May 3, 2011

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Yellow Posts: From The Wall of Crazy

Due to the sheer amount of developer interaction over the past week, this week’s Yellow Posts will be a consolidation of the more interesting and newsworthy…

While the topic of a release date is a touchy subject, thanks to a few posts from Stephen, we will “know” when the announcement is coming.

In terms of what I was trying to say, this pretty much sums it up. ^^

If I can have everyone reading this take away one thing, it’s this: when I use an example to explain something, that’s not a cryptic clue. Ever. Honestly, considering everything we say seems to get misintepreted, being cryptic about really important stuff just causes us problems.

My example was – you know that Christmas is coming. There are many signs to tell you so. So, just like Christmas, when we’re getting ready to announce the release date, there will be many signs to let you know. You won’t have to decipher clues, or look at tea-leaves, or consult a psychic – we’ll tell you. You don’t have to decipher anything to figure out Christmas is coming.

Also, while we’re talking about signs; there are many established steps towards release. One would be, for example, that details are released about pre-order. That has not happened yet. When it does, you can be sure we’re closer to a release date announcement.

Until then, we carry on regardless. My point being: between any Friday, the likelihood of the next Friday Update being release date is near-zero. Unless, that is, we’ve suggested that it would be… probably over a fairly long period beforehand. (And ‘fairly long’ could be anything between hours and weeks in time. It’s not going to be months. The waiting would kill you. )

Last thing: we absolutely know that some of you feel we should have announced a date, or at least narrowed the release window, already. That’s your opinion. Our opinion is until we’re ready to commit to a narrower window or a specific date, we’re not going to do that. When we commit, we’ll commit in a big way. 

Put those tin-foil hats on and break out those dusty speculation meters, it is time for some theories.  We will know something is big coming down the tubes, but we will not know what is going to be revealed.

Companion gear will come from flashpoints and possibly quests, we also know that you can give your old gear to some companions.  What happens when you have a droid as a companion?  Damion explains that droids will have their own gear but are not likely to change the appearance of the droid.

You can equip all of your companions, including your droid. Some equipment slots are shared with those of players and non-droid companions. Others are droid-specific. We’re still playing with the specifics of these.

An earlier poster is correct in assuming distributing these items is trickier than one might guess at first glance. If you don’t have a droid companion yet, then getting a piece of droid gear is possibly even more disappointing than getting grey ‘junk’ loot. We do have plans to deal with this issue.

Tragically, droid armor at this point does not change the appearance of the droid. Given the wide variety on shapes and skeletons the droid CCs can operate on, this would be a fairly large undertaking. 

For all of our European freinds, game testing is still a ways off but BioWare is making progress to launch it sometime “soon”.

Game Testing has been ongoing in various forms since announcement. European Game Testing is planned, but is not online yet for a number of reasons. We have a date though, and we’re moving towards it.

When European Game Testing gets fully underway, we’ll make sure everyone knows about it.

In the meantime, all we can do is ask for your patience. Between hiring our European community team, inviting a number of European fansites to the Fan Site Summit, and having scores of EU press play the game recently, we’re definitely not forgetting about Europe. 

Again, this only backs up what has been said about the European community and the support and resources BioWare has given.  Hopefully game testing starts and we can get more people in to make the game better.  This may also help to clear up in what country the servers will be located in, and if they will be region locked.

A few new threads have surfaced addressing the problem with the amount of abilities we can expect in-game and if the UI will support that amount.  Georg thankfully cleared up a misunderstanding from someone that had some hands-on time with the game.

This is a misunderstanding. The author only saw the base class ability progression on the trainer. After getting your Advanced Class, your character gets abilities from 3 sources:

  • Base Class, every few levels
  • Advanced Class, every few levels
  • Skill Points (player distributed), 1 point each level. 

At level 14, the average character will have a wide range of abilities, many of which will be active combat abilities. The number of abilities you have and when you learn them is still being examined and is likely to change as we continue development.

But you don’t have to take my written word for it, here’s some exchange I had with the people from the fansites on that very topic this week: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p15pE…edded#t=14m35s

Hope that takes care of your fears! 

For some further explanation on the subject, one of the questions asked during the fan site summit interview with Georg also mentioned the same thing.  He highlighted that if anything TOR will have a few more abilities then most MMOs but not by a lot.

A new tidbit of information is currently in testing is that flashpoints can only be done once per-day. This may change before release but it could mirror the same kind of system that WoW uses for their random dungeon finder.  Like any game system, Georg stresses the importance that anything can change or be adjusted.

The important part of this is the word ‘currently‘.

These things are easily adjusted and your opinion on it definitely matters, so let us know what you think. 

Some serious debate about the importance and use of companion characters has been brought up once again. BDreason created a thread addressing what Daniel had said about the current use of CC (Companion characters) in-game.

The quote in question was this:

Daniel Erickson, “for those people who are saying they’re going to play without a companion, what they’re basically saying is they’re either going to be in a 4 person party all the time, or they’re going to die. The game is not built to play without companions”.

Georg and Daniel came in later to try and untangle the mess and confusion.

Companions are not pets. Pet class mechanics in MMOs traditionally require you to micro manage (tell them who to attack, control ability use, etc.) your pet closely to be able to overcome the challenges of the game. 

The main concern I hear is that there is a need to micro control your companion’s actions in order to be able to play the game. 

While it is definitely beneficial and a player that does it will be able to take on harder challenges than a player that doesn’t, it is not required that you micro manage your companion to play or enjoy The Old Republic. 

That said, ignoring your companion completely (e.g. not giving them equipment updates, leaving them on the ship, etc.) is not advised – unless you are grouped with other players to compensate. 

