Monday, 16 January 2012

‘Kaon Under Siege’ Flashpoint

I should have known that BioWare would have an official announcement for the Rise of the Rakghouls content update. As such everything in that announcement, as well as the video for the "Kaon Under Siege" Flashpoint I already posted in my previous post. But ah well; here's the news for the Flashpoint anyway:

The Tion Hegemony is in utter chaos. A mysterious outbreak of the Rakghoul plague has spread across several worlds, killing countless civilians while mutating others into Rakghouls themselves. On the planet of Kaon a small group of survivors fight against the endless waves of Rakghoul monstrosities. Now both the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire have set plans in motion to rescue the survivors of Kaon, locate the source of the virus, and forge an alliance with the Tion Hegemony.

We are excited to give you this preview of ‘Kaon Under Siege,’ the new Flashpoint coming January 17 as part of the next major Game Update for Star Wars™: The Old Republic™!

Nothing new there, but at least now I can give this post the video label.

After the break the full Rise of the Rakghoul announcement, five screenshots from the Flashpoint exclusive to fansites and the developer quotes from last week.

Here is the full, official announcement for the first content update:

Today we are excited to announce Game Update 1.1 for Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ is coming January 17th! Called ‘Rise of the Rakghouls,’ this is the first of what will be many regularly-scheduled content updates for the game.

There are a number of additions to the game with Game Update 1.1. One of these is a vast expansion of the already-existing “Karagga’s Palace” Operation. This addition will more than triple the size of the Operation as a whole! Playing through the expanded Hutt Hospitality Operation will test you and your allies’ skills against Karagga’s private army of bounty hunters and battle Droids before culminating in a massive final battle! Making your way through Karagga’s palace will reward you with powerful new gear, and even more extravagant rewards for those who take on the Operations in hard mode!

In addition to the expanded Operation, we are introducing a brand new Flashpoint entitled ‘Kaon Under Siege’. This Flashpoint takes you and up to three of your allies to the planet of Kaon, which has been decimated by a mysterious outbreak of the Rakghoul virus. Fighting your way through hordes of the twisted monstrosities, you will have to locate a small band of survivors and learn the truth behind the outbreak. ‘Kaon Under Siege’ offers players the chance to experience a gripping new story while earning new gear! You can get a sneak peek of the brand new Flashpoint right now!

Also, check out our new “Game Updates” page. Over time, we will be adding information on upcoming game updates here! Finally, Game Update 1.1 will also include a number of bug fixes designed to help make your in-game experience much smoother. You’ll be able to see all the details in the Game Update 1.1 patch notes, which will be posted on our Community Blog when the game update goes live on Tuesday, January 17th!

BioWare also sent fansites a couple of exclusive screenshots not shared with the gaming press. These all seem to be from the Flashpoint:

And there you go. Since I already said pretty much everything in the previous post there's not much more to tell. So on to the developer quotes.

Developer Quotes

  • [link] to Stephen Reid on PvP.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Knight/Warrior.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on custom gear and development.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on rerolling advice.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on changing loading screen.
  • [link] to David Bass on 2012 events.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on high resolution textures.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on high resolution textures, part 2.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on (no) remote rendering.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on 2012 events.
  • [link] to David Bass on 2012 events, part 2.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on high resolution textures, part 3.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on (no) remote rendering, part 2.
  • [link] to Damion Schubert on Dungeon Finder.
  • [link] to Damion Schubert on Slicing nerf.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on cover 'exploit'.
  • [link] to Daniel Erickson on no HK Companion.
  • [link] to Amber Green on reporting bugs.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on missing exclusive items.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on BioChem/Cybertech changes.
  • [link] to Amber Green on Test Server Patch 1.1 notes.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on GTN.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on BioChem/Cybertech changes, part 2.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on forum changes.
  • [link] to Gabe Amatangelo on BioChem/Cybertech changes.

For the first quote I'll actually just post one sentence from a bigger post by Stephen Reid where he gives a player looking for PvP some advice. Most of the post isn't that interesting (for anyone but the person he's responding to), but this sentence did catch my eye:

Cross-server queuing for PvP is something that the development team wants to happen, but it's not going to be available in the near future.

I was (possibly mistakenly) under the impression that they didn't want to do cross-server queuing. But considering how much it's likely to reduce queues and such I never really understood that. Server pride (which I've heard mentioned with this topic before) is something you get from world PvP, not Warzones. So I hope that they'll be able to implement cross-server queues.

The second post is by Damion Schubert about looking for groups:

Improving our LFG system is high on the list of features that Systems Design wants to add to the game. We want this to be good not just for helping people find Flashpoints and Operations to run, but also other multiplayer content like heroic missions. A key emphasis will be on advertising for specific role needs (healer, tank, DPS). This feature is currently in the design stage, and once this feature has moved beyond this to a development stage and has a firm ETA, I'll be coming back to you guys to give more details.

We've known we would need to revisit this feature for a while. In the level-up game, finding players isn't too rough because, with few exceptions, everyone in that level band is either on your planet or on the fleet. Once more and more players hit endgame, and are spending their time in more places, the need for this feature is going to increase. Note that right now, high level players have the opposite problem - there aren't enough other players up there to group with. This problem will dissipate as the game ages, and more players reach the later levels.

