Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Join the Fight

Yes, I'm late; work has been crazy busy and I've been dead tired coming home. On top of that last weekend was Comic-Con with a lot more stuff coming out of it, but that'll all have to wait until I've had a bit of time to compile all the new links and such.

Anyway, last Friday BioWare posted a new trailer. Titled "Join the Fight" it fully consists of ingame footage and gives each of the eight classes a brief moment. Here is the official news:

We are excited to present Join the Fight, an all-new in-game trailer for Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ that premiered at San Diego Comic-Con 2011.

The uneasy peace established by the Treaty of Coruscant is broken and both the Galactic Republic and Sith Empire build their armies. As both sides prepare for open war, a new generation of heroes must rise up to meet the challenges of a volatile age, declaring their allegiances and fighting for what they believe in.

If you can’t join us in San Diego, be sure to check back here throughout the convention for more updates. You can also follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook to get the latest updates straight from the convention floor.

It's a nice trailer, though some of the choices for the characters seem a bit questionable to me (just what on earth is that thing the Consular is wearing on her head; guess I'm glad that they've got an option to hide helmets). Worth a look.

The developer quotes are after the break, as well as a very brief mention of some of the things that they showed during Comic-Con.

Comic-Con in San Diego was quite busy for BioWare. Not only did they have the event itself, but BioWare also set up their own mini event "BioWare Base" across the street that anyone could walk in and play their games (or so I understand). But beyond the reveal of a big Darth Malgus statue, most of the reveals were during their one-hour panel in which they talked about the game and in which fans got to ask questions.

One of the things they mentioned was the vehicles players get to travel around the planets quicker. They were originally revealed at E3, but people weren't that enthusiastic about the ones they showed. So based on that feedback they decided to implement a whole new bunch of vehicles that players get access to:

These seemed to be welcomed far more enthusiastically. And I must say, those land speeders like very sweet.

Of course people asked if your companion or another player could sit in the second seat, but unfortunately no. Though they are looking into it for post-launch apparently.

Another new thing that they're implementing, based on tester feedback, is the ability to customize the visual appearance of your companion characters. They gave the example of how you can change the skin color of a twi'lek companion:

Sounds very sweet. But to be honest I'm surprised that they had to have the beta tester feedback tell them that this was a very good idea since people have been asking them about it and shown worry about it ever since they first announced that they had companion characters. In fact I think that one of the very first things that people wondered was "but what if my friend has the same companion". They've been hinting that they had something in place, but to hear now that it was only after testers told them of this problem that they did something about it is, frankly, worrying. I thought they'd gotten the message loud and clear long before that. Maybe they thought that equipment customization was enough.

Anyway, they also dropped hints about maybe some kind of AI customization similar to Dragon Age and more control of the companion character's actions, but they wouldn't go into details yet.

Then there were also some hints dropped about unlocking races for player characters, sounding like this might have to do with the much rumored Legacy system. But again no details (and sounded like they already said too much).

Finally another reveal was the announcement of a release window of "Holiday 2011" (no real surprise there). They've said that they'll have larger-scale testing in September and it sounded like those tests should determine a more accurate launch date. Though I was kind of expecting a release date announcement by GamesCom I guess even EA/BioWare don't know exactly when yet.

And I think that's about it for the most interesting stuff. But you can look at the full panel on YouTube or embedded below (note, this video is over fifty minutes long):

And that leaves us with the developer quotes for now.

Developer Quotes

  • [link] to David Bass on BioWare Base schedule.
  • [link] to David Bass on BioWare base invites.
  • [link] to David Bass on BioWare Base schedule, part 2.
  • [link] to David Bass on BioWare Base schedule, part 3.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on game not initially available outside EU/US.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on Collector's Edition sold out (on Origin).
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Early Access is not stress testing.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on no player housing beyond ship.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on less popular classes.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on instancing zones.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on changing advanced class.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on VIP Store.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on flare gun.

