Friday, 4 February 2011

BioWare Blog: Building Flashpoints

More Flashpoint in today's Friday update as World Designer Jesse Sky talks about creating them in a BioWare Blog entry. Here's an excerpt:

What is a Flashpoint?

A Flashpoint is a galactic crisis, something so threatening that even the most stalwart heroes must bring allies. The Death Star was a Flashpoint. Luke and Obi-wan spent a few minutes LFG in the Mos Eisley Cantina where they enlisted the aid of Han Solo and Chewbacca. Together, they infiltrated a moon-sized battle station to rescue Princess Leia. Things didn't go quite as they expected; difficult choices were made along the way. That's a Flashpoint in a nutshell.

In game terms, a Flashpoint is a challenging, cooperative mission that takes place entirely within an instance, which only your group can enter. While adventuring, you’ll be alerted to a crisis developing somewhere in the galaxy. That’s when you know it’s time to contact some friends and buckle up for an epic battle.

Later in the blog Lead Combat Designer Georg Zoeller oins in as well as he talks about combat in Flashpoints. Here's an excerpt from his bit:
Flashpoints also feature some of the toughest combat challenges in the game. Flashpoints in The Old Republic will require a full group of players to succeed.

Numbers alone won’t be enough either - with a cast of adversaries among the most memorable and powerful in the game and scenarios that often leave the party with impossible choices, players are expected to show superior coordination and skill in order to overcome the challenges ahead.
You can read the entire blog entry at the official site.

I like how Jesse compares Flashpoints to, basically, the first Star Wars movie and he certainly does make them sound fun and interesting, bits of compelling story one wouldn't want to miss. However, that quite from Georg above pours a few buckets of cold water on the whole idea and remind me why I'll probably never see much of them. Not only do I tend to play solo more often than not, but it sounds that pickup-groups aren't going to be coordinated enough for them and the friends that I do have who might go through them with me probably aren't coordinated enough either (we tend to have quite a bit of trouble with LotRO's instances and skirmishes... even several levels below our level). I just hope that they'll have more... casual Flashpoints as well.

Or maybe a difficulty setting for Flashpoints is an idea? In the end I'm not interested in 'challenge', but I am interested in story.

Anyway, read on after the break for a quick report on EA's Earnings Conference Call where they talk a bit about The Old Republic as well, as well as developer quotes from the last week.

EA regularly holds an earning conference call for its investors so that the investors know where the company is at, whether they should invest more money and when they might see some of their investment back (I think I summed that up correctly). And since The Old Republic is one of EA's biggest games coming out (and the one that apparently, and not surprisingly, cost the most to develop) it is naturally included.

To get all the The Old Republic details from the conference call you can hop over to Darth Hater who have a detailed report. Here is an excerpt:
[34:40] "The second thing that I would tell you is that the game is looking very good, a number of you will have seen it in a variety of our consumer shows, it's only gotten stronger, we feel very good about the title. We're currently testing it with a wide-scale consumer type thing but not sort of at the beta scale level-wise over the coming months. One of the reasons that we have pushed our guidance to May, which is where it's historically been over most of the life of Electronic Arts, is so that we have a better insight on just this title and things like the NFL situation so we can provide more precise guidance." - John Riccitiello
The most interesting thing though is probably that they confirmed, again, that the game will release in calendar year 2011 and fiscal year 2012 (that means sometime after March and before the end of December this year).

It also notes that half-a-million subscribers would be profitable, but that they're hoping more for over a million subscribers. People online seem to be divided; some seem to believe that they won't be able to sustain even half-a-million and others feel confident that the license and the developer alone will be enough to get at least a million subscribers. Based on MMO subscribers data, if accurate, there aren't a lot of MMOs to steadily break beyond 500,000. But a point can be made that if any MMO is able to then SWTOR does have by far the best chance.

I also found it interesting to note that they're not taking WoW at its reported 12 million subscribers, but at its estimated six million 'paying' subscribers. Also interesting is that they're basically refuting earlier rumors spread by a so-called inside source that SWTOR supposedly cost over 300 million dollar to make.

To round things up today another list of developer quotes from the past week. Though I swear that devtracker is bugged because this post disappeared a while for me (it's back again now though). Ah well.

Developer Quotes

  • [link] to Damion Schubert on maximum level.
  • [link] to David Bass on running two guilds.
  • [link] to David Bass on starting a new guild.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on manipulating objects. (German/English)
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on melee attacks on-the-run.
  • [link] to Damion Schubert on skipping dialog.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on base class abilities.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on base class abilities, part 2.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on giving a list of abilites. (German/English)
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on latency.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on melee attacks on-the-run, part 2.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on grappling hook ability.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on heroic combat.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on physics.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on physics, part 2.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on over analyzing.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on tester emails.
  • [link] to Daniel Erickson on vague timeline.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on tester emails, part 2 on .
  • [link] to Daniel Erickson on vague timeline, part 2.
My it's hard sticking with just a few post to highlight. But let me make an attempt at it; in the end if you want everything you can just use the massive list of links above.

