Monday, 19 September 2011

Studio Insider: Combat Animation

Last Friday BioWare had a Studio Insider for us with a look at combat animations and a Q&A on PvP, and they had an update on their presence at Eurogamer Expo coming weekend.

The Studio Insider starts with Principal Lead Animator Mark How giving a description of the combat animations. Here's an excerpt:

Once we knew what our rules were for combat, the programmers and animators were able to create a Lightsaber clashing system that could predict the volleys of weapons fire and other attacks being thrown at the player from all directions, and have the player dynamically react to ‘block’ these attacks. Not only that, but we were able to keep this system active while players were deflecting directed attacks, engaged in melee combat or even running. Players may not even realize all the factors that are coming into play to visually represent the combat experience, but we believe it’s critical for making the player really feel fully engaged in the fight. Without these dynamics, the players would wind up locked in certain animations when they go to engage in a “Stock strike” or “Project,” and then the combat would really be failing to capture the feel of Star Wars; it would give the player the impression that they are watching the action rather than taking part in it for themselves.

Most of the article comes down to "we have an animation system", "we spend a while developing it" and "it's fairly complex" without going into detail about what system they actually have. It would've been interesting to learn exactly what they're doing to give combat a cinematic feel without giving players the sense that they're losing control of their characters. I also suspect that most players will never really notice the nuances of the animation system much (after the first few times of "hey, my guy blocked that blaster bolt with his lightsaber"), which is a pity.

After the break a quick look at the Q&A, the Eurogamer Expo news and the developer quotes.

The Studio Insider also includes a Community Q&A in which Principal Lead PvP Designer Gabe Amatangelo answers some PvP-realted questions. Here's an excerpt:

Q: Are there any plans for non-combat forms of PvP, such as Pazaak or Swoop Racing? - RizzoRatchet

A: We are considering, testing and/or developing several things like that. We’ll let you know as soon as we are sure about what we’re going to add.

Q: Will we see a “Criminal” or “Bounty” mechanic so that we can persistently hunt down and torment those who hinder our progression? – Gryffin

A: Haha. Nice way of phrasing ‘how do you guys plan to deal with griefers!’ We are currently testing and iterating on a system to ensure player progression cannot be blocked by griefers on a PvP server, while still allowing for the thrill of spontaneous open world PvP conflicts.

I have pretty much no interest in PvP, but the inclusion of "non-combat forms of PvP" I would very much like to see.

The second update BioWare had last Friday was regarding Eurogamer Expo this coming weekend. Here's the full text:

Held each year at the Earls Court Exhibition Center in London, the Eurogamer Expo stands as one of the largest video game events in the United Kingdom. This year BioWare and LucasArts will be bringing Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ to the show, letting gamers get their hands on Origin World content for each of the eight classes in the game, as well as some Player-vs-Player combat in both the Alderaan and Huttball Warzones!

The Eurogamer Expo runs from September 22nd through the 25th, with show floor hours from 11:00 AM GMT until 7:00 PM GMT. For those of you who are early entry ticket holders, the show opens an hour earlier at 10:00 AM GMT.

On Saturday, September 24th from 8:00PM until 12:00AM GMT, BioWare will be hosting a Community Meet and Greet at Gamerbase London inside the Trocadero Centre. Those who attend will be able to meet other members of The Old Republic community, have a couple of drinks with the BioWare team, and take part in a developer Q&A session.

If you aren’t able to make it to the Eurogamer Expo, be sure to check back to as well as our Community Forums, Twitter and Facebook for the latest information!

On to the developer quotes then...

Developer Quotes

  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on instancing.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on instancing, part 2.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Surrender ability.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on in-combat stealth.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Imperial Agents (not) forgotten.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on instancing, part 3.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on (no) low-level ganking.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on EU Testing.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on same gender romances.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on AoE stealth.
  • [link] to Chris Collins on GAMEFest.
  • [link] to Chris Collins on same gender romances (German).
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on release date speculation.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on post-release content.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on same gender romances, part 2.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Smuggler Snuggle.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on server security.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on forum discussion.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Smuggler Hunker Down ability.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on install size.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on beta scams.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on re-inviting testers.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on re-inviting testers, part 2.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on re-inviting testers, part 3.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on re-inviting testers, part 4.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on re-inviting testers, part 5.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on re-inviting testers, part 6.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on re-inviting testers, part 7.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on hybrid builds.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on heavy armor.

The first post I'll copy isn't so much because it has interesting information, but just because I like how Georg Zoeller is telling Imperial Agent players to remain patient:

Dear Agents,

Even though you are so capable at disguising yourself, lurking in stealth, the Keeper has not not forgotten you. He is watching your every move. He's even indicated that member of the Dark Council has expressed interest in your progress.

