A Preview of our New Podcast
Hello everyone! My name is Eric Musco and I, along with Brooks Guthrie are happy to bring you a sneak peek of the official Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ podcast. You can listen to our pilot episode here by using the embedded player, or download and listen on your preferred MP3 player.
Our goal with this show is to give you, the community, insight into development of The Old Republic by hearing directly from the developers creating the game. In our pilot episode, Brooks and I sit down with combat team members Austin Peckenpaugh and Cameron Winston to talk about some of the changes coming in Game Update 1.2.
In the future, keep your eyes on StarWarsTheOldRepublic.com for our next episode, on our very own podcast page! Starting with our next episode, a full transcript will be available in English, French and German as well as an iTunes subscription (please ignore that mention at the end of this pilot episode!). If you have questions or comments about the show you can discuss our pilot episode in this Forum thread.
Thanks for listening and we hope you enjoy!
Brooks Guthrie: Hello everyone, and welcome to the official Star WarsTM: The Old RepublicTM podcast. I'm Brooks Guthrie.
Eric Musco: And I'm Eric Musco and in this episode we sit down with the combat team to talk about some of the upcoming changes in Game Update 1.2.
Eric: All right, so we are joined today by two awesome gentlemen from the Combat Team. And instead of me attempting to pronounce your names, I'm just gonna have you guys introduce yourself and what you do.
Austin Peckenpaugh: I'm Austin Peckenpaugh and I design classes.
Cameron Winston: I'm Cameron Winston and I'm a combat designer.
Eric: I was really hoping for something way cheekier and I was waiting for Cameron to be, like, “And I fix Austin's changes.”
Austin: Well, he absolutely does.
Cameron: Yeah, I mean, I do that, too.
Austin: He sits over my shoulder.
Cameron: I approve stuff.
Austin: And by that, I mean looks over my shoulder, but he can sit on my shoulder, too, yeah.
Cameron: I mean, ‘cause I'm small.
Eric: I just imagined us having a combat team of like, people designing and the people who sit on their shoulders and then just be like, “Don't do that, that's bad change.”
Cameron: Well, it's very collaborative. If someone is gonna make a change and it’s like, “Well, how does this make you feel?” And then we argue about it. That’s just, we're players too.
Austin: Cameron does a lot of the more general combat tasks and helps a lot with classes and I do less of the general combat and the majority of the classwork.
Eric: So one of the things I think you guys bring up kind of where we'd wanna go with this first is, what is one day on the Combat Team like? What is it like, is it all excel spreadsheets and scientific calculators? What does it look like in the Combat Team?
Cameron: I think I could probably take a stab at that one. I think most days start like this. I'm at my computer something or
Austin is at his computer and one of us walks in with coffee and makes a statement, something like, “I feel this particular class is lacking this or has too much of that.” And then we start arguing about it. And then, eventually, somebody kind of comes up with a theory whether the argument has merit or not, then we run some tests, we evaluate our assumptions based on math and, you know, design goals. And then we compare it to our actual experience playing the live game. And we then make certain test changes, see how they play out. We'll maybe have some duels and run some content just to see how the changes went and then from there we kind of get a good feel of what we should be doing.
Austin: There's a lot of arguing.
Austin: Arguing is what I would emphasize.
Cameron: Yeah. I kind of downplayed it, but.
Austin: Yeah, I think half of my time is spent in spreadsheets and there's not so many scientific calculators as there are just formulas. So it's mostly spreadsheets and arguing. That's my time. I take the other three percent that's left between the 47 percent spreadsheets and 50 percent arguing and I actually implement.
Eric: So a lot of stuff happened in 1.2. A lot of people will see that there's just a ton of class changes that came down the pipe. How did you guys work into that? I know there was the time between 1.1 and 1.2. Did you guys immediately just get right on the docket of being like, “This is what we wanna change in 1.2”?
Austin: We did, yeah. A lot of the changes that you see in 1.2 are things we already had in mind for the launch game. And some of those, they just -- we aren't confident enough to make them or it is a time constraint or there's any other number of factors that keep us from doing something like that. But for the most part, the changes that you see in 1.2 are things that we've been playing around with for a very long time already. So, there's not a lot of come up with an idea, slap it in, send it out there. We've really had most of these ideas for a while now.
Cameron: And a lot of it also is, we started playing the live game with everyone else. We play the dev builds and the test builds and that's, like, slice of, right? You get a level 30 character, but it's not your character, you know what I mean. And so, a lot of --
Austin: Yeah you play a lot differently when it's your character.
