SWTOR Patch 1.6 Livestream Q&A transcript and video. This livestream will be discussing Game Update 1.6: Ancient Hypergates and the recently launched Free to Play option.
- Transition to FTP is going very well – we seem more players using every metric we have. Our expectations were blown away.
- Six character slots for preferred players (up from 2). This will come in the same patch that allow players to buy more character slots. Returning players may find the restrictions a bit restrictive but we need to find a balance between making sure subscribers get their money’s worth and making the F2P option attractive. Brand new players may not find the restrictions restrictive as they don’t know what it is like without the restrictions.
- There is a thing we are planning for Ilum in Feb-March. It is going to be a revisit to Ilum but it is not going to be just a reboot of the same old scenarios we had there fore. It is going to be more than just PvP and has some of the most amazing world buildings there.
- With the Mekab patch, we will have slight philosophical restructuring of how our itemization is done that is going to make the itemization more sustainable in the long run. It is somewhere between an itemization spiral going out of control and complete flattening (i.e. horizontal progression).
- No plans for making separate warzones for elite PvP players but there are adjustments coming soon to make it so that the queuing system pair up elite players with elite players and non elites with non elites. No time frame on that adjustment. We want to make PvP more about player skills than the gear gap.
- No timeframe on Mekab yet but we just did a playthrough of the Imperial storyline internally. So it is far enough along that we are playing it and adjusting it to Bioware standards. Expect it “pretty darn soon”.
- Ease our minds of the current team with the restructuring. More bugs seem to rise up? We have a lot of very dedicated people who are very passionate about this game. There is no negative news along those fronts here. As far as bugs – if you look at version 1.1., 1.2, etc. every one of them had downtimes and multiple hotfixes after the patch. In 1.4 and 1.5 you just have seen some bugs that were really in your face that made the game feel a lot more buggy. We are getting better at finding the bugs and fixing the bugs. We take bugs seriously. We have leaderboards and monthly competitions to see who plays SWTOR more in the office.
- Super Space Project: It is great, it is something that is a departure from our normal space game. It is something that we have a team right now dedicated to building and working on. It is also something that is pretty far out in the future. We are talking far out.. It is definitely not what we shipping in the original product. It is possible that this is a multiplayer game due to the emphasize on the word together (read the transcript or watch the video).
- Our intent right now is to update the Cartel Market weekly and see a new Cartel pack with new rare items every month. Before the holidays, we got a really big cool update coming. With Life day coming up, we will have a new Life Day Cartel pack and cool new items such as Czerka LV-1 Celebrator (you are going to die when you see it), Life Day robes, orbs, holo-tree etc. Going forward, you can expect to see more archetypical gear (i..e more of a core Jedi Knight look etc).
- Earlier this year we did the guild summit, guild capitals, guild calenders, chat bubbles, ready check, were mentioned. When is all this coming? The studio has gone a lot of change since the guild summit, we are busy working on a lot of things. We changed some of the things we are working on. Some we are still working on, but some are on the backburner. I love the idea of guild capital ships but these things are abit further out. All of these features on the wall of crazy but it is a ordered by priority. Small things on that wall have a more chance to happen – i.e. inventory sorting that is coming soon.
- New system to copy live characters to PTS whenever you want. You should see it before we launch Mekab so you can test out that content.
- Legacy system will undergo a minor revamp to make it more important. No ETA on when it will happen.
- Mekab will have some some new gameplay activities, new way for you to go and explore the world. Minigames like sitting down and playing cards are on the list of things to do but not at the top.
- CE vendors – any plans to make the items on the vendors available on the Cartel Market. We backburnered it until January – no plans as of right now.
- Cathar is coming in the months timeframe. How well Cathar do in the Cartel Market will decide if we will get more races beyond Cathar.
- We are hitting our 6-8 content release schedule pretty good. There will be a 9 week window between the game update (1.6) landing before the holidays and the update after the holidays (1.7) since we want to give our guys the holiday off since they were all here last year. We will aim for 6 weeks but will go for 8 weeks for quality issues etc.
1. How is the transition to F2P going? I think I noticed more players on the Euro servers because of the move to FTP. Do your numbers show this to be true?
