Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Guild Summit and Q&A

I'm running a bit behind and there's a lot going on at the moment with TOR, with new details for the 1.2 content update and such coming out of the Guild Summit. But let's start with last Friday's Community Q&A. Here's an excerpt:

JediCarve - Will our ships ever get upgraded to include mailboxes and the Galactic Trade Network so that we will be able to access those without having to go through the process of load screens and Orbital Stations/Spaceports?

Damion Schubert (Principal Lead Systems Designer): On one hand, we really like making the ships richer and more useful, and on the other hand, we also want to be sure that the fleets feel like vibrant centers of the game community. So the answer is... Yes! And this feature is coming as soon as Game Update 1.2 ... as ship features you can unlock as part of the Legacy system. Watch for more information about Legacy unlocks coming in Game Update 1.2 - we should be dropping that Real Soon Now.

There's definitely more on the Legacy system as they've talked a lot about that during the Guild Summit. It's nice to have mail and GTN on your ship, though I wonder if legacy points aren't better spent on something else (at least mailboxes are plentiful enough even if that makes the most sense to have on your ship). Read the rest of the questions at the original page.

Read on after the break for details on the friends trial, an interview with Gabe Amatangelo, details from the Guild Summit, information on Game Update 1.2 and the developer quotes.

One thing BioWare announced yesterday is their "invite a friend" program for The Old Republic. basically players of The Old Republic can invite up to three friends who can then play a trial (basically it's restricted to the starting planets, but I've heard "up to level 15" as well) for one week. Here are the official details:

BioWare and LucasArts are excited to announce the Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ Friends Trial starts tomorrow, March 6th!* For a limited time, players who have an active Star Wars: The Old Republic subscription will be able to invite up to three of their friends to explore the Star Wars™ galaxy.

The Star Wars: The Old Republic Friends Trial is an opportunity for players to invite three (3) of their friends to take part in a 7-day trial of the game. During this trial period, invited players can explore each of the four Origin Worlds, and experience the opening adventures for each class as they start along their epic journey.

Current subscribers can invite their friends to the game through the “Friends Trial” option on your www.StarWarsTheOldRepublic.com/myaccount "My Account" page. Here players can enter the name and email address for up to three friends. Once this information has been entered, an email will be sent to the player’s friend(s) inviting them to take part in the 7-day trial. The individual then has 14 days to begin their trial from the time they receive their email.

Sounds good to me (though even with that I still haven't been able to convince my friend to try it). Either way though I'm sure that this'll help get more people to try the game at least and that'll probably lead to more sales too.

With the recent launch of The Old Republic in the Asia Pacific area the Australian site Toroz has an video interview with Gabe Amatangelo:

As the article with the video notes (and how I found it too) the site swtor-rp also has a (text) interview with Gabe Amatangelo. Here's an excerpt:

What about cross-faction communication? It's something that a lot of people want opened up. There is a massive barrier between Republic and Sith players at the moment. You can't really communication unless you're in spatial. It hinders things like major events that players want to run. So are there any plans or talks of maybe opening up that barrier between players?

Well actually, many MMOs don't allow any communication between factions. We allow it in the "say" radius interaction. It's not like it's cutting edge or anything, but it is outside of the norm of MMOs between the factions. I think the strongest argument to end up doing that—because it went back and forth during production—landed us where we are is, could Luke Skywalker talk to Darth Vader? It would just be silly if there was no communication there.

But the con to it is, building that animosity between the factions, there is value to that. That's part of the antagonism of the conduct between the factions—the immersion of what's going on in the galaxy and the universe. So I don't necessarily see us opening up that communication any more.

I personally don't think that it's a good idea. I think when it comes to the people who are really strong community event organisers, they get on the forums. They facilitate it by creating another character. We have seen that actually, because good examples of that is in Outlaw's Den; various communities have been organising events inside of Outlaw's Den, cross-faction, just a fight two-on-two, four-v-four to see which combinations work.

I never quite understand how "many MMOs do/don't do this" can in any way, shape or form be a valid argument. I don't care what other MMOs do, in this instance I care what TOR does and why. At least he gives reasons as to why, which I just strongly disagree with. I don't think that there is any value whatsoever to building animosity. In fact I feel that purposely building animosity only hurts a game where people are supposed to be playing together (even if they're playing together competitively). Just because you're trying to win over someone else doesn't mean that you're not playing together and I think that the mindset that you're against that other player is very, very damaging to gaming culture. I think that's where most of the hate being thrown around comes from in the first place.

