Keith Takes us on a Roaaaad Trip!

Pack up the cooler and load your mobile device with your favorite tunes, because SWTOR Game Producer Keith Kanneg is taking us all on a roaaaad trip! It’s 106 miles to the next expansion, we have a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses, so let’s hit it.

In case you haven’t seen it, Keith Kanneg delivered his roadmap as promised. The roadmap covers all gamuts of the game including Operations, PvP, Story and Companions, and Quality of Life Changes. The roadmap includes a schedule of when some of these features will be released, and it contains a plan on how the team will communicate with us moving forward. It’s a lot to dissect, so let’s break this down like a scavenger ransacking a starship in the junkyard of Jakku.

OPERATIONS

There was no mention of future Operations beyond Gods From the Machine. That said, I’d be shocked if a new Operation wasn’t planned each expansion moving forward. If Gods From the Machine wasn’t the result of a lesson well learned then they’re just building a second Death Star with the same fatal flaw as the first one. I’d like to think that this statement from the roadmap is a manifesto on how they plan to deliver Operations from here on out.

Delivering an Operation is a fundamental change in our direction this year and our plan is to provide you with a new Boss encounter every few months. By doing it this way, we can deliver high quality, challenging Boss fights much faster than making you wait until the end of the year or for an expansion.

Just because there isn’t a new Operation planned, doesn’t mean we won’t get new stuff out of them. Knowing that we’ll eventually have these bosses on farm, and will be fully geared, BioWare is adding “platinum quality items” to induce us into coming back each week. These items will drop from certain bosses in Veteran and Master modes.

PLAYER VERSUS PLAYER

Perhaps the only words that excite players more than “new Operation” are “new Warzone”. There’s one coming later this year. As someone who is fast becoming a PvP junkie, I’m going to temper my excitement here until I know more. I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly jump for joy when Odessen pops up, and I leave queue from Quesh Huttball faster than the Millennium Falcon making the Kessell Run.

Now the Bantha in the room here is class balance. No details on what’s going to change, but changes are coming this July. As always, be careful what you wish for because some things are going to get nerfed and somethings are going to get buffed. I’m pretty sure I know which side of the credit my Merc is going to fall on. Class balance changes will start in July with the following classes getting changes in Game Update 5.3.

  • Sorcerer/Sage
  • Powertech / Vanguard
  • Assassin / Shadow
  • Sniper / Gunslinger
  • Mercenary / Commando
  • Operative / Scoundrel

Now just because you don’t see a class listed, doesn’t mean it’s not on the chopping block, err, scheduled for improvements. Marauders and Juggs will have their day of reckoning.

The class balance changes are coming in Game Update 5.3 which is called Sister of Carnage. How ironic that the game update that threatens to gut many of the classes has carnage in its name. Coincidence? I think not.

One other change that’s coming is Unassembled Components will become a legacy-wide currency. This could mean that they won’t make changes to rate at which you earn them, because now when you PvP it’s all for one and one for all with your characters.

STORY AND COMPANIONS

This was a pretty meaty section and one that has me excited like an HK droid that’s been granted permission to use extreme prejudice.

We will continue moving the story forward after the events on Iokath. As we announced at our recent Cantina in Orlando during Star Wars™ Celebration 2017, the next major story update is coming in August with Crisis on Umbara featuring an exciting new Flashpoint on the shadowy planet. We won’t give you spoilers about this new area, but we’ll reveal more as we get closer to general release.

If you recall, Umbara is a planet from the Clone Wars story arc Darkness on Umbara. It’s coming in the form of a Flashpoint that I will assume has Story, Veteran and Master modes. If all you care about is the story, I’m sure you’ll be able to grab your favorite companion and enjoy the story without others goading you into spamming your spacebar.

We know bringing back your old Companions is extremely important so expect to see more of them returning throughout the year. Additionally, as we release updates over the summer, you’ll be able to customize some of your favorite companions, including Theron, Lana, Shae, Koth, and Senya! In addition, we’ll review and adjust which companions you received through Alliance Alerts.

Other than people dressing up these beloved companions in skimpy spacewear and dragging them through places like Hoth and Illum I think this is a great change. Out of all the companions mentioned, Lana and Koth are the only ones I can truly see in different outfits. Although, Senya in Thexan’s outfit or a Zakuul Knight set does sound pretty cool.

We will continue to provide regular improvements for companions this year to enable you to increase their influence by doing in-game tasks you typically do when you play. Companions remain an important part of SWTOR and we look forward to introducing improved ways for you to engage with them.

We already know that companions will gain influence from Crew Skill missions in Game Update 5.2.2. Please for the love of the Force let this be a substantial gain and not that paltry 250 golf clap of influence that Major Pierce earns every time I PvP.

I want a giant Nico Okarr size of drunken “I love you, man!” every time I send someone on a mission. I want the influence meter to fill up so fast that I turn to my companions and tell them “I think I’m chokin’ up.”

I have double-digit characters with double-digit companions. It’s time to crank this up to eleven.

