Damion Schubert talks about the level of skill disparity between players and how BioWare can acknowledge that with different types of gameplay mechanics.
I also appreciate that you're not afraid to call out the lowest common denominator.
It's really not that, although I do appreciate the opportunity to bring the snark.
Success in MMOs (any MMO) requires the player have a certain level of skill, as well as a certain amount of knowledge about how the game works. It's important for designers to acknowledge that there are skill disparities between players, and (a) ensure the more advanced players have challenges that meet their acquired skill levels and (b) help get the lesser players enough skill and/or knowledge that they can take part in the good stuff.
Failure is tough in any game, but in MMOs its worse due to the social stigma of failing around other people. One of the key problems learning to tank, for example, is that failure is fairly binary (you suceed, or you fail) and usually while you're doing so, your whole party is paying the price. Pretending that everyone will be awesome-sauce in your game systems is ultimately myopic, and frequently addressing the issue that they won't be is often core to game design decisions we make.
Damion Schubert discusses the issue of having too much story for the player, and how pacing helps balance that out.
Believe it or not, the issue of throwing too much story at the customer is something that we talk a lot about at Design Central. Throwing too much talk at the customers all at once tends to be confusing, and can dilute the power of the strong quests. We've become pretty adept at understanding quest flow, and how it's unique in our game. VO quest givers tend to be a little more spread out from each other than in other games, for example, and we lean on systems like Bonus Quests (quests that are unlocked on the field) to deliver goals and objectives without VO and story.
There were originally concerns that these systems would weaken the sense of story in the game, but its done the opposite -- our VO'd quests now really shine, largely I personally believe because they have more oxygen to breathe.I think a "Previously, in SWTOR..." feature could be very nice but it might be pretty hard to implement.
Actually, we sort of have exactly that.
Every time you log into the game, the loading screen gives a summary of your Class Quest so far - a short and succinct few paragraphs, but it's very effective nonetheless. For the world quests and other quests of less import, though, you will have to resort to your quest log.
Damion Schubert points out that multiplayer dialogue can have a fun and dynamic effect on groups when not all players are the same alignment.
A lot of people say the rolls are hidden. I thought in the Taral V video you could see the numbers everyone rolled in their character's portrait.
You see the roll numbers. Multiplayer conversations are actually a lot of fun, it turns out, because of it. Our playtests are full of snark about winning a roll with a 9, or edging by someone who rolled an 89 with a 90. And there's something odd about throwing out trash talk because your LIGHT SIDE option won, but it happens a lot.
Discovering this was actually one of the first things we truly discovered on the project that was shiny and new. We thought people might get upset about not winning the roll, but there's just an attitude of good, clean fun to it. "Clearly", we said to ourselves, "we need more of THAT!"
Mark my words now, sports fans, running dungeons with a split LS/DS group is WAY more fun than going with 4 people who all choose the same option all the time.
Georg Zoeller reminds us that the game is still in testing and mechanics can still change from now until release.
So companions are back in flashpoints now?
Remember the part where I talked about how we actually haven't made a decision regarding companions in flashpoints yet?
We still haven't. We're currently testing with 4 party slots of either players of companions for flashpoints. Then we'll test some more. Then we'll decide what we do. Then we'll tell you.
Daniel Erickson recaps on a lot of points learned from the UK Community Event.
Quote from Daniel Erickson
First of all, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who came out for the event. I was running on four hours sleep, jet-lagged and we had just finished an all-day press event. The energy and enthusiasm you folks brought woke me up and kept me energized throughout. Like PAX, any time we get a chance to share the game with our fans it turns into an amazing time. Now, let me see if I can clear some stuff up that there seemed to be questions on:
- Party size in the game right now is four, which includes CCs. This is also true in Flashpoints. This does not mean having two people and their CCs is the same as having four people. CCs are powerful but they are not the same as having smart humans nor are they equal in power. So on a less difficult Flashpoint with amazing players or players that had a couple extra levels it's likely possible to two man or three man them but I will say that when Alex and I tried to two-man the Heroics on Dromund Kaas with our CCs we got stomped flat. And, you know, I've been playing this game a while. Most important to remember: All of these rules can and likely will change in the future. And yes sometimes they'll change week to week if there's a new build during that time. This is what testing is about.
- I referred to "ten plus hour worlds. It's my short hand in the office for "big worlds. It's not a concrete number for play time. Some of them are bigger than that. Some are much bigger. And obviously, your time spent on them may vary, especially if you like looking at our gorgeous landscapes.
-There are light side and dark side icons on the dialogue wheel if you are using the mouse. If you are using number keys to pick dialogue options, you'll never see them. So if you hate the idea of choosing wrong, you're going to be a mouse user for dialogue. If you hate the idea of hand holding you'll be a number key player. Best of both worlds.
-Swimming will not be in TOR for ship. It is not a 'free feature' we turned off and is actually a huge amount of animation, pathfinding and AI work. Either every creature in the game needs to have water moving/fighting animations and AI to handle 3D movement or combat has to stop in the water with all the AI craziness that having safe zones you can jump in and out of entails. We have nothing against swimming but it's never going to outrank improving combat, Companion AI or any of our other core features.
