May 9, 2011

Posted by in News | 1 Comment

Yellow Posts: Game Testing Has Gone International! Almost.

The big news of the week, aside from the Friday update of course, is that European Game Testing is on the way.  This is great news for our European friends as they will soon be able to get into the game, offer feedback, find possible bugs, and do some focused testing.

BioWare Senior Community Manager Stephen Reid made sure people knew that the email that folks were receiving was not an actual invite, but rather a notification that testing would begin soon:

Alright all, here’s some additional clarification.

First thing I want to clear up: this email was not an invite to Game Testing. (Sorry if you thought it was.) It was purely an email to encourage people to sign up for Game Testing in Europe.

Why did some of you get the email and others not? Here’s how it breaks down.

The email was sent to some European residents who have previously ‘opted in’ to receive marketing emails from EA. (You could have ‘opted-in’ on a variety of different web sites, and it’s possible you forgot that you did. )

It’s also possible that as well as signing up to get email from EA, you also signed up here at (and even signed up to be a tester). You may still have received the email. I can understand your confusion, but basically, nothing has changed. You’re still on the list of people eligible to be selected for Game Testing.

Some of you may be signed up here on but have not signed up to receive marketing emails from EA on another site. If that’s the case, you won’t be getting this email – but don’t panic. You are also still eligible for Game Testing.

To re-iterate: the email was not an invite to Game Testing. It was purely to spread the word about Game Testing, ideally to people who don’t already know. We have not sent any invites to Game Testing in Europe today.

Everyone living in Europe is still eligible to be selected for Game Testing, as long as they have signed up to be selected (at The email was sent in English, French and German as those are the primary languages for localization of the game.

Hope this clears things up a bit.

Stephen also had to clarify that yes, Canadians are being accepted into testing right now, as it does encompass North America.  As for what parts of Europe will game testers be selected from?  That is still being worked out.

When it comes to story, TOR of course has it. But people want to know much and how long it will take.  Some numbers have been thrown around previously, and it was believed that it would take about 200 hours to get from level one to fifty.  Being an MMO, the amount of possible content would exceed that amount and it could be longer or shorter depending on the player.  Daniel Erickson wrote a lengthy post highlighting how that number is calculated and what the average player is to expect:

Hey Folks,

Glad to clarify. Please bear with me, though, as it can be hard when we’re talking about story and story length. So let’s start with a few rules for how we tend to talk about it at Bioware:

First: the whole critical path of the game is the length. The walking, the combat, the travel on your ship, world quests, everything you’d have to do to come out the other end the right level. When we say the story of Chapter 1 is X long we do not mean if you somehow took all the conversations and ran them together. Sneaking through the Death Star and shooting stormtroopers was just as much of Luke’s story as talking about going and saving the princess. So all the content you’re expected to do goes in there. What doesn’t go in? Warzones, crafting, socializing, auction house, space game, etc (yes, you could skip world quests and do Warzone or space game quests or Heroics for XP instead but swaps like that tend to more or less even out). Anything not required to level up is outside the estimate.

Second: Your mileage may vary. When we talk about the length of the game at all, we keep it vague for the important reason that people burn through content at different rates. The numbers we’re using today are based on best case estimates from hundreds of people playing through Chapter 1. Some people were faster, some people were much, much, much slower as they apparently not just stopped to smell the flowers but had their CCs pick some, studied them, made adrenals out of them and then decided to sit by the roadside and consider what they’d done.

Third: This may change somewhat before ship. Difficulty has been going up in the mid and late leveling game to create real, RPG-style combat challenges. This makes the game longer. Death penalties have been going down. This makes the game shorter. But we have a general idea where we want it to end up and I think it’s safe now to make some broad statements.

Okay, with all that out of the way, let me clarify. I was speaking of the a single average first time playthrough of a single class’s Chapter 1 being more than twice the length of a single average first time playthrough of the entirety of the original Knights of the Old Republic. Chapter 2 and 3 are each somewhat shorter than Chapter 1 (which are extended by the Origin and Capitol worlds experience) but still pretty darn big.

If we are talking about playthroughs of all the classes we’re well into four digit hours but even one class is in the plural hundreds. Anything more specific is going to get me into trouble and honestly will just make me look silly when one guild makes it their all encompassing mission to beat the leveling game in a single marathon session then Photoshop their completion time onto a shocked looking picture of my face and spread it all over the interwebs.

Hope that helps!
Daniel Erickson

What’s interesting to note is that the approximately 200 hours is all based off of just the first chapter of the class story.  Putting the speculation hat on, this may mean that Game Testing has not gone past the first chapter either.  While the planets may be populated or are being worked on, the content may have not been touched yet by game testers.  As mentioned, mileage will vary from player to plater and at the end of the day its just another number.

On that note, here’s a question for the AAJ community.

