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Monday, October 31, 2011

In, out, in, out, shake it all about...

2 comments
It's less than 50 days now until the release of Star Wars The Old Republic (and probably quite a bit less than that if you have pre-ordered and will get early access).

We now pretty much know everything that will be in the game at launch. To recap very briefly we know that there will be 17 planets, 15 Flashpoints (dungeons) with hardmodes at max level, 2 Operations (raids) with varying difficulty settings, housing in the form of personal starships, 3 PvP warzones, at least 1 open world PvP lake with objectives, an auction house, weather effects, crafting, a space combat mini-game, companions (5 unique ones for each class), as well as 8 unique class stories and completely unique questing between the two factions. That is  a LOT of content for a new MMO.

I thought it might be fun to have a look at what will NOT be in the game at launch however, and discuss the chances of the features making it in, either through patches or expansions.

Let's pick the low hanging fruit first, in no particular order. Things we know will definitely not be in the game at launch unless Bioware surprise us all and go back on their statements. First up...

Swimming
The devs have stated that swimming will not be in the game at launch. I don't see this as a problem as long as there are not deep areas of water that you should be able to swim in, otherwise it will be an immersion issue (pun intended). It depends on the context really.

You won't be seeing this in game!
Bioware have said that if they do ever put swimming in the game it will be done properly and in a context where it makes sense. I can see there being some issues with regards to how lightsabers and blasters will work for a start!

Mini-games
We know this is something the developers want to include at some point, so I would expect to see some mini-games introduced in future patches. There are some obvious ones like pazaak, swoop racing, and dejarik. Who knows, perhaps even fishing may make an appearance.

Bioware have also stated that they'd like to explore the idea of e-sports a little more, so in the future it's possible we could even see Huttball leagues with spectator-viewing and betting.

Guild Features
Guild features at launch will be minimal. There will be guilds, guild chat and a few different guild levels such as leader, officer and member. Bioware have stated however that more advanced guild features such as a guild bank, guild capital ship, and guild levelling are high priority for their post-launch content. I expect to see these features introduced via patches shortly after launch (though maybe not all at once).

UI Mods/Macros
Much like guild features, UI mods and macros are something Bioware have said are high priority for post-launch addition. They won't make it in for launch however. From their various statements on the subject I expect to see macros, but possibly not add-ons that make the game content less challenging to play (such as GCD timers etc).

It remains to be seen how much UI customisation will be in game at launch. I hope that we will at least be able to move and resize the majority of the UI windows.

Day/Night Cycles
Unlike almost all other AAA MMOs there will be no day/night cycles in The Old Republic. This does seem a little odd, at first anyway. There are some technical reasons why this may be more difficult than in other games (17 different planets, some of which have more than one sun would require 17 different cycles).


To me the reason for not having day/night cycles seems like a decision that Bioware have made, rather than not being technically possible or there not being enough development time. I think that their strong tie-in to story has informed their decision. We know that you can visit some areas both during the day and during the night depending on the story requirements.

Personally I don't expect to see day/night cycles added unless there is a massive outcry. I feel that how much this decision will effect the game can only be judged after playing for a while, so we'll have to see.

Customisable Housing
It's been stated that there will be no customisation of personal starship interiors at launch, but that Bioware are interested in looking at it in the future and it is possible with the game engine. I really hope that this is something they include in the future, even if it's in an expansion rather than a patch. Customisable housing, whilst only being present in a few of the many MMOs I've played, has always added a great deal of fun, content and community to those games in which it has been included.

Player Bounties
It's not been ruled out, but player bounties will not be in at launch. This feature has been requested mainly because it was a major feature for the Bounty Hunter class in Sony's MMO Star Wars Galaxies. We are promised that Bounty Hunters will be doing plenty of bounty hunting as part of their class story quests, but inter-player PvP based bounties will not be in.

Personally I couldn't care less about this feature, but I know it's been requested a lot by ex-SWG players.

