With E3 now a fading memory in our sleep deprived minds, and the first iteration of the 1.3 patch newly deployed onto the Public Test Server, it’s time for another trip to the watercooler. Fresh off their speeders from Los Angeles, we’ve corralled several of the Darth Hater minions to get their thoughts on the new reveals from E3, and from the data we’ve managed to glean so far from the PTS.
Since we could go on for pages and pages, we’ve tried to keep the topic list focused on the big items from E3 and 1.3 testing. Read after the jump for the collected musings of our deranged crew, and feel free to get in on the conversation in the comments section at the end of the article.
Shadowlance: One of the few good things to come out of KOTOR II, the idea of HK-50 and HK-51 has always intrigued me. Something of a precursor to the Geth, HK-51 should go a long way towards letting HK-47 fans scratch that itch outside of The Foundry or False Emperor Flashpoints. Big questions remain however, as we don’t yet know how absurd the tasks to get him will be, nor how the generic nature of giving the same companion to all eight classes will be dealt with. Regardless, it’s good to see that one of the first big steps forward from the existing TOR story is an unabashed nod to the franchise’ roots.
Jaspor: I’m excited about HK-51 being added to the game as a companion. As a huge KOTOR fan, it’ll be nice to once again have the familiar murderous robot on my side, and it’s pretty cool that the dialogue will vary from class to class. It’ll be interesting to see how difficult it is to obtain the companion. If the quest chain is too difficult, that could be disappointing and frustrating to many players. I’ve already seen some concerns that the quest could require some high-end Operation success. Others have voiced some unhappiness about being “forced” to play the opposing faction against their will just to have a chance to unlock the companion. Personally, I don’t mind having some extra motivation to play through at least one class of the opposite faction. On the other hand, if the quests are too easy, that takes away some of the “special” feeling of obtaining a rare companion. If he’s not very rare, then it doesn’t feel very special, right? In any case, it should be an interesting ride and I’m sure BioWare will be watching the results closely and making adjustments to any future companions added in the same way.
Eruptive: Having not played any of the KOTOR games, my first encounter with the HK model of droids was via the multiple Flashpoints in which HK-47 appears in SWTOR. I totally didn’t expect anything like what I encountered and HK-47 quickly became one of my favourite NPCs in the game. I’m very interested in seeing how BioWare rolls out the questline to obtain him. It’s already been said that it won’t be easy and will require a character on both factions. No doubt some are upset at that, but I figure that with BioWare pushing for alts and Legacy, something like this was bound to show up.
Walk: Unlike most around here, I have no experience prior to SWTOR with this line of droids. All of my experience comes from the in-game Flashpoints. That said, I am extremely stoked to see the HK-51 become a companion. He has a certain je ne sais quoi about him—a charm, if droids can be charming—that makes him extremely desirable. A droid with a penchant for murder. What’s not to love?
Predation: I never played the KOTOR games. Did I just lose my job? I love murderous robots though, so HK-51 should fit right into that special place in my heart, alongside T-888, HAL 9000 and automobile assembly machines.
Shinorah: Droids are some of the most popular companions in game – my first companion was T7, and I also grew to really love Fourex as a Trooper as well. While I’m not quite sure about the assassin nature, I’m very excited about both a new companion and a new droid – so I think this will provide a good boost of excitement and energy to existing characters. Plus, the idea of completing a complicated and long chain of actions to get a companion? Far, far cooler than the usual “Do all these things to unlock a title or vehicle” MMO standard. Hope they add more things like this.
LordBurek: I have been wanting more HK in my life for a while now, and I love that BioWare is willing to deliver. I will once again be able to wander the galaxy while being called a meatbag! What remains to be seen is how exactly players will unlock him. The hint dropped by Daniel Erickson that players will need a character on both sides is likely to be a controversial move, and though BioWare’s intention here is obvious (encouraging players to make full use of the Legacy system), I’m not sure it will be a popular decision.
