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LFG Death Star, Must Have Fast Ship

February 4, 2011

LF2M then G2G

Today’s Star Wars: The Old Republic update is a dev blog about Flashpoints which I think would have been much better off and more informative bundled with last week’s update, but it is still no less full of win.

From World Designer Jesse Sky, a Flashpoint in a nutshell:

The Death Star was a Flashpoint. Luke and Obi-wan spent a few minutes LFG in the Mos Eisley Cantina where they enlisted the aid of Han Solo and Chewbacca. Together, they infiltrated a moon-sized battle station to rescue Princess Leia.

They had a plan: rescue the princess, deactivate the tractor beam, and escape in the Millennium Falcon. Of course, things didn’t go quite as planned. They had to deal with a legion of Stormtroopers and a dianoga in the garbage compactor. Before they could escape, Obi-Wan was killed in a confrontation with Vader. Maybe next time you won’t split the party, Kenobi.

I love the analogy! It’s also good to see devs with a sense of humor, and by the way, how awesome it must be to have “World Designer” as your job title. I would go around at dinner parties telling everybody.

However funny it may be, I think the example from the movie does do a good job of illustrating Bioware’s vision for Flashpoints. Sometimes, even a big damn hero needs a little bit of help for those missions one can’t handle alone. Each will comprise of a string of objectives, all centered around a narrative. There will be a purpose to all of it, as like Jesse Sky pointed out, Luke et al. didn’t just go charging in through the blast doors aimlessly shooting at every Imperial in sight.

At the same time, he assures us that not every mission will be linear. The decisions that a group makes can change the outcome of the Flashpoint, affecting the course of the experience or opening up new possibilities for your character. Imagine if Han Solo had been like, “Screw the princess, my ass is staying right here!” when Luke beseeches him to save her. Things would have turned out a lot differently, and it makes you appreciate all the more that deep down our favorite smuggler is a chivalrous romantic at heart, even if he was in it for the money at the time.

Here’s another quote from the blog that I pounced on right away:

As much as possible, we try to move you between large, open spaces and smaller, claustrophobic spaces. Every now and then we throw in something crazy. We know we’ve done our job right when the artists react with a mixture of enthusiasm and annoyance.

That last bit again gave me a little chuckle, but I also like the idea of varying the environment within a Flashpoint. “Claustrophobic” is an interesting choice of words, but also accurate, I think, for how I’ve often felt in instances that confine you to one environment, or even just one room (Violet Hold, I’m looking at you). I predict having some visual diversity definitely will help in “opening up” the Flashpoint, making it less painfully obvious that you are in fact confined in a self-contained instance.

One thing I have been wary about when it comes to Flashpoints is the combat, and I have to say I remain so even with what has been said in this dev blog. I’m all for finding alternatives to the concept of “the MMO trinity,” but until a viable solution presents itself, I’m willing to settle for a more dynamic sort of trinity. I don’t mind having to take on a main role in an encounter, but I would like other skills that make me useful beyond simply being pigeonholed as a meat shield, nuker or healbot.

For example, one thing I loved about playing a feral druid in World of Warcraft was my ability to shift into different forms — DPSing as a cat when it was required, transforming to off-tank as a bear to save a clothie being pummeled by a loose mob, quickly throwing heals-over-time on the main tank to keep him up while I battle-rez the healer who had gotten herself killed — all in a single fight. Encounters like that require split-second decisions and the utilization of a player’s full repertoire of abilities, which is what I’m ideally looking for, though I admit this might be too much to expect from any game. However, I have to say that some of the combat I’ve seen in SWTOR group play footage makes me think that Bioware may be attempting this. I’m a bit dismayed that the little blurb from Lead Combat Designer Georg Zoeller did not offer much more in terms of information about that, but I guess that’s a dev blog for another day.

In any case, unique AI behavior and scenarios making combat in Flashpoints different than combat in the open world should be enough to bring about a sense of unpredictability and the excitement that goes along with it. I also liked that Zoeller’s example illustrated how the environment can play a part in creating that experience.

At the end of the day, I liked this quote most of all:

At the end of a Flashpoint, you’ll have more than just shiny new items – you’ll have developed your character. You’ll have the satisfaction of righting wrongs (or wronging rights). And to top it off, you’ll have learned something about your friends (“You seem more evil today. Are you evil?”).

Evil? Who, me? Ha ha, I’m starting to really like this Jesse Sky guy. But I think right there, that’s Bioware’s mission statement. You’re here to develop your character’s story and have fun with it, not play a “glorified slot machine” or crunch numbers all day (though no matter what, there’s just no stopping some people). Here’s hoping that works out for SWTOR, we’ll just have to see.

Finally, Sky’s comment about playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and imagining how cool it would be to join forces with his roommate to take it on together also made me smile because that thought absolutely crossed my mind when I played that game as well. Did it for you?

16 comments

  1. Dang, this is sounding really fun! I very much want to play this with my closest friends, experiencing a smaller, more narrative gaming experience in a larger world.

    I have some reservations, though — how do the levels, and power scaling, affect this? Are flashpoint replayable? (I’m guessing no.) Are they soloable?
    DO YOU KNOW THESE THINGS GEECEE


    • The flashpoints are indeed replayable, I just think of them as instances/dungeons. They are level appropriate and spread out in the game, some that are faction specific and others that are not. I would assume you can go into these with fewer than the four-person limit if you’ve outleveled the content, but with the interactive story and also keeping in mind that companions can be used, I just don’t know for sure.


