Sunday, 4 December 2011

Choose Your Side: Agent vs. Consular

First off; woot:

That means I can (finally) use the keyboard to make dialog choices without being surprised by BioWare's different interpretations. And yes, tha's optional (in fact it defaults to off right now).

Anyway, on to the Friday updates. This Friday BioWare released another "Choose Your Side" video, this time pitting my two main classes against each other: Jedi Consular versus Imperial Agent. Here's the official news:

From the moment we announced the eight classes in Star Wars™: The Old Republic™, fans have been pitting them against each other, arguing who would have the advantage in a one-on-one fight. The hallways of BioWare echo this debate, with the writers, combat designers and other developers all chiming in on which class they feel reigns supreme.

In the latest entry of our series “Choose Your Side,” members of the Star Wars: The Old Republic team plead their cases for two iconic Star Wars™ classes, highlighting the many skills and abilities that set each class apart. This time around, Senior Writer Alexander Freed and Designer Ken Dilks argue in favor of the stealthy Imperial Agent, while Writer Jo Berry and Designer Jason Attard speak on behalf of the Force-wielding Jedi Consular.

I'm going to be a cop-out and say it's a draw. The Agent (particularly the sniper) seems to me to be a very preparation-based class getting the upper hand when they get to decide when-and-where, but the Consular (particularly the Sage) seems a heavily reaction-based class, healing back whatever damage the Agent might do. So it becomes a question of whether the Agent can do damage quickly enough for the Consular to react to or not.

It also seems to me that the video focuses heavily on the Sniper and Sage advanced classes, pretty much ignoring both the Shadow and Operative advanced classes (not once did it mention stealth that I recall). Then again it's probably not very interesting making a video of two invisible classes.

Read on after the break for The Old Republic peripherals, the end of the pre-launch guild program, lots of links again, and the developer quotes.

BioWare also took the time this Friday to a advertise Razer's The Old Republic-branded peripherals; keyboard, mouse, headset and mouse mat. Here's an excerpt from the official news:

During E3 2011 we announced that BioWare and LucasArts had partnered with Razer, the world’s leading provider of high-end gaming products, to create a line of premium PC peripherals based on Star Wars™: The Old Republic™. Now, as the game approaches its December 20th launch date, we’re excited to inform you that Razer has begun taking pre-orders for each of these incredible products!

To coincide with the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic on December 20th, Razer will be releasing several peripherals based on the game, including a gaming keyboard that is the first of its kind. The Star Wars: The Old Republic Gaming Keyboard by Razer features several programmable Macro Keys, as well as ten adaptive tactile keys that will allow you to have quick access to your most valued skills and abilities. But what sets this keyboard apart from anything else is the full-color multi-touch LCD track-panel that you can use to control your media player, or navigate the game world more efficiently. The keyboard will retail for $249.99 and is available for pre-order now.

As the news page says (further down) you can head to Razer's website to see the items yourself and pre-order them from the store. Personally I'll stick with my G15 keyboard, trackball (which doesn't need a mouse mat) and surround sound speakers.

Finally BioWare put up a reminder to finalize your guild details before the pre-launch program closes (which it has now done, so if you haven't yet then you're too late). Here's the one bit from the official news that's still relevant:

At the end of the Pre-Launch Guild Program and before your guild is deployed to The Old Republic, guilds on the website may not be altered in any way. This includes creating/disbanding guilds, adding/removing guild members, promoting/demoting guild members, adding/removing allies and adversaries, as well as changing guild's server type, time zone, and language preference. During this period, guilds can continue posting in their public and private forums. Prior to Early Game Access, you will be notified by email to check the website for your guild’s deployment status.

Personally, since I haven't joined any guild, I'm less interested in where guilds are going and more interested in which of the (EU) roleplaying servers (assuming that they have multiple) will be the 'main' roleplaying server. Somehow I've got a feeling that a lot of roleplaying guilds are going to ignore their official deployment and instead all go to one server. This server will be absolutely packed with massive wait times (unfortunately), but will also have by far the strongest concentration of roleplayers. Hopefully those with little incentive to roleplay will see the large population as a sign to move to another server, because it's going to be a massive pain.

And that The Old Republic will be big seems almost certain. So much so in fact that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick seems to be running scared. At least that's the only conclusion that I can draw when he starts making statements like this:

“Lucas is going to be the principal beneficiary of the success of Star Wars,” he said. “We’ve been in business with Lucas for a long time and the economics will always accrue to the benefit of Lucas, so I don’t really understand how the economics work for Electronic Arts.