That being said, our design team doesn't philosophically believe that cross-server Flashpoints are good for the game at this stage in the game's lifespan. There is huge social pressure to not be a jerk that goes away when the odds that you will never see these people again is high. I'm not saying never - there may come a time in the future where we reevaluate this - but at least in the short term, we believe this will cause more damage to the community than good.

It is somewhat disappointing to learn that the group finding tool is still in the design stage and isn't in implementation yet, which means that it'll take a fair bit longer to include this. I'm personally rather averse to spamming the general chat channel (and why isn't there a LFG channel?) and most of my friends are at different level ranges and such (and don't like bothering them just to do some group content either), so that means I end up playing solo almost exclusively (and do the Heroic quests when I've out-leveled them by ten levels or more).

I also don't quite agree with their views on cross-server Flashpoints. Considering the number of players on one server and the number of alts each player tends to have combined with the differences in leveling speed the chance of running into the same people again seems very, very slim to begin with. In my experience jerks tend to be jerks regardless.

One bit of news last week was that BioWare decided to 'nerf' the BioChem and Cybertech Crew Skills. Or at least some of the high level items fr them. Georg Zoeller explains:

As some of you may have already noticed from our patch notes for Game Update 1.1, we’ve made adjustments to several high-end, purple, player crafted items on the BioChem and Cybertech professions. Simply put, we reduced their overall impact on gameplay and I wanted to explain why it was necessary.

BioChem crafted medical kits were too good. In fact, they were too good both in the amount of healing they provided (often more than half a character’s health) and the frequency they could be used (every 90 seconds!). This was negatively impacting the game for everyone else. We’ve seen significant chatter both in and out of game about how players not picking up the BioChem professions would be ‘stupid’ and ‘gimping themselves’. This indicates that a small number of competitive players have been denying access to high end content based on whether a player has the BioChem Crew Skill.

Cybertech grenades, especially when stacked with additional power-ups and other temporary buffs, were creating combat damage burst potential higher than we were comfortable with and caused player versus player engagements in the game to resolve faster than intended. In fact we have additional changes to classes and consumables currently in internal testing to deal with faster than anticipated kill times in player versus player combat in a future patch.

The design intent for the game is that your choice of crafting profession should not become a requirement or ‘gating’ mechanism for participating in competitive content (PvP) and high end endgame challenges. While we certainly want players that engage in the crafting game to reap rewards for their effort, we don’t want one or two crafting professions to become the de facto ‘must have’ choice for everyone, which is what happened here.

We are extremely careful with this type of change, and understand that it can be frustrating for our players when we make them. Please understand, we make these changes not because we like to mess with your character, but because they are required to ensure a level and fun playing field for all players of the game.

At the same time, we understand that people that changed their profession because of the events described above will likely be unhappy about these changes – and while it’s easy to say ‘that’s how it goes in MMOs’, making modifications like this is something we’re always cautious about doing. At the same time, both player feedback and the data gathered from hundreds of servers made it very clear that this issue needed to be dealt with decisively now with only a small minority of players at endgame level and the vast majority of our characters in their 20s to minimize the number of affected players.

TL;DR: Fancy words for ‘we nerfed BioChem and Cybertech endgame products’ because they were so good that players started considering them mandatory. Your choice of profession is not supposed to be the deciding factor for participation and success in endgame content. We still believe that BioChem and Cybertech are very worthwhile Crew Skills, especially considering the significant fortune players with these professions are able to realize on the GTN... they are however no longer the ‘golden ticket’ into endgame content.

People tend to get their panties in a bunch whenever something is 'nerfed' because, I guess, it makes people feel like they picked the wrong this (though I can somehow see that if you picked something purely because you thought it was the most powerful). Personally, having Cybertech on my character, I really couldn't care less. I saw the notes and thought "meh, just balancing going on". The thing to remember is that eventually everything is supposed to be roughly equally viable. If a class is a bit too weak now then it'll probably get buffed and if it is a bit too strong then it'll probably get reduced a bit. So if you always pick things because they're the most powerful you'll always get what you're playing 'nerfed' because there isn't really supposed to be a best choice.

But then everyone has to play how they want. Just keep in mind that if something seems too good then it probably is and will probably get dealt with. No right to complain about that.

Finally another post by Georg Zoeller about the Galactic Trade Network:

The GTN in Nar Shaddaa is linked between factions, but not with the one on the Fleet. This allows you to sell various items of interest for the opposite faction such as companion gifts, weapon and armor schematics and some other items that can only be found by one or the other faction (as well as take advantage of faction based price deviations and commodity shortages).

I did not know that the GTN on Nar Shaddaa was linked with the other faction... and that it wasn't linked with the main GTN. In fact that design seems somewhat mental and confusing. There really should be only one GTN that's accessed from GTN terminals throughout the game. And if they want Empire to be able to sell to Republic then you should be able to do that regardless of what GTN terminal you use. Because right now I don't think it achieve anything but to confuse people. That's based just on that paragraph though as I haven't used the GTN at all yet.

And that's it for now.

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