Making (and Missing) Connections

Today I confused a friend during a conversation. The question was “what fictional weapon would you want to have, and why?” My answer was “a lightsaber”; she laughed, then looked confused when I said I wanted one so we could solve global warming. It made absolute sense in my head, a perfectly logical sequence, and it was jarring when my friend went “wait, what? That makes no sense.”


This happens to me a lot; it’s something I struggle with. I used to think it was a problem of me communicated badly, and while it is, it’s not poor communication in the way I thought it was. I’ve started calling it “skipping a few steps”. Here’s the full sequence of steps that led to my answer: a lightsaber is basically a ultra high powered electronic device that’s super compact. It’s power supply also lasts for decades at least without any real issues. Deconstruct one, figure out how to replicate the battery and however it recycles power/recharges, and you’ve got enough power to fuel a city in an object the size of your hand. It doesn’t seem to require fuel, it doesn’t seem to need frequent recharging, and it’s not fragile. Energy crisis is pretty much solved overnight, and the battery is small enough to power pretty much any device we currently have, with no emissions other than light, sound, and heat. That is AWESOME, and is way more exciting than having a glowy sword of dubious usefulness (as cool as it might be).

This is a (semi-)logical chain of thoughts that I went through in about the time it took for me to say “A lightsaber. I could solve global warming!”

I don’t think of this as particularly clever. It isn’t, to me, a particularly refined train of thought, and an assumption that I’ve had– that I’ve held onto for most of my life– is that anyone and everyone else is having similar trains of thought at similar speeds. They’re easily capable of making the same connections I am, and if they don’t, it’s because they didn’t think of it, not because they weren’t going to get there eventually. I wrote, a while back, about “being smart“, and in retrospect I can see that assumption in the text. When I make a connection quickly, my immediate assumption is that anyone around me can make the same connection, and to me it often feels like people who don’t are either disagreeing with me or questioning my mental capabilities. It leads to a lot of insecurity on my part, and a reticence to speak my mind, especially in person. It sometimes manifests as deep arrogance, when I’m convinced I’m right because I’ve followed a logical train of thought to its conclusion and just assume everyone else is on the same page as me.

It makes it hard to know when I’ve explained my train of thought adequately. A pet peeve of mine is having something I already understand explained to me, and I make a particular effort not to do the same to other people; it feels patronizing to me and I try to avoid it. As I wrote about above, I’ve spent a long time fleeting from the idea that I might be “smart”, because I fundamentally don’t believe I’m anything special. Some conversations and introspection over the last year, particularly as I’ve worked on becoming more open and communicative, have forced me to accept that, if nothing else, I make connections faster than some other people. It’s a testament to how ingrained my avoidance is that I’m conscious as I type this that the phrase I should be saying is “I have to accept that I’m simply smarter than many other people”, but the closest I can get is putting it in quotes, detaching myself from the statement and trying not to own it completely.

The avoidance harms my ability to communicate effectively with people. Denying my own aptitude makes it harder for me to communicate with people and connect with them. It’s a work in progress, but it’s hard to figure out feedback. I’ll occasionally have a spark of inspiration and share it, and I have a tendency to inundate people with text or words as I work my way through the thought process. Most of the time, what I get is silence, even among close friends. In my head, this resolves to “there goes Tam again, babbling about something or other”, and since it tends to kill conversations, I avoid sharing a lot of the time. The reality is that I spend a lot of time in my own head, and external feedback keeps me sane. It lets me continually ensure that what I think are logical trains of thought actually are.

For my entire life, I’ve tried very hard not to be that person who “thinks he’s so smart”, to the point where I’ve gotten really good at denying any evidence to the contrary. Impostor Syndrome is real and present for me, and haunts literally every single thing I do. As I’m forced to actively re-evaluate myself, I realize that denial is just as harmful. It’s hard to know where to go from here. Work in progress.


I’ve laughed with a lot of games lately. It makes me realize how high the writing bar for games has risen over the past few years. Whereas I’m seeing a lot of indie titles and smaller games play with fourth-wall meta-humor, at the other end of the spectrum I’m seeing a lot of high-production-value AA and AAA titles really focus on the quality of their writing, and branch out in different directions. One of the directions I’ve been most impressed by is humor. I actually had to step away from Tales of Zestiria today because I was laughing so hard at a particular scene.


Something I’m seeing a lot more of is topical, in-world humor. There are, broadly, two ways to get a laugh in a game. You can set up a joke that’s funny for the player but isn’t actually a joke in the context of the game, and you can set up a joke that’s funny in the context of the game and makes the player laugh, too. The second one is much, much more difficult to write, yet I’m starting to see it more in games.

As an example, KOTOR’s HK-47 is an example of the first kind of humor. HK-47’s thinly veiled menace and explicit, utter vehemence can be pretty funny, for you as the player. As the character standing right next to HK-47, he’s concerning at best and outright horrifying at worst; there’s no laughing along with his lines without being an utter psychopath. HK-47 separates you from the game world, and nods to you as the player while ignoring the character representing you in the world. In a similar vein, pop-culture references and other, similar in-jokes are another example– funny to you as the player but meaningless or tasteless for the character. Both are a LOT easier to write than jokes that are funny in-context.

In-context jokes are the kind of thing that would legitimately make a character in the game world laugh if they heard them. A lot of times these are one-liners, but you can get a more deliberate setup. They’re a lot more difficult to write because you have to have spent a lot of time setting up the game world’s environment and character personalities and, in general, laying down the ‘rules’ for how the world works and what social mores exist before the joke makes sense. Even then, it can fall flat if the player isn’t invested in the setting, or if you get the timing wrong and have an NPC laugh just a bit too early, or the wrong way, or deliver a line anything less than perfectly. It’s pretty rare that you laugh alongside an NPC in a game, because getting that timing down is not easy.


Mostly, this is the result of witty banter between characters, but sometimes it’s even subtler than that. Recently, I played a game where the characters ran across a landmark and, while looking at it, one of my party members made an absolutely awful pun which was followed by another character firing off a snappy quip, which made me chuckle. What got me was having yet another character, randomly while walking a little bit later, pipe up with “OH! I just got it!”, sparking another snappy quip that I (alongside some other party members) laughed at. A little bit later, that character pipes up AGAIN, having just gotten the original snappy comeback, and I found myself waiting for the other (third?) shoe to drop as we caught up to the last joke made at her expense. Just as I’d nearly forgotten about it (this is minutes later, as I wander through a dungeon), the character making the quips checks in: “Did you… not get that last joke?” as other party members (and I) snicker. The game actually waited until I was in combat, fighting for my life, to have the character go “OH! THAT WAS THE JOKE!” in response to the boss saying something vaguely reminescent of a previous quip.