“If you look at the history of the people investing in an MMO and achieving success, it’s a small number.”

I have no doubt that Lucas will come out very well, but I have a hard time seeing how a CEO like Kotick can truly believe that EA would make a deal that doesn't do well for them. In fact, were I an investor such a statement would make me lose any confidence I might have in a CEO, because apparently he doesn't know how to run his business if he thinks publishers make deals that aren't good for them, if he can't think of any way in which the economics would work.

And it seems that analysts aren't buying it either, as they have every expectation that The Old Republic will be profitable for EA:

“Licensors do take a piece of the pie and is an economical hurdle that entertainment has been struggling with for years,” Divnich commented.

“It’s a give and take scenario, but given EA’s historical ability to negotiate favorable license terms, I don’t believe Lucas’s share is a detriment to the game’s profitability.”

“The revenue split is around 35% to LucasArts after EA earns back their investment,” Pachter said.

“That means EA keeps most of the revenue from disc sales, so they should earn a nice profit there. Keep in mind that EA expensed the development cost when incurred, so much of the disc sales revenue will be profit.”

He goes on to say that EA would make a profit at 500.000 subscribers (which matches what EA has said previously). So the only conclusion I can draw for Mr. Kotick's statement is that he's running scared. Scared people do weird things. And that can only bode well for the success of The Old Republic.

Of course not everyone will like the game. Among the numerous positive previews there have also been a fair number of previews which, while often positive as well, do conclude that the game isn't for the writer in question. One such is the preview by Ravious at the Kill Ten Rats blog (where he's mostly known for his Guild Wars 2 news). He concludes:

Finally, I would love to play, but I don’t feel like shelling out $50 plus a subscription to play something essentially super-shiny vanilla. With holiday gifts needing spending, I might pick it up next year. I think I would enjoy the journey of going through each class’ story. So much of it feels though like “play together, alone.” I am a little worried at what might become of the end game too. I know once I got a whiff of Rift’s near-release end game I quit the game. For now, I think I will just look forward to stories and spoilers.

I think it's good to remember that not everyone will like the game, not everyone will play it. And a lot of people, like Ravious here, will play it later. There will be a lot of people with a more "wait and see" attitude before they devote time to it. The number of people pre-ordering is generally a small percentage of the total number of people who end up playing, which considering the number of estimated pre-orders (close to a million at this point) again shows how incredibly massive the game is likely to be.

Over on IGN in the meantime they have a hands-on preview with the Sith Sorcerer. Here's an excerpt:

You may notice the Sorcerer is not one of the Empire's four base classes. It's an offshoot of the Inquisitor class, and from what I can tell is vastly different from the Assassin, the other specialization Inquisitors can choose. The differences seem so drastic, in fact, that in-game players identify as their advanced class, not their base. When broadcasting to chat fields that I'm looking for a group, I type in Sorcerer, not Inquisitor.

The Sith Sorcerer isn't the only class with healing abilities on the Imperial side, but is my class of choice because, well, quite honestly I just like the idea of being able to shoot lightning out of my fingertips. If I dumped all skill points into my Lightning tree I could be pretty damn lethal with electricity too. The skill tree opens up at level 10, and after that you get one point per level to distribute across its three branches -- a standard system for a post-WoW MMO. You can spread points across all three, but because you'll never be able to fill out the whole tree, it makes more sense to specialize in an area in order to unlock the most powerful abilities.

I sometimes wonder if people truly understand, and I think that this might cause a lot of trouble when people play, that classes such as the Sorcerer aren't 'healer', because it depends on in what tree you put your points. In one tree the Sorcerer is a healer, but in another the Sorcerer is a ranged damage dealer. Luckily with multiple healer classes I suspect that LFG calls might go out for the roles (Tank and Healer; there's usually more than enough damage dealers) instead of the specific class.

One site that's been particularly busy is the relatively new (as far as I'm aware) SWTORHub. Part of the Ten Ton Hammer network they've been posting a load of previews and articles. Unfortunately their class previews also tend to have a number of early game spoilers, so read with care. Here's a list of articles they posted last week:

  • [link] to Social Abilities video at SWTORHub.
  • [link] to Sith Warrior preview at SWTORHub.
  • [link] to Alignment Guide at SWTORHub.
  • [link] to Bounty Hunter impressions at SWTORHub.
  • [link] to Advanced Class walkthrough at SWTORHub.
  • [link] to Warzones introduction at SWTORHub.
  • [link] to 5 Reasons article at SWTORHub.
  • [link] to UI tips at SWTORHub.

