May 23, 2011

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Yellow Posts: Playing In The Sandbox

The developer tracker likes to be sneaky at times, adding in posts that are a few days older.  The dev tracker also gets a good clean-up from time to time and the extra posts get thrown into the Sarlacc Pit.

When it comes to PvP the classic debate is skill vs. gear and what should matter more.  In TOR it looks like gear will be very important, and stripping down to the “essentials” will not yield well, according to Gabe Amatangelo, Lead PvP Designer:

My fellow number junkies and streakers,

If you are ‘naked’ in a bracketed match then you will be up to a 90% combat stats disadvantage.

If you are in an open match then the bolster mitigates the difference, not the whole. In other words, you will be at about a ((your level/max level) * 80%) + 10% combat stats disadvantage.

Note that formula is an oversimplification for illustrative purposes.


In some cases a very good player, wearing no armor, can still take down a bad opponent.  This has been done many times in different MMOs and people love to make videos showcasing their skill.  The stat difference should not come as a surprise as stats are very important to TOR.

For those itching to get a pre-order copy of TOR, I would wait until an official announcement for pre-orders is given by BioWare.  Not only will the regular game be made available at the time, we will likely also see a Collectors Edition and some type of code for the pre-launch guild system. Stephen Reid fields this one:

Official pre-order details have not been announced yet.

Any initiative, by any retailer (worldwide) is just an attempt by them to get a head-start on the process.

When we have a pre-order program announcement, you’ll be sure to hear about it here on the official site.

For those that did not see, BioWare announced that they will be attending a lot of shows & conventions from now until the end of the year.  It is possible the game will be out before all the events have been attended, and as Stephen pointed out, BioWare will be attending conventions before and after launch.

Correct, as I’ve mentioned before and others have said here. We’ll be at shows long after launch – years after, probably.

We won’t announce those ‘far off’ shows until a little closer to their dates, that’s all. This update projects far into this year, in part, because we were seeing that shows were starting to sell out (eg PAX Prime) and didn’t want people to miss out on tickets, if we could avoid it.

So now you’re aware – buy your tickets now.

If TOR does come out later this year, it will be interesting to see what types of announcements, if any and what type of game play will be shown at those conventions.  It may be good grounds to announce a content patch or the addition of any cut features that did not make it in for release.

As you may know, Blizzard holds their own convention once a year at the Anaheim Convention Center near Los Angeles.  It would be fun for BioWare to work toward doing the same, where fans can get their hands on all of BioWare’s games and be the first to learn of new reveals and content patches. However, Blizzard does not attend E3 or any other contention, this allows them to showcase whatever they want at Blizzcon. Would EA allow for a secondary show, or continue to use the big stages like E3?

Georg Zoeller is the “Dev of the week”, providing most of content for today’s post.

When it comes to the European game test, the select few will have access to both American and European servers.  This is great news, as in the past many developers have restricted beta content to the U.S. servers, even for those in Europe and around the world.  Having both locations available will hopefully allow BioWare to increase the scale of testing, and tune for the best user experience possible:

We will have game servers located in Europe and the US.

Georg likes to give the German forums some love from time to time, and thankfully he provides an English translation:

Diese Erweiterungs-Klassen koennen durchaus mit nur einer Waffe kaempfen, allerdings ist es nicht umbedingt sinnvoll. Gibt es einige Skills die zwei Waffen brauchen um ausgefuehrt werden zu koennen…

EN: (Dual Wield) Advanced Classes are capable of fighting with just one weapon. However, it’s not terribly efficient as some of their skills require two weapons for execution.

This seems like a given for anyone that has played a dual-wielding class before.  If you specialize in dual-wielding, then you should probably use two weapons.

For those that have played Mortal Online, SWG, EvE and even GTA to an extent, you would be familiar with the sandbox style of game design.  This allows more freedom to the players, even letting them generate their own content in certain cases.  This is contrast to the “theme-Park” style of development that is more common with current mainstream MMOs, most notably WoW.  This design philosophy focuses on guiding the player from zone to zone and with structured content.  The world can still be open and you can still roam freely, but it it’s not a free-wheeling frontier like a sandbox game.  Damion Schubert made a developer blog about this very subject and how it relates to TOR.

SWG refugees have been looking for another game to call home, and TOR seems to be it.  Though as with every MMO, players want feature X,Y,Z to be implemented and that is just not possible.

Georg tries to say what the focus of TOR is and how it is not just SWG 2.0 or WoW 2.0:

Just to manage expectations (and I think we’ve posted this a number of times now in the last few years).

There is already a Star Wars MMO that focuses primarily on these features. We’re making a different kind of game and we’ve been pretty open about that from the start.

