Please upgrade your browser for the best possible experience.

Chrome Firefox Internet Explorer

101 ways to make this game a HIT!

mourasantos's Avatar

08.16.2012 , 04:15 AM | #1
Guys...get it right. It's not about adding MORE story, it's about making the existing story more immersive, enthralling.


Adaptive conversation system.

Basically, a mechanism that can learn your personality. Next level roleplaying.

1. Sure, I may be interested.
2. What's in it for me?
3. Stay away from me, alien.

Say you choose 3, now the system has learned you have xenophobic proclivities and your next conversation will adapt accordingly:

1. What do you want?
2. Oh great, a T'wilek.
3. Die, you alien scum!

The greatest benefit of implementing a system of this sort would be the immense contribution it would provide in terms of building a sense of individuality for players, to the notion that their characters have their own personalities, unique to themselves and no one else. This added appeal would likely draw the curiosity of new players, the kind of players this game failed to captivate so resoundingly—the non-MMO'ers, the casuals, the devout KOTOR fans who gave it a shot, but ultimately backed out because they felt it didn't live up to its franchise—in short, the guys Bioware should really be gunning for.

Of course I realize this would require an enormous expenditure, both in terms of resources and finances, but in my opinion it would be a much more sound investment than the alternative, which is to continue saturating players with additional story content that, regardless of how captivating and well-written it may be, will ultimately feel increasingly derivative and even preposterous in the long-run.

Problem # 332: FLASHPOINTS
FP's eventually become stale once you've completed them several times. Because their story elements are static at the moment, it doesn't take very long for experienced players to lose patience with newbies running it for the first time ever. This is the cause for an increasingly wide-spread phenomenon, the SPACEBAR-feud. There are several ways to circumvent this problem, the easiest of which involves churning out MORE flashpoints. This is not only the costliest of the solutions, it's also the most short-sighted one. The real key is to make the cutscenes found in EXISTING flashpoints as dynamic as possible.

How, you ask?¹

Well, imagine after reaching a certain amount of social points you unlock a new ability that allows you to interrupt the normal flow of conversation by performing a suitably show-stopping action, something similar to the Paragon/Renegade system Bioware introduced in Mass Effect 2. Naturally this ability would be accessible to all classes, with one small caveat: the Jedi Consular and Sith Inquisitor classes, by virtue of their lore, don't need to hit a certain level of Social Points in order to unlock it, they have it from the get-go. Sith Inquisitors would use mind domination, Consulars Jedi Mind Tricks, Smugglers would use Smuggler's Charm, etc...

The idea would be for this system to be developed as a sort of mini-game. By choosing either the Light-side (Paragon) or Dark-side (Renegade) options the system would be rolling the dice just the same as it would do for the other standard conversation rolls, except that in this case if the roll is lost, you would then not only lose a (very) small amount of Social Points, but also be locked out from all future conversations for that particular flashpoint, unable to take part in any of the conversations. The upshot is that if you manage to win the roll you would then receive a substantial social points bonus in return, in addition to the performining the aforementioned kick-*** feat. The higher your social points level, the more likely you are to win these rolls.

SkepticalJoe (22, voted In N' Out Burger's most valuable employee for June 2010) expresses some doubts: Sounds moderately intriguing. Care to elaborate on how exactly this so-called conversation system of yours works?

My pleasure, buddy. Since it's the first and most widely-known Flashpoint in Swtor, we'll be using the Esseles Flashpoint as an example. Now picture the following scenario...

After tearing through a horde of maladjusted Imperials your Jedi Consular has finally arrived at that infamous point of the instance in which an (exceedingly underwhelming) moral quagmire is presented. Normally you'd be given two choices here: 1.) either pay heed to the straight-to-business T'wilek Ambassador's advice and sacrifice a small crew of ship operators in order to expedite your fight against the Imperial incursion, or 2.) ignore the venomous words which that pretentious ****** is spinning, and decide to spare them instead.

But, if this system which I'm proposing were implemented you would be given two additional choices to choose from beyond the limit that's currently set. There are several catches to this, though. Much like the standard conversation rolls your ability to win these two additional options is far from being a given. No, it's tied to a number of factors, the first among which are your reflexes...

