Monday, 18 April 2011

Studio Insider: Environment Polish

Last Friday was another Fan Friday with the usual Studio Insider, the latter this time giving us a look at polishing the environments and why walls are important. Here's an excerpt from the text:

As you can imagine in The Old Republic, we have a lot of walls! You can see from the images here that any wall can undergo a lot of polish. We might start off by creating a very basic wall design with a simple texture, but as development progresses, we’ll often rework the assets involved. This can be as simple as reworking a texture, by altering the diffuse map, normal map, specular map, or any combination of the three in order to help make the wall stand out or blend into an environment. Sometimes, we may rebuild the asset from the ground up. For instance, sometimes our design team may decide that an area needs to be re-worked to look more high-tech. That means we may have to re-work our flat metal walls to add more panel work and tech ‘bits’, as seen in the images above and below.

The Studio Insider also contains the Community Q&A about classes and there's the Fan Friday itself. That as well as the developer quotes and a few other bits you can find after the break.

But before we get to that a quick note. Next weekend is the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, which I'll be spending helping my parents move to France. So I'll be away this Friday and won't be back until Wednesday, so Friday's update is going to be later (and I mean even later than this one was... call today's tardiness a measure to help you get used to next week's).

The Community Q&A is fairly detailed and has a nice number of questions, all dealing with the classes. Here's a quote regarding Imperial Agents in PvP:
Q: Mobility has always been a big part of PVP. How are you addressing this for the Imperial Agent and Smuggler, who are ranged classes with a cover system that keep them in a very predefined area while making them more stationary targets?

A: For players who wish to play a cover dependent spec in PVP, there are abilities that give them some pretty significant bonuses to mitigate the fact that they are stationary. There are also abilities that help keep enemies out of melee range while in cover.

Agents and Smugglers who prefer mobility can select skills that makes them less cover dependent and more focused on other abilities like stealth, poison, and close range combat.

I don't think that there are any big surprises in the Q&A, but it's a nice read regardless.

The second part of Friday's update was the Fan Friday, with the usual fan art and such. They also, coming as a surprise to absolutely nobody, revealed that they will be at E3 again this year:


Gear up for the excitement we have in store for you at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, CA. We’ll be updating The Old Republic website from the show floor of the convention, so be sure to check back during the event. Also, be sure to check the Events page for updates as we get closer to see what we’ll be up to!

They also added new forum smilies, new forum avatars, and they updated the Fan Site Kit.

So much for the official updates. But over on Game Informer they have an interview up with BioWare's Dr. Greg Zeschuk and Dr. Ray Muzyka. Most of the interview revolves around the upcoming Mass Effect 3 or other things not directly related to The Old Republic. On SWTOR there's just the following two questions:

What have been the exciting and challenging aspects of getting into the MMO business with The Old Republic?

Zeschuk: Obviously, MMOs are an enormous undertaking. There are a lot of technical challenges that you have to accomplish. It’s just the size. Historically, Bioware’s been known to make a lot of big games. Now working on an MMO, it’s very eye opening to see just how big they are.

There are some really successful ones out there. You have things you need to do to reach the bar. But it’s really rewarding though. We’re at the stage right now of doing a lot of internal and external testing for Star Wars and it’s really shaping up. It’s exciting. There are so many moving parts and it’s an interesting challenge, but we like that.

A lot of people around the office are excited to play it. Are there any plans coming together for a public beta?

Zeschuk: You’ll have to watch our website and see. At this point we’re still in more of a closed beta period. We’re definitely making great progress on it. The feedback’s been great. There’s always lots to do, but it’s really really shaping up. Before too long you guys will get a little crack at it. Keep an eye out for that.

It should be noted here that it has been clarified that Mr. Zeschuk is talking about Game Informer getting a hands-on session with The Old Republic (which has since taken place; possibly at the UK event). He is not talking about open beta or anything like that.

As such there isn't much of any interest regarding SWTOR in the interview.

