Star Wars: The Old Republic is new and the preferences available in it reflect that. There are options, but there are also limitations. Star Wars: The Old Republic does not allow mods and addons like World of Warcraft, all UI’s are the same and if something does not work for you, you cannot fix it yourself. Adjusting the preferences can make for a more accessible experience. Most of the preference settings are global. If you change them on one character it will be reflected across all your characters. There are exceptions.
So far, I have noticed that the quickbars, the social tab and all keybindings are character specific. There is no option to apply character specific settings globally, a tick box to make them global rather than local, would have been nice and hopefully will come in a later patch. Adjusting settings can be a tedious and overwhelming experience; there is a lot of information and a few big words, hopefully we can help out a bit by highlighting what’s relevant and explaining some of the terminology. Lets have a look.
The controls tab provide options for automating quite a few actions. I would recommend setting everything to auto where possible. If you find that you would prefer more control or that the game just isn’t doing a better job than you would, it is easy enough to return and untick some boxes and adjust until you find the perfect balance.
The general tab provides very useful options for accessibility. If you have not adjusted your settings yet, do so now:
- Deselect Target upon Clicking on Terrain: It will avoid you loosing your target if you, or your dwell clicking software, accidentally click on the terrain during combat.
- Tick everything else: Auto-loot on Right-click, Area Loot, Auto Target Closest Enemy, Enable Focus Target, Request Companion to Gather (select personal preference).
- Enable Camera Pivot: This setting gives you the option to move from a player controlled to fixed viewpoint. Use it if you are not using the mouse for movement.
- Set Camera Max Distance to where you find it most comfortable, I would recommend 40-50%. There are hotkeys to jump from your closest to furthest zoom, so setting it too high in my case meant that it zoomed out so far when I tried checking on my surroundings that I could not see what was going on. Conversely there are situations where you might want to set it for 100% for specific fights where you need a better overall appreciation of your surroundings.
- Camera Rotation speed: Set to what you find comfortable; set it higher to increase rotation when using keys for movement and lower if using mouse with high DPI to move or faster moving environments makes you nauseous.
Options to invert vertical and/or horizontal. We don’t use it, but the option is there for those who do.
Ability Action Queue Window has the option to set it between 0.0 and 1.0 seconds, default is 0.5. This options is to reduce the impact of latency on game play. If you play with high latency, set this to 1.0 and you will be able to queue an ability 1 second ahead of time.
Text that appears during combat or whilst performing actions to alert you to any gains or losses. There is a lot of options to choose from. If you prefer all relevent information to flash up in the middle of your screen, enable all. If you have issues with either information overload or reading the text that can be both quick to come and go in small fonts; disable some or all of the options. The same information also appears in your general chat log or you can set up a propriety channel for it and the text size of those can be adjusted by the player. Most relevent information is also either directly or indirectly reflected by watching health and mana type bars. If you prefer numbers, rely heavily on flytext. If you prefer a general visual representation of what’s going on, combine your health bar with a dedicated personalized combat log. If you, like me, find yourself somewhere in the middle, keep customizing for the perfect fit.
- General: Enable XP if you find it useful to see your XP gain flash up in the middle of the screen. This is particularly useful when doing space missions and group instances, making it easy to judge how much XP you are gaining.
- Damage: Damage from/to self; damage from/to companion. I have damage from self enabled and the rest disabled. For damage done, a glance at the health bars is not as accurate but easier and the stats for companion just isn’t important as a general rule.
- Mitigation: You can enable mitigation for self, companion and/or others. Mitigation isn’t a stat I look at very often. It’s again a statistic that is reflected indirectly in your health bar. The more mitigation a player has, the less damage they take and the smaller the impact on the health bar. Disable this unless you are tanking and need to keep an eye on your own mitigation.
- Health: Health statistics and warnings are important if you are a healer. DPS and tanks can disable all options, except for low health warnings.
- Effects: Four options available; to show effect gains and losses on yourself and/or others. This is one I would recommend leaving on.
