Multiplayer Combat In The Old Republic

July 2, 2010

What they mean when they say "heroic" combat?

It was a bit of a wait for the Star Wars: The Old Republic Friday Update today, but I personally felt it was worth it. Bioware unveiled a multiplayer gameplay demo that’s similar to the G4 video we saw at E3, but now we can view the whole battle and see what’s happening a lot more clearly.

In an older post about the “MMO Holy Trinity”, I talked about how I was happy to see it alive and well in SWTOR. Even so, I also expressed a desire for a more dynamic trinity. I mean, at this point I’m pretty sick of the whole 5-to-25-guys-beating-on-a-single-big-boss scenario. Crowd control also needs to be more interesting, not this process that involves sheeping/shackling/banishing/rooting/freezing/sleeping/sapping etc. a mob and then not having to worry about it for the next 10 seconds or whatever. It would also be nice if everyone had their own enemies to take on, and individual dangers to worry about. Oh, and please, no “let’s just AoE the crap outta them” encounters.

“Dynamic” basically means I want MMO battles to feel more like real fights, alive with all its moving parts. And I have to say, the new demo video comes frighteningly close to what I had in mind.

Though it appears a main tank (the Trooper) is still required to take on the strongest mobs, the Jedi Knight’s no slouch either. He rushes ahead alongside the Trooper in order to engage the smaller enemies. At the end of the fight, the Jedi Knight and the Smuggler also work together to take down an Imperial lieutenant, with the latter providing some back up healing while the former takes the aggro. The Jedi Consular healer, managing the group’s health bars, uses her lightsaber to fight a little and throws out the force when the repair droids enter the fray. I know some people were pretty disappointed in the aloofness of her role in the G4 demo video, but you can see this time she’s really tearing things up (and no wonder, as it turns out she was being played by the awesome Sean Dahlberg)!

Even though we’ve seen some of the content already, this demo is much better than the G4 video. It was a good opportunity to observe the Republic classes in action (and their introductions at the beginning were very cute), using their abilities in battle to complement each other.  I know this is just a low-level encounter, but things look promising.


  1. I’m not sure I’m seeing what you’re seeing. I see, to use archetypes, a tank, a rogue, a hunter, and a healer. I see a boss with adds. I see crowd control. The graphics and terms might be different but the underlying mechanics, and thus the ebb and flow of battle, are the same.

    I don’t mean this in a “oh, this is bad.” Certain game elements linger because they work and work well. The MMO mechanics are much like that. As much as some people might lament the stagnate nature of the underlying mechanics those mechanics show up time and again because they work and work well.

    • Oh don’t get me wrong, I see those elements too. The archetypes are definitely there, but I also see a sign of flexibility in the roles. Like, the Jedi Knight is DPS but also expected to be a supplementary tank if and when the situation arises. The Smuggler is DPS and crowd control, but also needed to peel off the JK at the end there to heal him and keep him up.

      I feel gameplay like adds a little spice to the usual focus-dps-on-the-main-tank’s-target way of things, and also takes emphasis off damage meters. Personally, I see more importance on utility at play here, but that might be just me. You know I prefer playing hybrid classes for that very reason 🙂 I told Rowan once that’s why I love playing a feral druid in WoW. It’s true that I’m a jack of all trades, master at none…but in one of the best encounters I’ve ever had (and one of my favorite memories from WoW), I was able start of dpsing as a cat, quickly turn bear to off tank a loose mob to save a group member when things started going awry, then quickly throw HoTs on the main tank to keep him up before I b-rezed the healer who had died so he can pick up healing again. Though my role in that fight was technically dps, and doing all those things made my dps go down the toilet, I was able to fill a much more important role than just a nuker, and to be able to utilize all my skills and jump into different roles felt great. If only every fight could be like that LOL 😛

      Anyway, I know that’s not exactly what the demo shows, but to me it’s a step. For an encounter for a bunch of level 8s, I really liked what I saw.

      • Heh, yeah. Talkin’ to a feral tank here, too. Fought to tank pre-BC and had loads of fights like that. My favorite was being tapped to heal for Ossirian. Ended up OTing when the OT died. Did reasonably well considering I was heal spec in my heal gear. We didn’t survive the encounter, however. The MT died a bit later. 😦

        So, yeah, if they do hybridize each roll so there’s more than just a single focus I can see how that might be a step forward. And I did see the Consular alternating between healing, DPS and CC in there.