Cameron: Yeah, and so when we actually get to play the game and see how it plays, a lot of it is based on assumptions that we made that were wrong or maybe, we find it plays differently than we expected and then we can make changes based on our feedback and then, of course, the feedback from forums and other players we talked to and stuff like that.
Austin: So, speaking of, we’ve mentioned now, assumptions and spreadsheets. A lot of times we'll run our math and a player will do his math and they'll say, “Hey, I did this and it's not the same as what's in the game, what's up with that?” We look at it and we say your math is right, but we have a whole set of modifiers that we call “assumptions” that change our math. So it is the context on top of the math. And when we -- that's the kind of thing that
Cameron is talking about -- when we get to play the game, we can actually -- like, it's easy to validate math. Playing the game a lot gets us to actually validate our assumptions and then we have to modify our assumptions when we see that they're not quite the way we thought they were.
Cameron: An example is if I say you’re designing an ability in a vacuum and it's got a 15 second cooldown and you're assuming that the fight lasts for two minutes. You can say, “Well, it's a 15 second cool down, it's a two minute fight, you can use that ability eight times.” But then, you play the fight and it turns out that you can't just use it every 15 seconds. Maybe you're only using it four times or five times and, as a result of that, it doesn't quite hit the bounce targets you had in mind. And then after you get that feedback of actually playing the game, you go, “Whoa, this assumption is totally wrong. We assumed eight, but it's actually four, as four is close to the reality.” And that's really important work and that's where a lot of the conversations start with, “Hey, I was playing last night, remember how we thought it was eight? It's totally four.” And then it's an argument and then, you know, that's how the days go.
Eric: That's 50 percent of
Austin's day right there.
Cameron: Yeah, and then it's a large amount of my day too.
Brooks: So, you guys talk about arguments in the pit, obviously, but there's also a lot of arguments and conversations going on in the forums and I know you guys pay attention to that. What’s that process of seeing the conversations that are happening in the forums and then taking that to your work?
Cameron: Obviously, in my role as a developer I can't just post on every thread because, as soon as I say something in yellow text, it becomes BioWare saying something. So I have to be very careful with what I say and how I say it because I know how everything works and a lot of times players don't --
Austin: Yeah, he knows how everything works.
Cameron: Yeah, I mean, that's my role, is to know how these things work. And so, I don't want say this is exactly how this works or that works and sometimes certain things are communicated well to the players. So I like to read the forums and I take them in context and I say, “Okay, based on what they're experiencing what are they trying to say? What is the problem they're trying to identify?” Because sometimes people think that there's a certain problem which they've identified but it's actually a completely different problem, and that's what we have to kind of focus on.
Austin: So we read the forums and if you're listening to this and you also post on the forums, we love reading posts on the forums that have good feedback. We see the same kinds of things that you guys do. A lot of the times, when there's something that's aggravating, it's not news to us. What we like seeing are creative ways to address those problems. And sometimes that's absent in a lot of these posts. So we definitely read the forums. There's a lot of good feedback to get from there, but it all has to be validated. We’ll find that someone has a concern with a certain build or playing that build in a certain environment and there's a lot of time spent into actually seeing if that's a valid concern.
Cameron: I can give a very concrete example of good post, bad post. There was this one post that -- I was on the Marauder forums that caught my eye which a guy basically posted, he said, “Hey, there is this talent that says it does X but I think it does Y.” And I read that and it's very easy for me to look at the game and see if he's right. Turns out he was right. And then we had to fix some of that, right? That was a great post. That post alerted me to a bug that I didn't even know existed until I read that post. And we wouldn't have fixed it, we wouldn't have caught it without that post.
Cameron: That's a great post. A post that isn't quite so great is a post that they do two things. They first -- they're very focused on themselves and their experience and then they also start the post with an assumption. I'll give you an example -- “As we all know” or “As widely known, snipers only do four damage. I would like it more if they did something else.” And when I read I --
Austin: Eight damage preferably.
Cameron: Yeah, “I would like it more” is not feedback I can take seriously. We're looking at the whole game, and so when I see a post like that, what I'm trying to -- I have to read between the lines, it's a lot of work for me. I have to say, “What is this person actually saying when they say the snipers do four damage? Is that a reasonable contention, is the assumption even right?” So it's a lot of work for me so I'm not gonna spend as much time reading that post as I'm gonna read the post where the guy says this particular mechanic that says it does this which I expect to do this is actually doing this in my experience. That's a great post with a lot of information that I can do something with.