Put another way, any time you “had to be there” for a joke to work, it’s probably an in-context joke. They’re a LOT harder to pull off, yet I’ve seen them in a bunch of games lately.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a bunch of credit not only to Tales of Zestiria for making me laugh, but also Knights of the Fallen Empire, the new SWTOR expansion. The writing team really nailed the humor in that expansion pack, and it really works through a lot of the content. It manages to balance serious characters who I legitimately look forward to bringing down with moments that crack me up or just make me happy in general. Pacing is really important, and having some laughs throughout the experience really helps.


It’s something I really notice when I go back and play older games. The writing quality just isn’t there, most of the time, and the sense of timing and pacing is much, much poorer, when it exists at all. I suspect a lot of it has to do with modern games’ shift towards voice acting, which helps deliver comedy a lot, but it isn’t just that. We’ve gotten better at writing, for the most part, and so when writing isn’t quite as good it’s really noticeable. I do a lot more laughing *at* older games than laughing *with* older games.

All of that having been said, I’m glad to be laughing as I play games. Delivering depressing sadness and yanking at heartstrings in all of my game releases has gotten a bit old; I can see the setups coming a mile away at this point, and I’m getting numb to them. A good laugh, though, catches me by surprise. It’s great.

Aggrochat GOTM: Secrets of Grindea

Secrets of Grindea is a great little jaunt through a Zelda-style world with a ton of RPG-style character customization and a lot of self-aware humor. It’s like Children of Mana meets A Link to the Past, and it’s frankly delightful. It’s probably the only Steam Early Access game that I haven’t minded playing before it’s finished, and for me that Early Access tag is often a great big warning sign: “Wait for a while to see if this actually releases before playing”.


One of the comments that came up on the podcast is that SoG is a retro-styled game that isn’t relying exclusively on nostalgia to prop it up. It’s a great description, and I pretty much completely agree with it. It’s the Zelda game that Nintendo will never make, because it’s designed for people who grew up on Zelda but have since moved on to more challenging, more complex games. Secrets of Grindea delivers on that– the bosses are MUCH more complicated and difficult than Zelda bosses, and progression is similarly advanced.

My two biggest complaints with the game are the animation delay when swinging your weapon– it’s a gorgeous animation but it stops you dead, so it’s very difficult to stay mobile as a melee character– and the lack of a reasonable “full respec” option. Ashgar says this has a lot more to do with the fact that we played co-op (did I mention this game has a perfectly reasonable co-op story mode?) and thus had XP coming in a lot faster than money, but this is the sort of thing that needs a rebalance pretty badly. Presumably that’s something that can be done in the Early Access phase. Anyway, I found it easy to get locked into a build that I couldn’t do much about and wasn’t as functional as I would’ve liked. On the other hand, I thought it was awesome being able to fill in party roles in co-op; Kodra was playing a character build that would have been entirely untenable had he been playing solo, but was both functional and awesome in a group.


The game cheerfully pokes fun at RPG and Zelda tropes without forgetting that both of those types of games are genuinely fun and awesome. A lot of parody games fall into the trap of just blasting away at a particular genre in the guise of “parody” and forget that there’s a reason people like those games in the first place. Secrets of Grindea hits a nice balance of both parody and genuine cheer, and it takes some jokes seen elsewhere and pulls them off extremely well.

The best part about this game, for me, is the co-op multiplayer. This is probably not a shocker to anyone– I’ve talked a lot about how much I like small-group multiplayer co-op, but SoG reminds me that I almost don’t care about the genre; running around a game with my friends experimenting is a lot of fun. One thing I want in Grindea (though it looks like it’ll be added, given some of the NYI progression options) is a stronger “support” playstyle, with some heals and protection. It would really round out the rest of the group, which is mostly super defensive or super offensive, but lacks terribly much in the way of force multipliers. Another thing I think would be interesting to see is some more battlefield control options, slows and binds and knockbacks and whatnot– possibly I just didn’t see them in our playthrough, but they seemed relatively rare.

Secrets of Grindea 1

All in all, though, the game is a lot of fun and I have no problem recommending it, even as an Early Access title. Even the unfinished story was fun enough to be worth the price of the game, and there’re updates coming apparently fairly regularly.


I don’t get to talk much about the games I’m playing anymore. I’ve gotten very good at talking around them, being suggestive but vague, so as to avoid the constant concern about spoilers. It’s not very satisfying. Some of the most impressive game experiences I’ve had have been reduced to “it’s really neat!” and a desperate hope that someone else I know plays through it so that I can talk about it openly. It doesn’t happen much, but there’s always the possibility that someone is going to play whatever game, so I still can’t talk about it.


It’s frustrating for me, because games are a social space. I may have mentioned previously that I don’t watch TV on my own, and the quick, flippant explanation I give is that years of interactive media have made me fidgety when just watching a show, and I like to have someone else around to talk to and share the experience with. That latter part is very true, but it’s also because what I want is someone to talk to about what I’ve experienced, who I know is in the same place I am. The delicate dance around spoilers runs extremely deep, and I catch myself shushing people who are a little too open about them, and hating myself for it. As before, games are social for me, and if I can’t talk about them, what’s the point?

I get similarly antsy when there’s nothing my friends and I are playing together. Without someone to share the experience with, games and honestly, most media feel someone empty and uninteresting. This doesn’t necessarily mean multiplayer, and in fact often doesn’t– it just means we’re in the same place and experiencing the same things, so we naturally have something to talk about.


It calls to mind the experience of playing Heavensward. Twenty or thirty of us were hanging around regularly, NOT talking about the game we were all playing together, dancing delicately around spoilers. By the time we actually talked about it (relegated to a specific Aggrochat episode, where the reins were off), the exciting glow of the experience had dimmed somewhat. The Aggrochat Game of the Month has a similar effect– we all play the game together but often pointedly avoid talking about it until “it’s time”. I’ve started playing the GotMs a lot closer to time, just so they’re fresher in my mind when we talk about them.

My game is coming up for our Game of the Month, and I’m hoping I can talk the rest of the crew into a) not keeping mum about it until the show and b) keeping the muzzle off for spoilers. It’s going to be a big enough game that we can all go our separate ways and do different things; in this case I think spoilers might actually add to the experience we all have rather than detract.


