SWTOR livestream Q&A Patch 1.4 and Free to Play transcript

SWTOR Livestream Q&A with Community Manager Joveth Gonzalez, Senior Producer Blaine Christine and Senior Designer George on September 21 – 4 to 4:30 PM CST.This is a transcript of the Q&A session. A video is also up.

Video:

George talks about himself @Bioware and operation Terror from Beyond.

I am a designer on the operations team here at Bioware Austin. We are really excited about the new operation TFB which is going live in 1.4. TFB continues the story which started with Karagga’s Palace operation about the Dread Masters. This one focus on the Gree species, which if you are a Republic player you probably played the quest on Coruscant with the four droids – Black Bisector and all that. This time you will actually get to meet a Gree and interact with them.

Black Bisectors – there are something unique about them in the operation that involves the puzzle right?

Yes, as you know in every one of our operations we have a puzzle fight (it has became our hallmark). For this operation, since we have access to the Gree and the unique way they speak we really wanted to focus on that, especially with the colors and such. The puzzle fight for this operation is you actually enter into a Gree computer and play a Simon says type game with your different color signatures and black parallels green scalars.

We did tease in one of our community blogs that someone is going to be returning in this operation. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Some of our more acute players who have being paying attention to cinematics and such realized that the end of Explosive Conflict the Dread Masters actually resurrect Kephess. Kephess is back, he is big, angry and upset that you killed him.

Blaine, can you talk to us more about the FTP option coming this fall.

I am the producer of the internal team that is helping us craft this additional option for players to enter the world of the old republic. We are introducing the FTP option and also a store call the Cartel Market. This came about because we got lots and lots of fans out there (Star Wars fans, Bioware fans) that would like to experience this game and one of the things we learned since launch in interviewing potential players or players who have come and gone that subscription can certainly be a barrier to entry in getting to SWTOR. With lots of FTP games out in the market these days, people see it as a more viable option in terms of the times they spent. This fall in November, we will be introducing a new option to allow players to enter the game and play the game.

There is also a rewards program right?

Thank you for bringing that up, one of the cool things we announced when we announced the FTP option coming this fall is the rewards program where players who have being with us for a long time perhaps brought a Collectors Edition and being a subscriber with us since launch. We got a system which allows you to gain some free Cartel Coins to spend in the Cartel Market when we launch as long you are an active subscriber when we launch this program. You can go to our website to find out the details of this program. Essentially if you are an active subscriber when we launch this FTP option, you can stand to amass a large pile of Cartel Coins to spend in game.

Q: One of the concerns with the FTP model is the risk for pay to win, you say you are against it, but pay to win is a sliding scale, it is not black or white.  In fact, some of the boosts you said you are putting in the shop are considered pay to win by some players.  Could you explain your decision making process about what you will or will not put into the cash shop.

This is obviously something we are very sensitive to. We got a lot of people out there who have dedicated a huge amount of time into the game. Of course one of the big fears people have is that when we go free to play we are going to allow new players to come in and purchase their way into the same level of expertise (i.e. cool gear, weapons).

Our philosophy is this, free to play players will have a lot of restrictions placed upon them when they enter the game. Subscribers are essentially (as far gameplay is concerned), not going to see a large change. Our goal here is that for people that are playing alt characters or coming into the game as FTP players and having restrictions like not having rested experience where they have means to sort of accelerate their progression through the game without becoming a subscriber. If they see something as a potential pediment, they have a way to purchase their way out of it. We really see it as a net benefit. We are not going to sell things in the game that are allowing players to be competitive at endgame PvP or PvE. However, at mid levels, if somebody is try going through the game with an alt or as a FTP player can purchase a gearset that is going to help them at level 15 for example. So what you are going to see are experience point boosts (beneficial to subscribers as well) but we are not going to do anything that is going to harm the endgame folks. We are very cautious about that.

Q:  What sort of content do you have planned for players who don’t enjoy PvPing or endgame PvE content like operations.

We are very aware that operations are not for everyone. As part of our more frequent updates that we are producing now, we are definitely focused on giving the sections of players who don’t enjoy operations more endgame content that they can do beyond questing.

We already have a few those that we have announced – new daily questing area that is coming out, Ancient Hypergates warzone, and lots of stuff we are cooking that we can’t talk about yet.

Q: It was mentioned that along with the free transfers we would be offered paid transfers for characters who like to move from one server to another. Is this still in the works?

Certainly we want to offer people the option to do character transfer as a paid service. We got a little bit of additional work that is going to need to go in before we can actually offer it as a paid service but that is coming in the near future.

Q: When can we look forward to the expanded storyline? Please just give me a month to look forward to.

We teased the planet of Mekab which is going to be the location of the expanded storyline. In a future update when we release Mekab there will be continuation of where the story left off.

Q: Will Cartel Coin shop be in before the FTP crossover so that any bugs can be resolved

Our current plan is the same thing we do to any new content we introduce to the game – you will see that a couple weeks before we launch the FTP option players can go into the PTS and our intent is for anybody that logs into PTS to get some Cartel Coins that they can play with only on PTS – those don’t xfer to the live game! We will have items for sale on PTS that people can go in, make purchase and give us feedback.

Q: With the coming new 1.4 Update, what is the reason behind relics that cost 400 Daily Commendations but only marginally better or new Black Hole gear  that costs 350 Black Hole Commendations

The side effect of PTS is that occasionally items that are not intended for live made it up there and unfortunately that specific item was the case of that. So that item in particular is going to be removed, reviewed, and hopefully a better version will come out in a future update.

