Nov 23, 2011

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Havoc Squad: Reporting In!

As part of my time in Beta, I decided to give the Trooper class a whirl. I have heard, many times, that the story was magnificent, and after watching some Troopers decimate people in PVP, and seeing the flexibility of the class itself, I leapt at the chance to try it. However, I was simply unprepared for the amount of depth that the story has.


“Aren’t you a little short to be a stormtrooper?” –Princess Leia, Episode 4: A New Hope

The Trooper is a formidable adversary – he/she is tenacious in every way. “Never say die!” is a great motto for them. For anyone who enjoys the military fantasy, this is the class to play, period. You are immediately thrust into a world where politics affect those above and disinterest those below, leaving you to find the medium ground and reconcile a solider’s life with the greater events at play.

The unstoppable war machine that is the Trooper.

The Trooper’s dialogue options boil down to: “respectful/agree,” “disrespectful/disagree,” and, “shut-up-I-need-to-shoot-things/violently disagree.” Your character will be a mix of these three, and your companions will respond differently to the various conversation choices you make.

Your character essentially plays as either a soldier who won’t compromise his/her morals to get the job done; a distrustful soldier who has seen too much of war; and a brute who will beat down or kill anyone in his/her way. Of course, you can blend these together to form your own version of the Trooper tale.

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Mar 17, 2011

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Trooper Vanguard: Skills, Abilities and Opinions

Well, hello and welcome! This is my first post here on Ask A Jedi so I just wanted to take a moment to say “hello” and introduce myself. A few of you may already know me, I’m one of the developers from, an avid MMO gamer and a nut when it comes to anything Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ related. I’ll be doing a series here on Ask A Jedi focusing in on some of the inner workings of the game.

I’ve been learning a lot about The Old Republic while developing R2-Db. I wanted an outlet to share this exciting information with you, do some theorycrafting, argue and speculate over topics and get involved… where else better than this, right?

First off, I have a mini-series of articles I am working on regarding all of the Galactic Republic classes in the game, specifically the ones we saw at PAX East 2011 and in the Taral V Developer Walkthrough. This is the first in the series, and is focused in on the Trooper. If you’d like to view all the skill information we’ve collected, feel free to check out the Trooper’s Skills page on

NOTE – This information is obviously from pre-release and a “preview” version of SW:TOR. There is no guarantee that this information will be correct when the game is released, it’s all pre-release speculation and my opinions!

Also, if I start using terms that you are unfamiliar with, please just ask, and I’ll be more than happy to explain the MMO jargon.

Basic Mechanics of the Trooper – Ammo

The first thing I noticed about the Trooper was how the class consumed his/her resource, ammo. From what I can tell, ammo is a “regeneration over time” based resource that passively recovers. The Trooper is also given a few abilities to increase regeneration and instantly restore ammo. The regeneration aspect of ammo is very similar to WoW’s Focus on Hunters and Energy on Rogues, for those of you who have played WoW, except scaled down with a smaller capacity. I’ve taken a screenshot of the Trooper’s current ammo interface, which you can see here.


It appears that this version of the Trooper, a Vanguard Advanced Class, has a capacity of 12 Ammo in a full clip. It’s completely unknown if this cap is affected by talents, skills, gear or even advanced class choices… all things we will learn as we continue to explore the game mechanics of the Trooper. Watching the Taral V Developer Walkthrough, if you pay attention to the portions in which the Trooper is highlighted, it also shows that the Trooper regenerates ammo at around 1 ammo every 2-3 seconds. I’m going to lean towards 3 seconds per ammo, but again, speculation.

From what I can tell, most of the “Offensive Abilities” I’ve seen require somewhere between 1-4 ammo per shot and trigger a global cooldown. None of the “Defensive Abilities” shown require ammo to be consumed in order to use, so I think it’s safe to say that ammo will be an Offensive/Threat generation resource for the Trooper to use, regardless of advanced class.

There’s a lot of un-answered questions about ammo mechanics… can companion abilities affect your ammo regeneration? Is there a “potion”-type item that can restore ammo? What about the regeneration time of ammo, is there a stat that affects the time it takes to regenerate 1 ammo? Are there any abilities similar to an “Execute” ability (from WoW) that uses up the entirety of your clip to unleash a devastating attack? Hopefully all things we will learn as we progress and learn more about each class.

Offensive Overview

Almost all of the Offensive Trooper’s abilities require ammo, as stated above, except for one from what I’ve noticed: Hammer Shot. It would appear that Hammer Shot is your go-to “spammable” ability, the ability you can use regardless of how much ammo you have in your clip.

