Developer Blogs

04.08.2011

Advanced Classes Update

Hello there, I’m Georg Zoeller, and I’m Principal Lead Combat Designer on Star Wars™: The Old Republic™. In my previous developer blog, I introduced you to the Advanced Classes Game System in the game. In today’s blog I’m going to explain how the system has evolved over the last few months based on iteration, gameplay testing and focus groups.

Advanced Classes (often abbreviated ACs) are chosen on your faction’s capital world – either Coruscant or Dromund Kaas - when your character reaches level 10 or above. Each base class gets a choice of two Advanced Classes; for example if you are playing a Jedi Knight, you will be able to choose to play the Jedi Guardian or Jedi Sentinel Advanced Class.

Choosing an Advanced Class is very important in The Old Republic, as within your Advanced Class, your character will reach their full potential. Your Advanced Class choice dramatically alters the gameplay experience of your base class by providing access to two exclusive skill trees per Advanced Class, with a third being shared between both Advanced Classes.

Class Abilities

As you level up, your character will gain abilities from three sources:

  • Through trainers, from their base class (e.g. Sith Warrior)
  • Through trainers, from their advanced class (e.g. Marauder)
  • Through skill points spent in the skill trees of their Advanced Class

Skill Trees

Each skill tree provides access to a number of active abilities (which are added to your ability bar, and can be activated during play). You can also assign your training points to passive abilities. Passive abilities are ‘always on’, and alter how your base class abilities work.

It is important to note that the choices you make in your skill tree never subtract from your base class abilities; they instead improve and add to the character’s arsenal.

Skill Tree Choices

Imagine a Sith Warrior character, with the Juggernaut Advanced Class. As part of the tanking and control themed ‘Immortal’ skill tree, he may choose to learn Force Grip. This upgrades the base class ability Force Choke from being a channeled ability, requiring several seconds to activate, to being an instantly used ability. This increases the Juggernaut’s effectiveness at engaging multiple enemies at once, as those being choked not only take significant damage, but are also unable to act. The Force is indeed strong with this ability!

The Marauder Advanced Class on the other hand, as part of the ‘Annihilation’ skill tree, can opt to learn the Close Quarters ability, removing the minimum range requirement from Force Charge. A Marauder with Close Quarters, instead of just opening combat with Force Charge, can use it multiple times in the course of a fight – reinforcing the Marauder’s role as a highly mobile melee damage dealer who moves quickly between multiple enemies on the battlefield.

As well as these two Advanced Class-specific skill trees, both the Juggernaut and the Marauder have access to the shared ‘Rage’ skill tree. Abilities in this skill tree improve the control, mobility and burst damage capability of characters who invest into it – all traits desirable to both the Marauder and the Juggernaut. A sample ability here would be Force Crush, a powerful and very iconic force power that crushes every bone in an enemy’s body.

Remember, you will always have access to a limited number of training points to spend in your skill tree, so your choices are important. You may choose – for an in-game credits fee – to re-assign your skill points if you wish, so you can experiment to find your perfect combination. Any one of the three skill trees are valid to specialize in, or you can spend training points in all of them for a more well-rounded character.

Improvements through Game Testing

We thought it might be good to give you a peek at some of the recent changes made to each Advanced Class since they were announced. While we’re constantly iterating and balancing each class based on our own objectives, we also pay attention to feedback from internal testing, the (ever expanding) Game Testing Program, and the community.

The following list of changes is by no means complete or definitive for the final game, but it should give you a good idea of where the class you are planning to play is heading.


Bounty Hunter Advanced Classes

Mercenary (Roles: Mid - Long Range Damage Dealing, Healing)

PowerTech (Roles: Close - Mid Range Damage Dealing, Tanking)

  • As previously announced, the Bounty Hunter’s Mercenary Advanced Class now features the ‘Bodyguard’ skill tree, allowing this iconic class to fill the role of a medic if desired.
  • The ‘Advanced Prototype’ skill tree, shared between both Bounty Hunter ACs, now features an upgrade to the base class flamethrower, which allows the player to rotate while using the ability.

Imperial Agent Advanced Classes

Sniper (Roles: Mid - Long Range Damage Dealing)

Operative (Roles: Close - Mid Range Damage Dealing, Healing)

  • The Sniper’s entire skill tree has been reworked to include PvP feedback from internal and external tests. The Sniper is now able to entrench himself, providing a viable initial counter against attacks that would previously knock him out of cover. The Sniper also gained Cover Pulse, a player triggered pulse mine that can knock an unsuspecting attacker away from the Sniper.
  • The Operative has received a number of updates aimed at providing an alternative, less cover dependent gameplay option if skilled accordingly. Operatives are now more viable in mid and close range combat, using their stealth field generator to approach the enemy unseen before delivering heavy burst damage with their energy blade.

