Thursday, 24 May 2012

Coming in Game Update 1.3

I've been out of the country the last number of days, so this update is a bit later than usual. The main thing to report is that BioWare released another "Coming Soon to Star Wars: The Old Republic" video, this one for the upcoming Game Update 1.3. Here is the official news:

See what the future holds for Star Wars™: The Old Republic™, as Game Director James Ohlen highlights some of the new game systems coming in Game Update 1.3, as well as some of the playable content that will be released in the coming months. In this ‘Coming Up’ video, you will learn about the new Group Finder and Character Transfer systems, as well as new Legacy Perks and other features that are coming in the next Game Update, Allies.

The group finder sounds good. Character transfer is good as well, though I wonder about the details of how it works (for example: do we have to pay real money for a character transfer). The Legacy Perks they've pretty much talked about since they started talking about the Legacy System; maybe they'll convince me to start paying any attention at all to the Legacy system. And I also quite like the adaptive gear even if pretty much all of the social gear is way out of my league since I've got hardly any social points. Either way, it sounds like it'll be a decent update.

After the break some interviews, some bad news for BioWare and the developer quotes.

There have been a couple of interviews posted since my previous blog post. The first one is by Massively who talk with James Ohlen about the PvP changes that happened in Game Update 1.2. Here's an excerpt:

Sorcerers and Sages were hit pretty hard in the update. Some players have said, "Good, they needed to be nerfed," because there have been instances of Operatives and Mercenaries being passed up for flashpoints and operations because Sorcerers could "do a better job." However -- and I'm sure you've heard it -- Sorcs and Sages are complaining that their viability in PvP has been greatly reduced because when they face, for instance, a Sentinel, he can literally prevent them from ever being able to drop their major heal. Did this change accomplish what you'd hoped, and why do you think players are having these reactions?

We've actually answered this question publicly several times, but it seems when players don't like the answer, they keep asking hoping it will change. The fact is, Sorcerer and Sage healers were in a position where they could completely bypass resource management, which is intended to be a large factor of successful healing gameplay. In PvE, they're right where we want them. In PvP, there are ways to counter the health hit you take in managing your resources, and short of telling players what to do and when to do it, we're comfortable with how things are playing right now. That's not to say that we're "done," and things won't change again. But healers are actually closer to target than they've ever been in the past.

In PvP specifically, I think it would be a fine argument to make that we've increased the minimum skill required to play a Sorcerer or Sage healer, but currently we're not buying that they are ineffective or have less potential than other healers. What I am concerned about and have my eyes on, specifically, is that this skill requirement is too high for comfort. The difficulty in addressing this issue comes from finding just the right way to improve ease of use and accessibility without affecting throughput and resource management. Again, we're never "done," and it's likely that future changes to Sorcerer and Sage healers will aim at addressing this specific issue, but it's extremely unlikely that we'll go "whoops, we went too far" and undo what we've already done. So don't keep asking if that's what you're hoping to hear.

I can't say that I play much, if any, PvP so most of the interview means pretty much nothing to me. Even regarding the above quote all I can say is that in PvE my Sage seems to be doing just fine so far so... yeah.

The second interview is with Daniel Erickson over at SWTORHub where they talk about the future for TOR. Here's an excerpt:

Ten Ton Hammer: Is the developing team satisfied with the current direction of the game or can we look forward to the game moving into another direction, like harder content with more prestige items?

Daniel Erickson: The best thing about a live MMO is that you have a living, changing game. SWTOR will continue to evolve and improve across the board.

Harder content outside the operations is a personal passion of mine and in future content you can expect to be in the open world and see a combat set up that makes you stop and think “Okay, now how do I handle this?”

There's a few nice tidbits in there (such as the above). But one that piqued my interest is his answer to a potential increase in level cap: "We aren’t able to talk about this at this time." This gives me the sense that they might be working on something... that something most likely being an expansion (as expansions tend to be where level caps are raised). And since E3 is right outside the door with TOR generally having been fairly big at E3 it wouldn't surprise me in the least if they announce an expansion at E3. Maybe we'll even get another cool Blur trailer; I would at least expect an expansion to add another chapter to the class stories so having another cinematic story trailer would fit. I think that the timing fits too.

Or maybe I'm dreaming. But we'll see.

The final interview is over at PC Gamer and is with Daniel Erickson as well where he talks about Game Update 1.3. Here's an excerpt:

PCG: The adaptive gear system that lets players use more types of armor sounds awesome. Why only give this flexibility to certain pieces of gear? Is it a matter of art resources?

