Exclusive SWTOR RotHC BioWare Interview

Posted: March 25, 2013 in Unknown Regions
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Hey people! So the fine folks over at BioWare were kind enough to take some time out of their busy days to answer some questions regarding the upcoming Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion! Among those who provided answers are: Brian Audette,Content Design Lead on Rise of the Hutt Cartel; Rob Hinkle, Senior Systems Designer; Jesse Sky, Lead Designer; and Nathan Emmott, Systems Designer.

Topics covered in the interview include new types of gameplay in the expansion, some details regarding Makeb, thoughts on crafting, hybrid specs, the Cartel Market, and more! Special thanks to Community Manager Eric Musco for arranging this and making it happen!

And as reported by Massively and elsewhere, the RotHC expansion will be launching on April 14th!

During the Livestream Q&A back in October, a player asked about the possibility of mini-games, and Damion said that Makeb has a few features that are, “entirely new gameplay activities. Entirely new ways for you to encounter and explore the world, and they’re a lot of fun.” Could you elaborate a bit on what that means and how it works?

Brian Audette: What Damion was talking about was our new Macrobinoculars and Seeker Droid content and while they’re more expansive than what you might consider “minigames”, they definitely fit that category of cool new things to do in SWTOR outside of the standard game play that people are used to.

Macrobinoculars will allow players to see the world in a different way and to identify otherwise hidden or mundane objects in order to complete quests and rack up achievements.

The Seeker Droid will let players play “treasure hunter” and search dig sites throughout the galaxy in hopes of finding unique items, artifacts, and gear.

Both features are introduced by their own exciting series of story quests that will take players across the galaxy to address all-new threats to the Empire and Republic. There is also a set of daily and weekly quests that will offer commendation rewards as well as reputation with a new organization.

It’s been said that RotHC will not see a continuation of the class specific story lines. That said, will the overall story experience vary from class to class? In other words, will an Agent have the same story experience (outside of slightly different dialogue responses) as a Sith Warrior while experiencing the Makeb storyline?

Brian: While the main storyline on Makeb is per faction and not per class, our writers have done an amazing job of making the dialogue and choices feel even more tailored to both the character class and player decisions than anywhere else in SWTOR. Having played through both Makeb’s Empire and Republic storylines as several different characters I can say that while the major plot points were the same, it felt like my personal version of that story each time as opposed to the same narrative over and over again.

Does the Makeb story shed any light on the mystery surrounding the fate of the Emperor?

Brian: Well if I told you that then you wouldn’t have any reason to find out for yourself. I will say that repercussions regarding events surrounding the Emperor are a major impetus for both the Republic and Empire storylines in Rise of the Hutt Cartel.

What was the biggest technical challenge you faced in creating the new world?

Brian: The great part about developing new content for an already launched product is that in launching that product you’ve learned a lot about what you can and can’t do well. Because of that we went into Makeb with our technical and design limitations firmly in mind and were able to make something that reached further than existing content, but was still firmly within our grasp to create.

That being said, anytime we do a space with as much vertical geometry as Makeb, building the 2-dimensional maps is a unique challenge. There’s also a lot of animated geometry on Makeb and that forced us to think about visual optimization in different ways. Overall it was a pretty smooth experience though.

With new abilities added to each tree, it takes more points to reach the uppermost ability. What is the design intent regarding “hybrid” specs that attempt to go up several trees at once and can sometimes create very powerful combinations?

Rob Hinkle: Hybrid specs are a difficult beast to deal with. Most players use a more traditional and expected skill tree path and that is where we spend a majority of our validation time, we want to make sure those rotations and gameplay are really rock solid. Each of our classes have a series of targets (damage over 5 minutes, damage over an alpha burst, time to kill on players, etc.), and when hybrid specs emerge that exceed our acceptable tolerance, we look to make changes that prevent the combination. We are happy that players like to mess around with their skills trees and find fun and unusual ways to play that are exciting for them, but I’m sure everyone understands that when something pops up that outshines the other classes (and this goes for anything, not just a hybrid), we have to make some changes to bring it back into line.

Update 2.0 on the open Public Test Server includes the long-requested ability to resize the buff/debuff icons within the UI as well as a new “ready check” feature. Are there any other prominent “quality of life” features included with the expansion?

Jesse Sky: Update 2.0 is primarily focused on new content and systems, so aside from those you mentioned (and bits of polish here and there), there aren’t any major quality-of-life additions. We are always looking for things to improve, however, so if there’s a specific quality-of-life enhancement you’d like to see, please let us know!

The Cartel Market has been live for about four months now. Is there any thought being given to adding account-wide vanity item purchases in the future? For example, people buying the mounts would love if the purchase awarded the mount to every character, not just one.

Nathan Emmott: A great deal of thought has gone into providing wider access to Cartel items that players purchase. While we can’t give any additional details at this time, we should begin releasing more information regarding upcoming changes to Cartel item access after the release of Rise of the Hutt Cartel.

The Cartel Market regularly introduces new highly desired armor to the game. This has dramatically decreased the demand for armor created by crafters. Will the expansion provide new opportunities for crafters? How about the ability to create “adaptive” armor?

Nathan: Crafting is still an incredibly important part of our game, and we have at times struggled with keeping balance between the options from Crafters and those of the Cartel Market items. We will continue to support Crew Skills, and they will continue to offer unique items and appearances that will not be available through the Cartel Market. We have discussed internally the ability for crafters to make some items adaptive, but we do not want to make a decision lightly; there are many subtle effects such a change could have. While I won’t say ‘never’, we do not currently have plans to introduce this option.

There has been some feedback from BioWare on the official forums indicating that season one of Rated Warzones is still being worked on. Any update on the progress there?

Rob Hinkle: Stay posted for more info after RotHC goes live.

Speaking of PvP, is there any new content on Makeb targeted towards PvP players? How does it work?

Brian: In addition to our new bolster system for Warzones that should make high level PvP a much more attractive prospect for a much wider range of players, Makeb has more than a few areas where the Empire and Republic content crosses paths and I’d expect to see some interesting open world PvP taking place there.

The limited time world events have been extremely popular with players. Will there be an event to correspond with the introduction of Makeb?

Brian: While there is no event scheduled to go live along with the launch of Rise of the Hutt Cartel, we really enjoy making and playing those experiences ourselves so I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of them in the future along with continued visits from our friends the Gree.

Finishing up with two highly anticipated features: Server transfers and the Cathar species. Will we see either or both of these go live with RotHC? Will server transfers be purchasable with Cartel Coins? Any hint as to how much unlocking Cathar might cost?

Nathan: The Cathar species is an addition to SWTOR that many of us are very excited about. Since this is our first additional playable species, we are taking extra care with its presentation and as such will not be launching with Rise of the Hutt Cartel. However, additional information on when it will be available should be distributed not long after Rise of the Hutt Cartel.

Server Transfers are also an incredibly important player service that we want to release as quickly as we can. Something of this size, however, does require extensive testing and we do not currently have a release date that we are ready to share.

Thank you so much for your time and attention. I know myself and the SWTOR community are very much looking forward to Rise of the Hutt Cartel and the rest of what 2013 may bring for Star Wars: The Old Republic.

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