For the first time since Star Wars: the Old Republic began the Cantina Tour stops three years ago, the event in San Diego during Comic Con weekend was an all-day affair, featuring special guests and visitors that weren’t present even during their event at Celebration in April.
Players were treated to an in-depth discussion of the Sacrifice trailer from the guys at Blur that caused a splash and had the opportunity to have their photo taken on a greenscreen with members of the 501st and Rebel Legions in costume as Darth Nihilus, one of Malgus’ Sith troops, and Kira Carsen. Some of the usual visitors to Cantina Tours were also present, including the folks from WOOK guild and their leader Bam with his lanyard of nearly every flashdrive ever handed out at a Cantina Tour event. Sadly, there was no flashdrive this time around which was a pity, because the slides shown by the guys from Blur would have been excellent high-quality content for them. Players who attended the two daytime sessions queued up to sign into their account and were given 450 cartel coins on top of the card with the code for the account-wide Prinawe Junction, a gift box for each character, and a link to hand out to grant the same items to other players. Unlike the Anaheim offering which was limited to five uses, this link was quickly cited on the forums as being good for fifty uses, and a mass link-swapping has been going on ever since.
As usual, BioWare hyped the tour stop early on in general terms that led players to believe it was bigger than it actually was. Originally, they announced story sessions running from 11am to 4pm, a break, and then the usual 7pm-10pm event with the free drink tickets. What we eventually got was an hour-long session from 1pm-2pm and then a second one from 3pm-4pm featuring the guys from Blur discussing the Sacrifice trailer, and both sessions were supposed to be identical other than whatever questions attendees asked, and then of course the usual evening event. When considering the value of flying across country to attend one of these events, it would be nice to know up front exactly what the gameplan is in order to have a better informed opinion on the matter before dropping money on nonrefundable travel arrangements. Still, it was Comic Con weekend, so there’s also other stuff to do to make a full weekend of it, such as going to a non-badged Doctor Who fan meetup and seeing the current Doctor, companions, and showrunner.
However, the meat of the events themselves was very interesting. Unfortunately, we got no new announcements about upcoming game content beyond generalities, and there were no reveals of the new playable Togruta which have since gone live in-game. The biggest surprise from the story panels came when the Blur guys showed an earlier iteration of the Sacrifice trailer. It featured the twins rolling up to their father with a very different prize from conquering the Empire and Republic: Darth Malgus in carbonite. However, Lead Writer Charles Boyd played it cagey when answering questions whether this meant Malgus was actually back or not, since Darth Popsicle didn’t make the final cut. Somewhere, Schrödinger is smiling.
This Cantina Tour stop also featured another special guest, the utterly delightful Darin De Paul, voice of Emperor Valkorion. He spoke about how he got the job and gave insight into the voice acting process. A veteran of other video games (he voices Blackhand for Blizzard in World of Warcraft), he’s also a gamer and has played some of the games he’s worked on. He said that when he auditioned for the role, he had no idea what the character’s name was or even which game it was for, but that his work yelling and wrecking his voice as Blackhand the day or two beforehand helped him create the guttural tone they were looking for in Valkorion. It was only after the fact that he found out what the gig was, and he added sometimes he learns which game he worked on by randomly playing it and hearing himself as one of the characters. A gentleman with a good sense of humor, he circulated amongst the attendees and chatted amiably during the evening event. A couple of players might have suggested that he should join some random guilds in SWTOR and hop on their voice chat (TeamSpeak, Mumble, etc.) and suddenly break into his Valkorion voice.
Another surprise attendee of the event was Leland Chee, the Keeper of the Holocron for Lucasfilm and one of the two primary arbiters of what is and is not Star Wars canon (yes, SWTOR is still not canon). He wasn't there as an official guest of BioWare or anything, he told me he was simply doing an informal straw poll to query players which version of Revan they'd like to see sculpted for the Black Series toy recently voted on by the Star Wars community. Since he asked, I cast my vote for the Revan Reborn costume set created for the Shadow of Revan expansion because I spent a stupid amount of credits on the various pieces on the GTN and it's a truly fine example of the BioWare art department's work.
As with most Cantina Tour events, there's always room for improvement. One of the things that BioWare Austin has long had an issue with is overpromising and underdelivering its public events and handouts like the RNG box players get with the code. Previous to the Anaheim stop, Community Manager Eric Musco spoke about the boxes in glowing terms, citing how cool they were and that players would like what they got out of them. I understand part of his job is to sell players on stuff BioWare gives us, and these are freebies, but still, no one likes the lingering feeling of disappointment. This most recent go-around, my characters looted one of four common dyes, major XP boosts, and a power droid pet. Other than the pet, all of these items were bound to character. It's easy to understand why.
If someone loots the extremely rare black/black dye, they shouldn't be allowed to resell that on the GTN for mass credits. It's a good anti-exploit system to stop people from rerolling multiple alts, but many people have wondered why they weren't at least bind to legacy. For example, when I opened the box from the Anaheim code on my light side Smuggler whose color scheme was blue, I got the extremely rare black/black dye module. I could have easily shipped that black/black to my thoroughly rude and cruel Sith Inquisitor who would have loved it. Instead, it's going wasted on a toon that will never use it on herself or her companions. While I understand that bind to legacy still means that someone could reroll multiple times to try and get those rare items, I can't honestly imagine that it would wreck the in-game economy that much to let people get a few rare dyes here or there.
However, all is not gloom and doom for The Old Republic. The game itself recently updated to 3.3, adding the long-awaited Togruta playable race, so expect to see a lot of characters resembling Ashara Zavros, Ahsoka Tano, Shaak Ti, and Master Bela Kiwiiks. It's little different from seeing tons of Legolas analogues in Lord of the Rings Online, but this also represents new options for future races to be added to the game. As Eric Musco noted on the forums, the Togruta's montrals necessitate an auto-hiding of a character's headgear slot and this could lead to other choices for future playable races. Within seconds of the post, a number of players suggested Nautolans, perhaps one of the most popular other races that can speak Basic that has been high on a number of player lists.
PVP will also see some love in this new update. With the end of Season 5, Season 6 is kicking off, and BioWare mentioned a new feature now in place: being able to use season-specific tokens to buy gear from previous seasons of Ranked PVP. Other changes for commendations were also launched with 3.3, including lowering the cost of some gear and also increasing rewards and XP. While a bit of a nerf to earn kill medals, the buff to healing and tanking medals will better reward players for fulfilling their character's role in the match. We'll have to see what the PVP community has to say about it.
In all, the new update promises to bring something to the table for many players, and there are more public events coming as well. The next one is for Gamescom in Germany in August and this one is going to have two separate days’ worth of events, although BioWare hasn't yet published their full schedule to see if it's going to be pared down like the SDCC event was.
If you were in San Diego for this Cantina Tour stop, what was your favorite part? What do you think could have been done better? Bear in mind that they're never really going to open the floodgates and tell us all upon request, but how do you think they could make it feel like more of a special event for players seeking more information about upcoming content?