Speaking of names, folks also wanted to know about whether we could see a legacy name in chat, so that roleplayers could have their entire name displayed for example. Apparently no one's made that suggestion near this crew of BioWare folks because they said they hadn't heard of it before, but Eric Musco said that he liked the idea. Players also wanted to know about Nightmare Mode versions of older Flashpoints, and Johan said they've talked about it, but there were no promises.
Finally, Eric was propositioned by a guild to join them. Much like any AAA game studio, Eric had to give the same answer I've heard from other devs at BioWare, Blizzard, Turbine, and ArenaNet over the years: employees have to play incognito. While he didn't explain why, the basic reason I've heard in the past is that it would create the illusion of that guild getting under-the-table stuff or seem as if the studio were playing favorites. Generally, it's safer for devs to simply play in a secret dev-only guild, because a lot of group content requires voice chat to coordinate, and folks who appear on podcasts, livestreams, or at the face-to-face events like a Cantina Tour would immediately get outed.
Turning to the content provided on the flashdrive, BioWare included screenshots of more KOTOR-influenced gear and also some screenshots of a rather busy hyperspace junction at Denon, the new Galactic Starfighter map, but didn't actually show off the city-planet aspects very well. I have decent vision and it took a couple of squints at the images to realize there's a planet down there in a couple of the screenshots. The drive also included shots of the new Huttball arena on Quesh, which apparently uses some kind of clickable grapples to tug your player to certain locations in order to complete objectives. A 3D map means a more interesting passing game and certainly increased challenges for our PVPers to tackle. There were a couple of new speeders shown in the images as well, but nothing that really screamed for attention.
The flashdrive also had a few images from the two new Tactical Flashpoints as well. It seems as if BioWare took the more interesting route when it came to the two Force-user starter planets and their appearance in the new Flashpoints. Personally, I was a touch concerned that we'd see a situation where players would still be on their own starter planet but have to fight opposite-faction NPCs in the Flashpoint. I had already assumed that since these are Flashpoints, it would not be anywhere that regular players doing their leveling would get into, but it was a little bit of a pleasant surprise to see both the actual Sith Academy and Jedi Temple being locales visited in these instances. It will be interesting to see how they incorporate these Flashpoints and their stories into the main game, whether there will be any permanent effects visible after a certain period of time. The flashdrive also had concept art of two of the main characters in the Flashpoints, a Sith Lord named Lana Beniko, and SIS Agent Theron Shan, son of Satele Shan and star of the Alexander Freed-penned comic The Lost Suns and the Drew Karpyshyn novel Annihilation, both former SWTOR writers. Well, former in Karpyshyn's case, as Freed recently tweeted that he was working on a new SWTOR project. However, after pinging both of them on Twitter the other day to ask if they had a hand in the new Flashpoints, they said they hadn't, but Lead Writer Charles Boyd chimed in to say that both gentlemen had set a high standard, and that he hoped players enjoyed in-game Theron Shan as much as they did in his comic and novel appearances.
All of the talk of a big epic storyline kicking off with these Flashpoints is intriguing, and we all know BioWare can bring it with the story. Taking to the Public Test Server, I and one of my guildies did our very best to attempt both Flashpoints as our level 55 Jedi, he on his Sage, me on my Sentinel, with our companions rounding out the party. It was quite fascinating to be on Korriban as a Jedi character, and it felt like a punch to the gut to see the Jedi Temple on Tython in such a horrific state. The BioWare art department did extremely well in capturing the flavor of the invasion theme of the two Flashpoints. Unfortunately, we needed a fully-geared proper group to progress through the two Flashpoints, so while we defeated the first boss of Korriban (someone I remember insulting repeatedly as my various low-level Sith), we couldn't get past the second before it got too late. On Tython, we discovered a way across a barricaded bridge that should have cut us off from seeing the Jedi Temple until we cleared more objectives first. I imagine that BioWare will fix that loophole before this content goes live.
In all, we're not getting as much information out of BioWare as we would like. It's easy to seem down about it when you compare how we get news here versus how other games do it (such as SOE completely blowing people's minds by answering questions left, right, and center about EverQuest Next: Landmark – note they're still very close-mouthed about EverQuest Next). On the other hand, BioWare has been making a point of increasing the level of interaction, and their Cantina Tour is a good way for players to get some facetime with devs and occasionally get a straight answer out of them. The fact that the Tour isn't an official part of a ticketed convention (such as PAX East or NYCC) also makes it easier for players in the vicinity to turn up and mingle with their peers. With Game Update 2.7 now live on the Public Test Server, players can get in there and check out the new toys before they go live on the regular servers in April. As a reminder, BioWare did wipe the PTS this time around (and plan to do it near every major update), so you'll have to copy a fresh version of your preferred toon(s) in order to test things. So check out the new content on the PTS and let us know what you think about it!