Sep 18, 2011

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Officially Speaking: Path Of The Cyborg – Is It A Species?

Welcome to Officially Speaking, a regular column focused on the most hotly debated topics ever to grace the official Star Wars: The Old Republic forums. Do you have something to add? Feel like it gets lost in the shuffle over there? Join in the extended discussion right here on Ask A Jedi.

There’s a debate that has been raging on the official forums for months now about available species in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Never mind the debate on what races should be accessible to players in the game, that’s a whole other article. This controversey focuses on the whether should cyborgs should be considered a race.

It all started some months ago when PC Gamer UK published a “matrix” of available classes and species. One of the entires was “cyborg” and of course that spun TOR fans into a frenzy. Not long after, Daniel Erickson popped in on the thread to offer some advice that not everything you read is final, nor necessarily even accurate:

The species/class combo list you’re referencing is not accurate. If it does appear in the magazine, that’s unfortunate.

My guess is that an enthusiastic member of the press wrote down everything he saw in the character creation screen which, as we’ve stated often, is nowhere near final. Occasionally we’ll have species in odd classes or in all classes because of a bug or testing.

Cyborgs have of course been a part of Star Wars for a long time. Some of the more famous? General Grievous, Luke Skywalker, Darth Malak, and of course Darth Vader.  It seems only appropriate that players are given the option for their character to be a cyborg in TOR. But many players are wondering if they deserve to take up a precious slot as a full blown species of their own.

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Sep 10, 2011

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Officially Speaking: Will Story Be Enough?

Welcome to Officially Speaking, a regular column focused on the most hotly debated topics ever to grace the official Star Wars: The Old Republic forums. Do you have something to add? Feel like it gets lost in the shuffle over there? Join in the extended discussion right here on Ask A Jedi.

One of the biggest debates on the forums right now is the question: “How far can story take you?”.  The famed 4th pillar of story has left some posters curious about the sustainability of content in the game.  One poster Bluerodian asks:

“Eventually, the story runs out. I personally don’t care for either raiding or PvP
so once the story’s done, then what?”

This is a fair question, and several posters have posed it in different ways.  We know that each faction has their own quests that do not interact at all, so there are at least two completely unique play-throughs possible, and we also know that each class has a unique story.  One thing that is shared however are the quests after the starting planets. Every Empire class will be exposed to the same quests on Nar Shaddaa, for example, with the exception of their class quests.  Will voice work help players look past that, or will it instead be more monotonous after the first time?  Many on the forums have taken another position.  Ravak posts:

“I think anyone that has played Mass Effect mutliple times just to see different parts of the story or the different possible outcomes would disagree…”

There are those that believe that the story BioWare weaves will hold up to several playthroughs, just to see the different outcomes.  These players are hoping that the voice acting won’t be skipped through such as quest text might be in other MMOs. Vuldinlol writes:

“Single player RPGs =/= MMOs. MMOs need longevity, and are expected to survive for years. Single player RPGs are bought once, and the company has all they need from the consumer. You cannot make content that lasts for years with story. PvP and PvE endgame is needed.”

After considering all the views, I would say that BioWare expects to offset the “story grind” after one full play-through with endgame.  The fact that all we have really seen of endgame is the Eternity Vault begs the question: is BioWare ready with an endgame worthy of these expectations?

What do you guys think?  Do you have faith that BioWare’s story is so good that you won’t mind playing through it multiple times?  Do you have high expectations for endgame’s ability to hold your attention?  Do you think that a single player game story shouldn’t be compared to an MMO story in terms of replay value? Let us know in the comments below, and I’ll for sure join in on the discussion with you.


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Jul 5, 2011

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Officially Speaking: Alignment And Effects On Characters

Welcome to Officially Speaking, a regular column focused on the most hotly debated topics ever to grace the official Star Wars: The Old Republic forums. Do you have something to add? Feel like it gets lost in the shuffle over there? Join in the extended discussion right here on Ask A Jedi.

A Jedi Force-choking someone out?  A Sith telling you to keep following your dreams?  Doesn’t really seem to jive with our expectations of those Force users, but those expectations may soon change.

One of the biggest innovations coming to the MMORPG by way of Star Wars: The Old Republic is the alignment system. Granted, we have seen these alignment systems in both Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, but this time we’re told things are getting a bit more complex.

As a Jedi you can be as evil as you want to be.  To quote Lead Writer Daniel Erickson: “Anakin Skywalker: very dark side, but still hangs around in the Jedi temple.”  This also is mirrored by the Empire, in that Sith players can be as goodie two-shoes as they prefer.

The dev team has been working hard to get the message across that faction choice does not necessarily reflect the alignment of each player; however the factions do lean towards dark and light.  That being said, many players are wondering what affect their alignment will have on their character as far as game-play goes.  To no-one’s surprise, the forums were rife with discussion on this topic. Read on!

