Why Advanced Classes?
As you know, a core feature of Star Wars: The Old Republic is that we are shipping the game with eight classes each with an epic story, full voiceover, quests and cinematics. This creates a very unique game experience for each of them, something never done in an MMO before.
Furthermore, we wanted to ensure that we had the flexibility to support several play-styles within each of these eight classes. So we built Advanced Classes into the game from the ground up to provide us with the ability to create and support different gameplay and roles inside each class.
By using the word "several," Georg is implying there is more than one way to play each Advanced Class role, and each Advanced Class provides multiple play-styles for players to explore. We created an overview graphic to illustrate how the roles break out per class:
Designing Advanced Classes
We currently have four dedicated class designers, each one of them responsible for one class from each faction. For each class, the team began by looking at what players would expect from a class as a fan of the Star Wars movies and/or as a fan of the MMORPG genre. We then worked on how we would integrate those expectations into the game via Advanced Classes.
With four class designers each assigned one Republic and one Sith class, there is a good chance the designers are working on closely related classes, Sith Warrior and Jedi Knight for example. This could explain why similarities are seen in these classes without them being true mirrors.
In some cases, this led to integrating traditional' MMO roles into our existing class structures: The play style generally associated with the healer' role in MMOs is very popular with many players and we wanted to make sure that we offered that role in our game for our audience. In fact, we are offering two classes that can develop into fully capable healers for each faction via one of their Advanced Classes.
In other cases, we identified roles for our game that are unique to the Star Wars experience: While the idea of a ranged tank' is hard to realize in most MMO environments due to the prevalence of melee combat, the Vanguard' Advanced Class for the Trooper is perfectly viable in the Star Wars setting where blaster fire and ranged combat dominate the majority of engagements.
As we have already revealed, the biggest impact of choosing an Advanced Class is the access to two unique skill sets offering active and passive special abilities that significantly alter a character's combat capabilities. Additionally, a third set of skills is shared among all members of the same class.
But you knew that already, so let's get to talking about how this is actually implemented in our game with an example:
Example: The Smuggler
Han Solo, Lando, Talon Karrde There are plenty of different Smuggler personalities to be found in the Star Wars universe to choose from and this is reflected in the versatility of their available Advanced Classes:
By using three different examples, Georg continues to emphasize there are more than two ways to play a class.
The Scoundrel is not afraid of getting his hands dirty, as the Scrapper' skill-set has an off-hand Scatter Gun, a number of powerful (but not necessarily fair) melee moves and access to a Stealth Field Generator with various possible upgrades for a dramatic entrance or exit.
This implies Scrapper Scoundrels will be close to mid range fighters with a bevy of melee skills, as well as stealth-based attacks.
The Sawbones' skill-set on the other hand offers ways to dramatically improve the Smuggler's healing and support-related abilities, including access to the powerful Emergency Medpack.
A Sawbones Scoundrel appears to be the healer focused play-style for the Smuggler class.
And, if all else fails, the Scoundrel seems to have the uncanny ability to Shoot First, a very useful skill to have for sure.
This appears to revealing "Shoot First" as a Scoundrel specific ability, yet it does not appear to be linked to either the Scrapper or Sawbones skill set.
Gunslingers are trained in a broad array of blaster-oriented abilities against both single and multiple targets and excel at dealing large amounts of damage from a safe distance. Their access to Illegal Weapon Mods may well give them the edge over an opponent insisting on a fair fight.
Unlike the Scoundrels, Gunslingers appear to be mid to long range as they operate from "a safe distance." Additionally, the nod towards "Illegal Weapon Mods" could be implying anything from a specific ability or unique items; at the moment there is not enough information to conclude one way or another.
Their Sharpshooter' skill-set includes many abilities geared at improving their personal damage, improving the performance of their groups, and gaining additional benefits from cover.
Sharpshooter Gunslingers appear to be the cover specialists within the Smuggler class.
Whether lobbing Shrapnel Bombs on nearby enemies or dealing increased damage for enemies Shot In The Back, the Dirty Fighting' skill-set is all about getting an edge over people who prefer a straight fight and helps to ensure that the Gunslinger delivers sustained damage to more than just one opponent.
The Dirty Fighting Scoundrels appear to bring a few never before seen abilities including "Shrapnel Bombs" and "Shot In The Back." How these underhanded tactics will work into the damage focused Scoundrel are unknown at this time but they seem to be distinct from both stealth and cover mechanics. "Shot In The Back" could be referencing a ranged 'backstab'-type positional attack.
The Shared Skill Set
Shared by both Advanced Classes, the Luck' skill-set focuses on improving many of the Smuggler's base class abilities such as increasing energy regeneration in Cover or delivering some Very Critical Hits when using Dirty Kick.
We cannot tell from this statement alone if the shared skill set is its own balanced play-style(s) both Advanced Classes have access to, or if it is simply a generic, utility skill-set. All we can reliably state is that it focuses on strengthening the core class abilities.
As you can see from the small set of skills mentioned above, players will be able to customize their personal Smuggler experience dramatically by distributing skill points across the three available skill-sets, defining their character's role as Smuggler as they see fit: Within the Scoundrel Advanced Class, a player preferring the traditional MMO healer role may spend the majority of their skill points training in the Sawbones skill-set with additional improvements to their core abilities from the Luck skill tree, or they could decide that a Stealth Healer' role with points distributed between the Scrapper and Sawbones trees might be the role they want to play in Star Wars: The Old Republic.
By mentioning a "Stealth Healer," Georg further suggests distinct customization options for play-styles withing each Advanced Class. Instead of each Advanced Class be one play-style of a single role, each Advanced Class gives multiple play-styles and skill sets to mix and match to the player's taste.
Beyond Skill Sets
Access to exclusive skill sets is only one facet of an Advanced Class: Access to specialized equipment such as special Lightsaber types, heavy weapons, gadgets and armor is unlocked via Advanced Class selections, creating a unique visual signature for your character on the battlefield. Players will instantly know whether they are facing a Jedi Guardian or Sentinel by appearance alone even before their opponents showcase their powerful special abilities.
This tells us each Advanced Class will be visually unique with equipment unlocked through player choice. This delineation will greatly influence visual recognition as well as loot distribution through drops. This ties back to the lightsaber restrictions for the various advanced Force-using classes.
Choosing Your Advanced Class
The team wanted players to be comfortable with the core game-play of their class before introducing them to more complex game mechanics, so you will not have immediate access to Advanced Classes at character creation. Instead, the choice will be given upon locating the Advanced Class trainer on your faction's capital world. This is a mandatory choice; not picking an Advanced Class is not an option.
By stating that players will be picking their advanced class from an NPC on their faction's capital world, Georg is stating two things. First, Advanced Class choice may not be linked to story at all, appearing as a simple choice from a trainer. Secondly, all four classes of each particular faction will be on their capital planet together by level ten at the latest, as that is the level you choose your Advanced Class.
Star Wars: The Old Republic is a game in development and in active testing. Any feature, ability or even class name mentioned above (or anywhere else on the website) is subject to review and testing, and may change between now and the game's launch. The BioWare team believes in making fully-polished, quality games. We are listening to your feedback, and will continue to make improvements.
Although we are told this every time the Darth Hater team sees the game, it is refreshing to see it in print for the rest of the community.