02/07/2021

Legacy of the Sith Expansion Announcement

I didn't watch last night's livestream while it was happening (though I do want to say to Bioware's credit that they've got much better at scheduling their streams at times when it's actually reasonable for Europeans to tune in too), but I did watch the recording as soon as I was able to. And once again I have to say that I found it very engaging and enjoyable to watch. I feel they've really found their groove with these streams recently - they may not be very high budget, but Charles and Eric have a great dynamic and are fantastic ambassadors for the game with their unending and infectious enthusiasm.

The intro with various devs talking about what ten years of SWTOR meant to them and how much they love their jobs could be considered a bit cheesy I guess, but it all sounded very genuine and to be honest it's nice to see some of the same faces making repeat appearances (proving that they're still around). Plus who doesn't like the idea of a game's devs actually enjoying their jobs?

And then we jumped right in: new expansion at the end of the year, called Legacy of the Sith (cue lots of "LOTS" puns, and Musco promised many more) to celebrate ten years of SWTOR! You can find the official run-down here, but here are my own thoughts on each item:

Five new levels, new story and locations

Not that much to say about this one, because while it's nice to see, it's also par for the course for a new expansion. All we know about the story is that it'll continue to focus on Republic vs. Empire, which I'm happy about, and they wouldn't say any more in order not to spoil us and I think that's how we as players like it.

In terms of new locations it sounds a bit less ambitious than Onslaught was, as instead of two new open world planets and a flashpoint, we'll only get one new place to hang out plus a flashpoint. The latter will also take place on a new planet called Elom though instead of being set on an existing one like Objective Meridian was.

The main "new" planet will be a battle-ravaged Manaan. I have to say while the concept art looks cool, I'm not sure I like it being all messed up! Seeing beautiful and serene locations torn up by war is always a bit sad. And it's one thing if it's only in a flashpoint like it happened for Tython and Korriban, but to have the "permanent" open world version of the planet be a mess is less appealing I think. Who wants to hang out on a rainy battlefield all day?

New operation

I like to call this one out separately because while you could argue that a new operation should also simply be an "expected" part of a new expansion, SWTOR's fraught history with this type of content has taught me to be careful with my expectations - so I'm happy to see that they are planning to deliver another operation soon!

Story-wise it sounds like the new ops might have a tie-in with Nature of Progress - it's teased at the end of the Dxun story mission (if you can resist the subtle pressure to kill Trey) that something dangerous has gone missing from another Czerka facility. Though again based on the concept art for the new operation, the overall flavour of this one seems very different, with more of a horror vibe similar to what we saw from the Dread Masters. I'm looking forward to it either way!

Combat styles

This was the main expansion feature aside from new content and to be honest it fried my brain a bit. Basically, after re-doing gearing in Onslaught, it seems that Bioware has targeted basic class gameplay as the thing that needs an update next. I have to admit I froze for a second when they started talking about that, as I wondered whether they were going to do something silly like pivot the game more towards action combat, but fortunately Bioware knows their player base better than that. What they did announce sounded a bit confusing though, and depending on the exact details has the potential to be a huge game changer or to make no difference to many players at all.

In a nutshell, based on the slides they showed, they want to disconnect base class (what defines your story content) from advanced class (what defines your gameplay), except for the divide between Force and tech users, which remains intact. What this means is that you could for example create a trooper but instead of playing her as a Commando with a big assault cannon or a Vanguard with a blaster rifle, you could choose to use a Sniper rifle and have access to all the abilities that a Sniper would usually have... I think?!

On a surface level this seems fine, logic-wise, because why wouldn't a trooper be able to use a different weapon? And many of the abilities are generic enough that seeing them used by a different base class wouldn't feel "wrong" - e.g. my Commando heals with different medical probes, and I see no reason why a bounty hunter, agent or smuggler couldn't also use medical probes. But some abilities are a bit more... flavourful, and there I struggle to wrap my head around the idea of all of them simply being available to every class. Would an agent tanking things with a flamethrower like a Powertech really feel "right"? Or how about a trooper running around kicking people in the nuts Scoundrel-style? Assuming that this is indeed how it's supposed to work, I'd hope that they're at least planning to tweak the animations/flavour of some of the abilities for different base classes.