      • Ooh, fantastic! Even before I kinda stopped playing WoW, feral tanks were becoming a dying breed. Always a pleasure to meet a fellow bear 😀

      • Don’t worry GeeCee, The ICC main tank and raid leader in my guild is a Bear, at the expense of the player’s protadin.

        I am looking forward to the expanded, overlapping roles if that’s how they play out. Like you’ve said before, current 25-man gang-ups on gigantic bosses are not exactly realistic. Of course, neither is the Force or Schools of Magic.

      • LOL no, neither of those are really realistic…but I think they have to put things in context of Star Wars too, like Luke never needed to bring all his friends to help him gang up on and defeat Vader etc. 😛 And iirc, the other big epic fights we’ve seen in any of the movies all involve multiple enemies, armies even.

  2. “Heroic” means the enemy mobs will be so dumbed down that you can do with them whatever you damn please, 5 at a time, easily.

    Alternatively you simply watch Star Wars Episode 4-6 again:

    The voiced over intro to the battle is going to get onto people’s nerves soon, even if they keep them as short.
    “Jedi Knight lf Consular! No more Troopers.”
    (I guess nobody knows or gets it what Smugglers are supposed to do and players simply won’t take them along)

    Why is it taking Bioware so long to develop this? I guess it can only be that SWTOR is going to become a content juggernaut that plays it very safe with ages old mechanics and glossed over ingame vid sequences and voiceover, that somehow does not fit nearly as well in a MMO as it does in Dragon Age or Mass Effect.

    • I think a lot of people took “heroic” to mean Bioware will reinvent combat, but I’ve always thought that was an unrealistic expectation and I predict they’ll be pretty disappointed. Instead, what I personally hope “heroic” will mean is that I won’t feel like a one-trick-pony chump stuck in a static role just constantly button mashing one or two keys. Maybe being a tank in WoW has made me pretty jaded.

      And you’re right, the smuggler gets an introduction, and is pretty much never heard and seen from again. I hope they showcase them a little more; it’s an interesting class.

      And I’m guessing the story and script writing must have taken them a long time, as well as to record the voice overs for the myriad of possibilities and branchings that each class can take, depending on their choices. Not sure how well that will translate to an MMO either, but I’m going to reserve judgment for when I see it in play.

  3. All I can say is, “Squeee!”

  4. I wonder if “heroic” simply means, “stuff too big for one player to handle alone.”

    • I definitely think there will be some of that, as seen in the video.

      But I also wonder…imagine if you were a smuggler and you were in your role of providing damage and some crowd control…but suddenly your group encounters a fight that requires you to come out and “save” your buddy by giving him heals him while he takes on a sub-boss. I wonder if feeling “heroic” can also = feeling useful.

      • I think what we can agree upon is that heroic, epic and legen-(wait-for-it)-dary* all have been warped by MMOs as “Difficult”, “purple” and “orange.” 😉

        Working backwards through the terms legendary is often associated with a great task performed either solo or with a group. Epic is much the same, just a different scale. Heroic is much more personal, it is a difficult task or trek often accomplished solo.

        Or, put simply, a hero can be part of a legend which, if large enough, can become epic.

        Bringing that back into MMOs could mean that the heroic feel that Bioware is looking for in TOR is that more than 2-3 people are pivotal to the outcome of a battle. The problem with the 12+ raid size battles is that the pivotal roles rarely alter.

        1 tank, sometimes 2.
        2 healers, sometimes 3-4.

        Being a MT of a raid is a daunting task. Often it is the MT that is setting the pace of the pulls. There is no denying that the MT is pivotal to many of the boss encounters. There’s no question that role is heroic.

        Healer, too, is daunting. No tank will survive a near-equal-level raid without a fine healer at their back. This role, too, is pivotal.

        DPS, on the other hand, is the cannon fodder. They are the foot soldiers of the war. Even in the smaller 10-12 man raids, lost a DPS in a boss fight? Eh, we got 5-6 more. 24-40 man raids? Lose a DPS? Let ‘im rot, we got a dozen or two more. The guy tackling adds died? Call out a name.

        Smaller group sizes can alleviate that quite a bit. Hybridization does a bit as well. But the more you hybridize the less pivotal each person becomes. It does, in the end, become a 0-sum game. There’s only so much heroic to go around. 😉

  5. I’m quite excited about TOR. Even though it doesn’t look like they are deviating too much from the base MMO concepts we all know (such as the Holy Trinity), it does seem to be added its own twist to things. For instance, it looks like all classes have multiple roles depending on how they spec. I’m all up for flexibility like that.