DE: Adaptive gear is actually easier for art resources since we get three outfits for the price of one. The reason we don’t make all gear adaptive is the same reason we don’t have social gear that looks like a Republic Trooper: Dressing up silly is fine, but dressing deceptively (like letting a Jedi dressed as a Trooper) causes chaos with PvP and other systems where the importance of visual identification is paramount.

I'm somewhat confused by this. Having a tank in a bikini is no problem, but having a Jedi dressed as a Trooper is? I would think that as soon as gear is adaptive everyone in PvP would know and it would no longer be deceptive as you divorce looks from function altogether. But oh well.

On the group finder tool there's the following quote by Daniel Erickson that I find interesting: "They will not be cross-server as we are coming up on a huge move to servers with massively higher population caps than we have today." What does he mean by that? Is he talking about merging servers. I mean, population caps don't really mean much of anything; what matters is how many players there actually are and this makes it sound as if they're planning to have servers with a lot higher actual population than the current servers would allow. Considering that the current populations are based on the caps set at launch and while feeling full at launch now tend to feel empty this has me wondering how raising the caps is going to make any difference. Unless they're planning to merge the population together.

Really makes me wish once again that TOR had just gone with a single-server architecture (similar to Champions Online or the upcoming The Secret World).

Finally all that's left are the developer quotes. But before I list them I wanted to lift out one bit of bad news posted by Greg Zeschuk:

Hey folks, since you’re reading this you may likely have heard that we’ve done some restructuring here on the SWTOR team. Sadly, we are bidding farewell to some talented, passionate and exceptionally hard-working people who helped make SWTOR a reality. Impacting people’s lives this way is always very hard, but we’re ensuring the affected people are treated with dignity, fairness and respect.

Looking back at launch, we all came together and did something historic. We executed one of the largest, most successful and stable launches of any MMO yet in industry history. That is not an easy feat for any development team or company and we are humbled and honored by our fan community’s strong support both at launch and beyond.

Looking forward, the studio remains vibrant and passionate about our many upcoming initiatives for Star Wars: The Old Republic. We still have a very substantial development team working on supporting and growing the game, and we feel we are in a strong position, with your continued involvement and feedback, to continue to build Star Wars: The Old Republic as one of the most compelling and successful online experiences in the world today. There are many strong initiatives planned for cool new content and new features that we’re excited to tell you about in the upcoming weeks and months.

Rest assured that we remain dedicated to delivering a high quality service in SWTOR to you, our fans, and we will continue to support and grow Star Wars: The Old Republic over the weeks, months and years to come.

Greg and Ray

Despite what you may or may not think of the game it's definitely bad news for all those involved, particularly those who lost their jobs ("restructuring" tends to mean "layoffs"). It even looks as if Stephen Reid might be among those let go. Or maybe he quit on his own; we don't have the details.

This also certainly doesn't help any with building player confidence in the game. With all the free weekends, the 'dropping' subscriber numbers, the constant negativity in various online communities, etc it now feels as if EA/BioWare don't have the faith in the game anymore to keep going with the larger team. They really need to do something quickly to build up confidence again.

Either way though I hope the very best for all those affected by this restructuring. It is very unfortunate that this game development industry can be so volatile at time and I hope that those who lost their jobs will land on their feet elsewhere again soon.

Developer Quotes

  • [link] to David Hunt on schematic limit.
  • [link] to David Hunt on schematic limit, part 2.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on Game Update 1.3.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on Game Update 1.3, part 2.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on forum thread round-up.
  • [link] to David Hunt on augment slots in 1.3.
  • [link] to David Hunt on augment slots in 1.3, part 2.
  • [link] to David Hunt on augment kits.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on Q&A Archive.
  • [link] to David Hunt on classes and loot drops.
  • [link] to David Hunt on augment slots in 1.3, part 3.
  • [link] to David Hunt on augment costs.
  • [link] to Greg Zeschuk on studio update.
  • [link] to Joveth Gonzalez on studio update.

Since I already picked out the main quote above there's not much else to repeat. There are a fair few posts about the augment system by David Hunt above if that interest you. But for me I doubt that I'll get to see much of the system. So I'll leave it at that for now.

[link] to interview with James Ohlen at Massively.
[link] to interview with Daniel Erickson at SWTORHub.
[link] to interview with Daniel Erickson at PC Gamer.

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