Really, though, I just want to talk about the experiences I’m having without worrying that someone is going to jump down my throat about sharing them. I’ve long since passed the point where I find experiences for their own sake terribly compelling; my experiences have meaning when shared with other people. I respect other people’s wishes to keep said experiences pristine and fresh and new, but I’ve realized that in so doing, I’m denying myself a huge part of the enjoyment I get.

I don’t know of a good solution to this. I know that it’s lately left me listless about various games I’m playing, even the compelling ones. Maybe I’m just waiting for a kickstart.

Something Completely Different

I talk a lot about MMOs, and what I see as their slow decline. I really don’t want to give the impression that I’m down on MMOs as a medium, or that I don’t think a lot of the entries into the genre have been great games. I just look at the horizon and see fewer and fewer notable MMOs coming out, and that concerns me. It reminds me of adventure games back in the ’90s, as fewer and fewer with higher and higher budgets would come out and, if not flop, not set the world on fire. It makes for a saturated market and a very Red Ocean effect. Red Ocean is really bad for MMOs, because the advantage lies with the established games. I haven’t seen an MMO push really hard into the Blue Ocean side of things in a long time, and a lot of the rest have followed a pattern: launch, lose a ton of staff after the first month or three, slowly rebuild until you either lose relevance or slowly build back to something stable and growing (usually this takes a year or more).


From the standpoint of someone who wants to see the games industry move forward and be more stable and secure to work in, this is a really bad loop. It means that MMOs lose key staff right at the end of a project, people who (often rightly) assume that there will be big cuts and move on before they happen. It means that turnover is huge, and games lose tons of talented people right after launch, driving up that month-or-three player dropoff statistic. It means that the thing everyone talks about when making an MMO is minimizing risk, because they’re already seen as insanely risky endeavors, so the “safe bet” is to stick close to the experience people expect and make the Red Ocean even redder.

There’s a particular experience you can get right now in an MMO, where you level up your character through a largely static world and get more abilities (to put on your bar) while collecting loot and probably, at the end, raiding some dungeons. It’s a great experience, and I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit. There are a LOT of options for that right now. There’s a notable MMO offering that kind of experience in pretty much every major genre, often multiple times, and they’re still updating and healthy. I know a great many people who are still enjoying that kind of experience, and they’re getting it. I think that’s awesome, and if you want that kind of experience in an MMO, I think you’re spoiled for choice. Many of the ones that have stuck around are quite good, and if you didn’t like one previously, it’s probably worth your time to go back and take another look, years on, because it’s probably been fixed up and updated since then.

There’s an experience that’s faltered in the meantime. It’s been a really long time since I played an MMO that made me feel wary about pushing forward, as fast as possible. I haven’t been lost in an MMO in more than a decade. I haven’t felt like I’ve been exploring for any purpose other than to fill in a map. These worlds carry no secrets anymore, or they’re so rare that only a precious few lucky players get to enjoy them before they’re known by all.



I don’t feel like the kind of game I’m talking about is forever lost. As you may have heard on this week’s podcast, Ash is cynical, and suggests that the rise of datamining and information sites have killed the idea of MMOs with secrets stone dead. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, it just requires that a development team build their world with secrets and adaptation in mind and not immediately throw up their hands and say “nope, everything we do will be on the internet in a matter of minutes”. I think that it’s possible for a game to continually surprise you and keep you guessing, even if a lot of the variables are known. Our data collection in MMOs is good enough that we could come up with a lot of very interesting procedural content just by plugging in the data streams.

Consider a situation where the mobs you fight in various areas “learn” from how players kill them. As time passes, they change their ability sets and their behavior to better answer the ways players approach them, forcing the playerbase as a whole to change its tactics on a regular basis. It’s somewhat similar to the Diablo escalation, where mobs start getting new and varied “types” that make you change how you approach them, and as I understand it it’s one of the most compelling parts of that game’s replayability. Provided it’s possible to quickly alter your approach to combat (which I think is also important to keeping an MMO fresh), you’d turn a lot of “trash mobs” into legitimate encounters without a lot of overhead. Even if players know every ability a mob COULD have, which ones they’re using at any given time are going to constantly change. You can even tie this to mob types, so you learn to look at mobs and determine how much and how fast they’d learn. I harp a lot on the concept of “trash mobs” vs “encounters”, and I feel like there’s space for a game where the ratio of those two things is a lot more even. There’s very little reason other than a kind of “me too” mentality that you couldn’t run into more interesting encounters on a regular basis.


As another example, you’re probably familiar with “zone sweepers”. They’re the Holly Windstalkers, the Sons of Arugal, and the Fel Reavers of MMOs, big, powerful monsters that severely outclass both the other monsters in the area and the players that are expected to be around. They exist for you to run from, die to, and come back for revenge. It’s a really simple but effective way to break up your otherwise unchanging play loop of “go here, kill things, turn in”, but mostly it does this by frustrating you. I like friction, and I think a certain amount of frustration is good for an MMO experience, but zone sweepers amount to a DM saying “haha, gotcha”. I’d rather these be scaled appropriately for your level but be dungeon- or raid-boss complexity. Make them scary and punishing but beatable, and not just by getting your numbers higher than theirs. If they become genuine encounters, rather than random punishment, they become more interesting, even if you still die to them a lot. You know you had a chance. With the above system in place, those zone sweepers could simply learn faster than the others, and be more inclined to surprise you. If you want to get fancy about it, you could have them “pass their knowledge” to other mobs, updating them as they path nearby and allowing you to target them to prevent the entire area from evolving. For a player farming a space, it adds a layer of meta-gameplay, and if the space is crowded, it would periodically get thinned out by a smart, predatory zone sweeper, keeping things fresh and a little bit scary.

I talk a lot about the “world being scary” as a direction for MMOs. I think there are a couple things contributing to the current state of the genre. PvP is, in theory, a continually fresh, continually challenging gameplay feature that takes very little work to maintain and keeps players interested. Making a game more “hardcore” tends to gravitate towards adding more PvP. I think that’s a mindset that doesn’t really take into account how the MMO audience has evolved since WoW. PvP players were already a minority in MMOs before WoW, and things like UO’s Trammel should have made it clear that players want compelling PvE. WoW has made PvP players even more of a minority, yet there’s this strange, lingering mentality that PvP is a magic button for players who want a compelling, fresh challenge. I also think there’s a sense of worry that if the PvE game is too difficult, people will leave. I can hear the Creative Directors scoffing now: “If you make a game with hard, scary PvE all over the place, you’ll have players leave before the end of the first month!” To that I say: it was going to happen anyway; that’s a risk I think is worth exploring.