I'll start with a post by David Bass who has some pointers, some important things to keep in mind, for those wishing to start their own guild:
It’s really great that you want to start a guild up for The Old Republic! As some of the other forum members have already explained, creating a guild is indeed a lot of work if you’re serious about it, but it can be a very rewarding experience if you approach it properly. Some things you may want to consider:
1) There are a LOT of guilds in the TOR community. It’s possible that one already exists which fits your vision for a guild. If that’s the case, why not get involved with an existing one? There’s plenty of opportunity for leadership roles within a guild without having to put in the extra effort of creating a guild from scratch.

2) What makes your guild unique? What’s going to make it shine and stand out from all the others on the forums? You should be able to answer this question before creating a guild, or else you run the risk of having your guild fade into the background without ever getting off the ground.

3) Are you willing to stick it out? Guilds come and go every day, and there’s nothing sadder (to me, at least) than a guild with one member popping up one day, and disappearing the next. You’ll need to be willing to invest a lot of time and effort if you want to grow your guild into something you’re proud of.
These may seem like scary points, but your best chance for being successful is to think everything through before going ahead and creating a guild. Preparation is your greatest chance for success in this case. If you haven’t already seen it, there’s an excellent guide on starting a guild at the top of this forum. Give it a read!

Good luck!
Definitely some good things to keep in mind there.

Damion Schubert has a few more details on skipping dialog lines, answering fears of someone about inadvertently also skipping cutscenes:
When you choose to skip in a conversation, you skip line by line, by hitting space for each line of conversation. Most players who skip through conversation will skip through the lines up until the choice node (i.e. when the player chooses one of his two or three options to say), and then make the appropriate choice.

In groups, the conversation must be kept in sync, and so a line of dialogue is only skipped if all group members skip the line of conversation. We're working on a clear indication that other people are waiting on you.
The most prolific forum poster among the developers is, once again, Georg Zoeller (and we're ever thankful to him for it, and thankful that he now includes English translations in his German posts as well). For example he talks about the base class' abilities and how they remain useful:
Yes, you keep all abilities from your base class, we do not believe in removing abilities due to Advanced Class choices. In fact, you will continue gaining a significant number of abilities from your base class as you advance through the game - although their detailed mechanics can very often change dramatically based on your skill choices.

Example: All Consulars have the 'Project' ability seen in various videos (using the force to throw accelerate large rock into enemies). However, depending on Advanced Class skill choices, the damage and secondary effect of those rocks may differ from Consular to Consular. Some are even capable of throwing more than one rock at a time...

As for this particular scenario, please remember that ability progression is one of those things that constantly changes until launch.
In a next post he re-emphasizes that your base class abilities continue to improve as you level.

In another post Georg also confirmed that you can make melee attacks while moving and that you are able to do this from the start (as some posters suggested that it should be an ability unlocked later). In the following post he defends the ability being available from the start as part of their heroic combat:
I know we've used the word heroic quite a bit, but this is one of the cases where it comes to bear. There's a ton of progression opportunities for your character in The Old Republic - but basic features that very much define the flow and fluidity (is that even a word? ) of combat are not something we're intending to use as a progression mechanic. We want combat to feel right from the start, not after 10 hours of play.

Your hero's journey in Star Wars: The Old Republic does not start on a moisture farm and your character, even at first level, is well trained in basic combat and with access to class defining, powerful abilities.

Take a Sith Warrior - you start with the ability to propel yourself over large distances at a target using the Force. You take on groups of 3-4 enemies at once, within minutes of the game starting.

Don't worry, there are plenty of things to learn and progress your character with, but we really don't need to turn basic gameplay mechanics into progression mechanics to pad our game
Daniel Erickson made a couple of posts as well, explaining why the exact start date of The Old Republic is a bit vague:
Hey folks,

We've always kept the end of the timeline a little vague since some origin stories start a little earlier than others, have more time pass during their stories, etc.

The window for the game start is about 10-12 years after the treaty of Coruscant. Most player characters weren't old enough to be adults during the last war but many of the people you'll interact with were. This is the next generation, watching the Treaty of Coruscant tear at the edges and wondering how long until the seemingly inevitable war to end it all begins.

Hope that helps!

Interesting. I'd never even considered the possibility that different class stories start at different times. I guess that means that you can send messages through time (to friends playing classes taking place at an earlier/later date on the timeline). ;)

Well, that is it for now. Have a nice weekend (either playing the Rift beta or enjoying the Guild Wars Canthan New Year event or whatever it is that keeps you busy).

[link] to EA Q3 2011 Earnings Conference Call at Darth Hater.

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