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Dev Tracker Fly-by (28 Oct-3 Nov)

Welcome to this week’s Dev Tracker Fly-by. Georg’s back! Lots of posts to go over, including finally we find out more about Early Game Access.

Georg Zoeller, Principal Lead Combat Designer, had a lot to say about the Sniper (Imperial Agent) and its mirror, the Gunslinger (Smuggler) this week. He first tells us that it seems they have the longest reach:

Snipers (and Gunslingers) have a range of 35 meters for most of their abilities, which is the longest range class for player abilities available. Troopers for examples have a maximum range of 30 meters on their long range abilities.

In response to a subsequent question asking why the Sniper has a rifle with a scope mounted, whereas the Gunslinger can achieve the same range with blaster pistols, Georg said:

Because Gunslingers are trained to shoot with their pistol to great range, while the Sniper is trained to use technology that allows for great range shots.

But honestly, and you already knew this, it’s about gameplay, not realism.

In other words, it’s not getting too hung up on the details. Accept that this is a game, and if you must, consider the Star Wars universe to be different to our own, with similar but occasionally divergent rules.

In another thread talking about the Sniper, Georg confirmed that cover can be extremely nasty (for the other guy):

Cover protects from Force Leap, being pulled via grapple, etc.

Using Entrench (An ability increasing the effectiveness of cover temporarily) will also make the Agent immune to any other kind of control (CC),. They become an unmovable object that cannot be charged, pushed, lifted, frozen, Force choked or in any other way incapacitated.

Later in the same thread, a forum user claimed that a Sniper’s companion would never shoot at another player (but would assist with NPC enemies). Georg put this incorrect notion to rest:

He made it up

Did I mention that when you’re in cover, you cannot be interrupted?

Another user asked about how a Jedi Knight/SithWarrior would deal with a Sniper/Gunslinger who was in cover, as it seemed that the Force Leap ability would not work while they were in cover. Georg explains:

It’s much worse than you think.

No, a Sniper in cover cannot be charged with Force Leap. Yes, your warrior will have to move into melee range to engage the Sniper (or use ranged abilities like saber throw).

Marksman specced snipers specifically are a very defensive class.

You rarely see them leading the charge onto an objective, but they are masters of area denial. It’s not just that you have to bridge 35 meters to them, with them getting the alpha strike. They got tools that will temporarily root you (Leg Shot), the force of impact from their Ambush ability pushes close range enemies back and their cover generator is fitted with the a pulse detonator that pushes attackers out of melee range (Cover Pulse). They can also become faster and faster the more they hit you (Sniper Volley). And did I mention that they can call down a powerful orbital satellite strike to protect the area around them?

You really don’t want to charge these guys head on. Just like what I said about a Sage going into close range combat with a Melee DPS class, charging a good sniper head on alone will likely result in you dead on the ground and the Sniper mildly irritated.

How is it balanced? Carefully… We force you to be smart about moving into the area protected by these guys. If you’re not smart about it and think you can charge into the fray, that’s the wrong class to try that on. Their weakness is the fact that their most powerful abilities require them to be entirely static, that they have little ability to kite or establish range against a close range attacker.

You want to sneak up on them, distract them or eject them from cover (there’s a very limited number of abilities that can do that), utilize environmental features to avoid line of sight, hit them with long range DOTs and wear them down, or gang up on them. If you manage to catch them close range without having lost too much of your health, they are in a lot of trouble and without Stealth generator or any kind of active escape ability, they are likely dead.

My first character is going to be a Jedi Knight, but this description of just how effective they can be is making me want to try a Smuggler sooner rather than later.

In response to a question about how a Jedi Sage (Jedi Consular) and its mirror, the Sith Sorcerer (Sith Inquisitor) would fair against melee characters (e.g., Sith Warrior or Jedi Knight), Georg puts it bluntly:

You’ll die.

To elaborate on this: If you try to outdamage any of the melee DPS classes at close range. 2 lightsabers > 1 lightsaber; Heavy Armor > light armor; Tons of powerful melee moves > small number of melee moves.

Sure, most of your abilities will still work close range, but you have a distinct advantage when they are at range, so you’re going to have to make sure these guys don’t make it into melee range or, if they make it, don’t make it with enough health or stay there long enough to get their really powerful attacks off.

So while the Sage and Sorcerer are awesome at range, you really don’t want to get up close and personal. When dealing with NPCs, you’ll want a tanking companion to keep them busy while you nuke them from orbit (only way to be sure), but in a PvP situation, an opposing player isn’t going to be accommodating enough to stand back.

Alexander Freed, Senior Writer and Managing Editor, answered a lore question regarding the military rank of Jedi and Sith in their respective faction’s military:

Jedi do not receive any military rank or authority simply by being Jedi. If a Jedi is involved in a military operation, his or her position is essentially determined by the Republic authorities involved–a general might request a Jedi advisor when going up against a Sith Lord, but turning command of an entire army over to even a Jedi Master would be a rare decision. Jedi expecting immediate cooperation from Republic military personnel may get it–even in these relatively dark times, many people still honor and respect the Jedi–but such cooperation is ultimately voluntary.

There may be a few Jedi out there with military ranks, but they’ve earned them specially.

