Correspondent report: Community Cantina in Seattle 2014

(Editor’s note: Longtime friend of the show Caligari (@Caligari_MMO) attended the Community Cantina held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Seattle, WA on Sunday 31 August 2014. He’s provided this write-up of the Q&A and his other observations of the event. Thanks Caligari! -Teo)

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the second SW:TOR Community Cantina held in Seattle. Last year I recorded the audio of the event for TORWars (and also got to meet Chill and Red), and this year I had the privilege of covering the event for Ootinicast along with @Ben_B55. I guess Chill and Red made a good impression last year. 🙂

This year Eric Musco (Community Manager) returned to Seattle, along with Courtney Woods (Lead Community Coordinator), Jesse Sky (Lead Designer), Cory Butler (Game Producer), and Grant McDaniel (Director of Product Development). There was free food aplenty, and this year instead of giving out a few drink tickets to each attendee, there were two open bars! Let’s just say that I think quite a few folks took advantage of those…

After last year’s surprising reveal of Galactic Starfighter (known then as only “SSSP”), the anticipation of something equally as juicy was on everyone’s mind. Prior to Seattle, BioWare announced in Germany that they would no longer reveal anything big at the community cantinas any more, and unfortunately that held true this time.

Nonetheless, the event was a fun time and it was great to meet so many fans of the game we all love. And let’s not forget the contents of the flashdrive from the event – those screenshots of Rakata Prime were quite stunning (it might not have been as big a reveal as the SSSP, but it did ‘officially’ let us all know we would soon be heading to a planet many have looked forward to seeing).

In typical cantina fashion, Eric and the team answered a few rounds of questions from the audience, as well as giving away some killer swag to trivia contestant winners. Following the end of the ‘official’ Q&A, the team spent the remainder of the evening mingling with the fans and answering more questions as they came up. I wandered around and asked the questions that I could, as well as overhearing quite a few others. You can read all the interesting tidbits below, which I’ve paraphrased the best I can:

Q: When will you be coming out with new operations?

A: They are actively working on new operation(s) but they can’t go into specifics on a release date at this time.

Q: For guilds that concentrate on specific activities like Nightmare Progression OPS, are there any plans to make improvements on the ability to gain conquest points through such activities?

A: Conquests are a new evolving system, so they are looking at ways to improve it, and that is good feedback to hear from the fans. Also keep mind that each week the way you earn conquest points will change, and they will continue to make changes based on player feedback and on how players want to earn points.

Q: What is the best way for player’s to provide feedback to the developers?

A: The community team will take your feedback any way you want to give it, including (but not limited to) posting on the forums, posting on social media, posting on Reddit, or even coming up to Eric and yelling at him. Another way to give feedback is to play the game the way you want to. They review data and trends on player activities, so they can correlate feedback with player data to decide what’s important to work on.

Q: For smaller, tight-knit guilds, are there any plans to offer alternative paths for conquest point gains so they can compete with the larger guilds?

A: They are going to do lots of experimenting this year, so you might see some changes or things that will help smaller guilds. They can’t go into specifics, but they’ve heard the feedback and will see what they can do.

Q: Will we ever see a daily area where objectives are dynamic, like having the quests change on a daily basis?

A: This is something that they talk about a lot internally. They can’t make any promises, but they like the idea.

Q: If story content is going to be introduced into the game (like Forged Alliances), why did they choose to put it in tactical flash points instead of adding a new planetary arc?

A: Some of it is timing and some of it is cost. Some of it is what seems appropriate for the content. They try to maintain a balance, but they’ve done more flash point-oriented content lately, so we should see the other options soon.

Q: What is BioWare doing to address the stability of The Harbinger server?

A: Server stability is something they take very seriously, and they know there’s been some issues over the past few days. They’re looking through the logs to understand what’s going on and what the problems are. They will find a way to fix it, but it may take some time.

Q: Is there any plans to have the public listings for strongholds be available all the time (i.e. even when players are offline)?

A: Probably not.

Q: Will the Chevin event ever return so players who missed it can experience the content?

A: There were some serious problems with the event, so if they can address them, then it might return at some point, but they can’t make any promises.

Q: Has there ever been any talk (even if it’s only on the wall of crazy) about having a tournament server for ranked pvp to take place on?

A: Yes, they have talked about the possibility.

Q: Are there any plans to create a mobile app so players can do things like manage their GTN sales or send out companions on crew skill missions?

A: Yes, they have talked about it quite a bit, but it’s a massive undertaking, so it probably won’t happen any time soon.

Q: Will existing companions ever have more story content added to them?