See, in order for you to even have a chance of rolling succesfully on these aditional Light-Side and Dark-Side options you would have be fast enough to click on them in the first place. Here's how it would work: two pulsing orbs of light, one red, one blue, would suddenly flash on screen, providing the player with a fraction of a moment to click on them. If he succeeds, he has a chance to win the roll; if he fails, he's bound to regret it. This too was lifted directly from the Mass Effect "Paragon" and "Renegade" system, as I'm sure most of you are aware. However, contrary to that game, the difference here is that the appearance of these two options aren't a done deal, the rate at which they appear being mostly erratic, so that players are kept continually on their toes, never knowing, or able, to predict the exact moment in which these orbs will decide to rear their heads.

It's all fine and good to discuss the technical permutations of this system, but what does any of it mean in terms of narrative, how would these "feats", these extra social interactions, allow players take more enjoyment from the game? In order to answer this question let us return to the Esseles situation I had used as an illustration. Assuming the player managed to be quick (and lucky) enough to win the Light-side Roll, what would happen is that an action specific to his Consular class would then be triggered: Force Persuation.

And so, instead of having to talk his way out of sacrificing the workmen as he would otherwise, he can induce a hypnotic state upon the Ambassador, forcing her to revise the ruthlessness of her beliefs. Alternatively, if the player had won the Dark-Side roll, he would perform a similar action with a considerably more mischievous outcome—the kind that would surely be relished by writers, as it would present them with a vast number of opportunties to concoct humorous situations (an aspect which presently this game's narrative sorely lacks).

Speaking of humor, you know what else writers would love? The backfires. What are backfires, you ask? Well it's fairly self-explanatory, really; it's what happens when cruel fate conspires against you so that even if you manage to click one either of the two intervention options on time when they pop up—your roll is still somehow lost. In these (not infrenquent) circumstances, rather than performing an heroic deed or terrific show of power, you essentially make buffoon of yourself (much to everyone else's amusement), instead. Not only that, as I mentioned before, you're blocked out from any and all future conversations for that flashpoint.

In this particular case the situation might develop as such: Jedi Consular attempts to hypnotize the Ambassador who to his surprise and dissapointment, simply shurgs it off with snappy retort, as if she completely immune to his grasp. For a moment it seems as if that's that, when suddenly something kooky and expected—a strange moan, an incoherent babbling is heard. Turn around to discover, to everyone's great shock, that Consular's spell has somehow backfired and taken hold of another player instead of its intended target, the Ambassador. Soon enough, this player too manages to break free from the spell and eventually comes to. Except now he's furious. How dare he meddle with his mind, the audacity...Boom! The Consular is struck by a beeatch-slap to the face and promptly drops to his knees, humiliated and locked out from all further conversation rolls.

That's pretty much it for now. I'd welcome any suggestions.

¹ Actually, the answer to this addresses several other problems, namely the lack of differentiation between classes and the seemingly superfluous social levels system, both of which I'll tackle in more detail later on.

Problem # 31: SPRINT ABILITY
- Unlock sprint ability at Legacy Level 1 instead of having it available for new players from the onset, immediately after character creation.

Problem # 412: HOLOTERMINAL
- The holo-terminal on our ships used to communicate with our respective faction's leadership is constantly glowing blue, as if signaling it wants to be interacted with, even when it doesn't.

Solution: Get rid of this. Yesterday. It should only glow blue when inter-stellar communications are warranted. At this stage, 90% of the time it does f-all beyond resetting my U.I.

Problem #520: FLEET
- Scrap the faction fleet as the main base of operations. From a narrative perspective it makes little sense, the capital worlds should be the central gathering points for each of the respective factions.¹

Imagine you're a new player. Not just a new player, but new to MMO's in general. Apart from a few hiccups along the way (which I'll also address later on), your leveling experience is a fairly smooth one up until you reach level 10. But then, as soon as you hit fleet, you're inundated by a flood of new, sensory overloading game-systems: vendors peddling wares you won't be able to gain access to for another 40 levels, level 50 players parading high-tech gadgets of the kind which you, at such an early stage of your adventure, can only dream of obtaining (even though every NPC and their mother is treating you as the galaxy's last ray of hope), the chat box is swarming with befuddling, MMO-specific terminology you can't make any sense of, etc... etc...

