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It Happens In A Flashpoint

January 28, 2011

Late in the evening on Thursday, Gamespot published a new article about Star Wars: The Old Republic Flashpoints so it wasn’t surprising to see that it was also the subject of today’s update. The new entry titled Flashpoints Overview is pretty scarce on information, though it does include a new video featuring a first-look at Taral V, a mid-game (level 32 and above), Republic only flashpoint (Darth Hater also has a cool dissection that’s worth checking out):

Here’s a random thought that possibly might only interest Hunter, given our little wager over the number of planets we think there will be at launch — with the reveal of the Taral V flashpoint, could we expect the presence of other individual self-contained instances like this scattered across the game on many different worlds? This led me to think that the famous “dozens” of planets claim by the devs could have meant these worlds as well, and not just the fully explorable ones released so far. I think our bet came forth from that quote in the first place, which is why the thought struck me.

Anyway, the update also lists the names of a few other flashpoints we can expect to see in game. It’s not complete, but it’s enough to see the availability of flashpoints to players on both factions and its apparent spread from early game all the way up to end-game. Nevertheless, I felt more information could be gleaned from the Gamespot article.

Some of the answers about Taral V in the Q&A from World Designer Jesse Sky are worth contemplating:

Taral V can be played in roughly 90 minutes, which is about the average length for a flashpoint. A completionist play-through would probably take more than two hours. If you have any stealthy friends, you might find them particularly useful on this mission.

Interestingly, in the video we actually get to see a quick glimpse of a “stealthy” player at work. Sky’s choice of words give me pause, and let’s just say I cross my fingers and hope that “particularly useful” doesn’t translate to “almost necessary”.

90 minutes is I think a fair length for a flashpoint, though I have to question what he meant by a “completionist play-through”. Does that simply mean clearing the place completely of all enemies? Or are there other little extras we can expect from inside these instanced flashpoints? It’s Bioware, so I had to wonder. Especially given what Sky says later on in the interview:

Flashpoints are repeatable by design, and we strive to include elements that keep them fresh for multiple play-throughs. The gameplay focus in a flashpoint is very tight, which contrasts a bit with adventuring in the open world, but it lets us empower players in some really interesting ways. For example, you might explore the area and discover a secret that changes the mechanics of a boss fight. Or you might make a story decision that alters the course of the gameplay.

The inclusion of little extras and secrets notwithstanding, that’s incentive enough for me to explore flashpoints, though Sky is still vague on what he means when he says they’re “sympathetic” to players who are tired of the “traditional” dungeon experience. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but having the best equipment found in flashpoints and other “reward structures” in place to me sounds like item progression, which on the face of it I wouldn’t mind so much but which I hope won’t be too greatly emphasized. Admittedly, I’d be a little disappointed if it were, but I can’t say I’d be very surprised either.

Personally, what motivates me isn’t the gear, it’s the cooperative gameplay. Speaking of which, that’s another thing I’ve been thinking about a lot — flashpoints are balanced around and intended for a full group of four players.

I know smaller groups make for more intimate and tight-knit interactions, and not that I mind getting cozy with my fellow players, but I do admit I’ve been perplexed by SWTOR’s group size ever since last year — especially in light of this post I saw on We Fly Spitfires last week, where Gordon points out that larger groups allow for more variety in party make-up. According to him, 6 is the prefect group size and 5 is World of Warcraft trying to be special, but Bioware seeks to one-up (or should that be one-down?) even Blizzard with 4-man parties. I look forward to seeing how the dynamics in a four-player group are going to work out in this game.

Finally, Sky ends the Q&A on a positive note, mentioning that they are heading into their “homestretch”. Despite rumors that surfaced earlier this week that SWTOR will be delayed for a September release, the devs appear to be giving the impression they are still on track, and as late as Tuesday evening, community representatives are still acknowledging a Spring release (thanks to Harbinger Zero for the link). Personally, I still very much doubt we’ll be seeing the game until at least late summer, and it wouldn’t surprise me even if the rumors for a fall release turn out to be true.

Would that be so bad though? Don’t get me wrong, I’m hoping SWTOR will come out sooner rather than later, but God knows I have enough games to keep me busy this spring and summer, and I fully trust Bioware to know when the right time is to release the game. I figure I’ve waited this long already, a few more months isn’t going to kill me…though on the other hand, sifting through the angst and vitriol on the forums that will come with another half year more of Fan Fridays just might.

18 comments

  1. I think this may be the most polished video BioWare has released on the game, excluding the cinematics. There were so many things to take note of, like the improved graphics (better eye detail, especially on the Yoda species NPC, and just detail overall), improved run animations (something people have QQed about on the official forums for an eternity), more hints at customization (the Havok Squad tattoo on the Trooper’s face, plus some of the armor sets for the characters and NPCs), extremely high quality voice acting (“You’re standing in a tomb–and I’m burying you in it.” – I can tell that NPC is a guy I’m going to enjoy laying the smack down on), and more. I was very impressed with how smooth this looked. I was so impressed, in fact, I think I took around 70 hq screenshots from the trailer, which I usually don’t do. I just loved seeing the ongoing progress so crisp and clear.