That said, even if I understood all of that correctly, there are lots of question marks in the air about other details and how this is going to affect players in group content. Considering how big of a deal they made about it, it seems safe to assume that this "choosing a different play style" thing won't just be for new characters, but then how easy will it be to switch? If you could do it on the fly it could lead to weird gameplay expectations ("Everybody switch to a stealth style so we can skip the trash!") but then what would the restrictions be? Based on the fact that they said they'd also be introducing loadouts to go along with this (an easy way to save different specs/styles/gear sets and switch between them) it sounded to me like they do want players to be able to swap with relative ease.

And what will all of this mean for alts? If you want to see all the different gameplay options on both factions, you currently have an incentive to have sixteen alts, eight for each advanced class on both factions (though I'm sure most long-time players have more, haha). With this announcement, it sounds like you'd only really need two going forward: one Force and one tech user, who would then potentially have access to the full toolkit of all advanced classes on both factions. Does this mean there's less of a reason to have alts? I don't think so, though it does make things easier for people who want to avoid them for some reason. If you like having lots of alts though, there'll be even more class story/gameplay permutations for you to try though, as you could have e.g. eight different troopers that all level with a different play style.

Anyway, based on how many unanswered questions there still are about this new feature, a lot of this is really speculation more than anything else. We'll all have to hear more details first before deciding what it means for the way we play going forward.

Any other business

The expansion's launch, which is supposed to happen around the end-of-year holiday season (though we don't have a fixed date) will also mark the start of the second Galactic Season - so from the sounds of it there'll be a couple of months break between the end of the first and the beginning of the second Season, which is something I'd welcome. Season two will be centred around a new Duros companion.

There was also talk about improving a lot of the user interface, and I have to admit that was the part of the livestream that filled me with the least happiness... not that I'm against the idea in principle, but to be honest a lot of their UI "improvements" of the last couple of years haven't really felt like such (new windows that can't be modified in the UI editor etc.) - so you'll excuse me if I feel some trepidation around this.

On a general level, I liked how much optimism was expressed about SWTOR's future, considering how much doomsaying SWTOR players have had to put up with over the years. Apparently it's the longest-running Star Wars game at this point (I wouldn't expect them to count Star Wars Galaxies rogue servers for obvious reasons), and they have plans for more content for years to come. Eric even went as far as to say that this is just the start of the game's next ten years. I mean, obviously you never know when the corporate overlords might end up having different ideas - but still, seeing the team be so happy and confident does bode well.

If you made it to the end of this post and haven't heard about this yet, they also gave out a code that you can redeem in your account for a free stronghold deco poster of rebellious Mandalorian Heta Kol. The code LOTSofSWTOR (easy to remember!) is valid until July 15th.

What are your thoughts about everything that's been announced?

33 comments :

  1. Well, I'm both excited and.... Yeah, just excited.

    I don't think I particularly *mind* being a single-planet expansion, what matters is that it has story enough to feel like a proper expansion, you know? People keept complaining about how short Onslaught was, but it really isn't shorter than SoR, and SoR is just a bit smaller than RotHC - the second being in a "single planet". It may have *felt* longer because we needed to do so much side-questing to level and etc, but this is different from being *actually* longer, when we get down to it. The feel of open-world is what is missing in Mek-Sha/Onderon, IMO, but that's not surprising coming from KOTFE/KOTET and back into "Normalcy".

    (Of course, you can argue that ROTHC story really begins in KP/Section X and never really gets solved until DP, but as storytelling goes, having it barred behind operations means a lot of story players never really see the whole of it...But it tells you how much the team experiments with the story). (Also, KOTET technically also "includes" Traitor, all of Iokath & Ossus areas) (Maybe what is really missing with onslaught is a post-main-expansion area development/spread; however, I'm not sure hos much this can be blamed by COVID or planning or what. We did get the content we were expected to get in summer in winter and so on, so forth).

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    1. People have been complaining about SWTOR's expansions being too short ever since Rise of the Hutt Cartel, so I've stopped putting too much stock into that. :)

      But it's an interesting point that Onslaught has been kind of... instance-heavy. I feel we've got a fair amount of content, but post-launch it's all been inside solo phases (Echoes of Oblivion) or inside instances (Spirit of Vengeance, Spirits of the Enclave).

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  2. Delfae @Star Forge2 July 2021 at 12:56

    "If you could do it on the fly it could lead to weird gameplay expectations ("Everybody switch to a stealth style so we can skip the trash!")"