I'm not going to quite all of them; I'll just pick out a single quite from the last article. I was actually surprised; though I knew most of them I managed to have completely missed the camera distance option. And that with me complaining at how close the camera was to the character (when I play MMOs I tend to change camera distance a lot depending on the situation; far out when out questing and close by when in safe zones). So I'll quote that tip here:

Set Camera Max Distance

No matter what game I play – regardless of genre – one of the things I’m most particular about is camera control while playing. The default camera distance to your character in The Old Republic is quite a bit closer than in most MMOs, and while this is great for immersion and lends itself well to giving the game a distinctly RPG vibe, I typically prefer to have increased spatial awareness.

If you plan on diving into Warzones spatial awareness becomes even more important, so tweaking the max distance of the camera is a core adjustment to consider right off the bat.

Thanks for the tip. I've set it to 80% myself, which gives me a wide range of distances to play with while still allowing me to get a close zoom that I like (100% was either too far or too close for a close zoom; unfortunately you seem to only be able to change zoom in steps based on the maximum distance).

There's some potential good news for those living in Australia as well. It seems that the Australian Classification Board has a listing for an EA/Lucas/BioWare game with "Science fiction themes, violence and drug references; Online content variable". Do we know any such game? Only one that I can think of (and it seems highly unlikely to me that there's another game with these three in the works). The title is listed as "PAPER, SCISSORS, STONE", but it's not unusual to use a fake name before an official announcement. Of course, BioWare/EA have always said that they want to bring the game to as many places as possible so that it's coming to Australia is no surprise.

Finally, and I'm slightly conflicted in posting this, but I got a message with a link to The Big, Bad Datacron Guide, showing all the locations and how to use the shards that you can gather. Obviously it's full of spoilers to the datacron locations (believe me, it's a lot more rewarding to find them yourself; though I am happy for the guide on how to use the shards). I'd suggest completely ignoring the guide (and others like it that are certain to pop up quickly) and instead try to find them yourself as you play the related locations. And for those you really can't find there's the guide.

Assuming that the locations remain the same post-launch of course, though I suspect that they will.

Two more quick notes before going to the developer quotes; BioWare announced that today (Sunday) is going to be the last day of beta (and not just for the weekend beta, for the general testers too). For me that's a good thing; there's only so many times that you can run the starter planets anyway (I didn't want to level much beyond those for fear of spoiling the stories). And I've got lots of Christmas preparations to do (not to mention Skyrim still beckons).

And a second note; I posted before about BioWare releasing a music track each day up to launch. I've changed my mind about collecting them every Friday and will instead just edit that post with additional tracks (I'll edit it after I post this post).

Developer Quotes

  • [link] to Stephen Reid on asset error.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on asset error, part 2.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on asset error, part 3.
  • [link] to David Bass on broken elevator.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on asset error, part 4.
  • [link] to David Bass on server region tabs.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on Joveth Gonzalez.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on asset error, part 5.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on character load issues.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on asset error, part 6.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on asset error, part 7.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on character load issues, part 2.
  • [link] to David Bass on broken elevator, part 2.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on character load issues, part 3.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on character load issues, part 4.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on Joveth Gonzalez, part 2.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on client crash.
  • [link] to David Bass on last names.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on server error.
  • [link] to David Bass on copyright claim on videos.
  • [link] to Amber Green on extended maintenance.
  • [link] to David Bass on guild server placement.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on Joveth Gonzalez, part 3.
  • [link] to Anas Alkhabit on orange pixel.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on invites sent.
  • [link] to David Bass on orange pixel.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on testing weekend.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on AC switching.
  • [link] to David Bass on music releases.
  • [link] to Amber Green on more extended maintenance.

Pretty much all of the developer quotes are customer support posts. I think that, in the future, I won't be posting general customer support posts anymore and just focus on game details.

And that's it. Let's all take a moment in silence to mourn the passing of the orange pixel and see you next time. <bows head in silence>

[link] to Bobby Kotick statement at VG247.
[link] to analyst predictions at VG247.
[link] to impressions at Kill Ten Rats.
[link] to Sith Sorcerer preview at IGN.
[link] to Australian release hints at VG247.
[link] to The Big, Bad Datacron Guide at GameFront.


raistlinthewiz said...

Not maybe side, but i've found this on class-decisions;

Burek said...

RIP, Orange Pixel. I hardly knew ye (in fact, I thankfully never knew it), but you sure were a popular person.