    The music stood out to me, as it always does. It fit the scenes like a glove, and I loved the transition between each part of the video. The last part really felt climactic for me. The intermixing of dialogue and music also felt really well done. Whoever edited the video really understands cinematic presentation.

    As far as the Friday update, I agree that BioWare didn’t exactly open up the Ark of the Covenant. However, one thing they did show, something that made me kind of shiver (in anticipation), was that Republic & Empire players won’t have to farm the same instances…

    This pleases me so very much.

    In other MMOs I’ve played, I grew tired of doing the exact same dungeons, the exact same way, with no variety, regardless of faction. Redoing something is already tedious enough, but having to do the exact same thing, even if you switch factions, is Hell. Pure and simple.

    I am seriously loving that flashpoints are not going to be generic instances that both sides farm for loot. Just knowing that even though I may have to do dungeons to get the best loot, I can at least take comfort in the fact that I won’t have to run the exact same thing if I log off my early level Sith Warrior and switch over to my early level Republic Trooper, is huge. I dig that little bit of variety. Plus, they aren’t even done revealing all of them, yet.

    Overall, I enjoyed this update. The main reason is, the presentation shows just how far BioWare has come from earlier videos. I honestly searched through this video with a fine toothed comb when I was taking screenshots, and I was amazed throughout at the level of polish on the video.


    • P.S.- Get well soon.


    • It was a very well done video, and if they had made it a little longer, I would have released it as an update in and of itself. Right now I’m sure most of its merits are underrated, but as you’ve pointed out, it’s may be one of the more polished videos Bioware has put out. I liked how it played out almost like a “true” trailer, setting up the story, showcasing the characters and letting us see them do some cool things, throwing in some great one-liners etc.

      It would be really cool if these faction specific dungeons will be written in a way that flows right into the story. Like if a Republic flashpoint has players rescue a prisoner, there would be an Empire flashpoint that attempts a recapture at some point afterwards, etc. I almost thought this might be the case, reading some of the flashpoint descriptions. But while it looks to me there will be plenty of instances that are faction only, I suspect the higher level you go the more they will overlap.

      And thanks, I still have a sore throat and my head feels all stuffed up, but I’m getting better. I don’t usually get sick easily, but it’s happening so much lately.


  2. 4 player groups? Didn’t know that actually! It’s hardly enough people to constitute a group :D Gonna be a lot of DPS classes waiting to find a party!

    Maybe I’m wrong though and it will turn out to be the perfect size. Gonna be interesting to see anyway :)


    • Yep, four players :D This will definitely have implications for group dynamics, but while the trinity appears intact, Bioware seems to be attempting to tackle combat a little differently from what we see in WoW etc, if what they’ve said is true. Of course, there’s no way to know for certain until we play the game, but I’m interested in seeing how it’ll play out.


  3. yeah i had the exact same though. does this even count as a planet? I’m pretty sure, as far as our bet goes, they don’t. It wasn’t what I had in mind anyway.

    For me 4 people parties feels constrained. but in truth i’m sure its not so bad.


    • When we talked planets, I definitely had in mind the fully explorable ones on that list, but now I wouldn’t be surprised if the dev from that quote from Bioware was talking about named planets in the game in general.


  4. I’m so giddy with anticipation period, but dungeon reveals! Oiiiiyyyy. Alright, let’s get down to the brass tacks with my meaningless opinions lol.

    1. By completionist, my theory is this: Bioware is all about choice, you have the choice to do everything here linearly in the dungeon, but there’re several rooms, side quests, side things to do, explore, and try that just like regularly, Every action has an equal reaction. Hit this switch 5 rooms back, and maybe you avoid a wave of mobs here, or weaken this boss, or face this boss, or it could lead to a room with a rare schematic to send back to your lackies to immediately start crafting.

    2. When thinking of group size, you can’t forget this game combat wise is supposed to be different in scope to WoW. This isn’t meant to be 40 people bashing on one boss because it’s not epic. This is 4 of the best of the best utilizing their abilities to annihilate the content…which happens to reverse the concept, it’s 1,000 against 4, not 40 vs 1, with tricky little adds and junk.

    And i’m almost sure that nobody is going to be ultimately pigeonholed, i think this game may take on traits of DCUO in that yes, you may need a tank and healer, but in the skill sets, the varying level of control, and damage and the ability to survive encounters and heal yourself after the fact, outweighs say, “This consular is a better healer than a smuggler” or “Troopers out-tank jedi” I think people are thinking too far IN the box than out in that regard, i may be wrong, but i think there’ll be room for everybody.