Cameron: As one of the few people that actually attended the SWTOR presentation at E3 where all the new information was shown, I’m a bit surprised that this wasn’t as big as they seemed to think it would be. During the presentation, they actually showed a small 30-second clip that looked to be of the same quality of the Blur trailers that were released pre-launch. That small clip has yet to be posted on the official site, so I’m not sure what the intent there was. Regardless, I think they’re itching the scratch of all the KOTOR fans by introducing him as a companion. From what we know, he’s not going to be an easily acquired companion, and unlocking him may take several hours of quests that could potential take you all over the galaxy and even on both sides of the war. To me, this is the best direction. Adding more story quests that aren’t relying on groups, Flashpoint, or Operations means that HK-51 can be a companion for everyone, but only those willing to go through a 10-20 hour quest will unlock him.
Nominiel: Killing meatbags… Sarcasm… naturally as a Sith, I’m in! I hope the updated version of HK-47 can keep up with the original and the storyline will offer some laughs. Who doesn’t want a personal assassinationd droid? Great move!
Shadowlance: I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too impressed with the first few images of Makeb until I heard Daniel Erickson say that the writing team was returning to TOR’s most successful story area: Act 1. The idea of huge sweeping stories instead of the somewhat more contained and limited plots that characterized Acts 2 and 3 really has me excited. However, there are still serious concerns. First off, it’s still unclear if Makeb will be the start of Act IV of the Class Stories. Second, even if Act IV is going to be contained on Makeb I have doubts that a single planet, even one comparable in size or bigger than Voss, Belsavis or Corellia, can be an adequate canvas for such a story. Still, without the necessity of tucking little class quest instances every which way, the geography and layout should lend itself to making an epic plot arc go down just a little bit easier.
Jaspor: Story is clearly the main thing setting SWTOR apart from its competitors. More story is a good thing. While it’s unclear whether or not Makeb will include the next chapter for class stories, if the content is as vast as we’re being led to believe it should make a lot of players happy. It’s also interesting to hear that they’re going back to a style more like the starter planets, which should mean more focus and make characters feel like they’re having more of an impact on what’s going on around them.
Eruptive: The idea of expanding the story in any way, shape or form is a good thing in my opinion. That said, I’m not sure all the time BioWare invested in fully crafting this supposedly huge planet will pay off. I highly doubt that the new Act of class stories will be on Makeb, since it is just one planet. (Maybe they’ll tease it…?) Unless there’s more reason to go back to Makeb when it’s all said and done, I see this as something I’ll grind out in a couple nights or so, enjoy the story and likely not go back.
Walk: One of the things that I love most about this game is their planet design. I know that if the forums are to be believed, I am in the minority here. But the planetary artwork is one of the biggest draws for me. So to hear that there is a new one on the horizon with a huge story surrounding it is very exciting for me.
Predation: New planet, new possibilities. I enjoy the thought of being able to encapsulate an experience within a particular world, being able to take some new risks as far as creature design, level design, etc. without affecting the existing canon too much. Blizzard did it with a number of zones in each of the WoW expansions, really stepping outside of the normal level design comfort zone. I’d like to see BioWare do the same. Here’s hoping.
LordBurek: Makeb is something that the game needs. The thing that excites me most is James Ohlen’s recent comment that Makeb is “the biggest, non-expansion pack piece of content that I think any online game has ever released at one time”. If true, this planet represents a very large chunk of story content coming our way. Since story is one of SWTOR’s unique charms, this is a great step.
Cameron: Being able to talk with Daniel Erickson and hear the things he said about Makeb and its design keep me optimistic. It sounds like they’re taking the best elements of SWTOR’s narrative and quest design and putting them on a new planet for players to explore. I can only make speculation as to what Makeb will deal with, but it sounds like it’s a planet similar to Naboo that the Hutts come in and, suffice it to say, put junk in their own front yard. How that will intertwine with the rest of the narrative in the galaxy and with the Republic and Sith will leave for an interesting plot. I’ve always been fond of the underworld of the Star Wars universe, the place where smugglers, bounty hunter, mercenaries, and gangsters do their business. If Makeb can focus on that aspect, while still relating it to the overall narrative, I think they will be successful.