Sith, of course, are a completely different matter. Sith aren’t technically part of the military hierarchy, but they are the undisputed rulers of the Empire. Their commands are to be obeyed. (But this doesn’t mean an apprentice just out of the Academy can go around Force-choking Moffs. The military might not take action against an unruly apprentice, but his master sure would–and if she didn’t, she’d be hearing from the Dark Council.)

So if you want to boss the grunts around, better roll a Sith in the Empire.

An exciting development this week was another step towards launch, as revealed by David Bass:

Last month we expanded our Pre-Launch Guild Program with the implementation of Phase 2: Alignment, where guilds could designate other guilds as allies or adversaries. Now, as Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ moves ever-closer to launch, we are excited to announce that we have initiated the first part of Phase 3: Deployment!

Phase 3: Deployment will see any guild that meets the pre-designated criteria be transferred into the game for launch. Before we begin this process, though, we want to give all of you who are in guilds the opportunity to make sure your guild meets the following requirement for transfer:

  • Four members of the guild must have pre-ordered the game and redeemed their Pre-Order Code at the Code Redemption Center.

(NOTE: We have removed the additional requirement for the guild leader to log in to the website and verify that their guild remains active and wants to be imported.)

With launch now only a few short weeks away, it’s now time to get your guild finalised. It’ll be interesting to see whether this scheme has the intended effect of distributing the player population evenly across servers. You can, of course, ignore the recommendation and re-create your guild on a different server of your own choice, as long as its name hasn’t yet been taken on that server.

David also spelled out the final server types that we will see, with the notable addition of RP-PvP servers. While we’d known that decision had already been made, it seems that the Guild Headquarters won’t be updated to allow you to designate RP-PvP as a choice for your guild:

There will be four different server types in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Here’s how they work generally, and details on how we’re dealing with roleplaying (RP) servers:

PvE (Player vs Environment) – Players will have to manually flag themselves if they wish to engage in PvP outside of designated Warzones and Open World PvP areas.

PvP (Player vs Player) – Players are automatically flagged for PvP outside of the designated ‘safe’ areas (such as Origin Worlds, Capital Worlds, and the Republic/Imperial Fleets; see below for more info).

RP-PvE – Players are encouraged to roleplay and act ‘in-character’ while playing on an RP-PvE server. Players must manually flag themselves if they wish to engage in PvP outside of designated Warzones and Open World PvP areas.

RP-PvP – Players are encouraged to roleplay and act ‘in-character’ while playing on an RP-PvP server. Players are automatically flagged for PvP outside of the designated ‘safe’ areas (such as Origin Worlds, Capital Worlds, and the Republic/Imperial Fleets; see below for more info).

The pre-launch Guild Headquarters currently allows you to select between three different server types for your guild: PvE, PvP, and RP, which will determine your server placement during Phase 3: Deployment. During Deployment, we will be placing all eligible guilds that select ‘RP’ onto RP-PvE servers by default. If a guild wishes to exist on an RP-PvP server, they will need to create their guild manually on a new server once they reach their Capital World (Dromund Kaas or Coruscant) and create their guild.

The decision to make RP-PvP servers an option for players was made recently, which is why the choice was not available in the Guild Headquarters to start with. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes, but we hope you are as excited as we are to be able to choose this option for your guild in the game at launch.

In the same post, David elaborated on how PvP servers would work in SWTOR:

PvP server rulesets

We also wanted to expand on what the PvP server ruleset means in The Old Republic. The obvious overarching rule is that in general, if you see a player of the opposite faction, you may immediately engage them in combat.

The exception to this rule is sanctuaries, which are large areas where PvP may not take place, regardless of whether you are flagged or unflagged for PvP. Examples of this are the Origin Worlds (Tython, Ord Mantell, Hutta, and Korriban), the Capital Worlds for both sides (Dromund Kaas and Coruscant), and the Republic/Imperial Fleets.

Early in the week, Stephen Reid threw out a brief teaser:

We’ll be giving everyone an update on Early Game Access quite soon.

As part of the Friday update, Courtney Woods officially revealed how the Early Game Access program would work:

One of the benefits to pre-ordering Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ is that you will gain Early Game Access before launch on December 20th. This is a chance to start your epic Star Wars saga early, as you’ll be able to create and play your character ahead of the official live game launch.

Many of you have been wondering how long Early Game Access will last, and we are now happy to announce that depending on when you redeem your Pre-Order Code, you will gain Early Game Access up to five days before the official game launch date.

Early Game Access is staggered over five days to ensure a quality experience for players at launch. Staggering access aids server stability and a gradual increase in player population through the game.

This means that Early Game Access will begin on 15 December. If you were one of the first to pre-order and register your pre-order code on swtor.com, you’ll start playing then. The later you registered your pre-order code, the closer to 20 December you will be allowed to play.

Stephen Reid later confirmed that your type of pre-order (Collector’s Edition, Digital Deluxe Edition or Standard Edition) would not affect where you are placed into the Early Game Access program; the only applicable factor is when you registered your pre-order code.

It’s likely that just what this means to those who registered later hasn’t really sunk in. The effect will be that until the end of the Early Game Access period, they’ll be at least some pre-order players who’ve yet to get into the game for the first time, while others have been playing since the beginning. There also remains the question regarding whether there’s some fixed period that all pre-order customers get; in other words, when is the last wave of players added. It could be that the last to pre-order will get into Early Game Access sometime on 19 December, the day before launch; or perhaps everyone will be in by 18 December, giving at least a day to all pre-order customers. Until we’re told more, we just have to wait and see!

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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