Monday, 4 June 2012

Community Q&A: June 1st, 2012

E3 is about to kick off today with the big press conferences by Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and Sony. I've got no idea if The Old Republic is going to have any announcements (though it wouldn't surprise me if they started talk of an expansion). We know that they'll be at E3, but it might just be giving people some hands-on time with update 1.3 or such. Either way, I thought it best to put up the update before the craziness kicks off.

Last Friday BioWare had another Community Q&A focused around Game Update 1.3. Here's an excerpt:

Dzeiger: With the changes to make social gear "adaptive" and augmentable and thus more desirable, are there any plans to revise the social points system? For example, making it per-Legacy rather than per-character, and/or expanding options for social point gathering at endgame that doesn't involve endless Esseles and Black Talon runs.

Daniel: Yes, the social point system will be getting a major revamp in the future and many of our systems will be going Legacy-wide, though whether social is one of them is still under discussion. In the meantime, Game Update 1.3 will bring social points to all Flashpoint and Operation boss kills, meaning far more social points just for being social and playing with friends.

I've personally pretty much given up on getting any social points; I guess that I'm just not social. But even so this seems like I good change and I seriously hope that they make social points a Legacy-wide system.

After the break a Community Team update, a few updates from various sites and a handful of developer quotes.

With the layoff at BioWare Austin the Community Team was affected as well. As such they decided to post an update of who's in the team doing what. Here's an excerpt:

Last week, we mentioned that changes were coming to the Community Team and I wanted to take some time to go over them. I’m going to briefly outline one of our new initiatives, discuss a new shift in responsibilities for one of our main team members, and introduce the rest of the team.

The aforementioned initiative is intended to improve communication between the fans, the Community Team, and the development team by creating focused specializations. In short, going forward, each Community Team member will be specifically focused on a particular aspect of our game (PvP, Crew Skills, Operations, etc) and paired up with the appropriate developer so that they can respond to players more efficiently. We’re still finalizing details internally, but as soon as every aspect of this project is in place, we will let you all know. We’re all very excited about this and can’t wait to share more.

As many of you may already know, Community Coordinator Eric Musco will be taking over for Sr. Community Coordinator David Bass as the community liaison to fan sites and guilds. Eric and David have been working closely together over the past few weeks to ensure a smooth hand off. While we’re sad to see David leave, we wish him all the best in his new endeavor.

Finally, one of the very first things that we wanted to do with these new changes was to introduce ourselves. We’ll be giving you a very brief introduction this week, but you’ll be seeing more in-depth profiles from each of us in the upcoming weeks.

Not much to say; I'm sure that they'll all do a great job.

The layoff obviously affect more than just the Community Team and PC Gamer had a brief talk with TOR associate lead designer Emmanuel Lusinchi to ask how they affected the studio. Here's an excerpt:

“The MMO is the toughest part of the game industry without a doubt and we live in tough economic times in general,” he said. “So that’s very unfortunate, and on a personal level it’s quite difficult to to have people that you’ve been working with for a long time that you know personally, you go to their barbecue and you meet their families and it’s never easy. I doubt it’d be easy in any industry for anyone, but it happens.”

“We have a very large development team still, definitely one of the biggest in the industry, and we have a very complete and detailed plan for the rest of the year. The players don’t really care about all that, behind closed curtains, but they want what they’re paying for which is a service with new content, new systems, that’s what they’re asking for and we listen to them. That’s what we mean to deliver.”

As I've said various times in the past BioWare has to work really hard to rid themselves of the stigma of TOR being in a downwards spiral, particularly if it isn't (though I'm not convinced that it isn't). I personally wouldn't know how I'd handle that though.

Similarly VG247 also had a talk with Emmanuel Lusinchi, focusing more about the subscription numbers. Here's an excerpt:

“Subscriber numbers are funny things. How you count them – the math you use – really matters, and there are lots of variables to consider,” he said. “Such as, people that simply subscribe compared to people that actually buy the box. There are very different numbers out there, and you should be smart about which one you use when you talk to the press.

“All games of this nature, have a set of variables that are constantly changing. You will have a certain number of people that buy the box and never install it. I know it sounds strange, but it happens. There are people that play it, and then decide after ten minutes that it’s not for them – that’s a small percentage, but every game has them. Finally you have people who play for a couple of months, finish the story, and then be done with it.

“All of those are natural things to be expected, and they will all impact the subscriber numbers, depending on how you’re counting them in the first place.”

You can see it in pretty much everything. When a company talks about their numbers they tend to be in as positive a light as the company can make them, generally by focusing on the most positive interpretation that they can find. I think that's why people, when they hear EA's spin on TOR's subscription numbers, they get cynical and look for different interpretation. And let's be honest, those different interpretations are definitely there. but in the end it's all just interpretations. A company might interpret them in a more positive light, but I think people who want to see a game fail for their own sense of vindication or whatever ("I don't liek the game so if it fails then that vindicates my opinion for not liking it") see them in too negative a light. And even though I see my time with TOR drawing to a close in the not too distant future, I certainly hope that the game will continue to do well.

At least one and possible both of the talks above came from the MCM Expo in London last week where BioWare held a presentation for Game Update 1.3. Darth Hater has the details, including a Q&A. Here's an excerpt:

Q. Hi, I’m Lena. Coming from a previous big MMO, I quite like numbers and I have found it quite hard with The Old Republic that for example, with your famously “not having addon support” i.e. Damage Meters aren’t visible so I don’t actually know how well I am doing. It’s very hard to diagnose if you’re failing in a group setting where the problem is without that kind of thing. Are you planning on either letting addons into the field or implementing damage or healing meters?

A. Good question, not an easy one. We released in 1.2 a way for players to build those damage meters. It’s not instantaneous, it’s not something you see as you play but basically we introduced a kind of format where all the combat log is being outputted to the hard-drive. Within days the community created really good tools to analyze not only your own damage but if you’re in a guild you can share this file and so on. I know that right now, there are already fan made applications that you add a damage meter as an overlay on top of the game. You guys are kind of doing our work for us, which is always nice but seriously the players are going to be able to define what they want much better than we could and as far as addons, it has always been our plan to do that and that’s something we keep plugging at. It’s quite complicated. It’s not a small update and there’s a lot of security and fairness issues in the sense if someone makes an addon that is so good that it gives you a huge advantage then everyone has to play with it.  So it’s not an easy thing but it’s something we have always wanted to do because the players always know what they want much better than we do.

I don't use any kind of damage meters or whatnot. To me it feels that if you cross into territory where you're relying on those to tell "who's pulling their weight" then you've gone past the point where the game is supposed to be fun. I realize that different people find different things fun, but this to me goes way too much in the 'sports' direction. Challenge is one thing, but if content is so difficult that everyone needs to be at their peak performance then I have to wonder. Even so, I'm glad that the community is coming up with tools to give them that information. I'd just ask to use that ability responsible.

What's left then are the developer quotes. There's only a couple of them, most of the post where from the Community Team in response to the Community Team update and not really about the game so I've left those out. And nothing that I really felt like repeating. Either way, here they are.

Developer Quotes

  • [link] to David Hunt on slicing missions.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on maintenance shutdown warnings.
  • [link] to Amber Green on disabled sound keybinds.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on test server.

And that's it for now. I'll keep you updated if there's anything interesting coming out of E3. It's the first E3 since launch, so there might not be anything this time around.

[link] to talk with Emmanuel Lusinchi on layoffs at PC Gamer.
[link] to talk with Emmanuel Lusinchi on subscription numbers at VG247.
[link] to MCM Expo summary at Darth Hater.

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