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Space Combat in The Old Republic (continued from pre launch)

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > General Discussion
Space Combat in The Old Republic (continued from pre launch)

seatown's Avatar

01.07.2012 , 04:23 PM | #1
TLDR: I love SWTOR so far but wish for more meaningfull space content SOMEDAY down the road.

Opening Statements:

Firstly we, the 3-axis space supporters, are not asking for a full space sim with countless sectors to explore, We aren't asking for a 50/50 space/ground mmo, nor are we asking for Bioware to completely scrap the current Tube Shooter. The Tube Shooter is a good mini-game and an excellent way to kill a few minutes while you wait for people to log on or what ever. We are just asking for a little something to go along side the current space experience. We are also aware that the game just launched and fixing bugs and adding content for endgame is a priority but if we do not speak up then the future of meaningful space combat may never come about.

All we are really asking for at this time is that the devs look into adding a couple "hotspots" with 3-axis control for our ships mainly for the purposes of pvpve. The zones don't need to be gigantic where you fly for 20 minutes and don't see anybody. Small pockets of intense combat maybe a little bigger than BF2's space battles would suffice. Again we are not asking for this to be priority number one just something to be considered.

Let's take a quick look at Biowares five pillars, or guide lines, for building The Old Republic. Story, Combat, Progression, Exploration, and Community. Sure story is involved with the current space system and I know there is combat, but what about the other three pillars? Progression: There is almost no room for progression in a tunnel shooter. If you add better blasters, better shields, better engines then you make the 5 minutes space battle even easier. Not just progression of the character/ship but of the system itself, rail shooters are virtually impossible to be expanded upon other than adding new 'tubes'. Look at the genre, TOR's tube shooter, much like The Clone Wars Adventures rail shooter, is almost identical, save for graphics, to the old Star Fox games. Exploration: There is no exploration to be had on a rail shooter. You cannot fly to the other side of the capital ship or go and check out that frigate in the background, for better or worse you are stuck on the ride. Exploration is also lost after multiple playings of the same 'hotspot' as it becomes repetative. And Finally Community: Nothing about a short single player game invokes thoughts about community and experiencing the game with Multiple Players.

Now let's look at the IP itself. STAR WARS. yes most of the movies took place on the ground of the planets but space combat was a huge part of the stories. 'A New Hope' The escape from the death star was an exciting space battle (for it's day), Also the Climax was an epic space battle with no joint ground force operations. 'Empire Strikes Back' Ok Empire was mostly ground focused but the Falcon escaping the imperial fleet was a big part of the middle of the movie. 'Return of the Jedi' Space combat was incredible in this movie. If not for the rebel fleet, in unison with the ground forces on Endor, the second death star would not have been destroyed. 'The Phantom Meanace' Anakin destroying the TF mothership was essential in defeating the invading droids. "Get us off this autopilot R2!" While the Darth Maul lightsaber duel was epic it was nothing more than an awesome fight in the grand scheme of galactic warfare, had Maul bested Obi, Naboo would still have been free of the Trade Federation. 'Attack of the Clones' Again mostly ground based but did have a cool chase between Jango and Obi. (would I be able to hide behind an asteroid in a rail shooter?) 'Revenge of the Sith' opens with an intense space battle and has a lot of clips of space through out the film. 'The Clone Wars' A lot of episodes in the clone wars revolve around space combat and thinking outside the box. I'll stop there and not dig into the EU or else this thread will become pages long.

Many of us feel that a Star Wars MMO is not complete with out at least a little meaningful space content even if that content is optional. Most of us are not selfish, we don't want immediate post launch development to satisfy us. We don't need an entire expansion devoted to us. We just want the devs to know that a lot of us feel that limiting space to only a tube shooter, just like the one found in a free MMO, may not have been the best choice for a AAA MMO. When is the next Star Wars MMO coming out? I ask not because I have lost faith in Bioware but because this is really the only chance, for years to come, to get a full or ultimate Star Wars experience. A lot of us don't want to see that chance fail.

