16/08/2015

R.I.P. Red Goo

Information about Knights of the Fallen Empire keeps trickling in at a fairly slow pace, considering that its release is barely two months away. I'm not talking about story spoilers here, but about updates about mechanical changes. I kind of didn't expect anything major to happen that wasn't necessitated by the change to the way Bioware is telling its stories, but it seems that this assumption was wrong. Musco is promising that we'll hear more about things like companions and crew skills soon™, but in the meantime stuff is leaking out both via datamined information as well as via snippets passed on from Gamescom, and it's all kind of awkward.

First off, we have the piece of information that the four main stats aim, cunning, strength and willpower will be rolled into a single stat called mastery. I was initially quite shocked by this announcement, simply because the four main stats are such a core part of the game, and I don't recall anyone ever mentioning anywhere that having a separate stat for each base class was a problem. Sure, new players would sometimes get confused and pick up the wrong stat for their class initially, but was that really an ongoing issue? I can't shake the feeling that this is a case of changing things for the sake of having change, and that's not something I like.

I won't deny that it will have some advantages. First off, there is the aforementioned ease of understanding the system. There should also be fewer wasted gear drops that way, and troopers won't be the only class anymore that can use its old gear as hand-me-downs for all of its companions. All datacrons that give stat boosts will be useful for everyone (though some people might see that as a negative). And people who currently use legacy armour to wear the same gear set on more than one character will be able to pass it on and wear it on even more characters.

The downside is that everyone will have a genuine reason to roll on (pretty much) everything, and of course a major loss of flavour. I expect that Bioware will use this as an excuse to majorly cut back on art assets devoted to gear that comes from drops or vendors, churning out nothing but very generic looking sets that could theoretically be worn by anyone. The whole layout of the fleet will be put in question, because why have four separate vendors for different classes in each section if they are all going to sell the same gear? I'm trying to keep an open mind, but it just feels wrong.

Similarly, major changes are apparently coming to crafting, which is what the title of this post refers to. I don't even want to get into all the details of what's been datamined, but the main thing that struck me was that Bioware is removing a huge chunk of raw materials from the game - from the looks of it basically anything that had more than one "type" will be axed. E.g. up until now there were two types of grade five metals in the game, Electrum and Neutronium, and if you were running a crew skill mission for grade five metals you'd never know what you were going to get. So the plan seems to be to simplify things by removing Neutronium from the game (and turning any leftovers into vendor trash). Then apply the same principle to everything.


Less clutter in my legacy bank? Yes, please.

Once again I struggled with very mixed feelings on hearing this piece of news. My legacy bank is ridiculously full of crafting mats, leaving little room for anything else, so the thought of being able to clear out a lot of those mats is a happy one. A lot of the time, the fact that there was more than one type of metal/compound/whatever was also hugely annoying, because as I already stated you couldn't choose which one you'd get from missions. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's been doing crafting for conquest and found herself perpetually short on Electrum while piles of Neutronium were gathering dust in her bank.

Yet at the same time... small imperfections like that give a game flavour and create gameplay opportunities. (Damn, I have all this Neutronium, what do I do with it? Is there anything useful I can craft with it? If I want to sell it, are there times that are better for this than others? etc.) To me, World of Warcraft is an example of how relentless streamlining of everything can slowly drain a game of a lot of its worldly flavour, and I don't want to see SWTOR go down the same route.

Also, personally I'll really miss Red Goo because I have a sentimental connection to that crafting material in particular. I've had bioanalysis and biochem as my main's crew skills since I started playing the game (I had no idea at the time if they were any good; I just picked them because they sounded like the sci-fi equivalent of herbalism and alchemy, which had been my main professions in WoW). Levelling up as a healer, I was usually trailing behind the rest of the group and hoovering up anything that could be bioanalysed even if everyone else was already moving on. Inevitably someone would die from lack of healing and wonder what the hell I was up to. I vaguely remember this coming up in a run with my first guild, and when someone looked at the log to see what I had been looting, he exclaimed something like: "You're letting me die because of Red Goo? Really?" So Red Goo became my excuse for always hanging back in groups and letting people die if they rushed on ahead anyway, even as I moved on to new and higher grade materials. (Not to mention that Red Goo is a lot easier to remember and say out loud than e.g. Biological Compounding Chemical.) I don't know what excuse I'll be giving come coffee time...


Carefree days of Red Goo collection...

Finally, Musco has hinted that they are actively working on making datacrons legacy-wide, something that a lot of people have been requesting on the forums for a long time. For me, this was another letdown. If you go through the datacron tag on this blog, you can go through my archives and observe the slow development of my attitude towards datacrons from complete ignorance and not caring to feeling a sense of adventure when getting my first couple and even perceiving them as an interesting form of group content after a while. Whenever I level a new alt now, I make sure to pick up (almost) all the datacrons on the way, even if I skip most of the quests on each planet. It's fun and progresses my character! But once this change goes through, it will be very pointless.

People will argue that nothing's stopping me from still visiting each datacron on all my alts and that's true, but it's also the typical argument of someone who doesn't care. Nobody's ever said: "Gee, I really like this content, please take away the rewards for it, I won't miss them at all." I also imagine that it will become harder to find help for the datacrons that require a group, because "oh, I could use that on my alt" won't be an argument to sway people anymore.

Overall, it just sounds like Bioware is changing too much at the same time for my liking. Even if those changes turn out to be good for the game, it's hard work for a player to adjust to too many things changing at once, and if everything suddenly feels strange it can make you feel disconnected from the game. I want to have faith in Bioware, because while they've obviously made mistakes over the years, I've never felt like they completely let me down, even after I had to weather the storms of server merges and the free-to-play conversion. It's just difficult when we know so little about their thought processes behind these changes.

5 comments :

  1. They are homogenizing things even further with companions. Subject to change, but tentatively companions will be able to do any roll. You get to select whether they are dps / tank / healer. This is good if you want, say, your healer companion right away, but wouldn't get it for a number of levels, but bad because it makes the companions much more interchangeable.
    The other thing is that companions are slated to get their stat based on your influence (affection) with them, *not* from gear. That's nice as it gives you a solid reason to work on your influence with them, but bad in that unused character gear drops aren't worth keeping other than for cosmetic reasons.

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    1. It seems there was a lot of confusion about the datamined companion changes and I agree with the commenter on Reddit who said that it looks like a lot of things are still being tested and it's best not to jump to conclusions based on what we've seen so far.

      No more companion gear sounds weird though...

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    2. Companions getting their stat from influence/affection seems potentially problematic - or will force people to shower them with gifts. Which, again, takes away from some of the flavor of the game.
      And may make people reluctant to make decisions they know their companion(s) won't like.

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  2. Not in love with them rolling all mains stats into one called "Mastery" ... I thought it was a hoax the first time I saw it. I think the way it will be implemented is that all the class core stats will be rolled into Mastery, with Endurance staying on gear. Maybe we'll get new stats to coincide? I don't know ... one thing I *DO* know is that I'm getting extremely anxious, considering how little info is being disclosed.

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    1. I'm not a fan of hype and generally happy to be surprised, but at this point it would really be nice if some of the devs would just come out and say: "This is what we're doing and why we think it's a good idea."

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