Friday, 13 January 2012

Rise of the Rakghouls Coming

Tuesday the 17th The Old Republic is going to get its first content update and it's called Rise of the Rakghouls. And here I am, currently playing on Taris already neck-deep in rakghouls and all I can think is "they're going to rise even further? Do they want me to drown in the damn things?". But no, it's referring to the a new story-driven Flashpoint we'll be seeing. Here's the trailer for it from YouTube:

Could be interesting, though it's hard to tell from that trailer. It's not going to be the only addition though. No, as Shacknews reports there are in fact two big content additions:

Flashpoint: Kaon Under Siege is a completely new and unique group combat experience located on Kaon, a planet in the Tion Hegemony, a strategically important sector of the galaxy that has remained neutral, Groups of up to four Republic or Imperial players must race to Kaon to eliminate the Rakghouls outbreak, securing the allegiance of the Tion Hegemony for their respective sides. This Flashpoint will be available for level 50 characters only and will feature Normal and Heroic modes.

Operation: Karagga’s Palace is a continuation of the game’s second launch Operation. In the Operation, teams of 8 or 16 players will face off against Karagga and the Hutt Cartel after the Hutts abandon their famous neutrality and breach agreements with both the Republic and Empire. Concerned by the threat of another combatant in the war for galactic control, both factions send teams of their most powerful heroes to confront Karagga and determine his intentions. This Operation will feature Normal, Heroic and Nightmare difficulty modes.

Those are the big additions, but there are more changes coming in the patch. MMORPG reports on DR. Greg Zeschuk's words:

“A month ago when we launched the Early Game Access program for Star Wars: The Old Republic, we promised our fans that this would just be the beginning of our journey together,” said Dr. Greg Zeschuk, General Manager of the BioWare Label’s MMO Business Unit and Co-Founder of BioWare. “Rise of the Rakghouls adds a lot of the things our community has been asking for – additional higher level group content, features like anti-aliasing, PvP bracketing and more. In the future, game updates will be even more substantial, as we promise to continue to not only add to The Old Republic, but to also improve and refine the experience with the full Legacy System and new Guild features.”

That full Legacy System and new Guild features (such as the guild bank) refer to the second content update that's currently slated for March. Read on after the break for various interviews with the developers (particularly James Ohlen) about Rise of the Rakghouls, the second update and beyond.

Massively spoke with Gabe Amatangelo about the coming update (note that there's an story end spoiler in the article, but they've clearly marked the paragraph it's in). Here's an excerpt (note that in the original article the picture I've included directly proceeds the spoiler paragraph):

Amatangelo says it's his personal favorite flashpoint: "The setting is awesome. It's dark with huge shadows, and everyone has flashlights they've got use to see their way through it. One of the first boss encounters puts your back up against the wall, and things are coming out from all different directions. Rakghouls have all the different kinds of mechanics. It's a lot of fun gameplay-wise. You have a turret and an explosive canister, and you just have to survive it then blow through the wall. The next area's like this creepy '50s-esque theater. It has a recording that's looping and scratchy. It's a lot of fun, and it's part one of two -- the conclusion comes out in an update in the near future."

It's a nice article with a lot of small but juicy details. I'm curious about how the Flashpoint will work, as well as how the fight against the Hutt in the Operation will work. I'm less enthusiastic about them including the a Towers of Hanoi type puzzle though as it's a horrible puzzle. Once you know how to solve it (and considering how often I have in games I certainly do) it just becomes pointless busy work. The Towers of Hanoi they included in KotOR was one of the most horrible moments in the game, and I like puzzles and brain teasers in games. also has an interview, but they have it with James Ohlen (and similarly write it article-style instead of Q&A-style). Here's an excerpt:

For the Content Update next week we will see the Rise of the Rakghouls come into the game. The Rakghouls are a throw back to old school KOTOR and players will face the new threat as the disease is trying to be weaponized. Rise of the Rakghouls will help out elder game players with some new content to explore. They will have a story heavy new flashpoint called Kaon Under Siege as well as some additions to the Hutt operation of Karagga’s Palace. Boosting the boss fights with four more boss monsters to battle. James did not give away too much on the story for the Flashpoint and update again because story plays so heavily into the game (we do not want to spoil things for fans). What is also coming in the update is Level 50 Bracketing (no more facerolling 50s on 12s!) for PvP Warzones and also some changes to Ilum for open world PvP.

It basically covers the same ground as the other articles and as such not a lot of new information if you've already read those. But havign a few perspectives on what's being added tends to help getting an accurate picture of what is being added as sometimes sites can phrase things differently (that's a nice way of saying that sometimes sites can flat out get things wrong).

Eurogamer also has a similar article-style interview with James Ohlen and I'm going to pull excerpts out of it that I found particularly interesting. First there's this:

Some "other stuff" the SWTOR team is working on besides these Game Updates is, "We want to make the galaxy feel more alive". "So we have a team that's entirely focused on events in the galaxy," Ohlen revealed. "We'll be giving more information on that in the future."

Events in the galaxy? Now that sounds interesting. I wonder what kind of events these will be. Should be a lot of fun I'm sure.

The second excerpt is this:

"I can't give you an exact date on the third Game Update," he said, "but I'd say we're gaming to be more aggressive than the industry standard World of Warcraft in terms of how often we release our post-release content.

"We know that that's something we have to do because we need to convince our fans that we're serious about this."

I recall saying before release that post-release support was what I was most worried about, that they really needed to push with continual new content. From the sound of it James agrees. And indeed, having the first content patch out a month after release is really fast (I think I mentioned that it needed to be within three months). If the second one makes the March launch then that will be in three months since launch which is quite good time as well. So good job BioWare, you're definitely inspiring confidence. Particularly if those updates turn out to be good (as I'm expecting they will).

