Saturday, 5 November 2011

Imperial Agent Character Progression

As you can see from the title of this post, this Friday BioWare released the Imperial Agent character progression video, showing a number of Imperial Agent outfits and skills. They also announced the length of Early Game Access (up to five days) and something about Revan preview chapter, but honestly who cares... Agent outfits:

As you progress in Star Wars™: The Old Republic™, your character will gain experience, growing more powerful and discovering new skills while also acquiring more advanced gear.

Through cunning, stealth, and ruthless tactics, the Imperial Agent has no shortage of ways to complete his objectives. Even so, as the complexity and importance of his missions increase, the Agent will have to acquire new skills and equipment to help him combat the ever-growing threat to the Empire. This video shows you a sampling of the many different armors and abilities the Imperial Agent can obtain as he travels the galaxy.

I must say that I quite like the outfits, even if the Operative high level one makes her look more like a Sith with the hood up and everything. The Sniper ones are much more my speed. And I'm particularly happy that they're showing a female character for a change (after the other five progression videos we've had all had male characters).

And that leaves just the Jedi Consular and the Sith Inquisitor to get their progression videos (with only about a month-and-a-half left before the game releases).

Now, for those of you who do care about the other news as well (which, in fairness, includes me too), read on after the break for the Early Game Access details, previews from the upcoming Revan novel, previews and interviews, and the developer quotes.

The second bit of news that BioWare had for us this week was details on the Early Game Acces. Here is the word from BioWare:

One of the benefits to pre-ordering Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ is that you will gain Early Game Access before launch on December 20th. This is a chance to start your epic Star Wars saga early, as you’ll be able to create and play your character ahead of the official live game launch.

Many of you have been wondering how long Early Game Access will last, and we are now happy to announce that depending on when you redeem your Pre-Order Code, you will gain Early Game Access up to five days before the official game launch date.

Early Game Access is staggered over five days to ensure a quality experience for players at launch. Staggering access aids server stability and a gradual increase in player population through the game. Early Game Access will be granted according to when your Pre-Order Code is redeemed at the Code Redemption Center. If you have not yet pre-ordered Star Wars: The Old Republic, there’s still time! Visit our Pre-Order page for more information and watch the Collector’s Edition Unboxing video for a peek inside this highly coveted edition of the game.

Keep up to date with the latest official news on Star Wars: The Old Republic, including any updates on Early Game Access by visiting, or by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter.

In short, up to five days head start (with how many days exactly you get depending on when you registered your pre-order code). Which is great, as that's pretty much exactly when I had planned to leave to visit my family for the Holiday season. squint

Seriously though, I had already planned to postpone my trip a few days (will probably go on the 19th or 20th now). And though I wasn't expecting a longer early access period, I must say that it feels rather short considering how many people they'll have to stagger in. I hope that they know what they're doing.

The final bit of official news I truly don't find very interesting, but I'll not get into that again. Here's the official news on the Revan preview chapters:

On November 15th, fans of Star Wars™ will finally learn the answers surrounding the mystery of what became of the redeemed Jedi Revan after the events of the first Knights of the Old Republic™. Drew Karpyshyn’s Revan picks up immediately after the events of the game, and follows the former Sith Lord as he travels beyond the Outer Rim to confront a danger that he can’t quite remember, yet cannot forget.

To prepare you for the release of Revan, we are excited to present you with an exclusive look at chapters three and eleven of the book!

Chapter Three

Chapter Eleven

Revan hits store shelves on November 15th. You can pre-order Revan through Random House, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, Indie Bound, Titan Books and other retailers.

Well, maybe putting Revan's fate in a novel means that they can keep that nonsense largely out of the game.


Last week (on Halloween no less) the fansite dedicated to the Sith Inquisitor class posted an interview with Daniel Erickson about the Sith Inquisitor. While the interview is interesting in general the most interesting is probably the reveal of the actors player in Sith Inquisitor:

8. Finally, my last question pertains to the voice actors. Who are they for male and female? What made them good candidates for the roles?

