08/10/2015

More Livestream and Dev Blog Reactions

I couldn't resist squeeing about the level syncing coming in KotFE as soon as I heard about it, but there are a lot of other things that were talked about in last week's livestream that I haven't commented on yet. Since then, Bioware has also released four new dev blogs detailing changes coming to the Cartel market, changes coming to stats, combat and companions; questing changes and crafting changes. Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Miscellaneous Changes Announced on the Livestream

I don't have much of an opinion on anything to do with creating characters at level sixty. There was a time when I would have opposed the very idea of it, but as the practice of buying high-level characters in MMOs is becoming increasingly common, it feels like shouting into the wind anyway. I still think that in terms of community it's likely to do more harm than good, because for every player who can finally jump right in to engage in max-level activities with his friends without having to deal with the "tedious" levelling process, there'll be three people in your pug that have no idea how to play or behave because they only logged into the game for the first time half an hour ago and are barely ready to tackle the Esseles. But I get that Bioware is making this expansion all about the new single player story, and considering that story is very much a main focus of the game, I find the idea of letting people jump right into the new content less offensive than I might have if this was another MMO. One can only hope that at least some of these new players will get sufficiently hooked on the story of the game that they'll want to go back and play through the previous content as well, even if that requires rolling an alt.

I think it's really nifty that Bioware is raising the overall number of character slots significantly to accommodate altoholics, though personally I still have plenty of slots left right now.

I can't say I'm very excited about receiving a special little icon next to my name for having completed all the class stories, but I guess it will be interesting to see just how common a sight that will be on the fleet. Among bloggers it seems quite common these days to have completed all eight class stories, especially with the various class XP boosts that have been going around, but I'd be surprised if that was reflected in the general playerbase as well.

I think it's funny that they are changing all the commendations to crystals. What was wrong with commendations? Maybe it didn't make much sense for them to drop from things like mobs, but I'm not sure crystals are much better in that regard. At least commendations made sense as a currency.

I've already written about why legacy datacrons don't excite me back in this post.

Cartel Market Changes

I think it's great that they'll be reworking the collections interface. I unlocked a couple of colour crystals that I regularly copy for alts and their companions, yet every time just getting to the right window has been a pain that involved lots of scrolling and clicking. And that was when I knew exactly where to look, let's not even talk about trying to find anything of which I wasn't sure where it was!

All the stuff about changes to Cartel packs kind of went over my head as I've rarely bought any, but I have to admit that having fewer items per pack sounds kind of lame, even if they are supposed to be better items. One thing I've liked about SWTOR's Cartel packs as opposed to other gambling boxes that I've seen is that it almost always felt like you got something out of them, even if it wasn't anything great. Even if you got something like a very common pet and a pair of boots, it still felt like you got decent value out of the pack. So we'll have to see how that pans out.

Bringing some highly popular items from the packs back as direct sale items, even if it's only temporary, is something that a lot of players requested. We'll see how much people will make use of this opportunity.

Combat Changes

I've written about the introduction of mastery here. As far as the other stat changes go, I don't have much of an opinion on them right now, because like many class changes, they currently fall into the category of "too vague for me to tell whether it's going to be good, bad or make no difference to me at all in practice".

Level syncing sounds awesome, as I already said.

More experience for playing in a group sounds nice as well. Just the other day a commenter contested my claim in this post that SWTOR rewarded grouping, based on the argument that you could end up with reduced XP from mob kills while grouped. It feels serendipitous that this change was announced only two days later.

Temporary ability bars mostly sound like a nice idea, especially for things like throwing the Huttball. It always feels extremely awkward when you're in a Huttball match and some inexperienced newbie catches the ball by accident and then just sits there, confused, while the whole team yells at him to pass already. As far as heroic moment goes... eh, I've been able to cope. Surely I'm not the only one who had a whole ability bar dedicated to it, more or less? Now I'll have to think about what else to put on there or whether to disable it entirely. The one thing that scares me is this quote from the related dev post: "This will open up new possibilities for us to do some more interesting content in the future!" Is anyone else seeing WoW-style vehicle fights in our future?