Nominiel: When you talk to other SWTOR players, nearly everyone just says that the storyline in the game is great. Hearing, seeing and reading that with Makeb a high quality story arc planet will be released, gets my heart pumping and I think the hearts of nearly every passionate player too. I’m looking forward to that big planet!
Terror From Beyond / Nightmare Mode
Jaspor: Adding new Operations at a decent pace is going to remain an important factor for SWTOR to maintain subscribers. Daniel Erickson has said this new Operation really uses some new tools and technologies to do some interesting things. While it’s unclear exactly what that means, the thought of seeing some new mechanics and challenges is exciting.
As far as Nightmare mode goes, the jury is still out and will remain undecided until we see something concrete to judge. I do applaud the fact that the hardest of hardcore difficulties will not just be “the mob does a ton more damage and has a ton more health.”
Eruptive: Oh yes, finally! As the raid leader of a high end PvE progression guild, we NEED this stuff coming at a decent pace in order to keep people interested. It’s by far the one thing I’m most looking forward to in the coming months. The little teaser video showed some pretty interesting encounters, and I’m thrilled for it. In my opinion, BioWare’s learning very quickly when it comes to end-game raids. Compare Eternity Vault’s boss mechanics to Explosive Content’s, and then remember that they only launched within months of each other. That’s significant progress for a game that only launched a few months ago. I’m excited.
As for the Nightmare mode difficulty, I feel like they missed the mark with Denova and that Nightmare mode difficulty should’ve been in with 1.2’s launch or shortly thereafter. I’m REALLY hoping they manage to fit it into 1.3, because farming hard mode Explosive Conflict fatigue will settle in quickly if there’s no sign of it. On the other hand, the fact that they’re already aiming for three Operation difficulties is a very good sign. Assuming they keep learning and improving upon previous Operations, I feel like we could have a really healthy raid scene for SWTOR. One additional note on Operations: Please Bioware. You have three difficulties. Please do NOT nerf the difficulty of the highest end raid content. That is all.
Cameron: I’m finding myself less concerned about the loot in Operations and more about the storylines. Maybe that’s to do with not having the time nor motivation to play the same game for two hours a night, three nights a week, but going through an Operation at least once to see everything is appealing enough to me. Justin (Sado) said in this week’s podcast that from the trailer Terror from Beyond gives a Tron vibe, and I’d strongly agree. From what I can tell, each player is highlighted in a different color and feels like a mix of Tron and the Decker’s Die level from Saints Row The Third. Is it possible we go into some type of virtual reality construct to defeat the terrors that the Dread Masters have let loose on the Gree? Maybe. It’s also possible that the dev team just wanted to try some different art style with this Operation. As far as the revamped Nightmare Mode, I equate this to the same transition World of WarCraft made with their Heroic mode in raids. When they first began it was merely a small bump in health and damage, but they quickly found that those kind of challenges were not exciting enough for players to spend their time doing, which is where fights like Heroic Mimiron were born from. If BioWare can accomplish the same quality of difference in mechanics and fight tactics, high-five to them.
Nominiel: I’m a passionate raider and so ususally for 4-5 days a week I spend a few couple of hours of my time in Denova or Nightmare Karagga/Vaul with my main and alts. This is THE thing which bought me (apart from ranked PVP Warzones). The boss encounters in the small video pieces seem to have rather diversified strategies (as far as one can glimpse that in a few seconds), I hope they can fulfill my expectations. So far they did some good improvements and new, really challenging Nightmare modes and a new raid with rising difficulty is everything we want and need. I totally agree with eruptive more… Please don’t nerf the hardest difficulties… make them hard… We want a challenge! That’s exactly the reason I quit former mmos.
