Hey everyone this is a transcript of the PaxEast 2012 SWTOR panel day 3 Q&A. The original audio and highlights can be found on DarthHater. This Q&A touched on some tough questions – class balance, operation itemizaton & difficulty, and Jawa 2015.
- When is 1.2? The answer soon, very soon. Isn’t that right James? I (James) thought I said within a week? Ha, just kidding! He (James) had being hit in the head before he said that. He is going to get hit in the head again if he says it again. So 1.2 is coming very soon, I hope that we will have more news to share on that next week.
- Character transfers: It is coming, very high priority for the development team. Asia-Pacific transfer is the first step, that is going to happen right after 1.2 goes live. After that we will be implentating a larger and more robust system for character transfer that will include character copy for the PTS. When the next big patch comes out, you should be able to copy your character over at your will and test it without going through the manual process we been using now.
Present: Emmanuel Lusinchi (Technical Design Director), James Ohlen (Game Director), Damion Schubert (Lead Systems Designer), Cory Butler (Live Producer), Stephen Reid (Community Manger), Cameron Winston (Combat Designer).
Q: Soa fight in Eternity Vault. Why did you guys choose to make the Soa Lighting Balls have a DoT effect? Cuz every fricken time our raid members are running into those things, they don’t just explode and do damage, they tick for a few times and do damage. It is really annoying. I wish you guys would have a line or something from the ball to show whose lightning ball it is. Cuz it is really confusing in the heat of the moment.
A: Obviously this fight is going to have a few issues that we are working hard to address. Greater visibility of operation mechanics is something we constantly striving to achieve. Certain effects that are set up as DoT (Damage over Time) effects vs instant effects is part of the difficulty of the encounter. The operation designers take these into account when they are designing the difficulty of the encounters so I guess the first answer to your question is that it was DoT cuz the designers thought it was the best solution for the challenge level of the encounter and the 2nd thing why it is hard to see who the ball is attacking – that is something we like to improve visibility on and we will definitely make some improvements to the Soa fight in the future.
(Emmanuel): So to your question exactly, we did rescript the lighting ball mechanics. Not only are people able to test it on the test server, but we gave ourselves more time to take into account the bugs in the final test server and fix it before we push it out. So that is one of the reasons why we are taking more time for the patch but we are relying on you guys testing, transferring your characters, and testing operations to make sure they are as perfectly as possible.
Q: Is there any intention to have group ship combat? Multiple people in one instance?
A: We are not talking about ship combat this time. We have a whole team dedicated to the space experience. You will hear announcements in the future – this year. Don’t we have a secret project you like to talk about? Yes, there is a secret project.
Q: 1.2 KP Nightmare is going to drop Black Hole Commendations. Is EV nightmare also going to drop Black Hole?
A: That is a great question. We don’t have the itemization team here but we can tell you that the itemization in 1.2 has pretty much gone a through revamp in order to make the various difficulties map correctly to the rewards you get for them. We will reiterate on that and get better on that as we release the next few patches as well.
Q: What time should we expect the nightmare mode of the new operation to come into the game?
A: We are aiming that for the next game update, we cannot announce the time of that at this moment or Stephen Reid will really kill me. 1.3 is the week after 1.2.
That was a joke.
I also want to point out that even though nightmare is not launching with 1.2 for the new operation, the hardmode is plenty hard. I don’t know we might had one guild clear it so far on 8m Hard and very few guilds cleared on story. So it is definitely a more significant challenge this time.
(Emmanuel): Nightmare mode when it comes, won’t be just a title and a pat in the back. It will come with its own itemization so there will be a real reason to do nightmare.
Q: Are you working on a fix for the Integrator boss for Directive 7?
A: Yes (audience laughs)
Q: Out of all the classes, sith warrior is the most undertoned. Like the tank out of the 3 tanks: powertech, and assassin, no one wants to take those into ops. And compared to the other DPS classes like mercenary & sniper, we don’t want marauders in our ops. Are you guys doing anything to make the class less undertoned than it is now.
A: Well my question to you is why do you think that they are undertoned right now?
(They just have, in my opinion, they die more because they have less defensive capabilities even though they have things like force cameo. They just don’t put enough DPS. I swap a mercenary out for a sith warrior, and we will down something. Whereas I have a sith warrior in my ops, and I don’t have a mercenary, we are not going to kill anything).
