Community News

04.16.2013

Developer Update: Imperial Agent Class Changes

Hello everyone. My name is Austin Peckenpaugh, and I’m a Senior Designer on Star Wars™: The Old Republic™, responsible for class design and combat systems. As such, I’m here to shed some light on the changes to the Imperial Agent class in Game Update 2.0.

We’ll be writing about recent class changes coming to The Old Republic, but this time we’re going a little more in depth and taking on one class (for both factions) at a time. If we haven’t covered your class yet, do not despair; it will be covered in the coming days.

Combat Systems

Alacrity Improvements: One of the big changes to combat systems is the way that Alacrity works. Prior to this update, Alacrity came with a tradeoff for some classes, and it was nearly useless to other classes. The faster you attacked, the more resources you would spend, and that only worked if you had channeled abilities or abilities with activation times.

Now, Alacrity will increase the activation speed of all abilities, including instants. We haven’t just shortened the global cooldown, either. When activating any ability quicker, its animation will also play quicker. This makes some attacks look and sound very cool. Furthermore, Alacrity increases resource regeneration by the same rate, helping you to recuperate resources more quickly as you spend them more quickly. Now more Alacrity is strictly a good thing.

DoT Improvements: We’ve changed the way we evaluate damage over time effects, so it should now be less costly to keep your DoTs up and to spread them around.

Shield Improvements: We’ve changed the way shields work to allow them to absorb any incoming kinetic or energy damage regardless of the source (melee, ranged, Force, tech – doesn’t matter). This has significantly increased the importance of shields, and the game has been rebalanced to account for such a major adjustment.

Accuracy Matters: In 2.0, all Elite (gold star) and tougher enemies will have additional defense chances against Force and tech attacks. As a result, Accuracy Rating will play a pivotal role in optimizing your sustained damage in boss fights. Prior to 2.0, Accuracy Rating was valued very differently from class to class (or even spec to spec), and while it’s still different for each class or spec, that difference is now much smaller. In effect, all damage-dealing roles will find Accuracy Rating much more useful than before.

Imperial Agent

Better Evasion, baseline: Evasion now removes all hostile removable effects for any Agent, including the Sniper. This used to be reserved for Operatives only, but we’ve added the ability to Evasion, baseline, so that Snipers can also benefit from this effect.

Sniper

  • Spotter: Now when Snipers enter cover, they start building stacks of stealth detection. These stacks climb steadily over 30 seconds and stack up to 30 times. Each stack increases stealth detection by 1 level. This effect ends when you leave cover. We wanted Snipers to feel like they really owned an area, especially if they’ve “set up shop” for a while there, so to speak. Stealth characters can still sneak up on Snipers when approaching them directly from behind, but now a deeply rooted Sniper makes a great lookout, even against unwitting stealth characters.
  • Better Advanced Targeting: This ability used to only increase the range of rifle attacks, but now all important, relevant abilities have been increased to 35 meters.
  • Better Ballistic Shield: Now lasts 20 seconds (up from 15) and no longer requires cover. You can deploy Ballistic Shield at your current position and move freely after doing so.
  • Covered Escape (New ability): This ability makes the Sniper roll forward 18 meters, landing in portable cover. While rolling, the Sniper cannot be hit, and rolling breaks the Sniper out of all movement-impairing effects. 20-second cooldown.

Below are some additional details on changes made to the Sniper’s skill trees. Please keep in mind that these are just the highlights and other skills, not mentioned here, have been changed.

Marksmanship

Alacrity was one of those stats that should have benefited Marksmanship greatly, but in addition to the old Alacrity system’s shortcomings, reaching certain Alacrity levels could make you wait awkwardly on Followthrough’s cooldown. Now that Alacrity is a very useful stat for Snipers, especially Marksmanship, it has become critically important for us to make Followthrough play well at all Alacrity levels.

  • Followthrough: Now costs 5 energy and also becomes available after a complete Series of Shots.
  • Recoil Control: This skill has been redesigned. Now increases the speed at which Series of Shots channels and fires by 15% per point (30% when maxed). Additionally, firing Snipe twice in a row, firing Takedown or Ambush once, or completing a Series of Shots now finishes the cooldown on Followthrough. All in all, this will allow you to hit Followthrough more often, and Followthrough will always be available when you want it. Since Followthrough’s availability is now linked to your gameplay (rather than its cooldown), the Marksmanship rotation plays its best at all levels of Alacrity.
  • Sniper Volley: We’ve improved this ability in three ways to make it an even better signature skill for Marksmanship. First, the Alacrity it provides is now very useful. Second, because Series of Shots is so much better than before, finishing its cooldown is now even more useful. Finally, Sniper Volley now lasts 15 seconds (up from 10).
  • Seek Cover: When Entrench ends, you gain Seek Cover, which increases your movement speed by 50% and grants immunity to movement-impairing effects for 6 seconds.
  • Portable Bunker: Increases the duration of Entrench, and, when you roll with Covered Escape, you land in portable cover with a few seconds of Entrench. When this Entrench ends, you also benefit from Seek Cover if you took the skill.

