Monday, 6 February 2012

Learn the Basics of The Old Republic

BioWare has started a new series of videos aimed to help out starting players. The first of these videos they named "Begin Your Journey" and talks about server selection and character creation. Here is the official news:

We are excited to announce that we have just published the first of what will be a series of tutorial videos designed to help new players learn the basics of em>Star Wars™: The Old Republic™. With each Quick Start Guide, new players will be guided through different aspects of the game.

The first video in this series, titled “Begin Your Journey,” takes you through the process of jumping into the game for the first time. In this video, Social Media Coordinator Eric Musco helps new players through the process of picking a server type, creating their first character and guiding players through their character class’s opening conversation.

You can watch this video right now by visiting the Quick Start Videos section of the New Player Guide. Over the next several weeks we’ll be releasing additional guides which will include topics such as navigation, user interface, and grouping with other players. We hope these videos will ease new players into the game while teaching more experienced players a thing or two that they might not have known.

Since this video is aimed at new players there obviously isn't anything of interest in it to those who are already quite familiar with TOR or with playing MMOs in general. But even besides that I can't help but feel a bit that if your game needs tutorial videos like this then there's a problem with the game to begin with. Shouldn't this explanation be in the game itself? The video itself is nice enough though.

Anyway, BioWare also announced two new weekly blogs. Read on after the break for the news, as well as a few more links and the developer quotes.

As said, BioWare also announced two new weekly blogs. Here is the official news:

We’re very happy to announce that we are adding two new weekly blogs to hopefully give you more insight into development and keep you up to date on developer comments you may have missed.

First, we’ll be starting up a weekly Q&A blog series in which we will select ten questions from the community and post answers to them every Friday. We’ll have our first set of answers next week on February 10th, 2012, but before that, we need your questions!

We’ve opened a thread in General Discussion in which you can now ask questions (one per user, so make it count!). On Tuesday at 2PM CST (8PM GMT), we will close that thread, select ten questions and get answers to them for Friday’s blog post.

In order to increase the chances of having your specific question answered and to help us keep the thread manageable, here are some guidelines on asking questions:

  1. Keep your question relatively short. Background details are welcome, but don’t go overboard.
  2. Please actually ask a question. We want to hear constructive feedback elsewhere in the Forums.
  3. Use common sense – we cannot answer everything, especially on far-reaching content.
  4. Limit yourself to one question per thread, please. You can always ask another question next week!
  5. And finally, as a reminder, this is not a discussion thread. Do not comment about what somebody else has posted.

Any other posts apart from questions in the thread will be removed. With that being said, please head on over to the official thread for the Q&A session and ask away!

The second addition to the Community Blog section is going to be a Weekly Dev Tracker Summary. In it, we will be rounding up all of our official responses to Forum threads in one handy blog post. Hopefully this will give anyone who does not look at the Dev Tracker on a daily basis a useful summary of what’s been said recently, and will also help you decide on your question for our weekly Q&A sessions.

We’re looking forward to your questions and hope these blogs are useful to you!

Again, I can appreciate the thought behind it, but I'm not sure if a structured "ten questions every week" really works that well. Shouldn't the process be more organic? If people have more questions then more answers should be given. And if they have less then they shouldn't try to fill the space with pointless questions. Again I can understand the sentiment behind it, but it just feels way too structured to me; "you can only ask one question a week and of the 1.7 million people playing we'll only answer ten questions every week". But I guess that we should be glad for every effort to communicate with the fans on BioWare's part.

The second blog sounds a lot better and might just save me a lot of time with my own developer quotes posts.

If you're wondering where that 1.7 million subscribers number above comes from, then I can tell you that EA had its Earnings Call last week and with it released a press release boasting about a few of TOR's numbers, here's an excerpt:

Austin, Texas – February 1, 2012 – Just six weeks after launching one of the most anticipated videogames of all time, BioWare™, a Label of Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA), is continuing to set new standards in online games with Star Wars™: The Old Republic™. Already the fastest growing subscription MMO ever, Star Wars: The Old Republic has sold over 2 million copies, with a thriving base of over 1.7 million active subscribers, as gamers around the world have immersed themselves in the story-driven, online Star Wars universe from BioWare and LucasArts. Helping drive The Old Republic’s early success has been the quality and reliability of the game’s service, with servers being available for more than 99.5% of the time outside of scheduled maintenance. BioWare has also delivered on the promise of continually adding new content by releasing Rise of the Rakghouls, which added new, higher level group content, less than 30 days after launch. The next game update, featuring even more content, new game systems and additional guild features, is scheduled to be released in Spring 2012.