Jeff: I wish I could give you the specifics numbers to answer your question. I think I can say this without getting into trouble: all of our numbers, no matter which number you look at, are on the rise. Everything looks really good. You should, in most cases, notice a significant increase in people on servers playing with you. You can look at how many people are on the fleet, how many are on the origin worlds. All signs points to very positive,
Damion: Almost every conceivable metric is better for us and for you guys playing the game. We had expectations for what we thought this would do and so far it has blown away all of them. That just means good things for the team and for the game.
2. As a community managers, I noticed that a lot of returning players that have started playing again noticed a lot of new restrictions on their accounts. Are there plans to open up F2P more? I heard and read a lot of complaints that it is way to restrictive to entice people to try the game.
Jeff: Let me take my business approach to that. From a business standpoint, the number of F2P players we being getting in the game is great. I wish I could give you a real number. If you are a brand new players to our game and you look at the restrictions as a F2Per, it is actually not too limiting because you don’t know what the non-restrictive players actually looks like, you are not used to something else. . As a brand new F2Per, it feels pretty good but we are definitely listening from a design standpoint to everything you guys are saying – we are seeing the same thing: people are complaining about certain restrictions and how some are too restrictive.
Damion: From a design perspective there is a balance you want to achieve. You want to be sure that the F2P options is compelling and attractive but at the same time it is really important to us that our subscribers feel like they are getting their money’s worth with their subscription fee. Finding that balance point is really really crucial. We will continue to massage that as we get feedbacks from the fans and look at our metrics. We are already starting to make adjustments: we will go to six character slots for our preferred players instead of two and four quick bars for our prefered players instead of two. We haven’t announced that (character slots) but this is the first revel of allowing preferred players to get six character slots. You heard it first in the livestream!
Once we come in and enforcing the character slots that you have, that will come in the same patch that allow players to buy more character slots and preferred players will be able to activate up to six character slots.
Jeff: As we see things that seems too restrictive too us, we will continue to modify our offerings as we need to. Please keep give us our feedback.
Joveth: It is certainly not static,. we increased the number of quickbars for players due to PTS feedback, we did a whole bunch of different changes, including shortening the binding timers for Cartel Market items.
Damion: In an earlier draft of F2P, we had it so that F2Pers couldn’t use spacebar inside cutscenes and we almost had a riot inside this building. So we being listening to feedbacks the whole way.
3. What new things can we expect for PvP after the launch of 1.6?
Jeff: Damion and I are big pvpers. We love PvP overall. I think the broad answer we have lots of interesting plans for PvP and it is something we pay lots of close attention to. I don’t know if there is anything we can talk specifically about. There is that thing that is coming like. that one thing that we can’t talk about. Isn’t it February-March? Anyways, we can’t talk about the details of that thing but can you tell them what it has to do with?
4. Are there any plans to reboot Ilum or institute another open world PvP option in a near update?
Damion: Well, there is that thing.
Jeff: Tell them about it, at least a little bit.
Damion: What you will see in Ilum is we are going to revisit it. It is not going to be a full blown reboot of the scenario that was on Ilum before because that just didn’t work out. We really want to invigorate PvP and give players, especially on PvP servers,a place to encounter each other. We are going to shake up Ilum a little bit but it is going to be more than just a PvP thing. There is more going on and it is going to be good.
Jeff: It is fantastic stuff, I just saw it last week and I think you guys will really like it.
Damion: it is got some of the most amazing world building I have ever seen, you come over the hill and there is woah.
5. With the recent introduction of a new tier of PvE gear and the upcoming restructuring of the PvP set. What is the general stance towards an ever escalating item spiral. Can we expect to see things to go ape over time or is the game going to do some horizontal scaling which is minor balance changes for the long time.
Damion: There are a couple parts to this question. One thing that is important to us is keeping the gap, especially for entry level and top end PvP players under control. They are going to update that to be sure that people coming into PvP games don’t get slaughtered.
That is also important on the PvE side as well because in order to run operations you need a rich recruiting pool of people to pull from.
Overall though, we are going to go through a slight philosophical restructuring of how our itemization is done with the Mekab patch that is going to make the itemization more sustainable in the long run. Adjustments will happen in that patch.
Jeff: it is in between item spiral and complete flattening. We believe strongly that itemization and high end item sets are an interesting way for some players to play the game so we will keep investing in that to a certain level but kinda change up how we are going to be doing it.
6. Is there any plans to have separate warzones for non-elite Level 50 players.
Jeff: I don’t think so. not that I know of. Damion?