Engineering

We like that Engineering has a strong niche role in AOE (area of effect) damage, but we really want to dispel the perception that they can’t deal competitive single target damage. To that end, we’ve made it easier to focus in on one target by freeing up Interrogation Probe. We’ve also reduced the downtime between Explosive Probe -> Cluster Bombs -> Series of Shots combo chains.

  • Interrogation Probe: Interrogation Probe now has no cooldown but can only be active on one enemy at a time (such that attaching it on a second target removes it from the first target). It also costs less energy than before and gives Engineering the flexibility to swap targets more easily for better parity with Plasma Probe and EMP Discharge.
  • EMP Discharge: This ability no longer requires a target and no longer requires an active Interrogation Probe. EMP Discharge is now activated on yourself and finishes the cooldowns on Shield Probe, Adrenaline Probe, Covered Escape, and Entrench.
  • Imperial Auto Loaders: Reduces the cooldowns and energy costs of Explosive Probe and Series of Shots. These abilities are very important to giving Engineering competitive sustained damage, and that’s the first thing we wanted to address for them.
  • Electrified Railgun and Electrified Blast: Electrified Railgun is now a 1-pt skill with a slightly reduced effect. However, Electrified Blast is a new 2-pt skill that gives Snipe and Overload Shot a 50% chance per point to apply 1 stack of Electrified Railgun’s effect to the target. This will further improve sustained damage and also help the Engineer’s out-of-cover on-the-run gameplay. It additionally synergizes well with Calculated Pursuit, which was a previously underwhelming skill.
  • Cluster Bombs: Reduced the rate limit by which the bombs can be detonated.
  • Scatter Bombs: With this new skill, when you activate Covered Escape, you drop several bombs behind you that detonate moments later, dealing damage to everyone in a line behind you. This doubles as a fun escape and a surprising entrance.
  • Vital Regulators: This skill has been redesigned to be more useful. Now, for as long as you remain in cover, you heal a percent of your max health every 3 seconds.

Lethality (Sniper)

Lethality has a lot of consistent and reliable damage, but we’ve injected them with some new gameplay to help spice things up.

  • Toxic Regulators: This skill makes it so that your periodic damaging effects do not tick on targets affected by your own sleep effects, like Flash Bang. Previously Flash Bang was very difficult to use as a Lethality Sniper on account of your DoTs. While we’re okay with different specs valuing different abilities, the lack of a reliable Flash Bang really detracted from Lethality’s ability to escape one or more attackers. This change completely flips the table, allowing you to go so far as to setup on sleeping targets without fear of waking them.
  • Lethal Takedown: Dealing damage with Cull has a chance to finish the cooldown on Takedown, allowing your next Takedown to be used on any target with any health.
  • Corrosive Grenade and Corrosive Dart: These abilities now cost much less energy to use, and Corrosive Grenade no longer has a cooldown.
  • Corrosive Mine: When you activate Covered Escape, you detonate a corrosive mine behind you, which fills the area with toxic gas that damages and slows all enemies within.

Operative

  • Avoidance Training: This passive has been removed and its effects have been incorporated into Evasion by default (Evasion removes all removable hostile effects).
  • Better Stim Boost: We really didn’t like how Stim Boost was essentially a maintenance ability. If it fell off, you just became worse, and there was no compelling gameplay in monitoring it. We’ve changed Stim Boost so that it’s now an active ability with a 2-minute cooldown. When activated, you gain one Tactical Advantage on demand and 15 seconds of 10% Alacrity. As previously mentioned, Alacrity now reduces the activation time of all abilities, including instants, and increases resource regeneration. Stim Boost is still usable off the GCD.
  • Preparedness: This new passive ability increases your energy regeneration rate. It effectively replaces the effects of the old Stim Boost.
  • Better Kolto Infusion: Previously, the intricacies of when to use Kolto Infusion over Surgical Probe were pretty unclear. Kolto Infusion has been redesigned to better convey its intended use. Now Kolto Infusion heals for a good amount up front in addition to a good amount over 9 seconds. It requires and consumes one Tactical Advantage and is a strictly superior heal to Surgical Probe, but it has an activation time, a resource cost, and a cooldown.
  • Tactical Advantage: The “giggle proc” is back for Tactical Advantage, but we’ve toned down the frequency at which it occurs. Now this sound effect only plays when you previously did not have Tactical Advantage (it will not play when your stacks of Tactical Advantage increase).
  • Better Infiltrate: This ability has been redesigned slightly to make it easier and more intuitive to use. Now the Operative must be in stealth to use Infiltrate, which still puts nearby group members into stealth with the Operative. Infiltrate now allows both the Operative and other affected group members to use abilities like Sneak and Blackout. Furthermore, we’ve added a visibility ring to Infiltrate that shows the stealth field’s perimeter being projected around the infiltrating Operative. Finally, Infiltrate now reduces the movement speed of all affected party members by 15% (down from 30%).
  • Exfiltrate (New Ability): Roll forward 12 meters. When slowed, you only roll forward 6 meters. While rolling, your chance to dodge melee and ranged attacks is increased. Does not break stealth. Cannot be used while immobilized. This ability costs 25 energy and has no cooldown. Exfiltrate should be very useful for closing and widening gaps, and frankly it’s a lot of fun to use.