-Dark Side / Light Side is working even though most people didn't see a difference in their bar on the terribly ugly placeholder Character Screen. The bar doesn't move much per decision because it's a long game. Highlighting the bar shows the point value which makes it easier to tell quest by quest progress.
- Class quest answers are not arranged by DS/LS but by class appropriateness. So the most "Boba Fett response (curt, professional, all business) goes on the top of the Bounty Hunter. The most "Vader on top of the Sith Warrior etc. So if you're playing purely to your class fantasy you can just keep moving along easily. So in similar situations a Sith Warrior might have a "[Kill Him] option as a first response but an Inquisitor might have it second and the first response might be trying to look deeper at the situation and discover what's really going on.
-Darths do outrank Lords in our time period and both are official titles in this Sith Empire. The honorific, however, is always "my lord when speaking to a Sith who outranks you whether they are officially a lord or not. So all soldiers in the Imperial military of normal rank (not moffs and generals, etc) will call you "my lord as soon as you achieve Sith status. This doesn't mean you're actually a Lord by title yet. The Sith themselves have a complex sense of rank and will often try to test others with their forms of address.
-There was an odd bug that was causing cover points to appear for Troopers and Bounty Hunters. These have not become cover classes.
-Training abilities does cost credits.
-Datacrons are, in fact, spread all over TOR in hard to reach places, do appear on your map if you're close enough, have some awesome history pieces for your codex, are very hard to get (I've only gotten a couple ever in playing) and do permanently increase your stats. Kudos to Kandycane for being the first person I've ever seen to get one at an event. Explorer badge!
Hope that helps,
Georg Zoeller sheds light the on use of cover by the Smuggler and Imperial Agent as seen at the UK Community Event.
Just to clear up some confusion here:
First, cover is still being worked on, so it's interface and gameplay may still change in the future.
Second, the Trooper class seeing the cover bar in the UK build is a bug, not a feature (sorry to those that got excited there).
Third, currently - portable cover is slightly inferior to hard cover. Players in hard cover will not take damage from most types of attacks, while players in portable cover will take damage mitigated by the portable cover's energy shield.
The way cover works is that if you get shot while exposed (e.g. you're taking a shot yourself), you can get hit and take damage, but if you are fully in cover (really hiding), you don't get shot. There's still a number of edge-cases here, and performance issues (e.g. lag induced by playing from the UK on our US server) will cause visual artifacts such as blaster bolts hitting players who are in cover.
Another thing not seen in the UK demo is AI upgrades we have made that allow smarter enemies to react to cover in a more realistic fashion - such as lobbing a grenade or trying to aim and headshot the player in cover.
As mentioned, cover is in active development and you're going to see changes to it over time until launch based on Game Testing - but it's a Smuggler/Imperial Agent only game mechanic.
Georg Zoeller expands on the topic of Datacrons with a few more details.
Just to clarify a few things here, to avoid unnecessary panic attacks.
We put a lot of focus in SWTOR on making your character's journey mean something.
We're trying to eliminate grinding as much as possible, make your character's story matter and give you meaningful things to do on your way through the game.
We're also not shying away from rewarding or encouraging certain activities. The primary example, of course, being story. It's very hard to ignore, definitely not something we consider optional. It's hard to convey to people just how much impact it has on our game, but if you look at the feedback from all our recent events, people usually walk away surprised by just how powerful of an impact the feature has.
Exploration is another example. Exploration is an optional activity, but it is encouraged. If you choose to play just along the critical path, you can beat the game, have a good time, but you will find it is not necessarily the path of least resistance either:
Without exploring the world and stumbling on unique treasures, hidden quests, codex entries, the occasional world boss or encampment of rebels, you will be missing out not only on equipment rewards, XP, chances to further affection with your companion or build your alignment... but also you will deprive yourself of some very interesting stories.
Datacrons are an exploration reward.
Yes, their effects are permanent, however they are also predetermined (there are X datacrons with exactly these effects, not randomized) so we can ensure they are balanced and luck has nothing to do with their effect. Their locations are fixed, not randomized and they don't 'spawn', meaning they will always be there for your character when you get to the location.
We're not talking about people having to find the 99 hidden flowers on each planet or something like that; the number of datacrons is small, scaling with the size of the planet. Think single digits. Not the kind of thing you would usually associate with grinding.
Do they matter? In the grand scheme of things, sure, they'll matter. How much? That depends what type of player you are. If you are in pursuit of the most optimized character ever, you will probably want to pick them up, but most people will probably do just fine with finding just a handful of them.
If you are not an explorer - no big deal - datacrons always stay accessible to you, so you can't lock yourself out of them and you can come back and pick them up later in the game when you have your comfy personal transport to get around in.
In short - we think it's a feature that adds to the game, that rewards going off the beaten path and discovering the wonders we put all over the worlds.