This week's DevTracker Highlights focuses on one of BioWare's core pillars. I'll let you guess which one. Principal Lead Combat Designer Georg Zoeller covers story, the clash of class quests versus grinding, the focused MMO experience, and repeatable content. Lead Systems Designer Damion Schubert talks about narrative incentive, and choosing dialogue options with alignment in mind. Hit the jump to see all the highlights.
Georg Zoeller points out the importance of class quests.
You meet your Companions through class quests.
You get your ship through your class quests.
You will get rewards through class quests, which include some really decent items that would cost you a lot of credits to replace. Credits that you'd probably want to spend to get a vehicle earlier.
Without doing your class quests, you lose out on a significant amount of XP that you would have to fill by other means. It can be done, but it will actually take longer to get to maximum level if you try to skip the class quests.
Damion Schubert says there will be an incentive to finish your class story, but ultimately finishing your class story should be about narrative, not rewards.
Quote from Damion SchubertThank you for taking the time to reply Georg, but the question is about when you finish your class quest, is there some reward for having gone through all of your class quest and 'finishing it'?There will be. Not talking about specifics yet.
and to make sure the question is presented as clearly as I can make it: if we hit level 50 and still haven't completed it, what would be the incentive to finish out the class quest?
However, no reward is going to be as interesting as the reward of the conclusion of your story. This is kind of like asking "What's the reward for watching Episode IV past the point where they escape the Death Star?" It's the satisfaction of a good story, well told.
Georg Zoeller reminds players that each class features a unique story.
I just hope these class quests have good replay value.Each class has their own class quests. So unless you level the same class, you get excellent replay value, because they are all completely different.
Georg Zoeller maintains that story is a core feature in Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Well thanks for clearing that up. But why is it you made the class quest far more richer with goodies so to speak then taking side routes to level up? Such as flash point running or random mob killing an so on.I wouldn't say richer - after all Flashpoints, PvP and other activities have great rewards as well... just not things like companions and such.
As for random mob killing ... that's not the game we're making. You can do it, for sure, but it's not going to be nearly as effective as questing or participating in Flashpoints, PvP and other activities.
Camping the spawns of random mobs is a part of the MMO legacy, grind, that we don't really see having a place in Star Wars: The Old Republic.
(As someone who once wasted hours camping pygmy goblins ins Dark Age of Camelot, I am strongly in favor of killing that kind of 'gameplay' with fire).
Georg Zoeller explains how your class story changes when played as a different alignment, and why grinding is counter-productive.
Mr. Zoeller,There is definitely replay value in going the 'other' path. Quests change, there are different cinematics for different choices, rewards can differ and some parts of the story change significantly. Still it is one story, not two, so it is definitely similar to say, Mass Effect where ... spoiler ... you can save the council or get the killed, but ultimately save the citadel.
Since you already sort of addressed it, how much replay value will there be in replaying the same class, but making different Light/Dark choices? Does it change the story in any significant ways? Or is it more like Mass Effect 1, where you can do or say what ever you want, but the galaxy gets saved either way?
Choice in our games means that the player gets to decide how to approach the story and individual decisions, but we're not creating a freeform narrative with unlimited options, that'd be a bit too expensive.
To address a few other things:
(a) Don't expect to avoid the main story completely. You can't. If you never finish your story on the capital planet, you never get a ship and won't ever see any other planets. Which means you will end up unable to level up further as you'll outlevel your planet. In fact, I'd go as far as saying that players who think they want to skip the main story will quickly realize that they're not going to be ever competitive. It's a BioWare game and story is one of our top features.
(b) The main story line continues very close to max level. Even after that, we have quests, group quests, Flashpoints, PvP to level up with. Random mob grinding is not a preferred progression feature in our game. In fact, it's inefficient.
The reason is simple: To protect the player from themselves. Players gravitate towards the fastest/most efficient way to level and will repeat the most mind numbing boring activities over and over if they think it's the most efficient way. On the way, most will bore themselves to tears and ultimately quit the game. Hence the decision to make grinding mobs for XP much less efficient than the other ways to gain XP.
(c) If you play very completist (all quests, all group quests, PvP, space missions, etc.) you will in fact end up above level. However, since your class story ends before a lot of the world arc and other missions on a planet, you can then, at your choice, skip parts of the planet and move on. I've tried and it's almost impossible to outlevel your class quest completely, because it's just an inefficient way to play.
Georg Zoeller describes the difference between a freeform sandbox MMO and the more focused, directed narrative used in Star Wars: The Old Republic.
this is a very poor choice for an mmo. part of the freedom from mmos comes from... freedom. trying to 'save the player from themselves' == restrictions and linearity.New things are often disturbing, I don't fault you there.
you realize that forcing some players to sit throught cut scenes is what bores THEM to tears and ultimately quit the game? your bet is that is the smaller group. i dont think it is.
ultimately by playing 'god' and deciding what is efficient for players and what is not, you remove the freedom normally associated with the genre.
this post has been one of the more disturbing bits of info ive seen
Thankfully, cutscenes in our game can be skipped, so I don't share your concern there.
We've been pretty clear that this is not a sandbox MMO, so don't expect ultimate freedom. The cost of story is some degree of linearity ... If you expect to just run out into the world completely ignoring the story, there are other MMOs, even in the Star Wars universe, that offer an experience more akin to that. Story is one of our big features, and if you hope you can completely avoid that, you're probably going to be disappointed.
As for designers playing god? Sure. It comes with the territory of creating worlds, the rules of how their inhabitants and objects interact with each other, and the limitations of these interactions. If that's not playing god, I don't know what it is.
