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Team Ranked in SWTOR: Part 1 – Set up and Strategy

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This is part one of my “Team Ranked in SWTOR: Player Perspective and Insights” series of articles. The content of this series is divided into five parts which will be released successively over the next few weeks leading up to the start of season 7. Thank you to all of the players interviewed (full list in the link above) and to all of the streamers who have unknowingly helped me write this article.

Setup and Strategy:
In accordance to patch 4.0.3

Like chess, team ranked is about being proactive in the sense that you need to be predicting the behaviour of your opponent. Unlike chess you have a split second to make a judgment call and all you have to guide you are cues such as cooldowns on breakers, defensive abilities and the enemy team’s stuns etc.  New teams tend to be reactive by nature but the truly successful teams are proactive by choice. These players don’t just have good reflexes which help them quickly react. They also have enough experience to alert them to possible upcoming dangers and opportunities. The less experienced players will see the vast amount of abilities that can be used at any given time as overwhelming but as you encounter these situations again and again it becomes clear that the amount of effective moves at any specific moment are quite limited. This allows the players to be more extrapolative in their playstyle and their choices can be made more decisively even under pressure.

 

Understanding your composition
Understanding the strengths and the weaknesses of your own composition is one of the first things you need to focus on no matter what setup you choose. This is something Morvin from the <FOXHOUND> ranked team emphasizes in his interview with me.

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The Winner Takes it All, or Collecting Things in MMO’s

A lot of social media space this week on my feed has been taken up by a Moose. This Warcraft Mount was going to be purchasable at some point before Legion. Instead the designers have decided that actually, this is too good an opportunity to pass up. So, as of Patch 6.2.3 that launched this week? You can only get one by defeating the End Boss of the Expansion on the two hardest Instance difficulties, Heroic and Mythic. The playerbase’s reaction to this has been nothing short of revelatory: groups of people offering to help the less geared and qualified with runs under the Twitter hashtag of #FriendshipMoose. Players who hadn’t even played organised content weeks ago are now touting Heroic Achievements and a new found sense of belonging. However, for some of us, this whole sequence of events is nothing new. There’s been Meta Achievements in game since Wrath of the Lich King whose rewards you can still gain. Blizzard now take the mounts away from Instances at the start of each new Expansion to maintain the ‘unique’ nature of the achievement. However, what people don’t realise is that it isn’t the pixels they collect to begin with. The ‘reward’ isn’t what you gain from defeating Archimonde, it’s what you find within yourselves that matters more. You’re not passing over money for a plush or a badge, this is simply a virtual nod to the time you took to go to Hellfire Citadel and make an effort.

So, why does anyone bother collecting anything virtual to begin with? If you have no real proof of your efforts, if there’s nothing to sell in X years or to leave to your grand-kids… really, what’s the point? A lot of this is tribal, of course, that for a new generation of players it’s just the same as sticking a band poster on a wall or sewing patches onto your jacket. Wanting to belong is a vital part of human behaviour, as is being able to use what you collect as a means of showing your worth. Every Moose that appears in my timeline (and trust me, there are many) is a sign that players have ‘completed’ one of the most poorly-received Expansions in Warcraft’s history. This is undoubtedly a good thing for a company who lost 40% of their sub base in 12 months over their inability to make compelling content. Suddenly, everyone’s in the one bit of the whole package nobody really had any complaints about: raiding. Maybe more of these people will raid come Legion: that has to be Blizzard’s hope as a result of the exercise.

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SWTOR: A New Hope

Saturday afternoon and I’m sat at my desk playing SWtor once again, when there’s a knock at the door…
“Uncle Marty!!!”, my nephew exclaims enthusiastically as I open the door, before he bounds in with a barrage of information specifying the events of the past few hours from the wonderful perspective of a 5 year old’s fruitful mind.

After going to shut down my pc to prepare myself for the obligatory Lego building session, I hear from behind me Layton’s curious enquiry when he glances at my screen. “Is that Star Wars?, now you can imagine I’m totally ready to nerd out now, already a fan of other things all star wars related I ask myself the question “Is he ready to play an mmo?”
I hit escape, go to settings>enable profanity filter. “So you wanna make a character Layton?”, the high five and grin that stretches across his face in response is genuinely heart-warming!