Daniel: Our Sith Inquisitor male is played by Euan Morton and our Sith Inquisitor female is played by Xanthe Elbrick. Both brought interesting takes on the role that were unexpected. Xanthe, particularly, brought a subtle understanding of the character and an ability to convey a huge amount of meaning while saying something completely different.

Thanks to The Sith Inquirer for asking the questions and posting them on their website.

In his weekly The Old Republic column, over at Massively, Larry Everett gives us more of a look at the game based on his experience playing the press beta. In this post he looks at 'social gaming', in particular Carrick Space Station (which is supposed to be the social hub) and Social Points. Here's an excerpt:

Surprisingly, I would not consider Coruscant the hub of activity as I had originally thought. Coruscant is the capital of the Republic. In lore, the coordinates of Coruscant are 0,0,0. This should be the center of activity, right? Well, in some ways it is. Your Advanced Class and Crew Skills trainers are there, vendors line the Senate building marketplace, and even your bank and the GTN find a home there. The issue arises when you think about endgame activity. On Coruscant, there is no direct way to access Flashpoints nor Operations (raids). Carrick Station owns all of those junctions. My biggest hope is that your ship does not carry the same weight as this station -- no one would ever leave his ship. That kind of ruins the social element, if you ask me.

I'm not entirely sure where his concerns regarding people's personal ships suddenly come in, but I have to echo his surprise regarding Coruscant not being a hub of activity. Expected that since hearing of these space stations, but still. Not that it's not understandable. Now the developers don't have to worry about hundreds of players all cluttering the planet, bringing it to a crawl for two players who were looking to quest there (and they can design the space stations specifically to be less detailed while still going all out with the capital planets).

I'm not entirely sure yet what this will do to roleplaying. I think a lot of roleplayers were looking for Nar Shadaa as the center of their activity anyway (considering that it's the capital that both Republic and Empire can get to). And beyond that it might help roleplaying on the other two capital planets if all the game-related socializing (forming parties for Flashpoints and endgame content, trading, etc) all take place in an out-of-the-way area. I have some concerns about the majority of players gathering away from where the roleplaying is, but then roleplaying usually takes place in fairly out-of-the-way spots. As long as people still tend to pass through there (because their quest chains lead them there for a brief moment) then that can be enough to pull more people into roleplaying.

But we'll see.

Massively wasn't the only one posting based on the press beta; did so as well with the latter talking about the Flashpoints in the game. Here's an excerpt:

After making your way through most of Coruscant, you’ll have the opportunity to play through the Hammer Flashpoint, which we’ll talk about briefly today. The Hammer is one of the new Flashpoints that appears to be more focused on gameplay and puzzles than the cinematic flair present in the previously revealed Black Talon and Esseles. Some bits of group dialogue precede the actual Flashpoint, but once you arrive, it plays more like a typical dungeon run. However, what really stood out about the Hammer was the way Crew Skills were used throughout the experience. Players proficient enough in certain Crew Skills could, for example, re-activate a mining drill in order to break through a wall, circumventing a good deal of the Flashpoint’s trash mobs and allowing the group to beeline for the first boss. Later on, an elevator could be sliced, though no one in the group had high enough Slicing to figure out what that would have entailed.

I think that it's good to have variety and people will probably get tired of the dialog in the cinematic Flashpoints. Even so I can't help but share some of the disappointment regarding not all of those 15 Flashpoints being story-heavy affairs. To some degree I wish that they'd gone the same route as Guild Wars with each Flashpoint having a 'story' mode and several, harder, exploration modes that you can run through after finishing the story. But I doubt we'd have had 15 Flashpoints in that case (and probably closer to five).

