What a difference a patch can make!
A bit ‘o history before we begin: I had heard about The Repopulation a while back through some of their developer videos which showed a pretty interesting crafting system. I thought their implementation was nice, but it wasn’t until folks started talking about it in terms of Star Wars Galaxies and Ultima Online that I paid real attention.
I backed their Kickstarter, and supplemented my pledge with additional cash in order to get access to their alpha phases. Unfortunately, excitement plus “alpha phase” does not equal feeling good about the money pledged, simply by virtue of the game being in alpha. Expectations weren’t tempered, and the abysmal performance issues I experienced soured me on the entire project.
This past Tuesday ABTech released a massive patch which was notable for it’s new tutorial zone, but it also include a few line items on optimization. As much as I was interested in a new starting experience, I wanted to see exactly how optimal the optimizations were.
I started a new character and the changes were immediately apparent. My character was responsive, and the “life” in the game (NPCs, mobs, flora, etc) weren’t having any visible issues — no sliding around like dogs dragging their butts on the carpet, animations in-time with speech bubbles, and so on.
So regarding the last post in which I said I wasn’t sure that ABTech could get the game running well enough to make a 2015 launch? I’m going to downgrade that from a “ehhhhhh…” to a “strongly optimistic”. They apparently have some tricks up their sleeves.
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So what about The Repopulation?
There were those who were upset when SWG closed down, and not all because they felt that SWTOR was cannibalizing it’s older sibling. SWG did a lot of interesting things that didn’t involve combat. It was a sandbox, and while you were at odds with either the Empire or the Rebels, you could also make a living through crafting, animal handling, or entertaining. Like, a real living, without ever having to take up arms, ever.
When you claim that your game is the “spiritual successor” to a game like SWG, you’d better deliver, because saying such things is going to make some very critical people sit up and take notice. You’re playing with people’s emotions here.
I think they’re on the right track in many ways, but we’re talking about a really massive track here.
By the time I was done playing last night, and I leaned back and assessed what I had experienced, the bottom line I reached was that holy shit opportunities in this game are massive, and I hadn’t even left the tutorial area.
Assuming I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, there’s no limit to the number of skills you can have. There’s no “official” classes: you just obtain the base skill, and then use it to level up. In the tutorial zone, you get two skills for free, and then others cost a measly 80 credits each. My first mission awarded me 400 credits.
I am now a pistol wieldin’, flame-thrower sportin’, sniper-rifle huntin’, shockgun (not shotgun) carryin’, melee punchin’, axe choppin’, sword swingin’, hammer bashin’, wound patchin’, dead revivin’, animal tamin’, robot commandin’, joke tellin’ two-steppin’, smooth-talkin’ badass.
Each skill you get is immediately dropped onto your hotbar, so my hotbars are a patchwork of different, unrelated, sometimes underused abilities that I keep around just in case need to use them.
The game is going to require some serious discipline to limit the focus, or else I’m going to be trying things just to try them, and end up never really getting anywhere specific.
The first thing the game has you do is fight your way to the encampment after you were reconstituted following an untimely death in a transport crash. In all honesty, the combat is what interested me the least, since I was in full, rabid SWG mode. At this point, the combat feels pretty loose. Tab targeting works, but I don’t think it works well. Actual attacks (mostly ranged, as this is a sci-fi game) didn’t have that “oomph” that you get from, say, SWTOR. Blasts were flying all over the place, but the response time between hotbar use and result was a bit laggy, and the expected impact of the attack was a bit watery.
This is where I fall back on the “it’s not meant to be release-ready yet”, and based on the difference I’ve seen between earlier and now, I believe that ABTech can clean it up in time (assuming I’m not on crack and that these systems aren’t 100% polished yet).
Most of the tutorial elements have you running to different PoIs on the tutorial base so you can get a lay of the land. Many of them end up offering you skills and abilities, and then teach you some of the more esoteric corners of the game (fun fact: there’s so much stuff in the game it has it’s own in-game UI for what it calls the “database”, a reference for basically everything you might have a question about, and this is awesome. Should alleviate that “I forgot how to do X” after long absences). The only downside to this is that you run. Really. Slow. Really. Slow. Like. I. Could. Crawl. Faster. Than. This. Mah. Gawd. Where’s. My. Sprint. Key?
Points of Interest – Harvesting and Crafting
I’m going to get specific, now, because I played all of SWG as a crafter. 100%. I shot maybe two things my entire time playing. But I really like first-class-citizen crafting systems, so since TR allows players (and says as much) to do nothing but harvest and craft if they want, it was where I spent most of my time last night.
Your crafting tutorial starts with you creating “gadgets”, which are MacGuffins that exist simply to teach you how to make and unmake stuff. You need materials, agents, and a crafting station. Materials are used up, but agents might not be (depends on the recipe, from what I’ve read).