As noted in a previous post BioWare started their pre-order program for The Old Republic last week. Soon after there arose some controversy about it. And it wasn't that the Collector's Edition is rather expensive (though as I understand half of the price is for the statue in it) or even the VIP store (which they quickly clarified won't have any more powerful items and just items with a different look) but the fact that in large parts of the world the game won't even be released just yet. Here's what Stephen Reid had to say on that:

To all of our fans outside of North America and Europe:

Today we've announced the pre-order details for the initial launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic. BioWare and LucasArts are completely focused on building an exceptional game and an exceptional game service to go with it. Unfortunately, to achieve the goal of an exceptional game service certain territories could not be serviced at launch. This decision was undertaken with a quality player experience as the primary goal.

We are humbled by that level of excitement and anticipation around the world for The Old Republic. As soon as we have more information about additional launches in more territories, we’ll let you know.

We are committed to delivering Star Wars: The Old Republic to BioWare and Star Wars fans around the world, and to growing a truly global community.

I think that I can understand their decision in this. Though it also does honestly suck for everyone outside NA/EU. Then again as I understand it people could still buy the game and play on NA/EU servers as there's supposedly no region locking (which is great regardless). Considering how often I've played games on US servers from EU I don't think that should be a problem for anyone truly wanting to play.

And I have little doubt that they'll release it in other territories 'soon' after the official launch.

The next post is by Georg Zoeller replying in a topic titled "Just confirmed, instanced worlds are in but only as needed for population control". He gives some insight as to why they've got instancing:

It's a pretty easy choice and in line with our launch goal: Players that start the game should have a smooth experience. MMOs have crazy launch situations where everyone starts in a few locations and then spread out naturally very quickly. You end up having to develop solutions to handle this one-time use case and there are quite a few different options for doing so.

This solution means that many of the situations where you could end up with a queue can be mitigated by temporarily allowing additional capacity when needed.

I have to agree with Georg; sounds very sensible to me. Though in general I have absolutely no problem with instancing (if implemented correctly and far too many games have implemented it so poorly that it felt like a huge pain instead of the great benefit it can be, souring perception towards them irreparably). If it were up to me there's only be one server with heavy instancing so that anyone can play with anyone else at any time and not have to worry about being on the wrong server compared to where some of your friends are. Any community building issues could be solved by giving people a home instance. But I digress. Safe to say that I can definitely see the benefits of employing instancing to keep zone crowding during launch low.

Another post by Georg talks about changing your advanced class:

The design goal and reason why we settled on this method is as follows.

People make mistakes. Quite a lot actually, surprisingly. The line 'omg, I picked the wrong AC' shows up more than you might expect in our chatlogs.

We do want your AC choice to matter, but we also don't want to punish simple mistakes. So, the current design is that changing your advanced class initially is cheap (e.g. changing it right at level 10 is almost free).

As you gain levels, the price increases dramatically, and quickly. At level 20, it might just be out of reach for almost everyone. The exact pricing curve is still being tweaked based on testing, of course.

We definitely know this is a controversial topic in the community, but we feel that this solution gives us the best of both worlds.

Short: We allow for mistakes and short term buyer's remorse, but don't realistically allow for changing your advanced class like pants.

I'm glad that they're allowing people to change their advanced class (then again I'd have no issue with allowing people to change it whenever they desire for no cost whatsoever). I'm worried though that ten levels might not be enough to decide whether the class really is right for you. As least in many MMOs it's not until high level where classes really start to get into their own.

I'm also wondering, if people make so many mistakes picking an advanced class, whether they're really communicating properly what the classes entail and how playing them is. Perhaps it would be a very good idea to let players actually play both classes before asking them to make a decision between them. Perhaps not unlike the secondary profession skill trainers in Guild Wars (Prophecies campaign anyway). Put players into some kind of simulator or such, or let them do a few missions controlling first one type of droid and then another, temporarily giving them a few of the more advanced skills. Because in the end actually playing a class is the only way you're going to find out. What if your first pick of AC was right after all and you regret switching?

Anyway, that's it for now. There's still a bunch of Comic-Con stuff in the pipeline (though really, with that panel video you've got the most interesting parts I think), but that'll have to wait until I've got some more time (and some sleep).

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