Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Official Holiday Updates

For my second post in getting caught up with the news from over the holiday season (the first one listing the reviews that have been posted) I'm listing the official updates from the last couple of weeks.

It seems that BioWare pretty much stopped with the Friday updates (which is fine by me... made sense pre-release but not so much anymore now). But instead they started a blog with various developer posts and news about the game. Let me list the official updates I caught over the last few weeks, both from the official blog and their news feed:

  • [link] to launch press release.
  • [link] to welcome to SWTOR message.
  • [link] to thank you for playing article.
  • [link] to what's next article.
  • [link] to a sneak peek.
  • [link] to momentum surges article.
  • [link] to a word on bugs.
  • [link] to PvP Update.

I'm not going to quote all of them. Things like the press release and the welcome message and such I'll leave for you to read at the links above if you're interested. But, after the break, I will quote four of them which talk about the future. Additionally I've also included the developer quotes from the last few weeks (at least as far as I could get them).

To start off BioWare posted an article discussing what things they are working on for the near future. Here is the article in full:

Welcome to Star Wars™: The Old Republic™. It’s been many years in the making and the team is very proud of what we’ve achieved. Since we’re an online game we are going to continue building on the game for years to come. You can count on us to diligently expand the game and service to surprise and delight you. We’re going to not only respond to your feedback, but also hopefully exceed your expectations on how Star Wars: The Old Republic will evolve over time.

Many of you helped make the game what it is today by participating in our testing programs. You’ve watched the game grow over the past year and have been very vocal about things you’d like to see in the game in the future.

A team is never finished building a massively multiplayer game, so we’d like to take this opportunity to reveal a little information on what the team is working on for patches coming in the near future. Our priorities have been, and will continue to be, based off of the feedback we receive from our players.

  • New Content – We will be adding new content to the galaxy on an ongoing basis. These worlds will include Operations, Flashpoints and solo content.
  • Guild Functionality – Guilds are important to the long term health of any MMORPG. We have a huge list of guild centric features. This will be an ongoing effort that will probably never end. Guild banks are the first thing we’ll be delivering in our plans for increased guild functionality. Eventually we even want to deliver on the promise of the long hinted at “Guild Capital Ships”.
  • UI customization – You like choice. We hear you! SWTOR is all about choice. Being able to choose how you interact with an online game is something we feel is very important. We are going to be giving more control over the UI as an ongoing effort. This is a very big priority for us.
  • PvP – We have an entire team dedicated to adding content and features to player vs. player. We have some of the most experienced PvP developers in the world on this team. So far very few people have seen, or know much about the stunning Open World PVP on Ilum; when you get to the high levels prepare to be blown away! In addition to that high level PVP content, expect new Warzones and new PvP features on a regular basis.
  • Space Combat – We will continue to add missions to the space game. We also have a special project going on right now that will expand space gameplay in a significant way... for now the details will have to remain under wraps.
  • Legacy System – The ability to select a surname for your character is just the start of something much bigger. Soon, the Legacy experience and levels you earn will grant your characters access to powers, objects and other cool benefits.
  • And more – We have an entire team of developers working on future content. Right now we are focused on nothing else but Star Wars: The Old Republic, so expect new and cool things.

It is fair to say that we’re just as excited as you are about the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Not only are we launching one of the largest and most impressive games ever created, but we’re also excited about the prospect of continuing to work on the game so that you, the fans, will always have something heroic and amazing to enjoy. Thanks for playing.

James Ohlen
Game Director

A lot to be excited about, but also all extremely general. The only specific things that they promise are guild banks and UI customization (the latter of which could take many different forms). For the rest it comes down to "more content". Which is good.

James Ohlen gets a little bit more detailed in his next, "sneak peek" post:

A lot of people have been asking for more information on our future plans. What are we going to provide for players in terms of features and content? While we’ve given some information on what features we’re working on, we haven’t given much detail about content. We’ve said that we’ll be providing new Flashpoints, Operations and Warzones. Now we’d like to give some more details on what they are.

Next month we're going to be releasing a new Flashpoint and an expanded Operation. The new Flashpoint involves a plague that could have significant repercussions across the galaxy. It takes place on a brand new world and involves some pretty epic battles. I can’t go into much detail, but be prepared for something different. The expanded Operation takes the existing Karagga’s palace scenario and more than triples it in size. It includes three new boss monsters and some pretty epic set pieces. You won’t believe the last boss, so we’ve provided an image as a tease.

We plan to continue releasing Flashpoints, Operations, Warzones and new game systems on a regular cadence. This patch coming early [this] year is only a taste of what is to come. Stay tuned for more announcements!

As I understand it this new Flashpoint and the extended Operation are currently in testing on the Test server.