Q: When will we be seeing the Cathar and HK-51?

Cathar and HK-51 are both in the works. HK-51 I am confident that you will see before the end of the year. Cathar have no definite timeframe at this point but we intend to introduce them as the first species in SWTOR.

Q: What kind of things can we expect to see in the Cartel Coin shop.

Really cool mounts, cool pets, some gearsets (not impactful to endgame) that help players as they level up. The gear you will find will be interesting to everyone because it is not going to be restricted by class or by faction and all moddable. The gear you purchase in the CC shop is hopefully something you will be able to use for a class you got.

We also have a really cool thing called Cartel packs. Cartel packs you buy give you a random assortment of really cool items and a chance to get some of the cooler items that maybe in the game (not powerful, but very cool – they going to make you look AMAZING!)

Q: Are FTP, 1.4, and CC all hitting the same time?

1.4 is already on the PTS and will be coming very very soon. CC coins and the market are not PTS so they are dissociated – November timeframe.

Q: When are we going to see Nightmare mode for Denova and TFB

Nightmare mode EC will be first, and will be coming very soon. Some point after that we will see Nightmare TFB. We realize that this is something for the very hardcore operation players so we want to make sure we do it right. Nightmare mode now is not going to be like Nightmare mode in Karagga’s Palace or EV. It is not a fully fledged mode – differences from hardmode and it is going to be very difficult.

Q: XP Boosts and rocket boots have being mentioned for the Cartel Shop (they are also available as legacy perks). How much overlap will there be between ingame legacy perks and cartel coins.

I don’t know if we are prepared to go into details about that yet. We will have to reserve that one for future interview.

Q: What is the current design intent for PVE gear progression for high end PVE groups. Having BiS except set armorings available BOE through the crafting system in 1.4 and beyond.

We want there be multiple vectors and options for players to their character’s power. We don’t want to always be a drop from an operation boss. Having a mix of craftable items and operation drops will be more fulfilling for players.

Obviously operations will be always the be focus but having some variety is good.

Q: Has there being any discussion on allowing cartel coins to be used for purchase race unlocks instead of credits options we use now.

The intent would be players would be able to use Cartel Coins to purchase Cathar as the first race to be unlocked when they becomes available. We are certainly more than open to exploring other species option depending on how popular Cathar become.

Q: US is down to 8 servers, how will this affect lag and server load when FTP hits. Will subscribers have priority in queue times.

With our recent server consolidations and on our new high pop servers , we are more than adequately equipped to deal with increased player load we expect when we go FTP. We done projections based on what we seen with other games, experiences within the studio and we think that we are definitely able to handle the load. For those using the PvP finder or group finder, there are even more population to jump there within you.

One of the perks of being a subscriber is yes you will get priority access in the queue if we get to the point where we have queues.

Q: Is there any reason why the hood toggle option mentioned in the works months ago has not being added yet.

Sometimes things that sound so simple are actually not so simple. As a side effect of researching that, we were able to release the companion unified colors and toggle helmet options in 1.4. The hood toggle option is something we really wanted to do and it is coming.

Q: How do you think the gear progression is affected that TFB is now dropping Rakata gear and not Campaign gear.

TFB storymode drops Rakata. When EV and KP normal modes were released, they were meant as a progression into hardmode. We now changed that into storymode – for players who want to experience the story so now there is not so much gear progresion in storymodes.

TFB hardmode will drop the new Dread Guard gear, which we just changed the colors recently. The colors we originally put on the PTS were less than desirable – ketchup mustard, banana sage  were some of the words describing them.

Q: Will we ever seen (operation) content downscaled for groups who solo playing.

Operation bosses are some of the most complicated content that we have created – they require a lot of testing and scripting. Taking an operation boss and make it into  four players content is not as easy as it sounds and require us to remake it from the ground up.

While that won’t be an option, we are definitely considering other ways to create more content that is not part of operation for smaller groups of players.

Q: Are you happy with the current HM TFB difficulty, do you expect guilds to clear it within a couple days of release or find more of a challenge.

We are very happy seeing the challenges players have run to on the PTS. I think it is inevitable that some guilds will clear it in the first couple days but I don’t think that will be the majority of players.Majority of players who go in to attempt the hardmode will take a while – you might be able to kill the first couple bosses.

Q: How do you address concerns from players who associate FTP with some sort of negativity?

As a subscriber, you can expect virtually no changes beyond the new stuff from the patches. You are getting addition of loyalty program where you get a monthly grant of cartel coins. Some new content we generate in the future maybe restricted to FTP players where subscribers are certainly able to easily get in there.

FTP can experience the entire storyline to L50 but there are going to be restrictions like warzones – FTP players are restricted to number of Wz and FPs they can do without purchasing access for more where subscribers are going to have the same experience as you have now.

Blaine anything else you want to talk about?

One thing we havn’t mentioned is the ongoing loyalty program for players who subscribes beyond the FTP launch. As part of your subscription, you will be receiving a monthly grant of cartel coins that you can go and purchase cool items from the store (this is in addition to the large amount of CC you will get when we launch the FTP option for active subscribers).

One of our goals when designing the FTP experience is making sure that players really get a chance to experience the entire game. Despite the fact that there are restrictions in place, players will be able to experience the story in its entirety as a free to play experience. 

George anything you like to add?

I like to thank anybody who were on the PTS to help us test 1.4 TFB operation. Operations are very hard to test, we could see here 24 hr/day play it and not find all the bugs.

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