I've already shared my opinions on the biggest upcoming companion changes in this post, but one thing that was new and interesting to me was the upcoming inclusion of non-story companions that only exist for combat, such as an akk dog. On the one hand I'd quite like owning one of these myself (even at the risk of incurring moral dilemmas) and it will be nice to see a greater variety of companions around, but on the other it makes me a little sad, because the fact that all of SWTOR's companions currently have a story has been part of what makes the game unique among its competitors. I can't help but feel that this is mainly being introduced to have another easy way of monetising the game - I know from Neverwinter that people love paying for different-looking combat companions, and I guess it's easier to add random animals and nondescript NPCs than to write and implement a whole new story arc for each new companion like they did with Treek.

Core World Changes

I think it's great that they are adding new indicators for different types of quests. There's nothing wrong with letting people know what they are getting into. I specifically remember P. Mersault from Party Business asking before how he could pick out the main planetary story if that's what he wanted to focus on.

I also think it's interesting that they are actually scaling the crazy XP boosts of recent months back a bit by pushing people towards doing the planetary storylines in addition to their class story.

The only thing I don't like is that side missions will be hidden by default unless you specifically enable them. Is Bioware really so ashamed of that content? With the new labelling system it should be easy enough for people to pick out their desired path anyway, without Bioware actively shunting content out of the way. And new players, the ones who may well be the ones most likely to want to do that content, probably won't expect to have to click a special tick box just to see all the quests.

Heroic missions as repeatable group content "for all ages", including an instant teleport, sounds interesting. Not sure whether they'll still feel sufficiently different from flashpoints at that point, but either way people will have the option of progressing their character at endgame through a variety of ways, and levelling characters should (hopefully) have a much easier time finding groups for these quests - though I haven't seen anyone mention whether the group finder for heroic missions will also receive an upgrade. It's always been pretty crap.

Crafting Changes

Again, I have written about some of the crafting changes before. I will still be sad to have to say goodbye to Red Goo, but hearing that obsolete materials will be turned into something useful instead of vendor trash was comforting. Even if it means that I won't be able to keep a stack of Red Goo just for the memories!

Overall I appreciate that they are trying to streamline crafting a bit, though I'm still a bit disappointed that there won't be a skill increase in KotFE. Hopefully all the changes to the core systems will still make things interesting enough to make it worth working on your crafting again.

The changes to gathering mostly make a lot of sense and were probably simply necessary due to things like level syncing and all the flashpoints becoming tactical. For example most people can't currently scavenge in Kuat Drive Yards because everyone gets bolstered up, so the mobs are too high to be pulled apart by lowbie gatherers. With a lot of the content following a similar format in KotFE, it would have been a hot mess if they left the gathering system as it is. Still, I think we are losing something by not having to think about these things while levelling anymore. It's another bit of complexity removed.

Also, no more zoning back and forth between different areas just to reshuffle your available crew skill missions... please tell me I wasn't the only one who did that?

The crafting changes, once again, border on containing too much theory for me to be sure how it will all work out in practice. Overall it sounds to me like there'll be fewer things of value to craft, what with whole categories like droid parts being removed from the game. (I sure feel like a muppet now for having bothered to reverse engineer all the blue and purple droid parts in 3.0...) I'm not sure how well "components" will fill that gap because they sound kind of boring to me to be honest, like fabrication kits. I rarely make those either, simply because my brain doesn't quite manage to make the mental leap to all the exciting pieces of furniture I could buy with them; they are just a random in-between item that I feel little connection to and therefore have little interest in if I'm not trying to get some for a very specific purpose.

I'm also confused by the supposed changes to reverse engineering, specifically this line: "Reverse Engineering items no longer gives a random item. Instead, the item reverse engineered will give an improved version of that item." Are you telling me that the blues and purples I currently get out of REing are not actually better than the greens? Does not compute.

I'm glad I'm not a huge fan of crafting, so I can look at all these changes with a bit of detachment. I'm curious to see how they will work out in practice, but if the new system fails to amaze me I won't be heartbroken (except about the Red Goo of course).

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