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Dev Tracker Fly-by (30 Sep-6 Oct)

Welcome to this week’s Dev Tracker Fly-by. A diverse range of topics were covered this week by the developers of our favourite upcoming MMO; let’s get into it.

Stephen Reid confirmed that the we’re not going to be seeing any more time line videos before SWTOR’s launch on 20 December:

We’ve mentioned before that Timelines are probably something we’ll come back to post-release.

Before then (well actually – ‘at then’) if you’re picking up the Collector’s Edition you’ll find some cool new lore info in the Journal of Master Gnost-Dural.

The Journal of Master Gnost-Dural (as annotated by Satele Shan) is one of the pre-order goodies included in the Collector’s Edition. I suppose we’re at the point now where the backstory has been established; with launch, it becomes the present, and we’ll be actively participating in making history.

Forsooth, I gank thee, Sith monster!

We knew that there were PvE , PvP and RP servers. The RP servers were effectively PvE servers, with the RP designation being more of a label than anything else. However, Stephen Reid tells us this has changed:

Hello all. As I said before, it wasn’t such a trivial decision, which is why it took a while to make. However, we have good news: RP-PvP servers are going to be a part of Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Please note, the ‘RP’ part of the RP-PvP designation will be a suggested style of play, not a mandatory one. What that means is, if you feel someone isn’t roleplaying, reporting them to Customer Service will not ensure action on their account. We will also not be enforcing naming policies or similar.

For a game with a projected player base as high as The Old Republic, it’s simply not practical for CS to be watching over this. If you want to fully immerse yourself in roleplaying, we suggest you find a likeminded group or guild to do that with.

I can’t help feeling sorry for Jedi on a RP-PvP server, given that if they’re playing in character, they won’t be initiating combat. The Sith, on the other hand, will almost be obliged to attack any Republic players they come across. Could get messy!

It’s a little surprising that they won’t even be enforcing a naming policy, which would normally (in other games like WoW or LOTRO) cause GMs to force players with non-RP appropriate names to change them. Of course, names that violate the general naming policy would be actioned on any server, RP or not.

However, Georg Zoeller assures us that they will at least be making some attempt to ensuring that RP-breaking names won’t be so easily chosen:

There’s an extensive list of names that are not available to guilds and players. Revan is one such name.

A forum user, commenting on TotalBiscuit’s video showing a game of Huttball with him playing a Jedi Warrior, was concerned that the Force Charge ability would be difficult to handle. Georg has some advice:

Just stand at the edge of the acid pit, let them jump to you and then kick/slap/stun them in the spot, that’ll teach em. Or, as a Bounty Hunter, pull them into the fire with your grapple.

There’s also that beautiful moment when a Knight with the ball realizes he doesn’t have to wait for the fire to go out to force leap through the flames on the enemies behind them.

The video is well worth watching if you haven’t seen it already. I suspect Huttball is going to be the most popular warzone, given that it seems like an incredible amount of fun.

Concerns about imbalance are probably premature at this point. We should trust that BioWare will continue balancing abilities right up to launch, and undoubtedly beyond.

Stephen Reid once again makes it absolutely clear that SWTOR players are not going to need to use Origin for anything beyond the initial digital purchase, if that’s how you purchase it:

While you will complete your digital purchase of Star Wars: The Old Republic via Origin, you will download, install and patch the game digitally via our own launcher.

While the issues that people seem to have with Origin may or may not be valid, it’s a non-issue for SWTOR players. But it digitally, ensure that your SWTOR account has been appropriately updated, and the de-install Origin if you so desire.

A forum user was concerned that the Galaxy Map, now available on the main site, was “implausible”, based on Dromund Kaas and Korriban appearing to be too close together spatially. Alexander Freed, Senior Writer, gives a most thorough response:

The planet locations on the galaxy map were taken directly from Star Wars: The Essential Atlas (and were, of course, closely vetted by the folks at LucasArts). We may have established coordinates for a handful of new systems (I’d need to check my records), but only a very few–the Atlas is extremely thorough.