Rock, Paper, Shotgun has a Q&A-style interview with James Ohlen. It talks about how things went and how things are going before moving on to the content update. Here's one question and answer (the shortest one):

RPS: I think something we were surprised not to see in the game was an idea Warhammer brought, in the social quests. Do you have any plans to bring something like that in?

Ohlen: I can say that is definitely something we’re looking at, and when we talk more about our event system, we may talk more about things like that.

As I said earlier, different articles referring to the same things might shed different light on matters. Here is the event system mentioned again, now in relation to social quests. It doesn't really tell us anything more, but I can say that it's making me damn curious.

There's also another line I wanted to highlight from the interview: "we’ve already got voiceover being recorded for content you won’t see for a year or more". Again, that's definitely helping with increasing confidence in the future for the game.

For the rest the interview is quite nice to read as well. And my deepest thanks to the heroes at BioWare/EA who worked during Christmas to help bring us all this goodness (and I include support and such in that as well).

GameSpot also has an interview with James Ohlen (busy man). Here's an excerpt:

GS: What are the plans for story-based updates that continue in the vein of the storytelling that helps The Old Republic stand out?

JO: Oh yeah, obviously we know that's a selling feature. When you look at Rise of the Rakghouls, the flashpoint, it's very much in the vein of our story-heavy flashpoints. You'll notice when you start with The Old Republic we have two types of flashpoints. We have our story-heavy flashpoints, which are represented by the first flashpoint you went on, the flashpoints that dealt with Revan, and the flashpoint at the very end of the game that dealt with Darth Malgus. Those flashpoints were very story-heavy.

Then we have the lighter story flashpoints. Rise of the Rakghouls is in the vein of the story-heavy flashpoints, so if you enjoyed those kind of flashpoints, you're very much going to enjoy Rise of the Rakghouls.

I'm wondering whether they should've given different names to the story-heave and story-light Flashpoints. But ah well. Nice to hear that the new Flashpoint is story-heavy; I much enjoyed the ones I've played (more than the other ones, though those were enjoyable too).

last of the interviews with James Ohlen is this one at GameSpy. Here's an excerpt:

GameSpy: Getting back to the balance between the casual and the hardcore players, what's BioWare's philosophy on keeping both groups happy with the flow of content aimed at them?

James Ohlen: I think that's one of the biggest concerns that players bring up. We're coming out with this first game update within this first month, to show that yes, we're serious, we're going to be providing free content on a regular basis. And then with Game Update Two, the one coming in March, we're going to be providing even more content. We're going to have PvP content in the form of Warzones, the Flashpoint, the Operation. We're also going to be providing single-player content for level 50s -- it's actually pretty extensive. We have a single-player Flashpoint, Operation, Warzone. In addition to that, we're going to be providing new game systems that are going to be usable by players of all levels.

You know, I've been thinking on that statement of "new game systems" a bit, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if that referred to Pazaak or Holochess or such. We've all seen the holochess tables in the cantinas (even so I think Pazaak is more likely as it's a very KotOR thing). And it would definitely be something that all levels could enjoy. Might also add another level of progression to the game to keep players busy with the card collection.

The interview (later in the same question) also talks a bit more about the Legacy system, suggesting that you might be able to do things like get bonus experience for certain gameplay types of your choice because of it so that on subsequent playthroughs you can focus on those gameplay types more. That sounds quite clever. One could, for instance, start a character that's more intended to be a PvP character by getting bonus experience for that. Assuming that that's indeed what they're doing of course.

Finally a site I'd never heard of before, Castles & Cooks, has an interview with Drew Karpyshyn (thanks Darth Hater for the link). It's not really specific to The Old Republic and more related to work he's done and is doing, but still a nice interview. Here's an excerpt:

CnC: Is there a Star Wars story (character, time period, location, etc.) that you haven’t told yet that you would like to?

Drew Karpyshyn: I’d love to explore Yoda’s past. Not much is known about the little guy, but I think there’s a lot more to him than meets the eye. He’s almost 900 years old, he’s a Jedi Master and he has a deep understanding of the dark side that you wouldn’t get without treading down a few dangerous paths. (I don’t know if Mr. Lucas ever intends to open the door to Yoda’s past, but hopefully he’ll read this and keep me in mind just in case.) I’d also like to follow the chain of Sith Lords from Darth Zannah and Cognus all the way down to Plagueis. And I’m currently working on another Old Republic novel set just after the events of the SWTOR MMO, though I can’t say too much about it yet.

Another Old Republic novel? Hmm, interesting.

It would be fun to see a story about Yoda as well, but I think that Lucas is sitting tight on that one. Wouldn't surprise me that it is to maintain the mystery of the character, for which he would be absolutely right. Too often people want mystery to be revealed and too often does it turn out very disappointing (such as with "what happened to Revan after KotOR"... okay I couldn't resists griping about that a bit again).

And that's it. Looking forward to the first content update going live next Tuesday.

[link] to RotR trailer at YouTube.
[link] to announcement at Shacknews.
[link] to announcement at MMORPG.
[link] to interview with Gabe Amatangelo at Massively.
[link] to interview with James Ohlen at MMORPG.
[link] to interview with James Ohlen at Eurogamer.
[link] to interview with James Ohlen at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
[link] to interview with James Ohlen at GameSpot.
[link] to interview with James Ohlen at GameSpy.
[link] to interview with Drew Karpyshyn at Castles & Cooks.

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