There’s space, I think, for an MMO that breaks from the usual approaches and tries something radically different for the genre. The success of Destiny should speak volumes to that– despite all of its issues, which would have absolutely crippled a more “standard” MMO out of the gate, it still was fresh enough and interesting enough to bring a wide group of players in and stay interesting long enough for the team to work through and fix/stabilize things, and what I know of The Taken King is that it’s great. In a similar vein, Guild Wars 2 broke heavily from the usual MMO mold, and while some of the things it tried didn’t work terribly well, it still managed to be different enough and compelling enough to keep players while they made changes and stabilized themselves, where other studios would have laid off half their staff.

I’d like to see more “different”. I want to see MMOs launch that I think are neat but don’t want to play, the way I do with shooters and action games and other genres– it means that the genre is healthy and continually evolving.


Someone I used to work with used the “fives” metaphor for MMOs, though I’ve also heard it as “eights”. Basically, you need an answer to the question of “what is the player doing in five seconds?” “five minutes?” “five hours?” “five days?” “five weeks?” “five months?”. I think MMOs do some of these better than others. Five seconds is a combat moment, it’s that cool combo you pull off, that timely stun, that charged-up finisher. We’re pretty good at those in the hotbar space, but we’re still figuring them out in the more action-driven spaces. Five minutes is a quest step, or a few fights. It’s you scoping out a mob camp and figuring out how to take it on, or putting together something you’re crafting. Five hours is a level or two, or a zone, or collecting materials for an epic crafting pursuit. Each of these are like wheels, things that may turn multiple times in each five-[whatever] increment, enough to see the entire arc of gameplay in that block a few times.



It starts to get a bit blurry after that. As more MMOs have come out, we’ve seen the levelling pace speed up. World of Warcraft has a lot to do with this. One of the things that WoW gave us was lots of people at max level, one of the first MMOs to really allow this. At WoW’s release, it took mere months to get to level 60; now it takes a few days. It’s set a breakneck levelling pace that other games have to at least appear to match, or feel painfully slow and dull by comparison. Now, five weeks is a max-level character, if it even takes that long. Five days for the most dedicated. I don’t think we even answer the “five months” question anymore; I can’t think of a game that gives me projects that take five months to accomplish anymore.

Other games do this as well. Very few talk about “weeks” or “months”; most non-MMO games don’t even pretend that people play them that long. 30 hours is a long time; 10-12 is more common. I put about 20-30 hours into Infamous: Second Son, and someone who worked on the game said that was a surprisingly long time. Very few games go past that 10-12 hour mark. I think it’s something of a sweet spot. As the average gamer age goes up further, games that absorb huge amounts of time are less popular. It might take the average player weeks to get through a 10-15 hour game, whereas earlier in their lives that represented a small chunk of a weekend, and they might have even gone to hang out with friends that same day.

Still, games keep an eye on those time blocks, and what you’re doing in them. Depending on who you talk to, they’re often referred to as “core gameplay loops”, which cover everything from a single button combo (sometimes called “moment-to-moment” gameplay) to an entire guild working together to build a city. If you have a game that feels weirdly unsatisfying, or that you like to play in short bursts but no longer than that, it’s usually because longer core gameplay loops aren’t supported. You’re hooked for five seconds, and five minutes, but maybe not five hours, and certainly not longer than that.


A few games that make me think of this concept: EvE Online has absolutely captivating five-day, five-week, and five month loops, but it can feel a bit aimless in five hours and I find the five-minute and five-second gameplay loops boring and unengaging. Guild Wars 2 has a pretty compelling five-second loop and a very solid five-minute loop, but starts to fall apart for me at the five-hour and five-day loops, before picking up again at the weeks/months level, when you’re talking about forging legendary items and the other various long-term progression paths.

I say all of this and keep coming back to that five hour play loop. It feels like a lot of games fall apart here, where the thing you’re doing in that span of time feels a little underwhelming. In a lot of MMOs, that’s about the timeframe in which you’re going back to town to sell and repair a few times, maybe find and equip some upgrades. In a fighting game, that’s about the loop for a campaign playthrough. It’s a Chapter in Call of Duty, or a handful of quests in Borderlands. There’s not often a lot to think about in that loop, just keep spinning the smaller loops as you work towards the bigger ones.

I remember a game that had a cycle at that scale. Star Wars Galaxies would ask you to go back to town and hang out at cantinas, get patched up by doctors, and otherwise rest over long periods of time out in the field. It wasn’t the most robust of systems, but it was about as well-integrated as a lot of the other systems in the game and gave shape to larger play sessions. Fallout, on Hardcore mode, will ask you to eat and find water to drink. It’s a kind of sustenance that you need to do a bit of work for, a sense of long-term planning that ties the very short term and the very long term goals together and is visible, unlike the usual “whoops, my gear is broken, time to talk to a repair guy” concept.


It’s a little thing that adds a bit of depth and forethought to the game, or can in theory do so. We don’t see a lot of it anymore, and I think it has a lot to do with our shift away from games as worlds and more towards games as narrative experiences. Minecraft certainly has loops from five seconds to five days, for example, whereas I don’t think most MMOs do anymore; they’ve compressed things down into “dailies” that don’t really offer a longer-term core loop, or try to turn the same series of quests into a single loop that you do each day, with a reward once you’ve done them enough times. There’s no planning taking place there, just logging in and doing.

The whole thing is an exercise I do a lot when playing games. I take a close look at what I’m doing at each of the “fives” and see which ones are strong and which aren’t. It’s yet another angle to consider and analyze games from. Food for thought.

Worth Sticking Around For

A friend of mine got to a boss she couldn’t beat and quit playing the game. Another friend of mine had a single bad experience at a restaurant and hasn’t been back since. Another friend of mine, a highly competitive gamer, had a frustrating match in a game and stopped playing it entirely. Yet another friend saw an episode of a show that she’d been following for thirty episodes, hated the episode, and never went back.


I’ve done a lot of these things myself. It’s hard not to; why waste time on second chances? There are so many options out there — for everything — that it seems like there’s no reason to hang around if something frustrates or offends you. Flush it and move on, there’s always more where it came from. There are other games, other restaurants, other shows. It feels like a defense mechanism against the deluge of content to be ready and willing to shut down and give up on something at the first sign of trouble. We’ve all become highly sensitive to anything that provides a poor experience, so we can cut it out and move on, and not be bothered by it. We can “buy time” to experience other things by removing anything that fails us.