Since SW:TOR doesn’t have an “auto-attack”, I imagine that all classes will end up with atleast one ability like this, though this isn’t a confirmed fact.

We also have discovered a number of new abilities that the trooper can use for either Damage Dealing, Damage Mitigation or Threat Generation listed below.

(Mouse over any of the abilities to see it’s tooltip)

Direct Damage Abilities

Your bread and butter, single target DPS/TPS abilities… For a single target DPS rotation, these will probably be the focus of your rotation of abilities.

  • Hammer Shot – A direct damage shot on a single target, no ammo required.
  • Full Auto – A channeled shot ability, lasting 3 seconds, dealing heavy damage to your target. Interestingly enough, it also seems to deal damage to anything in the line of fire at the primary target as well.
  • Stockstrike – Every ranged class needs a powerful melee hit, this is the Trooper’s. It also has a knock-down effect, which means it could also be used for kiting NPCs.

AOE Abilities

These abilities all have an Area of Effect damage component them, causing them to hit multiple enemies.

  • Explosive Round – An explosive shot that hits the primary target hard, then hits all nearby enemies for a lesser portion of the damage. Will be a great opener for a pack of NPCs where you want to hit one really hard and get agro on the rest.
  • Pulse Round – Sounds a lot like Explosive Round above, except that the range is 1/2 that of it, and does more AoE damage. Pulse Round seems like more of a straight-up AoE ability, when you want to deal damage evenly across all targets.
  • Explosive Surge – A point-blank AoE ability, dealing damage to all enemies around the  Trooper. Will be great for building some initial agro on large packs of NPCs, but not spammable due to its cooldown.
  • Sticky Grenade – A delayed-explosion AoE, waiting a few seconds before detonating and dealing damage to all enemies around the target.

Now, this is just theory because I haven’t played the Trooper obviously, but as a tanking Trooper, a great AoE opener for tanking a bunch of NPCs I’d imagine would go something like this…

Sticky Grenade > Pulse Round (Repeat) > Explosive Surge (When the NPCs get near you)

The AoE component of the Pulse Round should pull the NPCs towards you, while the Sticky Grenade‘s timer is ticking down. As the NPCs near you, the Sticky Grenade should detonate, doing massive damage and knocking them back, which then gives you the perfect opportunity to Explosive Surge and do even more damage! A rotation of these 3 abilities (thus far) seem like they’d make the trooper a great AoE tank.

One caveat: I’m not sure how far the Sticky Grenade‘s knock back is, so the Explosive Surge may not be worth it at the end. The NPCs could very well be knocked pretty far away from you. I know how angry people get when (in World of Warcraft) a Druid decides to knock back and entire pack of mobs off the tank… it’s frustrating having to chase them all back down or for the melee to all the sudden be “Out of Range”!

Activatable Buffs

The best part of any class, the abilities you can activate to gain a boost in your DPS performance!

  • Reserve Powercell – Your next shot requiring ammo is free, lets you get that one last crucial shot off regardless of whether you have the ammo for it or not. 2 minute cooldown.
  • Recharge Cells – This ability is to recover used ammo, and from the looks of it in the video, it instantly restores 4 ammo and is on a 1 minute cooldown. Gives you that little extra “umph” when you need it.

I’d imagine that the DPS version of the trooper will have many, many more of these abilities.

Taunt/Agro Abilities

Need to pull a NPC off of a healer or a DPS? Want to do some tank-swapping during a boss fight with a taunt rotation? Here’s your options…

  • Neural Jolt – A straight up ranged taunt, causing the NPC to attack you!
  • Sonic Round – A ranged AoE taunt, which is interesting. Target an NPC in the middle of a group, pop a Sonic Round off on it, causing that NPC and all nearby NPCs to come at you.

Defensive Overview

Every tank needs a cooldown or two, well atleast that’s my opinion. As an FYI, the definition of a “Cooldown” – implies an ability you can use that grants temporary buffs to you/others but you cannot use it that often, it has a “cooldown”.

Standing there and just letting things beat on you while you fire at them is no fun. You need those buttons for those “Oh ****!” moments where your healer isn’t paying attention and you want to take your life into your own hands. I’ve played a tank for a few years, it’s no fun 100% relying on someone else, especially when you don’t know that person. With a few cooldowns, you only have to rely on that stranger for 95% of the time…

Crowd-control Abilities

The Trooper seems to lack a bit in the CC department, but that very well may be because all we are seeing is the “Tank” version of the troopers abilities and this isn’t the final copy of the game. Right now, it seems this is the only one (that we’ve seen).

