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Dev Tracker Fly-by (14-20 October)

Welcome to this week’s Dev Tracker Fly-by. It has been a very light week in terms of developer posts, so not much to go over. Let’s see what did turn up!


During the question and answer session at this year’s New York Comic Con, James Ohlen was asked whether we would see racial abilities in SWTOR. He responded by saying “They won’t influence your character choice.” This kicked off something of a firestorm on the official forums, as the spectre was raised of racial abilities directly influencing which race was chosen due to their performance-enhancing effects. This was considered bad (and I kind of agree with this), with the preference being expressed that racial choice should be based entirely on aesthetics.

Georg Zoeller quickly stepped in to clarify what was actually going to happen:

At this time, we do plan on having “racial” abilities, but they will be cosmetic in nature. Think of them as “social” abilities or actions that your character is able to do based on their species.

We wanted to give you something special for your character based on species, but we did not want it to influence your choice in the sense that you would feel “I have to be a Twi’lek Consular because they get +5 Willpower.”

So, active “racial” abilities are planned, but they won’t affect your combat gameplay in any way.

I can imagine the collective sigh of relief! In other words, you can indeed pick the race of your characters based entirely on what you want them to look like, rather than being forced in a particular direction to eke out some extra DPS or whatever.

Another post subsequently wondered whether Georg’s statement was true—it continues to amaze me that anyone would doubt an explicit statement by a BioWare developer, particularly one of Georg’s stature. He responded:

My team put them in, so yeah, it’s true.

We are all sick of mails touting performance enhancing products , so we wouldn’t want to put performance enhancing racial abilities in the game

It’ll be interesting to find out just what they have planned for the cosmetic only yet also active racial abilities. Luckily, only a few more weeks before we’ll all see for ourselves!

Another bit of news that emerged from New York Comic Con came from James Ohlen again, this time while answering questions at BioWare’s SWTOR main panel. He confirmed that the morality choices (i.e., light side versus dark side) made by characters would affect them “visually”, but also noted that abilities are not affected. It was also confirmed that this was dark side only; being good doesn’t change your appearance (no wizened look, halo or soft angelic glow).

Not everyone was pleased by this; presumably they didn’t want their sexy Sith Inquisitor to get visited by the ugly stick. Allison Berryman subsequently provided some further detail in a post on the official forums, confirming that you could, if you chose, turn it off:

We’re glad to see that you’re all so enthusiastic about dark side corruption, but wanted to clarify just a little bit about it. At this time, dark side corruption is an option that you’re able to toggle on and off yourself. We’re excited to have the feature in the game, but currently the plan is to allow you to use it if you want to.

Georg elaborated:

Like ‘Hide head slot’ or ‘Unify colors to chestpiece,’ this is a game option, on by default, which can be toggled on a per character basis.

So you can wear your evil as a badge of pride, or retain your good looks, keeping your rotten soul safely hidden from onlookers. Nice!

Ed Park, also known as Taugrim, interviewed Stephen Reid at New York Comic Con (forum post, video). During the interview, Stephen identified the Sith Assasin and its mirror, the Jedi Shadow, as “off-tanks”, whereas the others (Jedi Guardian and Sith Juggernaut, Trooper-Vanguard and Bounty Hunter-PowerTech) were characterised as tanks. For those hoping to play Assassin or Shadow tanks, this was something of a surprise, as there was no indication that their tanking capability was any less than the rest.

Georg stepped in to clarify that all tanks are, in fact, equal:

All tank specs in the game are designed to function as a main tank. There are no ‘off tanks’ by design in the game, that would involve players intentionally choosing such a role by speccing hybrid.

The thread continued, presumably not accepting Georg’s reassurance. He responded again:

By design, all tank capable ACs can spec to be fully capable main tanks.

There are no ‘off tanks’ unless you intentionally spend your skill points into different trees.

Stephen himself then posted a reply:

As you’ll see from Georg’s latest posts, I did mis-speak. My tanking experience is limited (in MMOs generally; as I said in the interview, I’m a DPS lad) and I did point that out in the interview.

I think my confusion came from playing a Sith Assassin in our Eternity Vault demo many, many times, who was specced to be an off-tank, not main tank. However, as Georg has now corrected me on, that’s not a limitation of the AC, it’s a choice on the part of the player.

Sorry if I confused everyone for a minute. This is what happens when you ask questions of the Community Manager that are better suited to the development team. It’s not their fault that they can’t make it to every show, we want to keep them hard at work on the game.

Stephen posted again in a different thread, elaborating a little:

As I said in another thread on the topic, I got myself mixed up – a combination of my limited experience as a tank (generally) and my time spent playing a Sith Assassin specc’ed to be an off-tank.

Again, apologies for the confusion… don’t blame Ed for the question, blame my lack of sleep. And lack of tanking.

I guess I should level a tank to 50 in live now to make up for it.

Being human and probably exhausted, it’s not hard to understand him misspeaking—the rapidity with which BioWare clarified the situation is heartening. So all is well; meat shields of the Old Republic rejoice!

Just a brief mention of a post that indicated that the German Amazon had indicated in an email that SWTOR’s release had been delayed until April 2012. Stephen Reid was quick to stomp this into the ground:

… our release date has not changed.

According to our investigation there was some confusion between Amazon.de’s warehouse and the main site, hence the update.

Nothing’s changed regarding our release date. To ease confusion and to ensure this is the last message anyone sees in this thread, I’m closing this now.

Simply a mistake, so fear not: Santa is still bringing us SWTOR.

Finally, a thread was started which included a poll asking whether those in the Game Testing programme should be able to carry their test characters into the live game when Early Access commences. The outrage at such an idea was undeniable from all those who weren’t lucky enough to be included (which is most of us).

Allison Berryman stepped in to ensure there was no confusion about BioWare’s intentions:

Hello everyone! Characters created in the Game Testing Program (any testing group) will not be carried into the live game. Characters created during Early Game Access (which you get for redeeming your Pre-Order Code on SWTOR.com) will persist when we launch. Hope this dispels any “rumor” about characters in testing carrying over to the live game.

There has never been any hint that test characters would survive into the real game, and there’s no precedent for it in other MMOs. The sheer unfairness of such a head start makes it a terrible idea, and I’m glad that BioWare shot the rumour down.

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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