I’ve had the opportunity to go back and try a variety of things over the last year, that I’d otherwise abandoned or moved on from or what have you. Every time I do, one of my friends invariably goes “you’re playing THAT again? WHY?”

It’s a hard question to answer. The simple answer is that I’m looking for something fun to play, and a lot of this old stuff doesn’t cost me any money, or relatively little. More complicated is that I often don’t remember why I stopped playing them– I very rarely go back to games or books that I’ve finished and play them again, but I don’t finish all that many games, especially since I play a lot of MMOs, which defy completion.


The more complicated answer is that I like to stick with my entertainment. I like games in a series, not one-shot, disposable titles. I like something I can get invested in, and both express myself through and make a part of myself. I’ve had this discussion with Kodra, but I often find board games, even the very high quality ones, a little too shallow and a little too ephemeral to really get into. There’s little to no self-expression in them, and no sense of long-term importance. I’m not unraveling a story that will stick with me, nor am I exploring a world that will inspire me. The majority of the board game experiences I’ve had have taken one of two forms. In one case, a bunch of friends and I sit down at a game none of us have ever played, learn the rules, then play together. These are the better experiences, but they tend to take hours. An hour or two or more to learn the rules and set up the game, and another two to three to actually play. In another case, I and others are playing a game that one or more people absolutely love, and have a bunch of experience with and are really excited to play with other people. I have yet to have an experience with a game like this that isn’t miserable; the games are dominated by the players who already know everything about it and I’m basically filling a chair so that they can play.


These experiences have deeply informed how I introduce people to games that I like, and most of the time I don’t do it. I’d rather someone ask me about a game that I’m playing and love, at which point I can teach it to them, than try to push that game on someone. The only games I’ll openly suggest that I and others play are ones that I’m passingly familiar with, just barely enough to teach, and am still learning how to play. Even these are hit or miss.

It’s a big part of why I play minis games, and why I’m generally very selective about the minis games I play. The game pieces I use have stories, each one the result of one or many games, and these stories start to inform how the mini looks and feels. It’s a personal touch, and I feel like each addition to the collection is another potential set of stories. I run a lot of tabletop games, but I haven’t played in one in years; minis fill the kind of personalized game experience for me that someone’s character does in a tabletop game.

It’s also why I actively seek out entertainment media that I can stick with. I’ve found it’s hard to have an experience that’s deeply changing or otherwise significant without some amount of friction and investment. I’ve worked on intuiting the difference between something that’s interesting but difficult and something that’s simply unappealing; usually if it’s the former, it speaks more to something about myself than something about whatever I’m watching. I’m really interested in entertainment that forces me to self-evaluate.


Case in point: Tales of Zestiria. In a lot of ways, it’s a fairly dark game, but it’s presented in a very upbeat, very cheerful way. I can feel myself reacting with annoyance– at the overly-chipper characters and what feels like a mood that doesn’t take things seriously. It would have been easy for me to check out already, citing tonal issues and childishness as reasons. The argument for quitting is easy, even as I write this it jumps to my lips. Instead, I’ve kept playing.

I have a hard time explaining why, just like I have a hard time answering “why” when someone asks me why I’ve jumped back into some old game that we quit in disgust. I think that’s what I find compelling, and ultimately rewarding. Tales of Zestiria has started speaking directly to my cynicism. X-Wing has proven shockingly deeper than my initial play (and dismissal) of it, years ago, and I’m fascinated to explore it more. Guild Wars 2 is a game that, years on, I finally understand, and it’s a very different kind of MMO than others out there. Each of those games have forced me to look at myself rather than the game to really appreciate them, and I have similar experiences with various shows.


It’s something I’m continuing to work on, to fight that urge to drop something at the first bad experience and keep on exploring. I’ve very rarely been disappointed, when I manage to shed my defensiveness and ego and let myself enjoy things for what they are, it’s just hard to do. I’ve gotten good at a lot of games that I never would have thought I’d enjoy, and found a few favorite shows that I would otherwise have never looked twice at.

I just wish I had some way of sharing that experience with other people, but like pushing a new game that you’ve come to love on someone that’s never tried it, it’s too easy to just dominate the experience and make it unfun for them.

Worldbuilding vs Storytelling

It doesn’t matter if the new Star Wars movie is good or not. It only matters that there’s a new one, and that it creates more space for our imaginations to play in.

It doesn’t matter that the Star Trek universe doesn’t always make a lot of sense. It only matters that the captain and crew of whatever interact with each other and the places they boldly go.


There’s a difference between good worldbuilding and good storytelling, and it’s possible for something that has one but not the other to be really, really great. Star Wars is one of those things. Some of the more well-reasoned criticism of Star Wars is that the storytelling isn’t great. This is certainly true of the prequels, and the originals were certainly drawing heavily from other, older stories. The thing is, Star Wars isn’t about its stories. It’s about the setting, the universe that the characters inhabit. It opens up by telling you this: “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.”

The worldbuilding of Star Wars is a rare jewel. It sparks the imagination, giving you both strange and relatable things in equal measure and leaving plenty of space for you to fill in details in your mind. There’s evidence of this all over the place. What other property has sparked so many books, so much fan-fiction, so many entries in every imaginable medium by as many varied creators as Star Wars? It’s a really short list, and every single one of them is coming from a place where the setting comes before the stories told within it.

This isn’t to say that worldbuilding is more important than storytelling by any means, it just creates a different kind of experience. It’s entirely possible to create a compelling world that’s devoid of story– tabletop RPGs have been doing this for decades, and early MMOs did the same, showing off far more world than story. It’s also possible to create stories with little to no worldbuilding– romantic comedies do this constantly, as do many horror films.


It’s very easy to get caught up in viewing everything through the lens of storytelling, rather than worldbuilding. After all, it’s the storytelling that stirs our emotions, and worldbuilding as a concept is a lot younger than storytelling. In a lot of ways, we lack the language to adequately talk about it– we can talk about how a story is moving or is paced well, but we have to get a lot more complicated and a lot more academic to talk about whether or not a setting is consistent, or conceptually large, and in what ways.

I continue to use the word “space” to describe good worldbuilding. It comes from the idea of a map, and how much of it is shown vs blank. When you see a map with blank space on it, and other parts filled in, you can start to imagine what might go in that blank space. I think of good worldbuilding like a map, not just of geography, but of people, ideas, cultures, technology, and everything else. These things don’t stir your emotions on their own, but they’re both the foundation and the details of your story. Good worldbuilding gives you space to both frame the story that’s being told and imagine all the stories that aren’t being told alongside the one you’re experiencing. Star Wars is this. You imagine the galaxy, with all its planets and people. You hear that “no ship that small has a cloaking device”, and not only immediately imagine what kind of ship DOES, but what if a ship that small DID, even though no cloaking device ever appears in the series.

