25/08/2016

New Group Content Speculation

I think that most of us who have been following the game for a while are pretty used to Bioware being cagey about upcoming content. They weren't always like that... before launch they promised us the moon and then some! But we all know where that got us, so I can't blame them. I'm guessing they have very strict directives from above in regards to what they are and aren't allowed to talk about these days.

Still, the silence in regards to Knights of the Eternal Throne and what it's going to entail has been somewhat stranger than usual in my opinion. It's been over a month since it was officially announced and we still don't know anything more about it than we did back then. You can tell that we as fans are starved for information as people are even getting excited about leaked music. That isn't meant to be a disparaging remark about the music in any way - it's just that when an MMO announces a new expansion, the new music isn't exactly the first thing on my mind to get excited about. We just don't have anything else at the moment.

The continued silence about group content is particularly baffling. They know that people want it. James Ohlen has gone on record in an interview saying that "there will be "a lot of great co-op and multiplayer challenges" included in Eternal Throne. The story focus is there, similar to Fallen Empire, but they redoubled their efforts to make the expansion attractive for their loyal subscriber base as well." And in the latest producer livestream (Dulfy coverage here) they again confirmed that they are working on group content but refused to say anything about what type of group content it is.

While I can understand Bioware's fears about accidentally promising something that they then can't deliver for any reason, I would think that by this point in their development cycle a good chunk of this mysterious content must be close enough to being done that they know what's going to be ready by the time KotET launches. So why are they so afraid of committing to two new flashpoints and a new operation (or something to that effect)?

I can only imagine that the reason is that whatever it is they are working on doesn't strictly fit into any of the traditional formats and would require a more detailed explanation than they are willing to give (yet). There are actually several reasons why this would make sense. With KotFE, Bioware sent a very clear message that they were done with being like every other MMO out there in terms of the solo quest experience and that they wanted to do their own thing - whether you liked it or not, they did take a stand on that! Considering that, it wouldn't be a surprise if they also decided to approach the way they do group content from a new angle instead of relying on the classic formula of dungeons and raids.

More than a year ago I also wrote a post called Solo Flashpoints - Good or Bad Idea?, in which I explained why it seemed to me that Bioware didn't really know what they wanted flashpoints to be and why I thought that solo modes were an awkward band-aid solution for that problem. I'm not saying that anyone at Bioware actually read that post, but it's not hard to imagine someone over there asking themselves similar questions at some point.

I am, as usual, somewhat wary of changes like this. On sites like Massively OP you see a lot of people condemning the old raid model these days, but it does the job it's supposed to do! This is even truer for small group content, which I'm sure is the more popular format due to being more accessible. I don't really want Bioware to reinvent the wheel. Not to put too fine a point to it, but when they decided to change the way they delivered story in KotFE, they could at least point to a long history of doing the same thing successfully in single player games, but what sort of track record do they have of making their own type of group content? Mass Effect 3 multiplayer?

However, also as usual, I'm happy to wait and see what's to come. I'll appreciate the addition of more group content no matter what form it takes. But I do think it would be best if nobody hung all their hopes on it being a new op or flashpoint.

6 comments :

  1. Yeah, this is going to be interesting to see the development of. I think it's a good thing that they've made their current changes to group content as it is now far easier to introduce new content theoretically without worrying about gear.

    In practice, this will be not be as simple, as newer Level cap means more re-grinding, and even if there are new raids, with EV an KP HHM providing easy means to get gear there is no guarantee people will even attempt the new stuff.

    It's this which has me concerned. Obviously, we have the guilds which will throw themselves at prospective new content with glee, but if it's going to be a repeat of the Revan situation, more people will flock to the significantly easier stuff instead.

    It runs the risk of the payoff not being that great, particularly if the (presumed maximum) difficulty of Hard Mode of the new content only drops the second maximum tier of gear outside of its Highlighted form.

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    1. There are just too many unknowns right now. Has even the level cap increase been confirmed? I mean, I would expect one, but I don't remember anyone actually stating there would be one.

      If we do get one, then it's not a given that everything will be re-scaled again... yes, it would make sense, but it's also work that could be put into something else, so who knows...

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    2. All the same, it is still worth considering all the available alternatives before anything new does get released. Bracing for even the most outlandish results - and they've proven that they're a bit too capable at making these... - makes the result less of a serious hit.

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  2. I really hope they're not "trying to re-invent the wheel" as well. Unfortunately, this seems to be something MMOs feel they need to do after 5 years or so. I think of LOTRO with their skirmishes, mounted combat and epic battles. Each of those was released with a different expansion and supposedly the new big thing. All were a flop. Nowadays, what people like doing LOTRO group wise are the instances and raids. They only do the other things when it is needed to get through the main story or if they need specific rewards.

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    1. I was actually thinking of LOTRO too - even though I don't play it myself, I do remember reading about all those things you mention, especially the epic battles (weren't those supposed to replace raids?) and how everyone was pretty meh about them. I'm not against trying new things, but there's no reason to throw out a system that works just for the sake of novelty.

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  3. My SWAG is that the Tactical Trinity is out (at least at the "story mode" level). I base this on the TFP conversion, and the implied (stated?) reasoning for it that the player base was not running enough healers and tanks to fill out standard tank/heal/2xDPS squads at anything approaching parity.
    I expect they will leverage the temporary abilities bar instead to make mechanical challenges, along with designing role-neutral encounters from the beginning, a la The Eternal Championship.
    Speaking of TEC, the existence of that says they had plans on releasing new group content in the future, since that was stated to be an "on-ramp" to group content, and it seems weird to me to build out an on-ramp to old, partially deprecated, content.

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