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Developer Update: Class Changes and Balance in Game Update 1.4

Hello again everyone. My name is Austin Peckenpaugh, and I’m a Senior Designer on Star Wars™: The Old Republic™. My job here is to create, maintain, and balance class gameplay in The Old Republic. As such, I’m here to shed some light on the upcoming changes to classes in Game Update 1.4 to give you all a sense of what’s to come and why it’s coming.

For Game Update 1.4, we wanted to address several key issues with class gameplay usability and balance. Foremost among these are adjustments to crowd control and the Resolve system, the subsequent class changes made to harmonize with those control adjustments, and a reevaluation of stealth spec gameplay.

Crowd Control and Resolve Changes

Our goal for crowd control in The Old Republic is to provide abilities that allow the player to take control of a fight, turn the tables, and feel great for taking charge. We know that this can be improved, so I want to explain our philosophy and our motivation for change before going into detail on the changes themselves.

Prior to Game Update 1.4, it was simple to control a target from a great distance and do so instantly, often as a surprise opener or from an unseen location off-screen. The way control abilities were designed encouraged this behavior, and the resulting gameplay could be frustrating.

In Game Update 1.4, we’ve made adjustments to the range of control abilities under a new philosophy. We want control to be something more readable, more predictable, and less chaotic in effect. To achieve that, control needs to require a setup, an activation time, or be close range such that the controller must overextend or broadcast their intentions in some way.

In Game Update 1.4, you’ll notice the following changes:

  • Electro Dart and Cryo Grenade now have a 10-meter range.
  • Electrocute and Force Stun now have a 10-meter range.

Whirlwind and Force Lift still have an activation time and still have a 30-meter range. Plasma Probe and Incendiary Grenade still require an effect and still have a 30-meter range. Mind Trap, Mind Maze, Sleep Dart, and Tranquilizer still require stealth and still have a 10-meter range. Dirty Kick and Debilitate still have a 4-meter range and still have the shortest stun cooldown in the game. Flash Bang and Flash Grenade still have a 30-meter range and are exceptions to this philosophy, as they provide essential gameplay for the Sniper and Gunslinger.

In addition, while Overload and Force Wave make for great escape abilities, they have done so previously at a cost to the overall PvP experience. What we want for these abilities is to create distance between you and your target(s), but what frequently occurs is a bad experience for incidental nearby enemies that aren’t your intended target(s). Jet Boost and Concussion Charge behave similarly, but they are limited to the Mercenary and Commando. Changing them has a less effective impact on the game, and those Advanced Classes play better with a stronger ability on a longer cooldown.

  • Overload and Force Wave have been redesigned. These abilities now knock back all targets within a 15-meter 120-degree cone in front of you. Furthermore, these abilities now knock back all potential targets instantly; they no longer wait for an animation note at the end of the ability animation.

We’ve also made adjustments to the Resolve system in Game Update 1.4. We’ve adjusted the gain logic of Resolve such that simultaneous and overlapping control effects no longer linearly add together their Resolve gain values. Instead, using a crowd control ability on an already controlled target now applies reasonable Resolve gain values by comparing the incoming control effect to the greatest of existing control effects.

As a result of these Resolve changes, unorganized teams will no longer pay huge penalties for overlapping control effects at critical moments. For example, it can frustrate players when pickup groups accidentally make a Marauder immune to Control because two or more teammates tried to stun him at once. The resulting unstoppable wrecking ball that the attacker transforms into made for a pretty poor experience for players trying to escape him. Additionally, we don’t like it when a Huttball ball carrier gets “fed” full Resolve by a disorganized pickup group trying to stop him from scoring by simultaneously landing multiple Control effects.

Ability Changes

We’re confident that these changes create a more predictable, readable, and ultimately enjoyable PvP experience. However, none of these changes are possible without next addressing the “holes” introduced to existing class gameplay. Obviously, reducing the range of stuns and turning Overload and Force Wave into cones demands some buffs to classes that relied on those abilities to escape attackers.

Mercenaries and Commandos:

  • Mercenaries and Commandos now have a 30-meter interrupt, Disabling Shot. This ability interrupts the target's current action and prevents that ability from being used for the next 4 seconds. This ability can be trained at level 18.
  • Afterburners/Concussive Force: Rocket Punch/Stockstrike now immobilizes the target for 4 seconds instead of knocking it back. Damage caused after 2 seconds ends the effect. The knockback previously caused by this skill generated enough Resolve that it was actually detrimental to the Mercenary/Commando’s ability to further escape the attacker.
  • Tracer Lock/Charged Barrel: Now each stack additionally reduces the activation time of your next Healing Scan/Advanced Medical Probe by 20% per stack.
  • Kolto Residue: Now additionally snares enemies struck by your Kolto Missile/Kolto Bomb by 50% for 3 seconds.
  • New Bodyguard/Combat Medic skill, Peacekeeper/Frontline Medic: While protected by your own Kolto Shell/Trauma Probe, firing Rapid Shots/Hammer Shot at an enemy triggers your Kolto Shell/Trauma Probe to heal you on a separate 3-second rate limit.

