Archive for April 8th, 2011

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SWTOR: Staying Classy

April 8, 2011

Today’s Friday Update for Star Wars: The Old Republic is a developer blog detailing Advanced Classes, along with some unexpected extras thrown in. Among my favorite kinds of updates are always the dev dispatch video and blog updates, because it’s fascinating to see what goes into creating a game like SWTOR. Still, the level of detail in today’s update surprised even me, with its brief but informative “behind-the-scenes” look at the testing process on top of covering a lot of the questions that have been asked about ACs lately.

I thought Mr. Zoeller provided a very straightforward and in depth explanation on the mechanics behind skill trees, but what really piqued my interest were the new tweaks in the class roles. Some of the changes I already knew about, such as a healing role added to the Mercenary Bounty Hunter AC, but others were a surprise. Like, Jedi Consulars and Sith Inquisitors can become tanks now? Wow.

Yet, that makes a lot of sense. Something had been plaguing the back of my mind ever since watching and playing the Taral V flashpoint encounter. It just didn’t add up for me before — instance groups of only four players, but at the same time here you’ve got an encounter that will require two tanks to prevent a sure wipe and perhaps back-up healing to boot? What the heck, can you say, a LFG nightmare? This update, however, made it all come together. If I’ve got the count right, that’s three ACs capable of healing and three ACs capable of tanking for each faction, which sounds more like it.

On top of that, I’ve noticed before how the classes in SWTOR seem well-equipped to take on many different situations, by being able to incorporate more than one role within the same build. There’s definitely a degree of flexibility afforded to the player. In BioWare’s own words, some flashpoints are paced in a way that healers can switch into damage roles while engaged in an encounter, and tanks can get away with being a little bit more “reckless”.

Having more choices is always better. These tweaks would seem to be in keeping with that, based on the commentary about the Jedi Guardian AC. Previously, the Guardian’s only available role was a tank, but now they are also capable of doing close-ranged damage dealing. Indeed, I seem to remember being rather adept at both (at the same time!) in the flashpoint demo I played. If this is the direction class and skill point mechanics will continue to go, I think I will be quite happy with the end product.

The inclusions of 3D and movement heat maps and other metrics data was also nice surprise. It may not be direct information about gameplay, but it’s details on the game’s progress and development status which I think is a subject many players (including myself) won’t mind knowing more about.