For these reasons and more, and as a newbie to MMO's myself, I was this close to unsubbing the moment I hit fleet. Of course most folks here won't be able to sympathize with this problem of new game systems being unlocked at too early a stage, given that they're veterans of MMO's, and consequently at least somewhat familiar with all of them already. But as I mentioned before, the issue isn't merely functional, it is narrative as well. For instance, the sense of heroism Bioware supposedly went to such great lengths to provide SWTOR's players with is instantly shattered the moment he discovers even the FREAKING VENDOR standing behind the counter on fleet is 40 levels more powerful than him.

That's right, the fleet is broken. Remember, for instance, those holo-terminals located below the main level, where people would gather around to do flashpoints, the ones in which you'd get a sit-rep, an intro, essentially a narrative purpose for doing them in the first place? Well, that's all gone now, made null and avoid by the introduction of group finder, left to simply gather dust. This is actually another huge problem in itself, but I mention it here only as means to highlight just how senseless the fleet map has become -- you've got a whole floor, even entire separate ships, meant to teleport you to flashpoints that are now completely useless. But anyway, I digress. On to the --

SOLUTION: Okay, so we've already agreed that flooding a new player with too much information as early as level 10 is not the ideal approach, right? And if we've agreed that walking around on fleet surrounded by level 50's who look meaner, faster, cooler, than your measly-leveled toon is a highly deflating experience, then we'll also agree on the need to avoid these emasculating encounters while at the same time figuring out a way to space out the rate at which players are exposed to new game systems at a measured pace. But how to do this?

Well, try this...

Create a copy of the capital world that is only accessible at level 50. Imagine you're playing SWTOR for the very first time. Having reached the capital planet, Coruscant, you're feeling understandably underwhelmed by its lack of scope, its corridor structure… In short, its lack of ambition. But! There's an area closed off to you, for whatever reason. A bridge of some sort, like what they did with the GTA series. You wonder what it's all about. But then, you reach level 50 and you receive a HOLOVID update informing you this area is now freely accessible to you and every single other level 50, PLUS anyone with a Legacy level above a certain point (Legacy 3 sounds fair, I think).

Oh, I'm not suggesting the fleets should be scrapped entirely. Nay, I think they should be kept, only not as a galactic epicenter. So far there are three ships -- one used as an all-purpose hub, a gathering point for all players above 10 (Carrick Station, on the Republic side) and two more (gav daragon and another one whose name escapes me at the moment) for flashpoint teleporting purposes. Keep them, but make them restricted to players in 10 level increments. In other words, levels 10 to 20 you gain access to Gav Daragon. There, you'll encounter players who may, potentially, be slightly more advanced than you, but are still within the same realm of experience. There, vendors will sell you things you can actually gain access to, understand, and, more importantly, afford. There, the conversations rolling down on the chatbox won't be pertaining to things that you, as a novice, aren't quite ready to grok yet, etc...

Gav Daragon: 10 to 20
The other one I forget: 20 to 30
Some new space station made for: 30's to 40
Carrick Station: 40 to 49
LEVEL 50's and their ALTS (Legacy level 2 and beyond): CORUSCANT and Drommund Kaas.

The idea of streamlining the leveling experience so as to restrict encounters with maxed characters, to make it a much rarer prospect for first-time players, is bound to meet its fair share of detractors, especially amongst the hardcore crowd. These people are more likely to have little to no empathy with the first-time user because they've already gone through the grind, worked for ceaseless hours to obtain their much-prized gear, and so they'll be damned if anyone tries to take away their hard-earned right to show off their uber-cool characters decked out in resplendent regalia to the rest of the world. The thing is, though, this wouldn't be detracting at all from that sense of validation they so hunger for. In fact on the contrary, the end result of making level 50 encounters rarer would be that in those few times in which the newbie DOES run into a maxed character (say, for example, on a datacron hunt or as part of a world-event), he or she would then stand in awe of them, as if they just spotted an Elvis apparition. What's more, this way you wouldn't be just another level 50 lost in a sea of level 50's competing for attention on a fleet.