That is a rather complicated question.. First off I don’t necessarily agree that sith warrior is undertoned. We find that all of our classes are performing very close to each other as far as what our expectations are and we don’t change our expectations from patch to patch, which is something I read on the forums. We are very committed to making sure that every class in desirable in all kinds of content and it is my hope that with 1.2, when you guys get combat logs, you going to see that some of these classes that have being traditionally viewed as underperforming are actually probably doing more DPS than people expect. Obviously, if that isn’t the case, we start to see some combat logs, parses coming in that don’t really validate these assumptions, then we are always willing to go back and visit these kind of questions.
As of right now, based on all of our internal testing, our sustained DPS test, our burst DPS test, our survability test, and the many hours the class designers and myself are put into playing 1vs1, group content, in operations, flashpoints, we are very happy where the classes are performing in relation to each other.
Q: First off, I think maybe you are playing with the wrong kind of marauder. I have a marauder in my guild and he goes above and beyond the call and he never dies unless he is being stupid about it. As a Jedi guardian tank, I find that well I rock and I never die because I have a great consular healer. But the big thing that I want to ask is that, you know, you guys are doing a great job and just keep up the good work with fixing the bugs. Soa on nightmare is just still ridiculous because we get on to the 2nd phase and the floor is gone on some of those attempts. Other attempts lighting balls are tripling the damage. It is just too much. Hopefully you won’t take out the infernal title either because I am kinda sick of people saying oh you just a noob. I am like no its just buggy – we have great dps and great tanks.
A: Where was the question?
Q: Well, will Soa be fixed for the most part in patch 1.2?
A: Well Emmanuel right here has been actually working on EV for several works in a row. It has being his major focus and he can talk about that and if it is not up to par you can blame him.
(Emmanuel) So a few points. Yes, you right, it was buggy. It was buggy many patches in a row and sometimes we fix something and the problem is still there. We have no report of bugs on the test server, which is great. And then again for the next patch you will be able go in and test it for yourself. We fixed a lot of issues, and we are trying to bring it down to 0 bugs. Don’t take my words for it, try it again once 1.2 comes out, which is very soon apparently. One thing I want to say is that everytime we see on the forums a clear indication of a problem, a description of what happened, and especially if there is video, usually we find the bug extremely rapidly. The community has being key for us to find issues. We fixed every single one we know about and there are no known bugs in 1.2 but you guys will tell us. I won’t put in the patch notes that Soa is fixed until there are no more reports of bugs.
Q: I Play a Vanguard tank and I can’t hold threat for some reason. I run out of ammo way too quickly. I hit everything as much as I can, ammo regen is just horrible. People with equal gear as me are instantly ripping off with one crit. It is really annoying. Half time they are taking the abuse while I wait for taunts for come up because only way I can get any aggro is with my taunts. TLDR: Can you fix vanguard threat?
A: I think what you are experiencing is a two –fold problem. The first is we have a lot of mechanics in our flashpoints and operations which have threat modifications which currently aren’t being telegraphed very well to you guys and we are trying to do a better job of letting you know so you can kind of compensate for it.
The second thing, running out of ammo, in 1.2 your energy shot, the top of the tanking tree, is going to be off global cooldown and it is going to be another energy management tool for you. So not only it is going to be a free shot that does damage and you get more threat out of it, it is also just gonna give you energy or ammo back. It will both help you with your threat and with your energy management. It is my hope that you will use that tool and the new combat logs in 1.2 to help analyze your rotation to see where you are spending a bit too much energy and you can move into other things to help increase your overall threat generation and better energy management.
Q: In 1.2 the backstab cooldown was increased to 12 seconds from 9 seconds. That affects acid blade, which is a top tier talent in the concealment tree. I was just wondering if they are going to buff acid blade damage to make up for that? Cuz right now it seems to make that talent useless.
A: I disagree that it makes the talent useless. The concealement/scapper tree overall has being restructured abit in 1.2. All of our tests, both stained, burst, PvP, PvE tests for the concealment/scapper trees have shown they are very very close to all the other DPS specs in the game. We are actually very confident the 1.2 scapper/concealment operative/scoundrel are going to be able to do competitive DPS desired for operations and PvP groups. I am hoping with the new combat log you will be able to validate these claims yourself.
