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Dev Tracker Fly-by (12-18 August)

Welcome to this week’s Dev Tracker Fly-by. With GamesCom in full swing, the number of dev posts has been a little lacking. Still a few to chew over, though!

Bolstering in warzones

A thread in the official forums was started to discuss the apparent discrepancy between the damage observed by characters in the Esseles walkthrough, versus characters of the same level (in the 8-12 range) doing significantly higher damage in a warzone. Georg clarified that “Players in warzones are bolstered”. What he apparently means is that in a warzone that allows players to join who are of different levels, they are all individually scaled to be equivalent in terms of level. Thus if a warzone allowed players to join who were in the range 11-20, all characters would have their health and abilities scaled up (in terms of damage and healing done) to level 20. This is apparently similar to the system used to Warhammer Online.

It’s a great way to level the playing field, so that players at the lower end of the level bracket aren’t gimped when going up against higher-level opponents, as they are in World of Warcraft’s battlegrounds. The recent change to have each bracket span 5 levels instead of 10 helped with this issue, but it’s still present; SWTOR’s solution is more elegant and fair. The bolstering presumably doesn’t grant any additional abilities that a lower-level player would have if they were at the bolstered level, but at least they’re hitting as hard!


Nice pair (of lekku)

Some amazing fan art of a Twi’lek girl shown on Endor prompted the following comment from Daniel Erickson:

Love this. Reminded me instantly of one of the exploration stories I wrote about Vette’s younger days when I was developing her character. Great stuff.

JenFX_-_Lonely_Twilek_girl_-_7_Aug_2011


What a piece of junk!

In a thread where the original post asked how people were selected for SWTOR game testing, some apparently uninformed user responded that you need a decent PC, as BioWare has completed their testing with lower-end systems. Georg drops in to indicate that this advice is completely wrong.

You do not need a ‘really good PC’ to get selected for testing. You need a PC that can run our current build at the time of selection.

BioWare will want to be confident that the game will run on a wide range of systems, and so they really do want a broad range of capabilities represented. As he says, as long as you can run the game, you’re in the running to be chosen, but remember that their selection remains entirely random! Of course, they may hand-pick particular system configurations if they’re underrepresented, but there’s no way to tell from the outside when or if this will be the case.


So can we still talk cross-faction or not? Make up your mind!

A bit of confusion was introduced when an interview with James Ohlen that Ten Ton Hammer published seemed to explicitly state that cross-faction communication in any form was currently not in the game.

Ten Ton Hammer: We are also curious about the banking system. Will players be able to share items between their own characters through the bank on the same server, or even across factions so long as it’s on the same account?

James: Currently no, you have to do it the old fashioned way through the mailbox, but only if they’re the same faction. There are multiple reasons why we don’t want the different factions to communicate with each other.

We had the big argument that this isn’t like Horde and Alliance, we all speak Galactic Standard so we should just allow it. So we actually did allow it for a little while. The argument against it was that, what happens is people start saying inappropriate things to the other side. That’s just the way it is when you’re on a different side and you gank each other, people tend to say inappropriate things.

So we thought that maybe it won’t be so bad, but then when we started doing testing with external people, and then we’d look at the chat logs and say, OK, that’s gone. And it wasn’t the swear words that were bad, let’s just say that lots of inappropriate things get said. Usually our testers are more mature, and if this is what was happening with them, imagine what will happen when we go out into the wild.

We just wanted to get rid of that, so that’s another reason why you can’t mail your incredibly dirty messages to members of the opposite faction. The unfortunate thing is that’s just human nature. Suddenly Empire players would start sending horrific messages – and I mean horrific – so that’s what we want to avoid.

Ten Ton Hammer: How does that translate to something like a PvP environment then? Is it a case where you’ll only see chat from other players of your own faction, and don’t see the other faction’s chat at all?

James: You won’t see the other faction’s chat at all, so they can’t chat with you and you can’t chat with them.

This caused a bit of a reaction on the forums, which Georg was quick to respond to:

That’s still there. What was removed was the ability to talk in general chat between factions, and mostly because it was confusing.

Let’s just say that there was some awkward situations on Hoth where people ended up meeting to fight a world boss only to realize at the meeting place that they were different factions.

It’s funny when that happens, but it was creating a lot of confusion as well.

Georg also had to step into another thread that was going badly off the deep-end as people responded negatively to the apparent removal of cross-faction chat:

Let’s back up for a minute and clarify what’s going on here.

Nothing has changed since San Diego Comic Con.

As discussed at SDCC, the decision was made to separate the general chat channels by faction. However, this decision ONLY affects the planet-wide chat channels such as “General Chat.” If you’re standing next to another player (local chat), you can talk to them regardless of what faction you’re part of.

