Friday, 14 October 2011

Signs of War

Oh my. With New York Comic-Con officially started today BioWare had a bunch of The Old Republic updates for us (I count five official news items). So we'd better get to it.

The first, biggest, news is that they have a new (ingame) trailer for us titled "Signs of War". Narrated by Satele Shan it sets the stage for the stories of the game itself, giving glimpses of the things players might encounter when playing. Here is the official news (with the video linked):

A return to war is inevitable. Two great armies mass their forces, readying themselves for the approaching battle. Meanwhile, the galaxy is rife with chaos and corruption. As the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire teeter on the brink of open warfare, a new generation takes charge; their actions will shape the future of the entire galaxy.

We are excited to present to you the latest Game trailer for Star Wars™: The Old Republic™, Signs of War, which debuted at New York Comic Con.

To some degree we're getting a bit inundated with SWTOR trailers, but I still liked this one. Can't wait to play and experience those stories it's hinting at.

Read on after the break for a new Operations page, release date news (good news for those in Europe), convention news both future and past, and the developer quotes.

The second bit of news is that BioWare put up a new "Game Systems" page for Operations. Here is the official news:

Over the past several weeks we have talked more and more about Operations in Star Wars™: The Old Republic™. Operations are high-level, multi-group missions where you and your friends will face the most menacing threats in the galaxy. The new Game Systems page offers more details about Operations and offers a look at one of the Operations that you and your allies will be able to explore.

Head over to the new Games Systems page to read up on the content that players have to look forward to with Operations in The Old Republic, and be sure to check out the developer walkthrough for the Eternity Vault to get just a small sample of the challenges that await you.

As the page itself says it's a bit heavy on the Eternity Vault, considering that that's the only Operation that they've announced yet. But during New York Comic-Con BioWare has hinted at another operation revolving around the Hutts and some of the images on that page point to that.

The third bit of news is good news for me.* And coincidentally also for everyone else in Europe. Now the release date is the 20th of December in all launch territories, making the release two days earlier in Europe. This way The Old Republic now has a 'global' launch (apparently 'global' means just Europe and North America). Here's it straight from BioWare:

Today BioWare and LucasArts are excited to announce that the new global launch date for Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ will be December 20th, 2011. Updating from previously announced plans, the release will now be simultaneous in North American and European launch territories!

Those who have pre-ordered the game and redeemed their Pre-Order Code at the Code Redemption Center before the game’s official release are eligible for Early Game Access as well as an in-game ‘Color Stone’ to change the color of your weapon’s visual effects. If you haven’t yet reserved your copy of the game, be sure to visit our Pre-Order page and secure your place in the Old Republic now!

Additionally, be sure to check back to as well as our Twitter and Facebook pages for all the latest news and updates on Star Wars: The Old Republic.

But before launch there's at least one more convention to come: Paris Games Week. And BioWare announced today that they'll be there too:

Paris Games Week, held annually in Paris, France, plays host to over 100,000 passionate gamers each year. This year BioWare and LucasArts will be in attendance to give people the opportunity to get some hands-on time with Star Wars™: The Old Republic™! Located inside Hall 3 of the Paris Expo inside of the Portes de Versailles, those who come by our booth will have the opportunity to experience in-game content, including Origin Worlds and Huttball Warzone PvP.

Paris Games Week runs from October 21st to October 25th, with hours from 9:00AM CET until 7:00PM CET, except for Tuesday, October 25th which closes an hour earlier at 6:00PM CET.

The BioWare European Community Team, including European Community Manager Chris Collins and French Community Manager Antonio Moreno, will be hosting a Community Meet & Greet on Friday, October 21st. Be sure to check the forums for the latest details on location and time!

And the final bit of official news is regarding promotion for the new novel "Revan" at New York Comic-Con:

Revan's eyes snapped open, the primal fury of his nightmare wrenching him awake for the third night in a row. He lay still and quiet, turning his focus inward to ease the pounding of his heart as he silently recited the opening line of the Jedi mantra. There is no emotion; there is peace.