Dual Spec
Not in at launch, but some form of dual-spec has been promised as likely in post-launch content. This is a quality-of-life feature that will save players some time and money as they won't have to constantly respec for different content.

I don't think this is a major issue at launch as dual-specs only really come into their own in end-game content. We also won't know how much respeccing is really required until we get our hands on the game.

Appearance Tab
Appearance tabs are especially great for roleplayers, and allow players to display one set of armour and equipment whilst equipping a different set. Bioware have stated that an appearance tab won't be in game at launch, and I think it's unlikely we'll see on for quite some time for a couple of reasons.

First of all the developers have stated that they want each class to have an iconic look, so that you should always be able to recognise and tell a Trooper from a Jedi Knight for example. Secondly, the item modification system means that many armour pieces do not have their own stats, but use the stats from the modifications that are plugged into them. Theoretically this means that you can, if you wish, use a favourite low level brown Jedi robe all the way through to end-game, just by plugging in more advanced modifications as you level. This system gives a lot more choice over appearance.

Open Space PvP
Finally, whilst there is a simple space combat mini-game in at launch there will be no open space game or space PvP game at launch. Bioware have said that they are taking feedback on this and it is something that may be implemented in the future. I think we will probably see the space game opened up, but not for some time and likely via an expansion rather than a content patch due to the potentially huge undertaking this could be.


There are a few other things which may or may not be in at launch, we just don't know either way and there is not really enough information to make a clear judgement. Let's have a quick look at these features.

Surnames
We still don't know if your characters will be able to have surnames in the game at launch. Bioware have only made a cryptic statement saying that "there's a very good reason we haven't discussed surnames yet, and that will be revealed before ship". Does that mean surnames won't be in, that they will be in, that they need to be unlocked, or that there is some other system tied to them? Who knows, but my personal feeling (and hope) is that surnames will be in the game come launch.

Achievements
Achievements have become a staple of modern MMOs, especially since Lord of the Rings Online took them and went crazy with them. There have been no hints whatsoever of an achievement system in SWTOR, unless you count finding all of the Datacrons. I don't think an achievement system will be missed by too many people, though I know some gamers enjoy trying to complete every single one they can in some games.

If there are no achievements at launch I can see a system being added in the future, though not for a while.

Target Forwarding
As far as we know there is no target forwarding in game right now (at least judging from the videos and such we have seen). This system (that allows you to heal or attack your target's target) has become a staple of modern MMOs and I would be disappointed if it was not available at launch. Having said that, the UI is often one of the last things to be fully completed during beta development, and with two months to go there is plenty of time for this kind of system to be added.

Item Linking
Like the Target Forwarding system above there is no evidence this is in game yet. Again item linking is now common in all modern MMOs and it would be unusual for it not to make launch, but we shall see.

Legacy System
What is the much rumoured Legacy System? Does it even exist? Rumours abound everywhere but even our best Bothan spies have not managed to track it down! It was first mentioned by Damion Schubert a year ago, as some kind of system to encourage replay and re-rolling. It has often been linked with quotes referring to a brand new, unique endgame system or with quotes suggesting it will unlock new races.

However it remains sight unseen, and recent developer quotes have put doubts in my mind as to whether it actually exists (or at least will make launch). I think the Legacy System exists as a concept, but Bioware are still deciding whether to include it in the game and time is running out. we'll find out soon enough either way.

So, there we have it. My list of things that won't make the game at launch. Many of these I can live without, but I would like to see target forwarding, item linking and surnames at launch, and guild features, customisable ships and mini-games further down the line. I think there is a good chance of that happening based on what Bioware have said.

Even without these features The Old Republic is launching with more content than any other MMO to date. It's a truly huge game and I'm looking forwards to seeing what the future holds.

2 comments:

  1. Damn comprehensive read mate! Betcha getting excited :)

    ReplyDelete

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