27/01/2017

5.2 - New Operation Inc.!

Yesterday's developer livestream was probably the most highly anticipated stream that Bioware has ever done... because in their usual manner, they had repeatedly announced that there was going to be an announcement, and this time it was going to be about group content, a word that has become a bit of a red flag for a large part of the more dedicated player base as of late.

I was almost sufficiently tempted to stay up and watch it live myself, but then I got cold and tired and remembered that I had to get up early for work the next morning. (The starting time for these streams always seems to be 10pm my time.) Fortunately, as usual, Dulfy had a handy summary up the next morning.

There is still a high amount of grousing from what I've seen, because if your finger was already hovering over the unsub button and you were waiting for some sort of miracle along the lines of Bioware announcing that they have two whole new operations ready to launch next month... well, that didn't happen. For the rest of us, there were some good news!

As was hinted at in Knights of the Eternal Throne's story and in Bioware's naming system for the currently highest tier of gear, we'll be returning to Iokath, the dyson sphere featured in KotET chapters four and five. Bioware seems to have taken inspiration from their Dread War patch here, wanting to tie a bit of story into a new daily hub and a new operation.

I can't claim to be super excited by the prospect of new dailies, but it has been nearly two years since we got a new daily area (Ziost), so why not? What has me much more intrigued is the story that's supposed to come with it, which will include the return of two popular companions, Elara Dorne and Malavai Quinn, and the Alliance siding with either the Empire or Republic, at least for the duration of this mission. Now that's some content I can get behind! I like that this brings the Republic/Empire dynamic back into the mix, while using the existence of the Alliance to give the player the option to effectively "switch sides" if they are so inclined. Now that's a logical and interesting way of making use of that new third faction.

And finally, there is going to be a new operation, and it's actually going to be a proper operation and not some sort of new thing to replace the ops concept the way uprisings seem to have replaced flashpoints. I'm actually quite happy that the prediction I voiced about that on Corellian Run Radio turned out to be wrong.

There had to be a catch though, or they would have been able to tell us what was coming a long time ago: They are only going to release the first boss right away and then add the others piecemeal over the course of the next couple of months. Some people are super mad about that. I'm not, though my only previous experience with this was not particularly positive. It reminds me of how Blizzard tried to stagger its raid boss releases back in late Wrath of the Lich King, and I remember it being decidedly anti-climatic to walk into Trial of the Crusader, kill the first new boss and then go: "Um, back to the old stuff until next week I guess?" It just takes away a lot of that exciting feeling of being able to completely immerse yourself in new content. Then again, maybe the problem back then was just that that particular WoW raid was terrible.

That said, without having any particularly strong feelings about this release schedule one way or the other, it does make me question what's going on behind the scenes a little. They released Knights of the Eternal Throne's story in one go because they found that trying to string subs along with chapter releases didn't work as well as they had hoped, why do they expect it to work with ops bosses? (Apparently they explicitly said that releasing everything at once - but later - was an option they actively considered but decided against.) And just what is it that takes so much work when creating a new op? Surely it can't be the art, when most bosses are just re-skins of existing mobs and the environment isn't any larger than the sort of area they have you traverse in a single story chapter? Are new boss abilities hard to code? Do the fights require a lot of internal testing to iron out possible kinks? It's almost a meme at this point that Bioware supposedly only has a "skeleton crew" to work with, but that's rather at odds with KotET's end credits rolling for nearly ten minutes. Their team may not as big as it used to be, but one really has to wonder...

Either way, I'm happy to see them extending an olive branch to the players who have been grumbling for the last two years that solo story chapters alone are not good enough. I'm looking forward to this update.

4 comments :

  1. I think that the team specifically dedicated to Swtor, day in and day out, is small. Most of the folks listed on the KotFE and KotET end credits tend to be folks you would pull in from other parts of EA when needed (or are contractors).

    Sunwell and ICC were gated, as well. I remember people being very tired of redoing the various wings of ICC before the Lich King himself unlocked (and you had to kill him on normal before you could even do heroic). I hope folks don't get tired of the early Ops bosses and have Ops participation drop because of it. On the other hand, I wonder how many will wait until all the bosses are out to run the ops or resub to run the op?

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    1. Oh, I forgot about Sunwell - probably because I wasn't raiding at that level at the time. :P I do remember the ICC gating as well but didn't feel as affected by that. Having whole wings open instead of just getting access to a single boss made a difference, plus even the normal mode of ICC was harder than normal mode TotC had been, so you didn't waltz in and kill everything on the first try.

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    2. The guild I was in at the time was in TotC four times a week killing, or trying to do so, on each difficulty. It made me appreciate raid burnout (or the usefulness of having trash.)

      Also, I remember the Blizzard devs mentioning the effort to build a raid was 90% of their development time/effort (the stuff shared across all the difficulties). I think that, as players, it is easy to focus on the stuff we interact with and not grasp the effort to build all the we run by on our way to the next quest or loot pinata. :)

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  2. The more people in the group, the harder the balancing act. I wasn't paying attention to end game when SoR dropped, but the state of balance for the related ops at their launch is legendarily bad in the forum lore. I don't know if it's a good idea, but the current team is taking their time and cautiously learning how to develop an MMO that isn't necessarily a WoW clone.

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