Damion: They are planning to adjust the queueing system to pair up elites and other elites and non-elites with non-elites. I think that will come in one of the PvP patches in the future. I don’t have a timeframe for that. So we are addressing that problem without using that exact solution.
The other part of it is really being sure that we get that better at giving out those “bootstrap” gear so that when you hit 50, most of the differentiation is actually from player skills and less from gear. Player skills still matters an awful a lot in SWTOR PvP.
7. What is the status on Mekab and when can we expect it.
We just went through a playthrough of the Imperial story this week. So it is far enough along that we are seriously playing it, viewing it, and say what it needs to do to be at Bioware level. That is all we can say. It is important that this thing is as perfect as we can be. I wish I can give you a timeframe on this but you guys should be looking for some details on this in the near future – pretty darn soon.
8. Can you please ease our minds about the current team. Since the restructuring of Bioware, the bugs seem to have gotten worse and we had several downtimes.
Jeff: There is a couple of pieces to the question and I tried to address that in my State of the Game 3 weeks ago. Of course there has being a lot of changes in the studio but I can tell you for sure that we have a lot of very dedicated people, same people who helped to build and launch this game, who are here caring about this game every single day. It is what we are focused on.
There is so much support in the studio, within EA, for what we are doing and for the future of the product. I want to reassure you that there is no negative news along those fronts here. As far as bugs, that is a very tough question. If you look at all the versions of the game we had done since we launched the game, every one of those had issues, downtimes, and multiple bug fixes after the fact. If you look at the data, 1.4 and 1.5 are actually better overall and they continue to get better along those lines.
You are seeing some heinous bugs, that are in your face as a player, in 1.4 and 1.5 specifically that really made it look bad. We fixed those things as quickly as we could. So it is not the number, it is that one or two bugs that really hit you.
Damion: The whole nature of bugs is that if you have a crash bug, it makes the whole game feel buggier. If you look at the emergency patch notes for 1.4.1 and compare it to 1.1, 1.1 had over 100 bug fixes. We are getting better at finding bugs, fixing bugs and releasing the patches in a solid state. This is an incredibly complicated game, everyone now and then something will sneak through.
Jeff: We take bugs seriously. We have a large community organization that doesn’t just include Q&A professionals but include everybody in the studio that pays attention to what our game is like and the quality of our game. We take it very seriously and we want to provide a quality experience to you guys. You deserve it and the game deserve it.
Damion: It is important to note that we have a ton of people that play the game in the studio everyday. We actually have leaderboards and monthly competitions within the studio . A lot of time we are really fast at finding the bugs ourselves as we find them playing on our home machines that may not be obvious when playing internally. Often those who find the bug fixes the bug.
9. How is the Super Space Project doing? Does it exist?
Jeff: They should name it “That Super Space Project”. It is so hard being a part of the development team sometimes as there are things that we are really excited about that I so wish we could talk about. I was actually playing what you are talking about yesterday – we run through the prototype demo (Damion: together). and together. I wish I could give you details. It is great, it is something that is a departure from our normal space game. It is something that we have a team right now dedicated to building and working on. It is also something that is pretty far out in the future. We are talking far out.. Not so far that you are not going to see it within the scope of game time. It is so great, I wish I could tell you more. You are probably not going to hear about it for a while also.
Damion: It is going to be under wraps but it is definitely moving along. It is a lot of fun. It is definitely not what we shipping in the original product.
10. With the Holidays coming up, how often will the Cartel Market update changes the gear that is available for purchase.
Jeff: Our intent right now is to update the Cartel Market weekly. We can do more often if we want to. You saw an update just 2 days ago. We put 1-2 new items on, changed some prices . We are experimenting with what works and what people are expecting. You should see another update next week.
Before the holidays, I don’t want to give you an exact date, we got a really big cool update coming.
Damion: We are currently slated for the immediate future a new Cartel Pack every month for the next few months with all new super rare items inside the packs.
Jeff: Oh ya and the stuff we are doing for Life Day, again which you will see before the holidays, are absolutely amazing. Do you have a list of items?
Joveth: I have a list of items right here. Czerka LV-1 Celebrator.
Jeff: That is the one, I am super excited about it. You guys are going to die when you see it.
Joveth: We are also going to have Life day robes, Life Day orbs, Life Day Holo Tree and a tensil bomb. We are also going to have them all available in a Life Day Cartel pack.