It's interesting that they're not saying "Spring 2012" for the next update. With them previously saying "March" that basically points to the last ten days of March (Spring starts March 21st). For the rest those numbers sound quite impressive and it's nice to hear that the game is doing so well. Congratulations to BioWare, EA, LucasArts and everyone else involved.

More information from the Earnings Call, where these numbers where first announced, can be found over at Darth Hater where they've got several quotes from the call. Here's one bit regarding their plans at "expanding the global market":

Q: How long will it take to get into the Asian market?
A: Australia/New Zealand is the low-hanging fruit. Think in months rather than weeks. Individual Asian markets will be announced in the future, we’re bound by confidentiality agreements. When WoW was introduced in 2004, they were in Korea shortly after, and 9 months after in China. It was easier in those days – server outages were considered par for the course, that is not the case today. We hope to execute as well in Asia as we did in the NA/Europe launch.

One of the reasons that World of Warcraft has as many subscribers at it has is because it did really, really well in the Asian market. I'm sure that EA hopes the same for TOR, but I'm not altogether convinced that TOR really fits with Asian sensibilities, particularly considering that now the Asian markets have a much larger selection of home-grown products (the number of MMOs made in Korea alone is pretty insane). But I do wish them the best of luck.

And with EA releasing some numbers comes the usual guesswork by analysts again of course, as reports:

America's most influential analysts are putting paying subscribers for EA's Star Wars: The Old Republic at 1.3 million, and a conversion rate of 75 to 80 per cent.

Doug Creutz from Cowen estimated estimated the figure of paying players to be between 1.3 million and 1.5 million, with 200,000 to 400,000 still enjoying their first month's free trial.

Baird Equity Research concurred with the 1.3 million estimate, despite originally predicting the number to be 1 million.

"More important from this point will be the trend in paid subscription levels, which will depend on user engagement and the pace of new content deployment," said analyst Sebastian Colin.

But Wedbush's Michael Pachter was more conservative, putting the figure at between 900,000 and 1.2 million.

"The worst case is that 900,000 out of 1.2 million purchasers through December 31 converted to paying subs (75%); the best case is that 1.2 million out of 1.5 million purchasers through December 31 converted (80%)."

He too points out that any January purchasers will still be playing for free.

Subscription prices for the game are currently set at £8.99 or $14.99 a month, $42 or £25 for three months or 6 months for $78 or £46. The standard games costs £44.99 and all new players get 30 days of gaming free.

Yesterday EA revealedthat the game has over 1.7 million players and that the game has sold 2 million units.

It honestly all just sounds like guesswork to me and for the life of me I can't figure out why someone would want to pay for someone else's guesswork. But ah well.

Maybe it's something similar to reading reviews by other people. Though some reviews I tend to read or view much more for entertainment than anything Much like the Zero Punctuation review of TOR (see how I did the transition there?):

I always tend to enjoy Yahtzee's reviews, but particularly when it's about a game I've played. Even more so when I enjoy the game myself. And that's despite him tending to be fairly negative towards most games (if you enjoy a game then you can laugh at its flaws too). In the case of The Old Republic though he seems to quite like it. Considering that he generally tends to really dislike mumorpugers.

Another review is up the by their resident columnist (that's basically a paid blogger) Coyotee Sharptongue. His tongue lacks a certain sharp edge in this review though as he attempts to give a "completely honest" review of the game. Here's an excerpt:

I hate starting out with "space combat" in the weakness category, because I honestly enjoy it. You navigate your ship on a linear track through space debris and asteroid fields all the while exchanging laser fire with enemy fighters and ships. You have to dodge asteroids, avoid collisions with large chunks of what appear to be improperly disposed of space refrigerators, and occasional escort the galaxy's most suicidal pilot to a safe destination.