¹ Problem is, both capital worlds are highly underdeveloped at this stage; they just don't feel very "capital" at all..

Problem # 70: HUTTBALL
- Remove Huttball from the Warzone queue. Thematically, it doesn't make any sense for them to be included. I mean, they're called WARzones for christ's sake, not Hutt Games. Instead, make them a place. Yes, a place! Some kind of Arena venue, preferably located on Nar Shadaa (which by rights should be the capital of fun and games, but right now is the capital of zilch). Allow bets to be placed.

- Nothing wrong with the bosses themselves, per se; the problem is the complete lack of narrative impetus to defeat them.

SOLUTION: Write an in-depth description of them in the codex. Provide a backstory, a reason for us to care. If those overgrown gerbils out on Tatooine are deemed worthy of three paragraphs, why the Force would a ten-ton cyclopean reptile be given a pass?

Problem # 3258: TRAVEL
- There's a lack of incentive to travel. Why? Well, take a look at the real world for a clue. What's our own primary incentive to travel, beyond exploring different sights? The answer is exploring different cultures. What is a culture? A system. What is a system, in SWTOR's case? A mini-game. And right now, there is a total absence of systems unique to a particular planet to help differentiate them from each other, to set them apart. The sole exception is some crystal- making machine on Coruscant, and sorry to say, that's far from cutting it. Implement a system that's unique to a particular planet and you get a rudimentary form of culture. Implement a culture and you create a reason to travel.

There, fixed.

But how to do this? Look to the real world for inspiration: want to get the best suits in the world, a special custom-made dose of sartorial sprezzatura? Go to Italy. Specifically, Napoli. Want exposure to that special, filthy-rich sort of decadence? Go to Monaco during the Grand-prix. Looking for the low-brow variant? Buy yourself a ticket to Vegas, where the Ed Hardy crowd like to congregate. And finally, if you're looking for the the best and worst of everything the world has to offer, then New York's your place (by the way this what Coruscant should be). Now think along Star Wars lines. The creme-de-la creme of swoop races, the final shebang, where all the top-end pilots go to prove their worth, would be on Alderaan. The best and rarest Jedi Gear should be found on Dantooine. Want to hunt for exotic animals, then Tatooine is the best (and only) place for you! You get the point, I could go on and on…

Problem # 5789302: PLAYER ROLE

- Players lack the sense that their decisions have any real effect on the game. It's true, too. None of our decisions really mean anything at the moment, regardless of how evil or goody goody two-shoes our respective paths end up being. The solution for this lies in that metrics program Bioware likes to brag about so much, that proprietary system they came up with to collate every single shred of data in SWTOR down to the last 01 bit. Instead of limiting its use for finding out where players die the most, or to determine class imbalances, use it for this: gather up intel on every single player's light side/dark side choice, every pro-republic or pro-imperial decision, every single warzone outcome, and make them all count. How? Server specific events. Rather than wasting time brainstorming what the next world event should look like, you should tie them directly to the results of said findings. Publish the results of these findings so players can keep up.

In other words, imagine you've determined that, on balance, more light-side choices have been on a specific server overall, than dark side ones. Change the world accordingly. Have it shift gradually to a chirpier, more festive kind of place. Conversely, if more dark side options were taken overall, perhaps vegetation begins to rot away, infrastructure begins to crumble...a darker, more foreboding ambiance in general begins seeping in.
That's one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is pro-republic vs pro-imperial player options. I'd include PVP and Warzone results as a factor in this, but the end result would be something like... I don't know, say more pro-Imperial decisions were made on one server... instead of having "Rakghouls Return" as the next event, have Carrick Station be attacked. Players will then have to deal with repairs for the foreseeable future until they turn the tide.
Say too, that more Warzones were also won by Imperials than defenders of the Republic. Have the territory on a contested planet shift toward the Empire's favor as a reflection. Again, these results would be published for all to see, either in the holovid network on Preferably the first.
Sorry, I have this idea very clearly laid out on my mind but have to refine more it in writing.

