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E3 2012: SWTOR's Allies patch aims to give back to the players


BioWare's booth at this year's E3 provided to MMO gamers one of the most interesting reveals yet. The crew ushered us into a small room, complete with a gigantic LED screen and fast computers (i7 chips, no doubt) that demonstrated the latest Star Wars: The Old Republic patch. The brief video presentation laid out for all of us what's to be coming soon for SWTOR hardcore players as well as for those who are interested about the game but haven't yet picked it up.

The video demonstration first touted SWTOR's accomplishments, chiefly the fact that it's become the fastest-growing MMO with the smoothest launch to date, which helped it establish a strong userbase early on. With user feedback, SWTOR kept the content fresh with Rise of the Rakghouls. The Legacy update saw an even larger influx content and customization. With the Rakgoul Plague world event, many players logged in specifically to see the story elements unfold.

The next major game update is called Allies. It will provide users access to greater Legacy content, making gameplay and content almost entirely customizable. Players can tailor nearly everything about their characters with adaptive gear, allowing them to change their characters' appearance to match nearly any iconic Star Wars character. An augmentation system is being introduced for the gear, and the tutorial system is being revamped as well, facilitating startups for those new to MMO gaming. In addition to these improvements, 1.3 will give players the long-awaited group finder tool, ranked PvP warzones, and free character transfers. Players in the past have desired a greater challenge, so in a future patch, BioWare will introduce both a new Nightmare mode to ramp up difficulty and a new horror-themed operation named Terror From Beyond.

New PvP gameplay mechanics are coming down the pike as well in the form of a brand-new area called The Ancient Hypergates, which takes place on the planet Celine. A working demo of the PvP area was offered, but unfortunately the demo booth was far too packed for everyone to play.

As a surprise for everyone, the team delivered a video revealing a somewhat new character: HK-47 from Knights of the Old Republic is making a return and has been upgraded to HK-51. He is accessible for all classes willing to trek through a difficult storyline.

BioWare had a few more tricks up its sleeve during the demo: An entirely new story planet, Makeb, is coming with future updates. Anyone will be able to play hours of new content with either faction. Also, the level cap has been raised, with new combat abilities to follow.

After the presentation, Massively had a brief chance to sit down with Daniel Erickson, who answered for us a few questions.

Massively: What were your design challenges with releasing the new patches?

Daniel Erickson: I think the biggest one was integrating a ton of stuff. Patch 1.2 was insanely ambitious. It was sort of like we were going to go ahead and ship another game. Every time you bring out a whole bunch of systems at one time, testing how they work together becomes the key component. Right now for 1.3, we're about to hit the test center with it, and we've been stomping out bugs left and right.

What kind of story extensions or improvements will there be?

Patch 1.3 is primarily a systems piece. It brings in group finder, adaptive gear, that stuff. Soon in the future, we'll have great stuff coming down the pike. We've got the quest for HK-51, a new dungeon that basically is an adventure game with no combat, and the new world Makeb. We're really going into the best of The Old Republic. We're really focused on epic, tight, cinematic RPG-like stuff that you're used to seeing with BioWare.

What do you see SWTOR evolving to?

We always said up until launch, it's our game. After launch, it's the community's game. Our community loves PvP. In The Old Republic, people play warzones far more than anything else. They're getting a ton of PvP content. We're finding ways to do great storytelling even in endgame stuff with flashpoints and operations. We're responding to the people who are paying our bills and asking them, "What do you want?"

Sounds like BioWare's taking pains to respond to the community's cries for more content for both hardcores and casuals. Thanks for chatting with us, Daniel!

Massively's on the ground in Los Angeles during the week of June 4-7, bringing you all the best news from E3 2012. We're covering everything from PlanetSide 2 and SWTOR and ArcheAge to RIFT's and LotRO's upcoming expansions, so stay tuned!

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