    Oh dear, I hadn't even considered that. :/

    New class rework is interesting. On the one hand, the ability to respec more easily is welcome (mostly looking at my heal-dps and tank-dps toons, who take more time than, say, my sniper). But on the other hand... what do "specs" even mean in this new setup? I'm both excited and kind of dreading all of it.

    But new operation! That I'm definitely looking forward to.

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    1. Oh dear, I hadn't even considered that. :/

      Neither did I initially, but it was Intisar's first comment on the livestream and it really stuck with me...

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  3. I'm still trying to wrap my head around exactly how this will affect the advanced classes and everyone's play style. Those wanting to switch to stealth in pugs might not go over so well with players who are there to learn their chosen class, but I guess we'll see how that goes. Another guildie has expressed concern that traditional Snipers, Commandoes, Juggernauts, and Assassins might disappear because of these changes.
    I am looking forward to the continuation of Darth Malgus' story and it makes me very happy that they plan to continue the game for the foreseeable future.

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    1. I don't think the traditional base class/advanced class combos will disappear, but I agree it would be kind of strange if some other "random" combination turns out to be overwhelmingly popular, e.g most of the agents being Mercenaries, most bounty hunters being Snipers or whatever...

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  4. Is the new Operation only for 8 man? The slide of the presentation indicates this.

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    1. I was wondering the same, but I'm hoping that was just sloppiness with the wording on the slide. It would be kind of odd for them to just phase out 16-man without any comment...

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  5. First off, I think the story will be fine. While I would like to just have Lana & company go away, I am enjoying the current story line of Republic vs Empire. I'm trying to stay low key about it so that I have the best chance to enjoy it.

    Secondly, the game systems. If loadouts simply remember my talent selection and hotbar setups between specs I'd be really happy. Easily swapping between a PvE spec and a PvP spec (or between heal/tank or a dps spec) is a wishlist item I've had for a long, long time.

    Depending on how much they decouple class story and combat style, that could be really awesome. Right now I'm in a wait-and-see mood about these type of changes. As long as a they are a good start I'll be happy. I know things won't be perfect at the beginning. They'll need time to refine things, but I do hope they are useful from the go. (I'll definitely be on the PTS seeing how things are starting out.)

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    1. Yes, I'm thinking about downloading the PTS as soon as it goes live as well! I haven't been on there in almost two years (and my testing of Onslaught's new gearing system wasn't very enjoyable, even though I ended up being quite happy with it on live) but I figure this I gotta see!

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  6. The expansion is exciting, Manaan is one of my favorite planets.

    The mechanical changes sound like a serious case of fixing something that isn't broken to me. I wonder if they are experiencing a bit of FFXIV envy? There you can switch classes at any time, there is no reason to have alts to experience different class mechanics.

    In terms of narrative structure, FFXIV is already similar to SWTOR in some ways (but with few choices that make any difference). In FFXIV here are three different stories for the first act depending on where you start, then everyone gets the same story from act II going forward. In SWTOR, there are 8 stories -> 2 two stories -> 1 story with some options that play out very differently depending on what options you pick.

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    1. The mechanical changes sound like a serious case of fixing something that isn't broken to me.

      I actually think it's pretty genius. While this announcement came as a surprise to me personally, it's not a case of "nobody asked for this" at all - I've seen/heard many players crave the ability to play their classes differently over the years, usually inspired by a desire to mimic a character from other Star Wars media - e.g. recently wanting to be a bounty hunter with a sniper rifle like the Mandalorian.

      Also, thinking ahead even further, this change might free them up to add new combat styles or class stories to the game in the future. With the current system, it was hard to add anything like that because it would have had to be a new story and one or two completely new compatible play styles to align with what's already there. By decoupling those things, it gives them more options for the future.

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    2. Combat Styles is just a side product, because they failed to deliver that the outfit-designer includes weapons.

      "By decoupling those things, it gives them more options for the future."

      I think it is bold to assume, that they intend to do new things with this emergency solution.

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    3. If it gives them the ability to add new options without needing to make a whole class, I think it could end up being a lot of fun. Regardless, I'll certainly be firing up my account again whenever the expansion goes live.