You see one Imperial officer get choked to death by Vader while another looks on nervously, and the doubt and worry shown on his face despite his disciplined thanking of Vader for his new “promotion” suggests a person who’s a little worried about his job. It creates the space to imagine someone for whom that worry is too much to handle, and defects from the Empire, and suddenly all those ace pilots in the Rebellion start to make sense. These things aren’t plot points; most of them are throwaway lines or scenes with a different story point entirely. They do, however, add more blank space to the map to capture your imagination.


Sometimes you see worldbuilding that exists solely to support the story. It’s hard to imagine a character that isn’t a part of the story; they have nowhere to live, nothing to do. Zelda games tend to be a lot like this. You’ve usually got The Castle, which appears to rule over The Land, which is mostly empty except for some ruins and The Village. There are about four houses in this village, and I’m not sure who lives in them or what they do all day. The castle is full of guards, usually two or three times as many as there are people in the village, but what they’re guarding against when they aren’t mind-controlled and fighting you is uncertain. Nothing, really, because they exist to serve the story of you eradicating darkness from the land. It’s not about the world in Zelda, it’s about the story of you vanquishing evil.

Note that I don’t think this is inherently bad. The world doesn’t necessarily need to be robust and compelling with a lot of imagination space for the experience to be good. However, there’s a LOT less Zelda fiction than there is Star Wars. It’s fun, but it doesn’t capture the imagination because the experience is entirely contained and explores the entire world, end to end. The entire map is filled in by the time you’re done; there aren’t any blank spots for you to speculate about.


This map even has arrows to let you know that there’s stuff out there you haven’t seen. What’s it like in Orlais? In the Free Marches? What’s across that ocean?


Going back to Star Wars, this is why even bad Star Wars is good. The prequels aren’t very well liked for their storytelling– the storytelling in them is frankly pretty bad, but they hint at things that the original trilogy didn’t. They added a lot more to the map, as it were, and a lot of blank space. Knights of the Old Republic did the same thing, and it’s widely considered one of the best additions to the Star Wars license. Midichlorians were hated because they shrunk the universe, reduced the mysterious Force to something mundane and scientific– it filled up a huge blank space on the map with something boring. It’s also why most of the Expanded Universe has been blown up– most of the EU was focused on filling in those blank spots on the map, to the point where it became very difficult to find any blank space to speculate about. Starting over in the EU creates a lot more space.

Episode 7 is the same. It doesn’t have to be a great movie, or even a good one, so long as it makes the Star Wars universe bigger and not smaller. What I’m seeing in the trailers, what excites me, isn’t that I’m expecting some great story, but that I’m seeing hints of a new map, with a lot more blank space on it.

Tales of Zestiria

It’s not often a game surprises me in a really compelling way right off the bat. Thanks to Ashgar, I got ahold of Tales of Zestiria, the latest in the Tales series, and I’ve been giving it a whirl. Two things I want to point out, as my frustration compels me to: the game is VERY BAD at letting you know where you need to go if your goal isn’t in whatever area you happen to be in (I spent about an hour wandering around trying to figure out where I was supposed to go), and the game has no autosave (I lost about three hours of progress when I died to something I didn’t realize I wasn’t supposed to fight).


Okay, frustrations out of the way, here’s why this game is interesting to me. I grew up playing JRPGs, which I define as the particular type of game, generally coming from Japan (hence the J), that are heavily story-based, usually involve turn-based combat, often have a transition between “overworld” and “combat” gameplay, and so on. They’re a particular style, and one that’s frustrated me for a long time. As mentioned, I grew up on them, but as time went on, they didn’t change or evolve much. Still rows of characters lined up, still selecting from a menu, still random encounters. Some people love that. I got extremely frustrated with it, and for me, MMOs felt like the natural evolution of the JRPG– big, expansive worlds to explore and get more powerful in, and hey, I get to play with my friends too! I got into Everquest and pretty much dropped JRPGs entirely.

One exception comes to mind. At one point, after I burned out hard on Star Wars Galaxies, I picked up a game over winter break from college: Tales of Symphonia. It’d been recommended to me as “a JRPG I might like”, as I’d previously ranted about how annoyed I’d gotten with the genre, particularly the random encounters that I’d frequently fall asleep during while playing late at night. Tales of Symphonia replaced the menu-driven combat with something that felt more like a fighting game, and I was instantly hooked. It was the right game at the right time, and it renewed my faith that I could have fun playing a JRPG.

I beat it, loved it, looked around for more games like it and found out there pretty much weren’t any. Nothing so interesting, lots of menus, lots of me falling asleep. I replayed Xenogears that year, then fell deeply into World of Warcraft. I’d dabble in JRPGs periodically but never put much time into one until Persona 4, much later.


So. Tales of Zestiria. I’m at a point where my major limiter on video games is money, not time, so games I can drop hours and hours into are really appealing. I would never have liked Tales of Zestiria while I was working in games; it would have taken too long to get to “the good stuff”, and in fact, its predecessor, Tales of Vesperia, I played while working and moved on because it didn’t move quickly enough. It’s a potent reminder of how my enjoyment of games has changed now that I’m not making them and don’t feel the need to play EVERYTHING notable that comes out, just to stay sharp.

The game has also gotten my attention pretty quickly. It introduces me to two characters almost immediately, and does a trope-y setup that Ash and I both joked about as we started the game together. Obviously, this character is the protagonist and this other character is his best friend / rival who becomes a villain and yeah we’ve seen this all before. It’s still fun, it’s still charming, but we kind of know how this story is going to go. The first thirty minutes or so of the game proceeds like this, then takes a sudden, sharp turn. I won’t spoil the surprise, but suffice it to say it’s a cleverly executed but very simple hook that’s driven a ton of the story for the first several hours of the game I’ve played. I’m still not entirely sure what’s going on in the world, but I have some pretty clear goals and I’m moving forward and dealing with new stuff as it comes.

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It reminds me of why I liked JRPGs in the first place. A lot of games– most of your action games and even some action-RPGs– are like an album track. They get their hook in early, wow you with the chorus, provide a bit of variety with the bridge, keep you smiling as the now-familiar chorus comes around again, then finish before you have time to get tired of the beat. A JRPG is like an orchestral piece, which starts a lot slower and builds over time, often changing in sound entirely as it runs its course. You rarely find yourself humming them afterwards, but they stick with you in their own ways.