It's also interesting that they use Crew Skills in the Flashpoint. I must say that I quite like the idea of using skills in unexpected ways to change the flow of the dungeon. I wonder if that means that having a certain level of a certain Crew Skill will become a requirement for joining Flashpoint groups ("looking for a tank with a, Archeology skill of at least 35").

One thing that you won't need any kind of Archeology skill for is the interview with Georg Zoeller about the Trooper over at the Republic Trooper fansite. Here's an excerpt:

RT: Of the three damage dealing trees (Assault Specialist, Gunnery and Tactics) are all three viable in both Flashpoints and Operations, or are some of the trees more specialized?

GZ: The damage potential of all DPS trees is designed to be competitive with one another as we want the player to choose their specialization based on their play style preferences:

Assault Specialist – Using long range gameplay and mobility, this tree delivers high sustained and predictable damage to individual targets.

Gunnery – High burst damage created by a variety of build-up attacks. More sturdy and more utility than the Assault Specialist, but less mobile due to reliance on channeled abilities.

Tactics – Often compared to a ‘wrecking ball’ by our testers, this tree makes the Vanguard difficult to control, provides him with good mobility and anti-kiting tools and great area of effect damage.

Players will obviously find some specializations more to their liking when doing operations, but we definitely try to design the content around all available specializations.

When I played the Trooper at Eurogamer Expo for the Hutball match I, euh, have no idea which one of theose tree (or what other spec) I was as I was just randomly pressing buttons mostly. But I'm sure that'll be better for those not dumped into a high-level character. Thanks to Republic Trooper for the interview.

And that's it, except for the developer quotes.

Developer Quotes

  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on remembering Imperial Agents.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on sniper range.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on cover protection in PvP.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on melee Sages.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on website maintenance.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on GAME (store) release date.
  • [link] to Chris Collins on GAME (store) release date.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on sniper range.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Imperial Agent progression video.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on more website maintenance.
  • [link] to Alexander Freed on Jedi/Sith military rank.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Companions in PvP.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on Early Game Access.
  • [link] to David Bass on server types and PvP rulesets.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on sniper PvP.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on sniper gameplay.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on sniper PvP, part 2.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on Collector's Edition exclusives.

The first thing to note is the detailed post by David Bass on server types and PvP rulesets. But since I already posted that quote I won't repeat it here. Just listing it above for completeness' sake.

So the first post I'll quote here is one by Georg Zoeller. Over the last week he seems to have made a number of posts regarding Imperial Agent Snipers (and applying about equally to the Smuggler Gunslingers). I'll pull out the three most interesting, the first of which is a short one about the ability range of the sniper:

Snipers (and Gunslingers) have a range of 35 meters for most of their abilities, which is the longest range class for player abilities available. Troopers for examples have a maximum range of 30 meters on their long range abilities.

35 meters sounds like quote a distance (though of course nowhere near the distance a real sniper would have). I do wonder how that will feel in the game, considering that distances in games tend to be somewhat distorted. But the important thing to take from this, I think, is that the Sniper advance class is clearly the longest range class.

The second post by Mr. Zoeller on Snipers is a more detailed one explaining a bit of how they might play in PvP.

It's much worse than you think.

No, a Sniper in cover cannot be charged with Force Leap. Yes, your warrior will have to move into melee range to engage the Sniper (or use ranged abilities like saber throw).

Marksman specced snipers specifically are a very defensive class.

You rarely see them leading the charge onto an objective, but they are masters of area denial. It's not just that you have to bridge 35 meters to them, with them getting the alpha strike. They got tools that will temporarily root you (Leg Shot), the force of impact from their Ambush ability pushes close range enemies back and their cover generator is fitted with the a pulse detonator that pushes attackers out of melee range (Cover Pulse). They can also become faster and faster the more they hit you (Sniper Volley). And did I mention that they can call down a powerful orbital satellite strike to protect the area around them?

You really don't want to charge these guys head on. Just like what I said about a Sage going into close range combat with a Melee DPS class, charging a good sniper head on alone will likely result in you dead on the ground and the Sniper mildly irritated.

