06/06/2015

Hearing from the Devs

I often see SWTOR's devs and community team get accused of not communicating very much with the player base or not doing a very good job at it. I honestly can't tell how true that is because I find it hard enough to keep up with everything going on on the forums and on fan sites as it is - I never feel like nothing is happening in this community, and I'm more likely to miss out on important information than to sit there going: "You're not telling me enough!"

Also, and I know many people may find this weird, but I actually kind of like it when MMO devs keep certain things close to their chests and refuse to talk about them. For example, I love a good surprise. I really enjoyed the way Bioware tried to build up suspense via the Forged Alliances story arc when it was first released and I loved seeing people speculate about which villain might be behind it all. The big reveal in Legacy of Rakata felt very satisfying, even if it wasn't completely unexpected. But of course you can only achieve that by withholding information from the player base until they can see the content for themselves (and if the data miners respect that stance and don't go around spoiling things for everyone else). Those of us who've played since launch may also remember how completely out of the blue the first Rakghoul event came - and it was great! Compare this to Blizzard for example, who posted all the in-game cinematics for Warlords of Draenor on their front page, spoiling the entire storyline two months before the expansion even released. (That sure saved me some money.)

There is also the saying that it's better to stay silent and be considered a fool than to open your mouth and prove it without a doubt. How does this apply to MMO devs? When they introduce something that I consider awesome, I'd like to think that it was all planned that way and that the devs are really good at their job. I'd rather not hear that this feature was slapped together within a month and with no resources, and that my favourite part of it is actually an unintended bug. Conversely, if I don't like a change, I'd rather imagine that the devs only had the best of intentions and simply made a mistake. If they come out saying that they love the change and that they are sure players will consider it the most fun thing ever, that's probably going to contribute more to losing me as a player than the change itself. Basically, it's easier to enjoy a good meal if you don't spend too much time talking about how the sausage gets made.

That said, every now and then I can appreciate a good, non-spoilery look behind the scenes, especially if it doesn't include anything that I consider bad news. And there's been quite a few of those over the past week or so!

First off, Chuck and Brian from the Bad Feeling Podcast interviewed PvP developer Alex Modny and Eric Musco about upcoming PvP changes. Now, the Bad Feeling Podcast is always fun to listen to and you shouldn't miss an episode anyway, but this one is particularly informative as some pretty juicy bits of info were dropped. If you just want a summary of the important parts, Xam Xam has one here. Basically, it's a lot of good news for casual PvPers, with warzones becoming more rewarding in terms of XP and credit gains, PvP gear having its cost reduced by a huge amount, and warzone comms becoming easily transferrable between alts. There was some stuff about ranked too, but that doesn't really affect me. They were also discussing adjusting the way AoE works in warzones so it doesn't interrupt node caps anymore, which could be a pretty big game changer in a good or bad way, but we'll have to see.

On the same day this interview was released, Olib from SWTOR Network posted a (written) interview with Alex Tremblay, Bioware's Manager of Analytics. I think this interview hasn't got nearly enough publicty, even though it's really interesting and includes some well thought-out questions. There weren't any huge and shocking relevations, but for those of us who love hearing about statistics and such, there are still some interesting tidbits (such as which colour crystal is the most popular at the level cap right now).

Finally, on Wednesday Bioware held a developer stream to show off the upcoming new stronghold on Yavin 4 and the new Togruta species. You can watch most of it here. Personally I watched about five minutes of the recording and then stopped, because unlike an obviously large number of people, I actually find it pretty boring to watch others play a game that I'd rather play myself. Fortunately there are parts of the community that are willing to provide summaries for people like me, so you can find a breakdown of all the facts that were revealed on Dulfy as usual. If you want some more opinions on what the stream was like, Mae and Xam Xam are happy to provide.

I'm quite excited about the Togruta, even though I'm not a huge fan of the species - I just like having new character creation options to play around with, so I'll probably create a Togruta alt at some point just because I can.

As far the new stronghold goes, I have mixed feelings. From an emotional standpoint I'd have no issue with dumping my Nar Shaddaa stronghold for it as I never liked it very much anyway, however I've been using it to boost my conquest point gains (basically I filled it with random trophies, pets and speeders) and losing that would be a bit annoying. Not that my guild has been doing much with conquest lately.

Also, apparently they kept emphasising that we can look forward to an exciting announcement on the 15th of June. I'm fine with that as that's my birthday and I already happened to book the day off work anyway. This better be good!

What are your thoughts on the newest bits of information to come out of Bioware? And is it enough or are you one of those always craving more?

11 comments :

  1. I don't find the communication to be all that bad. They've been very good about announcing release dates and meeting them. I like the fact the 3.3 just hit the PTS and we know it's going to be released on July 21st.

    They did do a terrible job promoting the big 1/2 price off unlocking outfits in your collection though. The official announcement went out the day before it ended, and it was available for at least a week.