“So what character do you want to make?” I ask, “A Jedi!!” he replies, and proceeds to wave his arms around making the clashing & humming sounds of his ‘Air lightsaber’ moves. We make some modifications to his characters appearance, which he is keen to make look like a grown up version of himself. “Time to name him now dude, what shall we call him?”, “erm…. I like painting, so let’s call him ‘Paint’”. Seems as good as any other name I think so we enter it but the name is unavailable… I suggest that as play on his surname we call him “Bringonthepayne” after trying many more taken character names, he agrees and proceeds to vocalise his new creations name with glee!

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Maintaining a Gaming Community

What makes gaming communities strong? Why are we drawn to them? How do they tie in with culture and sub cultures? These are questions I’ve found myself wondering about lately. When I entered the world of online gaming I got to discover an online community that fascinated me. Gamers are very interesting and often a lot of fun to be around. These are educated, clever and entertaining individuals with wit and they keep things fresh when the games you play sometimes get a little stale. The stereotype of a sweaty, smelling basement dweller has, or should have been extinct a long time ago. Their creativity is not just evident from the innovative use of abbreviation and curses these players use to insult each other. Look at Minecraft and the worlds that these gamers create. Look at the fan art, the dedicated blogs and the YouTube channels made about games. I repeat: gamers are creative. They are also helpful. For every immature troll there is a friendly person who is always willing to lend a helping hand to someone who’s stuck or is looking for advice. As for the immature ones who are so very creative with their cursing, trust me, they have their place in this community as much as anyone. This is something I have recently come to understand.

THE CONTRADICTION

For online multiplayer games especially there needs to exist strong (ideally conflicting) sub cultures and personalities. Why? Because most of these games are built upon winning or losing. The community’s part in this is to define the value of  victory or success in relation to the rest of the player base which is vital for maintaining interest in the game. That’s why competitiveness plays such a large role in how strong these gaming communities are. A perfect example can be found in Mylex Asheron’s Call post:

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The Cult of Celebrity In MMO’s (but especially Warcraft)

In the interests of full disclosure, I should admit before we begin today that I’m at the more mature end of the MMO demographic. I remember when that Lara Croft lass was all pixelated breasts, for starters, not the realistic and clearly rebooted young woman she’s become. In between then and now, a lot has changed in gaming. Back in the day, streaming was what you did with a fishing net and Wellington boots (or possibly as a result of an allergic reaction) while the World Wide Web was merely a twinkle in Tim Berners Lee’s fertile imagination. Now it’s all Twitch and Kappa, plus that bloke who’s been dead for a decade still painting pictures. On top of it all, there’s a cult of celebrity that frankly puts early Norman feudalism to shame. And today I am here to stick my head in the mouth of a beast that frankly scares so many people I know into swearing they’ll never go near You Tube even if paid.

For a title like Warcraft, there are streamers now for everything. You have players of both sexes, Lore, PvP, questing, pet battles, farming vanity mounts and that’s even before I get started on the Gold Farmers or the Role Players.

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Knights of the Fallen Empire and how we got here

As I step into the story-driven adventure SWTOR has provided me with I can’t help but fall in love with the plot of this new expansion. Through BioWare-style cinematic storytelling we are offered a high quality narrative filled with well rounded characters, comic relief, dynamic conflicts of interest and many twists and turns in the story. This kind of single player like story telling is new for an MMO and we are all watching with excitement to see what happens once the chapters are completed. Will people stay for the end game? For the community? Is SWTOR taking a chance on a new brave concept or just repeating old mistakes? Before we return to dig deeper into the new expansion, bear with me for a minute while I quickly reminisce over how we ended up where we are in SWTOR today…

Developed by BioWare Austin, SWTOR was first announced on October 21, 2008. In 2009 the game’s first cinematic trailer “Deceived“, made byDeceived Blur Studio, was presented at a press conference and in September the same year BioWare began accepting applications for testers from the gaming community. Within minutes, the official website was down due to the high traffic. The increase in visitors was accommodated and a second  and third cinematic trailer (“Hope” and “Return“) were released. Books were also published to increase the hype. This was a great way to promote the game to Star Wars hungry fans and within three days of its launch SWTOR had one million subscribers, making it the fastest growing MMO ever seen. However, this thrilling success did not last long and in the following months the game lost a fair share of its subscribers. What happened?