As for the distance between Korriban and Dromund Kaas–keep in mind a few things:

First, there are HUGE distances even between neighboring star systems; while it’s one thing to have a clearly mapped route and a powerful hyperdrive, creeping through uncharted territory at relatively slow speeds without “flying right through a star or bouncing too close to a supernova” is another thing entirely.

Second, the galactic map doesn’t show a Z-axis–space is three-dimensional and just because two systems are (relatively) close on the X and Y grid, there can still be a vast separation “up” or “down.”

In other words, if you’re desperately wandering into territory off your charted portion of the galactic plane… you can spend quite a while before you find a new home.

I was curious whether SWTOR would be implementing any kind of delay in travel time based on the spatial distance between origin and destination. This was discussed as a mailbox question on TOROcast many episodes ago, with the consensus being that such a delay would be a bad idea. I believe it’s been confirmed by BioWare that no such delay exist, with travel between planets being effectively instantaneous.

A forum thread was started to discuss the plot of Drew Karpshyn’s Revan novel, which is going to be released in mid-November. If you were a fan of KOTOR and its sequel, you may be interested in Drew’s response:

Wow. A lot of people jumping to (somewhat misinformed) conclusions without actually reading the book. I guess I shouldn’t be shocked – it happened with the first and third Bane novels, too. Must be human nature.

I’m not going to post a long, elaborate defense of what I did and why – too many spoilers. But I will say I don’t feel I trampled on the KOTOR2 continuity in any way. I put in a lot of time and effort to make sure I was respectful and accurate to the source material. The Exile is a very complex and nuanced character, and there are multiple theories offered in the game to explain what she is and what she does… and some of these theories actually contradict each other. I believe this was intentional, as the KOTOR2 writing team wanted to preserve a sense of mystery about her. (The ongoing debate in this thread about the Exile clearly illustrates they succeeded.)

I was very careful not to put anything in my novel that would directly contradict any of the offered theories, partly to preserve KOTOR2’s original intent, and partly because those elements were central to the KOTOR2 story, but not to the story of the Revan novel. I also believe the Exile comes across as a very strong and capable character, and I would caution people about taking small excerpts out of context, because they don’t tell the whole story.

Anyway, I’d urge people to read the novel with an open mind before they condemn me. Or at least read the latest post on my website to get my side of the story: http://drewkarpyshyn.com/c/?p=302#more-302

While it’s in the pre-order FAQ, Stephen Reid reiterated that once you’ve purchased SWTOR, regardless of your country of origin (NA/Canada or European country), you will be able to play on any server that you choose.

Any player of Star Wars: The Old Republic will be able to select and play on any server they wish at launch. This was announced in July in the pre-order FAQ and nothing has changed since:

I live in North America but my friend lives in Europe. Will we be able to play together on the same server?

Yes, it will be possible to play on the same server as your friends. Any player of Star Wars: The Old Republic can choose to play on any server. However, if you choose to play on a server outside of your own region (i.e., – playing on European servers from North America, and vice versa), because of natural latency caused by the distance between your client and the Game servers, you may find your Game performance is impacted.”

Unlike WoW, which segments its populations between regions, with you needing to purchase a copy of the game in the applicable region to be able to play there, SWTOR will apparently be completely open. Buy once, play anywhere.

I’m curious about whether BioWare will support server transfers between European and US servers; a little early to be worrying about that, given nothing has been said about server transfers at all.

Like WoW, LOTRO and many other MMOs, SWTOR will have a 1.5 GCD (global cooldown). For abilities that are tied to the GCD, it forms the minimum amount of time between the execution of those abilities. Presumably there will be at least some abilities that are off the GCD, but I don’t believe we’ve had that confirmed.

A forum user asked about why SWTOR is carrying over the GCD mechanic; Georg explains:

We pride ourselves with a very polished and good looking combat system, and that means you get to see actual combat animations along with the floating numbers that indicate damage.

If you’re going to do something for many many hours over the course of the game, and combat is likely the thing many players might do the most, it’d better be more interesting than a single whack animation and a floating number.