It's not just about how easy or hard it is to organize events, it's about communication. And communication is the lifeblood of any MMO. Makign it harder for people to communicate means it's harder to retain players as they have less connection to the game than they otherwise would.

But anyway, enough ranting on that. The interviews are both quite decent.

Regarding the Legacy system and Game Update 1.2 there's a fair bit of information come out across various sites like MMORPG.com and Eurogamer. But the best, most detailed article I've seen so far is the one from IGN. Here's an excerpt:

If you've been playing the game since launch in late 2011, those Legacy levels will finally be good for something after 1.2. Specifically, they'll let you set up a family tree, where you can arrange your characters and earn bonuses. Getting to level 50 will unlock that character's race for all classes you create thereafter, bypassing the regular class and race restrictions. "If you were to play a character to level 50 with all the races, you could create any class of any race," said Ohlen. "We know that not many people are going to do that because it's kind of crazy, so we also gave the option for players to purchase some of the unlocks." Ohlen said the race purchases will be made only with in-game currency.

Other Legacy unlocks will not be available until you've leveled a class to 50, however. Such is the case with unlocking new skills. Do you wish your Bounty Hunter could shoot Force lightning? After 1.2, if you relate the Bounty Hunter to a level 50 Inquisitor, it'll be possible, though with some significant limitations.

A Bounty Hunter won't suddenly turn into a Force-wielding super user. Every class has a heroic moment ability which requires the presence of a companion to activate. Only by using these heroic moment abilities will you be able to access the cross-class Legacy abilities. That essentially means you can only use the abilities out in the questing world; they're locked out when you're in a full group or in a PvP Warzone. "It's a balancing mechanism. We wanted to make the abilities powerful and useful but we know that some players are going to eventually have all seven others on one character. We had to be cognizant of that when we were creating them so we don't give the player seven super-powerful abilities he can use in rapid succession."

It sounds like a lot of good things coming in Game Update 1.2. But also some things that worry me. For example, how they're dropping the faction restrictions on the Warzones. I get why and that's certainly a good reason, but it does feel like they're dropping the "Story is king" mantra. And I wish that the main content drive wasn't for group content (a new Flashpoint and a new Operation) and PvP (a new Warzone) as I'm unlikely to play any of those (I haven't even played most of the existing Flashpoints and only do Heroic quests when I've out-leveled them enough to do solo).

THere are more details about Game Update 1.2, as well as before and after, come from the Guild Summit. But I've not going to repeat it all here as Darth Hater has already done an excellent job of collecting it (helps that they're there to hear things first-hand). But here's a tiny excerpt (from the Roleplayer's Discussion):

  • Current state of roleplaying, world needs more features.
  • Legacy features include social unlocks, alignment unlocks, and family tree.
  • Possible future customization include chat bubbles, character re-customization, more orange gear with viable in endgame. Wear what you want, whenever you want.
  • Improving spawning tech, will address the static feel of the world, more ambient creatures.
  • Future chairs will always be sit-able.

Yay, sit-able chairs! Makes me wodner if they'll update all current chairs too.

Anyway, let's move on to the developer quotes.

Developer Quotes

  • [link] to Allison Berryman on (no) patch notes.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on Asia Pacific launch questions.
  • [link] to Amber Green on Asia Pacific players welcome.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on Asia Pacific questions.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on 1.2 testing.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on cross-server Flashpoints.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on looking for testers.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on server transfer.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on server transfer, part 2.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on server transfer, part 3.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Game Update 1.2.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on white crystal.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on sale speeder.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on interfactional email.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Razr crystal.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on 1.1.5 PvP changes.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on crystals in 1.2.

The first post I'll highlight is on by Stephen Reid about a character transfer system (moving from one server to another). This came about mainly because of the launch of the Asia Pacific servers and many Pacific players, who currently play on other servers, wanting (and having been promised being able to) transfer. But it's letting them wait for it as it won't be available quite yet. Here's what Stephen said:

Hello everyone. I can absolutely understand the frustrations expressed here, and I appreciate that for the most part, you're being constructive in your comments. Here's a little more insight into the situation.