Specifically, a lot of the changes in that tree, with the cooldowns and rotations, it was sort of, like you said, shuffled around. Ultimately, we feel the end result is going to be very comparable what we have before – it has come down a little bit, but again comparatively to other specs within the same role so we are very happy.
Q: I really enjoyed the flashpoint slike Black Talon and the Foundry. Is that something we could see in big patches or is that something we have to look for in the next expansion?
A: So you are talking about flashpoints with more of a story focus? No you don’t have to wait until the expansion, when you play the Rise of the Rakghouls, that is very much story focused. We are going to be alternating between flashpoints that are very story heavy and ones that are a bit story light.
Q: There are clearly some characters that have a complex rotations in battle and there are some characters that are easy to play from a DPS standpoint. Is that an actual design decision or is that just how it came out?
A: Yes they are designed. The goal with different specs is to give different players who have different desires in their playstyle different ways to express both their star wars fantasy and the way they like to do damage. So some people just love using the tracer missile in the arsenal tree, other people are going to appreciate the kind of gameplay a watchman brings to their combat rotation. So the answer is yes, we do design different DPS experience for every class, a different tank experience, and that is just to make gameplay more live and make your choices matter more cuz you know choices are very important to us.
It is also important to us that we have rotations that are complex for the players that really crave that level of complexity and we also have some classes/rotations that are a little simpler and easier for people to get a handle on.
Q: As a guild leader, it is really hard to recruit the realm forums –the recruitment post is jumbled with other people’s from other realms. Are there plans to make realm forums or is that something you guys are happy with how it works now?
A: So we made the decision to go with what we call server forums after a lot of research into other MMOs who had done server specific forums. It was a combination of two factors, one was basically forums being very empty – pretty much having no activity. Forums, in particular, PvP forums, becomes pretty much an assortment of insults, screaming and basically tandems. Unlike some other MMOs, we have a fully active forum moderation team who are on call 24/7 and when faced with 200+ individual forums they would have to moderate, it was basically going to be a little bit too much for us to do. So we felt that these two factors meant that server forums would be something we like to try out. We would really like to improve the experience and you can come chat with me after you like to really try and improve the experience.
To be honest, generally speaking we think it has being relatively successful for us and has achieved the aims that we have- to keep the amount of moderation we have now and also to keep the forums generally busy.
One of the things that is actually nice about the server forums that I discovered after we launch them is that when create a post you have to create a prefix which shows your server. The advantage is that with search on the forums, you can choose that prefix and it will just show you a list of threads on that server. So we are trying to work out with that so if you are looking for a guild/recruiting for a guild, you can just do that search and see every thread that is just relevant for your server. It is an easy way of having a server specific page to look at.
Q: I am wondering, are you going to make any smaller types of races like maybe Ewoks for the Republic or Jawa for the Empire maybe available through the legacy system or something.
A: Well, any player races that we ever add will need to speak human so right there Ewoks and Jawas are probably out but maybe in the far future it might get a little crazier. LIke I talked about on friday, it would be really cool if you could play a droid but you won’t see that anytime soon. Maybe allow a player to play a Jawa in 2015 – I am just kidding
Q: In warzones right now, sentinels/marauders and tanks, the force stun/choke doesn’t activate the resolve bar so basically you could have your full resolve and then they will force stun/choke you and you still go off in the air and have that happening to you. Is that suppose to happen or is that just class specific?
A: That is the 2nd time I have kind of heard that question over this weekend and it is definitely something I am going to have to look at when we get back to Austin. I can tell you the design intention is that stuns, sleep effects, and knockback effects are not suppose to impair your character’s movement when you have a full resolve bar. If that is happening then it is a bug.
If this is actually happening we can investigate it certainly and stop it from happening. However, I just want to point out that immobilize effects, and slow effects definitely still affect you when you have full resolve bar. You may find yourself unable to move with a full resolve bar because you have a root effect on you.
Q: I think it was last week’s PTS notes or it might have being the week before but you guys were saying you were changing the loot distribution in hardmode flashpoints. Could someone talk about that? Does that also apply for ops?