For example, your attack animation might consist of shooting a stream of blaster bolts that do damage on impact rather than a single bolt or single sword swing.

So the GCD is so that you can see your character perform the animation associated with the GCD-locked ability you’ve performed. If this wasn’t done, the animations would possibly be overriding each other, as abilities were triggered together. I’d thought that the GCD was mainly to provide an equalising effect when it’s likely that players will have varying amount of lag between their client and the SWTOR servers. Apparently not!

Georg has written a very long post about class design philosophy, which I’ve included in its entirety below. As with pretty much everything Georg writes, it’s really good stuff, and well worth reading. I’ll say that, as has come up previously, I entirely agree with this approach; the notion that Advanced Classes that are capable of being spec’d as different roles should not mean that their DPS role (when so spec’d) should do less damage than an AC that only has DPS specs. His reasoning is sound, though I’m sure many will remain unconvinced!

Just to chime in about our class design philosophy here. We’ve explained this a number of times already during development, but now that we’ve been running large scale testing for a while and have solidified a lot of the design, I think it’s time to explain what we’re doing and why.

In regards to class roles, we do things differently than some other games which people might be used to. That creates some anxiety and questions, so let me explain.

Of Class, Advanced Class, Roles.

Unlike other games where you pick a class and that defines your role, class in Star Wars: The Old Republic defines your overall story, your possible roles and your visual style / gameplay style (e.g. Force user vs. Tech user).

Due to the nature of the Advanced Class system, every character starts out in a DPS role at the start of the game, and they’re about equally good at it.

By the time you reach level 10, you get to make your choice for Advanced Class, which narrows down which roles you could play, and yes, some Advanced Classes (Gunslinger / Sniper / Marauder / Sentinel) only have damage type roles available, while other Advanced Classes have access to two roles (e.g damage or healing).

What actually defines your role in our game, in terms of traditional MMO gaming, is how you distribute points in your skill trees. Specialize in the ‘Combat Medic’ tree and become a healer, specialize in the ‘Vengeance tree’ and become a DPS character.

By spending that first skill point at level 10, you start developing your character into whatever role you want them to play in the long term. Since it’s your skill choices that define your role, it is a gradual process. You don’t become a healer at level 10 or 11, you’re growing into becoming a healer over many levels.

Our content is designed around that. The first Flashpoint assumes the group has only DPS roles. Even if you bring a healer, he’ll have only a single heal available at that level as he has just begun his journey into his role, so there isn’t too much of a spread in balance.

Over time, the game becomes more firm in the roles it requires for content like Flashpoints, but additional tools like companions still make it more flexible than many other MMOs in regards to what group mix can run group content.

That progression is quite different from how your characters work in other games, and we’ve certainly seen our share of people being surprised by it in testing (“I just took the Sage Advanced Class, but I don’t feel like I’m a great healer”).


Ultimately we don’t do hybrid roles. You can do them (by mixing different skill trees), but by design, all our classes are meant to be fully capable in the roles they fill. The ‘hybrid’ tax would be the fact that you won’t be able to get the top tier talents in one skill tree if you spread yourself too thin into others.

At high level, all roles have the same capabilities, in our game all healers are ‘main healers’ provided they are specced accordingly, etc.

Common Questions

**So, what’s the point of playing an AC that has only DPS options available?

That is a question you have to answer for yourself.

In a traditional fantasy MMO, if you play a thief or a wizard, you’re locked to one role as well, so it’s the added role flexibility that SWTOR brings to the table that is giving you second thoughts. I would look at it like this:

  • If you really like the flexibility of non DPS roles and feel comfortable with taking on other roles, you might want to play an AC that has that option available.
  • If you know you only enjoy DPS roles in a game (and based on our research, a sizable faction of players falls under that umbrella), a DPS only AC means you will get a three different styles of dps gameplay to select from.

So why do we do this? Why not go for a ‘this Advanced Class only can DPS and therefore they are the best at it’ approach?