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May 5, 2011

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Officially Speaking: System Requirements Speculation

Welcome to Officially Speaking, a weekly column focused on the most hotly debated  topics ever to grace the official Star Wars: The Old Republic forums. Do you have something to add? Feel like it gets lost in the shuffle over there? Join in the extended discussion right here on Ask A Jedi.

In this incredible week of a Sith Warrior Progression video, UI development update and plenty of new PvE Fan Site Summit information, ravenous fans still pound relentlessly on the doors of TOR fansites everywhere, screaming at the top of their lungs “CAN I HAZ PVP INFO NAO PLZ?!” Thus, I bring you the next best thing while the embargo holds our PvP hopes and dreams firmly in its uncaring grasp: computer specs speculation! While not the “hot topic” of this particular week, this discussion has nonetheless managed to unceasingly wax and wane on the official forums since we found out The Old Republic would be arriving on PC. While speculating on the system requirements of TOR may not seem like a big deal at first, it actually has a number of important ramifications for the highly diverse player-base and their respective machines.

To get a sense of how Bioware sees the issue, we need only look to the great summarization OP by BioWare moderator TylerRowe in this thread here. He notes the following:

While no official requirements have been published, this E3 2009 interview with BioWare’s Gordon Walton gives some insight into the basic level of system requirements that BioWare is aiming for:


Gordon Walton: We are definitely not intending it to be extremely high. That’s great. I would like to be able to play it on my 3 year old gaming notebook.

Gordon Walton: It’s going to more modest to let more people into the game because not every gamer changes out their machine for super hardcore machines.

This is great news for someone like myself, as I am not particularly PC savvy (in terms of building my own) and don’t necessarily have the money to buy a comp that can run, say, Crysis at maximum settings. BioWare continuously states its intention to draw in gamers and fans from a multitude of backgrounds with a widely diverse set of in-game goals. They want Star Wars fans, BioWare fans, and Knights of the Old Republic players alike. They want players to be able to overclock settings in high-end raid situations, while also catering to casual players who just want to sit in a cantina and chat with friends. It was also recently stated that the potential market for the game is made even more immense by the desired inclusion of console gamers and other customers not familiar with the general MMO scene. Therefore, I believe BioWare will make the minimum required settings as low and open as possible to cater to the general masses of potential non-PC specific players (a group in which I find inclusion, given my much more robust console-gaming experience). From there, though, they will almost certainly have a steep slope to climb for those wishing to achieve maximum settings. Perhaps not as great a jump as other graphically-intense games, but nonetheless significant.

Minimum System for TOR

Minimum System for TOR

As a last bit of fun to add to this discussion, I will post my own laptop specs here. As a four year-old gaming/general entertainment laptop (a $2,200 one at that), I’m curious to see what you all think. Is it time for me to upgrade my system for TOR? You be the judge:

  • Operating System:  Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit)
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 (2.2 GHz/4 MB L2Cache)
  • Memory:  2GB (2 Dimm)
  • Graphics Card: 511MB NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GS
  • Hard Drive:  200GB 7200RPM SATA Dual Hard Drive
  • Floppy Drives:  8 included, upgraded to 10
  • Dial-up Modem:  3 included, 90’s phone cord not included

Ok, those last two aren’t exactly accurate ;p. But what do you think? Will I be able to run The Old Republic? How high will my settings go? Continue the discussion below!

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Apr 20, 2011

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Officially Speaking: The Science Of Release Date Speculation

Welcome to Officially Speaking, a weekly column focused on the most hotly debated  topics ever to grace the official Star Wars: The Old Republic forums. Do you have something to add? Feel like it gets lost in the shuffle over there? Join in the extended discussion right here on Ask A Jedi.

In the realm of consistently debated, reposted, and ever-expanding threads on the official Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ forums, few come close to achieving the notoriety and sometimes surprising ingenuity of the “Release Window Speculation” topic, which in its current iteration boasts close to 300,000 views. Much of the current zeitgeist seems to center on the frustration of the legions of hopeful beta testers and future players, who had been waiting on the former “Spring 2011” release window until its adjustment earlier this year to a more general “when it’s ready/2011” response from developers.

While much of the conversation tends to devolve into pettiness and bickering, some of the more ingenious posters follow specific criteria and clues to inform their projected release dates; one poster even went so far as to chart out the release date of every major MMO, cross-referencing that data with Bioware’s release dates of former titles to conclude the most likely outcome, all done in an Excel spreadsheet. Unfortunately that particular thread has been buried beyond my powers to retrieve it, but to give a sense of what these more hardcore speculators focus on, let’s take a look at a post by zewi [edited for general readability]:

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Apr 13, 2011

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Officially Speaking: The Advanced Class Debate

Welcome to Officially Speaking, a weekly column focused on the most hotly debated  topics ever to grace the official Star Wars: The Old Republic forums. Do you have something to add? Feel like it gets lost in the shuffle over there? Join in the extended discussion right here on Ask A Jedi.

