I've been trying to avoid obvious story spoilers for KotET, but I usually don't mind knowing about mechanical changes in advance. However, even if I had tried to avoid learning about them, it would have been pretty hard to do, as my guildies have been chattering away about them on the forums and on voice chat ever since the information was released by data miners, making it pretty much impossible to ignore what's going on. Eventually I just wanted to know for myself how justified any cries about possible nerfs could really be.
The full Jedipedia post can be found here. I won't go into detail about all the different class changes - just check the nicely laid out post for yourself if there's anything specific you want to know - but what they've labelled as "global changes" is certainly worth talking about.
First off, it's time to say bye-bye to base classes. Somehow this feels like both a monumental and an inconsequential change at once. It's inconsequential because generally you pick an advanced class at level ten and that's it. I've known people to level to cap as their base class for a laugh, but that's not really intended or very interesting gameplay.
But at the same time... there was something interesting about a single class splitting into two very different specialisations with no turning back. It's not something that's seen a lot in Western MMOs, though I seem to remember an MMO blogger I read once commenting on the subject that Everquest II had advanced classes too once upon a time. I guess it's telling that that game moved away from that system as well.
Personally I always thought those little quests that are supposed to explain the advanced classes from a lore point of view were very cute; I particularly liked the two bounty hunters actually brawling with you to take your measure. Might be time to create even more alts and record these missions on video before they disappear? And of course your base class is what defines your class story - no matter how different they make Commandos and Vanguards, they'll both always start out as the newest member of Havoc Squad. I'm kind of curious how they'll overhaul character creation for this. Hopefully it will make things easier to understand for new players, which I'm pretty sure is the goal. To be fair, I can see where they are coming from with this one - pretty much every time I watch a stream or video of someone new to the game trying it out for the first time, it takes them ages to figure out that they are supposed to pick an advanced class.
In line with this, various abilities that were tied to the base class until now will be distributed between the advanced classes instead. Some of these will barely be worth a shrug - I don't remember the last time I used Charged Burst on my Scoundrel - but others definitely sting. Bounty hunters without Death from Above? Smugglers without Dirty Kick? Inquisitors without Force Lightning? Ouch. Personally I will miss Stockstrike and Pulse Cannon on my Commando. Stockstrike was a handy instant to use on enemies that were right up in my face, and Pulse Cannon just looked damn cool, making me prefer it over Hail of Bolts any day of the week, despite of the melee requirement and the cooldown. Mind you, this isn't the first time they've done stuff like that, it's just happening on an unprecedented scale. I still remember the days when my Scoundrel had XS Freighter Flyby and my Vanguard had Full Auto. However, I guess that ultimately these changes will have the same effect that those earlier prunings had, which is to say not much of one... except for the occasional burst of nostalgia making me shake my fist, going "damn you, Bioware", and then immediately moving on.
The one notable exception to this that I've seen and which appears to have created by far the most outrage is the proposed removal of Phase Walk from Shadows and Assassins. The difference in this case is that this was never a base class ability - it was introduced in 2.0 for those advanced classes only and fit the theme of the stealthy attacker coming seemingly out of nowhere. That it was also given to Sages and Sorcs in 4.0 seemed kind of odd, but I think most people just shrugged it off. However, restricting it to those two ACs only all of a sudden just makes no sense and I can completely understand why people who play a Shadow or Assassin as their main are annoyed. I still hope that Bioware will reconsider that change at least. (After all, datamined information isn't final.)
Stances and cells will also become baseline to each spec so you can't change between them anymore without also changing spec. Again, this kind of feels like a big deal and yet another loss of choice, but is it really? I can't remember the last time I switched Shintar out of combat support cell except by an accidental misclick! Now you won't get noobs running around in the wrong stance or power cell for their spec anymore, which I'm sure is one of the aims behind this change. I would have said that it's probably also targeted towards reducing "skank tanking" as it is known in PvP, which is to say using certain tanking abilities without going all-out tank, except that another "global change" listed on Jedipedia is that Guard will not be tied to tanking forms anymore, which would actually encourage its use for non-tanks. Huh. Maybe that's only a temporary change or something got misinterpreted while compiling the information.
Apparently roleplaying is also complicated, which is why any distinction between droids and other mobs is being removed. So from the looks of it abilities like Awe or Sleep Dart will work on droids too in the future, but the current droid-only crowd controls are being removed. I don't mind the former too much, but the latter sucks, because Disable Droid and its equivalents were - while situational - the only long-duration crowd control without a cooldown, and one of the few utilities that pure dps classes like Gunslingers and Sentinels could bring to a group. Being able to awe a droid for eight seconds instead won't be nearly as useful.
Finally, from the category of "plain odd": Melee players will be given more mobility and stealth players won't risk being spotted anymore when they are close to you. Just... huh? I don't really see why either of those things needed adjusting across the board. Stealth in particular is already an incredibly powerful tool as it is when it comes to PvP and really didn't need buffing. I also bet you that it won't apply in PvE and that there'll still be plenty of mobs that throw you out of stealth when they see you sneak past.
In summary, the overall theme is clearly one of simplification and the removal of yet more hybrid elements that somehow survived the introduction of disciplines in 3.0. I'm not part of the crowd that tends to complain about "dumbing down", but the problem with these things is that a single change is never a big deal, but once you pile enough of them on top of each other it can lead to classes genuinely losing their flavour. Let's hope that we're not quite there yet.