The only thing we removed, as already mentioned at Comic-Con, was the ability to communicate with the opposing faction across the entirety of a planet to avoid the issues (like griefing, abuse, and other factors which led to a very unpleasant experience) which we saw way too often in testing.

We discussed the option of hiding the global chat and defaulting it off, but ultimately the ratio of negative incidents was too high to justify that. The reasoning here is simple: We really didn’t want to create a game option that essentially says “[x] Give me an 80% chance of having an infuriating and annoying chat experience,” and putting the onus on the user (“you can just /ignore them”) is not our idea of a quality game experience.

Removing planet-wide cross-faction chat radically reduces the amount of reach a misbehaving player has before account action can be taken. We’ll likely add the ability to filter local cross faction chat as well.

Hopefully that clears it up a bit.

So what’s in the game now is entirely consistent with what was revealed at San Diego Comic-Con: a player in one faction can /say whatever they like, and anyone of the opposite faction in the immediate area will be able to see and understand what was said; this is what Georg is referred to as “local chat”. Also, there are still no shared global chat channels (regional/planet-wide chat, trade chat).

As has been discussed previously, this seems like an ideal compromise. Both the Empire and the Republic use Basic, and so can communicate if talking face to face. But these two societies are at war! They are going to be using separate communication channels, which are probably encrypted; after all, we can’t have any reasonable chance of getting to know each. Might build some mutual understanding or something!


I need to feel heroic. Let the slaughter commence!

A forum poster made a somewhat hard to understand post about how we were being misled about the style of combat that would be present in SWTOR operations (raids), based on what has been shown from the Eternity Vault. The gist is that rather than having big bosses and mini-bosses, the poster expected our small gang of 8 or 16 adventurers to be facing off against a vast horde of attackers. Georg responds:

Nobody ever said ‘every single fight you do will be against unbeatable odds’ either.

And, let’s not forget, you haven’t seen the entire Operation.

So perhaps there will be fights where the group is horribly outnumbered, which have yet to be revealed. Personally, I can’t say I mind; there’s something not particularly satisfying about mass slaughter. Given the way an operation is designed, whatever opposition is presented to the group must be actually beatable. It’s not reasonable to throw a truly overwhelming force at the group, as the inevitable consequence would be a wipe, every single time. Thus our horde of bad guys must presumably be relatively weak so that the players could handle them, or they would attack in waves that could be dealt with. Is it really heroic to prevail against inferior foes, no matter how many of them are pouring in to attack you?


Cross-faction guilds? Ah… no.

Since you can quest with players from the other faction, an apparently confused forum user asks, why can’t players from both factions join the same guild? Georg kindly clears things up:

You cannot quest with the other faction. The quest content between the factions is 100% different.

I guess that answers your original question as well, right?

While the original question was probably a rather poor attempt at trolling, it does raise the interesting point that world quests and world arc quests are—based on what Georg said—entirely different between the factions. Contrast this with World of Warcraft, where there was often a neutral faction in contested zones that offered the same quests to both factions. It would appear this is not the case in SWTOR!


Rest XP is in, so don’t play all day (or at least switch between alts)

We finally have confirmation that SWTOR will support rest XP, a well-known concept to players of many MMOs, including WoW and LOTRO. Stephen Reid explains:

It’s something like this. In our case, right now, you become ‘rested’ when you log out in a cantina.

I’m afraid I can’t recall the exact specifics on numbers, but when you re-login with a ‘rested’ character you gain XP faster up to a certain amount, then go back to the ‘normal’ rate.

I’ll try and get Damion to elaborate. As always, we’re testing features like this, things will no doubt change, get tweaked, etc.

As requested, Damion Schubert provides some more detail on how it will work:

To shed a little more light on how the system works right now: you earn Rest XP by going to a Cantina. You continue to earn Rest XP over time if you are logged out, provided you log out in a Cantina. Currently, Rest XP is capped at (meaning you can only accumulate up to) roughly a level’s worth of experience.

As long as you have Rest XP, you earn double XP from any creature kills. Rest XP does not contribute to other sources of experience (completing missions, exploration, codex discovery, etc).

It would seem to be in all ways similar to how it works in WoW, where you accumulate rest XP if you log out in an inn. I wonder if safe cities and towns count as cantinas in SWTOR, as capital cities do in WoW? It’s a shame that they didn’t use LOTRO’s system instead, where no matter where you log out, you will get rest XP.

