Of course, a game carrying the Star Wars name appeals to a large diverse group of people, and not just because of the Star Wars IP; BioWare has created a name for itself with incredible story-driven games like Mass Effect 3, which released this morning. Among the pre-summit discussion was the question of whether and how much BioWare leans on the Star Wars IP for the success of the game. The consensus among the guild leaders I spoke to was an interesting and surprising one: Although BioWare certainly leaned on Star Wars for the story elements of the game, the lack of huge success for the most recent LucasArts games suggests that the Star Wars IP actually leaned on BioWare's reputation.
When I jumped into Q&A with the guild leaders, I half-expected a bunch of over-enthusiastic fanboys. I was pleasantly surprised to find that, although they were fans, those invited to this summit were very level-headed and oftentimes critical of the game's development. Thankfully, during the course of the summit, the developers were equally willing to address these concerns.
It's amazing how much people talk when you get a couple of beers in them.
The guild leaders were quite divided about what they wanted out of the conference itself. This stemmed from the vast variety of guilds present and the mass appeal of the game. On the tip of guild leaders' lips, though, was endgame content. "Endgame" came up in every conversation I had. In fact, there was one conversation I kind of had to sneak away from because he would not stop talking about endgame flaws and broken content -- he was killin' my buzz, dude.
I spoke a bit about the bugs with endgame content already a couple of weeks ago, so there is no real reason to rehash that. However, Ian of AskAJedi spoke up about endgame content as far as story is concerned. He mentioned that there is a strong disconnect between his personal story and the after-50 flashpoints and operations. At this present time, I don't believe BioWare has plans to raise the level cap anytime soon, so I asked how he felt about extended story content that would not raise the level cap. Surprisingly, he said that he would be into it.
In my personal experience with MMOs, players look for the reward. If I am going to run this new content, I want some sort of gear or token or something. When speaking about personal story content, players usually look for increased levels, more abilities, or the like. The developers concurred. For those tackling endgame PvP content, for instance, the team is adding a ranked warzone system that allows players to work toward gaining the War Hero set of armor. If it is just story content you're looking for, developers are (still) implementing an insanely robust reward system called the Legacy system. Granted, a lot of the rewards for the legacy system encourage the player to roll an alt; however, rewards like the astromech droid and terminals you can have for your ship will definitely encourage players to continue through content they didn't finish on their way up the level-50 ladder.
BioWare appears to be aware there are players like Ian because of the way the devs have now divided the endgame PvE content. Hard mode and nightmare mode exist for the raid -- er, operation -- content for those players who are gear grinding by doing the "normal" PvE endgame content. But BioWare also cater to the Ians of the world by creating a story mode that is challenging but doesn't go overboard with complex mechanics. This opens up all the endgame content to those who are interested purely in following the game's story, thus the name "story mode."
This is a guild summit; duh, we are going to talk about guilds.
Of course, this being a guild summit, increased functionality in the guild tools topped the list, too, but the only item being added to guilds in patch 1.2 is a guild bank. I won't deny the power of the guild bank, but there were many other additions guilds were looking for.
The Old Timers guild specifically ran into an issue that I didn't think would be a problem ever: character cap. That specific guild has both an Imperial and a Republic guild, but the Republic guild is so large that it has capped, forcing the members to create a second, overflow guild. That by itself is a fringe issue, I think. To deal with this issue and coordinate members, the leaders created additional chat channels, but as it stands, they have no control over said chat channels. If that cap is not raised, then a welcome alternative would be an alliance chat as implemented by many other MMOs. Unfortunately, this issue will not be addressed in Update 1.2. But the seed was planted, and the developers look at ways for not only allied guilds to communicate better but also rival guilds.
Guilds -- like individuals -- are looking for for individual content. In other words, they want guild progression. Beyond the tag above the character's head, there is a strong sense of connection between individual members when they strive to achieve a goal together. Damion Schubert, the head systems designer, mentioned that his pet project is guild capital ships and that his team has some of the early stages finished on them. He would not elaborate further, but we know that these ships will also be a place to show off the guild's achievements.
Guilds want to be able to make their players better in other ways. One guild leader I sat next to at the bar -- Chris Elwood of Condemned on the Port Nowhere server -- brought up damage meters again. I'm not a huge fan of damage meters, but I completely understand how they can benefit a guild overall. Georg Zoeller mentioned that a fully fleshed-out damage meter is in the works, but in the meantime, for Update 1.2 the devs created a log that can be exported and parsed. Guilds, get your programmers ready; once this hits the PTS, we expect a filtering software within 24 hours.
They ain't done, yet
Over time, MMOs grow, expand, and change with their communities. Star Wars: The Old Republic is no exception. Hopefully, you watched the guild summit panels and discussion. What do you think of the direction the game is headed? Is it the right direction? Is this make-it-or-break-it for SWTOR? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time, keep your eyes on Massively for more coverage from the guild summit, including interviews with the developers and impressions of the new 1.2 content.
The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!