  • Because we want people to pick the class they want to play and reduce the likelihood of them getting told ‘sorry, can’t participate in this group because we want only the best DPS in game – that is a Gunslinger’.
  • Likewise, we don’t want the fact that a specific tank or healer AC is not available at a time from becoming a stopping point for getting on with your group content.

The truth is, not everyone is comfortable playing every role and shouldn’t be expected to.

Players, as they get more familiar with the game, will no doubt find interesting ways of proving the superiority of a specific specialization in a specific situation, that’s expected. With different gameplay styles and utility come different strength and weaknesses.

Should things outside our comfort zone be discovered in testing or after launch (e.g. Operations ending up requiring that one specific healer AC because they are deemed ‘the absolute best and a must’), we will adjust the game accordingly. We want player skill to be deciding factor in your choices, not which class they picked hundreds of hours ago. That’s pretty standard for MMOs.


Q: ‘Why would I play a DPS only Advanced Class if I can play an Advanced Class that can respec to fill other roles?’

A: If that is your main concern, you shouldn’t play that Advanced Class, because you are going to be unhappy about the fact that you cannot switch roles.

Q: Since I can only fill a DPS role, I should do the absolute best damage in the game!

A: Not in SWTOR. We give you get more variety in your DPS gameplay. We maintain balance between all ACs that can fill a role.

Q: What ever happened to being 5% better thing for pure DPS classes?

A: Given class utility and other considerations of why you might want to have someone in your group, 5% is not considered ‘significant’ for the purpose of this conversation.

I hope this clears things up a bit. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of different and, of course, dissenting opinions on this topic, but at least everyone will be on the same page as what our design goals are in this situation and how we approach balancing classes.

Finally, the second Beta Testing Weekend is currently in progress at the time this article was posted. Stephen Reid has much to say in response to various questions, some of which are reproduced below.

BioWare are maintaining a single thread that will inform everyone when invitations to regular Game Testing and the Beta Testing Weekends have been sent. Well worth a look if you have any questions; it’s really pretty thorough.

Stephen Reid confirms that they are now testing on EU servers, presumably located in Dublin, as revealed last week. Previously, EU testers has been using the same US servers as the rest:

We’ve had EU servers for quite a while, and have been testing on them. Again, listing the location just as people tend to ask that.

Stephen also confirmed that the servers will be located on the west and east coasts of the US, with no plans to cover the other US timezones:

If you mean servers in the Central Standard Time zone, we have no plans for those right now.

Stephen had to reiterate that selection for Game Testing truly is random, and is not biased towards particular locations within the US:

We’ve invited plenty of people from the West Coast, and indeed all over the US. When inviting US testers, we don’t select based on location within the US.

I was just stating we have no plans to physically locate game servers within the CST zone. We’ll have servers within the US on the East and West coasts.

Courtney Woods officially announced the second Beta Testing Weekend:

Beta Testing Weekends for Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ began earlier this month and during our first weekend, we invited more players into testing than we’ve ever invited before in a single weekend! Now we’re getting ready for another Beta Testing Weekend, starting on October 7th and finishing on October 11th. With increased invite numbers from the first weekend, even more of you will get to play The Old Republic.

If you don’t get invited to this weekend, don’t worry. More Beta Testing Weekends will occur before the launch of The Old Republic. To have an opportunity to get into future Beta Testing Weekends, be sure tosign up for future testing on www.StarWarsTheOldRepublic.com and opt-in for game testing.

Read More

In terms of how many are being invited this weekend, Stephen tells us:

Fun fact: with this weekend we’re inviting as many testers in one go as we currently have in testing. So, you know, a lot.

He also confirmed that everyone from the first Beta Testing Weekend, identified as “Squadron 1020”, will be included this time; this differs from their initial suggestion that they may be spacing the Squadron 1020 people out over several weekends:

We’re inviting all of 1020 to this weekend; we bulked up the overall numbers to compensate.

I hope everyone in the second Beta Testing Weekend are having a great time, and wish everyone else the very best of luck in getting selected in an upcoming weekend!

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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