  • Cryo Grenade – 1 minute cooldown, 3 second’s worth of CC and 6 seconds worth of snaring/slowing the targets. This also has some pretty good potential uses in PVP as a kiting ability.

Defensive Abilities

As a tanking Trooper, you are going to need some cooldown abilities to use when the boss goes berserk on you or the healer is um, “distracted” by something else. Listed below are the abilities we found for the trooper to use to stay alive.

  • Reactive Shield – Not sure if this is a “toggle-able” ability or has a cooldown, or even a duration. The tooltip we saw is listed above, it appears this may be a “stance” ability that the Trooper can use when he wants to be in “tank” mode. Reduces incoming/outgoing damage, but increases threat generation by 100%
  • Defensive Tactics – The Devotion Aura (WoW reference) of the Tanking Trooper. Increases armor by 5% of all nearby party members and only one “Tactic” may be active at any given time. We didn’t get a chance to see the other tactics, but last year we did see a similar ability called Offensive Tactics that increases crit.
  • Adrenaline Rush – Increases the Troopers total life by 20%, for 20 seconds, which is then lost at the end of the effect. I play a Death Knight in WoW and this ability is incredibly similar to Vampiric Blood!
  • Hold the Line – This ability will prevent you from getting knocked around. While this is a great tanking ability, I imagine it’s going to be widely used in PvP as well.

My opinion of the Trooper

The Trooper looks to be a pretty solid class so far… the utility shown by these abilities has proven that the versatility of these classes will be great. Looking through this list, there’s a lot of possible rotations that you could come up with for different scenarios. I’m sure we are missing a lot of abilities, even abilities that come further in the game (these abilities were all pulled from a level 32-33 character), not to mention the Talents that we will learn about and how they affect these abilities!

The single target rotation seems like it could use another ability or two, maybe a super-hard hitting ability that takes a second or two to “cast”, with a cooldown on it. As far as the tanking and AoE abilities of the Trooper, I couldn’t approve of them more.

A ranged tank is something that no other MMO has really perfected (IMHO), but with this list of abilities, it looks like BioWare has done it and done it well. The gameplay looked enjoyable, the rotation seems to be fast-paced, and the graphics are awesome.

Kudos to Bioware for accomplishing all this!

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Dec 24, 2010

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Friday Update: The Trooper Dossier!

We all know every Friday is like Christmas morning for followers and fans of Star Wars™: The Old Republic™, and today was no different! Joanne Laroche posted:

Always on the front lines of battle against the Empire, Troopers seize every tactical advantage at their disposal to defend the Republic. With combat experience and intense training, Troopers can specialize to increase their battlefield prowess. The Trooper’s Advanced Classes will allow you to customize your Trooper to match your desired playstyle: improve your Trooper’s defensive tactics and capabilities to become a nearly unstoppable Vanguard, or go all-out on offense and become a deadly Commando.

After a special Christmas Eve-Eve update from GameSpot, which revealed the (quite awesome) Trooper class video, this morning we get the rest of the goods: The complete Trooper dossier:

  • We get some initial details on the Trooper’s first companion, a Weequay named Tanno Vik, who was added to the Biographies section. Seems to have quite a way with explosives.
  • Also added to the Inhabitants page was the official entry for the Zabrak species. The narrative on the page indicates a high level of martial arts training, and the Zabrak animation on the page shows an unarmed punch ability. Interesting.
  • The starship that the Trooper will commandeer has also been revealed: The BT-7 Thunderclap. Included in the media for the BT-7 is a walkthru video, as well as some screenshots – including the popular cutaway view so you can see the layout of the inside.
  • And no class update would be complete without the proper treatment for the Advanced Classes. In the case of the Trooper, that would be the Vanguard and Commando.

If the class video is any indication the Trooper class will be well-represented in the class mix when The Old Republic launches in Spring of 2011!

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Dec 23, 2010

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Friday Update Eve: Trooper Class Trailer

BioWare’s Senior Community Manager Stephen Reid had some fun with the Twitterverse a little earlier today, but even before that he let drop a very serious pre-holiday bonus: The all new Trooper class trailer has been released on GameSpot!

While awesome, Stephen alludes that a complete Friday update (of which this will no doubt be a part of) is still in store for tomorrow:

Yes, you still get a #SWTOR Friday Update tomorrow. But for now…

There appears to be a preview of sorts of some new Trooper abilities, not the least of which is appears to be some sort of AoE knockback, and a droid that evokes memories of the Droideka.

So be sure to hop on over to GameSpot, and also keep it locked right here for coverage of tomorrow’s Friday Update!

