, not a huge issue, but one of those quirks that will come from BW’s new foray into MMO story and cutscene dialog.

  5. Well, there certainly are ways to speed up the progress, in the last beta weekend I helped a friend from level one through ten on Ord Mantell and by the time we touched down on Coruscant we nearly had Social II in our hands so I guess if you want to get to the better social gear in a hurry that you need to group often and do as many non-class story quests as possible in a group. And maybe we’ll get other methods of gaining social points as the game matures.

    • I didn’t get the chance to group too much in game testing, but I’m hearing that grouping definitely has an impact. Thanks for the information and tip. This is why we discuss these sorts of things, so that the community will be wiser for it!

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