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What You Want, Others Don’t Like :: Expectations in MMOs

My (utterly brilliant) editor tells me I need to prepare you good people for a fairly personal post, which this is. It’s been a tough couple of weeks at Alternative Towers, and it all came to a head yesterday when I was informed in no uncertain terms that I’ve no idea how to have ‘fun’ in the game I choose to write about daily. Needless to say, I know a red flag when I see one. So, instead of going and muttering incoherently about how people don’t understand me in a corner? You get this, because sometimes it isn’t just about what I want or what you think is right, it’s about making everybody understand the bigger issues at play.

I’m getting increasingly annoyed with being told to cheer up when it comes to how I write about Warcraft. It appears that, according to some, I just don’t have enough ‘fun’ any more, and that being ‘nice’ is far more important in most cases than playing the game.

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Extra Life – Gaming and increasing awareness

Throughout the short period of time that I have been gaming I’ve seen announcements for many charity events. In the very start this seemed like a strange combination. Gaming and charity? Really? We often learn from society to be skeptical to the world of (especially online) gaming. We hear much of the negative effects. The people who are a part of online communities that they genuinely care about are often made to feel foolish by people who are not a part of this environment and who will heavily judge those who are. I’ve written before about the positive effects of gaming for the individual. But is there more to it?

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Are you aspiring to be a better player? Should you?

A few weeks back I got into a bit of hot water by suggesting that Warcraft players could be better than they are by coming more prepared to Group content. In fact, my assertion that using a food buff plus a flask (+200 to primary stat) met, from some, with calls for me to check my own mental state. Because CLEARLY, preparation for anything is not within the remit of anyone else to suggest to players, let alone place IN A GUIDE. In the end, the arguments stretched from passionate agreement with my stance all the way through alternatives and suggestions. Maybe it wasn’t about the stats per se, but the willingness of players to show that they understand that grouping has a different rule set than playing alone.

What followed in the next few days was not dissimilar to the run of personal abuse I experienced when I suggested that players might not need flying for Warcraft content. Perhaps there was more fun to be had by learning to overcome difficulty as opposed to simply trivialising the content by flying over it. It is abundantly apparent that some don’t only dislike being told what to do, but will have serious issue when it is suggested they could play better than they are. This is not unusual across the MMO spectrum either: often, players will tell you how friendly their title of choice is in terms of helpful people. We all know those individuals who can’t take criticism, and we understand how hard it can be sometimes to tell others that they’re wrong.

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Why do we troll? – The toxic side of disinhibition

Back in June I did a guest post on Ravalation‘s blog discussing why we troll which I explained by reciting the result of the research done on “The Online Disinhibition Effect”. Later on I wrote an article based on the same research discussing “Why we develop feelings for people we meet in games“. To really understand why we behave the way we do in online environments I believe the disinhibition we experience to be key. Therefore I’ve decided to re-post “Why do we troll” on my own blog to give a fuller picture of what this online disinhibition is and how it works. Enjoy!

Having always taken a great interest in human behaviour and interaction I was intrigued by the world of gaming since I first came in contact with it. My fascination with online gaming and the communities that dwell there was striking from the start and it’s what I tend to write about. My thoughts tonight are revolving around a story a in game acquaintance of mine from SWTOR, let’s call him “Tristin”, told me recently. Long story short Tristin thought he had made a new friendship in game. He seemed very happy about this new friendship. Soon enough some very personal information Tristin had told this other player in confidence ended up in a forum somewhere for all the world to read. The person he had befriended wasn’t the person he had thought at all, it was someone having created a fake in game account for the sole purpose of trolling Tristin.

This made me think about the notion trolling. What is trolling? Why do we do it?

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