The Trooper

The Trooper

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Jul 5, 2010

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"Not Enough Force" – Resource Pools

With the recent release of the E3 multi-player combat video, we wanted to take a closer look at certain aspects of of what we saw. Even though its a low-level encounter, we feel there’s enough information there to warrant a deeper dive. For this first entry, we thought we’d start with thinking about the class resource pools, and how those might affect combat.

In the video, we finally get to see some Jedi in action – both the Knight and the Consular were in the group. These classes were withheld from the recent E3 hands-on sessions, so this was a special treat.

We viewed  the battle from the point of view of the Jedi Consular, which meant we got to see a lot of things that happen in the UI during combat, including some of the system feedback…  One example, the beloved MMO staple “Out of Range” message when your target is too far away for you to interact with it.


At about 2:30 into the video we see a different message pop up – “Not Enough Force.” This message appeared because the Consular did not have enough “Force Points” available to execute the ability that was selected. For those new to the genre, MMORPG player classes typically have resource pools such as this for two reasons: to govern the use of certain abilities (facilitating balance,) but also as a gameplay mechanic itself. Managing this resource pool becomes part of the skill you will need to learn to play your character effectively.

Mechanically, having Force as a class resource makes sense for Force-sensitive characters, but it still makes me cringe just a little bit seeing “The Force” reduced to a mere resource pool. I guess this is one of those things we just have to accept as necessary for game mechanics. But I digress…

At any rate, it got us to thinking about resource pools in general. We now know that the Consular uses “Force” as it’s resource. The Sith Inquisitor apparently does as well. Even though the Sith Warrior is a Force user, his resource pool is “Rage.” The Bounty Hunter uses “Heat” with the requirement to periodically vent your system. Naturally the Trooper uses “Ammo.” And the Smuggler has been observed using “Energy,” (same for the Imperial Agent.) Curiously, no information has yet been learned regarding the resources used by the Jedi Knight.

But what about secondary resources? Are there aspects to managing our characters in combat that go beyond the basics?

Examples from other games include WoW’s Rogue, who uses “Combo Points” to execute “finishing” moves – typically larger special moves of greater power. The Death Knight has the Rune system.  In Warhammer, you had similar secondary resources, but interestingly you also had a tertiary level of abilities called “Morale” abilities. These are abilities that you could use only while in combat, and the longer you were in combat, the more powerful they became. You had 4 slots and each slot was more powreful than the last. If you stayed in combat long enough to activate the ability in the 4th slot, it was a doozy.

Way back, almost a year ago, GameSpot did an interview which exposed abilities what BioWare was calling “spenders.” This seems to add another dimension to resource management, but we’ve heard very little about it since, nor seen anything in action.

The demo video was obviously of low-level combat, but these secondary resources in other games are available right from the beginning. We didn’t see any of that in this combat video… so will we see more depth in this area? Is  this something you’ve been pondering? At what point will we learn more?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter in the comments below!

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Jun 22, 2010

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Hands On: The Trooper!

Editor’s Note: We wanted to provide a slightly different perspective with this hands-on than you have probably been reading elsewhere: it was written by a non-MMO player! Matt Jarbo is a gamer and journalist living in Los Angeles, and provides a unique look at the game!

A long time ago (1995), in a galaxy far far away (Canada)… A little known video game company named BioWare emerged, and went on to create some of the greatest computer role-playing games of our time. Fast forward to 2010, and we find them in the middle of their most ambitious project to date – one that would rock the foundations of the MMO community, and surely bring any rival to their knees. We are of course talking about Star Wars: The Old Republic. I got a chance to get my hands on this masterpiece at E3 2010 in Los Angeles, and I’m here to tell you how it looks, how it plays, and how much fun it is.

The Trooper and his pals.

The Trooper and his pals.

Before I go into the details of the game, I wanted to inform all of you readers at home, that I am not a MMO player. I avoided WoW, I never tried EverQuest, and anything from NCSoft made my head spin. So I was a bit reticent to place my fingertips on the W,A,S,D, keys and navigate my way around the world of Ord Mantell. Read on to learn how that all turned out!

On the opening day of E3, I got to spend a good hour playing The Old Republic as a Republic Trooper. My character started off in a ship heading towards the planet, when it is attacked. I was trapped in the room with an Officer, who talks me through putting out the fires with an extinguisher. As soon as I started interacting with him, I got my first taste of the oft-touted fully voiced characters in the game. I was immediately transported back to Mass Effect’s dialog tree, and how I was able to select a good, neutral, or bad response each time I’m able to speak. I found out the hard way that the spacebar allows me to skip to the next dialog tree instantly.  This option will work for those gamers who want to play and not be bogged down by long conversations. With the conversation sequence over, after averting disaster, I was transported to the planet surface.

