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Dev Tracker Fly-by (4-10 November)

Welcome to this week’s Dev Tracker Fly-by. At the time of posting, we will be in the midst of the third Beta Testing Weekend, which seemingly most people got invited to. However, it’s been a light week as far as dev posts go, so not much to keep you away from playing!

A topic that never seems to die is the persistent idea that you’ll need Origin to play SWTOR. Allison Berryman stepped in to clarify the situation once more:

Hi everyone! We’ve seen some continuing confusion over this topic. Some of you have quoted text that appears on the Pre-Order Page that indicates you’ll need to install Origin software to download the game. We are working to update the information on that page: you will not be required to install the Origin software in order to download, patch, or play the game (even during Early Game Access). You’ll do that through our own site and launcher.

It would seem that there’s a reason for this confusion, given the apparently contradictory information on the pre-order page. Clearly that is outdated, and what we are being told now is the final word: you do not need Origin! At all! Ever!

Early in the week, Allison Berryman made a long post referring to the need for a password reset, which elaborated on a news article on the same subject.

As we prepare to launch Star Wars™: The Old Republic™, we want to ensure that your account and personal information are as secure as possible. To that end, we will begin implementing new security features in the www.StarWarsTheOldRepublic.com website that are designed to further protect you. This process includes a refresh of our password security requirements. To make sure that all accounts comply with our new security measures, members of the Star Wars: The Old Republic community who created accounts on StarWarsTheOldRepublic.com on or before October 21st, 2011 will be required to reset their password in order to meet with these new standards. Those members who created an account after October 21st, 2011 will not receive an email and do not need to update their passwords.

Over the next few weeks, we will be sending out emails to anyone who has not already reset their password to ensure they do so.

Your Star Wars: The Old Republic account credentials are linked to EA.com and Origin.com, so your new password will be applied across all three websites. If you have any difficulties in updating your password, please contact our Customer Service team who’ll be happy to assist you.

It seems that they have simply tightened up the requirements for our passwords to make them harder to crack by hackers. Your password must now have 8 to 16 characters, include at least one lowercase letter, at least one uppercase/capital letter, and at least one number.

The post included a few questions with answers; the first attempted to nip in the bud any suggestion that this requirement for a password change was due to SWTOR’s servers being hacked:

Does this password upgrade mean that there have been any issues with security on StarWarsTheOldRepublic.com?

Absolutely not. Upgrading our security measures ensures that your account is more secure than it previously was. There have been no breaches or compromises of any data on StarWarsTheOldRepublic.com.

In an ideal world, they would check everyone’s passwords, and only require a password reset for those whose passwords don’t meet the new criteria. Unfortunately, given the way passwords are stored (i.e., not in plain text), there’s no way for them to check. Therefore, their only option is to require all passwords to be changed.

In a separate thread, a forum poster had the truly bizarre theory that the password reset was used to see who was active on the forums, and that would affect who got an invitation to the next Beta Testing Weekend. Conspiracy theorists: they’d be funny if they weren’t so damned scary in their ignorance! In this case, Allison Berryman stepped in to stomp this particular bit of idiocy into the ground:

Absolutely no connection at all.

To be clear, we informed you that you would be asked to reset your password in the future. We haven’t sent the password reset emails yet.

Speaking of testing, the big news of the week was the announcement by Allison Berryman that the third Beta Testing Weekend was imminent!

Invitations are being sent for a weekend test this weekend!

Sent Nov. 8: Beta Testing Weekend #3 Invites

  • Who was invited: Testers from North America
  • What was sent: Beta Weekend #3 Invites
  • Server locations: US East Coast

It turns out that unlike the previous Beta Test Weekends, this one is limited to players in the US and Canada. The following was posted by Stephen Reid in response to someone asking for EU invites:

Yes, we can, but when we send our next batch of testing invites it’ll be to every EU launch country.

One of the reasons for this weekend’s Beta Testing Weekend is to specifically stress test servers in our East Coast data center. To help achieve this aim, we’re inviting North American players (USA and Canada), who’ll be playing in a similar timezone to each other, to help max out the server capacity.

We’re absolutely aware of how anxious Europeans are to test The Old Republic, and we’re going to be inviting many more Europeans to testing ASAP. I’m not going to suggest a timeframe, but we’ll let you know as soon as invites are sent. The next batch of invites for Europeans will be to general Game Testing, which will persist beyond a weekend.

So while our European friends missed out on the weekend, they didn’t have long to wait for their general game testing invitations, as announced by Stephen Reid later in the week:

General Game Testing Invites are now being sent to EU testers.

Sent Nov. 10: General Game Testing Invites

  • Who was invited: Testers from all European launch countries (see list here)
  • What was sent: General Game Testing Invites
  • Server locations: EU servers

It turns out that the volume of these EU invites is larger than many expected, according to Stephen Reid:

Over the course of today (and possibly into tomorrow) we’re inviting more Game Testers from the EU than we’ve ever invited in a single ‘wave’.

It’s not the entire number we have signed up, but it’s a significant proportion. There will be other invites before launch.

Given the Beta Testing Weekend servers were clearly indicated to be on the east coast, and that they wanted to stress test them with players in roughly the same timezone, the question was asked whether they were selecting testers based upon their location within the US and Canada. This turns out not to be the case, as Stephen Reid clarified:

However, where a server is located doesn’t influence who we invite based on timezone. In this case, we said we were inviting North American testers (ie, those in the USA and Canada) – that means potentially anyone from those countries. We do not break down invites based on timezone.

