I asked one of the biggest questions my guildies often have about GSF, since we often run as a three or four-person group, was how matchmaking worked. We were told that a player's first ten battles would be limited to 8v8 matches to give the player a means to wet their toes without being too overwhelmed by what's going on. After the first ten matches, it would be 12v12 as they originally intended the entire experience to be. They added that a player's win/loss ratio also factored into the matter, as well as how upgraded someone's ship was, also what the queue was like. Later on in the phone-in Q&A, I got them to elaborate on how pre-made four-ship groups worked out in terms of having one or more tricked out ships and less-upgraded ships in the same group. Michael said that the newer players were going to get the short end of the stick there, because the system would choose matches based on the veteran's stats. Therefore, if a vet wanted to shepherd some newer players in a group, it was best they did so in a less-tricked-out ship.
We were also told that there are new maps planned for Galactic Starfighter, and they teased by saying they're planning a whole other level to the system that 'really delivers on the Star Wars promise'. Then they promptly added there was no new information on the next game expansion, but that there were plans for adding more ships. They qualified that statement by noting that it depended upon what one meant by 'ship'. There are roles, there are variant ships for those roles (with new variants in the future), and also premium ships. Blaine and Michael then addressed the question of ship-to-ship balance by noting that everyone complains about everyone else's ship, but that when everyone agrees that a specific ship is overpowered, then something was more likely to be done about it. They did announce that a nerf was coming to the Battle Scout, and that Team Deathmatch would affect balance, that it still needs to be fully assessed.
The conversation then turned to the financial sector, how well Star Wars: the Old Republic did, because the data was buried in EA's general financial report. Blaine said that the game exceeded expectations, noting that there were multiple millions of new accounts since free-to-play went live in 2012, and there were over a million unique player logins per month.
Finally, we were treated to a gameplay demonstration of the Bomber in a Team Deathmatch situation by Producer Jack Wood. He showed us the special GSF section on the Imperial Fleet and what was available there. His test was done with a maxed out Bomber, and we could all see that when he ran through a power boost, the appropriate meter in his display glowed brightly to indicate the boost was in effect. We were shown some of the engines options and support roles for the Bomber as well.
Meanwhile, it was pointed out that all of the original companion voice actors and their writers were brought back to work on their dialogue for the starfighter content, because BioWare wanted to keep the experience as seamless as possible for the player. Jack Wood then discussed the difference between mastering a ship versus maxing one out. In their view, mastering a ship and getting the achievement for it was maxing out a single component in every slot (Primary Weapon, Secondary Weapon, etc.), and they estimated it should take a subscriber approximately 200 hours to accomplish, perhaps a week or two for the super hardcore player. The other option was maxing a ship out, which is getting every single option in every single item maxed out, which would take substantially longer to accomplish. We were reminded that subscribers get a bonus to Requisition acquisition, which is the currency used to upgrade ships within Galactic Starfighter. During the demonstration, we were shown that even a fully maxed-out ship was still no match for a skilled player in another ship.
After the live demonstration, there was a phone-in Q&A that only featured a few questions. First, the developers were asked whether there would be more GSF/ground game interactions. Michael Backus replied that in his dream, there would be, but they had nothing to announce right now, citing that it all comes down to demand from players. They also answered the question of how XP compared between Galactic Starfighter and the ground game, saying that it should be more or less the same.
When asked if there were any new Operations in the works, the answer was a definitive yes, but no specifics to announce other than that they were actively being worked on. Finally, they said that they were going to wait and see the demand before working on the notion of Ranked GSF matches, but that there were no plans for any cross-server queuing for either ground or Galactic Starfighter PVP.
There you have it, the nuts and bolts of the information we have about the new digital expansion for Star Wars: the Old Republic, available to all players starting Tuesday February 4th.