- Ability Damage: Important for DPS specs but not so much if you are either healing or tanking. Enable if you are interested to see how much damage either you, your companions or others are doing.
- Combat Misses: If you ability does not land, this is the stat that tells you about it. It’s quite an important stat; if you miss a lot and are unaware of it, you may struggle to play. However, if you are in the right gear for your level playing a good build and using a sound rotation, it should not provide you with any issues. Disable if you want to minimize the information you receive and toggle it on whenever you think it might be a relevant factor.
If you change the sound on one character or even whilst still on the menu screen, it changes it globally. Sound options are limited to slide bars to control 5 volume settings: Master Volume, Music, Sound FX, Ambient and Voice. If you have vision problems and rely on sound or have some hearing loss, turn up the Voice and Sound Effect volume. If you are doing a lot of combat, for example doing a flashpoint, be aware that sound queues from enemies talking are controlled by the Voice Volume, but so is that of your companion. If your companions are annoying you, turn the voice volume to zero and either rely on subtitles or turn it back up for dialogue sequences.
If you are not a social player, either hide or disable chat options. If you do interact with other players, there are some options to shape what appears on your screen:
- Chat Timestamp: Makes it easier to see when someone whispered you, but if you struggle with information overload, disable as its not information vital to the game.
- Chat Panel Fade: If you struggle with information overload or have screen real estate issues, disable this and text will automatically fade after a short time when nothing appears in the chat box. There is also a minimize/maximize button the chat box in-game, so minimize completely at times to hide all chat and system messages.
- Filter Profanity: Self-explanatory and a personal preference.
- Three chat type options: PVP Chat, General Chat, Trade Chat. An easy option if you want to avoid any of those three options rather than having to go into chat settings and manually untick several boxes.
- Ping: Chat awareness or group awareness. An audible ping goes off whenever your character name is mentioned. We’d recommend having this one on if you’re an occasional user of chat.
- Auto-swap to Group Channel: Another automation function to make life easier. Enable. As soon as you join a group, hitting enter will no longer open a chat bar to the general channel but to your group channel instead.
- Note: Changing the text size, colour and channels are not done via the preferences menu, but directly in your UI. If you mouse over your chat panel, you will notice two tabs at the top. If you right click on a tab, you can create more tabs and set these preferences. There is also a dropdown menu for emotes and pre-written dialogue options. If you struggle to type and play, you can mouseover any of these and it will automatically type chat for you in the channel you select. Do note that some of these options, such as shouting “Heal me!” during combat, is frowned upon socially; use with care.
The User Interface is character specific, which is wonderful. This is the section that you really want to pay attention to when starting a new character. There are plenty of options, particularly for someone new to MMO’s, but frustratingly limited for experienced MMO players. Hopefully there will be more flexibility added with time.
- Show Phase Indicator: When enabled a message flashes up whenever you enter a story area, particularly useful if you are colour blind and the colour-coded phase indicator screens are difficult to distinguish.
- Display Player Information/Display Target Information: These two options provide useful information when grouping with other players in particular. Enable unless information overload is a problem, in which case you will do better without it.
- Display Item Modification Warning: Disable after the first warning flashes up unless you have cognitive issues, in which case a warning is very useful indeed.
- Enable Tutorials: The tutorials are very useful whilst levelling your first character, but grows annoying on later characters. As long as you find yourself unsure, keep it enabled, but as soon as you are comfortable navigating your character through the various actions and places, disable to reduce information and free up some screen real estate.
- Auto Skip Movies: A personal preference options that does not affect accessibility in any way. If you want to see cutscene enable, if not, disable.
These are character specific settings. There are two at the bottom, one left and one right. Only the top middle bar is enabled (and there is no option to disable). How many action bars you enable is dependent on how you play. If you memorize hotkeys and have no need to see where spells are, disable as many as you can to increase screen real estate. If you need to see spells, either to click on them, remember them or simply to be reassured that they did in fact go off, enable as many as you need. I would recommend tying as many of functions as you can to your quickbars, whether you are clicking or using hot keys. I would also recommend locking all the bars or at least the ones you use most often unless you change the settings frequently. There is also an option to select where your expanded companion quickslot appears. Default is bottom centre.
