Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Hidden Sting of a Personal Spaceship

Sometimes I wonder if The Old Republic managed to incur an ancient voodoo curse during its development. It feels like almost every design decision they made carried a hidden sting, an aspect that would later come back to bite them.

Take your personal spaceship, for example. Fairly early in the class storyline, at about level 20 or so, each class gets a spaceship. They use this spaceship to travel around the galaxy. As well, all your companions are located on the ship, and it's where you talk to them and continue their individual storyline. The ship exists in game, and is usually found in a hangar in the planetary spaceport. It's very Millennium Falcon, and very much a part of Star Wars.

However, the downside of the personal ship is that it makes travel very tedious. To travel from one planet to another, you have to go to the hangar, board your ship, travel to destination, leave the ship, leave the hangar.

As well, sometimes the planet doesn't have a true spaceport with multiple hangars. To get around this, TOR puts the hangars on a space station in orbit. So the worst case scenario becomes something like:

  1. Take shuttle from planet to station.
  2. Go to hangar and board ship.
  3. Fly to destination.
  4. Leave ship for station.
  5. Take shuttle from station to planet.

It actually takes a fair bit of time, and involves multiple loading screens. I think that TOR recently patched an option on some planets to compress steps 1 and 2.

This process is fine while you're levelling, because you don't actually travel from planet to planet that often. But then at 50, you might actually travel a fair bit, to do the dailies on different planets, or to go to the Fleet to use the markets or buy gear.

Now, imagine if TOR didn't have a spaceship at all. What would travel have looked like?

I think it probably would have been something like clicking on a shuttle at a spaceport brings up the interstellar map, and then you travel to the destination spaceport directly. One step and only one loading screen. It would make your day-to-day life at endgame so much easier.

Having a personal ship is pretty cool, but it comes at a cost, and makes the endgame far more annoying than it should be.


  1. You can see where they've realised these issues in the Legacy system perks. "Travel to the Black Hole!" on an 18 hour cooldown, and similar for other likely destinations. (Though that one is particularly annoying with the added shuttle step.)

    Still, like you say, it feels very Star Wars-ey so I ultimately agree with the decision to use ships, but getting around is super annoying.

    Having said that, it *feels* so fun when my Trooper alt jumps onto my partner's Consular ship to be flown across the galaxy to help out with whatever class-specific-between-planet destination he wants help with.

  2. Perhaps both options should have been allowed: use your ship, and the direct travel option. Or at least allow flight paths to be followed and I can walk away from the keyboard.

    An aside on ship sis that having them like player housing is a good thing imho. I can see the desire for a ship to reflect personal housing.

  3. I think the Holy Grail of "player housing" would suffer much the same type of tedium. Gaming worlds are excellent at revealing the repetitive banality and burden of owning things.

  4. The overall problem is what people would pay good money for (in renewing subscriptions) would be actual spaceships flying in actual space with actual combat.

    I remember some old games made by Lucas Arts that had that... guess they weren't successful enough to think about integrating them into a SW game.

  5. Now, imagine if TOR didn't have a spaceship at all. What would travel have looked like?

    I imagine it would look basically the same as we have now (you can basically see it through the one after you finish at your starting planet), honestly. In fact, I bet they would have hubbed to all of the planets through the fleet, so you probably wouldn't have ended up saving any loading screens (and in fact would have suffered due to needing to load into the crowded fleet).

  6. If TOR didn't have a spaceship at all, it'd be like Cataclysm.


    You'd go to a portal, click, and get sent to a new zone. There'd be no "space" in the game at all.

    The clicking tedium isn't so bad when you consider that you can chill out with your crew in your own pad, something that WoW doesn't have. And you have access to your locker/bank away from a major city, which is something that other games simply don't have.

  7. Personal ships are an excellent thing. As usual, the devil is in the details.

    In this case, the devil is in the 7 clicks and 3 loading screens it takes to get from your bridge to an area with actual content.

    Why is there an elevator between the hangar and the space port? Why is there a planetary space station with a separate air lock instance? Each of these clicks is simply an annoyance that sucks fun out of the game.