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The Future is Bright (or Dark, if you prefer)

Star Wars: The Old Republic Columns - By Michael Bitton on February 14, 2012

The Future is Bright (or Dark, if you prefer)

Last week was pretty eventful for Star Wars: The Old Republic. BioWare kicked off their debut Community Q&A, shedding some light on what players can expect to find in store for the game in the not-too-distant future. Additionally, players who have been up in arms over the recent changes to the global cooldown UI were treated to a dev blog promising a solution that honestly went above and beyond my expectations.

Let’s kick things off with the global cooldown UI changes. If you’re unfamiliar with the situation, BioWare recently made some somewhat jarring changes to the presentation of the global cooldown (or GCD) on players’ hotbars. The new GCD effect is basically a bright silver overlay with an obvious flash at the end of it signifying that your abilities are off GCD (or standard cooldown). I realize this is a bit of an understatement, but many players simply didn’t like the change.  At first, I too found the changes fairly jarring and uncomfortable, but it really didn’t take me long to get used to and even appreciate them. Combat is often intense enough that it almost requires you to watch your hotbar over the action. Fortunately, the bright flash associated with the new GCD UI turned out to be really easy to catch in my peripheral vision while focusing on the combat,  so I actually ended up warming up to these changes.

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It seems the majority of players, or at least a significant chunk of players, were either unable or unwilling to accept the changes and BioWare heard their cries loud and clear. I expected BioWare to either roll back the changes entirely or provide an option for players to use the old presentation, if they did anything at all. I was frankly shocked when reading last week’s dev blog to see how quickly BioWare had basically turned around a full suite of customization options focused entirely on the GCD UI (slated to hit in 1.1.4). If anything, they went a bit overboard, but hey, MMO players love their customization and more options are always appreciated.  To that end, players will soon be able to select from four different cooldown animation styles (dark with/without overlay and bright with/without overlay) while also having the ability to toggle the ‘ready flash’ for ability cooldowns and the GCD cooldown separately.  If that’s not enough for you, you’ll even have the option of displaying the actual cooldown time remaining on the ability icon itself, customize the size of said text, and even toggle it to display in tenths of a second. Sheesh! I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many options dedicated to cooldown display. If you aren’t satisfied with BioWare’s proposed solutions and response time to this particular issue, well, I honestly don’t know what to tell you!

 

On to the fun stuff! The debut community Q&A turned out to be far more informative than I expected. The responses from BioWare’s Daniel Erickson and Gabe Amatangelo were specific and ended up nailing down some exciting changes coming to the game as soon as Game Update 1.2.

In 1.2, we can look forward to the beginnings of the Legacy system’s implementation, which will start out with the unlocking of additional species options (from the existing pool of species). There are some goodies coming with the Legacy system in 1.2 that will benefit existing players as well, but unfortunately no specifics were offered. Supposedly, the Legacy system will also play a role in correcting factional imbalances by offering players the incentive to check out how the other side lives.  If you don’t care to re-roll, character transfers were also mentioned as something they are working on, but they don’t appear nailed down for 1.2 just yet.

On the PvP front, we learned 1.2 will introduce pre-season Ranked Warzones, improved Warzone matchmaking, and that the new Warzone will be enabled for same faction play (blech!). I know, I know, it improves queue times, but I much prefer fighting the enemy faction to my own.  You won’t be able to pick your desired Warzone in 1.2, however. This feature won’t be implemented until BioWare sets up cross-server queuing.

I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that BioWare will begin addressing the disparity in social gear availability for armor types other than Light beginning in 1.2. I’m fairly certain all the existing social gear is configured as Light armor, but according to Daniel Erickson we should start seeing some new gear in 1.2 and some “dramatic changes to the social gear system just around the corner afterward.” I’m personally hoping they come up with something that allows all social gear to be armor proficiency agnostic, simply adjusting its stats to the highest level of armor proficiency your character is qualified for. At the very least, I’d like to see Light, Medium, and Heavy variants for each set on the social vendors in the short term.  Even if the social gear situation isn’t adequately improved in 1.2, us vain types out there should be glad to know that the improved ‘Hue to Chest’ aka ‘Match Color’ system will finally be making its return in 1.2 as well. Social gear is one thing, but looking like a clown while leveling is frankly a far more pressing matter when it comes to customization.

It looks like the guild bank feature teased in a recent video will also make the cut for 1.2. Daniel also took this opportunity to re-emphasize BioWare’s commitment to developing guild features, going so far as to tease the possibility of guild capital ships once again.

Finally, 1.2 will bring full implementation of Target-of-Target, including primary target and party frames. This is sure to be appreciated by tanks and healers when grouping up for endgame content as well as PvP. I know I’ve heard our main tank complain about the lack of Target-of-Target while doing Operations.

A few features that sound a bit further out were also discussed as part of the Q&A. For one, if you’re one of those folks who had no problems farming the Primeval World Destroyer for the Magenta Adegan Crystal recipe, BioWare has more in store for you, including additional rare items and even ‘limited availability’ items. Let the treasure hunts begin! Dual specialization was also mentioned as being in the works and ‘coming soon,’ but forget it if you’re looking to respec your Advanced Class.

Needless to say, Game Update 1.2 is looking to be absolutely packed with new features and improvements, and hopefully some compelling new content to boot. I can confidently say that SW:TOR is definitely heading in the right direction, and I’d wager it’d be pretty hard for any fan of the game to be disappointed with the slew of aforementioned changes coming with 1.2 and beyond.

What are your thoughts on the upcoming changes? If you’ve quit the game, are these enough for you to give it another look? Share your thoughts 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.