Sorcerers and Sages:

  • Force Speed now has a 20-second cooldown (down from 30) for all Consulars and Inquisitors.
  • New Sorcerer/Sage ability, Unnatural Preservation/Force Mend: Heal yourself for a moderate amount. Only usable on yourself. Instant, costs no Force, 30-second cooldown. This ability is trainable at level 18.
  • Dark Resilience/Valiance: Now additionally increases the healing dealt by Unnatural Preservation/Force Mend by 15% per point.
  • Fadeout/Egress has been redesigned. Now causes Force Speed to remove all roots and snares and grant immunity to roots and snares for the duration.
  • Polarity Shift/Mental Alacrity now additionally grants immunity to interrupts for the duration. Improved visual FX to demonstrate this effect.
  • Backlash/Kinetic Collapse: The incapacitation effect caused by this skill no longer breaks on damage.

Stealth Gameplay Adjustments

Prior to Game Update 1.4, stealth classes and specs had an “infiltrate and eliminate” focus that effectively served solo or small team gameplay, but the specs that focused on stealth (Infiltration/Deception, Scrapper/Concealment) weren’t valued very highly for group gameplay.

In PvE, Infiltration/Deception’s burst wasn’t highly valued, and Scrapper/Concealment had difficulty moving quickly between targets. In PvP, the community has made it clear that they want more from stealth specs than “lone wolf” gameplay. In the case of Infiltration/Deception, the spec’s fragility was of great concern to many players, insofar as it didn’t encourage the spec to contribute well to lengthy fights or lend support to teammates.

Scoundrels and Operatives:

  • Disappearing Act/Cloaking Screen now has a 2-minute cooldown.
  • Energy Screen has been renamed to Ghost. Fight or Flight/Ghost: Now this skill finishes the cooldown on Sneak when you exit stealth mode. Furthermore, this skill allows Sneak to be used out of stealth mode, increasing movement speed by 50% for 6 seconds. This skill still removes the healing done and healing received penalty caused by Disappearing Act/Cloaking Screen.
  • Flee the Scene/Advanced Cloaking now additionally reduces the cooldown of Sneak by 7.5 seconds per point. Now reduces the cooldown of Disappearing Act/Cloaking Screen by 15 seconds per point (down from 30 seconds per point).

Shadows and Assassins:

  • Force Cloak now has a 2 minute cooldown.
  • Infiltration Tactics/Duplicity: Now when triggered, your next Shadow Strike/Maul deals 30% more damage and costs 75% less Force. This cannot occur more than once every 15 seconds, but each rank after the first reduces this rate limit by 3 seconds.
  • Celerity/Avoidance now additionally reduces the cooldown of Force Speed by 2.5 seconds per point.
  • Masked Assault/Darkswell: Now additionally finishes the cooldown of Blackout when you exit Stealth mode. In addition, Masked Assault/Blackout causes Shadow's Respite/Dark Embrace to reduce all damage taken by 25% while active.
  • Fade now additionally reduces damage taken from area effects by 15% per point. Kinetic Field/Entropic Field no longer provides this effect. Now reduces the cooldown of Force Cloak by 15 seconds per point (down from 30 seconds per point).
  • Kinetic Field/Entropic Field has been redesigned. Now critical hits cause you to build a Kinetic/Entropic Field, increasing damage reduction by 1% per point per stack. Stacks up to 3 times.
  • Humbling Strike/Magnetism is a new 1-point skill. Causes the target of your Spinning Kick/Spike to be slowed by 70% for 3 seconds when the knockdown effect ends.
  • Clairvoyant Strike/Voltaic Slash: Using Project/Shock no longer consumes the buff provided by this ability. This change was made to better synergize with Spinning Strike/Assassinate during execute phases.

Future Game Updates

As previously stated, classes in Star Wars: The Old Republic will continue to undergo constant evaluation. Many future changes will be similar in scope and purpose to what I’ve described in this blog – to address usability issues, improve quality of life, and make the most non-invasive changes we can to correct emerging balance issues.

As far as any specifics go, nothing for future Game Updates is locked down well enough to comment on. However, I hope the information I could share with you today has helped shed some light on our processes and our motivations. Thanks to all of our players for your dedication and feedback!

Austin Peckenpaugh
Senior Designer