Posts Tagged ‘Roles’


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?


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.


Hanging Up My Tanking Cloak…

November 29, 2010

First, a little history. I started my World of Warcraft tanking career on Anvilmar (US), not long after the release of The Burning Crusade at a time when every guild on the server was hurting for tanks. My druid was just starting out in Outland, having kitty-catted her way up to this point, when the leadership made a plea for more volunteers before we had to turn to recruiting. What could I do, I heeded the call. Not that I really wanted to, but keep in mind that back in those days, cat DPS reputation was in the gutter. If I wanted to stay feral and still be useful, I pretty much had no choice.

Some people say that tank is the hardest role in WoW, and I know I might be biased, but I have to agree. As someone who has played all three roles (Healer, Tank, DPS), I think the debate goes beyond simply what buttons to press and when, or where to go or stand (anywhere but in the fire!) Based on experience, the stress of playing a tank pretty much trumps all. Healer comes close, but not quite. First of all, when I die as a healer in a raid, there’s still some hope of at least one other healer in the group picking up the slack. When I die as a main tank on the other hand, it’s almost always a guaranteed wipe. Tanks are also heavily relied upon to know the dungeons and their encounters, even more so back in the day when heroics weren’t AoE orgies. Any tank worth his or her salt knew to mark each target for kill order and crowd control.

In the end, I don’t think I could have done it if not for the wonderful help I got from my guild. I was lucky. I had the unending support and patience of a close group of friends while I picked up tanking from scratch. They made adjustments for my noobishness, I wasn’t immediately lambasted for making any mistakes, and I had time to get feedback and fine tune my technique. It was the best way one could possibly learn. Not everyone has that luxury today, and I sympathize with but also respect those who have had to learn to tank amidst total strangers in pick-up groups, in this ever fragmenting WoW community.

Now, I’m by no means a perfectionist, but I can be a fussbudget about certain things — like tanking. When I tank for a group, I’m like the mama bear who wants to keep all her cubs safe. Even after all this time I’ve never completely gotten over what I call my “tank guilt”. That said, I used to beat myself up every single time someone in my group died, even when it wasn’t really my fault. If a trigger-happy DPS pulled and got himself killed, I’d wonder if it could have been avoided if only I had been a bit quicker on the taunt, or working a bit harder on aggro. If the raid wiped because the healers screwed up for whatever reason and couldn’t keep me up, I’d still blame myself for the deaths of 24 other people, cursing myself, “If only I had had more health/been better geared!” It took me a long time to let go of this guilt, and realize that I’m powerless to prevent some deaths, and that it is a fact of life that some idiots just deserve it.

All this was before my break from WoW. I’ve recently picked up tanking on my main again, after nearly a year, and unfortunately I think the guilt is coming back. Plus the dynamics of groups have certainly changed. Random grouping is more commonplace due to the convenience of the Looking for Group system, with an undesired effect — healing and tanking have become increasingly thankless jobs as PuGs are quick to blame either or for any mishaps. I’m paranoid now. I’m starting to second guess myself again every time someone goes down, wondering if it’s my fault. Then I wonder if the group will vote to kick me if it is. I pray to the PuG gods each time I enter a random instance to please please please be kind and spare me the jerks and assholes.

If this post is turning out more whiny than I intended it to be, I apologize. I just know that tanking is quickly become a source of stress for me, even though it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing for years. But times change. With Cataclysm due to hit stores in a little more than a week, it’s the perfect time to re-evaluate if this is the path I want to keep for my main or if I should establish myself in a new role. I can see myself still tanking once in a while in the new expansion, but at this rate I have a feeling keeping bear as my main spec is going to end up giving me an ulcer.

Lucky for me, druids are one of the most flexible classes in the game. I’m going to need some time to decide once and for all, but right now I see very little point in continuing something once it stops being fun.


The Mission Of Imperial Intelligence

October 29, 2010

Out of all the classes in Star Wars: The Old Republic, I’d always thought the Imperial Agent would be one of the least played at launch. Popularity-wise, they’re no force-users, and in terms of having an iconic status, the class is still no match for the Bounty Hunter, Smuggler, or Trooper. Plus, what we knew about them before today was scant at best. Until now, the details on the the Imperial Agent had been much like the class, elusive.