Stephen also revealed that they do have a plan as to when they’re going to be running their events leading up to launch, but explained why they don’t let the cat out of the bag early:

We have an itinerary for testing through launch. Things change, however, and we don’t like to share before we’re sure an event (such as a weekend) is locked down.

In other words, if something went wrong in preparing for a given event that forced a delay, they’d be dealing with a lot of angst from the community. It’s far better from their point of view to only announce events when they’re absolutely certain to occur!

A bit of news that came out of the fan site summit courtesy of our own TOROcast representatives was regarding the grace period. The way things will play out is that if you have entered a pre-order code into your SWTOR.com account, you will be able to play in Early Game Access up to five days before launch. At launch, we had been told in August that there would then be a grace period, a delay that would allow you to keep playing after launch without having to enter the game key that comes with the game. This was to allow for potential delays in shipping the physical box copies to people, and was especially important to those of us in Australia.

The news from the fan site summit was that the grace period had been removed. If you don’t enter your game key when the game launches on 20 December, you will be locked out of the game.

As can be imagined, this caused quite a bit of concern, not just from those of us down under, but also in the US where the potential for shipping delays—given how close the release is to the Christmas holiday—is only too real. Further clarification was sought on the forums, but so far we only have the following response from Stephen Reid

We’ll have more information on our launch plans soon.

There are multiple moving parts, so I’d ask you to be patient while we get details finalized.

The speculation is that EA and/or BioWare have come up with some scheme which removes the need for a grace period. For example, you game key could be emailed to you by the retailer from whom you pre-ordered, in the same way that your pre-order key was sent to you. Your box copy could then arrive whenever; you’d have the game key, and would be happily playing. I’d be entirely happy with this solution; in fact, they could keep my box as far as I’m concerned—I only need the game key!

This is one subject that many of us who can’t arrange launch day delivery will be watching very carefully. I’ve got faith that the developers of our favourite upcoming MMO won’t disappoint us.

As part of the Friday update, it turned out that they had one hell of a surprise: there will one more Beta Testing Weekend, the forth and apparently last, to be held sometime between now and launch. I’d guess 25-27 November, but this is not confirmed. Here’s the announcement from Allison Berryman:

When we started our Beta Testing Weekends, we told you that each weekend would include more testers than the last. We’re excited to announce that later this month we will be conducting our largest Beta Testing Weekend yet, specifically designed to help us stress test our servers in preparation for the launch of Star Wars™: The Old Republic™.

How can you take part in this coming Beta Test Weekend? Well, for starters we are happy to announce that anyone who has signed up for our Game Testing Program prior to today, November 11th, will get invited! Invites will be sent in the coming weeks.

Read More

The referenced news article went on to say that in addition to all currently registered potential testers being invited, regardless of whether they’d tested before, a large number of sites were being supplied with invites they could give out to their audiences. Note that if you were signed up for testing before 11 November, you do not need one of these invitations!

Stephen Reid also posted a FAQ about this last Beta Testing Weekend:

Does this announcement mean I can play Star Wars: The Old Republic this weekend (November 11th to 13th)?

No it does not, unless you have a previous testing invite – either to this weekend (November 11th to 13th) or to general Game Testing (ongoing). The Beta Testing Weekend we are referring to will happen within the next few weeks.

When will the Beta Testing Weekend start?

It will happen in the next few weeks. We’ll have an announcement on the exact timing closer to the weekend’s start.

Will this be the final Beta Testing Weekend?

Currently, we expect it to be.

Will I be able to download the game client in advance of the weekend?

Yes, we will be sending out invites to download the game client in advance of the upcoming weekend.

I logged in to www.swtor.com/tester and there is no download link. Am I still invited to testing?

Yes. The page will change when you are able to download the game client, which will happen closer to the upcoming weekend’s start.

I have previously tested Star Wars: The Old Republic. Will I get invited to the upcoming Beta Testing Weekend?

Yes, you will. Every person that is signed up and opted in for Game Testing before November 11th will be invited to the upcoming Beta Testing Weekend.

I have previously tested Star Wars: The Old Republic and already have the game client. Will I need to re-download the client for the upcoming Beta Testing Weekend?

Yes. The game client has changed substantially since earlier Game Testing phases, and you’ll need to re-download it for the upcoming Testing Weekend. If you have been invited to the 11-13th of November Beta Testing Weekend, you will need to patch the game client for the upcoming Beta Testing Weekend.

Will I need to re-download the game client after the upcoming Beta Testing Weekend, or can I use it during Early Game Access?

You may have to re-download the game client. This will be confirmed after the upcoming Beta Testing Weekend.

What if I do not live in a launch country for Star Wars: The Old Republic?

As long as you are signed up and opted in for testing, you will be invited to test in the upcoming Beta Testing Weekend.

What if I have not signed up, or opted in for testing by November 11th?

We are partnering with a number of games media sites worldwide to give away Beta Test Weekend Codes. They are listed in this article. If you receive a code from any of these sites, you will need to sign up on StarWarsTheOldRepublic.comto redeem that code. Further instructions are listed in the post directly below this one.

Should I try and get a key from a media partner, just in case?

If you were already signed up for testing before November 11th, you do not need an additional key. By taking a key, you’ll deny someone else a chance to test the game – so please do not apply for a key you will not need!

Probably best of all, they inviting red zone countries along with the rest! Finally, Australians, New Zealanders, and everyone else who are currently excluded will have a chance to play SWTOR prior to launch.

So the last Beta Testing Weekend is going to be HUGE, and will be effectively a dress rehearsal for launch. I’m incredibly glad that BioWare are putting so much effort into ensuring that when we do this for real, it’ll be as smooth as possible; with this much practise, SWTOR’s launch is shaping up to be one of the best so far.

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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