Jedi Knight Advanced Classes

Jedi Sentinel (Roles: Close Range Damage Dealing. Wields dual Lightsabers)

Jedi Guardian (Roles: Close Range Damage Dealing, Tanking. Wields a single Lightsaber)

  • Based on feedback from testing and requests from the general community, we reworked one of the skill trees on the Jedi Guardian Advanced Class to be focused on dealing damage while utilizing a single Lightsaber. Previously, the Guardian’s only available role was as a tank.
  • The Sentinel Advanced Class remains targeted at players that prefer damage dealing gameplay over other roles. The variety between Sentinel skill trees has been increased, allowing players to specialize in several very different ways of dealing damage.

Jedi Consular Advanced Classes

Jedi Shadow (Roles: Close - Mid Range Damage Dealing, Tanking)

Jedi Sage (Roles: Mid-Long Range Damage Dealing, Healing)

  • The Shadow Advanced Class now has a skill tree that allows them to fill the role of a tank effectively, using Lightsaber defense and Force powers.
  • Based on testing feedback, the Force Slam ability shown in early videos of the class was replaced with Project, which we decided to make more versatile through skill tree abilities (e.g. the ability to project multiple objects at a target). It’s proved more popular with our Game Testers, so it stays in!

Smuggler Advanced Classes

Gunslinger (Roles: Mid - Long Range Damage Dealing, wields dual pistols)

Scoundrel (Roles: Close - Mid Range Damage Dealing, Healing, wields scatter gun)

  • While we demonstrated a healing-focused Scoundrel at PAX East (watch our Developer Walkthrough for details), the scatter gun-centric ‘Scrapper’ skill tree has not been forgotten. Recently, we made several updates aimed at making the Advanced Class more viable in PvP.
  • The Gunslinger’s Sweeping Gunfire ability has been updated to allow the player to move the cone of fire while the ability is active. While this improves the feel of the attack quite a bit, it also introduces a bit of a risk factor for Smugglers who are not overly concerned with what they are hitting!

Sith Inquisitor Advanced Classes

Sith Assassin (Roles: Close - Mid Range Damage Dealing, Tanking)

Sith Sorcerer (Roles: Mid-Long Range Damage Dealing, Healing)

  • Similar to the Jedi Shadow, an Inquisitor trained in the Assassin Advanced Class now are able to fill the role of a tank, if they work their way up the ‘Darkness’ skill tree, which includes abilities to increase defensive Lightsaber capabilities and area-of-effect damage.
  • The ‘Madness’ skill tree, shared between both the Assassin and the Sorcerer, has received considerable upgrades with the goal of creating a range/melee hybrid gameplay option.

Sith Warrior Advanced Classes

Sith Marauder (Roles: Close Range Damage Dealing. Wields dual Lightsabers)

Sith Juggernaut (Roles: Close Range Damage Dealing, Tanking. Wields a single Lightsaber)

  • As with the Jedi Guardian, we have given the Juggernaut Advanced Class access to a skill tree that focuses on damage dealing using a single Lightsaber. Previously the high damage dealing option was only available to the Marauder Advanced Class.
  • Similar to the Jedi Sentinel, the damage dealing-centric Marauder Advanced Class’ offensive arsenal has been significantly reworked and diversified, now allowing for several very different play styles. The Marauder also gained access to a new ability called Force Cloak, granting a short term combat stealth.

Trooper Advanced Classes

Vanguard (Roles: Close - Mid Range Damage Dealing, Ranged Tanking)

Commando (Roles: Mid - Long Range Damage Dealing, Healing)

  • Like the Bounty Hunter, the Trooper’s Commando Advanced class now has access to a healing focused skill tree, making the Trooper a completely viable medic. An example ability is an Advanced Medical Probe for quick on the field triage, which can also be upgraded to deploy a temporary defense screen on the target.

How are we making these decisions?

In addition to working through the feedback from our Game Testing Program, from focus groups and from internal testers, we are relying heavily on metrics gathered from every server to understand and contextualize the feedback we are receiving. We thought we’d share a couple of images from our metrics system – as images are worth a thousand words, after all:

Click the above image for a larger view.

This is a 3D visualization of death locations for one testing group on Ord Mantell.

Click the above image for a larger view.

Here is a movement heatmap and death details for a sub area on Ord Mantell, from an earlier test. This exposed, shall we say ‘survivability issues’ for Smugglers on their class quest at early levels. That’s since been corrected!

We also use these heatmaps to understand the flow of movement through an area, optimize maps and other guidance systems and identify potential locations for special content such as datacrons or unique enemies, which are specifically designed to reward explorers that go off the beaten path.

As well as all these metrics and testing feedback, popular topics from the community (such as the desire for a single saber DPS on the Jedi Knight) are surfaced by the community team and discussed as well. Starting a forum topic is never a guarantee we’ll change the game – but we are listening.

Fine print

Star Wars: The Old Republic is a game in development and in active testing. Any feature, ability or even class name mentioned above (or anywhere else on the website) is subject to review and testing, and may change between now and the game's launch. The BioWare team believes in making fully-polished, quality games. We are listening to your feedback, and will continue to make improvements.

Thank you, and may the Force be with you!

Georg Zoeller
Principal Lead Combat Designer