A: They always talk about it internally, and they know the players want it. They can’t promise anything right now, but they are looking at ways that they might be able to do it in the future. It was also brought up that players wanted off-the-rails space missions, and then they gave us GSF. Players also wanted housing/guildships, and now we have GSH, so they do listen, and try to make things happen that the players really want.

Q: Is there any way to implement functionality to allow a player to ignore a legacy or an account instead of just a single character?

A: They can’t implement something like that due to privacy issues. They said that if you ignore a character and additional characters were in turn ignored, then you’d know by proxy who their other characters are, thus violating privacy concerns they don’t want to break at this time.

Q: Since there are so many mounts in game now, will there ever be a way to randomize which mount is summoned when you mount up?

A: This is actually pretty high up the list of things they’d like to do. They can’t say it will be any time soon, but they all like the idea.

Q: Will there ever be a web-based leaderboard for conquests?

A: This is something they’ve talked about, but no one present knew any specifics about it.

Q: Are there any plans to increase the 22 character limit per server, e.g. if a new playable race/species is added?

A: Based on server performance, they might look into this at some point.

Q: Any plans for adding Dual Spec capabilities?

A: They know players have asked about this, but don’t have any other information at this time.

Q: Will you be raising the stronghold NPC limit of 25 any time soon?

A: They definitely want to make it as high as they can get away with, but they are still working on optimizing the way they are handled inside the strongholds. Currently the NPCs are using more server connections/handles than they probably need to, so they will have to come up with a way to reduce them to improve performance. For example, the companion NPCs have all of their abilities, health, equipment, etc. even though they are just standing there. If they can figure out a way to convert them into stripped-down versions then the performance could be increased. Also the NPCs affected by the limit all have idle animations (moving back and forth, etc.) which also increase the overhead they require.

Q: Why do animal mounts count in the NPC limit, but not the standard vehicle mounts?

A: The vehicle mounts only have effect animations running (i.e. exhaust) and don’t have the idle animations discussed above, nor do they have any associated abilities, etc. also discussed above.

Q: Will we ever be able to place multiples of the same companions/pets/etc. in our strongholds?

A: Provided the issues mentioned above are resolved, they might look at lifting this restriction at some point.

Q: Will we ever be able to have more than the 4 keys currently allowed on your key ring?

A: They might look at increasing the number of keys after they resolve performance issues addressed above and know more about what the servers can handle.

Q: Any plans to expand the usefulness of GSH keys? Like ‘platinum’ keys with decoration privilege or giving an entire guild a key?

A: As with the previous questions, they might look into things like this after they know more about what the servers can handle.

Q: Was it intended that everyone just dump chairs, plaster the walls with posters, etc. into a room to get the conquest bonus?

A: They knew that some people might do this, but like with all game systems, there will always be players that will find a way to maximize points with minimum effort. They hope most players will take the time to have fun and decorate as they see fit.

Q: Will the guild member cap ever be raised from 500?

A: They’ve discussed this internally, but no decisions have been made yet.

Q: Can you tell us if SW:TOR is considered SW canon now or not with the recent clarification of the existing EU and the newly announced “Legends” title(s), and the fact that SW:TOR is an active game?

A: They can’t speak for Lucasfilm, who of course has final say on anything related to official canon, but all of their story ideas do go though the story group, and they do talk to them often.

Q: How quickly can new ideas be implemented into the live game, or what’s the typical development cycle time frame?

A: Some new ideas have been incorporated as quickly as two weeks. Others can take months to get realized based on whether they are technically feasible and where they can fit into the development schedule.

Q: Any hints about when we might start getting information about the expansion?

A: September will be a really good month to keep an eye out for 3.0 information.

Q: Are there any plans on adding more class story content, perhaps via new planetary arcs?

A: They are looking at several ways to try and give different classes slightly different experiences on new planets, but can’t go into any details at this time.

Q: During some of the GSH live streams it was mentioned that there was supposed to be a way to replay the intro cinematic. Will that be implemented soon?

A: They thought the ability to replay the cutscene was planned, but they’ll have to go back to Austin and see whatever became of it.

Q: What exactly happened with the CM Data Cubes, and will we ever see something like them again?

A: They were trying to answer the players’ desire to see more story content by offering something new in an optional way that didn’t impact other development teams, but not content that was required nor mandatory since it was released through cartel packs. Since they can also be found on the GTN, they thought players would enjoy the additional content. They didn’t anticipate the backlash against releasing them through the CM. They would like to revisit the idea at some point in the future if they come up with a better way to introduce the content.

Q: Are there any new, exciting things we might look forward to being added to strongholds?

A: It’s quite possible that we might see slot machine decorations Soon™.

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