Does the average length of time it takes to get to level cap impact your choice to buy and play the game?  This may be true of single-player games but does a shorter time for an MMO raise some red flags?  Would a average time of, say, 100 hours lead you to believe the game lacks content?  Or would that just mean people may have skipped over a lot that the game has to offer?  As a comparison, before Blizzard added in numerous XP buffs to leveling in World of Warcraft, the average time from level one to sixty was also around 200 hours.  Just some food for thought.

Character animation and itemization are no easy tasks, especially when you have giant tentacle-like features coming out the back of your head.  Such is the hardship that many Twi’leks face.  The current problem that BioWare is facing (no pun intended,) is how to work class armor around certain playable species.  One option is for the Lekku to disappear when a hood or similar gear is applied.  Daniel was looking for some opinions on the subject:

Hey folks,

We have Twi’leks for the Imperial side. They even get some cool custom options. And we have aliens in the SI class since the story starts you as a slave, one of the first to try your hand at being a Sith. So it’s definitely something we could do. But the SI has a lot of hoods and a lot of awesome full face masks.

How do people feel about your Lekku actually disappearing when you put on that full face mask? Are having Twi’lek SI with all the cool gear options worth assuming you are doing some artful stuffing? Or should we just say you can be a Twi’lek SI but not wear anything that wouldn’t fit on your big crazy head?


Daniel Erickson

Another hot topic across the MMO genre is the debate over cross-server gameplay, where “queuing” systems are put in place that pick from a pool of players to play with from across multiple servers, not just the server your character is on. Everyone is constantly debating if it destroys community, or helps overall gameplay.

When looking to get into an organized PvP match and queue times are long, impatient players will either not play or, more likely, light the game’s forums on fire with a whine-fest.  One solution is to offer these cross-server groups in which you would be paired with players from servers other than your own.  This dogmatically decreases the waiting time for groups, and helps get people in and out more quickly. When it comes to building a community within a server, though, this typically doesn’t help.  As a player you tend to lose that bond you once shared with your own, or even the “other” side.

On the PvE side of things, this can lead to mindless pick-up groups (PUGs) dominating the landscape.  PUGs have a tendency to be less tolerant and prefer quicker and more efficient runs, leaving no room for people who just want to “play the game.”

For some, this may come as a surprise or a relief, but TOR will not ship with a cross-server mechanic.  Georg Zoeller made clear that it could be an option in the future, but as of right now it is not planned:

Hi guys,

I thought I should clarify this, since there’s a bit of speculation around.

We won’t have cross server queuing for Flashpoints. We do think it’s bad for building the server specific community, but that shouldn’t be taken as some kind of of dogmatic approach to isolating servers from each other.

It has much to do with the age of the game and its community – if you start a new server and a community forms, having players create natural relationships during play is preferable over synthetic, short term relationships through a quick to use tool.

Once a game has so much content that it easily fragments the player base and local community so that it will cause long wait times for players to access such content, then the question of giving players the right tools to find other players becomes pressing again – and we’ll worry about it at that time and see what the right approach will be.

As for PvP: The goal is obviously to keep queue times low. We’ll do anything to ensure that people that want to play a match get a match. Features such as bolstering are a direct result of that approach. At this point there is no cross server queuing – but that does not mean we wouldn’t entertain it as a measure to improve queue times if we feel it is necessary. As said, we’re just practical about these things, not dogmatic.

Hope that clarifies, and, as always, interested to hear your thoughts.

Finally today, Daniel gave us some tiny insight into how characters are made for hands-on play.  A screenshot from Friday’s Codex update spurred speculation that Sith Purebloods were now confirmed as being able to play the Sith Inquisitor class.  It turned out to be a goof-up from when the screenshot was taken:

Hey folks,

As some of you may have seen on the list that incorrectly got out with species/class combos last month, right now character creation is set to “dev mode” and allows all combinations.

Some are much funnier and wrong than this–Pureblood Knight anyone? That doesn’t mean they will be shipping. In this case, in a rush to get a screenshot done, someone goofed and made an illegal class-species combo. There is no confirmation of Pureblood SIs at this time.

Hope that helps,


That is it for this week and for developer posts. Until next week, may the Force be with you.

  1. Time to reach max level doesn’t really factor in much in my decision to buy games. If it is high quality and of reasonable length (an average like 100+ hours for an MMO mentioned), then I will go ahead and buy it! The fact that SWTOR also has separate stories for each of its classes is a big plus in my opinion. I’ve played too many MMOs where the “epic” story is essentially shared between all classes in a faction or all classes in general. Each class having its own story, in addition to the overall faction story, provides new content that make alts quite appealing. In most games, I simply use alts to test out other classes, store items, and craft. I tend to create one character and focus on it, finishing all of the content I can with him and getting all of the high-end gear. I believe SWTOR will be different for me, since there is a big incentive, story-wise, for testing the different classes.

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