Brooks: So you guys take all that information coming from all sources, internally, externally, on the forums, and then you take that and put it into what is coming up in the next patch. And we've got 1.2 coming, basically, right now at this point. What are some of the big things coming from the Combat Team in 1.2?
Austin: One of the big things is we're gonna try and address healing across all of the classes that have access to healing roles. And the issue specifically there that we feel need addressing is some classes just have an easier time healing than others. The big one is with Sorcerers and Sages, we identified what is actually an exploit that is being taken advantage there where a buff that you're supposed to only get to apply to one of your abilities, you can get applying to multiple abilities before it gets consumed. So that goes a long way to addressing a concern like that and that's a really easy thing to explain and it sounds like it's a small deal, but, of course, player perspective is that Sorcerers and Sages are just better healers. When we take that away, I think it's going to make a pretty significant difference in terms of leveling all of our healers out.Of course, there's some other things with the other roles or the other classes I should say, that needed to be addressed. You're gonna see that the Operative and Scoundrel AoE healing abilities are being improved a little bit. You're gonna see that they can build up more Tactical Advantage, more Upper Hand, so they can sit on those a little bit easier, have more of them to throw out when the need arises, and it will last longer, that kind of thing. So there's some quality of life in there and then there's also just some numbers tweaking.
Cameron: The thing that I think is gonna be great for healers in 1.2 is that the perception that Sorcerers can heal forever and that Operatives and Scoundrels and Commandos and Bounty Hunters, they run into this part where they can't heal anymore. And the goal is actually that all classes are like that. All healers have a resource pool to manage. And the fact that Sorcerers basically didn't have to manage their resource was a problem and it wasn't that Operatives and Commandos needed to have infinite resources, it was that the Sorcerers and the Sages had too many.
Eric: And one of the other things that's big in 1.2 is Novare Coast. Did I pronounce it right that time?
Brooks: Yeah, good, perfect. Novare Coast.
Eric: Wait, you have to give your example of how you pronounced it correctly,
Cameron: Oh, is that my job?
Austin: Grace us.
Cameron: So, you know, you could say that you are in the “middle of Novare”.
Eric: There you go. That is how you pronounce it correctly. That will stick with you forever.
Cameron: Forever. You'll never mispronounce it again.
Eric: Right. So that's a new Warzone which always means, I would think, that means a new way of looking at combat since it has new -- it has different mechanics, a different layout in the environment. How did you go about approaching combat in regards to Novare Coast?
Austin: We have a whole PvP Team that is more intimately involved with the actual design of the Warzone. We give our feedback on that. We, of course, play tested. We help out. So I definitely don't wanna speak for them. But one thing I will say I really like about Novare Coast is it's much more open than what you've seen in other Warzones. You can really see where all the movement is, where the momentum is, where the teams are building up, where they're rolling out to a lot better. And we were talking about some Snipers recently. As a Sniper, there's some really great sniping perches in that place, too, and you're not so tightly cloistered that you can't take advantage of it, so that's pretty exciting.
Cameron: Yeah, definitely, just as a Sniper, you know, our internal play test of the Warzone I was --
Austin: Gunslingers, too, by the way.
Cameron: Yeah, Gunslingers, too, yeah. If you're gunslinging or sniping from a spot where you get this big open arcs of fire, it just feels awesome to be able to support your team like that and actually, one of my favorite things is guys running away from you and you got real long range takedown and he's just -- he's trying to get to support his friends and you just take him down and, boom, and there he is dead and you just go back and defend your point. That was a great feeling and I love how you can actually kind of -- ‘cause all the points kind of have that height advantage -- so you as a defender can kind of look down at people coming from you or you can see how the fights at the other places are going, and that's really great.
Austin: I want to add real quick, too. There's also a great feeling of push and pull when you're taking the points. It's not just a “capture and it's mine”. If you happen to get it off before someone interrupts you, the capture mechanic actually has a push and pull element to it, so it takes -- there's actually like a tug of war feeling is the best way to describe it.
Brooks: Do you actually have two of you trying to capture at the same time cancel each other out?
Brooks: That's fantastic.
Austin: Yeah, and of you should probably consider attacking the other.
Brooks: Yeah, I was gonna say. Since it’s Republic and Empire or both since it's both ways, standing right next to each other just going, “Hey, hey, stop capturing this point!”
Austin: That's absolutely possible.
Cameron: You just shoot the guy.
Brooks: Exactly. Just throw a little blaster bolt his way.
Eric: That is how you solve all of the problems.
Cameron: That’s how I solve all my problems. I just, you know.
Brooks: With a blaster bolt.
Cameron: We’re talking about the game, right?