Both reviled for his hand in leading a new Sith Empire on a path of destruction across the galaxy and revered for his role in the destruction of the ancient Star Forge superweapon, the Jedi known as Revan has walked the delicate line between darkness and light. Now, in Drew Karpyshyn’s upcoming novel from Del Rey Books, fans of Star Wars™ will be able to follow the famed Jedi’s journey after the events of Star Wars™: Knights of the Old Republic™, as well as learn more about the mysterious Sith Emperor.

Be sure to pick up Star Wars™: The Old Republic™: Revan when it hits store shelves on November 15th and don’t forget to read our interview with the book’s author, Drew Karpyshyn, to learn more about the story of Revan! You can also meet Drew in person this weekend at New York Comic Con!

Throughout the weekend he will be on three separate panels, which you can learn about by checking our Events Page. Drew will also be signing books at the Del Rey Booth (#212) from 11:00AM – 12:00PM EDT on Friday and Saturday, and from 4:00PM – 5:00PM EDT on Sunday.

Right. So much for all the official news, but that's not all yet. Last week was GDC Online and BioWare had a number of talks there. Though note that these were all mostly for industry professionals and not geared towards players. So not much news in them. And of course Darth Hater live-blogged them all (except for the last one, which they decided not to post). Day one, day two and day three. The report of those that I found most interesting was the one by Georg Zoeller where he basically talks about testing and analyzing data. Here's an excerpt:

2:15: We can generate all these maps in 3D to let you find metric points without heavy filtering. This works well because the game is in 3D and we can look on multiple levels adding to verticality. Other applications include behavioral analysis. For example, given a perfectly symetrical t-junction, 68% of the players will go right. This is good to know when designing content. We also use fog of war to find what areas people never see. Without fog of war, our testers would pass through entire planets without a single person going to some areas. After adding fog of war our heat maps showed players going to every piece of the map seeing all the content.

Hmm, interesting. I almost always tend to turn left. Either way, you might find the reports interesting to read. Just don't expect any game reveals or anything.

If you're looking for those then the panel BiOWare held at New York Comic-Con might be more interesting. Again, Darth Hater live-blogged it for those of us who weren't there. Here's a few excerpts:

2:53: Daniel Erickson: 15 is the number of flashpoints players will be able to experience at launch. Each one of these flashpoints are tightly scripted dungeons.

2:59: James Ohlen: PVP Warzones at launch - 3. Information on Voidstar, Satele Shan introducing it, video. Voidstar is inspired by Episode 4, objective based, each side gets a turn attacking (Assault type), clips being shown. Four objective points.

3:15: James Ohlen: Visual change of morality paths is in. Staying away from morality locking abilities, maybe later. Don't want to gimp you.

Fifteen Flashpoints is definitely (about twice) more than I was expecting. And that last point regarding the visual morality changes came as a surprise considering how long they've been saying that they weren't doing that. I'm not sure what to think of that yet; I'm generally not that happy that appearance is tied into story choices. For those thinking that it might be referring to morality icons in dialog, BioWare tweeted that it really is appearance:

In our Q/A James Ohlen announces that your darkside/light side alignment can change your appearance!

And that leaves the developer quotes.

Developer Quotes

  • [link] to William Wallace on washing machine fire.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on PvP preferences.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on storm in teacup.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Jedi Knight leap distance.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on storm in a teacup, part 2.
  • [link] to Georg Zeoller on Flashpoints. (in German)
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on Item Modification system.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on iterative development.
  • [link] to David Bass on same name guilds.
  • [link] to David Bass on same name guilds, part 2.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on new Testing invites sent.
  • [link] to Charles Boyd on Tanno Vik (Trooper Companion).
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on more new Testing invites sent.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on pre-order Early Game Access.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on NDA not lifted.
  • [link] to David Bass on NYCC Meet & Greet.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on extended maintenance.

