Monday, 2 April 2012

Your Legacy Begins

I'm running a bit late (again) with my updates. Doesn't help that BioWare had a whole bunch of them. We've got two official blog posts, a Q&A, a new podcast (yes) and a lot of developer quotes. So let's get started.

First the important news though; as of last weekend I'm playing TOR again. After getting my Agent to level 50 and finishing the class story (as well as some things in my personal life) I'd pretty much stopped playing TOR for a number of weeks. The intention was to start a new class (a Consular) and play with a friend (playing a Knight), but that didn't materialize so instead of wasting my subscription fee I decided to just play solo. If it happens after all I think I'll just play a (healing) Trooper; getting through those first ten levels should be quick enough.

Two things I've noticed over the last weekend. First, it's incredibly easy getting a group as a healer to the point of people coming to you to ask you to group with them. Though I've played healers in the past it was always with someone so I didn't really look for grouping up with others. Second thing; healing in a group is incredibly easy and somewhat boring. I've got a full skill bar, yet am limited to using just three of them (at level 15) more or less. That was while playing Hammer Station (during which we did wipe once because of a mistake I made). I don't mind it that much though; I kind of like focusing on keeping my group healthy instead of killing enemies. And I'm sure things will pick up at higher level. Overall I'm enjoying my Consular so far; quite enjoying the somewhat slower, more mystical pace of the story.

Anyway, enough about me; on to the official news.

First is a blog post by Senior Game Designer William Wallace called "Your Legacy Begins". Here's an excerpt:

You may have already started your Legacy by picking a Legacy Name. This happens when you finish Chapter 1 with your first character. From this point, all of your characters on that server are now considered part of your Legacy, regardless of faction. This means that any existing characters which have not been played past Chapter 1 will gain a Legacy Name, and any newly created characters will also have their Legacy Name available from character creation.

From Game Update 1.2: Legacy, unlocking your Legacy grants you access to a newly expanded Legacy Panel (accessed, by default, by pressing the ‘Y’ key) where you can modify your family tree, and see what Legacy Rewards you have unlocked.

I'm probably sounding a bit like a broken record on this by now, but I still wonder what the point of the family tree is. It doesn't really do anything for roleplayers as it doesn't give them anything that they couldn't already do and is more restricting than liberating (I can't help but come up with some complex family trees that this legacy system probably can't represent such as half-siblings, incestuous relationships in the tree, double relationships such as your brother also being your rival, etc, etc; but then I haven't tried it on the test server so maybe it can do all of that and more). It just seems like a lot of effort to implement something for fairly little return. It would help if other people could see your family tree (even if it's 'just' somewhere on the website). The only thing that I can think of is that they did it to re-enforce the notion of this being a 'family legacy' as that really doesn't exist anywhere other than in this family tree despite how hard BioWare is saying that familial bonds are a cornerstone of Star Wars. It doesn't do anything for any of their four pillars.

Beyond the tree the rest of the Legacy system is reasonably nice though. Though I'm not entirely sure about the whole Heroic Moment requirement for class unlocks, considering that I can count the number of times I actually used the heroic moment with my Agent on one hand. Considering the requirements (Heroic Moment, companion character, long cooldown, etc) it all seems a bit too restrictive. Not to mention that the Agent's unlock, Orbital Bombardment as I understand it, has a long cast time; I felt that it was only really useful as an opening move when facing a group of weaker mobs. As such I somehow seriously doubt that my Consular will ever make use of Legacy Orbital Bombardment. But it's the thought that counts.

There's a few surprises in there as well. I didn't know about the extra customization options for some species, let alone that those would be unlocked too. I didn't know of the alignment milestones (though it doesn't affect grey alignment just yet; see below). I didn't know of the companion unlocks, class emotes or class buffs. And I didn't know of the Rocket Boost. So overall a nice system.

Read on after the break for the PvP blog article, the Community Q&A, the announcement of the new official podcast and the developer quotes.

I make no secret of not really being that big of a fan of PvP. As such when Gabe Amatangelo posts a "PvP in Game Update 1.2" update on the BioWare blog it doesn't excite me. Still, that's what he did and here's an excerpt from it:

We believe competitive measure is an important part of a complete PvP experience. As such we are excited to be introducing the first phase of that to Star Wars™: The Old Republic™’s PvP gameplay in Game Update 1.2: Legacy, with Pre-Season of Ranked Warzones. We want to emphasize this is Pre-Season while the community and development teams collect data and refine the system in preparation for Season One, which will begin with the inclusion of cross-server Warzone queuing. The Pre-Season ratings will be reset when Season One officially begins.

