Saturday, 26 March 2011

Jedi Knight Character Progression

Bah, Mozilla officially released Firefox 4 (which I installed yesterday), but there's definitely some kinks to work out still. Ctrl-tab doesn't work properly and sometimes I get open tab spaces when it think a tab is still open, but it really isn't (though that might be one of my add-ons messing with things).

Anyway, got a relatively short Friday update for you today. It seems that all the PAX East stuff has been done and most of the developers seem to be cooling their typing fingers in buckets of ice as there's definitely far less dev posts this week (or rather, they're probably all back to work full steam).

For the Friday update itself they've got a new video for us, showing the Jedi Knight character progression. In two minutes the video shows an Obi-Wan Kenobi wannabe Jedi Knight at six stages of progression; starting as a padawan with a training blade, on to becoming a full knight and getting his first lightsaber. And then two stages for each of the two advanced classes. Here's the official news:

As you progress in Star Wars™: The Old Republic™, your character grows more powerful, gains experience, discovers new skills, and acquires more advanced gear.

In this video, you’ll get a sneak peek at how the Jedi Knight can evolve in The Old Republic. This is just a small sampling of the armors and skills available, but we hope this gives you a taste of how the Jedi Knight will look as he develops through the course of the game.

Leave a comment below, or let us know what you think in the Forums!

It's a nice video, particularly if you're interested in playing a Knight. Personally I'll wait for the Consular and Agent videos. I do like the look of those armors though (the sentinel more so than the Guardian). And the character graphics don't get on my nerves as much as they used to; maybe I'm getting used to it.

Read on after the break for the developer quotes.

Developer Quotes

As said there are not a lot of developer quotes, but there are a couple of nice ones by Damion Schubert. Oh, and Randy Begel talks about the ingame order pizza function. <nods>
  • [link] to Randy Begel on order pizza feature.
  • [link] to Damion Schubert on world sizes.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on PAX East thread.
  • [link] to Damion Schubert on 'convenience features'.
  • [link] to David Bass on Guild HQ bug.
  • [link] to David Bass on Guild HQ Phase 3.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on right-click.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on 'Exorcist-Bounty Hunter'.
The first post by Damion Schubert talks about world sizes in MMOs in general and in SWTOR specifically and how they go about world building:
A common mistake in MMO design is to pursue worlds and land masses that are ‘realistically’ big. I see this a lot in the press releases and demos of other MMOs, usually indie MMOs trying to make a name for themselves somehow. This is not the design philosophy that we’re following.

What makes a quality gameplay experience is not how much time you spend running through dead space or randomly generated noise, but the density of good experiences. This includes the density not just of quality worldbuilding points of interest and well-crafted quest content, but also in an MMO, the density of player population. MMOs are interesting largely because other people are there. Make your worlds too large and diffuse, and the population is too spread out, and you feel lonely in your MMO – an irony that proves inescapable over time.

Size in MMOs is incredibly deceiving. WoW has a world that feels huge, but in actuality you can run from the northern tip of Azeroth to the southern tip in about 45 minutes – whereas in real life I could barely get to the supermarket in that timeframe. Similarly, if you had a fully 3D rotateable camera in the original Ultima Online, you can see the walls of Trinsic from the southern entrance of Britain – I know this because I know a player did so. This is not to knock these two games – they are great games with great virtual worlds that are sized appropriately for their gameplay.

Our worlds are big – plenty big – but we didn’t use some notion of how big Alderaan really is to make that determination. We instead built a world big enough to feel expansive, but still not so large that we couldn’t ensure that all of the content was handcrafted up to a BioWare level of quality. There’s not as much random empty space for the explorers as some of you seem to be hoping for, but they’re still plenty big, and we take great strides to ensure that the worldbuilding teams fill the worlds with secrets for our explorers to find.

And trust me when I say you can still get plenty lost in Alderaan.

I've always wondered what an MMO would be like that was realistically sized. It would be a very different kind of experience, and probably defeat the purpose for even the most simulation-oriented kind of MMO. Not unless it is a fully immersive MMO that is. But I have no doubt that their worlds will indeed feel plenty big.

His second posts is an answer to someone complaining about 'convenience features' in an MMO; like exclamation marks over quest givers' heads and such. The complainer wanted to seeming go back to a game more along the lines of the original Everquest. Here's Damion's response:

When making design decisions about 'convenience features', a lot of it comes down to what do you want people to do all day while playing.

If we didn't put a quest symbol over the head of every NPC with a quest, then the alternative - clicking on every NPC in the game to see if they have a quest - would suddenly be a gameplay activity that takes a frightening amount of time. If we didn't put a 'usable' glow on the holocron that is the quest objective, then the player will spend a lot of time playing pixel hunter with their mouse. If we didn't put a symbol on the map that is where the next quest objective is, the player will spend a lot of time wandering the map fruitlessly and killing a lot of trash they could otherwise avoid.

If these activities are fun in your game, then you shouldn't 'convenience' them out. However, they aren't in a lot of MMOs, and a lot of modern MMOs have started to rough out those edges in order to get you to the fun parts faster. In our case, we have a seperate vested interest - quest turn-in dialogue is more compelling when the last bit of VO is still fresh in your mind. So we do have (and I guess I am confirming) a pretty in-depth map system designed to help you find your quest objectives relatively easily.

As for whether or not the existence of features like these means a game's quest design must be 'poor', I guess I'd disagree. Designing enough quests to fill an MMO with content is an incredibly effort-intensive process, especially when you're putting the Bioware story and VO on 'em. On top of that, different people like different kinds of quests - some people just want to kill 10 rats and couldn't care less about the story, whereas other people's favorite quests are those that can be completed without drawing your blade at all.

A good quest system is one that is flexible enough to allow worldbuilders to design a wide variety of quests, often in a worldbuilding environment that is still in flux when the quest is being designed, and ensures that players are getting to the 'good parts' of the quests as soon as possible. In our case, the 'good parts' are usually the dialogue and the combat, although we do have some more... varied quests in there that y'all will find in the long run.

I think I get the original poster's desires, but I don't think that the answer lies in going back to old-fashioned design. Damion makes some really good points here (though it does show approaching the product more as a game than as a world). What the original poster is asking for is a kind of MMO that's very different from the current norm (and very different from what SWTOR is shaping to be). I do think we can get there by going forwards from here instead of going back, though it will either take a developer with a lot of guts and insight to try something so completely different, or we'll have to get there gradually in smaller steps (and in that sense I do think that Guild Wars 2 is making some interesting steps in that direction).

As I said though I do not think that SWTOR is going to be that MMO, nor should it be probably (even though I would personally like it to be). And I think that the choices that BioWare is making for their game make a lot of sense considering the game that they're making. Asking for going back to Everquest design seems... foolhardy.

Anyway, that's all for today.

No comments: