Wow. And they’re just getting started.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to head up last night to EA’s Redwood Shores campus for the first Community Cantina Tour event dedicated to the Galactic Starfighter digital expansion. I had to leave before the Q&A (boo!) but notes were typed fast & furious before my phone died. We’ll start with a few impressions of the event itself and then roll into what I jotted down.
The campus, as one might expect, is quite nice and we gathered in the café for some delicious finger foods and drinks. Everyone from EA was super friendly, passionate about the game and expansion, and engaged with all the players who attended. Sketches and concept art were scattered on stands around the outside of the room. When you entered they had stand-ins for Imperial or Republic pilots and offered to snap shots with your phone (cheesy photo attached from the proper faction, heh.) Today was the first round of press demos and we played in 5 groups of 11 x 11 (2 games, 1 to learn and 1 to fight) with the matches being streamed from the game room to the café.
General Game Info
- ~1 million active users a month
- ~10 million accounts created since launch
- F2P was massive undertaking debuting about a year ago
- creature mounts were difficult to get in because of the engine; fans demanded it and the Cartel Market helped (and continues to) fund/drive features
- current is “ground” game, this is “space” game; together they form SWTOR for many years to come
- Galactic Starfighter started conceptually a bit prior to F2P and hit the ground running
- focus on making and evoking the moments and experiences we all know and love
- my impression is that the Cartel Market is going to be instrumental in how big this can be (customization, engagement, etc.)
- long time, robust support for space game
- open PTS will be available for testing this weekend and the next!!
Galactic Starfighter Info
- ran a new trailer (“Domination”) to showcase Galactic Starfighter
- can start playing “space” game even if you’re just starting level 1 in the “ground” game
- to make the space game happen, they stretched the engine by building new interaction models on top of existing mechanics
- Requisition (Fleet and Ship) is the currency
- ship is your character
- companion is your co-pilot
- roles are your classes essentially
- choose your role each time you spawn (not when queueing for the battle)
- super customizable appearance (weapons & their colors, engines & their colors, ship variants and much more)
- upgrade trees are there too
- 14 fighters available at launch across both factions
- november subscriber-only benefit: Gunship role is available from early access (3 December); essentially 1.5 months preview, others will have to earn unlock in February.
- Bomber role coming in February update
- adding up to 24 fighters roughly around then (didn’t get a chance to clarify)
- neutral (faction and role) Flashpoint, Kuat Drive Yards, starts at level 10 and coming in February. Content changes dynamically. Referred to as “something special”.
- all the companions have been integrated as a co-pilot option including Treek and HK (unlock in ground then purchase with reqs in space)
- all the voice actors were back to record new dialogue; companions continue adding that flavor we know and love (we now know why the voice actors were posting a few months ago)
- premium ships (cartel market purchase, probably per ship) – the ships you encountered in the “ground” game, now in space!
- defensive maneuvers (which engine customizations improve) allow you to do a barrel roll or activate your retro thrust (awesome!!)
Jeff Hickman (General Manager of BioWare Austin) said it best:
“It’s as much fun to watch as it is to play.”
- map is Lost Shipyards; big sun in the background, large asteroids with areas to fly through or camp; capital ship spawn points
- I’m not really a PVPer yet but I was hooked immediately and couldn’t wait to respawn
- flying is just plain fun and I immediately said “do a barrel roll!” like Star Fox
- easy to learn, difficult to master like many of the best things in life
- Gunship role is fun because you enter a tank-/turret-like mode (stop moving and enter a ‘scope’ to aim) but it’s longer range strategic support like a sniper
- destroy turrets (3) to allow capture of control points; was able to hide near some asteroids, dash out, and then snipe all the turrets on B (middle node)
- shows up as another little button on the mini map’s left side or use H to open your “hangar” (the customization window)
- can’t modify ships once you’ve queued for a battle
- spawning is exiting hyperspace (awesome!!)
- use the F1-F4 keys to change ship resource balance on the fly (shield, blaster, engine, balanced)
- missile lock is intuitive, hold secondary weapon (right mouse button) while tracking until lock occurs and then release
- fun suggestion from lead designer – fly together with guild colors; match blasters to faction or saber
- observation: much like crew skills ‘fits’ a mobile UI the hangar ‘fits’ a tablet UI (fingers crossed, right Hyp?!)
- creating scenarios such as the blockade around Hoth are in the realm of possibility
- they’ve heard requests for joystick controls of some form for space game; requires work to map efficiently from engine (Hero isn’t a fan of them) – if you are passionate about this let them know, that’s how invert mouse got added during alpha/early beta testing
BioWare handed out the normal assortment of SWTOR swag such as the thumb drive and Taunfawn code, but in honor of Galactic Starfighter they added some cool extras: your choice of an Imperial or Republic patch and a signed poster! Kudos to the community and marketing teams for another great Community Cantina Tour stop and most especially thank you to the development team for their incredible work. I didn’t get a chance to capture everything but I hope you’re as excited as I am for one of the more transformative experiences to hit an MMO.
(Editor’s note: Thanks to guest writer Ferrous Terran for an awesome write-up! You can find him on Twitter using @FerrousTerran.)