Some concerns expressed by people against 3-axis space combat:

"What your asking for will push back post launch bug fixes by months!"
Not true, most of the models, sounds, animations are already in the system because of the current tunnel shooter and in fact most of us would be more than happy to wait until sometime post launch if we knew that the devs were considering adding 3-axis space into the game.

"Space will drastically take much needed funds from the ground game!"
Bioware has stated that their decision to add space into the game had nothing to do nor affected the budget of the ground game. And even if 3D space flight is a niche targeted at a small audience, the profits from this audience would still be enough to warrant at least looking into a new system. Hypothetical: Say out of a million subscribers a measly five thousand sub mainly because of the 3D flight. 5000x$15=$75,000 a month. Though I admit that is pure conjecture, none the less....

"It is unwise to make two seperate MMO's in one! (Usually citing SWG as reference)"
SWG failed because of a very sub par and bugged ground game not because it was 'two mmo's in one' Some say "JTL didn't help retain subs much" and to that I'd like to quote Adam Babloyan from Alltern8, "World of Warcraft, the 11.6 Million pound gorilla, launched November 23rd, 2004 to the tune of 4+ Million players, less than a month after JtL’s release. Galaxies would have felt that like Alderaan felt the Death Star. Clearly, WoW’s release would have polluted any internal figures SOE was tracking on Galaxies and thus as a result, any assumptions based off that data would be imprecise at best, non-conclusive at worst." Not to mention that we are not asking for a complete JTL full space sim with all its bells and whistles, though it would be nice, we just something they can expand upon later if it does well.

"You can't capture a cinematic feel with 3D flight!"
Why not? Through scripted events that are triggered at key times, the use of waypoints to keep you on target, and smart use of the enviroment the action can stay localized within view of the player and if the zones are small enough to where it doesnt take two to five minutes of flying through nothingness to get anywhere then that big explosion from the capital ship will still be close enough for the player to go "WOW". A cinematic feel doesn't mean being lead by the hand and a stationary repetative cinematic gets boring after a while. I like the nightmare before christmas but I wouldn't want to watch it three times a day for five years.

"A lot of Star Wars games don't even have space combat."
This is true but a lot of Star Wars games aren't MMO's that have a budget of $150+ million that will require continued subscriptions to be maintained. While Bioware may not have said it, the very fact that TOR is an MMO means that it should be the ultimate Star Wars experience in gaming.

"Space Combat is already what it is, why complain now?"
The ONLY way we might see a change or addition, and we can admit it is a small chance, is if we voice OUR OPINION and let the devs know that some of us think that a stand-alone rail/tube/tunnel shooter poorly represents such a major role within the IP.

"Why do you, the 3-axis space fans, hate the Tunnel Shooter so much?"
It's not that we hate the tunnel shooter, the tunnel shooter is good for breaking up the monotony of questing, much like WoW's bombing runs (though admittedly better) and it's a great way to kill a few minutes while waiting for friends so I can agree that it is a good system, in that context. But many of us feel that it is a poor choice to represent the ONLY form of space combat/content within The Old Republic and as the ONLY form of space content it, on it's own, feels/looks trivial. Again, we don't want the tunnel shooter removed but we do want more meaning in regards to space. This is an MMO, TOR's current space combat system represents a SORSG (Single-player Online Rail Shooter Game)

"Space Content will distract players from the ground game."
I saw this alot and it's not entirely true. When I played SWG I leveled my toon, participated in pvp and instances, leveled another toon for crafting and enjoyed the space content. Also if some people want to devote the majority of their time to space, were such a system possible, why would it bother you so much for someone who pays a subscription fee to do what they want to do.

My thoughts on some of the various Quotes from the devs:

"On the flip side, pure games have their problems too. Freedom is a true part of the magic of MMOs, and artificial constraints and mechanics can undermine the fiction and the sense that you are living in the virtual world – and when you have a brand as rich and textured as Star Wars™, the last thing you want to do is undermine it. Even worse, the depth and visual splendor of Star Wars™: The Old Republic would be completely lost if players couldn’t jump off the rails and just live in the space from time to time."
Damion Schubert
Principal Lead Systems Designer

The tube shooter given to us to represent space conflict is the complete opposite of all these things. Tube shooters in their essence are artifically constrained and the mechanics do not allow one to "jump off the rails" Tube Shooters are in fact often called Rail Shooters.