In other, more depressing, news Eurogamer reports that apparently gold sellers are already setting up to sell credits in SWTOR. Here's an excerpt (and the only really relevant bit) from their news:

Companies selling Star Wars: The Old Republic currency for real-world money have begun hawking their wares - months before the game's projected launch.

Popular gold seller IGXE (Internet Game Exchange) press released its SWTOR service today. IGXE offers a placeholder price of £650 for 1000 SWTOR credits.

Honestly the whole gold seller thing depresses me. In general I'm happy to let other people play as they desire (and if they want to pay real money for virtual money that's their business), but the problem I have with this is that the farming interferes with the gameplay of honest players (both because of the farmers themselves and because it messes up the economy).

So I'm hoping, if doubtful, that BioWare can somehow outsmart these gold farmers.

And a small bit of news, Darth Hater reports that German magazine Buffed revealed the name of a new Warzone: The Voidstar. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if this is what the press got to see a couple of weeks ago in London (the same day the UK Community Event was held).

Which leaves us with the developer quotes.

Developer Quotes

  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Advanced Classes blog update.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on new UI.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on advanced classes.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on error in blog text.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on blog metric map.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on personal transport (isn't taxi). (in German)
  • [link] to Daniel Erickson on PC Gamer UK races.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on advanced classes roles.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Shadow/Sage.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Guardian/Sentinel.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Ord Mantell volcano.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on ability ranks.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on avoided questions.
  • [link] to Randy Begel on romances for bad guys.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on speaking German. (in German)
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on Game Informer interview.
  • [link] to Daniel Erickson on reading books.
  • [link] to Daniel Erickson on titles.
Over a week ago there was some excitement in the community because it appeared that PC Gamer UK magazine (which I think they stopped selling altogether in my local store so I haven't been able to get a hold of a copy yet) leaked all the remaining player species (including some eyebrow-raising choices such as "cyborg"). But apparently this was just a case of faulty reporting as Daniel Erickson explains:
Hey Folks,

The species/class combo list you're referencing is not accurate. If it does appear in the magazine, that's unfortunate.

My guess is that an enthusiastic member of the press wrote down everything he saw in the character creation screen which, as we’ve stated often, is nowhere near final. Occasionally we’ll have species in odd classes or in all classes because of a bug or testing.

Hope that helps!


Of course that's not saying it's entirely wrong either; "cyborg" could yet be a player species. personally I got the feeling that it might more refer to character backgrounds and that species is tied into your background (as such if you want to play a twi'lek you have to choose the twi'lek background, if you want to be a chiss you have to choose the chiss background, and if you pick the background with cybernetic enhancements then I guess that makes you a "cyborg").

Georg Zoeller on the other hand made a post about classes, specifically about class roles:

I've seen this question a few times now, so I'll try to explain.

First - we are not under any illusion that there will be parity in class distribution. There will be more Jedi Knights than Smugglers and there will always be more Sith Warriors than Agents. That is fine - we designed the game with that in mind. Certain fantasies are more popular than others after all.

There is a good number of people that only ever play damage dealing classes. Regardless of what choice you give them, when it comes to the core role of it, they want to go in there and make a difference with damage.

By having some Advanced Classes dedicated to pure damage, we are creating options for these players to experience different gameplay variations of damage dealing gameplay and mechanics within their class.

The Marauder / Sentinel skill trees allow for some great variation in gameplay (tactical vs. in your face, burst vs. sustained, different levels of mobility, Area of Effect vs single target) to give players that have a strong preference for the damage dealer role more variation that what is possible on ACs that fill multiple roles already.

So we really don't look at this as 'The Marauder only has one role available, therefore it must be significantly better at it than other ACs that have a DPS option', we look at this as 'The Marauder has one role available to it, and several very different (and full) ways of putting it to effect'. Plus, you get to wield dual blades - I hear some players really like that too.

