Making It Real

Jesse: Shadowbrak worked closely with CancelAutoRun to bring a sense of speed and firepower that mirrored the movie snowspeeders into the game. I think they did an amazing job. I really feel like I am flying around in a snowspeeder just like in the movies. Flying a snowspeeder elicits a real strong feeling of excitement - especially when gunning down all those Imperials. Setting up a pass on the AT-AT's while trying to avoid taking heavy damage from the AT-ST and snowtrooper escorts is very addictive and fun.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team worked on the other game-play elements. Michael "Fiasco" Farone was recruited to start working on our Wampa Valley area of the encounter. I remember sitting in my office brainstorming all the fun things we could have our wampas do. We came up with some really exciting attacks that bring a lot of fun and personality into the Hoth encounter.

When we had our first play test in Wampa Valley we could tell immediately that the fun factor was already there. There were bugs to address, and tuning to implement, but everybody came out of that play test smiling. Following the first game-play test Fiasco came up with a list of more things to add to the encounter. I don't want to spoil the surprises, especially since you have to figure out how to enter the valley to begin with, but there are a lot of cool aspects waiting to be discovered in that area.

"If you can manage a flawless victory you get 3 tokens per phase, making a grand total of 9. Any player that can get in a group that wins 9 tokens also gets a rare badge, as a way to show off their achievement."

An Experience Unlike Any Other

Jesse: One real paradigm shift we needed to convey to the players participating in the encounter is "The Imperials win, always." The "lose" condition for the Imperials is the lack of reward tokens. Each phase is, currently, worth up to 3 tokens. If you can manage a flawless victory you get 3 tokens per phase, making a grand total of 9. Any player that can get in a group that wins 9 tokens also gets a rare badge, as a way to show off their achievement.

The only real issue we ran into for the Imperial side was the difficulty, it was too easy. We decided that the Imperial version wouldn't spawn more powerful Imperial NPCs, but the Rebel side would have some very tough "boss" mobs. These guys are our Phalanx Commanders and Phalanx Guards. Our Phalanx Guards use some new tech that Shadowbrak implemented that allows them to buff up nearby NPCs to keep the fight balanced.

These changes made it virtually impossible for the Imperial NPCs to be able to complete the instance on their own. Players will have to throw themselves into battle over and over again. Meanwhile, Imperial players are also working against the clock in order to achieve their objectives. If they take too long, the phase changes, and the Imperials need to get to the evacuation area.

In the evacuation area, the Imperials are once again tasked with battlefield conditions. They need to assist their Imperial forces in pushing past Rebel defenders, and stop the transports from escaping. We sprinkled the more difficult Rebel commanders throughout the area.

With the Imperial portion of the battle looking good, it was time to shift our attention to the nuances of the Rebel experience. Here we have another paradigm shift to give to our players. The Rebels LOST the battle in The Empire Strikes Back. They had to escape. So how do we convey a fun experience that you lose? I like to call it "losing gracefully". But that doesn't do it justice, does it?

"As a Rebel team, your main goal is to stem the tide of the Imperial invasion force. Meanwhile important supplies and personnel need to escape. Rebels can only "win" by getting all their personnel out safely."

After several play tests of the original Rebel play experience, we decided the Rebels needed more direction, and that we needed to give them something that at least imparts a feeling of "winning".

As a Rebel team, your main goal is to stem the tide of the Imperial invasion force. Meanwhile important supplies and personnel need to escape. Rebels can only "win" by getting all their personnel out safely. While you are battling it out on the north battlefield, trying to delay the inevitable AT-AT attack on the shield generator, some very sneaky Imperials infiltrate the base. Once the second phase starts, where the Imperials start invading the base, you need to go and free some captured rooms.

Until those rooms have been freed, the personnel cannot begin evacuating. But those crafty Imperials are still sneaking around the base trying to stop you. You need to stay close by and keep the supplies and personnel safe.

At the same time, some of your team MUST slow down the Imperial invasion force. They will be aided by destructible barricades that will absorb damage while they are up. The Imperial side is VERY determined to get in there. They are continuously sending stronger troops to march it, and even Darth Vader joins their forces! Best of luck to any unlucky Rebel who crosses his path!

The Battle of Echo Base

"It is more than just a "heroic encounter"; there are collections to achieve, and new areas to explore. Echo Base has a huge amount of replayability built into it."

Jesse: I am very proud of the Battle of Echo Base instance and what our team accomplished with this legendary chapter. Our art team (Alexis "Aphox" Allen, Scott "Skitterz" Downey, and Christine "Dev_yAR"Chugon) really put forth a Heroic effort, to transform these bits and bytes into the planet Hoth. The entire instance is close to expansion proportions, and we are giving it to our player base as part of the basic subscription. It is more than just a "heroic encounter"; there are collections to achieve, and new areas to explore. Echo Base has a huge amount of replayability built into it. I am curious how many "elite" players we have out there that can actually manage a total and complete victory...and I'll be watching!

May the Force be With You!

This article was originally published on Massively.
Hoth goes live in Star Wars Galaxies!