Intelligence reports on the activities of BioWare, said to be a secret subdivision of division of CErkA Corporation, have indicated that while you may feel to successfully escaped their attention, you were not successful. The company clearly is aware of your presence and your attempts to undermine detection by hiding your true numbers have failed.

As to why such attention has not yet led to the expected electronic dossier on your latest fashion choices (likely to also spill the guts on the latest of Imperial Intelligence's secret gadgetry and tactical training) has not yet leaked to the galactic information network is unclear, but data indicates that this is a matter of so called 'integer sequencing', a theory that suggests that given a number of discreet entities and a rule of not highlighting each entity more than one time, there will always be one entity that is highlighted last.

While highly theoretical, potentially even heretic concepts like this are unlikely to lessen the displeasure of the Dark Council should such information leak, we are certain that even after the expected punishment (which, of course, in time honored tradition will only affect lower rank and file members of Imperial Intelligence), there will be enough Agents available at to deploy to the field once operation 'Beta' has concluded.

Your's truly (... or so)



The issue of same gender romances has been going around a bit the last few weeks, following BioWare stating that there weren't any of them in the game. Last week Stephen Reid made an official statement following the outcry from the community:

Official statement follows:

Due to the design constraints of a fully voiced MMO of this scale and size, many choices had to be made as to the launch and post-launch feature set. Same gender romances with companion characters in Star Wars: The Old Republic will be a post-launch feature. Because The Old Republic is an MMO, the game will live on through content expansions which allow us to include content and features that could not be included at launch, including the addition of more companion characters who will have additional romance options.

I guess that's at least something. Of course no timeframe or even any real guarantees or such, and I wonder if it won't be 'too little, too late', but we'll see. I still think that same gender romances should've been included from the start, but at least there's a good chance that they'll be included at some point now, which is more than we had.

Another issues that, understandably, is going around a lot in the community is the issue of beta testing and the testing weekends. As I noted a week ago Mr. Reid had posted a FAQ about the various forms of testing and I recall expressing surprise when they stated that they're not planning to re-invite people to subsequent testing weekends once they've been invited once. This week he followed up with the decision to make one exception to that rule:

Hey all,

Today we re-invited all testers who were invited to our Beta Testing Weekend #1 back to a future Beta Testing Weekend (which will happen on as yet unspecified date). I wanted to give you a little insight into why, and clear up confusion.

These testers were not re-invited to a Beta Testing Weekend for this weekend. We're still internally testing the next major build of the game. As we've said before, when we're ready to give everyone a date for the next Beta Testing Weekend, we'll announce it.

Why are they being re-invited? Because we feel for a significant proportion of those invited to test during Beta Testing Weekend #1, they did not have an optimal testing experience. As I mentioned before, we had some issues, including some people not receiving an invite, and others being unable to get the client in time because of issues with their acceptance of their invite. With those factors in mind, we felt that because many people did not experience the game, it was worthwhile to re-invite everyone.

Where does that leave everyone who hasn't been invited to test yet?

First, I realize that we previously stated if people were invited to test, they would not be invited again. Although that policy may change in future, we're not changing it right now. However we feel that this situation is unique enough that we're re-inviting this weekend's testers. We expect this to be a one-off situation. I hope anyone who's waiting to get into testing realizes that if they had similar issues, we would 'do the right thing' by you too.

Second, it's important to realize as we've said before that future Game Testing Weekends are planned to be much, much larger than the first. This weekend's entire testing population is actually just a small fraction of the total number we're planning to invite to the next weekend, and our number of invites will go up after that. (Indeed, we'll probably just increase our numbers overall and add the re-invited testers onto that total number.)

In summary, we had some issues and we wanted to ensure those invited to test, got to test. This is, we feel, a unique and one-off situation, but it's also the right thing to do.

I realize that some of you may feel that getting a re-invite is unfair, as those re-invited will get more play time than those invited to just one weekend. That's understandable. However, getting an invite and then not being able to play through no fault of your own isn't great either. I'm sure if you put yourself in the shoes of someone who was invited but couldn't play, you'd be grateful for the chance to test the game and give feedback.

For those of you yet to test, please be patient and understanding of our reasoning here. We're going to invite many, many people to test The Old Republic before we launch and chances are, you'll be one of them.

For those of you lucky enough to be re-invited, please respect the Game Testing Agreement and have some sympathy for those who haven't been invited to test at all yet.

If you have questions, you know where we are.

Hopefully that should make my friend happy (who, I think, could only play half the time due to server downtime).

And that's all for now.

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