But adding new content isn't the only thing that BioWare is doing. They're also fixing bug. Mr Ohlen made a blog post about that as well:

In my last two posts, I talked about how we will be adding new game systems and content in future patches. I also mentioned that we will be continuing to put effort toward bug fixing, balance changes and exploit proofing. But I didn't give too much information on what we're doing in that regard. So here are some more details on the topic.

Almost every week we will be releasing a new patch. These weekly patches are almost entirely focused on bug fixes, minor balance changes and fixing any exploits in the game. These issues are the highest priority items at the studio. They are reviewed by senior leadership on a daily basis. Bug fixes usually take longer than a week to get into the game because we need to fix the issue and then test the fix. Some bugs take longer than that because of the complexity of the issue.

There are issues that we will fix immediately. These are rare and not every issue can be fixed in this manner. We usually reserve these "emergency fixes" for bugs that are stopping players from playing the game or to exploits that could unbalance the entire game if not corrected.

Any game as big and as complex as The Old Republic will have bugs. We’re working as hard as we can to find, fix, test and patch the game to eliminate as many of them as possible.

James Ohlen
Game Director

There are still a fair number of bug, from very minor to quite serious (I ran into a pretty serious one in my IA storyline at the end of the first chapter), so it's good that they're not sitting still (not that I was expecting them to). Whenever I run into a bug I do my best to /bug it as well. It's nice to hear the general approach to fixing bug that they're taking.

Finally Gabe Amatangelo made a blog post about the updates coming to PvP:

Fellow PvPers, thank you for taking on the challenge of player vs player combat in The Old Republic!

In the first week after launch there were over a million Warzone matches played, with nearly half of all players participating in Warzones. Bad news for Republic players, though - the Empire currently leads overall, having won 53% of all Alderaan Civil War and Voidstar matches (across all servers). Huttball has been played the most, accounting for 39% of all matches – and yes, we’ll be adding a new same faction vs. same faction enabled Warzone in the future.

We are all really excited at the tremendous volume of participation we’ve seen in PvP thus far. Your interest and demand dictates what we’ll be delivering in the near future. I wanted to give you some insight into where we are with PvP development and where we are going.

First and foremost here is what we are addressing as a top priority:

Level 50 Bracket Warzones: Level 50 players will have a bracket of their own, playing in separate Warzone matches to lower level players. This is something we have wanted to do for some time and now that there is an increasing number of level 50 players we will be implementing the feature in January.

Open World PvP on Ilum: The planet of Ilum currently allows for open world PvP even on a PvE server, but the mechanics and incentives of the planet are not in as intended yet. We’re working on longer term goals for the planet and for other PvP areas, but expect to see some interim adjustments in January - such as more respawn points to focus conflicts, restricting Companion Characters from the area, and revisions to rewards. Ilum will also become a major source of Valor. Valor buffs will increase and decrease based on the objectives your faction owns. These buffs increase the amount of Valor you receive per player kill. However they do not give anything in and of themselves, so players will still need to defeat other players for significant Valor rewards. Additionally, daily and weekly missions will require player kills to complete. Player kills for quests and Valor credit will have diminishing returns per player killed. So, the more players that are fighting other players, the better it is for everyone.

Combat Gameplay: You’ll see several optimizations come online in January, and we are going to continue to tune this as time goes on.

We also have other exciting features coming in the near future including Ranked Warzone Matches, PvP Stat Tracking, Open World PvP Loot Drops, more Warzone medals for different objectives, Guard Optimizations and Target Optimizations.

Additionally we’re looking at ways to enable team vs. team, more level brackets and the ability to choose which Warzone you want to play in.

This is not a complete list of everything we’re working on that’s PvP related, but we have to keep some surprises for later! Thanks again for all your feedback and please keep it coming. We read as much as we can then cross reference with metrics to take action on features and tuning the game to ensure an enjoyable and competitive PvP community.

Gabe Amatangelo
Principal Lead PvP, Operations & Flashpoints Designer

I think that a number of these changes are also currently in testing on the test server. Overall I'm not much of a PvP player, but it's still nice to hear that they're continuing to make changes. During the one PvP match (Voidstar) I played since launch I had a lot of fun, though maybe that's because we won. I also flew through Scoundrel's Den on Tatooine, but it was completely deserted (much to my relief and slight disappointment). Hopefully that'll pick up as more people finish their class quests. Of the things he lists above though the one I'll most gladly receive is the ability to choose what Warzone to play in, as being given a random Warzone is currently discouraging me from queuing for them (I'm happy to play all of them, but if I'm in the mood for Huttball I don't want to end up being put on Alderaan instead).