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    4. @Unknown: It seems weird to me to suggest that a pretty drastic gameplay change would be implemented as an "emergency solution" to achieve a purely cosmetic feature instead of just... implementing that cosmetic feature. Plus whenever they do add weapons to the outfit designer, I wouldn't expect to be able to transform one type of weapon into a different type (e.g. a rifle into a blaster or anything like that), just to change the skin to one of the same type. Really, the only thing these two things have in common is that they're both features that certain groups of players have wanted for a while.

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    5. "It seems weird to me to suggest that a pretty drastic gameplay change would be implemented as an "emergency solution" to achieve a purely cosmetic feature instead of just... implementing that cosmetic feature."

      As far as i recall, the developers said on more than one occasion, that the abilities are tied to the specific weapon. And that it is not easy or almost impossible to just add weapons to the outfit-designer.

      To make it possible, to make the wish of the players true, that players finally can equip a sniper rifle to a commando, they had to invent combat styles.

      There was never the option to "just... implementing the cosmetic feature". Combat Styles is the cosmetic feature. There never was another solution to this problem.

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    6. My point is I never saw "being able to equip a weapon your class wasn't designed for" as an outfit designer thing, because that would have obviously been more than a simple cosmetic change. But people have been asking for weapons to be added to it so they can easily change the look of their saber to a different saber and such, and that might still happen at some point.

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    7. i agree with unknown.

      people are asking for this since the release of the outfitdesigner. since 2015. i think, adding weapons to the outfitdesigner was very high on their todolist for many years. every livestream the players asked again and again. and most of the time musco addresses them and dropped a hint or two. "we want to do it, but it's not that easy. we are on it.". something like that. and finally after 6 years we are getting something, which is not the perfect solution but pretty damn near what people wanted...

      i too think, that this combat styles is the cosmetic feature, that they could not implement in any other more "simple" form.

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    8. I've long wanted the ability to swap between the two advanced classes of a base class (Guardian to Sentinel and vice-versa for a Jedi Knight, for example). This is definitely not just a cosmetic feature, it is a major systems change. A cosmetic feature would be using a two-handed lightsaber instead of using a traditional lightsaber while having all the same Jedi Knight class abilities.

      Getting access to the other Force advanced classes is just icing on the cake. Now if I want to play a specific character I have the option to change things up to keep it fresh. (I can also leave characters unchanged for those that have a history of being a certain way.)

      As has been mentioned, this allows Bioware the option to add new Combat Styles without having to add a new class. It also allows Bioware the option to add a new class story without having to invent a new Combat Style. This isn't to say they will, but the option is there as they don't need to do both at the same time.

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  7. "so they can easily change the look of their saber to a different saber and such"

    yes. sure. but there were always people that were asking about a sniper rifle on a commando. it was not only about "i want this saber, when i wear this outfit and when i swap into that outfit i want the other saber.".

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    1. Yeah, I agree, I said as much in my first reply to Yeebo. :) It just seemed obvious to me that that was never going to be an outfit designer feature so I never would've even connected the two.

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    2. "Yeah, I agree, I said as much in my first reply to Yeebo. :) "

      aaah... yes... of course... that slipped my mind. i'm sorry.

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  8. The SWTOR community is not the brightest!? Is this possible?

    There is a thread on the official forums, asking how is this a "big" expansion?

    And there a seriously people in there, talking about combat styles... that they don't think, it will have a huge impact on their gameplay, because in itself it is nothing of huge worth for them, since they already played all classes and all stories...

    ... but the announcement of combat styles makes the LotS expansion bigger than SoR with its two planets, one class mission, two operations and multiple flashpoints, because...

    ... because combat styles gives them hope for the future, that a new class will be implemented. A new class, just without story and stuff, just pure new class gameplay.

    Just imagine that!? How dense has someone to be, to believe, that this expansion is bigger than SoR. Purely on the basis of hope, that there will be coming more in the future.

    You're giving up the present, just for a glimpse of hope, that the future will bring something more.

    That is by far the most disturbing i saw in regards of white knighting EA. They basically ignore every single fact, that the SWTOR history teaches them.

    From expansion to expansion we always got less.

    Makeb, fully explorable planet with two storylines. SoR with one planet (Rishi), and a daily area (Yavin), with only one storyline but class missions. KotFE/KotET with only story, no flashpoints, no operations (just one spread out over a year). Onslaught with two kind of minor explorable planets, one story.