On the ground, I took a few minutes to become acquainted with the controls. As a life-long gamer, I know that a bad control scheme can kill a game very quickly. I was assisted by James Baldwin, a BioWare Network Engineer, who was very helpful in teaching me the controls. It was explained to me that the controls are very similar (i.e.: identical) to other “popular MMOs” in the marketplace.  Once the basic controls were explained, I took off running around the city to battle the enemies on my quest to save the Galaxy from Empirical rule.

Full Auto

Now this is a gun. But where's my helmet?

I led the Trooper down a pathway towards the gates of the decimated metropolis, and I was ambushed by a trio of blaster rifle wielding enemies. I targeted the first enemy and the Trooper engaged him in combat, James was standing next to me and told me to select the grenade option that was in my #2 slot on the Action Bar. As the ordinance flew out of my rifle and struck my foes for several XP, James cheered loudly at my victory.

After that encounter, he explained the rest of the UI to me. He pointed out that I was a level 2 Trooper, and he explained the other abilities that were available in my action bar. I had access to Fast Reload, Grenade, and Rifle Butt. While in my next battle, I ran up blasting away, and when I got close to the bad guy, I clicked the Rifle Butt ability, knocked him to the ground, and proceeded to shoot him until he was dead.

Next to the action bar on the HUD, is the standard selection of options: Inventory – which has 48 slots available, and the Character Sheet – This showed my current alignment and stats. The only thing I wasn’t able to access was the Skill Tree, as it wasn’t available. Directly next to the action bar, were the buttons for Recharge, and calling my shuttle. I tried to call my shuttle and blast out of the world, but it never came.

I noticed that sometimes there was a “radar” part of the HUD next to the mini-map. When I asked about the significance of the radar, James told me that it wasn’t  an actual radar, but rather that is was a placeholder for images of the NPC when you talk to them.

Trooper vs. Droid

Is it really wise to elbow a droid in the face?

With a good understanding of how the game played, I was now left to my own devices to explore the city, and battle enemies till someone kicked me off the machine. I used this time to check out the graphics of the game. I had been hearing reports/concerns from some TOR fans about the graphics. I can tell you this right now; while the graphics aren’t Mass Effect, they don’t disappoint. The graphics were designed to be less striking than Mass Effect, but still detailed enough to work on a wide range of different system types. Now, keep in mind, this build of the game is still in Alpha, and it will be more polished when it officially launches next year. To me, the graphics were somewhat reminiscent of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV show. There were similarities with the designs, and the more cell shaded edges to everything. Occasionally there were a few hiccups with the network connection. These were few and far between, but I was assured that these would be fixed by the time the game launched. Within 15 minutes, I was fully immersed in the game, and loving it.

While storming through the city and killing homicidal droids, I came across a Twi’Lek Smuggler who was in a battle with several foes (who, it turns out, was another person playing the game in the room with me.)  I clicked the Recharge button, and charged in to help my comrade. She fired her blaster at the droids, and I committed the coup de grace by launching grenades.  When the fight was over, I thought I’d try and engage in a little PvP by firing a grenade at her, but it wouldn’t work. James informed me that we were in the same faction and unable to fight each other.

After that encounter, I thought I’d leave the city and explore the countryside a bit. I ran around and fought these dragon-like creatures and more baddies while continuing to move away from the city. In the back of my mind I was expecting to encounter a barricade, or an invisible wall that would limit my progression into the world. I asked how far I would be able to travel on foot, and the response was that there were no walls. The planets that were on display (Ord Mantell, Hutta, and Koriban) were complete and able to be explored.  I decided to make a mad dash for the hills and see how far I could get, but I was out of med packs, and a few of those dragon-like buggers killed me in a fight. My Trooper died, and a debug screen popped up that had the option to “resurrect”. Before I could click the button and get back into the game, I was told by an booth attendant that my time was up.

Trooper w/ Big Gun

Happiness is indeed a warm gun.

To summarize my experience with TOR, I would have to say that this is a game that is being built with the idea that it will change the way MMOs are played. This game was designed to be an action RPG, and a damned good one at that. The combat is fluid and fun. The characters are fully developed and real. BioWare is renowned for creating powerful and gripping storylines, and I know they won’t disappoint. This game was created by an exceptionally talented team of artists and programmers who are devoted to the material, and its clear that a masterpiece is emerging.

As a person who hasn’t played MMO’s, this game is calling me, and I’m going to answer that phone.

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