Shadowlance: As someone who took Juhani everywhere in the first KOTOR, I was ecstatic when her people were announced as TOR’s first species expansion choice. The lore, temparament, and stories behind the Cathar have always been incredibly fascinating to me. However, as someone with a full blown case of altitis, I have no free character slots. Now I have to choose between nuking an existing character to make room for my brand new furrball, or forgo a new character.
Jaspor: Looking back at the previous watercooler piece we did on playable species, it seems like Cathar was one of the most popular guesses as to the first choice. I’m not too excited about the species myself, but hopefully this is just the first of many additional playable species added to the game.
Eruptive: I’m very ‘meh’ about this. Cool that they’re already working in additional playable species, but it’s just not my thing at the moment.
Walk: I am not fond of the cat-people. The only experience I’ve had with them are from my Vanguard’s story line and I know I shouldn’t judge a people by an individual, but Aric is just not my cup of tea. He’s rude and self-centered and if he leaves another hairball in my boots I’m going to figure out a way to “accidently” leave him on Hoth.
Predation: I was both surprised, and then not at all surprised with BioWare’s choice of the Cathar as the first new playable race. It made every sense considering the required technical implementations and the existing game assets in place, but cat-like people seem really overdone in games these days. I thought they might want to make a statement going in another, more “Star Warsy” direction. Still, I know I’ve been fantasizing about killing things as Panthro since about 1986, so I’ll be rolling a ferocious kitty on day one. With blasters, pew pew.
Shinorah: Very mixed feelings on this one. On one hand – I’m one of about five people who really likes Aric as a companion (after he’s been around a while, not right off the bat). Getting to have a playable version of that race seems like it has some great potential – and also, Cathar have some very interesting, complex, and somewhat tragic lore – so again, lots of opportunities for players to explore that. On the other hand…..furries, please no.
LordBurek: A good choice by BioWare. They have a solid foundation in the lore, are present in major story arcs in the game, and the race already has assets in the game. The Cathar are also a mainstay of The Old Republic time period, further emphasizing the unique time period the game is set in.
Cameron: Since I play a Trooper, I’ve had experience with Cathar already. It’s a fine choice for a new species considering the kind of limitations they have to deal with in each class storyline. I’m much more interested to see that further developments of future species introduced, and the feedback they gather from players to see what kind of corner cutting they’re allowed to introduce more species (see our interview with Daniel Erickson on this).
Nominiel: A new species is nice for twinkers, I might create one, but I don’t know if I have the time to play another character, so nothing exciting for me.
Shadowlance: Full disclosure: I’m not the biggest proponent of an LFG tool. That being said, I do see the good that this can do in concert with a more centralized population. Giving players an easier way to put a group together to experience content is never a bad thing. There are still some kinks to work out, daily reward scaling, timing out, some of the kicking mechanisms, but all in all it looks like a fairly solid system. With luck it’ll mean that Black Talon, the Esseles and Hard Modes aren’t the only Flashpoints run on a regular basis.
Jaspor: Many have said this should have been part of the game at launch, and I can’t disagree. Better late than never. And the fact that they’re including story mode Operations is a nice touch. The success of the tool will rely on a few things, most importantly, how long it takes for someone to be matched in a group. If the average wait time is close to an hour, that will be frustrating.
Eruptive: I will say that it’s very much needed in a modern MMORPG. Spamming chat channels for a group is no fun and is such an outdated way to find a group nowadays. Having extensively tested this on the PTS, I love the convenience and simplicity of the LFG tool, and while they have a few small kinks to work out, I feel like this will be an amazing addition to SWTOR.
Walk: I’m glad they have introduced an LFG tool into the game. Though I am surprised it has come so soon. I think overall they’ve done a brilliant job with it. The planetary questing option is a wonderful addition to this tool.
Shinorah: While I was not in favor of a LFG tool, I’m very pleased they’re restricting it to single-server only, even if this winds up being a mega-server. I think this is an important step in preserving server community, so kudos there. That said, I’m a little nervous about story mode Ops including Eternity Vault, Karagaa’s Palance, and Explosive Conflict, as there seems to be a significant difficulty gap between the first two and EC. Guess we’ll have to see how it plays out in practice?