I said I'd only quote four of the official updates, but I did want to mention the gaining momentum article that they posted as it has some impressive numbers. As the article mentions the game got an impressive metacritic score (currently 86, which is quite high for an MMO). But more interesting perhaps is that it already has over a million people playing. Of course it remains to be seen how the numbers are after the first free month, but that's quite impressive.

There are more interesting number in the article, but in the end they mean little as there's little basis for comparison. So we'll just move on to the developer quotes.

Developer Quotes

There were a lot of developer posts on the forums over the past weeks. But the vast majority of them dealt with customer support issues or specific bugs. I should also mention that I'm missing a couple of days as the dev tracker only went back to December 21st. Anything between that and my previous developer quotes post (which was for the 16th) I'll have missed. Though I doubt that I'm missing anything major as the developers were undoubtedly too busy launching the game.

  • [link] to Allison Berryman on no official server forums.
  • [link] to Greg Zeschuk on reducing queues.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on future content.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on non-elite abilities.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on trauma debuff.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on challenging fights.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on rushing to 50.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on custom armor.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on hood-down armor.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on higher level mounts.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on account bannings.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on account bannings, part 2.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on development priority.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Magenta Crystal.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Magenta Crystal, part 2.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Magenta Crystal, part 3.
  • [link] to Amber Green on Test Patch 1.1 notes.
  • [link] to Damion Schubert on mission discovery items.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on GTN terminals.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Magenta Crystal, part 4.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Magenta Crystal, part 5.
  • [link] to Emmanuel Lusinchi on custom gear mods.

I've got two posts to pull out. The first one is by Georg Zoeller and talks about challenging encounters:

We're looking at this.

A few general notes on challenging fights.

One of the most important aspects of higher level fights against elites is to counter their special abilities. You are required to use your interrupting abilities (e.g. Distraction on the Imperial Agent) in these fights to prevent these enemies from gaining the upper hand. In the short term, stuns and ballistic attacks/knockback will also help, but your interrupt abilities have the added benefit of preventing the target from using their special abilities.

Make sure your companion is properly equipped and that their signature abilities are enabled. For example, if you rely on your companion to take the brunt of the beating in a fight, make sure their 'defensive stance' is activated. Turn off their area of effect abilities when you're fighting single enemies - they are not efficient for these fights. You can enable/disable abilities by opening your companion panel (~ by default) and right clicking the ability. The green indicator on an ability tells you if a companion will consider the ability for use in their AI rotation.

Do not underestimate the benefit of stims and relics as short term efforts to turn the tide. Same goes for your 20 minute 'heroic moment' ability (the one that only works with your companion and triggers the music).

This sounds obvious, but make sure that your skill points (k) are distributed and that you've trained primary your abilities to level.

Finally, if all else fails, gaining additional equipment, levels or bringing a friend along to help with a challenging fight can be used to overcome temporary blocks. However, be advised that if you run into constantly very challenging fights, it is a good indication that your equipment might need updating.

All these notes aside, we are looking at difficulty issues constantly. If we find a trend that indicate a certain fight is broken or a specific advanced class has issues, we will act accordingly. If you want to provide additional insights, such as your character's spec, your approach to combat, your companion or a particular fight you would like us to look at, please feel free to do so in this thread.


It's good to keep in mind the hints that Georg gives here. Particularly that interrupting abilities are quite important. Sometimes I wonder if people complaining that their class isn't strong enough is more the result of people not knowing how to play the class (which is the fault of the game for not teaching it well enough), so it's interesting to hear a developer say what things you need to keep an eye on if it becomes too difficult.

The other post I'll quite here is one by Emmanuel Lusinchi on end game custom gear modification:

The current situation with end game gear and item modifications isn’t final and, in fact, many community members like yourself have correctly guessed at what our plans to correct the current design are.

Since this is a fairly important issue to many players, let me disclose more details about what is currently in the work regarding purple items and mods:

- All partially moddable purple items will be made fully moddable again, allowing the removal of the armoring, hilt and barrel.

- The set bonus of end gear purples (PVP and PVE) will be transferable to custom items.

- Some item modifications will be restricted to a certain item type. For example, some item modifications will only fit on helmets, while other will only fit on chests, etc.

As usual, the caveats about unfinished work apply, but this should give you and the community a very good idea of our intentions. We are serious about making custom gear an entirely valid alternative to end game gear and we support the players’ ability to customize their appearance all the way to (and including) end game.

I'm much enjoying the gear customization so far. Most of the armor drops look, to my eyes, rather horrible. But I got some nice armor from the Hammer Station Flashpoint that I've been wearing constantly, keeping it upgraded with mods from the Commendation vendors. And it's good to hear that they're still working on improving the system to ensure that it's viable at endgame too.

Though honestly, what they were thinking when they designed some of the outfits I don't know.

Anyway, that's it for now. I've got more stuff to get caught up on in the pipeline, but that'll come another time.

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