Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Community Q&A: May 4th, 2012

Here in the UK we just had a bank holiday weekend, which for me meant spending the day running around Quesh and Hoth with my Consular (instead of working on my brother's website like I was probably supposed to). But now that that has passed it's time for rounding up the updates for TOR.

There's a the (temporary) return of Fan Friday and there's BioWare taking action against fraudulent payments. There's also news on subscription numbers coming from EA's earnings call and the developer quotes. But all that is after the break, first let's take a look at the Community Q&A BioWare posted last Friday; here's an excerpt:

Lorroc: Are there any plans to introduce a mentoring system in SWTOR? In some other MMOs, this mentoring system lowers the stats and armor of high level characters and grays out abilities that they didn't have during lower levels so that they can help their lower level friends.

Damion: I'm a big fan of ‘down leveling,’ and I've been pushing to add something like this for a long, LONG time.  Plus, you just can't ignore the master/apprentice relationship as being a core part of the Star Wars experience.  So yeah, this is coming -- someday.  And, as always, it will have a couple of unique twists that I think people will enjoy. 

Ooh, I'm definitely a fan of 'down leveling' as well; anything to make it easier for people to play together despite level difference. And I'm curious what twists they'll add. I hope it includes participating in your low-level friend's quests instead of just tagging along as they do their quests). We'll see.

Read on after the break for all the other stuff I mentioned above.

Last week BioWare announced that they're taking action against fraudulent payments. Here's the full news:

We want to clarify our policy regarding fraudulent payment activity as it is unfortunately common in online games and we do take action against it. One thing to be aware of is that criminal organizations use stolen credit cards to purchase digital game access codes and then re-sell them, often at a discount from the original retail price. For customers who are looking for a bargain on a game, these cheap game access codes can seem like a good deal and are in fact too good to be true; these are fraudulent transactions that we and our partners cannot support.

We understand that some customers are unaware they are purchasing 'stolen goods' when they buy these codes, usually from online retailers and auction sites. For that reason we have not taken action against customers using these codes in the past, as despite not gaining revenue from their purchase, we still value them as a customer. Over time however, the number of legitimate customers using these codes has dropped, and the number of gold farmers using them has risen to a level where we can no longer ignore these illegal sales.

As a result, we are changing our policies to limit the practice of using fraudulently obtained codes. From May 2nd, 2012 any account created using a fraudulently obtained game access code (ie, one that was bought using a stolen credit card) will be banned from the game service.

This change may affect a very small number of users who believed they purchased an authentic game access code. If your game service is affected, you may contact Customer Service who will help you obtain a legitimate game code to re-instate your account.

To avoid this situation, we strongly recommend you always purchase digital game access codes from official sources such as Origin.com.

We will continue to take action against any activity that breaks the Terms of Service and EUALA for Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ to ensure a safe and fair environment for all players.

I always wonder who those people are that get taken in by fraudulent access codes and such. I mean, if you just always go to the official source to get your stuff then you should never have such issues. So I guess it's people trying to pay less for the same thing and in that case you just get what you pay for. Either way I'm surprised that they weren't banning those access codes to begin with.

To more pleasant matter then, BioWare temporarily (as I understand) brought back Fan Friday for Star Wars Day ("May the 4th be with you"). It includes showcases of fan art, an interview with a community member responsible for a lot of guides on the forums, and a bunch of new rakghoul forum emoticons. You can find it all here. But I'll showcase my favorite piece of art form the list below:

Just amazing.

Yesterday EA had another Earnings Conference Call, during which they mentioned the current subscription numbers for The Old Republic. Darth Hater has the details, but to make a long story short the game currently has 1.3 million subscribers.

Personally I find that rather amazing... that is a lot of people and enough to make The Old Republic second-place MMO (behind WoW's 10 million or so). Yet, of course, some sites focus on how this is less than the 1.7 million they had three months ago, but personally I think it's natural; when a game first launches it seems to me that the number of people playing will naturally be higher because the game is new. But right now I think that we're probably a lot closer to an indication of how many people roughly remain. As long as BioWare can keep the pressure on and maintain that number, maybe even grow it, the game should be in good shape. At least that's my take. (It should also be noted that some other sites had less sensationalist reporting of the news).

With it they also announced two content packs for this financial quarter (where it's generally accepted that they're referring to 1.2, as they're referring to it as Legacy and 1.3). The second content patch is said to be called Allies (and on the forums Allison Berryman confirmed that this does not refer to guild alliances). Maybe it refers to the group finder as that would make sense, or maybe to a feature that they haven't announced yet. Since it's supposed to hit this financial quarter the Allies update should come before the end of June.

Shacknews also has a few details where EA notes that TOR isn't a top-five game for them, but is a top-ten game:

When questioned about the game's performance, EA CEO John Riccitiello responded that The Old Republic was not as important as its "top five" flagship franchises, such as Battlefield, FIFA and Mass Effect. However, he added that TOR is definitely in the "top ten" and is "more important" than Tiger Woods PGA, for example.

Finally, before heading to the developer quotes, Rock, Paper, Shotgun had a talk with Daniel Erickson. Here's an excerpt talking about the Rakghoul Outbreak:

“Part of the magic of doing something like this is that it feels organic and gives you a sense that the world is changing,” Erickson enthused. “A surprise you’re warned about ahead of time isn’t much of a surprise.”

“We definitely learned a lot of cautionary lessons [from World of Warcraft] about what to watch out for and protect against if you let your players loose with a contagion. We had a pretty good idea players would spread it no matter how hard we tried to stop them, so instead we encouraged it with rewards and quests and then ran every possible scenario we could think of to make sure it didn’t create any unintended consequences.”

In the end I didn't participate as much in the Outbreak as I'd hoped, but what I did play I thought was fun (though luckily I missed the huddled disease groups trying to grind the infection achievement). I'll look forward to what else they might come up with.

Developer Quotes

  • [link] to Allison Berryman on combat log parsers.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on feedback request from James Ohlen.
  • [link] to Austin Peckenpaugh on damage calculations.
  • [link] to Amber Green on UI feedback request.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on forum community.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on developers listening.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on content patch 1.3.

Not that many developer quotes this week (that weren't customer-support type comments, of which there are always a fair few). And usually I don't highlight them much, but Stephen Reid often posts a feedback request on behalf of James Ohlen where he wants to know the community's thoughts on a subject. This time he had the following question:

"What planet in the Star Wars universe do you want to see in Star Wars: The Old Republic that is not currently in the game?"

I'm sure that everyone has their favorites, but the one planet that most jumped out at me personally was Lehon. Lehon is the "Unknown World" that BioWare introduced in Knights of the Old Republic. Homeworld of the Rakata species it's basically a tropical beach planet and a spaceship graveyard due to the disruptor field protecting the planet (which is disabled by the player near the end of the game). Personally I like it because it's just an absolutely beautiful place.

Anyway, as I said I'm sure that everyone has their own favorites. I once tried to make a list of my top-five planets I'd like to see added but I can't recall. I think one of them was a Death Star-like 'planet'; would be fun to have a completely artificial planet. Anyway.

That's it for now. Keep having fun. :)

[link] to EA Earnings Conference Call details at Darth Hater.
[link] to EA Earnings Conference Call details at Shacknews.
[link] to talk with Daniel Erickson at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

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