How is it balanced? Carefully... We force you to be smart about moving into the area protected by these guys. If you're not smart about it and think you can charge into the fray, that's the wrong class to try that on. Their weakness is the fact that their most powerful abilities require them to be entirely static, that they have little ability to kite or establish range against a close range attacker.

You want to sneak up on them, distract them or eject them from cover (there's a very limited number of abilities that can do that), utilize environmental features to avoid line of sight, hit them with long range DOTs and wear them down, or gang up on them. If you manage to catch them close range without having lost too much of your health, they are in a lot of trouble and without Stealth generator or any kind of active escape ability, they are likely dead.

The Sniper sounds like a very tricky class to play in PvP; very powerful under the right circumstances and very weak when things don't go as planned. And the way things are with combat, things never go as planned. The Sniper sounds like a very good defensive class in PvP. But of course it requires that the player is good at the class (it probably, from the sound of it, requires more skill to be a good Sniper than it requires to be a good, say, Sith Warrior). Of course I'm no good at PvP one way or another, so I'd probably get demolished on my Sniper either way.

The final Imperial Agent post by Mr. Zoeller I'll quote today (there's a big fourth one as well by Georg about snipers in PvP being better suited to group play than playing lone wolf) is one briefly noting the various gameplay styles the Imperial Agent can be specialized into:

It depends on your Advanced Class and Spec. Imperial Agent offers a very wide variety of different playstyles, from very long range tactical gameplay (Sniper) to mobile mid range explosive specialist (Engineer/Sniper) to Stealth capable healer (Scoundrel) to melee knife-and-fist stealth brawler.

For me it's (Marksman) Sniper all the way. Never been too fond of droids and gadgets and though I do like stealth and healing (separately) I think (as Georg mentions in the other post I briefly mentioned as well) that the Marksman gives the most unique gameplay style for an MMO. besides, I often enjoy playing a sniper in single-player RPGs, enjoy taking my time and setting up the perfect shot (and then missing the first four shots which thankfully aren't heard because I've spent the caps on a silencer for my sniper rifle... yes I'm playing Fallout New Vegas as I wait for Skyrim to be released next week). It's been altogether a very nice week for Imperial Agents. The Keeper must've been pleased with us.

Alexander Freed also made an interesting post where he looks at the military rank of Jedi and Sith during the time of the game. This came about after a poster noted that in the Star Wars prequels all the Jedi have the rank of general. Mr. Freed explains how this is different in TOR:

Good question, and I'll just reiterate what most of the responders have already surmised:

Jedi do not receive any military rank or authority simply by being Jedi. If a Jedi is involved in a military operation, his or her position is essentially determined by the Republic authorities involved--a general might request a Jedi advisor when going up against a Sith Lord, but turning command of an entire army over to even a Jedi Master would be a rare decision. Jedi expecting immediate cooperation from Republic military personnel may get it--even in these relatively dark times, many people still honor and respect the Jedi--but such cooperation is ultimately voluntary.

There may be a few Jedi out there with military ranks, but they've earned them specially.

Sith, of course, are a completely different matter. Sith aren't technically part of the military hierarchy, but they are the undisputed rulers of the Empire. Their commands are to be obeyed. (But this doesn't mean an apprentice just out of the Academy can go around Force-choking Moffs. The military might not take action against an unruly apprentice, but his master sure would--and if she didn't, she'd be hearing from the Dark Council.)

I'm quite glad that they didn't go with the silliness of all Jedi being generals. That never felt right to me.

Silly or not though, this is the end of this post. See you again next time and try not to blow each other up tomorrow (on Guy Fawkes Day).

[link] to Sith Inquisitor interview at The Sith Inquirer.
[link] to social gaming preview at Massively.
[link] to Flashpoints preview at MMORPG.
[link] to Trooper interview at Republic Trooper.

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