Games that offer the freedom to do all you desire are not games, they are simulations. MMOs borrow from simulation to a varying degree as it makes it easier for players to understand and accept the world (It'd be a shame if you had to explain 'gravity' to a player, etc.) but they also make heavy use of restrictions in order to protect the player:
- Player versus Player restrictions. The launch of Ultima Online taught the entire industry why completely unrestricted player versus player content will cost you most of your customers. Sure, there's people who think this is the best thing ever - but they are a vocal, tiny minority.
- Chat Filters. Surprisingly, someones freedom to insult other players results in unhappy players. And since players come to games to be entertained, not insulted, restricting certain chat interactions prevents you from losing players.
- Respec. Kind of an anti restriction really - but still, it's a mechanic to protect the player from making mistakes that cause the loss of hundreds of hours of gameplay because you made a wrong skill choice.
- (hundreds of other examples of design that limits or protects the way the player interacts with the rules and the worlds to protect them)
- And, in our case, you can add 'mindless monster grind' as the most effective way to level. Our experience tells us that while some players enjoy it, most players don't and they'll still do it if it's effective. If you like grinding monsters, sure, you can still do it in our game, the creatures respawn just like in any other MMO - but it's just not going to be the most effective way to level.
Georg Zoeller reveals there are repeatable quests for high level players.
I agree everything Mr. Zoeller just said!Well, repeatable quests cut both ways. You could grind them, but you could also want to play them because you had fun doing so, especially in a group. Currently, as it stands, there are repeatable quests, including group content, space missions and Flashpoints.
I like the way you think! or you and your team thinks.
But, does this completely remove the concept of repeatable quest? Like WoW Dailies or EvE missions? I mean, I don't mind at all! I hate having to do those to increase my standing of get coins to buy stuff. I just don't see what could replace that
But yeah, I really wonder what will high level PVE player will have to do to kill time between operations and flashpoints. Rerolls?
Georg Zoeller notes that once you have your ship, every planet is accessible.
and i am willing to accept some of that, the origin worlds for example, in the name of forward thinking innovationOnce you have your ship, every planet in the galaxy can be flown to.
but i have a gut that tells me when i get my ship, i won't simply be able to fly anywhere. only to planets i've unlocked.
if a dev wants to prove me wrong with a post in here, i'd be glad to hear it
Of course, flying to a level 40 planet at level 12 might not be the greatest idea, but still, you can do that.
Georg Zoeller adds that the game does have some sandbox elements to it, but is, at heart, a story driven MMO.
What happened to the quotes I remember when I first started following this title? About having BOTH elements of Sandbox and Themepark?No, I should have been more precise. I should have said 'sandbox focused MMO'. We definitely have some elements commonly associated with sandbox games.
Has that totally been scrapped?
Georg Zoeller reaffirms that class quests can be played solo in their entirety.
far as i know there is no solo content at level cap, unless you are a raider you have to reroll an delete or drop your previous char. Solo players are not a priority in tor.While you may have been misinformed, please do not present that misinformation as 'fact' on our Forums. Thank you.
All Class quests can be played solo. From start to finish.
Damion Schubert discusses the balance of light and dark side points, and why ultimately he wants players to choose whichever answer they think is right, regardless of the alignment.
Quote from Damion SchubertBut isn't it necessary to 'max out' either Light Side or Dark Side points if you want to be able to equip the best gear, due to Light Side and Dark Side restrictions on items? From what I've heard, it seems like anyone who chooses to play 'blind' and therefore does not get max light or dark side points will be stuck using inferior gear.LS/DS is one gear faucet, and not a particularly plentiful one. There are many gear faucets in the game (random drops, crafting, quest, etc). Someone who chooses to eschew the LS/DS system will be able to find workarounds.
It's a delicate balance because, for example, there are often conflicts between LS/DS and companion affection. We want choices to matter, and so there are some minor results for LS/DS and affection, but we also want people to be able to 'play the story'. BioWare storytelling is, ultimately, most interesting when it's a Rorschach test, and you're not choosing to pump points up a meter. We want people to see tangible benefits for those choices, but not be so overpowering that the player feels hamstrung by them.What confuses me is the belief that it isn't obvious in the first place. Sparing is pretty much always going to be light side, killing dark side, no matter how you swing it. A lot of it really is basic morality, and the fact that it confuses some people actually kind of scares me.While in most cases it's obvious, in some cases it's not so much. A written line can take several meanings, based on inflection, and as anyone who has played Mass Effect can tell you, paraphrased dialogue choices can also sometimes disguise what the writers had in mind. For example, "I don't think so" can be used to express actual bewilderment and confusion ("I don't understand what you're getting at") or grim fatality ("None of you are getting out of here alive"). Mousing over the line can, in this case, make the intent much more clear - if you see a Dark Side icon, you know which meaning of 'I don't think so' the writers had in mind.
I'm a pretty hardcore numbers guy (obviously), and in general, I find when I'm playing that I'm choosing without mouseovers except in cases of more ambiguous choices. In those cases, I'm pretty glad it's there. That being said, there's no right answers here, everyone's play style is valid, and we do what we can to support as many of them as we can.
Georg Zoeller agrees that the game will offer something to those who want to skip the story entirely.
There are probably people, who for some reason or another, who are deathly allergic to story and avoid it at all costs.If you're really allergic to story, exposure to this game could very well result in an anaphylactic reaction for you.
That said, if you really want to endlessly grind creatures all while not getting any companions, class related titles, many of the cool story arcs and Flashpoints with cool combat mechanics, quest rewards, etc, you definitely can.