    3. Regardless of the small things, nobody can tell me it doesn’t give you the willies just watching that video. The epicness of it, who’s this Jedi who can single handedly turn the tides of everything? How did he get caught up? Who’s the Yoda Guy!? WHEN CAN I HAVE THIS GAAAME!!??????????? Lol seriously, i would lose my mind waiting until next fall for this game. Quite frankly there’s no other game worthy of my time right now.

    WoW u;ve been there, and done that, Champions and DCUO…..haha i already did that with CoH. Quite frankly, no other story, no other mechanics, and…anythign really goes above and beyond TOR right now for me

    I may sound like a broken record when is say this. But for every fan friday, my angst for this gets worse and worse, but it seems like the more they make, the clsoer this game really does look like it’s coming to being real and on my harddrive.


    • When I hear “completionist”, I just get a pleasant tingly feeling down my spine. I’m definitely a collector in MMOs, and the word makes me think about all the wonderful things I can hoard :P I guess completionist in this sense means something different, but I’ll still most likely explore a flashpoint fully at least once, and explore all its secrets. Subsequent run throughs, however, I may do things linearly, who knows.

      And good point about the group size and the combat being different in scope. That occurred to me too, and I’m sure in practice it will work out fine. I can’t still help but wonder how that will affect the looking-for-group process. I wonder if a smaller group will mean a quicker time finding people to fill the slots, or would it actually be less easy trying to find the right roles, since having less people in a group means utility would be more important.

      I don’t think people will be pigeonholed in their roles either…however, there’s theory and there’s practice. Unfortunately, some people can be real dicks when it comes to finding reasons to exclude certain classes from instance groups, even if “particularly useful” doesn’t mean “almost necessary”. :(


  5. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Williams, MMOGamerChick. MMOGamerChick said: It Happens In A Flashpoint: http://wp.me/pLnnL-1jf [...]


  6. Still at the “Well, that’s kinda interesting” level. 4 people shouldn’t be that bad.

    Just as an aside, I always see allusions from people about the holy trinity and how the mysterious they should replace it. But, really, replace it with what? 1/2 the problem is that devs cater to it. The other half is that players gravitate towards it. As soon as we players decide to specialize our characters so they are adept at doing something specific we eventually will hit the holy trinity. Why?

    Mobs are going to both give and take damage. That right there requires two specializations. Someone who can take damage well and someone who can deal damage well. Tank, DPS. Since most games which have player damage will also have player healing that is a third specialization, Healer. Holy Trinity.

    To change the Holy Trinity is not just a matter of twiddling mechanics. It will require a changed both from the devs as well as from the players and most likely alter the very basic foundation of RPGs; numerical formulas representing damage.

    Will Bioware do that? Probably not. Granted with the 4-man group size (I prefer 2 or 3 myself) they’re not really leaving themselves a lot of room to go with what MMORPG players have come to be used to. On the other hand we know they’re still using numerical formulas to represent damage. We know they have something akin to a Tank (Trooper) and a healer (Consular?). The formulas pretty much necessitate someone who does good at dealing damage.


    • I personally have nothing against the trinity, though I think much of it can be owed to the fact that I’m a big fan of order and organization. That said, I wouldn’t mind seeing a new system of combat, but until the day we figure out its mechanics, I’d rather stick with something that works, despite its many flaws. And you bring up a good point in that the trinity has pretty much been ingrained in everyone familiar with the genre — devs and players both. It’s not impossible to get people to think and do things differently, but it’ll be hard.

      Bioware seems to have embraced the trinity, but in a way where each player won’t feel “stuck” with a particular role within a given encounter. I saw in one of the videos a consular doing both healing and damage in the same fight, as well as a smuggler that healed, did damage and CC’ed. It looks very dynamic, and almost too good to be true. You know as a fellow WoW druid player how much fun it is to be able to shift fluidly into different forms to fill different roles. :)

      Anyway, I’m looking forward to experiencing it for myself.


      • True. On the other hand I also know the problem of being able to shift fluidly into different forms; being master of none. Mastering one form meant being locked into it.

        The only way I could see Bioware delivering on the promise of a more dynamic combat is to not allow any class to specialize too much in any given area.


  7. Who does good at dealing damage? Someone take by blog away for that travesty.


  8. My suspicion is that the “sympathetic” nature of the flashpoint is a throw-back to playing a non-DPS class in KOTOR. I know that I loved to sneak around a starbase/criminal hideout/warship and hack every system, gasing enemies and making droids go rogue. I predict the same approach to gameplay is being taken here.


    • That’s an interesting take, and I wouldn’t mind if this was the case. I enjoyed the different roles you could perform in KOTOR, and if they can work it into an MMO instance, all the power to them!



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