"The short answer is that I know the feeling you're describing, where you're effectively being pushed down a tunnel of content and you feel like there is no 'there' there beyond the content necessary to finish your quest. Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ doesn't feel like that - in terms of world navigation, TOR is much closer to the wide open feel of a classic MMO." (answering concerns of linear ground planet play)
Damion Schubert
Principal Lead Systems Designer

This quote, while describing the ground game, is another good reason that a rail shooter should not be the main focus of space combat/content. In fact this describes exactly what TOR's space combat represents.

"Space combat is an alternative gameplay experience to the primary game of storytelling, questing, and ground-based combat. In space combat, you fly your personal ship to various “hot spots” on your galaxy map."
Sean Dahlberg
Former Community Manager

Many people seem to think we are just QQing and they constantly bring up the fact that space is just a mini-game though the devs have never called space a mini-game but an alternative gameplay experience. Mini-games are not revealed/showcased at conventions. Mini-games do not warrant the cover of a major magazine or have a 4 page spread such as in PC Gamer. A mini-game would/should not be listed under the gameplay systems tab along side other major gameplay mechanics such as advanced classes, companions, and crafting. Will PC gamer do a cover story about Pazaac when/if it is revealed? Honestly I think with the way that space was introduced to us by bioware that the development team really thought that they were making this epic attempt to represent space and didn't think that it would be seen as a mini-game. But even with the people who support the current system saying 'its just a mini-game' it becomes apparent that that is what we have and it trivializes one of the integral parts of the IP.

"When we were approaching them (Warzones) We were thinking about how sort of the staples like banners, points, and flags are a bit too "gamey"
Gabe Amatangelo
Lead PvP Designer

Tunnel Shooters are the pinnacle of "gamey" and often invoke feelings of being at the arcade trying to get the high score rather than progressing a character. Why wasn't this philosophy used when designing space content for TOR?

"You remember that part where Han Solo and Chewbacca are in the Millennium Falcon? Han's like, 'Hey, Chewie, let's go into space, and let's just **** around. Let's go off in that direction and see if there is anything interesting'? Remember how they went off and there was this asteroid, and they mined the asteroid? Yeah, we couldn't find that either. Two things happened when you went to space. One: You took off to space when you wanted to go somewhere. You took off into hyperspace -- BAM! -- and got there. Two: You wanted to go to a battle or you were trying to go somewhere and someone stopped you. Uh oh! Giant exciting combat! ... That is why we did space combat the way we did."
Daniel Erickson
Lead Writer

You remember the part where Han shot that Mynock and he's like "Hey, Chewie, I want you to do some biotech on that Mynock I shot and then make me a medpack."? Yeah I couldn't find that part either. This is not a knock at crafting but this quote threw me for a loop because DE usually does such great interviews. A lot of people seem to think that 3-axis flight means large vast areas within the emptiness of space. It doesn't have to be that way. Smaller hotspots with a clear objective can easily be achieved, give us the freedom of flying our own ships, and still be in lines with the cinematic experience of the movies.

"And in fact, a whole lot of people who play RPG type games don't really do the 3D thing that well -- it isn't their strongest suit."
Gordon Walton
Austin Co-studio Director

I don't fully understand this quote because isn't the entire MMO genre 3Dish? I mean we aren't playing a 2d scrolling game such as Nintendo's Super Star Wars. And if we don't want a side scrolling ground game why should we have forward scrolling space content? What if The Old Republic's ground game looked like this In my opinion to lump all gamers into one category or another is very ignorant, most gamers are not defined by one genre. Me personally, I play RPG's, FPS's, RTS's, Racing games, fighting games, and I enjoy them all. It's the quality of the game not the genre that gets me to buy the game. Also if this were true players would not get as excited as they do about flying mounts in games such as World of Warcraft. One of the most talked about and anticipated subjects of Cataclysm wasn't the new level caps, it wasn't the new raids, zone changes, or skills either, it was FLIGHT being brought to the Old World.

