The thing that impressed me the most about this event, by far, is just how open and friendly the people at BioWare are. Stephen Reid and David Bass both personally came out to say hi to people in line, chat a bit, and keep morale up. It was a drizzly, blah evening outside and some people were standing out in it for quite some time (here's a video from TORWars.com of the line). In fact, when you entered the venue it was David himself at the door who tied your wristband--if you were at least 21 and wanted to get drinks, that is.
I was lucky enough to be one of the first in line, so I was also one of the first in. And it begins: We enter through the doors, and are directed upstairs. I get to the top of the stairs, and none other than Daniel Erickson himself is waiting with a big smile and his hand out to welcome us to the event. After shaking his hand and regaining my bearings after that exciting surprise, someone behind me said: "Computers! On the left!" I glance that way, and sure enough there are stations set up to play the origin worlds.
I walk over as calmly as I could manage, sit down, and see that they've got all 8 classes premade at Level 1 for you to try out. Myself and the new friends I made in line were the first group to sit down at the stations. They look over at me, I look over at them, and we have these huge grins on our faces. I give them a thumbs-up (we had our headsets on already), and turn to the screen for my very first experience of actually playing SWTOR.
First thing to do: class selection. I plan on playing a Sith Warrior when SWTOR releases, and I didn't want to spoil the opening levels of that class story. So instead I chose the SW's mirror class, the Jedi Knight, in order to get a tiny taste of the mechanics. I click on the big, older, white-bearded Jedi Knight, and off we go.
What immediately strikes you as the game begins is that this game is beautiful. BioWare always countered accusations of the game being too "cartoony" by saying it's stylized, not a cartoon. Now having seen the game in person, I absolutely agree. The visuals are truly artwork. It's the same kind of feel as, say, the Clone Wars TV series: it's highly stylized animation, and inaccurate to call a cartoon. And here's the biggest compliment I can give it: even though this was my first time playing and I only had 30 minutes to play, I still took a few of those precious moments to just soak in the architecture and landscapes of Tython.
OK, so I get my first quest and I'm off to enter some combat. A note on the quests: the beginning quests are, strictly speaking, "kill 10 of these" type quests. The difference however is that your character is given a compelling reason to do this (in the Jedi Knight's case, to save Padawans who've been captured by the 10 things you have to kill). While that may not sound like much, if you allow yourself to enjoy the story then you are rewarded by feeling that your quest is really accomplishing something.
The first enemies are, not surprisingly, pretty easy. There is a tiny boss fight in a cave, too. It's clear that these quests are more about orienting you to the game than challenging you right off the bat. So I beat the first boss, go back to train, and then I get the ability that will become the staple of my SWTOR diet even as a Sith Warrior: Force Charge (aka "The Leap"). I have read others say that the first time you Force Charge is an experience you never forget. I have to agree, it's awesome and I could see how you could never get tired of it. Even before I had Force Charge, I already had two attacks that were animated nicely and gave you a sense of really being in melee combat. And I also noticed that every once in a while your character will do a "finishing move" that is a bit flashier, and very satisfying.
In what feels like only a few moments later, my 30 minutes are up! Seriously, that has to be the quickest 30 minutes of my life. I'm fine with it, though, as I definitely wanted everyone else to get their turn. There were a lot of people waiting to play, in fact it got very crowded in that area very fast. Here's a quick video I took of the crowds that built up at the stations (and the bar):
So like I said, our 30 minutes were over and we all got up. Next objectives: (1.) get a drink at the (open!) bar, and (2.) talk to Daniel Erickson! The bar is not as crowded now, so I get an Amstel Light and walk over to the circle of people crowding around Daniel as he answers their questions.
So what is Daniel Erickson like in person? Super friendly, very animated in discussion, and hilarious. I get the impression that he is genuinely excited to meet the community, and loves to hear their questions. After all, as lead writer for SWTOR, the Star Wars universe has been his home of sorts for the past few years. He's put a lot of thought into this game, and it shows when people ask him questions. If you've thought about something for the SWTOR story, trust me: him & the writing team have thought about it way more and decided what they did for good reasons. And, importantly, those reasons may not be ones players even know about yet.
For example, one thing you might not have thought of is this: Daniel shared with us that when he was tasked with this project, he had to keep in mind that the game could potentially go on for something like 10 years. I don't know if any of you have tried to create a story, but 10 years' worth of material is gargantuan. So he had to sit down and think of a story arc that could keep going for that long. That long. This means that what we're seeing in this very first batch of content (I have no doubt more is to come), is just the first part of a much larger story that will continue to evolve. You thus can't necessarily judge everything that's going on as the be-all, end-all of that story arc. More may be planned.
I did get to ask Daniel a question, and you can see my Reddit post on that specific exchange.
In case you're wondering, no they didn't hand out any beta invites. And honestly I didn't go for that reason. In fact, no one there really complained about it. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. What they did hand out were free T-shirts and posters (in addition to the free snacks and drinks!).
Overall, I had a wonderful experience at the Meet & Greet. If the SWTOR team ever swings by your area, you should absolutely go. They are really nice people and do want to hear from you.
Well, I hope my post here gave you a taste of what a SWTOR Meet & Greet was like! Coming soon: my experience with SWTOR at the 2011 New York Comic Con!