It's feasible, trust me. Er, I think…

Problem # 312: U.I. DESIGN
- It looks atrocious ever since the 1.2 update. I'm not against allowing player customization per se, but this new one makes a mockery of even the most basic principles of design. I'm shocked it even made it past quality control in the first place, to think it's persisted as is for this long is... i don't even know what it is.

Solution: Revert the standard U.I. Appearance back to how it originally looked. asap.

Problem #999: VOICES
- When players of the same class group togetherit's jarring to have to listen to two or more people with the exact same voice.

Solution: The answer isn't in voice alterations, like EAX, has some people have suggested. The key is to add new voice work, period. Benefit? You sell them. Only 19, 99 for a new male/female voice pack! Easy money. Not all players will buy it, of course, but naturally, all will be able to hear these new voices. Everyone wins.

Problem #14: CLASSES
- Apart from combat based abilities there is no distinction between all of the different available classes to differentiate them from each other.

The solution is obvious one, really, though pretty hard to implement: make each class unique unto itself. I've already discussed how to do this, in part, by proposing the interrupt system to be available from the get-go for the Jedi Consular and Sith Inquisitor class, but I think the time has come to elaborate on more of these class distinctions (this could take a while though, so brace yourselves).

I'll start with the Bounty Hunter class:

You go to Nar Shadaa to place a a bounty on a rival player. The cost for doing this should be prohibitive enough to avoid tomfoolery (read: everyone and their mother has a bounty placed on their heads). As soon as the BH picks it up the target in question is flagged, a fact to which he will remain oblivious to just so long as he remains in a safe zone (the fleet). However, the moment the target lands on a contested planet a "kill clock" is initiated. Once this clock is triggered, the target is grounded to the planet and now has a set amount of time to avoid almost certain doom at the hands of his relentless pursuer, who has also been alerted to his target's unfortunate galactic meanderings: "Warning! Target spotted on Coruscant!"...or something to that effect...

But LucasRox (hardcore pvp'er, still a virgin at 27) says: Ridiculous idea. It will never work. For one, what makes you think I want to take part in such a thing? And frankly I resent you for coming up with the idea, for trying to to flesh out something that would be truly fun for most people, when the best I've been able to come up with so far was demanding the Inquisitor class to be nerfed.

I see. Well friend, I understand your concern. I think the solution lies in adding an incentive for the player who's been marked with a Bounty to want to engage in the old cat and mouse game with the creation of an achievement system of sorts. You people seem to like gear, so let's make it simple and keep it along those lines. Say the targeted player manages to avoid the bounty hunter long enough for the kill clock to run out; he is then attributed with a title -- "wily", for instance -- that unlocks access to a certain type of gear. Now consider he manages to escape again; now he's been attributed with the title of "sneaky", which in turn allows him to buy tier 2 gear of the same achievement ladder. And so on...

Tier 1: "Willy"
Tier 2: "Sneaky"
Tier 3: "Illusive"
Tier 4: "Stealth Master"
Tier 5: "Escape Artist"

... Something along these lines. Get ready for some cool ***, ninja-style gear!

Timmverse (30, balding, thinks Mark Hammil's interpretation of the Joker was, and shall forever remain, unparalleled) argues:

Here's your basic fallacy -- the "kill clock". What's preventing me from logging off the moment I learn i'm being hunted? And what if I have an emergency and HAVE to log off?

Good point, sir. The solution, I think, lies in reverting the previous proposition, where instead of being awarded with a positive title (and the gear it gives you access to) you're penalized with a loss of experience points and tagged with increasingly negative-sounding titles—"Coward", for instance—the more often you do it.

- Witless
- Coward
- Chicken
- Spineless


In an ideal (mmo)world, the attribution of each of these negative titles would be clearly reflected in your character somehow. For instance, for the Coward title an emote would be automatically triggered everytime your character crosses paths with another player with higher level and stats, forcing him to shiver and cower in front of everyone.
Ambitious, I know, but fun as all hell...

Lets refine this idea a bit more, shall we?

PaulieShore21 (married with kids, civil engineer) asks:

I don't dislike the idea, there's something to it. Could you pls elaborate on how the system would work on the Bounty Hunter end of things? Namely, how does he track down his target?