The character transfer system is being actively worked on by the development team. It's a large, complex project, made more complicated by the Legacy System - and it has to work perfectly. As always, it is not the only task the team as a whole is undertaking, but it's a priority. It has not been deliberately delayed, nor is it being 'held back' for any reason. As you know, the first stage of the system will be a one-off, optional transfer for those who are based in the regions defined in our FAQ. At some point after that, we'll bring a more fully-featured character transfer system online for all to use.

I can understand the frustration of those of you who have been playing on the US servers and waiting for transfers. We know your enthusiasm and excitement for the game - you wouldn't have taken the steps you did to get the game earlier than the official launch if you weren't enthusiastic. We're working as hard as we can to get the system in place. If we could have brought it online earlier, we would have. However, priorities post-launch had to be directed towards the game itself. The team's been working flat-out to improve the game, including bug fixes and additional content.

When we announced our launch territories last year we knew many more fans were excited to play The Old Republic. That's why we moved quickly to launch in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore, with more territories being lined up for future launches. Our primary focus when launching in any new territory has to be to reach more players. Ultimately, that's best for the continuing success of the game. We want everyone who wishes to play on the new servers to be able to do so, hence character transfer being offered. With that said, in this case we felt it was important to get the game into the hands of new players as soon as possible. That, combined with our post-launch development priorities, meant that character transfer did not make our launch date for these territories.

The development team remains committed to delivering a robust character transfer system for all, with our first priority being for Asia-Pacific players. If we can bring the system to you earlier than expected, we will, but for now we’re aiming towards late April.

I understand that MMOs are very complex beasts with a lot of parts all interconnecting and that ti's simply impossible to offer everything right from the start. And yet I can't help but wonder... shouldn't this have been kept in mind from the very beginning? When you first develop your server technology, shouldn't you design it such that it's ridiculously easy to move characters form one server to another? I can't help but feel as if not a lot of thought has gone into the design here and they just followed the conventions of the main other MMOs, thus making things more difficult for themselves now with the players ending up suffering. If they'd taken an approach closer to Champions Online, for example, then they wouldn't even have these issues let alone having it be a "large, complex project". But then that is my complaint with a lot of game development... too often it just seems like people put stuff together without first thinking very well about how best to do it.

Even so, it's nice to hear that they're working on server transfers. Though I doubt they'll ever get them to the point where I would want them to be (where it's free and easy to transfer servers so that you can always play with friends on other servers) at least it's something.

The next quote is a post by Georg Zoeller about whether the white crystal will be craftable:

You can have that definitive answer: There are no plans of making the white crystal craftable in 1.2 or the 1.2.x patch timeline.

May you be able to craft in several months? Maybe. Not decided yet. If so, it would not be easy.

Well... there goes any chance of me getting a white crystal for my Consular then (who is currently level 1 with 0 credits). It's very highly doubtful that I'll get the 1 million credits needed for even the cheapest white crystal before they remove the vendors again (heck, my Agent is level 50 and nowhere near that amount of money). That really, really sucks and I don't understand why BioWare is making it so difficult for player to customize their character's visual appearance the way that they want. Seriously.

The only tiny hope I have is that they'll put in some 'quest' to get the white crystal similar to what they've done for the Magenta Adegan crystal (though that quest was to be able to craft it as I understand it).

Of course by the time I get to 50 it'll probably be too late anyway. Just so... meh.

The final post is also one by Georg Zoeller and this one about mailing your own characters across faction.

Originally Posted by Geeluc
Can someone explain why not?

I'm assuming it's so you can't sell things on the opposing GTN, but why can't I even send an email to one of my toons from Rebl to Emp?

It's a restriction we're working to lift soon.

That's at least nice to hear. I wonder if it's to your own characters only or just sending mail cross-faction. Then again, considering how they're not allowing cross-faction communication I suspect it's your own characters only as it could be too open for 'abuse'.

Anyway, that's it.

[link] to video interview with Gabe Amatangelo at Toroz
[link] to interview with Gabe Amatangelo at swtor-rp.
[link] to Game Update 1.2 news at MMORPG.
[link] to Game Update 1.2 news at Eurogamer.
[link] to Game Update 1.2 news at IGN.
[link] to Guild Summit blog at Darth Hater.

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