Community News

12.09.2011

Some clarifications on item modifications

So, it turns out some of the patch notes regarding our modding system were probably poorly written (by me, I must add) and generated quite a lot of concern. I’ll try to explain the changes better and, while I'm at it, explain the logic for those changes.

To start with, we’ve introduced a new color and item type: the Custom items. Those are shown with an orange border and are fully moddable. This change is purely cosmetic. What we have done is take all fully moddable Prototype items (blue) and simply changed their icon color. This helps us create a better and more unique identity for fully moddable gear.

Since other games have used orange to signify truly rare and epic gear, let me clarify that orange in Star Wars: The Old Republic has nothing to do with 'epic' gear. (And for those curious, our version of 'epic' is a very deep purple, bordering on a rich blue). The orange we use is actually the old bronze color we developed a long time ago when our color coding was based on metals (bronze, silver, gold, platinum, etc).

Custom gear is actually pretty common: it can be obtained through class quests around level 8, as social gear, as space quest rewards and as light side / dark side gear. It is also the typical gear found in Flashpoints and as rewards for Heroic missions. Several pieces can be acquired using planetary commendations.

The second change introduced in the latest build is the locking down of the base mods (Armoring, Barrel, Hilt) and color crystal mod on the Artifact items (purple). To explain this change, I need to also explain the history of the the modding system...

So, the first version of the modding system had many issues. It is amazing that a system that is only a few months old is already quite misremembered, but that’s because while the system implementation was less than stellar, players really liked the concept that tried to shine through and now remember it much more fondly that it truly deserves. The main issues of the old system were as follow:

  • There were too many different modifications. Sure, the mods had a lot of flavor and made sense: triggers and scopes for guns, underlays and overlays for armors, power cells and crystals for Lightsabers, etc. But in the end, keeping the mods in all gear up to date every few levels was a major pain on the players’ side. Remember, at that time, mods could not be extracted - so a replacement for each and every one of those mods had to be individually located every few levels. And let me tell you, creating and maintaining all those tens of thousands of mods on our end was also not exactly sustainable.
  • Some items only had a few mod slots. I know everyone by now remembers a 'perfect' world where everything was moddable, but that simply wasn’t the way it worked. Most premium (green) items did not have a full set of slots and which slots weren't present was a bit random. So, you could find a purple trigger and get all excited about fitting it on your moddable gun - until you realized the gun mysteriously had a scope slot, but not a trigger slot. Of course, your next gun could have a trigger but no scope. This left many players scratching their heads.
  • Once slotted, a mod could not be removed. This had a very perverse effect: players would find a really good mod - say a purple overlay - but would really hesitate in slotting it into an armor. What if they find a cooler looking armor next level? Many players would end up saving their good mods for later and ended up over leveling them.
  • Mods that were crafted or purchased were most of the time inferior to the mod already slotted onto a prototype (blue) item. This made the entire mod system somewhat useless. One of the main reason was that crafters could not create good mods. Reverse engineering - the main method to obtain prototype and artifact (blue and purple) crafted items - did not work on mod.
  • Modding was only done at a workbench. This made it rather cumbersome as the players had to hunt down a workbench before they could fit a new mod into one of their items.

So, to summarize: in the old system, you could not take any piece of gear, fit it with the best mods and keep it all the way to the end levels: a lot of the green gear did not have all the slots, the mods that could be obtained were for the most part... not good, and you could not extract better one from existing gear.

So... things had to change. Because despite all those warts, some of the players who tested the system really liked the concept: that a player could find an appearance they really like and work to keep it relevant all the way to end game. So, we knew we were on to something and we also knew the old system was just not delivering.

Those changes took time to implement. Some of them concerned large amounts of data and some required new code. Unfortunately, not everything could be implemented on time for each testing build and, in some of the builds, testers were exposed to a very raw and partially completed new system. However, today, we are close to where we want to be - but not quite there yet (more on that later).