That does not mean we are hostile to certain sandbox features such as player built housing – it just means that these kind of features are not a particularly high priority to us at this point as we navigate to ship.

There will certainly be out-of-combat player activities and activities that promote social interaction in the game, but you will not be able to take a job as a moisture farmer on Tatooine and simulate the life of such an individual in our game.

In short: Uncle Owen and his life is not the kind of heroic journey we’re going for with this game. (The jawa’s with their rocket launchers wouldn’t make that a very fun activity anyway).

Georg also posts again within the same thread with more explanation and more clarification on BioWare’s vision for this game:


I don’t know who Nancy is and she’s done, but I think you’re reading a bit too much into my statement.

Sure, moisture farmer is an oversimplification used to describe a Life Simulation type game, but we’re not arguing that there is no market for this type of content. If that offended you, apologies.

I am just trying to make it clear, without any ambiguity, that since there is already a product on the market that focuses exactly on the described content, that we have chosen to make a different type of game and that we’ve been quite forward about it from the start.

This is not meant to judge or marginalize the audience that exists for such a type of game. I just want to be as straight forward as possible about this so we don’t develop unreasonable expectations regarding the positioning and direction of The Old Republic.

I understand that this might be disappointing for people that were looking for a game similar to another existing game, but again, we’re not making a statement about the validity or size of the market that might want that type of game – we’re just doing what we’ve always been doing – make our own game. As we frame it:

Create the first BioWare style MMO – a game with a strong narrative framework, companions and choreographed, fluid combat in the popular ‘Old Republic’ time frame of the Star Wars universe.

We have heard numerous times that macros and add-on capabilities will not be in for launch.  This is disappointing of course, as these are staples of the MMO genre now.  Personal bias aside, these features will likely come in a patch after release and are supported by BioWare:

Let me clear something up, since people are reading again a bit much into things.

In fact, whenever we say ‘Feature X will not be in the game at launch’, the wrong conclusion to make is ‘BioWare hates Feature X and will never do it’.

Auto attack and macros have very little in common.

Auto attack would not be beneficial to you in our game with the way our combat system works. If you manage to a hands on of the game in testing or at a show, you’ll see what I mean.

Macros are a pretty broad term for certain convenience and advanced user functions at this time. Some of those features are present as possible key binds in the game, others are not.

We’re not opposed to macros, we don’t hate them, in fact we will probably add them, but probably not for launch.

Auto attack on the other hand, will probably never be added since it does not work well with the combat system we built.

Finally this week we get some fun facts about mob AI in TOR.  What has been seen in videos is sometimes less then impressive, but from playing the game at PAX East I can say the mobs are not all brainless.  You do get flanked and they do take cover, and of course the bosses have some special abilities to keep you on edge.  Keeping in mind that the AI and difficulty was changed for PAX East.

Enemies will definitely not just stand around waiting to be attacked, even though, in the end, that’s kind of their purpose in an MMO (they are enemies, after all).

A few examples:

They engage in a variety of activities when not in combat, which include patrols and overwatch over areas where that makes sense.

When traversing through hostile territory, it is usually a good idea to fully assess the situation before attacking – just because there’s two sandpeople leisurely lounging at the sarlacc pit, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a sniper deployed on a dune nearby covering the camp.

At some times, this can be even a bit unfair – Who’d know that the emergency protocol for the missile platform involved a special ops team rappelling in from above when the alarm is triggered… or who knew that the Jawas had shoulder mounted rocket launchers in their backbacks.

When engaged, blaster wielding humanoids often attempt to disperse and find cover, which can mix things up. Humanoids that perceive friendly targets engage enemies will often join the fight as well.

Droids are usually a bit more straightforward, as their programming often miraculously omits that sense of self preservation seen in humanoids. Few might take cover, but then again, if you have big guns or deploy-able shields, you might not have to.

Smarter / Stronger enemies also react to changing conditions in battle. If a smuggler or agent think they can be a ******** and try to wear down an entire encounter full of enemies by slowly taking potshots from cover, they’ll be surprised to find that thermal detonators or targeted headshots make a very effective counter to that kind of behavior.

Many enemies encountered in the game will have access to special attacks, defense or other abilities, many of which are staples of the Star Wars universe. Bosses, especially force users, often have a wide array of abilities and the player will have to watch things like ‘not fighting a guy that has Force Push while standing at the edge of the Sarlacc Pit’.

Until next week!

  1. Phirefly says:

    I think you jumped on something special in the mists of this post. BioWare, like blizzard, could have it’s own BioCon. It could be just as successful as Blizzcon. The question of will EA allow it depends on how much pull BioWare Mythic has. Blizzard is allowed to hold Blizzcon even after the merge with Activision. So who knows.

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