Redna and I went to the Community Cantina held in Seattle on Saturday evening, 31 August 2013. In addition to many other players, we also met with guildies Ben_B and Craggan. There we met with Amber Green (Live Services Specialist) and Eric Musco (Community Manager) of the community team and Lead Designer Damion Schubert.
The Community Cantina in Seattle was, they believe, their biggest cantina ever, with 300 people in attendance. The number is really close to accurate because the large room they got holds 150 people. They split up the whole thing, including Q&A, into two parts, and the second round barely got everyone in who was still in line.
The audio is not of listenable quality, so I have transcribed—or in many cases with obvious answers, shorthanded—the Q&A below. This also includes some questions we asked afterwards that weren’t part of the formal Q&A. All answers are by Damion Schubert unless otherwise marked.
Q: Why not more playable species, like Nautilans?
A: Each species takes tons of time to develop for all the options, moves, and so on. Because Cathar sold well, they are in talks to see what should be next, but he does not know which one will be next.
Q: Can you make revisitable the many wonderful places that are never revisited, as in class stories?
A: Not on radar to make them revisitable. This is because their world-builders did “unholy things” to make those cool places playable for the one class story. Also in many cases the cool places get visited multiple times with changes, like destruction. More actively they are looking at making cool places for role-players to meet at (guild meetings, weddings, etc.)
Q: Will we ever see (examples given of NPCs from class stories) in the game again?
A: For NPCs, they are asking around internally “who would you like to see again?” He suggested for interested players to start a thread on this to give them feedback, as it is the right time for it. He did say that if an NPC died in any version of a class story it would be unlikely for them to bring them back.
Q: Will there be an upping of the cap of players in an instance—her example was so that a large guild could meet on a planet without capping out that planet’s instance.
A: Yes, as the game improves; currently there are limits and they are mostly based on how well the game handles X amount of players on a planet.
Q: Changes to player ships?
A: Player ship changes are on the wall of crazy. They are looking at perhaps making it so a group of more than four can enter a player’s ship. That said, a player’s ship is one of the hardest parts of the game to change, due to so many quest triggers being on the ship—any change is highly likely to break things. “It makes our worldbuilders cry” when they have to change the ship.
Q: Plans for high-level crafting to have endgame materials NOT tied to endgame raiding/flashpoints?
A: He (Schubert) isn’t really the right person to ask; the itemization team is always evolving things, based on many factors. He doesn’t know where their thinking is now.
Q: (From guildie Ben_B!) Is it in the realm of possibility for players to get additional ships, even if that meant that missions would make you go back to your class ship?
A: From an interior, walking-around point of view, it is very hard to make happen—very likely you will only ever have one interior to walk around. However, it is possible that you will be able to get more ships to fly. (Hinting at what is on the memory stick—the SSSP.)
Q: Are they going to split up nightmare/hard mode lockouts?
A: (Musco) Not in the plans currently to split up those lockouts. [UPDATE: Given previous comments from Jesse Sky on this subject, we rechecked the audio, and can amend that they are considering splitting the lockouts, but it won’t be anytime soon.]
Q: What are the plans to improve space combat?
A: (Musco) Look at your thumb drive!
Q: When will we ever add more class story?
A: (Schubert takes a quick poll; most people liked the Makeb story. This apparently confirmed his suspicions.) From their point of view, the Makeb story was successful. And actually one of the reasons it was successful was because it was NOT a class-based story. Instead of having to come up with multiple reasons why different types of characters would go to Makeb (artifacts, military secrets, etc.) they could focus on making one very good story with slightly different takes for each class. This made Makeb both a better story and more epic (due to not having to do eight full versions of it.) They are looking at taking the basic Makeb model in future and expanding on its emphasis of class differences. How would Luke Skywalker handle this problem vs. Darth Vader? They might go back to the class story model, but it would be hugely ambitious.
(That was the end of part one. Part two is noisier, but I catch most of it.)
Q: Why is there not more balancing before arenas?
A: Because the arenas will use different strategies, they want to see what happens in arenas before balancing, rather than the other way around.
Q: Anything to optimize the Harbinger server especially, as there have been problems on it?
A: They have engineers whose sole job is to optimize servers—making them run faster, and also finding ways to make the clients run better. It is a game of whack-a-mole; they look for the thing that is worst for performance and improving it. In the case of Harbinger, there are specific issues which they are looking into. The Harbinger is specifically on their work list.
Q: (Really awkwardly phrased question about space combat and guild capital ships.)
A: To reiterate, don’t ask a question you know the answer to already. (Guild capital ships are on the wall of crazy, of course.) But for the other part of the question, space on rails improvement, look at your thumb drive. (editorial note: though it’s hard to tell one way or another from the very brief view we get of actual in-game footage, this seems to indicate that the SSSP will not be on rails.)
Q: Treek affection and conversations
A: (Amber Green) Conversations are not currently broken; however there is a known issue where Treek wants to talk to you on the ship when she is actually not ready. In next patch, this will be fixed. If further issues, please let her know via the bugs forum.
Q: Will we get chairs to sit in?
A: Two emotes just put in game that give you a chair to sit in anywhere. (editorial note: we got a screenshot of that on last episode.) As to the one true in-game chair-sit, in your pilot’s seat on your class ship, that is essentially a game hack done by an early programmer who felt VERY STRONGLY that the players should be able to sit in their captain’s seat. Unfortunately copying that hack quickly to other chairs in the game is not possible. Possibly someday they can find a way to get all chairs sittable; it’s on the wall of crazy.
Q: Will augments get cheaper to move to other armor (or cheaper overall)?
A: We have to balance the economy for players who are making those augments; that said he feels very strongly that players should be able to make their characters look how they want them to look. They often look at the balance.
Q: Wookiees as playable characters?