Whether or not you’ve taken the time to read them all, a large number of the longer-running forum topics tend to focus on the Advanced Class (AC) system of The Old Republic. Specifically, forum users tend to wonder two things: will the ACs be permanent, and will some ACs possess more inherent utility than others?

With the latest Friday Update providing much clarification on the subject, new worries and discussions have already sprung up. In the latest iteration, “Pure DPS Advanced Classes are a pipe dream,” Endorn notes:

“Snipers, Marauders, and their republic counterparts are going to be denied membership to decent raiding guilds. I’m not talking about only hardcore guilds either. If a juggernaut can dps just as well as a marauder, but can also quickly switch spec to take on a tanking role, that is huge.

Having a raid full of people who can become backup tanks and backup healers in case a primary tank or healer would disconnect, [have a] power outage, emergency [or] something, etc… is too valuable for any guild leader to ignore. Especially if there is no downside to taking them over a Pure DPS AC. You really need to give every AC the ability to take on 2 roles.” [emphasis added]

To frame the discussion a bit, let’s reiterate the point Georg Zoeller made in response to some concern regarding the announcement of new available class roles (e.g. Sith Inquisitor tanking and Trooper healing) as opposed to the “pure” dps of, say, the Marauder. Zoeller affirms:

“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’. Plus, you get to wield dual blades – I hear some players really like that too.”

Many responses to Endorn tended to echo Zoeller’s sentiments. E-Argos points out:

“[Endorn] you are exaggerating the point quite a bit. Sure, it’s great having someone who can tank or heal if someone leaves, but first off, they probably won’t be as good as the main healer, and second, they might not have the gear. Compare that to having a few of those DPS classes, and say that each of them has their “single target sustained damage” tree maxed out. OH NO, we’re being zerged by a million small mobs? Send the backup tanks and the backup healers in! Oh, they lasted 4 seconds. Hey, good thing all these DPS classes have numerous AoE options to save us. Boy howdy, that sure beats having a whole bunch of DPS Juggernauts and nothing else!”

While E-Argos and others’ points are understood, I think they are missing the big picture. The dual arguments regarding the permanence of Advanced Classes and their respective utility are interrelated.

Here’s my take: I believe that in the beginning of development, the idea was to have ACs stay permanent. This has been an oft-repeated mantra throughout the numerous developer interviews and Q&A sessions from the past year or so. When they began testing the game, however, they noticed an increased desire to have more classes homogenized (i.e. able to fulfill the same roles); most likely this was due to a shortage of tanking and healing players, and perhaps a too similar feeling in DPS roles between classes. Instead of allowing for players to simply respec into the alternative AC, thus allowing them to gain the roles they were previously locked out of, BioWare decided to just give more ACs the ability to fulfill more roles. As a result, we now have ACs performing tasks that make little sense to some, such a healing Bounty Hunter. Such drastic changes lead me to believe that we will not see Advanced Class respec at launch.

Talent Trees

On the issue of Advanced Class utility, I have to agree with Endorn’s main point. If ACs like the Marauder (my personal planned main) stay “pure” DPS, without the ability to repec, they will find themselves quickly less valuable than classes with the ability to fulfill multiple roles, with respect to raids. The main issue is not whether or not there will be enough “pure” DPS classes in the game, but whether or not they will matter at all. To make a pure dps spec even worthwhile in the game, it must do significantly higher damage than something like a DPS/offtank hybrid Guardian. It’s very simple: if you take any 2 classes, and class A can both tank and DPS and class B can only DPS, serious raids/flashpoints are going to require that you pick the class with the greater utility to the group. That’s the main reason that either:

  1. Pure DPS specs must do significantly higher damage than hybrids, or…
  2. Pure DPS specs need some abilities than greatly distinguish itself from other hybrid classes, and make it more useful in the end.

What I find troubling is that, as Zoeller notes, BioWare said they were trying to balance all ACs to do about the same damage, only now the Guardian can do the same 100% damage as the Marauder, and still off-tank effectively at the same time. This would be a huge problem, because again, pure roles will always be secondary to a multi-role class, everything else being equal.

Furthermore, I think BioWare will have a difficult time justifying the reason that a single-saber Juggernaut can do as much damage as a dual-wielding Marauder. It just doesn’t make sense, from a practical gear/stat perspective. How will they balance the crystals used to augment lightsabers when some players will only hold one, and some will use two (effectively doubling their weapon-gained stats). The addition of viable single-saber specs in the game seems to point to the conclusion that the difference between sabers will be purely cosmetic.

In the end, the primary concern to heavy raid-focused DPS players will be the inevitable “damage meter” type add-ons, and how well they stack up against others. If the abilities given to the pure DPS specs are really that diverse and effective, as Zoeller claims, then by default they will have more utility in some situations than others (e.g. an AOE-focused boss encounter might require a Marauder more than a Juggernaut DPS).

Hopefully, BioWare will balance the encounters to make these differences as apparent as possible, so each individual class feels included, and especially needed, in different but equal circumstances.

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