Apr 11, 2011

Posted by in News | 5 Comments

Yellow Posts: A Trip Across the Pond (But Not By Swimming)

With the recent hands-on time for those lucky few in London, as well as the main press event, many new developments have emerged on a range of new and old topics.

Flashpoints can now accommodate companions, this is new from what we learned at PAX East that (at the time) companions would not be available in Flashpoints or Warzones.  What we have learned is that currently, companions now take up a player slot in Flashpoints and so you can only have a max of two companions and two players.  Georg Zoller has clarified that companions in Flashpoints and a group setting are still be tested and no final decision has been made on the matter:

Currently, it is feasible to complete some of the lower level Flashpoints with two players and two Companions, if the players are really good. Three players plus one companion is more common and works for most as it is easier, but still definitely a bunch more challenging than four players only.  As mentioned, we’re actively testing different options here, and haven’t made final calls on companions in Flashpoints.

A confirmation on swimming was made during the Q&A part of the community event, and it has sent the forums into an uproar.  Swimming will not be in for launch, as Georg said once again:

In order for swimming to be actually worth the implementation and time, we’d want to do it right – meaning content built around it, maybe a water centric planet, etc.

Is swimming that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things? Will the lack of an advanced swimming feature along with combat, add to the overall game play and user experience? I do not think so.

There’s no rigid wall in the game at this point. You walk in shallow water, it becomes deeper as you progress, and at some point you start getting the message that you should turn back. You can continue on and ultimately drown (then respawn) or move back.
In order for swimming to be actually worth the implementation and time, we’d want to do it right – meaning content built around it, maybe a water centric planet, etc. Absent that content – there are no water worlds in this game – we’ve decided to focus on other things that are more important to us.
I can definitely see why people like swimming (or any other feature for that matter), however, the decision to put a feature like that in the game cannot be solved with a simple yes/no poll. In reality, the question is more like “Do you want swimming or ‘feature X’”. In this case, we chose feature X (or Y, or Z) for a number of reasons – one being that just adding a very basic version of swimming without building proper content around isn’t something we wanted to focus on for launch. We’ll definitely look at this again later, after launch, but if we were to decide to do it, it’d be accompanied with proper content and mechanics themed around it.

Keep in mind that we will not hit invisible walls when large ponds or oceans appear, you can swim but think of it like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. You cannot dive but you can move around in the water for some time, until you go to far out to sea and will drown/freeze.

Stephen Reid confirmed that Europeans will be getting their own localized servers. BioWare will be supporting European servers for launch, in which country they will be located has yet to be determined.

No details we’re ready to talk about yet, but we’ll get into detail before launch – absolutely.
I can say we’ll have servers physically located in Europe, definitely. The final country choice is yet to be made.

Keeping in mind that little has been said about the game client being region locked.  This would mean those in other countries would need to buy that specific copy of the game, to play on that countries servers.

With Fan Friday came an update to advanced classes and Georg Zoller delved into the topic while also clarifying some common misconceptions and worries about class balance.  Each class now have either a tanking or healing role added to their AC.  This will give players the option to say, play a Bounty Hunter and be a tank, heal the party if needed, or blast people for some heavy damage.  What Georg mentioned was that with these new AC paths, some people and classes may only want to do damage and have a varity of ways of doing it.

There is a good number of people that only ever play damage dealing classes. Regardless of what choice you give them, when it comes to the core role of it, they want to go in there and make a difference with damage.  By having some Advanced Classes dedicated to pure damage, we are creating options for these players to experience different gameplay variations of damage dealing gameplay and mechanics within their class.  The Marauder / Sentinel skill trees allow for some great variation in gameplay (tactical vs. in your face, burst vs. sustained, different levels of mobility, Area of Effect vs single target) to give players that have a strong preference for the damage dealer role more variation that what is possible on ACs that fill multiple roles already.
So we really don’t look at this as ‘The Marauder only has one role available, therefore it must be significantly better at it than other ACs that have a DPS option’, we look at this as ‘The Marauder has one role available to it, and several very different (and full) ways of putting it to effect’

This sounds very promising, having different paths for your character to spec into, though a cookie-cutter or flavor of the month spec will be found out eventually.  What would make the game more interesting would be having encounters, PvP or PvE, in which different specs would be more viable.  Now they all would get the job done, say a Jedi Sentinel, but encounter A would be better suited for AoE with encounter B for mobility.  That type of system is more reliant on “Bring the class not the player”, which has been unpopular in some other MMOs.

Lastly Stephen made a very lengthly post on community, and BioWare’s plan behind the curtain for our friends in Europe.  Stephen goes on to mention that the community presence on the Europe forums has been lacking, and that the process for a new Europe community manager, was in the works.  What is interesting to note, is that the community staff for the European side of things, will all be physically located in the Galway customer service center.  This is a big different from the approach here in the states, as some community managers work from home, and not directly in Austin.

As we were establishing our global Customer Service Center in Galway, I suggested we place them there. I wanted them to be physically within the walls of a BioWare building – coming to work every day with people who were only thinking about The Old Republic. With video conferencing, IM, phone calls, a lot of email and plenty of time on planes, I knew we could keep them as in the loop as those of us based in Austin. (And if timezones didn’t exist and visas weren’t a problem, I’d have brought them to Texas permanently.)

Read more here

Hopefully this will provide the European community with the kind of support and communication that has lacked with other companies and games when it comes to that region.

  1. The companion-Flashpoint revelation is interesting, but they’ve said they’re still testing it. I can’t decide if I like the idea or not. Then again, companions are a totally foreign idea to MMOs.

    • Yeah, I think Bioware is struggling to make companions work in some way for group content. I hope they actually settle on what works best for the game as far as balance, challenges, ..etc. and less on what Bioware hears from forum posters with regards to weather or not they like them in group content or not.

      • Which brings up an interesting point, companions will be useful for crafting and story line purposes, but would that be it? So far it seems to be that way. From what other developers have said (Mainly Damion), the focus of group content is on the group, and not the group and NPCs.

        • My opinion is if that dev really represents how devs feel about companions in group content, I really hope they stick with it through release. I don’t like the idea of changing how companions work in groups, based off of players opinions, weather they are in testing or not. I would like devs to put out their vision of the game, they will get feedback on how fun it is when the game goes live. Testers should be looking for bugs or things not working as intended.

          I don’t want companions in groups, thats my opinion. But if it is the devs vision to have them there, then I owuld like them to continue with their vision. I will get used to companions in groups or I will hate it and not play the game. But I want the devs to fulfill their vision of the game, it will be of much higher quality than if they try to make a game based of forum “feelings” that they don’t share.

        • This is what I’m concerned about. They’re walking a dangerous line just by trying to put companions in-game. If they screw it up, it could ruin people’s impressions of the game.

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