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Community Q&A Thoughts

Star Wars: The Old Republic Columns - By Michael Bitton on November 24, 2010

Community Q&A Thoughts

Last week's Friday Update for Star Wars: The Old Republic included a short community Q&A that raised a number of interesting questions and provided a few thought provoking answers. So, this week we'll be taking a look at some of the neat tidbits that came out of the Q&A.

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There are a lot of issues to consider when thinking about multiplayer dialogue in an MMO. Some that are pretty obvious (such as who gets to make dialogue decisions), and some that are a little more obscure.

The first question in last week's Q&A raised the issue of disconnects during multiplayer dialogue. This would seem like one of those more obvious concerns, but I honestly had not even considered it up until now. Prior to Bioware actually giving us some solid information on how multiplayer dialogue would work, I'd been wracking my brain with some of the truly obvious concerns, but for some reason something as simple as how disconnects would affect the flow of dialogue escaped me.

To address the issue of disconnects Bioware will have a short timer in place during multiplayer dialogue scenes (there is no time pressure solo) and this will solve the actual issue of moving on with the conversation in the event of an intentional or unintentional disconnect, but the whole idea of disconnects being a problem at all is now driving me a bit bonkers. If I'm the group leader and some random guy disconnects, yes, I'll be glad for the fact I can move on with things without him, but if it's me being disconnected, well, it won't be so cool then. Everyone out there has had momentary blips in their connection, and missing key dialogue choices or scenes as a result is just something I've never had to consider in an MMO before. Thinking back, it's easy to take for granted some of the simple things available in single-player RPGs such as the ability to proceed through a conversation at your own pace or quick save and quick load to correct a poorly made decision.

Going off on a tangent for a moment, I know for a fact that being unable to quick save and subsequently quick load after I inevitably screw up during a conversation is going to drive me up the wall. Good or evil, I always want my Bioware RPG stories to proceed down some path I've plotted in my head and losing that freedom is both scary and exciting. I simply lack the willpower to force myself not to quicksave/quickload, now I won't have a choice in the matter!

Ultimately, the more I find out about the system and think about issues I'd never considered before, the more excited I become. Weird isn't it? I'm concerned, yes, but I'm also quite curious to see how the whole dynamic plays out in the live game. It's one thing to ponder the myriad issues and speculate, but I'm really just curious to find out how this experiment will play out. Most MMO group content concerns or drama seem to center around loot. Can you imagine someone quitting a Flashpoint because they missed a key dialogue choice and are willing to find a new group and start over just to get the whole experience right the first time through? Sounds crazy, but I bet you it happens.

The Q&A also answered a question regarding the choice available to players who have already selected their Advanced Classes. You see, classes in Star Wars: The Old Republic are a bit like Russian Matryoshka dolls. You start out with your base class, say the Sith Warrior, and then you can specialize further with your choice of Advanced Class. Sith Warriors, to use the earlier example, can go the dual-wielding DPS route (Marauder) or the single saber wielding tank route (Juggernaut), which in many games is plenty choice enough, but wait, there's more! Each Advanced Class also has its own set of skill trees that allow for even deeper customization and choice. But will players really utilize these choices? If a Juggernaut can conceivably configure his build to be more DPS focused, will that really be viable? Why didn't he just go the Marauder route instead? I am hoping that the choices available don't simply amount to token freedom that allows players to put a square peg in a round hole. Hopefully the deeper choices available to Advanced Classes make sense and are viable.

One concern I've raised about Advanced Classes in the past is the whole "medic" specialization for the Agent and Smuggler, though in the past my concerns centered on trying to make sense of why either of them have these specializations in the first place, but now I'm wondering whether or not people will even want them around. With more dedicated healers available in the Jedi Consular and Inquisitor (and possibly healer companions), are players really going to want a Smuggler or Agent in the group for their healing abilities? Or is this a World of Warcraft styled illusion of choice?

What are your thoughts on last week's community Q&A? And what are the burning questions on your mind that you'd like to see Bioware answer in a future community Q&A? Let us know in the comments below!

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager.