Star Wars: The Old Republic's Game Update 1.3 is coming and more details about it come out each day. We were fortunate enough to get some questions answered about a few major SWTOR game systems from a round table of BioWare developers. No specific details on Explosive Conflict's Nightmare mode or Open World PvP yet, but we hope we hear more about new content during Darth Hater's coverage of E3 this year.
The first Live Event appeared to be very successful. We noticed players who didn't log in each and every day couldn't progress because the daily quests were gated, and you needed to wait 24 hours from finishing one stage to get access to the next stage. Will you implement a similar system again in the future? Will the vendor reappear later on for those who still have event currency and couldn't cash it in?
Damion Schubert, Lead Systems Designer: The Rakghoul event was our first event. Overall, we’re pretty ecstatic with how well it went and, more so, how positively it was received by the fans. Our internal metrics showed that the event was played by pretty close to everyone who could get there, and our personal experience says that for the most part, a great time was had by all. That’s not to say it was flawless, of course – there is always room for improvement. That being said, we’re extremely proud about how well the Rakghoul event turned out, and we’re pretty sure the learning we applied doing it means great things for the future events we have planned.
Can we expect any degree of a Live Event once per month, once per quarter, etc.? Any thoughts on having month-long events, or shorten it to a weekend or day? Or do you feel a one week duration is the sweet spot for player participation?
Damion Schubert, Lead Systems Designer: We have more events planned. I certainly don’t want to commit firmly to a cadence at this time. In fact, quite the opposite – players should stay on their toes, because new events can happen at any time!
In the lead up to 1.2, there was a very strong impression given that most of the legacy features would not require major credit expenditure to unlock if a player had achieved the needed Legacy level. Do you have plans to adjust the costs for current or future Legacy content?
Damion Schubert, Lead Systems Designer: The legacy unlocks that are earned by reaching certain thresholds in the game (such as those found in 1.2) are designed to mostly be unlockable by either cash or game progress. We have an economy and balance team, and I’ve no doubt that that team will continue to tweak those based on our internal metrics of how much cash is in the system.
In 1.3, we will be releasing some new Legacy Perks. These are per-character unlocks, that allow you to better customize your play experience for different characters. They will have a credit cost, but because they are per-character, they will tend to be much lower than the legacy unlocks. The real barrier to getting these perks will tend to be the legacy level.
What Legacy system features can players look forward to in 1.3?
Damion Schubert, Lead Systems Designer: The aforementioned Legacy Perks! As mentioned previously, these perks are per-character bonuses that allow you to augment the experience of playing one of your characters. As an example, you can buy perks that allow you to increase a type of experience earnage. Really like to run warzones with your Jedi Knight? You can buy several stacking perks that increase the amount of experience you earn from warzones. This allows you, when running alts, to really tailor the level up experience to the kind of gameplay you really enjoy.
There are other perks that merit mention. You can, for example, buy the right to use the various speeders at an earlier level, gain bonuses to companion affection from gift giving, earn new abilities that allow you to jump your character quickly to key locations throughout the galaxy, or even allow you to redistribute your skill points (‘respec’) in the field.
One of the big things told to crafters to expect from 1.2 would be a multitude of new orange schematics being unlocked and added to the Crew Skills loot tables. The community discovered schematics for Elegant Weapons, PvP appearances, and reverse engineering schematics from Black Hole and Campaign gear so far. Is this still planned for implementation, or is the community overlooking another potential source for modded gear appearances?
Georg Zoeller, Lead Combat Designer: At any point in time, content planned for future release (or references to previously planned content or test content) may be found in the game resources. We have no comment about such resources.
What changes or additions can the Crew Skills community look forward to in Game Update 1.3?
Georg Zoeller, Lead Combat Designer: The most significant feature for crafters in Game Update 1.3 are Augment Tables: Players will be able to add augment slots to any modifiable items in the game that does not already have such a slot by visiting the workbenches found in the game world. The process will require a fee along with a consumable augmentation kit (which are created by augment crafters using new components obtained by reverse engineering items). Parallel to this change we're rolling out a significant reduction in the cost to extract mods from an item.
Another important feature in Game Update 1.3 is 'Adaptive Gear'. Most social gear, along with select other items has been updated to a new 'adaptive' armor type that automatically assumes the correct armor type for each class upon equip. This, along with the ability to add augment slots, opens up the use of social gear by all players rather than just light armor classes.
There's plenty of other smaller fixes, changes and improvements in the upcoming Game Update, for details watch out for the patch notes which will soon be published to the public test server.
Is the Operations design team satisfied with the current tuning of Explosive Conflicts' comparative difficulty modes and between two Operation sizes, or can the Operations community expect further adjustments?