Companions are an integral part of the SWTOR experience, so that won’t change. They assist in combat, they are important to the Crew Skills system and they fill various roles in story and progression. They are full characters with equipment slots. 

It’s something that hasn’t been done in this fashion in other MMOs so it might be hard to accept for people that it isn’t just ‘everyone is a pet class’ (since that’s the only frame of reference they have from previous games), but that doesn’t concern me much. People quickly understand after they get their hands on the game. 

Daniel then replied with:

Hey Folks,

Sometimes quotes are taken out of context (this one was not, but thanks to everyone who tried to give me the benefit of the doubt!) and sometimes people (read: me) just say things poorly when answering live Q&A.

Companions do represent a sizable amount of your power and The Old Republic is not balanced to play without them. That said, I was attempting to talk about people’s likely styles of play, not what was possible. It is totally possible to play solo. You simply put your companion away. It is an extremely hardway to play and you’ll likely be destroyed unless you’re crazy-uber-elite guy – and even then you’ll be going very slow.

Randy, our Bounty Hunter writer, booted up Dragon Age: Origins the first time we got it, put it on “Nightmare” difficulty and declared he would never take any party members with him. He’s that kinda guy. Doesn’t mean most people would want to attempt it. I certainly got obliterated trying to do the same thing.

Similarly, playing solo with no CCs in SWTOR isn’t for everyone. Or most people. You’re making the game much more difficult and choosing to miss all the companion content. But it is certainly possible.

You could also play in a two person team with no CCs, do all the solo content that way and you’d be stronger than one person with a CC. There are lots of possible scenarios but that doesn’t mean the game is designed with them in mind. The solo player who is playing PvE content is expected by game design to have a CC and the game is balanced accordingly.

I did not say CCs would have to be micro-managed – at least if I did I certainly don’t remember and didn’t mean to. CCs have continually changed from build to build and we’re always looking for that perfect solution. The goal always has been to let players who want to personally control their CCs have a meaningful amount of ways to do so and to give those people who don’t wish to control them a robust enough AI that they can let them act as independent party members.

Some members of the community had been concerned that you would need a companion out even while grouped with only a few people.  That is not the case, you can choose to use your companion in a group setting when say only one other person is grouped with you.  Two people grouped will be more powerful then one person and their companion.

With the Friday update also containing information on the UI, people had some questions about every possible detail.  One cool feature that Stephen mentioned was the possibility to change the color of the UI.  While not final in any way, Stephen did say that with enough interst it could happen.

I knew there was something I meant to mention earlier…

The chat window in the upper left, as seen in the screenshot, is being used in that shot. When it’s moused-over or typed into, it’s seen as in the shot. When it’s not, everything fades away except the text itself, leaving you more of the game, and less of the UI.

Also, in discussion with the UI team, I can confirm that just about every icon in the game is currently a work in progress, so don’t take every ability icon as being ‘final’. (Some may be, of course.)

Finally – the suggestion of having a different color UI, or changing the color has definitely been discussed by the team here. If you want it, say so. In a nice way. :P v

When speculating about different features, it is easy to compare TOR to other games.  While it works in some cases for a comparison, it is not always the best thing to plant X-feature from one game to another.  Georg had to clarify that TOR does not have “Health or Mana potions” as this is not WoW.

“Health Potions. Mana Potions? Meesa not understand.” 

Seriously guys. We are making Star Wars: The Old Republic, not some other game that has mana potions. (No, we don’t have ‘Force Potions’ or Midichlorian infusions, that’d be rather weird.) 

I know it’s easy to compare this game to other MMOs you know, but still, we’re making a different game, not a clone of another MMO. 

There are different mechanics (such as companions with their own bars or cover), different numbers of abilities, skills, usable items, different UI mechanics and options, etc – so taking a number of slots on quickbars from one game and translating it onto our game without taking these factors into account is a bit premature at best.

In short: We’ll give you enough hotbar space to play Star Wars: The Old Republic, but we can’t guarantee you’ll have enough space to put your leftover healing and mana potions from another game onto it. 

A discussion on how many spots on the hotbar will be made available for use.  Georg came in to mention what features are accessible through the UI and bars, and that BioWare is trying to avoid slash commands as the only entry into functionality.

Just to answer a few of these. 

– Emotes have a quick access menu near the chat panel.
– Crew Skills (AKA crafting) have a dedicated UI, you can’t map them to the quickbar (when you see more details on the Crew Skills, you’ll understand)
– Companions have their own bar for their abilities. Additional utility is available by clicking their portrait (e.g. selling junk/greys)
– Certain functionality (target of target, etc.) are accessible via user definable keybinds, roll into cover, etc. 

As a general philosophy, we have full UI support for all game functions. We try to avoid using slash commands as the single point of entry into functionality. 

Auto-facing in PvP is a hot topic and people are on both sides of the fence.  A massive thread on the subject has surfaced on the forums and little developer interaction has taken place until today.

There’s a check upon ability activation to verify you can see your target (front facing). 

After that, your character will be tracking the target – jumping through you, bunny hopping, running in circles won’t break the ability channeling. The only things that can break the channel after initial activation is: 

a) Use an ability that interrupts channeling (such as Force push, stuns, etc.) 

b) Break line of sight (360 degree) with the character, e.g. by running behind a wall or jumping down a pit. 

This applies both in PvP and PvE. 

What is very interesting is that Georg said this applies for both PvE and PvP scenarios.  The implications this has on both areas is going to big, but as always is a work in progress.  Hopefully this means that we will not see so much jumping around in PvP as it does not make a difference when it comes to channeled abilities.  Only when CC or LoS is broken, will then cancel out the channeled ability.

That’s it for this week… but if BioWare keeps this up, this might have to become a daily column ;)

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