SWTOR Rise of the Hutt Cartel interview on dulfy.net with Bioware Content Design Lead Brian Audette on the upcoming expansion and the new planet Makeb. Special thanks to Community Manager Eric Musco for arranging this interview!
1. What was the development timeframe for ROTHC expansion like? Was it under development before the game’s launch or shortly after?
Brian Audette: There were elements of what would become Rise of the Hutt Cartel kicking around as far back as launch, but it wasn’t until late last summer that we really started working on it in earnest as the product we see today.
2. Are digital expansions the size and scope of ROTHC something we can expect for future expansions in SWTOR?
Brian: I think there is absolutely the possibility of future digital expansions of this size and scope, but digital expansions are only part of our update strategy for SWTOR. Players can expect to see a ton of exciting content coming their way as part of our regular updates over the next year and beyond.
3. How long is the Makeb storyline? Approximately How many hours would it take an average player to complete it?
Brian: Questions like that are hard to answer since every player will play through the game at a different pace, but there’s a TON more content than just the Makeb storyline in Rise of the Hutt Cartel. The Macrobinoculars and Seeker Droid storyline quests make up a significant portion of the content as well and there are plenty of repeatable daily and weekly quests as well as new Reputation Organizations to gain favor with.
4. Makeb is the first planet in SWTOR where players can experience same sex romance options in the storyline. Can we expect to see more of this in future stories or as modifications in existing storylines?
Brian: While adding same sex romance options to existing storylines is a bit difficult, we absolutely plan to add more same sex romance options to future story content. What you’ll see in Rise of the Hutt Cartel is just the beginning.
5. The latest operation, Scum & Villainy, has such a distinctive feel to it. The location is vastly different. The mechanics and boss fights are unlike anything we’ve seen up until this point. What were the inspiration for these new mechanics and boss fights? Can we expect future operations to be equally unique? Can we also expect operations to be even longer or tougher in the future?
Jesse Sky: Our boss designers and artists have raid experience going back to EverQuest and Dark Age of Camelot, and a few of us are nostalgic for the atmosphere that MMOs created in their dungeons 10 years ago. For Scum & Villainy, we decided that the theme would be a midnight infiltration of an arms bazaar on a remote desert world. Thematically, I definitely think it’s our strongest Operation to date. The mechanics come primarily from our sentimental ideas about each boss’s personality. We have, for example, Titan-6 – the loneliest war droid there ever was. He’s so massive, he couldn’t fit inside the city. They stuck him outside the gates, and I suspect it hurt his feelings.
Conceptualizing an Operation, the environment, and the bosses is probably the most rewarding part of working on the elder game in SW:TOR. If we ever get lazy, our writers inevitably hand us awesome source material that inspires us to do something more interesting. So yeah, I think you can expect more like this.
I doubt we’ll make future Operations any longer than Scum & Villainy – seven lockouts is pushing what you can clear in a single evening. However, we may explore breaking the areas into halves or wings, if it makes sense thematically. S&V is where we want Hard Modes to be in terms of difficulty. If you want something even more challenging, look forward to Nightmare Mode!
6. Will there be a bonus boss in Scum and Villainy like the Dreadful Entity in Terror from Beyond? Will we see a use for the Dreadful Orb in ROTHC?
Jesse: You really shouldn’t play around with strange objects you find in caves. Bad things could happen.
7. Will there be a world boss comparable in difficulty (or harder) to Nightmare Pilgrim or Dreadtooth on Makeb?
Brian: We’ve got something even better. There is an all new lair boss on Makeb designed to be tackled by level 55 groups and because it has its own instanced area, we’ve been able to do things with it that we never could have done with public bosses like Nightmare Pilgrim. It’s quite literally a blast.
8. The newly introduced Legacy achievement system is great for the completionist among us. Will we see rewards beyond cartel coins and titles in the system? (i.e. unique mounts or armor)?
Brian: There is definitely the possibility to expand on the kinds of rewards we offer for Legacy Achievements. Since the system is tied to Legacy, we have to be careful to ensure it plays nicely with your alts. We’re also hoping to add more achievements that change the way you approach the content and give you a new experience.
9. Balancing class skills/abilities is obviously very complicated. What were the major considerations, challenges, or design philosophy to ensure balance amongst classes as the skill trees expanded from 50-55?
Rob Hinkle: One of the biggest challenges in facing good class balance inside SWTOR is trying to create and validate fun gameplay with good balance for all of the possible combinations of points players can put into the skill trees. As we add more points into the skill tree, that increases the possible combinations, and as such increases the difficulty and time we need to feel confident in our changes. Even beyond that, ToR is over a year old now, and we really needed to do some work on a number of the skills trees, as some just hadn’t quite developed in the way we envisioned. The result in 2.0 and RotHC should be a better minute to minute play experience for all classes, while maintaining good balance between each of the classes/skill trees.
10. Other than the two new sets of gear and the new bolster system, any there anything else PvPers can look forward to in the ROTHC expansion?
Rob: Our biggest goal for 2.0 and PvP was to further tighten up how players of varying degrees of gear can play together inside Warzones. Previously, we had a lot of feedback that the competition in the 10 – 49 bracket was pretty solid, but as soon as players hit level 50 things became rocky. The gap between fresh 50s, and those with top end gear was simply too big, and it left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths turning them off from PvP. With our new bolster system, we feel like we’ve made everyone in the Warzone able to participate (without having to use a crutch like the Recruit gear system that required players to actually do something), while still leaving some advantage for those players who work hard and want to get PvP gear. We have got some exciting things planned for PvP this year, but getting the bedrock of the system into a better spot was the main focus for 2.0.
11. Can you elaborate on the design process for the two new tiers of armor models in ROTHC? What was the inspiration for these armor models?
Jesse: Parts of the new armor models are inspired by motifs in classic Star Wars outfits. There’s a lot of Dengar in the Underworld Bounty Hunter set, for example. The Underworld Sith Warrior set actually makes me envious, as a dark Jedi – it’s got a lot of Vader in it. I’ll probably end up dressing my Jedi in the Trooper kit, because I love the bandana.
Thematically, the new armor models have a loose association – we tried to shoot for things that felt appropriate on a desert world like Darvannis, but we were mostly drawing from a pool of art created before the content was conceptualized. In the future, tier gear will be more closely linked with the content, artistically.
12. The new tiers of endgame gear at L55 are particularly endurance heavy. Is this a way to combat possible stat inflation or as a direct response to certain operation mechanics?
Jesse: No specific reason. It’s just the beginning of a new gear cycle, and we played it a bit conservative with the stats, since a lot of the math changed with the new level cap. You’ll probably have more ways to optimize in future updates.
13. What were some of the obstacles the design team had to overcome in designing a planet as lush and vibrant as Makeb?
Brian: 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.
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 in mind and were able to make something that reached further than existing content, but was still firmly within our grasp to create.
14. Players have being asking for some sort of minigame in SWTOR. Are there anything in the new expansion that they can look forward to?
Brian: While a bit more robust than "minigames" our new Macrobinoculars and Seeker Droid content definitely fits 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.
15. What is part of the new expansion are you looking forward to the most?
Brian: I’m most looking forward to taking my existing level 50 characters through the all new story content on Makeb and for the Macrobinoculars and Seeker Droid. This is easily some of the best leveling content I’ve ever played and even once it’s done, there’s tons of exciting repeatable content to do and gear to be acquired. Most of all I want my characters to be ready for everything else we have planned for upcoming releases.