Ranked Warzone Queue and Matchmaking

In Game Update 1.2, any level 50 player will be able to queue up for Ranked Warzones by themselves or in a group of any size up to eight players. Performance will be tracked on every player who participates, as a rating that will be adjusted with every match won or lost (leaving counts as a loss and prevents you from re-queuing for several minutes) considering the ratings of all other players in the match. In other words, if the enemy team has an overall much higher rating than you and your team, your rating would only go down a small amount if you lost. Players will have a separate Solo and Group rating, meaning only the rating for which the player queued will be affected by each match.

I'm sure that it's all good stuff for PvP players and I'm glad that BioWare is working to improve the game for them. As I said though, it doesn't really interest me much so I'll just move on to the next bit.

That next bit is the Community Q&A. Last week BioWare didn't ask players to submit questions, but instead posted answers to questions that users had already asked regarding game Update 1.2. Here are two quotes:

Lstn: If I hit 50 as a human, what benefit do I get with the Legacy system, as humans can be any and all classes?

Daniel Erickson: Reaching level 50 as a human results in a sizable Presence bonus to all of your Legacy characters, making all current and future companions more powerful.

Ok, I admit, I started writing this post before I'd read the Q&A and in my comments on the Legacy blog post above I had a bit of me complaining about the species unlock because I felt that the first time a played a human (over another species when the option exists) I wasn't getting the benefit of an unlock. But then I read the above unlock and now it seems that the human unlock is actually by far the best one. I mean, unlocking species for the other classes is nice, but it doesn't actually affect gameplay. The human unlock however directly benefits the way that I play (as I spend most of my time playing with a Companion). So I'm very happy of that... and a bit ashamed of my earlier mini-complaints (which I promptly removed).

ViciousFett: Light and Dark active ability Legacy unlocks are obviously Alignment +/- 10000, but what about Neutral? Is it simply a matter of staying between light and dark 1? Or perhaps having at least 5k in each?

Daniel Erickson: The Neutral Legacy reward will not be coming in Game Update 1.2 I’m afraid, as true grey alignment advancement did not make the cut. It will appear as part of the full grey alignment advancement package in a later Game Update.

Aaand that's a bit of bad news. My Imperial Agent steadfastly remained around 0 points alignment-wise (I think the most I ever deviated was 400 points or so in one direction or other if I got a series of choices leaning to one side that all seemed the most appropriate for my character). Considering that they talked about implementing neutral alignment even before launch I hoped that they would have that in by now. As it is it doesn't really matter much anymore as I doubt I'll return to play my Agent much anymore and my Consular is very strongly light-side. But oh well.

Another big bit of news is that BioWare is starting their own podcast for The Old Republic. Here is the official news:

Hello everyone! My name is Eric Musco and I, along with Brooks Guthrie are happy to bring you a sneak peek of the official STAR WARS: The Old Republic podcast. You can listen to our pilot episode here by using the embedded player, or download and listen on your preferred MP3 player.

Our goal with this show is to give you, the community, insight into development of The Old Republic by hearing directly from the developers creating the game. In our pilot episode, Brooks and I sit down with combat team members Austin Peckenpaugh and Cameron Winston to talk about some of the changes coming in Game Update 1.2.

In the future, keep your eyes on for our next episode, on our very own podcast page! Starting with our next episode, a full transcript will be available in English, French and German as well as an iTunes subscription (please ignore that mention at the end of this pilot episode!). If you have questions or comments about the show you can discuss our pilot episode in this Forum thread.

Thanks for listening and we hope you enjoy!

Download the MP3 of this podcast by right-clicking this link and saving.

I was not expecting that to be honest. I don't think any MMO (or in fact any game) that I can think of has its own official podcast. I'm not a big fan of podcasts myself (I can't listen to them while working as I can't concentrate on following what's being said and I don't like to just listen as I prefer to also have something to look at) but I still think that this is pretty cool. Well done BioWare.

And for the occasion I added a podcast label for the official podcasts.

And that's it for the official updates; on to the developer quotes.

Developer Quotes

  • [link] to Amber Green on Test patch notes.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on puzzles in 1.2.
  • [link] to Will Wallace on Legacy family tree.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on social integration.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on events system.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on events system, part 2.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on PAX East.
  • [link] to David Hunt on offhand items.
  • [link] to Amber Green on more Test patch notes.
  • [link] to Amber Green on yet more Test patch notes.
  • [link] to David Bass on PAX East.
  • [link] to David Bass on PAX East, part 2.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on new armor models in 1.2.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on new armor models in 1.2, part 2.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on simple armor models.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on new armor models in 1.2, part 3.
  • [link] to Eric Musco on new podcast.
  • [link] to David Bass on Guild Summit panels.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on simple armor models, part 2.