Jesse Sky, Senior Designer: With the most recent bug-fixes, we are satisfied with the tuning of Explosive Conflict. That said, we are always listening for feedback, especially with regards to challenges faced by specific group compositions.
What can Operations and Flashpoint players look forward to in Game Update 1.3?
Jesse Sky, Senior Designer: Group finder! Even if you don’t usually PUG, group finder can help round out your group when one member leaves. As far as content changes go, we’ve smoothed out some of the rough spots in the hard mode flashpoints and eliminated quite a bit of trash from some of the longer ones. On top of that, both the frequency and quality of loot rewards have been improved in all level 50 flashpoints, which should make the experience a lot less frustrating for fresh 50s. Our goal has been to make the end game content more accessible and inviting, without compromising the challenge.
Originally slated for Game Update 1.2, Rated Warzones is one of the more highly anticipated PvP features by the community. Can you update us on the team's progress towards its release, or explain any changes to the system since we last spoke at the Guild Summit?
Rob Hinkle, Senior Designer: We are continuing to make good progress on the Ranked Warzone feature, with refinements based on our internal testing and the feedback we got on PTS last time around. For example, one of the things that we’ve added is the ability to queue for both Normal and Ranked Warzones at the same time, so players who are waiting for a Ranked game can also continue to play in normal games. When a Ranked game has enough players to launch, it will wait until everyone is finished playing their current Normal game, so Warzones don’t randomly empty out as Ranked games are launched.
What new features can we expect from Open World PvP in 1.3?
Rob Hinkle, Senior Designer: We are hard at work on some Open World rewards and tech improvements, but we haven’t gotten to a point where we are ready to unveil them. For all of our players who are aching for Open World improvements please know we are hearing you, and want to make you happy.
Any thoughts on current class balance that players can expect in 1.3?
Austin Peckenpaugh, Senior Designer: In 1.3, we're making some balance and quality of life adjustments. The highlights include tanking survivability and threat generation, with an emphasis on getting all tanks on the same target, particularly where AOE threat is concerned; Mercenary/Commando DPS improvements; Sniper/Gunslinger Marksmanship/Sharpshooter tree improvements; and some visual improvements to a few slow abilities and abilities that still aren't quite mirrored cross-faction (including Shock and Project).
One of 1.3's biggest features is the Looking For Group tool. Can you explain how it will work and what areas of the game players can use it (i.e. Flashpoints, Heroic Quests, Operations, etc.)? If not initially in 1.3, will a future release make it cross-server too?
Damion Schubert, Lead Systems Designer: The group finder tool is designed first and foremost to make it easy to find other players to run flashpoints, both normal and heroic mode. In most cases, players will be able to join the queue for a randomly selected flashpoint with just one button click, and on top of that, if you queue randomly, you’ll get a daily reward once per day.
Players can fine-tune their list of destinations as well by going into a more advanced mode of the GUI. Don’t like Mandalorian Raiders? You can remove it from your queue options. Doing so, though, will lose you access to the daily reward, though. We do this because we want players to sign up for as broad a swath of flashpoints as possible, to increase the odds that these will fire. Still, this flexibility is handy in that it allows players to target flashpoints that might be required for them to, for example, complete certain quests in their quest log – something that’s still important to us since we have a large population still leveling up.
Players can also use the group finder to queue up for Planetary Destinations and Operations. Queueing for a planet is relatively freeform – it’s done purely at the planet level – as there may be multiple reasons people are queueing for a planet (heroics, world bosses, general questing). For operations, we only allow queueing for the entry-level of an operation (basically 8-person story mode). This is because, if we balance things correctly, harder operations are pretty much going to be pretty much impossible with a pick up group not familiar with the fights or each other. We may reexamine this in the future based on demand.
At the launch of this feature (Game Update 1.3), we will not be doing cross-server flashpoints. There are a couple of reasons – first off, it’s a significant technical achievement, and we felt that pursuing it would not allow us to get the feature to you guys as quickly as it needs to happen. Secondly, most of the design team thinks that it’s not necessarily good for the community. When the odds are very low that you will never group with another player again, there is very little social pressure to not be a complete jerk to that person, which is not a particularly positive game experience. We may revisit this decision in the future if our metrics show that flashpoint queues are not firing enough, but in general, queue firing should be more about distribution of key roles (tank, healer, DPS) than about overall population.
Any additional UI customization features we can look forward to in 1.3?
Damion Schubert, Lead Systems Designer: Not much in the way of GUI customization – the GUI team has been pretty much devoted to the group finder this milestone. One programmer did get in quest hyperlinking, so that should be coming in 1.3.