It's a lot of fun…

…the first 30 times that you do the exact same mission. Then it tends to get a little tedious and you start creating your own little player made missions of "how close to exploding can I get this f**ker who won't STAY AWAY FROM THE GODDAMN TURRETS without failing the escort quest." If they don't add more of these missions, or some random element to them that keeps them from being literally the same instance every time, no one is going to be bothering with them three months from now.

I'm sure that his review is completely honest... but it also points out pretty much the exact same things as every other review I've read does. In fact I've seen reviews go into a lot more detail and pick out a lot more flaws (as well as good points). On top of that I don't really consider this review to be particularly funny either, but then I guess that humor is subjective.

Last week I reported that some conservative religious group was having issue with the impending inclusion of same-sex relationships in TOR. Conan O'Brien got his hands on some 'footage':

I could totally see that working. <nods>

Anyway, with that it's on, maybe for the last time considering how BioWare's new blog goes, to the developer quotes.

Developer Quotes

  • [link] to David Bass on Guild Summit hotels.
  • [link] to David Bass on Guild Summit.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on fix not fixed.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on Guild Summit.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on coming crafting changes.
  • [link] to Cameron Winston on Salvation healing bug.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on launcher calling New Hampshire.
  • [link] to Amber Green on Test patch notes 1.1.2.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on Guild Summit, part 2.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on Guild Summit, part 3.
  • [link] to David Bass on Guild Summit hotels, part 2.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on bag changes.
  • [link] to Gabe Amatangelo on bag changes.
  • [link] to Gabe Amatangelo on bag changes, part 2.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on Guild Summit selection.

There's a couple of things there. Those interested in PvP might want to check out the bag changes posts above. But for me the main interesting post was one by Georg Zoeller about changes to BioChem:


I wanted to drop some notes on the changes made to the BioChem profession in the patch (1.1.2) that just went onto the Public Test Server, how they fit in the big picture and how we are proceeding forward with crafting professions in endgame in general.

First off, we removed the requirement to have the BioChem profession to use Energized and Exotech stims and adrenals. This was done to (a) remove pressure of players to pick up BioChem for optimal combat performance and (b) to open up the sale of BioChem products to a larger audience on the Galactic Trade Network.

Additionally, we've reduced the effectiveness of the BioChem exclusive Rakata Stimpacks to be equal to Energized stimpacks. Their intended benefit is the cost savings they provide over time, not an increase in power. We are also in progress of reviewing the creation costs of many consumables in the game against the economic realities (acquisition cost of purple mission materials on our live servers) and will likely make adjustments to these in the future.

It is our intention to gradually, over multiple patches, reduce the impact of situational consumables on endgame combat resolution and shift the factors which determine the outcome of combat more towards personal skill. As part of this effort, specifically for PvP, we are also working on changes that will reduce the gear related power difference between new characters at level 50 and players in full PvP gear. We feel that at the current time, this difference is too high.

On a more general note about crafting, our changes to make BioChem consumables freely tradeable are just a small first step as part of a larger scale effort to extend our crafting gameplay, for all professions, into the endgame.

Major changes are currently on schedule for the next major content patch, such as extractable basemods (armoring, barrel, etc.) from purple items, critical crafting successes on orange outfits, more bind-on-equip schematic drops for artifice and other professions, increased relevance of augments, better reverse engineering chance, and other improvements. We want to create significant incentive for players to engage in the crafting economy – as provider of goods or supplier - without requiring players to take up a specific profession as a ticket into endgame.

Long term, our plan is to evolve Star Wars: The Old Republic’s game economy to a more player driven model, strengthen and improve the GTN and embrace the game’s extensive appearance customization throughout the game. We have a long list of improvements planned for that but we’re also anxious to hear from you. Feel free to use this thread to give us your feedback on the topic!


I've read in various places that, for one reason or another, BioChem is really the profession to pick because of the BioChem-only items you get. So I'm glad that they're opening it up by allowing other classes to use those items too (even if BioChem obviously still needs to make them first). In general I don't really get the thinking behind profession-restricted items.

The other planned changes for crafting sound pretty good to me as well and I can't wait to hear more detail on them.

But that's it for now. Tomorrow should be another patch day.

[link] to Earnings Call details at Darth Hater.
[link] to analyst guessing article at gamesindustry.
[link] to Zero Punctuation review video at The Escapist.
[link] to Coyote review at MMORPG.
[link] to Conan O'Brien video at Teamcoco.

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