Monday, 15 June 2015

A Brief Response to Bioware's pre-E3 Announcement.

I said to my partner as I was getting into bed last night that it felt like Christmas Eve. Swtor Clause was coming in the morning and great and wondrous new toys awaited just one sleep away!

And so, in this morning's pre-dawn gloom, I was parked in front of my laptop, double-strength coffee in my hand, fairly shaking with anticipation (either that or the mild chill that passes for winter here in Queensland) as I tuned in to watch the announcement.

Although I was disappointed in the lack of specific details, there was still enough information during (and immediately after) the presentation to start thinking some wildly speculative thoughts.

SWTOR II...kinda

While this isn't the revamped game some were thinking/hoping we were going to get, it is a re-launch of sorts.

It's an on-boarding point for new players and a fresh starting point for existing players (there's a word for this type of franchise reboot aimed at offering a convenient place for new fans to start from, but I forget what that word is right now).

Basically, what I see happening is that the game as we know at today; everything from the starter planets to Ziost, is kind of a SWTOR I. It's a game about the 'Great Galactic War' that your character (and very little else, by the sound of it) survived. It's the classic SWTOR. You level, you do Flashpoints, you enjoy a class-specific story, you get melted in the first two tiers of PvP.

But everything new, everything in 'Fallen Empire' (which I presume will be 4.0) and beyond is kind of SWTOR II (or SWTOR: the Next Generation if you will). You pick up your character (or start a new one) facing a new universe. Your faction is gone. Your companions are gone (from your side but presumably not from existence, although that could happen to some of them!). You embark on a new story, you assemble a new crew you learn new skills and [hopefully] triumph over a new enemy.

So, while the SWTOR that's been around since 2011 isn't going away, I like to think of this expansion as the dawn of a 'new' game. At least in a pseudo-spiritual way.

One can, quite literally, open the game for the first time and play only the latest iteration. The existing content has been decoupled to the point were, in my opinion, the only thing stopping this from being an actual SWTOR II is a separate launcher.

Can't we all just get along?

Since the Empire and Republic have fallen, faction lines have become irrelevant. The war we've been fighting between the 'blue' and 'red' (or 'yellow' and 'purple' if you're a PvPer) is no longer being waged.

I'm cognisant that this conflict was (is) the major attraction of the franchise, but as far as I'm concerned, it's not the only attraction.

In my opinion this change offers a huge change to the zeitgeist of the game. There's no reason any more that 'Empire' players need to group only with other 'Empire' characters. Our characters, Outlanders now (individually, if not collectively) will presumably be able to band together to take on the Emperor of the Eternal Throne (as the new big bad is known).

It may not be that big of a change to the game. But I find it exciting. After years of only being able to group with other classes of my faction (whichever side I was on at the time) it will be a novelty to be able to take my Sith Warrior into battle beside a Jedi Knight, or Trooper. Or to use my Gunslinger to offer coverfire for a Sith Sorcerer healing my group.

Author's Note: After I'd published this, it was announced that cross-faction play would not be coming with the KotFE expansion. I am Jack's utter disappointment.

Join me on the Dark Side

I know that being enthusiastic about Bioware/SWTOR expansions/enhancements/announcements is considered kind of uncool in this community; the herd mentality (even from daily players) is definitely geared toward tearing down, rather than edifying, the game and the company (and the forums, and the Twitter account, and anything else bearing the Bioware/SWTOR logo).

But goddammitall, I'm excited about this expac. It's giving a huge breath of fresh air to a game that I didn't even feel was that stale to begin with!

You can disagree with me if you wish; my response will simply be to tell you to go find a game you like and leave me to this one that I love.

If you want to check out Star Wars: The Old Republic, you can play for free by downloading the game from and earn some free swag if you decided to subscribe!

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Getting high on Wine.

I finally took the leap and nuked the Windows installation on my gaming laptop. Rather than being the gaming version of suicide; this turned out to be one of the best decisions I've made in some time.

I've never been a big fan of Windows, even during its 'good' iterations. And despite the positive (and possibly hyperbolic) review I gave Windows 10 on my other blog, I'm a Linux guy at heart.

I've kept a Windows installation active for gaming, but there's been a number of times since I started playing SWTOR that I've looked longingly at its page on WineHQ, wondering if I had the skills to tackle the installation.

For those who don't know; Wine is a tool for running a Windows program on a Linux system. It provides a Windows-like environment that allows the program to run. And the larger, more complex the program is, the more difficult it is to get it running properly though Wine.

SWTOR promised to be diabolical in this respect.

And then I discovered PlayOnLinux. POL is an installable service that allows people who've successfully run Windows-only software using Wine to write an installation script that other instances of the service can use to install and run the same software.

And someone had been so kind as to create an entry for SWTOR. Installing SWTOR is now as easy as installing POL, finding SWTOR in its program list and hitting the [Install] button.

So, with hope in my heart, I reached for my trusty Ubuntu installation CD.

The process took under two hours, from the moment I discovered SWTOR was available on POL to when I logged in for the first time in my fresh Ubuntu 14.04 system (this includes installing Ubuntu itself and some minor configuration).

Obviously it would have been longer if I'd had to download all of SWTOR from scratch, but I'm in the habit of keeping an up-to-date backup of my installation to avoid that very thing (if you're using an Australian ISP, you can appreciate the necessity of this).

And it worked like a charm! I actually wound up investing significantly more time into finding a way to map the extra buttons on my mouse (since there's no proprietary support available) than it took to install and start SWTOR.

And the game works surprisingly well. Aside from a few client-crashing niggles that are easily avoided, it runs as well as it ever did in a native Windows environment. In fact, although it may just be my imagination, I feel like it actually runs a little better (Linux is much less resource hungry than Windows, allowing more computing power to go into running the game).

SWTOR blogger (and fellow Aussie) XamXam, hosts a great set of instructions written by her partner on how to install SWTOR on a Linux system. I didn't actually use this guide (as I only found it after I'd performed the installation myself) but the process described in the Play on Linux part is exactly what I did (except for the upgrading the Wine version part, which I've since done).

And I couldn't be happier with how it turned out:

The SWTOR login screen, with the PlayOnLinux interface (and a process spawned by it) in the background.
The eagle-eyed amongst you may notice a TeamSpeak icon in that screenshot. TS3 is available for Linux. The stylised 'M' above it is for Mangler, a Ventrilo-compatible Linux VOIP client. So I'm all set to game away to my heart's content.

Oh yeah!

I don't actually play with the sidebar visible like this; I use an external monitor.
I just wanted to capture it so show SWTOR in action on Ubuntu.

If you want to check out Star Wars: The Old Republic, you can play for free by downloading the game from and earn some free swag if you decided to subscribe!