  2. That sounds like a fun take on instances. I’d like to see more true hybrid classes in MMOs, to me that seems the best way to get away from the strict trinity. I’d hold up Captains and Loremasters from LoTRO up as good examples of what I’d call a true hybrid.


    • I’m a huge fan of hybrid classes! It would be nice if all classes in a game could have those capabilities, but I’m just not sure if it would be doable due to the implications on balance or PvP.


  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Naithin Nahilin, MMOGamerChick. MMOGamerChick said: LFG Death Star, Must Have Fast Ship http://wp.me/pLnnL-1k1 [...]


  4. My eyes are too bleary to post a blog-molestingly-large comment, so I’ll just point out what about the update really intrigued me most.

    This dev blog pretty much changed my mind on the entire notion of a “Flashpoint”. Until now, anytime I heard the term, I instinctively thought of it as “SWTOR’s variation on instances”; after this blog, I will forever associate flashpoints with mini raids. That’s just the impression I’ve gotten after hearing what they plan to do with them, and the mechanics of cc, mt/ot, heals that aren’t at the mercy of mana pools, etc.


    • That’s interesting, I never thought of it like that before. I guess it’s because my husband and other WoW players I know have turned to referring to heroic instances as mini-raids, in terms of the level of difficulty and the amount of time it takes to complete. But I know you’re talking more the style of the fights and interactions between players.

      I like how there are “bosses” in these flashpoints, but there also seems to be many encounters where you have to fight off “waves” of enemies. They don’t seem to just stand around waiting for you to pull them individually.


      • I agree about the waves comment. I think BioWare has a jones for fights with multiple enemies as opposed to one big boss. I certainly don’t see it as a bad thing on my end, though. I enjoy a little deviation from usual big-boss-tank-&-spank-rinse-repeat sort of instances.

        I can see why your husband and others would refer to the new heroics as mini raids. There is much less room to fail in your responsibilities if you want to succeed anymore. I haven’t played in a bit, but before I left it looked like people were starting to treat instances as more than just the “dps burn = success” formula that existed before. CC is much more important in recent times than they were in Wrath.

        As far as Taral V is concerned, there is another thing that piqued my interest that comes to mind: changing terrain.

        I’m used to instances being (usually) an instanced encounter taking place in one single building. At most, I’m used to instances being in a compound or castle; I’m definitely not familiar with an instance being the outlying forests, leading to the main buildings, leading to the inner works. That amount of diversity inside instances excites me.

        That, to me, sounds like if you took Zul’Gurub, lead it into Drak’Tharon Keep, and then added an underground area to it all–except this is Star Wars sci-fi, with more of a “tech” feel to it all.

        In any case, it sounds very tasty to me.


  5. “DPSing as a cat when it was required, transforming to off-tank as a bear to save a clothie being pummeled by a loose mob, quickly throwing heals-over-time on the main tank to keep him up while I battle-rez the healer who had gotten herself killed — all in a single fight.”

    This just makes me think of Guild Wars 2. what are they doing if not attempting to do exactly this on every profession?


    • Similar, I think, but the fact you can target other players sort of makes it a bit different. I think what made it really exciting too was the fact I’m able to affect with other players with my abilities, like rezzing or buffing or healing and shielding etc, which adds an extra level of dynamic and interaction during a fight.


      • ahhh but with a gw2 warrior i can wield a shield and step in front of allies and my shield will deflect anything coming at my ally. every profession can rez, so my warrior can rez. I can put up a banner, like banner of courage which buffs allies doing melee damage. Just because you can’t target allies doesn’t mean you can’t buff or heal or defend.

        In GW2 everyone is a feral druid.


      • Cool, I didn’t know that about the banners and stuff that can affect other players. I guess yeah in that sense, it’s a lot like that.

        Out of curiosity, how do you rez people, if you can’t target others? Or do you mean people can self rez? Is there a limitation on this? Because in the above example, druids are the only class in WoW with a “battle rez”, which has a long cooldown and you have to use them strategically. All other rezes can’t be used in combat, only after you beat the enemies or the group wipes.


      • You know I was thinking about that after i typed it, and I’m not sure.

        I suspect that after you are downed you become targetable. Or the res ability is the only targetable ability.

        Remember there are 2 states of “dying” in gw2. First you are ‘downed’, where your skill bar is replaced by “downed abilities”, 4 of them, if you can kill something with these abilities you are automatically rez’d, but it’s on a timer. If your timer runs out you have to wait for anyone who wanders by to rez you, or you’re given the choice of warping to the closest warp point.


      • went ahead and asked on twitter, someone replied with this.

        “Its location based. If you’re near to the target the ability comes up.”


      • Ah thanks! Twitter is great for quick answers like that.

        I think having two stages of “death” is really neat. Makes you not feel completely helpless, LOL.


  6. [...] LFG Deathstar, Must Have Fast Ship on MMO Gamer Chick I haven’t really spent much time looking into Starwars: The Old Republic. I’ve watched the rather impressive CGI videos as they are released and even read the odd post that catches my eye about it, but so far I’ve been able to steer well clear of the hype machine, despite my regular love for all things Bioware. Despite some recent Twitter mocking of the announcement of the ‘Flashpoints’ (read: instances), after reading this post I was convinced that they really had something worth talking about. Remember when I talked about how lack of choice in quests was making our characters stupid? It would appear that instances — indeed; possibly the whole game — in ToR give us the choice back. We can handle things differently, explore the environment for alternate solutions and more. I loved this write up of it and feel the first bites of want developing for SW:TOR. Halp! [...]



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