That's again a lot of quotes, and unlike last time I've lifted out a fair few of them. So let's get started.

The first one is by Will Wallace about the family tree:

All characters in your legacy get all of your global legacy unlocks, regardless of the arrangement of characters in your family tree.

The family tree is just a fun visualization of the relationships between your characters - we don't want you to ever have to "respec" your family to get the unlocks you want, or for guilds to require you to have a certain family arrangement in order to pick up the right rewards.

I've had my little rant about the tree above alread, so won't repeat that hear. I will say that I think it's good that specific family arrangement won't matter for gameplay. Beyond that I'm just quoting this for the confirmation that the tree is just "a fun visualization".

Stephen Reid made a post about something that I'd forgotten about, something that they mentioned before, namely the in-game events system (and a bit more here):

We have a dedicated team within the larger development team that's working on in-game events. Our definition of 'events' are time-limited, game-wide events that hopefully many of you will get to see.

The team has been hard at work putting an event together that will... manifest after Game Update 1.2 reaches the live servers. The event will be quite widespread and should be hard to miss.

There are already plans for events in the future as well, but details on those will have to wait. We want there to be an element of surprise.

I'm getting the strong impression that this is for those seasonal events like decorations during certain holidays, special loot drops, special thematic mini quests, mobs in different locations than usual, etc. Basically the usual Halloween/Christmas/etc ingame week/weekend-long events that most MMOs have. I think that's good to have, it's good to have things like that, but I would hope that they'll also use it for truly one-off events. For example, with their Rise of the Rakghoul update, if they had this system, I could imagine rakghouls appearing on every planet and such. Bits of story content that might tie into various updates and make the servers feel a bit more alive. I think that it's good if things aren't too predictable for players.

I guess we'll see.

Another quote by Stephen Reid talks about simple armor and endgame appearance:

Here's an open question in regards to [simple armor].

We always have to balance two things with armor. On the one hand, there's the gameplay requirement of "Make high level, very exclusive armor look like it's unique and powerful so other players can see that at a glance".

On the other, there's the aesthetics requirement - to make clothing echo the simple, almost plain looking clothing that's seen on some characters in the Star Wars saga. That led, in part, to orange gear in the game, which allows you to have an iconic appearance that doesn't suggest your gear's statistics.

The question is, how do you balance that? Arguably Obi-Wan's robes in Episode IV are very 'low level' in appearance. Would you want to see that as an armor set for a high level character? Would you not be concerned that players would see you as low-level? Or do aesthetics trump gameplay for you?

To be honest I'm a bit surprised that the question needs to be asked at all, though perhaps that is because in this sense, for me, aesthatics does trump gameplay. Or to be more precise, I don't see how aesthetics have any (negative) influence on gameplay. In PvE, what do you care what others look like? Isn't it stats that are important to gameplay (so as long as one has got the right level mods in their low level-looking armor it shouldn't be an issue). And in PvP it would only be a (temporary) advantage to look low level and make the enemy thing that you're a noob (until they learn that looks don't mean anything gameplay-wise). So I'm confused what gameplay effect it has.

I guess that I can understand people wanting unique endgame gear for some e-peen stroking to show off. But I'm not sure how that's connected to the question; if I can fully slot my level 1 gear then that doesn't remove the existence of unique looking endgame gear. As such I'd say leave the silly spikes and feathers gear for unique endgame unlocks for those who want to 'impress' others with unlocking them and have more sensible outfits fully mod-able available for the rest of us.

Finally there's a post by David Bass about the Guild Summit panels videos:

We've launched a new YouTube playlist featuring the Guild Summit panels, which were held on March 5th in Austin, TX. Today we are releasing the Operations/Flashpoints panel and the Player Vs. Player panel, and we'll be posting more next week.

You'll find the playlist for these videos on YouTube here:

Since this was our first Guild Summit, we're very interested in hearing your feedback about the entirety of the event (as well as the content within the panels themselves). Let us know your thoughts below!

I haven't seen the videos yet (at the moment there are two at about 40 minutes each). But I wanted to post it here regardless to let people know that they exist and where to find them. Otherwise they're liable to get lost amidst all the other news (which, granted, is a risk now as well).

And that's it for now.

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