Personal Thoughts:

If a system is added that didn't affect or conflict with the ground game/post launch bug fixes/budget restraints, was COMPLETELY OPTIONAL, and would make a large number of people happy, Why shouldn't we be allowed to voice our opinions on the matter? In my opinion Rail Shooters have limited replay value but yet I (not the only one) subscribed to SWG, with all it's flaws, for three years after NGE purely for PvP in Deep Space (one medium sized zone).

I'm not a Dev Hater and I think they have out done themselves in regards to the main aspects of TOR, the game is amazing and I am a fan, but one thing that does bother me is that immediately after the crafting reveal (and I'm not down on crafting I think it's a pretty good system) there were at least five, that I counted, dev posts elaborating and clarifying certain aspects of it but since the reveal of space not one Dev has come to the previous space combat threads to at least talk with us about Space Combat, I'm not saying they have to agree with us or bow to our will but a honest and open discussion, with as much detail as they would be allowed to discuss, between the "Pilots" and the devs would do wonders for our morale concerning this issue because as it is now a lot of us feel as if we were corralled and then ignored. We realize that your busy but please, if you can, take five minutes out of you day to speak with us. Maybe now that the game has launched we can open up a dialog.

Also I think the pre launch poll on the space combat thread is a bit flawed by lack of options and misleading (like, dislike, indifferent). If you could look back through the various incarnations of the thread you would see a good amount of people who voted yes they liked it, did so either because a)They, many admited this, didn't realize that this wasn't 3D space flight. b)Their glad that some form of space is in the game and its better than KOTOR, though they wish it could have been done better or c)They don't care about space but voted yes instead of indifferent. A pre reveal poll, no longer available, showed that 2,305 people voted on about ten options for space combat in that poll, a significant enough number when doing market research. Out of those 2,305 people 1,229 chose some form of 3D twitch space flight (3D flight and 3D flight with boarding). Thats 53.32%, slightly more than half. The people who wanted a rail shooter, even combined with people who wanted a mini-game equals 9.89% at 228 combined votes. Why did bioware impliment something that less than 10% of the people wanted? Fact is more people would have rather have had nothing and waited for an expansion/post launch patch than would have wanted a rail/tunnel shooter.

TOR looks great to me so far, I am not a troll and am not complaining to complain nor do i think that Bioware "owes" me anything, I just don't want ANY of the systems in place to tarnish what so far is a great game, this goes for any aspect not just space. If they had announced that "Yes we have pvp, it is 1v1 and you have to accept a duel and we have no plans for furthering this" then I'd also be in the pvp thread arguing for a better system. In actuality I'm not a huge space sim fanboi, I liked JTL, and BF2, I played some x-wing vs. tie fighter but outside of star wars space sims dont interest me that much. What does interest me is having TOR be the ultimate star wars experience for years to come and I honestly dont think that ultimate experience can be achieved with a rail shooter as the only form of space content.

So I will leave on this note: Whether you like space or not, why would a company develop a game with this kind of budget and so many well thought out innovations; innovated crafting, innovated companion system, innovated combat (choreographed LS duels and cover mechanic), innovated stories with choice, innovated full voice over, etc, want to trivialize any aspect of their game? Would it not have been better to leave a system not set to the standards and quality of the rest of the game out, at least until it could be brought up to such standards, rather than have a "meh, it'll do" mechanic within your system? Thank you for your time, and have a pleasant day.

Below are some examples of various tube shooters and 3D space combat games for those who are unaware of the difference.

Tunnel/Tube Shooters:
Star Wars The Old Republic:

Star Wars Clone War Adventures:

Star Fox 64:

Rebel Assault: skip to about 2:20

3D Space Combat:
Halo Reach:

Freelancer Mod/Freeworlds:

BF2142 Mod/First Strike:

Battlefront 2:

JTL Deep Space:

And Lastly a video of 3-axis space combat using the Hero Engine:

Again thank you for your time.

Editorial Note: I originally posted a slightly different version of this in the Space Combat thread pre launch under the user name emceeshroom.