    Overall I don't have much to complain about regarding information.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I also found the SWTOR Network interview quite interesting, particularly the part where Alex states that "Less than 10% of our player base seems to be primarily motivated to 'get to the end'; the rest choosing to experience the story that exists". This seems to suggest that the large majority of SWTOR players are primarily engaged in the stories of original game. I’d like to get more specific data, of course, but developers are historically reluctant to provide too many details.

    As to the point of communication, let’s not forget the whole "heal to full" debacle. Also, the approach that "the devs are listening" did not save WildStar. Personally, I think I have just become too dissatisfied as I have no faith in SWTOR any more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That sentence you quoted created quite a bit of discussion on Reddit, as some people seemed to interpret it as "less than 10% of our player base runs operations", which I don't think is what it was meant to say - though it does make you wonder what exactly they measured to come to that conclusion. I think it has always been clear though that SWTOR is not the kind of MMO where the game starts at max level, and I wouldn't be surprised to see that reflected in the player base's behaviour.

      As far as "heal to full" goes... I can't consider anything a debacle that turned into such a humorous meme! Shame to hear that you've become so dissatisfied with the game though.

      Delete
    2. I have no idea how common it is, but I prefer the basic game to the expansions, even though I bought both of them. (In fact, I hate Makeb quite a lot. So much that I haven't done more than the intro to Shadows of Revan.)

      I'm having more fun playing around with chapters 1 through 3 and variations on class stories - or using 12x xp to revisit parts I particularly liked the first time.

      I'm not particularly taken with either the "only you can save the galaxy" bent of the expansions or the "ha, sike, no you can't" part. Actually, it's the combination that's particularly off-putting. Makeb seems to have been intended to remind us/our characters that we can fail, which makes Shadows of Revan having the _same_ goal feel really weird indeed. Okay, we get it, we won't always win. Some of us never thought of our characters that way to begin with. Can we have even a scrap of success again, some day? Plausible success, that is.

      Because Shadows of Revan (even from just the intro) feels like it was written solely for Force Users. And doesn't seem to take into account anything but the "canon" version of the class stories (ie: LS and loyal for the Republic and DS and loyal for the Empire). If you didn't play that way, it's just a huge WTF. Or at least WTF icing on the WTF cake that is the idea that a non-Force Sensitive can save Tython/Korriban when all the Force Sensitives there failed.

      So, yeah, I have absolutely NO motivation to "get to the end."

      Delete
    3. I actually agree with you that the base game probably still offers the best content - though for different reasons (see my latest post).

      I can't really follow your claim that Makeb is about failure, as both storylines end in success. The Republic one kind of sucks because you are so ignorant about what's really happening and the threat of the planet blowing up isn't very believable, but that's a whole different kettle of fish. Ziost is the only major failure I recall experiencing in the game in a long time. Most instances of major failure that I can think of are in fact part of the original class stories.

      I sort of agree that the current main storyline feels a bit like it was written for Force users (Xam Xam had some interesting thoughts on this as well), however I don't agree with your implication that non-Force users being powerful is always ridiculous (or else Order 66 never would have been a thing :P).

      Delete
    4. I can't really speak to Republic Makeb, since I did Empire side first and that burnt me out completely on caring about the whole thing. Makeb is a success Empire side if you are a loyal Imperial (especially if you don't care about all the collateral damage). Whoops about certain class stories and their choices, particularly the end options for the Imperial Agent. And their attempt to address that doesn't help, as, if you chose the "independent" option as an Agent, your intro to Makeb is pretty much "Hi, I really should be executing you for treason, but instead go get us our Plotnium."

      Now, your Agent could still be loyal, of course, but it does seem to be setting the motivation up as "get Plotnium so as not to die" not "get Plotnium for the glory of the Empire." (And, of course, given the Agent story, "Screw you and your Plotnium," does not seem like an impossible response.) And it appears, on first playthrough, that the story is dealing with your/your character's potential lack of investment by holding up the possibility of saving the planet. Which seems like a real possibility. (That the early part of the planet, done LS, felt more like Chapter One in terms of tone backed that up, too. As did the fact that Makeb was, of course, still going to be around.)

      Except, whoops, you can't - not in any way that's meaningful to anyone but the Empire, anyway - and, on top of that, the people you've been working with get tortured to death by a Hutt. (Both the fact that the whole Mecha-Hutt business almost seemed like it was supposed to be funny (which clashed horribly with the death of your team) and the fact that that fight seemed intended to be group content just added to the planet feeling like a gotcha from Bioware. Without those elements, I might have seen the Makeb story as horrible, but well done. Maybe. (It still feels a little wrong for Star Wars - it's just not a setting that usually punishes people for trying to do good.)