Materials have quality stats ranging from “F” (worst) to “A” (best). Since that’s too logical, there’a also a sub-grade that runs from 0 (worst) to 9 (best). F0 is the worst grade of material you can have. A9 is the absolute top of the line. When you harvest something, or kill and skin, extract DNA, whatever, you get a default quality out of the deal. However, using your skills you can try and enhance the results and turn that D1 to, say, D2.
And yes, these stack by material only, not by quality. Your stack of vulture DNA might say “D1″ in the UI, but you could have all kinds of quality stacks within that icon. There’s a litany of keys you can use to split that stack by quality, to show the best on top, worst on top, etc. I suspect this is going to throw a lot of people off their game.
You get non-organic materials through harvesting. There’s two modes of harvesting: manual and automatic. Manual is…manual. You get a tool (the tutorial bot gives you some starter tools — a saw, a drill, and a water extractor) and you walk up to the resource and right click on it, opting to enhance the result (or the region, which takes longer, but boosts the output of a lot of resources in the area). Automatic is straight out of SWG: you place a harvester at a specific location and wait for the hopper to fill up. The tutorial has you going out to collect water, so you find a contaminated water source and drop down the extractor. Unlike SWG, extractors can be placed in groups of four, but (I believe) only display one in the world. This allows multiple people to extract at the same location without a fistfight breaking out. I believe that you’ll get better mats from the manual extraction than you do from automated, as the automated didn’t give any option to enhance (maybe enhancing the area will help extractors…?). Extraction for the water was kind of fast; about 10 minutes and I had twice what I needed for the mission. I packed up the extractor and headed back.
Construction is pretty simple, but not WoW simple. You throw in your materials, an agent/catalyst, and possibly enhancements once you start making real and complex stuff (I’m guessing here). Construction is a series of steps, so you can step through them all one by one, or you can automate it and have the crafting station blow through them all on your behalf. I believe I read that there is/will be Everquest II style complications that can occur during crafting, so I suspect that stepping through manually and risking complications will result in a better product, saving the automation for quick but cheap mass production. Again, just speculation as the tutorial didn’t go into that level of detail.
A few things that stuck in my mind but I didn’t spend a lot of time with:
- There’s a mini-game system which has several iterations. I bumped into one near the crafting stations, but the instructions were horribly unclear so I didn’t make any headway
- There’s a Vanguard style diplomacy system in place. It operates like the minigame mentioned above — complete with a lack of meaningful instructions — but the result is that you can put NPCs in a certain mood to make them easier/more difficult to talk with. That will grant you bonuses or special conversation options that can have a benefit for you.
- The community seems nice! I was watching the general chat, and folks seemed to be not-asshats. Subject to change, I’m sure.
- Hearkening back to an earlier post, the environments are pretty massive, which means at your terribad run-speed it takes a long time to get anywhere…even from one side of the tutorial base to the other. Thankfully, you can harvest some pretty simple materials and trade them for a starter mount early on, which I haven’t done, but which I hope will alleviate the irritation of crawling everywhere.
- The camera behavior during conversations can induce nausea. It snaps around to different angles which sometimes cuts off the conversation balloons (SWG vets know this conversation style). Not a biggie, but would be nice to to maintain some level of standards for camera position when talking/when leaving conversation.
- There’s also housing, which I have yet to experience.
- Animations are OK but not fantastic. I know that’s a hang-up for some folks.
- Visually, the game is better now that I can actually make it look like a PC game and not a mobile game. I haven’t cranked everything up, though; I used the “auto-detect” button, so I have no idea what settings I’m on. Looks better than it did, though, and a smidge better than “good enough” for my concern.
And In Conclusion…
I am pleased with The Repopulation at this point, mainly because I can play well enough to actually try it out.
But what kind of game is it? Well, it’s a sandbox of the highest order. There’s a few visible quest givers (Arrow up means they have a mission for you, arrow down means they are expecting something from you), but they only provide busy work (AFAIK). You mostly get job offers through “email”, and those are procedurally generated and are therefor fairly simple requests. You can ignore them or accept them, and they pop up anywhere you are, giving you a constant stream of money making opportunities, although many of them will have you bringing something to someone out of your way.
Right now, this is a game for sandbox fans, folks who can self organize and generate their own stories and set their own goals using the mechanics that the game provides. There’s also factional PvP in zones between the hub cities, but with combat the way it stands now I can’t imagine what PvP must look like. Probably like a bunch of elderly bumping into one another with their walkers and canes.
I’m most excited about the harvesting and crafting aspects, though. Back in the SWG days I think it was easy to be successful at this simply because there weren’t that many people playing the game who were interested in tethering themselves to a crafting table when there was the whole Star Wars universe out there to experience. But with so many people in the MMO genre this era of min-maxers and guild-zombies, I suspect crafting competition will be fierce.