Tales of Zestiria is still building, but what I’ve seen and heard thus far hints at a really big world, and it’s already managed to surprise me in ways that a lot of other games don’t manage to without employing some serious deus ex machina. I’ve talked on occasion about the difference between storytelling and worldbuilding– the storytelling in Tales of Zestiria isn’t terribly complex, but the world in which the story is told is, and is (thus far) extremely consistent. It’s quickly and cleverly set up a world that I want to know more about. I’m interested when characters talk about history, and I’m curious about the broader scope of what I’ve seen so far. I don’t have the bug that some do to explore for the sake of exploration; I want to feel like I’m finding something interesting or getting a greater understanding of the world when I do, not just another vista or map unlock.

Tales of Zestiria is a world I want to explore, that I want to know the structure of, and probably most importantly, that I’m going to go back and play more of despite losing an entire night’s worth of playtime to what felt like an unfair encounter. I’ve abandoned games for frustrations FAR less severe than that.

SWTOR Class Story Reviews (Part 4)

As of Sunday night, I’ve completed all eight class stories in SWTOR. It’s been a fun few weeks, and I’m glad I managed to get through them all– there were a lot of really cool things that I would never have seen otherwise. The last two class stories I have were for two classes I’d barely put any time into– one because I wasn’t interested thematically at all, the other because I wasn’t excited by the class mechanics. They’re the Bounty Hunter and the Smuggler, and they’ll round up my class story reviews.


As before, spoilers ahead, about as much as the other class stories. Without further ado:


So, it’s Han Solo. This class probably has the fastest jump into its plot of any of them, and it’s a pretty great hook. Your ship gets stolen out from under you by a jackass named Skavak who takes the time to mock you and vanishes, all before you’ve finished your very first class quest. Obviously you’re going to get it back, and get a bit of revenge on Skavak, and there’s your setup.

Act 1 is all about getting your ship back and getting revenge on Skavak. You chase him from Ord Mantell to Coruscant, with him mocking you the whole time, Handsome Jack-style, until you finally steal your ship back on Coruscant, only to find that he was planning on using it to find a lost crazy treasure of a legendary former space pirate. Stealing his own job out from under him seems like pretty good revenge, so the meat of Act 1 is completing this plan while fending off Skavak and the minions of a crimeboss that Skavak screwed over and left you to take the fall for. It’s a great story, with each planet revolving around the buyer of some random bizarre object that you’ve acquired. The planets are varied and interesting; sometimes the buyer is hard to find, or wants to back out of the deal, or has been compromised in some way (usually Skavak). As you get closer and closer, Skavak gets more and more annoyed, and when you finally come out ahead, he starts getting desperate.


The Act 1 finale is solid and satisfying, with you taking down Skavak one on one, becoming a legend of the underworld, and getting a new crewmember who’s been your assistant (and the mastermind behind the treasure hunting plan) the whole time. You haven’t tied up all of your loose ends– after all, there’s a crimeboss out to get you, but in general things are looking up. Then things go off the rails.

Act 2 opens up with a meeting with a contact of yours from Act 1, who has a proposal for you. You’re warned about some dangerous Imperial admiral called the Voidwolf, who you’ve never heard of before, but otherwise you go to meet your contact and– surprise!– have the party crashed by the crimeboss’ thugs. Fight your way out, suddenly there are also Imperials and the Voidwolf, I’m not really sure, but you escape. Good times. Your contact still has a job for you, suggesting that you take up work as a privateer for the Republic, which seems a little out of left field but he’s got a Senator vouching for the idea. Sure, whatever, anything for some credits. The Act continues with you doing odd jobs for this Republic Senator on various planets, culminating in you rescuing her from the crimeboss’ thugs (but not going after the crimeboss himself). She’s very grateful, and something something the Voidwolf is out there and is scary.

I left Act 2 confused and a bit lost. I’ve got a major villain who’s been set up for me, but who I don’t seem to be doing anything against, I’ve got some random ominously-named Imperial that keeps getting mentioned but who I’ve seen once and don’t really have a lot of reason to care about, and I’ve spent the entire Act doing odd jobs for a Senator for some reason, and there’s the occasional hint that I’m building up my own pirate army, or at least that I’m some bigshot in the underworld with lots of followers. I don’t actually see any of these people once I “recruit” them, and I’m not really sure what they’re doing, or what I’m doing, or why. I know that I have exactly one notable foe and I’ve spent the last several planets not actually acting against said foe. Whatever, moving on.


Act 3 starts with “let’s take down Rogun the Butcher”, the crimeboss that’s been coming up since Act 1. We’re chasing him by tracking down the source of the creatures he used to attack the Senator at the end of Act 2, which were apparently terrifying considering how many times they’re mentioned over the course of the missions, but I’ve fought enough weird stuff by level 40 that they didn’t really register. Either way, we’re hunting down my last rival, who may or may not be working with the Voidwold, that Imperial who keeps coming up for some reason, and have a plan for getting him. I’m on board.

The first step is chasing down his former mentor, in prison, so you can find Rogun’s stashes, safehouses, and so on. It’s one of the only times I’ve thought Belsavis was interesting, but the whole thing turns into this bizarre chase where said mentor is seeking ancient alien powers or maybe a hidden starship or something, and you’re pursued by a guy who’s supposedly working for Rogun who doesn’t seem to die properly, until you kill him in a cutscene at the end. I honestly have no idea what ultimately happened on Belsavis except that I recruited the mentor who apparently decided I was okay and told the Republic that I’d killed him. There might be some immortal guy who’ll come back for me and has a bunch of clones, or maybe he just ran out of lives.

We move on to Voss, which we’ve heard about at the start of the Act and is where Rogun is smuggling weird monsters out from. How Rogun found out about Voss when it’s ‘recently discovered’ is beyond me, but whatever, Smuggler isn’t the only class with odd questions regarding the Voss. Either way, you track down Rogun’s supplier, get embroiled in Voss court, and find out that the Sith are connected to Rogun’s supplier, and are working for the Voidwolf, who keeps tangentially showing up. The whole thing unfolds quite nicely except for the fact that I don’t actually get what I came for on the planet– information about where to find Rogun. I get a bunch of other assorted tidbits, but nothing on my actual goal. That’s okay, that mentor I rescued from Belsavis knows where Rogun is meeting, and apparently it’s soon and I can show up and stop him.