      Delete
    5. As for the Shadow of Revan thing, it isn't that non-Force users can't be powerful, it's that the set up has them being more powerful (apparently) than a bunch of Force users. An attack on the main stronghold of the Jedi/Sith (presumably full of powerful Jedi/Sith) that those there couldn't repel but a single non-Force user can? ???

      Though, I admit that my feeling like They Just Didn't Care is an even bigger problem. They decided to have the intro be flashpoints (where in it would have seemed less weird because even with all non-Force users at least it's a team of them) and then hastily invented a way for everyone to do them.

      Add a line about Tython/Korriban being less well guarded and short on masters because of the war and it would feel less weird. Replace the kind of over-powerful droid with a team you're leading. (Or, possibly better still, let soloers go through their team - all of their companions.) Then it would feel a bit more like they were actually thinking about all of the classes. And the coolness factor - especially the idea of doing it will all your companions out - would be something to balance out whether the whole thing makes sense. "Eh, it's cool, good enough."

      (Though I still have a little trouble with a planet-eating mega Sith Lord singling the PC out when they're not a Force User. It just seems...un-Sith-like. And, of course, the more epic the conflict, the weirder it seems to have the Republic sending a Smuggler to deal with it, or the Empire sending a Bounty Hunter to deal with it. Even Troopers and Agents seem kind of out of their depth. Not that ordinary people can never fight Force users, but when you're dealing with a Force user that Force users are having trouble with, it's...it's time to go get some Ysalamiri. Or something.)

      (And Order 66 took the Jedi by surprise. Shooting a non-surprised Force User didn't go so hot for Han Solo. :P)

      Delete
    6. I can see this.

      While I've got one toon to the end, all of my other toons are in various stages of L1 through early Makeb. And it seems I keep adding to them on a weekly basis.

      I play alts on SWTOR in a way that I never play on other MMOs. I'm sure that's a lot by design, and that I know that I'm not going to get bored with the class stories anytime soon, even after 3+ years.

      Delete
    7. @depizan This conversation definitely rings a bell, I'm sure we must have talked at least about part of this before!

      I do get your argument about the agent ending that ends with you turning against the Empire... though in hindsight I think that even having that option was probably a bad choice on Bioware's part, because it was always going to clash with what loyal Imperials do and you can't stay "undercover" forever.

      Some of your other criticisms seem to be based on a lot of personal perception, e.g. I never had the impression that Makeb's last encounter was meant to be group content or that the Hutt using a walker to fight was meant to be comical.

      I also never got the impression that Tython and Korriban were "strongholds", seeing how the main focus in the story is on the fact that they serve as schools. Also, your character never goes in alone, they are always backed up by NPCs and just happen to be leading the strike force. Same with Ziost. I can sorta see what you mean and I'm not disagreeing that being able to lead a team of your own companions would be even cooler, but to me that feels unnecessarily nitpicky.

      Delete
    8. Yeah, I've probably complained about Makeb before.

      And, yeah, I have no idea what they thought they were going to do in future things after having those endings for the Agent story. Seriously not good planning on their part.

      Imperial Makeb's final encounter may be doable solo, but it's very complicated and fiddly and really seems much more like a flashpoint boss. I honestly can't think of any similar fights anywhere in the game, besides, of course, in flashpoints. I couldn't do it by myself and there were tons of people in general chat begging for help with it back when I did it. (Of course, this is all before they nerfed Makeb, so who knows now. And made some changes to classes that probably also help.)

      (I do wonder if they designed Makeb thinking everyone doing it would be well end-game geared. As in, had been doing ops and stuff.)

      But, yeah, maybe that wasn't meant to be comical. It was just odd enough that I wasn't sure that wasn't their intent.

      I don't know, it seems like they're more than just schools, they're kind of HQ for the respective orders. Tython's got the main meeting place of the Jedi Council, after all. But maybe they're only there when they're meeting? The Dark Council members seem to have offices on Korriban, though, as well as meeting there in general. (And there are star destroyers in the sky on Korriban, but let's not think about that too much, since I don't think they're really meant to hang out in the atmosphere like that.)

      I know it's all kind of nitpicky, but it's a (supposedly) story driven game and feels like they worked less and less on making that story make sense. Why is your character leading the strike force? It makes the most sense if you're a Sith or Jedi, followed by a Trooper, then an Agent (though it still doesn't seem like you'd have quite the right training), and wanders quickly into wait, what now? territory with the Bounty Hunter and Smuggler.

      Though the class stories and the planetary stories often fit together poorly. Maybe it just irks me more in the parts of the game that I haven't found very fun.

      Delete
  3. I like surprises too, which is why I don't jump on the PTS or read datamined reports. I do like that the devs are getting more engaged with the community though - the two interviews that came out had some pretty interesting information, particularly swtornetwork's. I like knowing those kinds of numbers because it helps me understand the community better.

    ReplyDelete