LordBurek: Sorely needed and warmly received, the LFG Tool will be what gets me back into PvE. While I really can’t fault BioWare for not including it at launch, I am happy to see it finally realized. As a tank, I don’t expect I will have to wait long for a group, and I am excited that there will be rewards for doing a daily random flashpoint.
Cameron: Yes. More of this please. With the recent transfers, the Looking For Group system seems like the biggest pull for people who stopped playing earlier in the year to jump back in. When the game launched, I was very much against the idea of a LFG system, specifically a cross-server LFG system. While I understood the potential positives of a system that allowed players to quickly find a group and get Flashpoints, Operations and other PVE content done, I also knew of the negatives of such a system: players joining a group for a Flashpoint and then sitting AFK at the entrance, players entering Operations they aren’t suited for, the temptation of sabotaging a group on another server that chances are you will never play with again, etc. There came a point though at which these drawbacks became less relevant. When given the choice between dealing with these issues or spending 40 minutes looking for a group in general chat, I came down on the side of tolerating the negatives. It looks like BioWare came down on the same side and tried to limit those potential concerns by keeping the LFG as same-server. While run-ins with players who may deteriorate the experience of others can still occur, they don’t have the same shell of anonymity as they would on a cross-server system of the same type.
Nominiel: As I played an MMO which only received an LFG Tool after many years, and just recently, I hadn't really used such tools up until now. Maybe the daily rewards will get my attention, but usually I invite guild mates and friends to Flashpoints and Operations or search for some guys via chat. That tool, however, could be really nice for planetary quests. Maybe I will be taught otherwise and I will use it quite often, we will see.
Augment Tables and Kits
Jaspor: Crafters everywhere will be very happy with this addition to the game. Speaking from personal experience, having to rely on a random critical success in order to get a piece of armor with an Augment slot was incredibly frustrating. Sometimes I’d get that critial within the first two or three attempts. Sometimes it would take over twenty attempts. The idea behind the augmentation system design is that if you have 10 failed crit attempts, then you can just disassemble those 10 non-augmented items, create the augment kit from the “failures” and now you have a guaranteed item with an augment slot. So it will never take more than 11 attempts to get your augmented piece, and often it will take less.
In reality, if you’re working on a high end orange, purple, or even blue item and trying to crit on it, it’ll likely be cheaper and more efficient to just make 10 green items with the intention of disassembling them into kit parts.
The system also more than doubles the number of augments that a character can equip, since every single equippable item can now be augmented. This will give provide a noticeable increase in numbers for the high-end players who maximize their stats. It’ll be interesting to see if new content is balanced with these new max stats in mind.
Lastly, this creates some additional value to crafters, specifically Armormechs, Armstechs and Synthweavers. It seems likely that the new augmentation kits will be in high demand, but will the supply be there? Even with server transfers coming before 1.3 goes live, the impact on the economy, supply and demand for the augments and the subsequent pricing will be something to watch.
Eruptive: Finally. The previous way to get PVE end-game gear augmented was such a pain, I cannot express this enough. That will still be an option for those that have lady luck on their side, but I prefer a more steady and predictable approach and that’s exactly what this addition will bring. I do feel like Augment kits are a little on the bloated side, though. Bear with me as I explain this: Assuming no previous augmented gear, in order to fully augment one set of gear for a single character, it will take 14 MK-6 Augment kits. In order to make 14 Augment kits, I will need to craft 140 Premium (green) quality belts (most cost efficient). In order to make these 140 belts, I’ll need a total of 840 total materials (metals, compounds, flux). After all that’s said and done, cough up 350,000 credits to actually get the augment slots. This does not include actually getting the augment by the way, which can and probably will end up being more expensive. (Depending on individual server economy) Keep in mind that that’s all for one set of gear. As an end-game raider though, it’ll be required to have a full set of augmented raid gear in order to maximize performance on the highest difficulty and we’ll just have to grin our teeth and bear it. I do feel bad for people with multiple gear sets and specs that wish to maximize their performance.
