Rakghouls and raging Hutts with SWTOR's Gabe Amatangelo

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Rakghouls and raging Hutts with SWTOR's Gabe Amatangelo
A month after Star Wars: The Old Republic began its official journey in the public eye, the developers of this game-changing MMO are ready to extend the story, which they call the fourth pillar of the MMO genre. In patch 1.1, which also brings the usual round of bug fixes, players will be introduced to a brand-new level 50 flashpoint as well as a completed version of the Karagga's Palace 8-to-16-man operation.

In the official press release for 1.1, BioWare founder Greg Zeschuk notes, "A month ago when we launched the Early Game Access program for Star Wars: The Old Republic, we promised our fans that this would just be the beginning of our journey together." That's all well and good, but we want details. So we rang up BioWare's Gabe Amatangelo to discuss the new flashpoint, Karagga's palace, Ilum, and the future of SWTOR PvP.

Be aware that there will be some minor spoilers, but we'll warn you in advance!

When speaking to Amatangelo, we sensed that he is truly excited about the future of both flashpoints and operations. And just like every tiny part of the BioWare's game, the content he designs tells the personal story of your character in The Old Republic. The thing we have to find out about, of course, is the motivation behind the new flashpoint, Rise of the Rakghouls.

(Story-related spoilers incoming in the first paragraph past the picture!)

Because of the events at the end of existing class stories and flashpoints, the galaxy -- specifically the Empire -- is left with a gigantic power vaccuum. Fringe groups like the Hutts and the Tion Hegemony vie for power within the crumbling galactic infrastructure. Amatangelo explained the situation on the planet Kaon within the Tion Cluster: "The player goes there to find out about the outbreak of the Rakghoul virus and finds a power-crazed mad scientist who's trying to create super-soldiers."

(End spoilers!)

Amatangelo says it's his personal favorite flashpoint: "The setting is awesome. It's dark with huge shadows, and everyone has flashlights they've got use to see their way through it. One of the first boss encounters puts your back up against the wall, and things are coming out from all different directions. Rakghouls have all the different kinds of mechanics. It's a lot of fun gameplay-wise. You have a turret and an explosive canister, and you just have to survive it then blow through the wall. The next area's like this creepy '50s-esque theater. It has a recording that's looping and scratchy. It's a lot of fun, and it's part one of two -- the conclusion comes out in an update in the near future."

As the previous patch 1.1 announcement mentions, the Karagga's Palace operation has been expanded to feature four bosses and a final face-off against Karagga the Unyielding. But how does one fight a Hutt? Amatangelo boasted, "We took a stab at that, and we are really excited about it. It's fun and funny at the same time. We're really excited about players getting a hold of that. It's great cinematic. There's this reverse shot of the player seeing Karagga, what he's doing, and how the player's going to face off against him. The reverse shot's on the player as he's looking up, confounded. It's a hilarious scene.

"We also paid homage to old-school BioWare. We have a tower of Hanoi-type mechanic. (We like to have a puzzle in operations, like we did in Eternity Vault.) The "tower of Hanoi" is in the Hutt factory where droids are being made. You're fighting one of Karagga's sentinel droids, and you can't take it out unless you use the conveyor belt. Of course, the conveyor belt and the power circuits have to be aligned like the towers of Hanoi to pour molten lava on it to make it vulnerable."

Amatangelo continued to tease how the Hutts are not working alone, and there are hints as to whom the Hutts are working with throughout the operation. He explained that these and future updates are a continuation of the main storyline that ends when you hit 50. The Eternity Vault is more of a one-off story, but these and future updates are a continuation of the main story.

We figured since we had the attention of the lead PvP designer, we'd ask what's happening with the now-infamous open-world PvP zone Ilum.

"The objectives on Ilum were supposed to be on timers, and the timers were supposed to be locked down," says Amatangelo. "But in the 11th hour, the timers weren't working. So we knew what kind of behavior was going to evolve there. It's not like we were going to delay launch to fix that. But with 1.1, we are going to be handling a lot of those issue with a bunch of improvements there, like focusing on killing players. The objectives give you buffs, but ultimately you have to kill the players to get the rewards. We've included new spawn points as well as some optimization with the turrets.

"We do have longer-term plans for open-world PvP. It is open-world PvP; it's not an RvR system. I kept trying to throw that out there. I'm not saying that it's not something we don't want to do."

What about areas like Outlaw's Den, which is fairly empty most of the time? "We don't expect Outlaw's Den to get much traffic until the population becomes more mature," he told us. "The whole focus of Outlaw's Den is not objective-based PvP. It's a forum for whatever people want to experiment with in PvP. We say, 'When you pass these lines, we've turned off the rules. It's open. Do what you will with it.' My personal expectation is that when people are 50 for a while and doing a bunch of different stuff and waiting for the next update, they'll want to experiment with stuff. 'Hey, what about 3v3; we're all Republic, but which of these combinations will win?' Or if people are talking trash to each other on the forum: 'We can just settle this in Outlaw's Den.' Or if a guild wants to fight another guild and we haven't introduced a GvG system yet, then we can throw together an ops group and we can fight your ops group. We can settle it out here for fun. Right now there are so many other activities that players aren't looking for user-generated content. That's the best way to frame it: It's a spot for user-generated content.

"As far as other open-world PvP plans: We do want to implement more global consequences -- maybe even cascading between objectives within areas."

The kicker came when we asked about different rewards for different objectives in PvP. Although there haven't been many objections in the community about the high-end gear specifically, there has been concern that everyone will look the same. The heavens opened up and Amatangelo said, "We were not able to do this at launch, but it's something we very much want to do. The items all have set bonuses. The base mod, the armoring mod -- we want players to be able to extract that, and with that comes the set bonus, and put that into orange gear." Hallelujah! He was, however, quick to remind us about the plans that Emmanuel Lusinchi mentioned for specific mods to fit into specific gear.

Game update 1.1: Rise of the Rakghouls launches on Tuesday, January 17th; after that, look to March for the next chapter of updates, which will consist of new flashpoints, operations, and warzones. That's right: warzones! Thanks so much for talking to us, Gabe! And now I leave you all with the official Rise of the Rakghouls teaser trailer!

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