Jeff: I think that is just the short list, I think there is a bunch more. The Czerka LV-1 Celebrator “laughs”. Let me put it this way, it is red, it is festive, you can ride it, and it is super amazing. It will help with your celebrator..ing.
Damion: To go back a little to the question, we plan to put up a lot of gear on the store and update the gear selection at a fairly frequent pace. The plan will depends primarily on how well the gear does. The next thing we have targeted, I don’t know if it is will be in the next patch, over the next month or so, we are adding in stuff that are more archetypical. Stuff that really look like core Jedi Knight stuff. The mod system opened up a lot of stuff for us.
11. Earlier this year we had the guild summit. Guild capital ships, Guild calenders, Guild progression, chat bubbles, ability to sit in chairs, ready chat, and chat channel customizations were mentioned. When is this coming?
Jeff: From my standpoint, these are all great things. I want to be frank with everybody as I can. The studio has undergone a lot of change since those conversations. You can see, we are busy working on a lot of things. We havn’t stepped back on what we are working on but we changed some of the things that we are working on. While some of these things and some of these things are still on the list to happen in the future. Some of them are backburner list. I just don’t want anybody to think we have forgotten about them but I also don’t want people to think they are coming next week. Those are things that have being pushed out quite abit due to the studio changes. I love the idea of Capital ships and that is a big pet project of yours (Damion). I just want to make sure that everybody knows that these things a bit further out.
Damion: At the guild summit I introduced everybody to the wall of crazy, which is a big list of features that we have on the wall that we want to do. All the features are on the list but it is a prioritized list that is competing with the things the game needs, things we had to do to get the F2P stuff happen, things that the content guys need in order to make content more reliable. The smaller things on that list have a much greater chance to happen sooner – every now and then programmers have a bit free time and you can hand them stuff like that. As an example there, inventory sorting that is coming soon. I had a programmer that had a day and that was the thing at the top of the list that fit in the bucket of time we had.
12. Is there going to be any method for copying live characters to PTS.
Damion: Super important to us. In order to test ingame content with natural characters playing their natural way, it is critical to have characters the way you like to play the character and that you can do it at will.
Jeff: You should see it before we launch Mekab. it is critically important to test Mekab. We had character copies in the past. The way we put it together was not allowing you guys to do it whenever you want – i.e. manual copies. We got a system that we are actively working on right now. It is super important to us as it is to you. It will come before Mekab.
13. Will legacy perk prices ever be lowered and any possibly of the character perks being made legacy wide.
Damion: I don’t know, I havn’t thought about it in a while. Legacy is probably going for a minor revamp because legacy needs to be made more important in general. I don’t know when it is going to happen but it is on the list of stuff to think about.
14. When we are going to see more mini games.
Damion: The Mekab patch has a couple of things, I don’t know if I would call them minigames. They are definitely new gameplay activities and entirely new ways for you to encounter and explore the world. They are a lot of fun.
Jeff: But if you are talking about sitting down and able to play cards or something, again those are things on the list but havn’t risen to the top.
15. CE Vendor, are there any plans to update or make the items or access available through the Cartel Market.
Jeff: We had that convo a couple weeks. We backburnered it to talk about it in January. No plans as of right now.
16. When is Cathar coming out? Are we planning on any races beyond that.
Damion: Cathar race is coming in the months timeframe not the years timeframe.
Jeff: Probably, yes.
Damion: I want it out as soon as it is feasible because we want to see how everything does on the market. The answer to the second question is how well is the Cathar doing on the marketplace. Doing a race and all the customization options is very very expensive but if it is something popular, that is something we will do more.
17. How are we holding to our six week promise for game updates?
Jeff: I think it is going great right now. If you have being watching in the past 4-5 months we talked pretty aggressively about keeping to a 6-8 weeks schedule for updates and I think we hit that pretty darn good. It is diffcult, let me just put it that way. The development process to stay at quality can be very diffcult in that short amount of time.
We might have a 9 week over the holidays just because we actually let our guys spend a little time because last year we were all here. I think we will have a 9 week between the next update before the holidays and the update after that. But we should be back to 6-8 week updates after that. I see no reasons in the future that we won’t stay on that. We will keep trying to 6 but for the sake of quality go to 8 if we need to.
We will be doing another one of these closer to our next Game update so we will be back!