    • Me too. I think a good developer will take things that exist and improve them, not re-invent them.

  6. It’s nice to see some actually gameplay in motion. This is the stuff I need to know if I’m going to be buying SWTOR.

    • Yes, I do hope they get more gameplay videos out.

  7. I really honestly believe that this game isn’t going to be what everyone expects it to be. I see it as more so KOTOR 3 tbh. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but what they have said, is that they don’t want someone to go through this game absolutely NEEDING someone elses help, no matter what class you are, it is a solo oriented mmo, the kind of rpg people should honestly die to want to play with someone else in.

    It’s not going to be something where you’re pigeonholed into a certain play style i feel. I just think there’s certain classes that will be able to do things others cannot because of their limitations as a class. Like how a trooper can tank, but not the smuggler, why? That much is obvious. But i like the idea of utility myself.

    I just feel like This game is going to be more about the utility of kicking ass and taking names, more so than who does this or who does what, because all classes seemingly have heals, so why wouldn’t they have the ability to max out that ability to heal and heal alike? Well, nvm my last part.

    • Definitely Bioware is crafting their game to be single-player friendly, but I think they can manage to make it a pretty good MMO as well. I’ve yet to see too many gameplay videos involving the companions you’ll get in the game, so I wonder how group content will play out using them if you want to solo.

      Not being pigeonholed into a certain role is going to be important for me, so I’m kinda glad you noted the same thing with regards to utility.

  8. I’m kinda worried the internet gaming community is a little retarded though. I don’t get how anyone could NOT be excited about this game. It just kills me how anyone can bash it or slander a game that isn’t even finished and blame it on past MMO experience.

    If there’s one thing i like about your blog, is that we have alot of the same ideas when it comes to MMO’s. Don’t knock it till you try it.

    I like that philosophy, i also like the idea of, “If you liked this, then you’re probably going to like this also.” I LOVED both of the Knights of The Old Republic games, if for nothing more than the lightsaber swinging ass kicking shenanigans, but the choices you had to make, how they affected the people around you, and the true to form rpg story moments that YOU crafted pretty much. Kill this guy? well guess what, now he can’t build the part you needed for the landspeeder, so guess what? The only piece on the entire planet…..is in a Den of Rancors..

    Oh yeah, that gets me pumped at the thought of something like that. Even more so is playing that style of game with 3 or 4 other people, who all know and love their character, play it how they play it, and have a distinct play style all their own.

    What doesn’t get me pumped is the thought of a Grind, The thought of Having to Go to some high end dungeon, that has shiny gear i want, but i cant get in without having the same level of shiny gear, oh and i can’t be a complete noob, or this and that.

    I mean, in the end what killed my WoW spirit was my guild and many people i know moving on. I played through that game for 5 years of me life. I’ve had top end gear from MC all the way to Black Temple, we’re talkin Berserker’s Call AND a Dragonspine Trophy! A guy takes a break during Wotlk, comes back, and not only is it streamlined so bad to begin with, everyone is accutely aware of it, so suddenly it’s about Gearscore’s and what you have.

    Anyone can get geared out in WoW nowadays, but it’s hard to validate anyone’s skills whatsoever.

    Even if it ever came to that with SW:TOR, in the very least i feel like i’m going to get 40+ hours of solid single player gameplay, whether i wanna play it with someone else, is completely optional. It look fun, looks like it won’t be a grind, the group elements look legit, and i’m already salvating at the prospect of more moves, more styles and specs, advanced classes, POSSIBLE space combat, and a house? I mean that’s just icing on the cake in sounds good-dom.

    • Haha, the internet gaming community is always going to be a little retarded. I think most people are rational and realistically optimistic, but you will inevitably find those who aren’t so level headed. The way I see TOR is that it’s okay to be super excited about the game, but having a list of unrealistic expectations isn’t the way to go either. Of course, there are things I would like to see in the game, but none of it is going to make or break it for me. Much like you, I do indeed follow the “don’t knock it til you try it” philosophy. 😛

      And my experience going back to WoW was much the same. When I resubbed, I expected to jump right back into my level 80 main, but the whole process of progression is so streamlined and artificial now, I couldn’t find the motivation at all. Forget the treadmill metaphor, this felt more like a factor conveyor belt. It feels so much better just playing the Tauren now, where at least questing and leveling still gives me a sense of purpose.

      And good point about the 40+ hours of solid single player gameplay in TOR (and with each class having their own unique storyline, it would probably be much more than that). I mean, the very very worst case scenario, that already would make the money for the box worth it. 😛

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