During the second day of PAX East, we had the chance to sit down with James Ohlen and Damion Schubert to discuss update 1.2 and beyond. Even if the interview is not a vast troth of new information, BioWare clarifies and hints at content for the future. For the interview in full, hit the jump.
How is PAX going for you?
James Ohlen: Oh, it is a lot of fun. Always love coming to PAX. Either coast.
Damion Schubert: It’s always fun to talk to the fans and feel their passion about games in general and Star Wars, particularly Star Wars.
Can you give the folks at home who are not able to attend PAX an overview of what you showing and what you are talking about?
JO: Right now, we are talking about game update 2, which is coming really soon, can’t give a specific date, but very very soon. And game update 2 is called Legacy, it focuses the legacy system, but we have so many different things in update 2. I’d call it…I think I’d almost go as far as to say it's the biggest game update for a subscription-based MMO you’ve ever seen. It’s pretty huge in scope.
Before the release of the game, conventions were one of the places to see the trailers, release date, preorder information, big announcements, and stuff like that. What should people expect at trade shows for SWTOR now?
JO: Both. We have plans to reveal some stuff at trade shows, and some stuff on the website. We have so much stuff coming though. That’s the thing; we have the full team that built the game when it was at its height, we haven’t lost anybody. We are going to be continuing to pump out new game systems and new content at a pace that is going to be surprising.
DS: I think one of the values of the show is we really want people to be able to get their hands on some of the systems. People are actually able to touch and play around with GUI customization here. They’re able to play the new Warzone. They’re really excited by what they’re getting to see, and we’re also getting some feedback to take to the team to make it even better as well.
There is a lot of debate in the community about server population. Any insight on how you guys feel about the population distribution?
JO: We always take feedback from the community and from all kinds of different sources like our telemetry metrics, and take it very seriously. When we hear that from the community, we are listening. We have the plan to allow for character transfers in the future. The legacy system actually is another reason why character transfer is becoming more important. It is one of our biggest priorities right now; that and group finder are essentially are biggest priorities coming in the near future after Update 1.2.
Is there any discussion of merging servers or adding incentives to move players to low pop servers?
JO: No, we’re not going to. Merging servers is not something we are looking at. We have a very healthy game right now, so that is not something we are looking at in the near future. We're always going to look at ways to make sure a server is healthy. There are a whole bunch of different ways you can do that. We're discussing them. We want to make sure players feel like there are enough players on their server to play with.
One of the big draws to the Old Republic is the story. We’ve seen a small addition to the galactic story in 1.2 with the Kaon Under Siege Flashpoint and in 1.2 we’re seeing the Lost Island Flashpoint and the Explosive Conflict Operation. However, we haven’t seen anything in the personal stories, in the class arcs. Can we expect anything in maybe an expansion pack?
JO: All I can say is we have people working on it. We have writers working on that kind of content right now. I can’t say when you’re going to see it, but it is being worked on.
DS: We have a lot of writers very hard at work writing something for you. Let’s put it that way.
By now, most of the players are very familiar with the exciting changes coming in 1.2. BioWare already teased at some of the content coming in 1.3. When can we expect to start hearing some of the stuff about 1.3?
JO: I think I already gone a little bit into that direction talking about the group finder and character transfers, so those are things that you are going to see in 1.3. I don’t really want to go into anything more specific about that. No more special hints.
DS: The general gist is we really don’t like to tell you guys anything until we see a version of it that is rock solid enough, it works, and we know that we're going to include it into a patch. That way, we never promise more than we can deliver because we think that is one of the keys to doing right by all of you.
At the Guild Summit, Gabe stated that Ilum did not live up to the planet’s hope and that in 1.2, we’re sort of pivoting away from the Open World PvP. Can you share anything about the reboot of Ilum and Open World PvP?
JO: Well Open World PvP, we know that there is a large portion of our fans that are very passionate about it, so it’s something we want to do. We want to make sure we do it right. One of the issues Ilum had was the faction imbalance population problem. So, if you were actually on a server where the faction imbalance wasn’t very bad, or was very close, Ilum was actually a lot of fun. But if you were on a server with faction imbalance, then Ilum wasn’t so much fun. The fact is, there were many people who weren’t having fun, even though there were a lot of people who were having fun. Of course, you never hear from the people who are having fun, because they are in the game having fun!
But we want to make sure that everyone's having fun. So what we’re doing is we’re taking away the spotlight from Ilum. The rewards for going to Ilum are not going to be there. You can still go and do Ilum, but it’ll be more of...it’ll be similar to what we had on Tatooine. It’ll be more an opt-in "Hey, let’s have some fun PvP times." However, we do want to introduce competitive open world PvP that is an integral part of the game. So, we’re working on that. We are waiting on tech that is going to help us solve the faction imbalance problems and then we will reintroduce it hopefully sometime this year.
Can you elaborate on the inner workings of future Warzones tournaments?
JO: There are a whole bunch of PvP features we want to put in the game. A lot of them are predicated on cross server Warzones. One of the problems when you have a PvP system is you’re only drawing from players from your server -- your shard. So that’s a couple thousand players online. What that means is, you can’t really give players the ability to essentially limit the size of that population by customizing their PvP experience because then their PvP matches are going to pop a lot less often. However, when you have cross-server Warzones, you are suddenly drawing from 200,000 people and then you can do a lot of things, like allowing people to do tournaments and to choose which warzone they want to play in, and all sorts of different features that you will see once we get that.
Out of all the Star Wars The Old Republic, the social aspect seems to be the most lacking. If you look at the 1.2 post content, what are guys working on? Do you have any examples, like maybe mini-games or other ways to kind of encourage some of the social stuff? I know you talked about yesterday, that social points didn’t really live up to what you originally had measured. What’s the next steps for making social points more viable other than gear?
DS: To the social points aspect of it, we’re going to start by beefing up the number of activities that can grant social points. In particular -- and this isn’t in 1.2 but it is on the radar -- social points for Warzones, social points for Flashpoints, and other activities you do in the game, is on the way. But beyond that, in terms of social features into the game, we actually have a social systems strike team now, and their entire job is to look at what is needed most in order to improve the social experience inside the game. Their first delivery was the guild bank system. I think you people are going to find that it’s a very robust and full-featured guild bank system. The next thing on their plate is the Looking For Group system, which we’ve already announced is going to be in 1.3. After that, we are probably going to go back and tack towards making guilds more robust, adding more things that actually make our guild system powerful and unique.