Conversation options are character specific.The all important subtitles can be found here. Dialogue within cut scenes do move quite fast and there is no pause and click to continue option. The print is also quite small and this cannot be adjusted. There is also an option to show conversation alignment gain or to show on hover (mouseover). If you struggle interpreting the social queues, enable if you care about the light/dark side options and are working toward one of these.
The map is a vital tool for smooth game play. Customize it to your liking. If you have issues with either vision or information overload, there are some settings to adjust:
- Enable magnifying glass in world map.
- Disable Fade settings if you have vision problems. The transparent map is difficult to read. If you enjoy the advantage of being able to view your map over your terrain whilst moving, you can adjust the transparency to suit your play style.
- Map Gutter Max Icon Count: Controls how many icons can gutter in the minimap, showing closest first. If information overload is a problem, lower the amount of icons that show.
Enable all. The information provided only appears on tooltips, so its not cluttering your screen. Particularly useful if your math skills aren’t that hot, the comparison tooltips will compare you and whichever companion you have with you’s gear to any gear that you come across to see if it is an upgrade. You can compare the numbers yourself, but it is also colour coded, unfortunately its red for downgrades and green for upgrades. The comparitive tool is also still a little buggy and occassionally gets the math wrong, marking items as red even though its an upgrade.
Settings here are a personal preference and does not make a significant difference on an accessibility level.
You can activate operations frames only during operations or you can replace your party frames. I would recommend enabling operation frames as soon as you start grouping with other players. It allows you to adjust frame sizes and move your frames anywhere on your UI that suits you. Once you have found the best spot for your frames, there is also the option to lock them in.
Graphics are another global setting that can be changed for all characters from any character.
- Fullscreen, Windowed(fullscreen), Windowed: If you have a lower spec computer, play in fullscreen, but if you are using other accessible software, select either windowed (fullscreen) or windowed mode.
- Resolution: highest your system can handle without slowing down. We’d recommend starting at your computers native resolution – in Windows 8 right click on the desktop and select screen resolution and the dropdown list of resolutions you’re offered should have one with “(recommended)” next to it which is probably correct.
- Refresh Rate: This should be set somewhere between 60 and 90. If its outside this you may have hardware that functions better there – you’ll need to research your screen and graphics card to find why.
- Graphics quality – set to custom unless you are running on all high’s or all low’s
- Advanced settings: reduce to low if you are having issues, otherwise personal preference. Even if your system can handle the higher levels here it can sometimes be less confusing for the player to reduce things such as ground cover.
Social options are character specific. Options here are important for the social part of playing an MMO. If you prefer soloing and limiting social contact, you can disabled social features here. You can automatically ignore, trade, group and guild invites. This is also where you will find the two options that affect how your character is displayed. You have the option to enable or disable showing the head slot item. If disabled, be aware that any voice changes caused will also be disabled. You can enable/disable showing Sith corruption.
Nameplates are a global setting and entirely a personal preference. If you are aiming for immersive game play, turn them off. If you get confused whether players are NPC’s, other players, from your faction or the other or whether they are PVP flagged, turn them on. Be aware that PVP flagging in the nameplates are based on colour – blue is not flagged, green is flagged, making it difficult for anyone with tritanopia. If you have visual problems, disable “Scale nameplates with distance”. Disabling this option will make it easier to read nameplates even when players/npcs are further away.
Preferences isn’t a fun part of the experience, but setting up your preference to reflect how you play can make or break game play for you. There is no set preference that you have to adhere to; take your time, play around with the settings and experiment until you find what works the best for you. Hopefully, as SW:TOR grows and matures, more preferences will be added and more options will become available.
You may find that as you progress further into the game, that your game play style changes and so will your preference settings. You may group more with other players later on. If you play more than one character, you may also find that you have to adjust some global preferences back and forth. Healers play different than tanks, you may be social on one character but solo exclusively on another. Set up your preferences properly and when things go wrong, consider adjusting them. It’s a good habit to cultivate.