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I roll up to this secret meeting, slip past Rogun’s guards and confront the crimeboss, who accuses me of working for the Voidwolf. Some Sith show up and it’s big reveal time. You see, that contact I had in Act 1 and the Senator were both in on it, and everything I did in Act 2 and some of Act 3 was directly benefiting the Voidwolf. Somehow, this escaped my notice entirely and I’ve had no way to check up on my own pirate army. The Voidwolf is crafty and bad, and Rogun (read: the guy who’s been touted as a menace since Act 1) is maybe okay and we team up to fight some Sith and now we’re sorta-bros. In a sudden final-planet twist reveal, we’re now going to Corellia (?) to hunt down my contact and the Senator who were lying to me and also maybe the Voidwolf because wow people won’t stop telling me how scary he is. Spoilers, you catch up with all three of them and wind up shooting the Voidwolf on the bridge of his own ship. He’s got some plan to hit the Republic with a pirate fleet or something, and you accidentally heroically step in to stop him.

If I sound flippant about the latter two chapters of the Smuggler story, it’s because I spent most of both of them grasping at straws to figure out who I was dealing with, why I was dealing with them, who my enemies were, and what my motivations were. It really felt like the two Acts could have been “I hunt down Rogun the Butcher, find out he’s working for the Voidwolf who suddenly is after me and my merry band of pirates with overwhelming Imperial force, and I turn to the Republic in Act 3 for help against this menace”. It would have been a nice incremental progression of bad guys and WAY less confusing than what I actually played. Act 1 is so strong, and has me ready and excited for what feels like an inevitable escalation, and then I just get lost in the mishmash of names and events. I don’t even get very much face time with either Rogun or the Voidwolf; there are two conversations with Rogun over the entire course of the story, and I think three with the Voidwolf, even though both are sending minions against me.

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Having played through it, I understand Kodra’s utter disappointment with his class story. It’s got a lot of good writing on a line-by-line basis, and some of the one-liners and exchanges are genuinely funny, but the overall plot is a mess. I can only assume it was hit hard by some late-in-development content changes, and two fully fleshed out stories got gutted and had to get frankenstein’d together into one.

That having been said, though, Smuggler Act 1 is one of the best first acts of any of the class stories. Moving on.


I expected to hate this story. It appears to mostly be about becoming a champion of the Great Hunt, which isn’t really well defined early on. You’re put in with a crew of people who have brought you on as their point man, while they play support so you can win the Great Hunt. You’re looking for a Hutt to nominate you, and do a bunch of odd jobs and various services to get his nomination. Along the way, your support team gets murdered by another Great Hunt participant, but that doesn’t stop you; you’re a badass.


Act 1 is basically entirely about the Great Hunt. The Hunt is, apparently, a big bounty hunting competition run by the Mandalorians. You get various jobs through the Mandalorians, who have themselves gotten them from clients, wherein you hunt down some particular individual who’s wanted for some reason and bring them in, dead or alive. After Dromund Kass, things shift, and you need to both catch your mark and eliminate your opposing hunter, who has also been assigned the same target.

This gives Act 1 a lot of interesting variety– you’re hunting down interesting characters and dealing with interesting bounty hunter opponents, and you’re never certain when you’re going to run into each. Sometimes catching the mark is trivial, but you have to deal with the opponent. Sometimes you run into the opponent immediately but it takes a while to find your mark. Sometimes you get embroiled in various bizarre situations just to get to your mark, and have to resolve those before leaving the planet with your target. While the premise of each planet on Act 1 is the same, the execution is different and it stays fresh through the Act. Along the way, you’re noticing that the game is being rigged against you. Your targets are much more difficult than they ought to be, and you suspect it’s that Hunt rival of yours, but you can’t prove anything and the Hunt has rules against hunters killing each other outside of specific situations.

Act 1 concludes with you hunting a particularly nasty target: a Jedi, who’s able to overwhelm your rival who beats you to the Jedi’s ship. There’s some interesting back and forth here, where you can grant your rival’s request for an honorable duel to the death by letting him out of the prison cell he’s in, or you can leave him there to rail at you in anguish, knowing that you’re probably going to blow up the ship before you’re done. It’s an extremely satisfying end to the smug rival who’s been a problem the whole way through, and denying him his shot at glory is especially sweet. You also bag the Jedi, which is good times, and call it good. You win the Great Hunt!


i’m sold on the Bounty Hunter on the strength of its characterization, and Act 2 doesn’t disappoint. Having won the Great Hunt, you’re summoned by Mandalore himself, who wants to make you into a Mandalorian and have you join an elite cabal of Great Hunt winners who hunt particularly high-value, exclusive targets. You meet some of these other legendary hunters and get slowly brought into the fold over drinks, then go out hunting your targets. Your targets in Act 2 are basically hazing on the part of the Great Hunt winners, who send you some difficult targets mostly because it’s funny and something of a tradition to grief newbies. They’re put in their place when you actually bring the targets in, and Act 2 is set to culminate in a big party in your honor, thrown by your newfound close friends, who have warmed up to you over the act and who are generally pretty cool.

Sadly, the party is crashed by Republic soldiers, who murder your newfound friends and put a huge bounty on your head. They’re not happy about you killing a Jedi, and are out for blood. Another Jedi is hunting you down and being awfully smug about it. On top of that, the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic (not Saresh, the person who Saresh replaces, hint hint) has named you Public Enemy Number One.

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Act 3 is about revenge. This Jedi and the Supreme Chancellor have killed your friends and gotten on your bad side, so you team up with a Sith Lord, Darth Tormen, to hunt them both down. You attack their close allies and important people to try to goad them into coming after you, and ultimately face down both the Jedi and the Supreme Chancellor, while Tormen gets more overbearing and vicious as your deal starts to sour. In my playthrough, the Chancellor made a deal for his life– clearing my name as long as I stop Darth Tormen, who’s crazy (as many Sith Lords are) and unspeakably cruel (also like many Sith Lords). The Chancellor would rather lose his position forever than have Tormen (who’s become kind of a dick by the end) in power over Corellia, and I opted to agree and cut ties with the Darth, as well as cutting him down with a blaster lots of fire.

The Bounty Hunter is a really solid story, start to finish. Act 1 requires that you buy into the whole Great Hunt concept, but if you do, the entire class is really satisfying. It doesn’t have the twists and turns and genuinely surprising moments of some of the other classes, but it does have some great lines and a very solid plot. I knew who I was after and why at every step of the way, and getting there was much more enjoyable than I’d expected.

More on SWTOR stories as a whole later on, I’ve written enough today, but this was a fun thing to do and it was absolutely worth it for me to go back and play through all the content I’d never seen.