So, the changes we made are:

  • Item modding can now be done anywhere at anytime. No workbench required.
  • Crafters can now reverse engineer mods and create blue and purple mods.
  • A new Custom quality (orange) was introduced to legitimize moddable items as their own quality and type. This isn’t a big deal but does clarify things a little.
  • Mods can now be extracted from a Custom item. This is the single most important change and has many, many consequences. However, we feel that being able to slot a mod and then extract it back truly opens up the system and makes it a lot more fun, easy and safe to experiment with. I’m not 100% happy about how the system interface and GUI works today (it is still a bit clunky) but at least it is functional.
  • Rather than have a whole bunch of unique mod types, some mods are now common to all items. This greatly helps players who are 'going the mod route’ to stay relevant and competitive as they now have a much higher chance to find exactly the mods they need, level after level, be it from a crafter, at a planetary commendation vendor or by extracting it from another item.
  • Partially moddable premium (green) items were removed as they essentially lied to the players: an item missing a mod slot would never be able to match a high end non-moddable item. Instead, to compensate for the loss of diversity, orange versions of all green armors was created and given to the crafters. So, yes, if you see a green armor you really like, you still can have that appearance until end level. It does take a bit of work - you either need to become a crafter yourself, befriend one or trawl the GTN.

(Note: recipes for those orange appearances are discovered through Underworld Trading missions.This allows us to have a truly large number of those recipes without overwhelming the crafting trainer inventory. As a side effect, this opens up class quest green armor appearances from other classes as well as long as you fulfill the armor requirements.)

  • End game artifact quality (purple) gear is now partially moddable. Why moddable? Because that allows the players to customize stats such as critical, etc. to their exact desire. Why only partially? Because mods are now extractable... Think of it this way: it is easier to defeat the first boss from an Operation than the last boss. So we want to reward the players with the best possible loot for defeating the last boss and that loot is typically the Chest piece of a set. The first boss drops less interesting stuff, say boots. This may sound old school, and it is. But by doing so, we ensure that both players that get rewarded by looks and those rewarded by stats are properly rewarded for taking on the most difficult challenges.

Now, if purple gear was fully moddable, players would simply farm the first boss, acquire 5 pair of boots, extract the armoring, mod and enhancements from the boots and slots them in their favorite Custom items. That actually sounds cool, but it really isn’t. Letting players extract the armoring mod from the purple items would trivialize end game gear progression and stop rewarding successful and dedicated players for their efforts.

So, instead of letting that happen, we prevented the Armoring, Hilt and Barrel from being extracted, but we also made sure of dropping purple Armoring mods of equivalent power as Operation loot. This means that players going the mod route can still take their favorite orange armor and make it as good as a operation purple armor (with some temporary caveats).

  • Some crafting recipes that allowed the creation of moddable armors and weapons have been replaced with non-moddable versions. Why the nerf? Because those recipes were no longer properly balanced once we allowed mod extraction. It became far cheaper and faster to create an item for the sole purpose of extracting every mods out of it than creating mods in the first place. This also allowed nearly every crafter to create every type of mods, which wasn’t very balanced either. Instead, the crafter can now make a non-moddable item for those players that enjoy that and, thanks to newly introduced recipes, a moddable (but empty slotted) version of the item.

Now, with those changes, we are closer to an actual implementation of our modding philosophy than ever before. Is it perfect? No, not yet. There are still some imbalances here and there (and I trust this community to let us know loud and clear if we miss any) but it is close and the remaining issues are on their way to be fixed. Of course, it would help to clarify what that philosophy is:

To put it simply, we want moddable items to offer an alternate and optional loot system that allows players to customize their look and their stats with more freedom and without penalty for doing so.

However there are many times where it will be easier for a player to just put on whatever stuff they just looted and not care about the way it looks. Keeping a specific outfit or weapon “up to date” or obtaining a specific look may require additional time and dedication, such as finding a crafter that can create that specific smuggler shirt or that rare color crystal.

I hope this clarifies things a little. As always, we are very much interested to hear what you all have to say on the system, but at least you now have a bit more information to go on - and of course, in a very short time, you will all be able to test this on the live servers.

Anyway, thanks to all of you who have been helping with the test of the game and offered your very passionate opinions - on this subject and others. Testing a beta isn’t easy. Things changes all the time, some stuff isn’t finished and nothing seems to make sense without the benefit of knowing what’s going on behind the scene. So thanks again and I hope to have the chance of meeting each and every one of you in game.

- Emmanuel Lusinchi
Associate Lead Designer