In addition, based on the feedback we received about Iokath, we are exploring options for new Daily areas, adding or updating events, and offering special rewards for a variety of in-game activities.

I love daily areas. I found Iokath to be a bit of a miss, but I would welcome a new daily area. I would also love to see some of the current events, like say the Gree, get some new quests or items. I would not lose any sleep if the Gree Heroic +4 were to become something else. Anything else. You could change it to Quesh Huttball and it would 3720 times better than what it is today.

QUALITY OF LIFE

I am never one to shun a quality of life improvement. It took a while to get used to the new Galaxy map, but I love it. Other than their potential cost, new speeder ranks are welcome, as is the upcoming legacy wide perk to boost Command CXP. The one thing that caught my eye was this mention, “We will regularly look to offer more customization improvements such as adding Weapon Tuning enhancements to player collections.” I’ve yet to get or use a weapon tuning because they are ridiculously expensive. If tunings can be added to collections I’ll consider giving them a second look. Correction, I mean a first look.

THE SUMMER OF SWTOR

This summer SWTOR looks to deliver three game updates. Thanks to the data-miners, the nexu was let out of the bag early on some of these features, but it’s still nice to get confirmation that they are indeed coming.

Game Update 5.2.2 releases on June 13th, and has the following features.

The return of the Nar Shaddaa Nightlife event with all new rewards, including a new Gamorrean Companion!

Starfighter Improvements – Increased Requisition gains, Gunship and Bomber available by default, some new ship customization options.

Companion Influence earned from Crew Skill Missions

Command Experience Legacy Perk for alts. Once one of your character reaches Command Rank 300, you can acquire a new Legacy Perk to increase CXP gains on all your other characters

The ability to craft Tier 4 armor is now available

Both Theron Shan and Shae Vizla’s appearances can now be customized

New Legacy Perks: Mount Speed 4 & 5 (120% & 130% increased movement speed)

Tier 1 gear can now be purchased for Command Tokens

Not a bad one in the bunch. The Nightlife event is a favorite of mine and the new jackpot reward, a Gamorrean companion, fits in perfectly with the companions influence changes. Assuming he can be sent on Crew Skill missions of course.

Tier 4 crafted gear is nice. I have a number of companions stuck in Galactic Command Tier 1 but wearing Tier 4 hand-me-downs. This makes it possible to get Ear, Implants, and relics of a higher tier.

Then there are the Galactic Starfighter changes. At least it’s not entirely forgotten. It still stinks of a red-headed step-child. I gave it an honest look in 5.2, I truly did. It’s just not for me right now. I might have to do the baby feeding technique on this one. The first bite of a new food is all about the shock value. The second bite is to see if you like it or not. The third bite is to confirm that you don’t like it. I may have to take another in 5.2.2.

Game Update 5.3 – Sisters of Carnage is coming in July.

Gods from the Machine’s second encounter Aivela and Esne in Story and Veteran Mode

A brand-new Stronghold with a great view of the Ocean

The ability to search for Stronghold Decorations using new filters

The start of Class balance changes for the following:

Sorcerer/Sage

Powertech/Vanguard

Assassin/Shadow

Sniper/Gunslinger

Mercenary/Commando

Operative/Scoundrel

Appearances for additional companions can now be customized

Two things struck me here. First, was the confirmation of the Manaan stronghold. This was a badly kept secret. I’ve written about it already and I’m as excited now as I was then.

What really has me excited is the ability to search for Stronghold Decorations. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve clicked on a hook knowing full well what I wanted to put there, only to not find it because I didn’t know the name, the type of decoration or the type of hook it can go on. This is big people. This is big.

The Summer of SWTOR will conclude with Game Update 5.4 in August. Crisis on Umbara will introduce a new flashpoint and continue the story that began on Iokath.

Keith wrapped up the roadmap with his plans on future communication and dialogue of the game.

Starting this week and weekly thereafter throughout June and July, we are going to be posting on the forums to share specific features we’re thinking about and those already in-process. We want to get your input and talk through the pros and cons of each topic to see how you feel. We’ll set expectations for how we want to interact to keep our engagement productive, but if we all do this correctly, it’ll be a fun and rewarding experience.

We will be posting on a very wide range of topics, everything from new content to the reinvigoration of existing features. Look out for these posts every Wednesday (if that changes, we’ll let you know in advance).

And of course, I will plan to deliver an updated roadmap each quarter. This way you can see not only the direction we are heading, but you’ll know what to expect specifically over the few months.

I think this is a great communication plan and I especially like his willingness to discuss features they’re thinking about. The caveat with that is, some of those features might not make it to the live game or could take longer to get there than we’d like.

Remember Charles Boyd talked about getting weapons in the outfit designer as something they’d like to do this year, and yet that feature did not make into the roadmap.

My final observation before I wrap this is up is given what they’re planning to release and the timeframe for it all, I don’t see much room to deliver a new expansion in fall/winter. I do believe we’ll get another one, but it may not happen until early 2018.

In the meantime, we can grab a Corellian Ale from the cooler, turn up the music, open the sunroof and let Keith drive.