BioWare released a ton of information about their upcoming plans for The Old Republic at this week's Guild Summit. I tweeted a lot of the announcements as they came out, BioWare livestreamed the panels to everyone, and some of the hardcore fansites captured every tiny detail in thousands and thousands of words .
But for those of you that didn't watch the livestream or don't want to dig through piles of tiny changes to find the big ones that really matter, I'm going to tell you the five big take-aways from the Guild Summit that might change your opinion of the game.
1. The Legacy system will blow your doors off
BioWare has been pimping the Legacy system since launch, promising in vague terms that it would make leveling better, promote alts, and give us cool stuff to do. Based on the cold, hard facts that they told us down in Austin, I think it actually will!
A brief rundown of how the system works: whenever you hit major milestones with your characters (complete an act in your main storyline, hit max level, reach a high Valor rank in PvP, accumulate a ton of Dark Side points, or max out companion affection) you'll unlock something awesome for every character you ever make on that server. Hit 50 on your Zabrak Sith Warrior? Every one of your characters now has a super-powered Force Choke ability (not usable in WarZones or raids) and can cast the Sith Warrior's group buff, and you can make a Zabrak of any class type, among other things.
The coolest upgrades I heard mentioned were a full set of Unarmed fighting skills for fisticuffs brawling for hitting high ranks in PvP, and unlocking upgrades on your ship for training dummies, vendors, mail, and the Galactic Trade Network. But even if you hate leveling alts, you'll be able to purchase all of these upgrades with credits--so players that like to focus on a single character won't be left out.
All of that is coming in patch 1.2, due out in early April, but the biggest game-changer is lined up for patch 1.3. That patch will allow you to use the legacy system to purchase permanent XP boosts for each of your characters that emphasizes a single area of gameplay. If you want to roll a new Sniper character and only PvP with her, you'll be able to buy a massive XP boost for PvP content and be able to level super quickly that way. The big thing here is that doing this will let you skip the redundant planet quests that you've done before. The developers said that with these boosts, you'll have no problem just doing your class quests and PvP or Flashpoints to level up at a normal rate.
2. BioWare knows it made mistakes
The developers weren't shy of admitting areas of the game that they dropped the ball. It was refreshing to hear their candor about problems in the game, rather than pretending they didn't exist. Here are some of the big problems they acknowledged.
- Operations are buggy, and are not as difficult as they'd hoped.
- Open World PvP, especially Ilum, is completely broken.
- Worlds need to be more interactive.
- Guild features in-game are “bare bones.”
- While they didn't say that they disliked the UI, they listed a ton of changes coming to the UI in patch 1.2 and said that was “only 5% of what we want to do.”
3. The devs have concrete plans to solve, or at least improve, them
Not every problem has an easy solution, but here's the devs plans to fix these big issues.
- Bug-fixing is currently the highest priority for the Operation team. In future Operations (including the new one coming in patch 1.2), Nightmare mode will be made significantly more challenging, designed to tax even the most hardcore. On the flipside, Normal Mode is becoming Story Mode and will be even easier. The idea is that everyone will be able to see the content in Story Mode (right now only 38% of level-50 characters have stepped foot into an Operation), Hard Mode will be the main mode for organized guilds, and only the most elite players will beat Nightmare.
- The devs are "going back to the drawing board" on Ilum, because they believe it needs a complete re-work to live up to their goals for open-world PvP. In the meantime, ranked PvP for WarZones will give PvPers a place to focus their energy to get the recognition and rewards they deserve.
- The game currently scales the amount of unclickable NPCs that populate your game world based on your system specs. The devs want to build off of this tech to make main hubs and key locations a lot more populated for everyone that can render it.
- See point #5 below for guild features.
- In patch 1.2, the UI is completely customizable: every element on the screen can be dragged, scaled, tweaked, and altered individually. These settings can be saved into templates, and a few built-in templates are available for the lazy, including one styled after WoW's that's cheekily named "Retro."
4. PvP is kind of a big deal
I don't remember one person telling me that they were going to buy The Old Republic for the PvP. Story and Star Wars were the two major hype points, but despite that, PvP has become a major pillar of the game's community. Over 50% of the entire playerbase plays WarZones daily. The developers think that's partially because it's so easy to queue and enter WarZones (one click on your minimap and you're in). They've expanded the size of the PvP team and are putting a lot of effort into building out that part of the game to keep that enthusiasm up.
I already mentioned the ranked PvP systems for WarZones, which will use an ELO-style ranking system to pit people of similar skill-levels together. On top of that, 1.2 is bringing a new WarZone, reworks the Medals rewards system to stop AFKers from benefitting and reward for strategic objectives more than straight killing. Teams will be able to queue as groups of 8, a new teir of PvP gear is being added, along with Expertise crystals that players can socket into armor and weapons. In the future, BioWare wants to also add bracketed tournaments that would happen frequently.
5. Guilds get some love, but most features will come later
Finally, guild banks arrive in patch 1.2. There will be 7 tabs available, the first being very cheap and the 7th being "very hard" to get, even for large guilds. The usual detailed controls for money and tab security will be there, including the option of requiring authenticators on accounts that have full bank access. The patch'll also bring general UI improvements for managing the guild list, thank goodness.
The bulk of guild improvements are slated for later patches though. Plans included are creating guild events inside an in-game calendar, putting guild emblems on your armor, a guild advertising/recruitment tool, and taxation of guild members for the guild bank. And, of course, way off in the distant, distant, distant future are guild capital ships. The devs said that "designs exist now" for these shared ships, but that implementation is "a long ways off."