It’s a familiar and expected system, to provide a bonus to players with less gaming time, so that they don’t get left too far behind. Of course, given that SWTOR’s XP from mob kills appears to be relatively low, and rest XP only applies to such kills, it’s unclear how much the rest XP will really help. Grinding levels by killing mobs isn’t practical in the popular western MMOs, after all.


No MTs, at least not yet!

An article describing SWTOR mentioned, in the context of the social point system, that more social and RP items were being made available for purchase. A forum user jumped to entirely the wrong conclusion, stating that this was confirmation that SWTOR would be adding real money micro-transactions. David Bass was quick to correct this misconception:

Just to confirm what others have already said in the thread: They were referring to using Social points to purchase items in-game, which you earn through group gameplay.

While there may be a cash shop in SWTOR, this clearly isn’t it!


Football…? Really? We’re at war, damn it!

At GamesCom, we were introduced to the Huttball warzone, where teams from both factions compete in what is effectively an (extraordinarily violent) football match. A forum user asked why the two factions, who are apparently at war, still able to play in organised sporting events. Daniel Erickson gives us the answer:

Totally fair question. I wrote Huttball personally and gave it my big stamp of approval. Huttball came from a request by the pvp team to have a mode that could mix sides in the event of unbalanced factions. So it’s not Empire vs Republic playing insane death sports, it’s anyone who wants to win some prizes and flex their muscles going to Nar Shaddaa, gambling center of the galaxy, and blowing off some steam. Story is important but so are alternate, setting-appropriate activities that give some depth and variety to the world and the gameplay experience. There is a crazy Hutt that likes running huge arena events for his amusement. Your choice if that’s the way your Bounty Hunter enjoys spending his downtime.

Seems entirely reasonable to me! Even if two societies are at war, there’s nothing to stop them interacting on neutral territory. Why not let them play football, particularly if there’s a body count?

However, what’s more interesting is that Huttball will support a match with same-faction teams, specifically for those times where there’s an imbalance in how many players are queueing for warzones. So if most of the Republic players are taking the day off, teams can be assembled with Imperial players on both sides. Contrast this with WoW’s BG matchmaking system, which will pit both factions against each other in all its battlegrounds; presumably in SWTOR, given its heavy emphasis on story in all aspects of the game, they needed a specific warzone where this could be thematically supported.


A great reason to have pre-created a guild

Finally, we found out last week that BioWare is going to be inviting pre-created SWTOR guilds into game testing together. David Bass explains in a FAQ-style post:

We are very pleased to announce the start of Guild Testing for STAR WARS: The Old Republic! This program will allow guilds to be considered as a whole for inclusion in the Game Testing Program, allowing us to gather important data regarding how guilds play The Old Republic, as well as how organized groups deal with various mechanics and systems in the game. The program is already underway, as we’ve invited the first wave of guilds into testing, however we’ll be adding more over the coming weeks alongside the general Game Testing invites.

How do I sign my guild up for Guild Testing?

All you need to do in order to have your guild considered for Guild Testing is to have an active guild with at least 10 members registered in our Guild Headquarters. We also recommend creating a recruitment thread on our forums, but please make sure you are following the Recruitment Guidelines we’ve set forward. Guilds that spam recruitment messages after multiple warnings, for example, will not be considered for Guild Testing.

How are guilds selected for Guild Testing?

In general, guild testing is done randomly from all eligible guilds (that is, those with at least 10 registered members in the Guild Headquarters). Throughout the program, we will be looking to let in both large and small guilds, so as long as your guild meets the minimum requirement, you have an equal chance of being invited to testing. In addition, we may, at our discretion, choose a few select guilds that are active and helpful in the community, since we could use that sort of helpfulness in-game and on the Testing Forums. Note that this will be done in rare circumstances, in order to reward our dedicated community members. Please do not contact any BioWare staff requesting access to Guild Testing, or else your guild may be removed from consideration.

How do I know if my guild has been selected for Guild Testing?

Guild leaders will be contacted directly with detailed instructions when their guild gets selected for testing. It’ll be their job to pass the appropriate information to the rest of their guild in order for everyone to be sent testing invites.

What is involved in Guild Testing?

Guild Testing works the same way as Game Testing does, however by being invited as a guild, you gain the advantage of being in the same testing group and being on the same server, allowing for more coordination amongst the guild for testing group content. You’ll still be a part of the general Game Testing population as well, and will have access to the general testing forums as everyone else does.

It would be great fun to be there with people you know, particularly if it means you could tackle some group content together, such as the Eternity Vault. Best of luck in getting your guild chosen, especially if you’re not already in game testing!


That concludes this week’s Dev Tracker Fly-by. For corrections and direct feedback, please email me using jason@torocast.com. I’m also on Twitter. Thanks for reading!

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