With the latest content patch for BioWare's MMO due to hit test servers soon, we hear from lead designer Daniel Erickson and technical design director Emmanuel Lusinchi about what players can look forward to.
Like a relentless machine, BioWare continues to roll out updates for Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR). From Rise of the Rakghouls to the new Legacy system, the development team has focused on delivering new content alongside a range of quality of life improvements demanded by the fans. With their next update on the horizon, the team shows no signs of slowing down.
Game Update 1.3 - Allies - introduces a strong blend of tools intended to make forming groups much easier, along with even more ways to customize how we play. Currently undergoing internal testing, the update should be available on the public test server soon and live later this summer.
As well as a great video from James Ohlen, we were able to catch a presentation on the update, at London’s recent Comic Con, by technical design director Emmanuel Lusinchi. We also had the opportunity to put some questions to lead designer Daniel Erickson, asking for his thoughts about previous SWTOR game updates and what fans can look forward to beyond the upcoming patch.
Better With Friends
One of the biggest challenges facing BioWare is persuading new players to try out the game. Although the team has dabbled with trial weekends and week-long friend invites, Lusinchi unveiled their new strategy at London Comic Con: an unlimited free trial up to a certain level, to be introduced with the next game update. While it's likely that these trial accounts will have further restrictions, this means newcomers can sample the game whenever they like at a pace they're happy with. Erickson added separately, "We're going to experiment with ways to get the game in front of people. What we've learned is that people who play the game like it - now it's just figuring out all the ways to have people try it that first time."
Although SWTOR provides an excellent levelling experience, the heroic planetary missions and 4-player flashpoints are often overlooked by both newcomers and those not in a sizeable guild. Flashpoints and warzones are the same story, with organization and patience being crucial. In order to make these team experiences as accessible as possible, Game Update 1.3 includes a group finder to bring down the time and effort involved in creating groups. Characters will be teleported to the entrance of the adventure once the group is assembled, and a vote to kick mechanism will be included to remove undesirables. This tool won't be cross-server, as the team is eager to preserve server communities.
On the subject of server communities, the long awaited feature to transfer characters from one server to another will also be arriving in Update 1.3. Lusinchi explained to us that some of the details are still being worked out, but they're eager for the service to be as flexible as possible. For those of us with legacies on more than one server, Erickson also had some good news. "The plan is that Legacy characters can transfer between Legacies seamlessly, bringing the best of both Legacies together."
Lusinchi also touched on the topic of "mega servers" that can handle very large numbers of players. While MMOs are primarily a social experience that only gets better as you have more people to play with, they're eager to implement server transfers as a first step.
There are a handful of further changes that Lusinchi also revealed at London Comic Con, including weekly missions to defeat outdoor world bosses, and improving level 50 flashpoint rewards to make them more worthwhile for endgame players. For warzones, Alderaan Civil War will support teams from the same faction facing off against each other. Rated warzones will also be making a return, with Lusinchi explaining that a number of other factors, such as team creation and retention post-match, needed to be fixed to support it.