Below are some additional details on changes made to the Operative’s skill trees. Many more skills than the ones mentioned here have changed; these are really just the highlights.

Medicine

One thing we really wanted to address for Medicine was their options. Medicine has always been great at what it does, but a few great abilities have edged out the other options in what should be a great spread of abilities. This led to the perception that Medicine Operatives had a fairly narrow, limited role.

  • Kolto Infusion: As previously mentioned, Kolto Infusion has been redesigned to have a more obvious application. This should be a welcome “re-addition” to your arsenal as a healer.
  • Durable Meds: This new skill increases the healing done by your Recuperative Nanotech and Kolto Probe, as well as increasing Recuperative Nanotech’s duration and reducing the energy cost of Kolto Probe. You should have to spend less energy on keeping Kolto Probe up and have more energy to use other abilities.
  • Medical Engineering: This skill has been changed so that Kolto Infusion, Kolto Probe, and Recuperative Nanotech ticks all have a chance to grant Tactical Advantage. This should help ensure that all of these skills are equally useful and that this Tactical Advantage gain is more reliable.
  • Surprise Surgery: We really wanted to add some gameplay to using stealth as a Medicine Operative, so we added this new skill. Now when you exit stealth mode, you immediately gain 1 stack of Tactical Advantage per point (2 stacks when maxed).
  • Recuperative Nanotech: Medicine should have a better resource management game in 2.0 (including both energy and Tactical Advantage), and this will give Medicine Operatives more opportunities to make use of Recuperative Nanotech.
  • Exfiltrate: While Medicine Operatives have always been good at healing on-the-run, they would spend so much time running that there wasn’t much time to do anything else. With Exfiltrate, it should now be possible to more easily establish some distance and breathing room to allow you the time and space to use more healing abilities.

Concealment

  • Collateral Strike and Tactical Opportunity: The rate limit has been removed from Collateral Strike and added to Tactical Opportunity. This effectively preserves the rate at which Tactical Advantage could be re-gained with this effect without limiting the times Collateral Strike can hit your target.
  • Culling: This skill has been redesigned. Now in addition to increasing the damage dealt by Laceration and Collateral Strike, when Collateral Strike damages an enemy, you immediately recover 5 energy per point (10 when maxed).
  • Flanking: This is now a 2-point skill, such that maxing this skill out makes Backstab free of an energy cost.
  • Laceration: This ability now costs more energy and deals more damage. In combination with the above changes, Concealment Operatives should be able to put out more reliable, less streaky sustained damage.
  • Shadow Operative Elite: This utility skill reduces the energy cost of Exfiltrate and gives Exfiltrate a chance to trigger 1 second of Evasion, making you impossible to hit with ranged and melee attacks and removing all removable hostile effects.

Lethality (Operative)

  • Toxic Regulators: This skill makes it so that your periodic damaging effects do not tick on targets affected by your own sleep effects, like Flash Bang and Sleep Dart. Previously Flash Bang was very difficult to use as a Lethality Operative on account of your DoTs. While we’re okay with different specs valuing different abilities, the lack of a reliable Flash Bang really detracted from Lethality’s ability to escape one or more attackers. This change completely flips the table, allowing you to go so far as to setup on sleeping targets without fear of waking them.
  • Fatality: Shiv has a chance to trigger Fatality, which makes your next Cull re-grant Tactical Advantage and cost no energy.
  • Corrosive Grenade and Corrosive Dart: These abilities now cost much less energy to use, and Corrosive Grenade no longer has a cooldown.
  • Quickening: When you activate Exfiltrate, you have a chance to gain Quickening, which makes your next Kolto Infusion activate instantly, cost no energy, and not require or consume Tactical Advantage.

Game Update 2.0: Scum and Villainy and the Digital Expansion: Rise of the Hutt Cartel are now live with the changes above. Please keep in mind that we are always looking at class balance so let us know how you like the changes we have made. I hope the information I could share with you today has helped shed some light on what’s changed and why we changed it. Thanks for reading!