Personally I think the whole thing of "what role do you fit into" is rather restrictive. I'd much rather just play with what skills I find fun to play instead of worrying about what role or not I have and whether the rest of the community thinks that's a good idea or not (as long as I can actually be reasonably effective of course). I can't help but wonder if, by focusing to much on specific roles, people aren't overly restricting themselves. But then I guess a lot of people still see these MMOs as games meant to be 'won'.

I don't recall having seen many post by him before, but last week Randy Begel made a post on the forums about romances for "bad guys" (players choosing more dark side options). Removing the posts he quoted that leaves two main parts:

Something to note: you don't really gain light side points just for being nice to someone or dark side points just for being a jerk. It takes more than that. Maybe you're just being manipulative when you're saying the "L" word to your romantic interest, or you were just having a bad day when you told them that thing they just gave you was garbage.
And part two:
Basically, there are definitely more than a few romances suitable for you bad boys and girls out there, so I wouldn't worry about getting left out.

However, if you're really dying to romance a particular character and they don't care for your antics you're going to have to make some compromises, like being nicer around them or maybe just keeping them away from your cacklingly evil behavior.

I'm glad to hear that there are romances for bad characters too; maybe that'll help convince them to change their evil ways. ;)

It seems that some people have been getting scared that they have to read all the books and such to enjoy the story in The Old Republic (no idea why anyone would think BioWare would do that). Luckily for these people Daniel Erickson assuaged those fears:

Hey Folks,

You most definitely don't need to read all the books and comics to enjoy the story in The Old Republic. Everything that your character would need to learn about the galaxy will be there for you in the world and class quests.

If you're really someone that wants the full picture, however, some classes know more than other classes about certain subjects, and not everyone who tells you things in the world is right or truthful. So seeing different classes, the books, the comics and all the fun website pieces can give a more complete view of the entire galaxy. Both Blood of the Empire and Deceived, for example, really delve into unexplored areas of Sith social politics and what it's like to live in the Empire.

Hope that helps!


And it's a good thing too as it seems Deceived isn't out on Kindle yet, meaning that I probably won't read it until it is. I'm not sure what it is with LucasArt and their incredibly slow uptake of new technologies. Anyway.

I always enjoy Daniel Erickson's posts (since they're about lore, which I generally find more interesting than game mechanics), so I'm glad to finish today's quotes with one of his about titles:

Hey Folks,

Darth and Lord are ranks in the Old Republic time period and while they represent an increasingly smaller percentage of overall Sith, they are clearly not at as rare as only having one or two running around in the galaxy. There are already numerous Darths (Baras, Malgus) we've seen who are not on the Dark Council.

It will likely not come as a surprise to most people that the titles of Darth and Lord are story-based rewards (one does not become a Darth by grinding frog-dogs) as are Master, etc. What may come as a surprise is that not everyone who completes a Sith or Jedi story will achieve them. There are always choices and those choices matter in many ways, including your notoriety and the rewards or reputation you earn. Darth will absolutely be off-limits when creating names.

Hope that helps!
Daniel Erickson

I must say that I am somewhat surprised that there are story paths in which you don't get certain titles. But I guess that makes sense; if you play a Sith and decide to rebel then you're not likely to earn a Darth title or such. Though that does make me wonder to what degree stories can diverge based on story choices; is it going to be pretty much the same story but you just didn't get the title (and the few quests related to it), or can you completely diverge and get basically a separate story? Somehow I'm not expecting that second one (as that would nearly double the amount of story content they'd need), but I do hope that there are proper replacements regardless of choices. I wouldn't want to miss out on something like that just because earlier in my gameplay I misunderstood a couple of options and thus chose something I had no clue would disable me from experiencing certain iconic class moments (like gaining a title).

I'm sure that BioWare will handle that properly though.

And that's it for this week. As said next week's update is going to be late as I'm away over the Easter weekend and not back until mid-week next week. Have a nice holiday all.

[link] to interview with Dr. Greg Zeschuk and Dr. Ray Muzyka at Game Informer.
[link] to gold seller news at Eurogamer.
[link] to The Voidstar warzone news at Darth Hater.

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