Brooks: Totally! Shooting people is not something that happens in real life, only in-game.
Eric: So the last thing I'll ask you guys before I let you go is, what are you looking to accomplish in 1.2? 1.2 is just a tremendous content patch and there's a ton of combat changes coming to it. What were you guys looking to get out of 1.2? I know you guys have obviously put a lot of work into it.
Brooks: And with that, what do you look for going forward?
Cameron: One of my main goals for 1.2 is I wanted to sort of clean up some of the trees that I felt the mechanic was too late to get into. Some of the changes to the Rage tree you'll see that Rage and Focus are going to be able to be accessed a lot more quickly. The Annihilation and Watchman specs in the Marauders and the Sentinels are gonna have more spread out kind of --
Cameron: And that was kind of one of the things I really wanted to do for 1.2 that I was working with
Austin on to try to kind of make that happen. And from the PvE side, I've also developed a new heroic world boss for the area who is on Voss, who will be pretty exciting to see and I'm --
Austin: Do you wanna call him out by name?
Cameron: Yeah, he's called “The Nightmare Pilgrim”.
Brooks: The Nightmare Pilgrim. That is epic.
Eric: It sounds like a band name.
Austin: Yeah, and he has a pet.
Cameron: Yeah, and he has a pet, “The Thing From the Stars”, and basically, I'll let you discover him, so to speak. But you'll definitely be able to see where he's at, at Voss, and it's my hope that he'll be among the more challenging of open world encounters that players have ever experienced and that was really one of my main focuses for the 1.2 patches is working on that guy.
Austin: There's a lot of things that we wanted to address that weren't so much balance issues. They were just ease of use and quality of life and kind of maintenance related tasks. Like I said before, there are things that we couldn't get in earlier, but then there's also actually some gameplay changes. I don't want to just focus on the maintenance. There's also some gameplay changes in there. And, largely, those are done because of us playing the game, seeing that what was there didn't work, hearing it from you guys, and then coming up with a cool new way to do something that turns out to, hopefully, be balanced in the end. And when I say, hopefully, I mean, we did test it first.
Cameron: Yeah, we definitely, we test all of our content extensively and over a lot of times. Both
Austin and I have thousands of hours of us playing the game in the context that we built up over years, over several builds of the years. And we’ve played each other in duels, we’ve fought in Warzones together, we’ve fought in Warzones against each other, we've done heroic content, raid content. Every content in game we've played, and a lot of these changes are the culminations of these -- the amount of time that we spent playing it and talking about it, talking to you guys. Like, I got to talk to a bunch of you guys at the Guild Summit, so if I talked to you at the Guild Summit, hey, how's it going. It was nice to hear from you directly and we take all that feedback seriously and ultimately, we're trying to make the game better for everyone. That's really the goal of anything is, right? To make the classes play better overall, no matter what class you’re playing.
Eric: All right, well,
Cameron, it's been an absolute pleasure. Thanks for stopping by to talk to us about combat. Hopefully, everyone will be excited about what comes out of 1.2.
Cameron: Thanks for having us.
Brooks: Thanks again to
Cameron for taking time out of their day to spend some time with us talking about what's coming up in Game Update 1.2. I'm super excited for all the changes coming at the game. Musco, what's your favorite thing you're looking forward to in Game Update 1.2?
Eric: I mean, the Legacy System as a whole is super awesome so I think that's the obvious one. So taking that aside, I have to say Novare Coast.
Eric: I've got play that Flashpoint in some of our intern -- I'm sorry -- play that Warzone in some of our internal testing and it was just -- it's so, so much fun. It's such a different experience than the rest of our Warzones. I really had a good experience with it.
Brooks: It is. I love just being able to be anywhere on the map and see exactly what's going on at any given time.
Brooks: Yeah, lots of awesome changes and yeah we’re doing podcast now, so keep looking for more episodes. But in the meantime, Musco why don’t you tell everyone where they can find us?
Eric: Sure. So there's a couple different places that you'll be able to get information on our podcasts as they come out. As always, you can go to StarWarsTheOldRepublic.com, where you'll be able to find this podcast which may be where you're listening to it right now. You'll also be able to find our show notes and a transcript of this episode. As always, you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes. If you like the show, please feel free to rate it and comment on it there. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter. You can find links to that through our site as well. And if you want to comment on this podcast, you have any suggestions or anything for us, there'll be a forum post that you can leave your comments and let us know what you think of the show. All right, so that will do it for us for this episode then, and thank you guys and see you next time.
Brooks: May the Force be with you.