This week we got the chance to talk to James Ohlen about the coming update (Rise of the Rakghouls) for Star Wars: The Old Republic. James and the whole team are very hard at work supporting the game. A philosophy they plan to continue throughout the rest of 2012 and beyond. They have several updates in the works, including another potential one in March and one more still in the planning phases after that. James covered a lot of ground on the current state of the game and gave us some great hints of what is to come.
James started off by saying that launch went well and was smoother than they expected. They have now gotten queue lines under control. They are also focused on the population across game levels to keep track of how many players are hitting end game early or quickly. The team has been using their maintenance window to fix bugs in weekly patches and have been successful in cleaning some of the problems early on. One of the great things James pointed out is that the average play time per player remains very high. Bioware is excited about this because it measures player retention and can give them some accurate metrics to go over.
For the Content Update next week we will see the Rise of the Rakghouls come into the game. The Rakghouls are a throw back to old school KOTOR and players will face the new threat as the disease is trying to be weaponized. Rise of the Rakghouls will help out elder game players with some new content to explore. They will have a story heavy new flashpoint called Kaon Under Siege as well as some additions to the Hutt operation of Karagga’s Palace. Boosting the boss fights with four more boss monsters to battle. James did not give away too much on the story for the Flashpoint and update again because story plays so heavily into the game (we do not want to spoil things for fans). What is also coming in the update is Level 50 Bracketing (no more facerolling 50s on 12s!) for PvP Warzones and also some changes to Ilum for open world PvP.
James emphasized that Bioware has kept the entire design team on to focus on updates and support for the live game. One of the areas that needs a boost is Guilds and Guild functionality. The team is hoping to have Guild Banks in the March update for players to access. There is a specific team that is working on social functions for Guilds and players and lots of ideas are being planned with many already in the implementation pipeline. James also stated that the PvP team is hard at work for some changes coming to the March update as well as possible having the ranking system ready for Warzones. Another piece of the Star Wars puzzle coming soon will be the more fleshed out Legacy System. Right now, it's basically a last name of sorts you carry on to other characters. But players will hopefully get the chance to spend their Legacy points within the next few months. Unfortunately, James could not go into all the details of what that would mean, so I guess we have to wait and see. He also said that there are some features in the works around Events and Warzones that we may see coming in the distant future.
I asked James what they are doing on class balance. He explained that the team collects tons of data on classes and how they are played. He said a good example is some of the fixes coming to the Sith Warrior and Jedi Knight. They recognized and issue and have the data to prove it and now are fixing the problem. It is very important for the fans to know that they value their input on the game and are collecting all the data they can to bring to light valid changes that need to be made. They are also conducting some in game surveys to track fan experience. If you are lucky to get one of these be sure to take it seriously. They build their metrics tools so that fans trust Bioware to have a great experience in the game. So with class balance everything is reviewed very carefully. James also said that fixing the short term bugs very quickly is rewarding for the team. Overall, he wants the “fans to trust us” in delivering the best experience.
Star Wars: The Old Republic continues to grow with loads of content and lots of future plans for updates. The team at Bioware is very serious about supporting the game and working hard on customer service and fixes to bring the best MMO experience it can to players. It was great to hear some of the upcoming plans for The Old Republic, as it looks like James and crew have a lot planned for players into the new year.