A: I don’t think there is anybody on this stage to talk about with great authority. The matter of fact is we went through a rework of our itemization in order to make the rewards more robust. I think we removed destined loot (this was the idea that we would drop loot only designed for you and that even if there is someone else that could use it you would be the only one that can take it). We still like that idea, we might come back to it in the future but clearly the implementation we did right now is causing more problems than it was solving. So that is the biggest change you are going to see. That and the change to the tokenization of various dungeons.
Q: For combat design on the guardians/juggernauts, they have one 12 seconds cooldown that is an AoE, when you have 4-5 troopers in your raids that can drop 10 AoEs in 5 seconds, you lose aggro and its not even a competition. Are juggernauts/guardians meant to be single target or is there going to be anything that helps with AoE threat?
A: We definitely don’t mean a tank to be a single target tank or AoE tank, that is not part of the design. We want tanks to be successful in all situations. We are constantly exploring and evaluating how tank threats stack up against each other. From our internal testings right now we are happy with the threat issues. You are getting more threat generation on your top tier talent at the end of your tree. Also, there is a little bit of love going into the sweeping slashes, and smash stuff like that. It may require a different approach like maybe you see a group spread out, maybe you gotta force charge a guy, push him into the other group, you put your smash down. Ultimately what I want you to know is that we are contantly re-evaluating the tank balance, threat, survability. It is a never ending process. If we find that juggernauts/guardians are falling behind in the AoE threat we will definitely address that. It is not a design to make them bad one type of tanking.
Q: Are there plans for additional Huttball arenas?
A: Yes we have being discussing basically doing some reskin of Huttball like putting it on a different planet, keeping the game mechanics very similar – like you have a different stadium somewhere else. It is something we have discussed but there is no timeline for that right now.
Q: I heard a rumor that Lucusfilm didn’t want same sex relationships between your companions. As a female IA, I really want to bang Kaliyo really bad (audience laughs), I am disappointed that it wasn’t in there. So, is there plans to implement that? Can I retro-actively romance Kaliyo when it is put in or is it even going to be put in?
A: First of all Lucusarts does not have that position at all. They very much care about the community and in terms of when we are going to be adding same-sex romance, we actually have some it already written. I can’t say when it is coming in but it is something that Bioware is known for and it is something we are putting in. We have the full support of Lucusarts to do it so you will be seeing it soon. We are not going to be retroactively changing characters – so it is going to be on new characters.
Q: With flashpoints, the way they are, and the loot in operations, I find that very very quickly our characters don’t do flashpoints anymore. So, nightmare flashpoints?
A: I don’t think we have plans for nightmare flashpoints right now. One of the things that we made a mistake in the itemization was pretty much making the rewards, especially normal mode flashpoints, not good enough over the greens and blues that you were finishing the game with. So a lot of people were just skipping them over. 1.2 in general is a lot better on the itemization – we learned a lot from the launch of the game and we are going to continue to tweak that philosophy.
Q: Flashpoints seems a bit weird for the Star Wars universe, maybe in the future we are going to get an ops where we assembles our raid as strike team going on say say a capital warship on the opposite faction and taking down their generals or something?
A: We definitely talked about that. We want to push the Star Wars experience as much as possible. One of the things about all of the end-game content is that we are struck by this balance where we want to be sure we can push the wars as much we can but at the same time it is really important that the challenges we present to the two sides and the itemization presented to the two sides are roughly equal. So especially for right now in the immediate future we are focusing on 3rd parties that both sides can hit on. But do we want to get to a place where you are doing a bit of direct conflict? Yea. Do I have an ETA for you? No. But I will say we have big plans.
Q: There was one spot in Mandolorian riders flashpoints where you actually get a NPC versions of the Imperial troops that come in and is like another party that you are fighting against. Is there like we would have a PvP version where you have a quest on top of fighting people? Is there anything like that you guys are thinking about it?
A: That is a good question for Gabe, who is not here right now. We are going to be doing a lot of experimentations with flashpoints and operations in the future. Eventually we want to have that operation that replicates the end of return of the Jedi where you have a space mission mixed with the Death Star mission mixed with fighting with Ewoks (except we won’t have fighting with Ewoks) – kind of multistage operation. Ya you are going to be seeing PvP in a flashpoint/operation, I think that would be a great experiment. I don’t know if we are going to be able to do that but you know we are considering all sorts of different and original ways of presenting operations and flashpoints.