    The facts say we get less and less. And they welcome it, because EA managed to sell them hope? As far as i believe, the chances are higher that covid 19 variant f will impact earth far harsher than expected and the game have to shut the servers down or something.

    Combat Styles makes this the biggest evar expansion evar announced in the universe evar, because in the future, there will be something in there for us. Or not.

    And they will happily pay another two years of subscription, till the next expansion and will find another reason to excuse EA.

    I never saw something more pathetic in my life. evar.

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    1. That's how people are!

      You could put them in a voting booth, and tell them to vote on taxing the rich.

      They will stand there and thinking "i'm poor, i don't play the lottery, i'm stuck for a decade in the same low paying job, i'm not the most beautiful person on the planet and therefore will not marry rich, yes, i'm poor and it most likely will stay this way, but... "

      And they will vote against taxing the rich. Just because they hope that one day...

      ... and that's why SWTOR people pay their sub every month. They have hope, that regardless of the circumstances, one day... :)

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    2. oooh... noooo... the post above is from Jeff again. Ignore him. He is still not allowed to respond on the official forums. JackieKo is really hard, if you use swear words a LotS. :)

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    3. It's like a boss telling his employee, that he would like to give him a raise, but with covid and all it's just not possible, but once all this is over, he will give him a raise for sure.

      And the employee is happy and tells everybody, that maybe in a few years he will get a raise because his boss loves him.

      I agree with Jeff.

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    4. Or it is like with this girl, who tells you she is just not that into you, but if you both turn 40, she will consider you for marriage.

      And you are totally happy, because in 20 years you have a wife.

      I agree with Jeff. :)
      Jeff best man. Knows his stuff.

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    5. I think Jeff might want to consider finding a new hobby other than leaving hundreds of words worth of anonymous comments ranting about how much it upsets him that other people are happy with a game. :)

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    6. [Removed a comment here that I know was meant as a joke but kind of crude and unnecessary. Please don't put words into my mouth and let's keep it civil.]

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    7. What? Why? My comment is considered crude? Even if you know it was meant as a joke.

      And here is Jeff posting stuff like we are not the brightest, how dense we are, white knighting EA, and pathetic. Without meaning it as a joke.

      I don't like it. But the internet was never about being fair, i guess.

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    8. Indeed. This is not an open forum, but my personal blog and I feel strongly about keeping the comment section above a certain level.

      While Jeff's original comment is definitely bordering on insulting, it was so vague and frankly somewhat absurd (to me at least) that I let it stand because there was still the seed of an actual opinion on the expansion in there - that he thinks LotS is smaller than previous ones etc. And I do like hearing all kinds of different viewpoints.

      But if it just turns into commenters saying unkind things to each other, I prefer to draw a line.

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  9. I wanted to get my own thoughts down before checking out other’s takes, so I'm just catching up now. I feel like our trips to Onderon and Mek-sha were rather whirlwind tours, and I get the impression we'll be exploring Manaan in greater depths (no pun intended) than we did either Onslaught world. Certainly Charles talked about visiting different environments on Manaan and the concept art echoed that as well.

    I made some typically bad predicitons about the livestream in my guild discord, and one I thought too crazy to even consider was “Adaptive Weapons,” Combat Styles is not that, but is a solution to the longstanding desire of many players to have more weapon options. At the moment, a lot of folks to are still trying to wrap their heads around it. I wonder if Combat Styles is meant to give players more customization while also borrowing FF14’s jobs mechanic, without having to rejigger every advanced class around different weapon types. Could they, example, easily make Boltstorm work with pistols and sniper rifles? Is it an easier solution just to swap in Mercenary or Sniper action sets instead of adapting the existing ones to different weapons? For what it’s worth, I’d love to see boltstorm coming from a pistol, but that may just be me.

    Sadly, it also seems like we still won’t have a ranged class that uses a rifle.

    I think it should be neat, especially for Jedi and Sith looking to adopt the styles of the opposite faction. And, as I said on Twitter, I’m honestly looking forward to playing my Smuggler as a Merc instead of a Gunslinger.

    Overall, I am looking forward to LotS, but it sure is a long way off. I wish we had one more big hit of story to bridge the gap, but I’m not expecting much beyond one or two more of those short briefing room scenes we’ve been getting already.

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Share your opinion! Everyone is welcome, as long as things stay polite. I also read comments on older posts, so don't be shy. :)