I've lifted out three quotes today. The first one is by Allison Berryman. Some news surfaced (from a poorly translated French article as I understand) that seemed to suggest that few items are mod-able. Considering that in the past BioWare had mentioned that lots of items are mod-able and that this is how they allow players to choose their own appearance (in lieu of an appearance tab) people were understandably upset. Allison Berryman stepped in with some clarifications:

It’s clear many of you are very interested in the Item Modification system (and understandably so!) and the various changes it has undergone. However, we’d like to remind you that it’s very difficult to get a good impression of an article’s meaning via Google translate – subtlety and context are often easily lost by automatic translations. Translating in general can be very difficult and can lead to confusion or misinterpretations.

It’s very important to keep in mind that we actually use our Game Testing Program to test the game. This means that sometimes we make radical changes to systems in order to gather the feedback we need. This testing allows us to find what works the best and is most fun for players. The Item Modification system is a system that has required some changes and testing as we feel out what players enjoy the most. In one build, items that can be modified may be rare. In another, they may be ubiquitous. Through testing, we’ll try several implementations, gather feedback, and make changes accordingly.

When Daniel spoke about Item Modifications, it is likely that what he spoke about reflected the implementation that was currently in testing – not necessarily the final intended state of the system (and we say “likely” because after talking with Daniel, he doesn’t have an exact recollection of what he said; he does do a LOT of interviews!). We haven’t delved deeply into discussing Item Modifications officially, and one reason for that is exactly what you’re seeing here: talking about things while they’re still in testing (and thus in flux) can be confusing to the community, so we do avoid it when we can while still trying to share information about the game.

We know you’re all interested in the specifics of how the system works, but please do keep in mind that quite a few things in the game are still subject to change as we continue with the test. Don’t panic! Though we’re close to launch, we aren’t done testing!

While i can understand that they're testing, I kind of have to wonder the need for testing this. It seems kind of obvious to me that allowing users in an MMO to maximize the amount of appearance customization is a good thing. And I have to wonder if they're also planning to test a system where players can mod absolutely every armor and freely move their mods in and out of their armor (and weapons). But I'll refrain from ranting about it and instead point you to an article at MMORPG which I almost completely agree with. It seems to me that BioWare is on the verge of having a unique system that allows maximum visual customization without losing stat (and visual) progression. Almost the holy grail of itemization. And yet it feels as if they're blind to seeing it considering that they're testing the exact opposite direction from where they should be going.

Yes, I want to be able to wear my level 1 starter padawan robes at max level and not be behind in stats one tiniest bit.

The second post is by David Bass who made mention of guilds with the same name:

We allow for guilds with the same name to be created multiple times in the Guild Headquarters because we'll have lots of servers available at launch. Guilds with the same name will automatically be placed on different servers, as guild names are unique per server.

I must say that this seems... odd to me. it kind of ignores the fact that there is a global community and having two guilds of the same name would be confusing and be somewhat disruptive to that global, cross-server community. On the other hand it would allow particularly large guilds to have separate chapters on different servers and... beyond that small, very specialized benefit I can't really think of any other. It's just... odd.

Finally a post by Allison Berryman that's really just a notice:

Hello everyone! will be undergoing maintenance on Tuesday, October 18th beginning at 8:00AM CDT. This will be an extended maintenance period, and the site may be unavailable for up to 24 hours. We appreciate your patience!

Thought I'd repeat that here so that if Tuesday the official weqbsite is offline people aren't surprised.

And that's it. If all goes well I'll get my new PC tomorrow so I'll be spending the weekend getting stuff installed on that again, ready for TOR (well, first for Skyrim). See you on the other side.

[link] to GDC Online day one Live Blog at Darth Hater.
[link] to GDC Online day two Live Blog at Darth Hater.
[link] to GDC Online day three Live Blog at Darth Hater.
[link] to NYCC Panel Live Blog at Darth Hater.

* Well, not really. Despite the release date being earlier I suspect that I'll be away on Christmas vacation regardless so it really doesn't affect me much at all.

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