A: No plans on making Wookiees playable. They have to decide based on some important factors: How well will they mesh into the game? Will it be gross if they romance your romanceable companions? Will you go crazy if you have to listen to your character speak more than three times? They have even changed planets from non-Basic to Basic-speaking races to keep that last part from getting annoying.
(End of Q&A: below is from talks with developers)
Redna: Got info from Amber Green that black/black and white/white will be directly purchasable on the cartel market “soon”.
Schubert (note: most of this is not word-for-word): The modding system is my baby. It almost got cut once or twice before being put in. Yet is the single thing that has allowed us to monetize the game without charging for power. Early developers (before he was made lead) had the thought that “you should be able to tell by the armor” what class a player was. That is the opposite of what I think. In PvP, though it is handy to know what class a player is, you can put their class symbol over their heads—and conversely, if you are at a distance it can be quite hard to tell class just from armor. Ultimately this allowed them to make the great majority of the game open free to play, while also giving them a way to get people to change their characters to look how they want and also monetize the game.
Schubert: High legacy-level perks are a tricky thing. They would like to reward such players, but players with 50 legacy level is way less than 1% of the game. Anything they give exclusively to 50 legacy players is basically cutting off almost everyone in the game. They were looking at legacy banks but decided it would be too expensive to give to 1%. On the other hand, “here’s a speeder” is way too weak for the major achievement of legacy 50. One solution was Treek, where if you have high legacy you could unlock without cartel coins. And the Cartel Market makes it possible to strike a better balance in future.
(note: the next ones are word-for-word, as best as I could make it.)
When Chill asked Damion Schubert specifically about the next expansion: “We are not announcing anything about the next exp…major update tonight. Somebody in this room is.” (referring to the SSSP video on the thumb drive.)
Chill: We saw the video; it looks good.
Schubert: It’s better than you think it is.
Chill: We’ll go over the video like the Zapruder film.
Schubert: Good: we love it when you do. Half the time you’re wrong, and half the time you’re right. (editorial: meaning the community, I believe, not OotiniCast specifically.)
Chill: Does the dev team feel that, after the last expansion, it took too long to get PvP updates out?
Schubert: We have a full-time combat team, since before launch. When it came to Makeb, the changes for 50-55, the way the game is set up it is ludicrously expensive to do that, so they are looking at ways to improve that. One of the reasons you didn’t see PvP changes between October and March, when Makeb came out, was because they didn’t want to make changes right before Makeb came out. So since that happened, that team went on to the project they wanted to do most. I know because I took over as lead designer and asked them what is it you want to do most? They said arenas. I said, God bless you, go do it. They have been hitting on that full speed. Having said that, at the same time, they have been designing an advancement system that allows us, if we ever raise the level cap again, to not take a stupid amount of resources that prevents any other class balance/PvP work from happening. But that team is perhaps our most engaged team. They read the forums daily. They post more than any other team. They are the ones that are ones who most actively come to me and say, this is f*cked up, we need to fix it. They love the game, they have their sh*t together, and they are really passionate about where the game is and where it is going to go. I perhaps have more faith in my PvP team than any other part of our project. If you are a PvP fan, I think you’re okay.
Schubert: In Germany, it was all about taking away the ranked PvP; tonight we didn’t get any of those questions, and I’m happy about that.
Chill: Well, either you’ll bring them back, or you won’t.
Schubert: Probably not, unless something major happens. Something like 1.3% of the population ever did it. There were servers where it never fired—literally NEVER fired. At that point, you’re talking about a gameplay mode taking resources away from an incredibly dedicated team that could go to, say, giving us arenas.
Chill: Arena 1s and 4s, is it true that the game will have a way of figuring out your relative skill?
Schubert: I am not the right person to answer that. (Forums would be better.)
Schubert: Our attitude on PvP is generally to be more transparent. Because, as a general rule, if we expose our philosophy, you guys will tell us if we’ve f*cked up. Right? It’s the whole open-source philosophy. The way to find out if your game has problems is to give it oxygen. So our PvP team is really open and really forthcoming. You’ll notice they are the ones talking in the class threads. I realize some people saw this (openness) as a massive disaster because the Inquisitor one didn’t go well—but really, we’re not doing it (being more open) for raids, we’re doing it for PVP because those guys said, “we want to do this.” This is (the PvP team’s) testament to them saying they want to be forthcoming, because if we’re wrong, they’ll tell us. And it turns out, you will.
Chill: I can’t wait for arenas.
Schubert: Arenas are so much fun. We are unsure at this point about where the balance of the game needs to shift, completely, because doing a 4×4 small group is a much different experience from doing an 8×8 warzone. We’re sure there are things that are f*cked up, but we’ll fix it.
Chill: How happy are you with MOX and similar add-ons?
Schubert: We’re happy with what they’ve been able to do given the meager amount of support we’ve given them.
I don’t have audio, but did tweet about a couple of other issues Schubert touched on:
People lean towards the faction that “does better” in PvP. Schubert agreed with this, but noted that the players who stick it out tend to be extremely good PvPers due to always having to fight so hard.
On damage meters and other op tools: It’s true that people can get feelings hurt and even leave the game. But on the other hand, it’s a way for op leaders to help their people and find out where their weaknesses are. Ben_B is a tank; okay, but right now if you’re dying it’s hard to tell sometimes if it’s your gear or your error, or if it’s healers not healing you well enough, or if it’s a DPS failing on a mechanic. He’d like to get more tools into raid leaders’ hands. Also, not only does the raid leader not know who is not good, the players themselves may have no idea.
Amber Green and Damion Schubert both answered questions that makes it clear that UI improvements, especially buff/debuff improvements, are badly wanted by them. Schubert said it is “high on the wall of crazy” but not “soon”.