Cameron: In all of the MMOs I have played, I never was the one who wanted to be top damage. I was content to be in the top five, or even the top 10. I understood the concept that not everyone can be at the top, and that as long as the encounter was defeated, I was happy. This same philosophy applies to my Trooper in SWTOR. It’s the first time where I’m playing a full-time damage dealer, and I still don’t care whether I’m doing the most or least damage. That being said, I haven’t bothered trying to get critical successes on my armor pieces. The effort versus reward wasn’t worth it to me. Maybe with the aid of the looking for group tool I’ll be able to fill in the gaps where my armor needs it, and I can apply augments to each of those armor pieces to round out my Trooper.
Nominiel: Totally looking forward to that one… Now there’s no problem to equip my Campaign gear, have some augments on them, and I don’t lose anything to cricital custom built armors. It makes me a bit sad too, seeing the amount of Biometric Crystal Alloys to get crits for my lightsaber and relic. Furthermore my bank will finally get empty, because I collected many different designs of armors and weapons.
Shadowlance: Ah adaptive gear…now you really will see the slave girl outfits everywhere. Beyond giving males the world over another way to ogle their toons, this is a great move. Social Gear has some of the best looking items in-game to date and with the addition of bonus social points for boss and mini-boss kills in Operations and Flashpoints we should be seeing a ton more variety int player appearances. Add in the possibility that we’ll see this tech applied to non-social gear in the future, and it’s a great move all around for player choice, and maybe another reason people can stop asking about an Appearance Tab.
Jaspor: The adaptive gear goes hand in hand with the new augmentation system to finally allow players to wear what they want to wear without penalty. Since before release BioWare has been promoting the idea of players looking how they want to look. But the truth of the matter is that players who tried to do this were at a disadvantage. Social gear could not be augmented and was always of “light armor” type. That’s no longer the case. There is still one thing that will hold people back a little longer though, and that’s set bonuses. Unless you have the latest and greatest tier of PVE (Campaign) or PVP (War Hero) gear, the set bonuses will still be tied to those armor “shells.” This means you’ll lose the bonus if you switch to social gear. That should only be a temporary problem though, as the older tiers become more obsolete and the higher tiers become more accessible when newer content is introduced. I do look forward to the day when I join a Warzone and find myself face to face with a team of enemies dressed like Sand People.
Eruptive: More variance in player looks is always welcomed. I’m not sure I’ll personally use it all too often, aside from maybe Karagga’s Hat that no one else wanted. Since Bioware’s pushing for the whole “wear what you want” thing with this system, I wonder if we’ll get to use the opposite faction’s version of end-game gear at any point. Maybe tie it into Legacy? What do you mean I don’t get to spout suggestions in this article? Oh, okay…
Predation: I’m currently Valor level 83, with fully pimped PVP gear…and I still roll in my Space Pilot outfit most of the time because it just feels that much cooler to beat someone’s face in when you look so damn good. I can not WAIT for adaptive gear. I have bags upon bags full of orange equipment just aching for PVP upgrades. This has been my single foam-at-the-mouth desire for a hot minute now.
LordBurek: I don’t personally like much of the social gear, but without this change it would be unfair to those who do and who do not wear Light armor. Good stuff. I hope to see more adaptive gear in the future.
Cameron: Here is your appearance tab. Instead of buying that outfit that looks cool and putting it on in the fleet just for giggles, you’ll finally be able to kit out your social gear and take it into Warzones, Flashpoints, and Operations. I don’t think that will be a Sand People robe for me, but I can imagine many Imperial Agents decking themselves out in a full suit of Imperial Trooper armorr.
Nominiel: I still would like to see a cosmetic system, where I could switch between different appearances and having the stats and bonuses of my main equip. This should clearly disabled for PVP. Anyway, I will get along with adaptive gear and I see it as a first step to a complete cosmetic system. Hmm, I might get that Voss outfit…