Sure. Good question, by the way. The manner in which Bounty Hunters track you would depend on a number of variables, chiefly amongst which is the gear they have gained access to. All BH's would have at their disposal the same baseline equipment to start with, a tracking device allowing them to pinpoint your general location on a broad radius.

What I didn't mention before (so as not to confuse anyone with too many details) was that, like his prey, the Bounty Hunter has his own achievement ladder, too. I'm not going to get into what it would look like just yet, but suffice it to say that the higher up the BH crawls up this ladder, the more precise his hunting tools become. In the early stages his tracking device has a very broad radius, making his job that much harder. At higher levels, however, the BH is able to gain access to gear with a much better, tighter scope, a tracking device that's able to pinpoint his target's location with much more precision.

This is of course affected by his prey's own position in the achievement ladder. For instance, if his target has achieved the rank of "Escape Artist", he will have plenty of counter-measures at his disposal to throw off the Bounty Hunter from his path. I'll get into all of this later....


Alright, this is a work in progress. I'll come back to this and the other classes later.

SNCommand's Avatar

08.16.2012 , 04:18 AM | #2
You do know you can change the UI whenever you want? And the original UI is one of the default settings?
Quote: Originally Posted by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
Personally I would slap Georges hands away from the editing desk, give him a colouring book and then remake the entire prequel trilogy so that Darth Vader uses the force to win breakdance competitions and chokes to death anyone who utters the word midichlorians.

mourasantos's Avatar

08.16.2012 , 04:23 AM | #3
Quote: Originally Posted by SNCommand View Post
You do know you can change the UI whenever you want? And the original UI is one of the default settings?
No, it's not. This is the original U.I.:

SNCommand's Avatar

08.16.2012 , 04:28 AM | #4
Quote: Originally Posted by mourasantos View Post
No, it's not. This is the original U.I.:
And what in that picture could you not recreate in the UI designer?
Quote: Originally Posted by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
Personally I would slap Georges hands away from the editing desk, give him a colouring book and then remake the entire prequel trilogy so that Darth Vader uses the force to win breakdance competitions and chokes to death anyone who utters the word midichlorians.

mourasantos's Avatar

08.16.2012 , 04:30 AM | #5
If I have to lay it out for you then you just don't get it.

SNCommand's Avatar

08.16.2012 , 04:35 AM | #6
Quote: Originally Posted by mourasantos View Post
If I have to lay it out for you then you just don't get it.
Do it, if it's that different from what we can use now you should be able to list the differences and what's impossible to recreate using the UI designer, what you're doing is a cop out
Quote: Originally Posted by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
Personally I would slap Georges hands away from the editing desk, give him a colouring book and then remake the entire prequel trilogy so that Darth Vader uses the force to win breakdance competitions and chokes to death anyone who utters the word midichlorians.

mourasantos's Avatar

08.16.2012 , 04:40 AM | #7
Quote: Originally Posted by SNCommand View Post
Do it, if it's that different from what we can use now you should be able to list the differences and what's impossible to recreate using the UI designer, what you're doing is a cop out
*Sigh* Fine, I'll give you a clue: Notice the blue, semi-translucent thing which runs from the character portrait down to the quickbars, seamlessly tying everything together.

mourasantos's Avatar

08.16.2012 , 04:43 AM | #8
Notice how the quickbars don't overlap on top of each other, as they do in the CURRENT "Standard U.I.", but instead are all inside a box-like structure that keeps everything neatly stored.

SNCommand's Avatar

08.16.2012 , 04:45 AM | #9
Quote: Originally Posted by mourasantos View Post
*Sigh* Fine, I'll give you a clue: Notice the blue, semi-translucent thing which runs from the character portrait down to the quickbars, seamlessly tying everything together.
Oh, that, I see it now, see how easy that was?

I still don't agree with you, but I get at least what you're saying now
Quote: Originally Posted by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
Personally I would slap Georges hands away from the editing desk, give him a colouring book and then remake the entire prequel trilogy so that Darth Vader uses the force to win breakdance competitions and chokes to death anyone who utters the word midichlorians.

mourasantos's Avatar

08.16.2012 , 04:47 AM | #10
still don't agree with me? I don't remember you disagreeing with me.