GDC: Trooper Hands-On & TOR Game Play ImpressionsLast week, LucasArts & BioWare extended an invitation to Darth Hater for another round of Star Wars: The Old Republic hands-on game play at the beautiful Presidio campus in San Francisco. Eager to take another look, Meg and I left GDC and made our way to Lucasfilm where we were treated to playing Level 6 Troopers on Ord Mantell, and also spoke in depth with Jake Neri of LucasArts and Daniel Erickson of BioWare.
Talking Trooper Class Design, Group Play & A Hint of Paths
When we spoke with Jake Neri about the Trooper class, he first addressed the difficulty of making people see past the typical Stormtrooper in the movies. He explained the questions they asked themselves when they created the class: "how do you make him a badass? How do you make him competitive against a Sith or a Bounty Hunter?"
"I think when you start to look at class design of a game, we can stretch it. We can make it fun, we can make abilities that makes sense when going against a melee class like a Sith Warrior," Neri continued. "You got your Stock strike that knocks them down. And the Trooper is always trying to stay at range, because he wants to use his fire abilities or his grenades."
"So you have to stretch a little bit outside what you know in Star Wars, which is the Jedi always kicking everyone"s asses. But at the same time, we"re not just making a Force power game. We need to have diversity we need a Trooper that is really cool, fits in a spot in a group, can solo, and have fun in any situation."
And to how the Trooper worked in a group, Jake Neri explained: "We talked a little bit so far about the different paths for classes to go down. But what we showed of the Trooper is that he is pretty much a hybrid, range class -- a DPS class, if you want to use the trinity metaphor there."
"He would support a Knight," he said. "So a Knight would be up in front, using his sword and doing damage, while the Trooper is standing back, laying down cover, and just doing pure DPS. What is really cool about the Trooper is that we don"t have to over-think it. We really want to have someone that blows the crap out of people and just uses his rifle. There is no magic there; it is just pure visceral, rapid fire combat and that is really what the Trooper brings to the table."
During the hands on time with the game, we examined the buttons on the interface and noticed that the elusive seventh button we noticed on James Ohlen's monitor during Developer Dispatch 6: Return to Taris was present. Our original speculation was that it is a skill tree button, and sure enough, it was. However, when we clicked on it to see the panel, we received an error: "Requires Advanced Class" and the resulting large window was completely empty. We brought this up to Jake Neri, and asked him if he could tell us about the Trooper's paths and how they were distinct from each other.
"Well, that is our challenge with all these classes," Neri said. "We want to make sure that we have something unique on each side. Last year, we talked a lot about how you start your class design. It was mostly about 'what is the Star Wars fantasy?' As we start down that second path, sometimes we break that fantasy."
We brought up the Smuggler's Medicine tree in the Scoundrel path and inquired if the Trooper had something similar. "I suppose there might be something like that for the Trooper, but we might hold onto that and reveal that a little bit later," he replied with the stern "I can't answer that now" look.
"Understand we do need to have two distinct paths," Neri expanded. "We need to have companions that work really well with the Trooper. Ones that provide tools and the toolkit to how the Trooper is going to do battle whether in a group or by himself. Those are core challenges we are always getting at."
Jake concluded talking about these distinct paths by reassuring future Troopers that "it's not going to be like Gun and Gun."
When we sat down to play our Level 6 Trooper, the abilities on the toolbar were set up from left to right. We noticed right away that the icons for these abilities were significantly different and more visually impressive than the ones seen in the PAX Trooper demonstration. We also learned during the demo that, with the exception of Full Auto, these skills could definitely let a Trooper "run and gun." Below are a list of abilities seen during the demo, however we should note that the game is in development and they may very well change.
Cooldown: 1.5s (global cooldown)
Fires a series of hammering shots that deal 28-32 damage to the target. Generates 2 Action Points.
This was the main ability that built up action points, as the rest of the abilities consumed them.
Action Points: 4
Launches a frag grenade from the rifle that deals high damage and knockback to the primary target, and low damage to targets within 5m of the primary target.
We tried to test if there was a limit to the mobs this knock-backed and killed, so we assembled a pain train of five mobs, waited until they were within 5m, and launched. All targets were knocked back from the AOE, which was quite an impressive sight to see.
Action Points: 1
Fires a continuous stream of bolts that deal moderate damage for up to 8 seconds. The target caught in the blaster fire is stunned for the duration. Full Auto costs 1 Action Point for every second it is active.
This worked similar to the PAX Trooper demonstration you stood still and unleashed a ton of damage while stunning your target. If you moved, then the channeled ability would stop.
Action Points: 6
Fire a sticky grenade that will detonate after 3s and cause the target to enter a state of panic. The explosion deals very high damage to the primary target and moderate damage to nearby enemies. All targets are knocked back from the blast.
Another crowd control ability we saw before. This coupled with the AOE was pretty powerful.
Action Points: 60
Strikes the target with the butt of the rifle dealing low damage and knocking it down for 5s.
This ability said 60 AP on the tooltip, although it might be a typo because we were able to use it on a melee range attacker after building up some points on the ranged mob for a bit.
Cooldown: 1800s (30m)
Shuttles you back to the pre-designated travel station. Not usable in combat.
We explained this hearth stone or recall ability in December, but we thought we'd show you the full tooltip with the cooldown.
Recharge & Reload
Field check your gear, restoring your Health and Energy over 15s. Only usable out of combat.
This is the Trooper's OOC heal over time. Once we figured out you could use it every minute, we used it every time the cooldown was up because we could switch to our more damaging, AP-consuming abilities faster on a new set of mobs.
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