Semi Recent News
Bioware did state that they were woking on a "super secret space project" what forum goers are calling SSSP but since that anouncement we havent heard another word about it.

stevenjc's Avatar

01.07.2012 , 04:49 PM | #2
I have been thinking about this for a while and you put this better than I ever could have hoped, amazing review agree 100% I would love to see a boarding type pve/pvp scenario similar to star wars battlefront 2. Nothing huge nothing to take away from the main game but a small side game that envelops the star wars spirit of space combat and gives a bit of something new, fresh, and exciting.

Jixer's Avatar

01.07.2012 , 04:54 PM | #3
Well said. For now, I am ignoring the space combat as if it isn't even part of the game. I am pretty sure there are Iphone apps that are better and more interesting.

Seisaan's Avatar

01.07.2012 , 05:01 PM | #4
Bioware only put the on rails space shooter as a place holder for when they can develop the actual space combat. No real details on what they have planned, but I would assume it'd be free flying in some way since on-rails is the placeholder. Not only that, but the space combat dailies are a great way to get exp if you fall behind leveling or want to skip certain zones.

That and, as someone who grew up with Star Fox 64, I love the space missions. All I'd ask is more variety in the missions.

skyvortex's Avatar

01.07.2012 , 05:03 PM | #5
agree 100%
Quote: Originally Posted by Nizdeb View Post
I want to punch you in the face Skyvortex

Bobbyrab's Avatar

01.07.2012 , 05:04 PM | #6
Wow, you should receive a commendation just for writing all of that.

I'm not so certain a more open-ended space experience is the way to go...consider the SW movies you quoted, and think about how they appeared in the film: the camera followed the character in their craft...a bit like the space combat in the game.

That said, if they decided to turn the combat into Xwing v TIE fighter I certainly wouldn't complain...I loved those games...

But there is a lot they can improve in the space game, and the devs have dropped not-so-subtle hints that they've got something big planned but can't say anything yet. I think Reid and Ohlen have both said this.

I think the rail combat would be a lot better if it was just upgraded. There's no bosses, little variation and the missions can sometimes be carbon copies of one another with a few slight changes here or there.

Ambrogino's Avatar

01.07.2012 , 05:16 PM | #7
It's silly to imagine that Tie Fighter the Star Wars Simulation game from the mid 1990's was and still is the pinnacle of space combat simulation and was only a 24 megabyte game.

Thats about the size of most patches today.

Graphically it could use an upgrade, but that would rival and still be better that what we have today...

On the JTL issue, people fled SWG because the NGE sucked not because of JTL.
“Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.”
― Robert E. Howard

Ambrogino's Avatar

01.07.2012 , 05:18 PM | #8
Quote: Originally Posted by Seisaan View Post
Bioware only put the on rails space shooter as a place holder for when they can develop the actual space combat. No real details on what they have planned, but I would assume it'd be free flying in some way since on-rails is the placeholder. Not only that, but the space combat dailies are a great way to get exp if you fall behind leveling or want to skip certain zones.

That and, as someone who grew up with Star Fox 64, I love the space missions. All I'd ask is more variety in the missions.
Not true, they proudly displayed this at E3 thinking people would love it.
“Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.”
― Robert E. Howard

Jixer's Avatar

01.07.2012 , 05:21 PM | #9
Quote: Originally Posted by Ambrogino View Post
It's silly to imagine that Tie Fighter the Star Wars Simulation game from the mid 1990's was and still is the pinnacle of space combat simulation and was only a 24 megabyte game.
Nothing truer has been said on these forums.

+1 to you sir.

seatown's Avatar

01.07.2012 , 05:26 PM | #10
I must have missed where they said iit was a place holder, and if so that is a relief, pre launch we were told that the tunnel shooter was it because it was the only way they felt space could be experienced cinematically. They announced it at E3 and did the four page write up in pc gamer show casing the space content and then went silent. And I dont entirely hate the tunnel shooter i just think its a poor choice for an MMO. Like I stated earlier I do really enjoy this game and would love to see it thrive on all levels.