When the Friday update hit, the Imperial Agent came roaring into the spotlight along with boatload of new information. And God knows I’m also a sucker for anything that includes a video:

I love the 007 undertones — great kiss, great accent. And apparently too cool to stick around to look at explosions. But suddenly, the underdog looks like a winner. Dammit, how do you do that, Bioware?

The class now has its Advanced Classes detailed: Sniper and Operative. The former sounds like a “ranged rogue”, which is exactly as expected, but to me it’s the latter that looks a lot more interesting to play. Like the Smuggler, the Imperial Agent will have healing capabilities and the Operative tree will have the talents to handle those duties.

Kaliyo Djannis was revealed to be a companion for the Imperial Agent. Based on her description, I have to agree with a couple people who’ve said she brings to mind certain existing female characters from Bioware — a bit of Jack from Mass Effect 2, a bit of Morrigan from Dragon Age: Origins. And 100% crazy. Boy, wouldn’t she be a joy to romance! Assuming this “Cannibal-Demon” thing is just a name and she won’t go praying mantis on you after sex.

Also revealed is the gorgeous looking X70B-Phantom. I imagine if Aston Martin ever made a starship, this is what it would look like — sleek and technologically stacked, just how an Imperial Agent’s ride should be. But that’s not what’s making me feel a little jealous. No, what strikes me is how the interiors look so much better than the others we’ve seen so far. Watching the video clip, it’s like peering into a penthouse suite of some 5-star hotel, complete with *ahem* king-sized bed. The insides of the others look like dingy scrap yards compared to this luxury yacht.

And finally, we have the Chiss as a new entry on the Inhabitants page. In Star Wars lore, the most well-known Chiss is probably Grand Admiral Thrawn, who served the Empire brilliantly in the Imperial Navy. When deciding which species can be playable as Imperial Agents, this probably made the developers decide on the Chiss, even though the Empire was already biased against aliens in their ranks even in the SWTOR era, as shown by the discrimination faced by the Epicanthix agent in the novel Fatal Alliance. I don’t know if this class will end up being playable by any more species other than human, but despite the restrictions they had to work with, I think the Chiss was a sound choice.

Now I just can’t wait until they do the Bounty Hunter.


Advanced Classes FTW

October 1, 2010

Star Wars: The Old Republic developer dispatches and blogs always make for interesting updates, and today’s dev blog “Designing the Advanced Classes System” is no exception, especially since so much confusion surrounds the subject.

That being said, I’m still left with many questions, particularly revolving around how players will be investing into their skill-sets, though I’m going to assume a type of “point” system as seen in many other MMOs. As it is, what the level cap is has yet to be confirmed, so subsequently I can’t even begin to speculate how many points we would have accrued by that stage. Admittedly, all this is reminiscent of the talent trees in World of Warcraft, but before I’m accused of calling SWTOR a WoW clone, let me just say I’d expect that even if there are enough similarities to make things sound familiar, I doubt the end result will be remotely the same.

As it’s shaping up now, we should probably start considering the game as having 16 total classes instead of 8, since each one will split into two advanced classes at an early point in the game, which players will have to choose.  Accordingly, after going down one path, there’s no going back, ever. If I remember correctly, Aion utilized a similar class system.

What impressed me though, at least with the example of the Smuggler, was the depth of each advanced class’s projected direction. I think once we’ve chosen an AC, we’re going to get a decent number of skill-sets to tinker around with, allowing for many different types of play-styles. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not unhappy with the implementation of the MMO trinity, but even so, I would rest easier if I knew it didn’t mean we would be pigeonholed into rigid and static roles, i.e. having to go through every single fight expected to do only one thing.

The information they gave about the Smuggler went a long way in allaying some of my concerns, if for no other reason than to see the words “stealth healer” described in the article. I have no idea what such a role would entail, but it does suggest some interesting takes on classic roles and a degree of flexibility within each class. Not to mention I bet it will make for some interesting encounters.