Hyperspace Beacon: Quality-of-life tweaks in SWTOR’s Knights of the Fallen Empire

    
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BioWare’s Eric Musco delivered an amazing livestream last week. Many of the questions that players have been asking about the upcoming expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic were finally answered. Most players were not looking for spoilers to the story; they were concerned about the functionality of some of the systems incoming when Knights of the Fallen Empire goes live on the 20th of this month. Up to now BioWare has been pretty tight-lipped about what’s in store. And although BioWare explained that the primary reason it shied away from revealing any of that was to avoid spoilers, it was likely just avoiding saying that the systems just weren’t quite ready for public consumption.

We heard about the bigger items coming in the next expansion. We know that the new story will be a huge change in the direction of the game. I’ve written about the class changes and the group-finder changes. Crafting changes will be huge and will likely fill an article all on its own. But that about the other things? What about the small quality-of-life things that make the game more enjoyable to play? That’s what I’d like to discuss today. Musco’s livestream covered a lot of the finer points of the future game mechanics.

Let’s divide the quality-of-life items into a couple of different categories: fun items, good items, and it’s-about-damn-time items.

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Fun

KotFE introduces a new companion system. Much of it ties to crafting, gathering, and missions as well as the combat side of the game. However, because of the way the companions will be set up (which I will talk more in depth in a coming column), it allows for purely combat oriented companions. Musco pointed out a pet akk dog that he had. The name plate said “Your Companion.” The akk dog was a pure combat companion. You can’t send it out on missions or have it gather things for you, but it will heal, tank, or DPS for you. These new companions will come in Cartel Packs or be sold on the Cartel Market. Musco didn’t mention the companions being gained through gameplay.

The random mount and the random pet button will do exactly what you’d think: When you click the random mount button, you will hop onto any mount that you happen to have available on that character. The same applies to the random pet button. The ability is tied to your legacy, but it will cost you nothing to earn. When KotFE goes live, you will instantly have this ability.

Good

hsb-mop-quality-of-life-02The first “good” thing, which is very cool but really hasn’t been needed in any grand sense, is the temporary ability bar. I’m a fan of the temporary ability bars in games like RIFT. In RIFT, they pop up when an ability procs. Unfortunately, that’s not the case yet in SWTOR, but it would be awesome, so devs, make it happen! What this bar does is pop up abilities that you use only sporadically and in very specific situations. For instance, when you are in a huttball match, you need the throw-the-huttball button only when you actually have the ball. Normally, this ability would take up a slot on your ability bar. Now a temporary ability bar will pop up on your screen when you have the huttball. As of right now, the only other ability that activates the temporary ability bar is Heroic Moment. This will call up all the Legacy combat abilities that depend on Heroic Moment. Hopefully, we will see this being used more often in future updates.

When you open the UI editor, you will now notice something very cool: a grid. Clever player modders have already made plugins that create a design grid for you to make planning your custom UI setup much easier, but now, it’ll be built right into the game, no mods required. And the best part is that you can snap your UI elements to it. In addition, you can adjust the grid squares so that they are as granular as you’d like.

I’ll make quick mention of this in the “good” category, although some of you will likely say that this should have been in game for a long time: You can get a mount at level 1 now. That said, it will have to be at least your second character because you will have to be legacy level 2 to purchase the ability.

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It’s about damn time

Many gamers have long complained about the minor functions of this game. I’ve often said that I think many of the systems were implemented in the game unfinished. Now, some of these long-neglected systems are receiving much-need updates, and I think the most important one has to be keybind importing. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to spend the first ten minutes after creating a character just binding my keys. My setup really doesn’t match what most people do. It changes nearly every key, so this one is clearly number one on my list.

Second would be legacy datacrons. Datacrons are SWTOR‘s answer to jumping puzzles. And as a reward for completing them, you gain a small increase in stats. With the new single-stat mastery taking the place of the individual class stats, having all the datacrons would be a significant boon, possibly even a requirement for those looking to do endgame content. Instead, in KotFE, all datacrons will now count for your whole legacy, meaning that once you find them on one server and one character, you will not need to find them again. It’s about damn time.

The third most important item for me is the Collections filter. The number of times that I’ve gone into collections to find one specific item and had to scroll through just about everything measures in the thousands. But now, I can just type the name of the item in the search window. Or I can filter by those items I’ve unlocked or by what I have not yet unlocked. Of course, I can search by unlocked and not unlocked, too.

The last items aren’t high on my list, but they really should have been implemented a long time ago. You can now whisper guild members directly from the guild window. Capes now fold up under you when you sit in a speeder. Previous event rewards can now be purchased from Ambassador Ky’lee in the cartel market area of fleet. And heroics will now give you a mission item that will transport you directly to the heroic.

All in all, I believe the game is going in a great direction. The quality of everyday life is getting better in game. It’s clearly becoming easier to do the things that you’d like to do.

Look for the systems I’ve not mentioned, like crafting and level scaling, in a future article of Hyperspace Beacon, or catch up on the the 12 Days of TOR stream that MJ and I are doing. We spend a lot of time talking about what’s coming in the game as we travel from quest to quest.

In the meantime, let me know in the comments below which system improvement is your favorite — and what BioWare has missed and should tackle next time.

Every other week, Larry Everett jumps into his T-16 back home, rides through the hypergates of BioWare‘s Star Wars: The Old Republic, and posts his adventures in the Hyperspace Beacon. Drop him a holocom on Twitter @Shaddoe or send him a transmission at larry@massivelyop.com. Now strap yourself in, kid — we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!
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Wandris
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Wandris

This game treats its f2p/preffered players like dirt, possibly worse
than any other MMO ever made. Unless you plan on subbing dont waste your
time or money on this.

DanielMoreno2
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DanielMoreno2

Jack Kerras You must clearly be right, what with the game crashing and burning and about to shut down…

Jack Kerras
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Jack Kerras

You know what would be great?  Not being punitive to free players.  Having to pay for necessary options (like extra quickbars) instantly turned me off of the free version of this game despite the fact that I bought in and played for months at release; the fact that you can only queue for PvP three times a day was such a drastically poor design decision that I uninstalled the moment I discovered it.

I realize they want people to pay, but making people stop playing your game is not only not proven to work, it is proven not to work.

sray155
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sray155

DanielMoreno2 sray155 A Dad Supreme Estranged I appreciate you taking the time to put up the video at the correct spot: that was really good of you. My misunderstanding came from the fact that I listened to the stream while I was playing the game, and didn’t watch much of it. Eric actually did not say that the bonuses automatically unlock legacy wide, just that they pop up on the screen; based on his not specifically saying it, my assumption was that they worked like HK-51 unlocks (have to get it at least once, then you can buy for additional characters). I looked at fuzzy screenshots showing the legacy datacron page after the livestream, and the layout/appearance served to confirm my assumption. My bad.

While I am relieved that we won’t be getting gouged to unlock the bonuses, the basic problem that annoys me is still there though: players screaming for a way to by-pass having to repeat something unfun, rather than demanding a crap system be replaced with something better. So instead of putting some type of alternate method acquiring the bonuses, we’re still left a series of jump puzzles that most players I speak to consider terrible. So, a game, which should be fun, has this giant stack shit in it that must be eaten by any past, present or future players who want to compete at the highest levels: we could have asked for something better, but instead just asked to only have to eat it once.

Great, it’s not monetized: I am wrong, and happy to be so. It doesn’t change the fact that they didn’t give us a better way of getting the bonuses, because players just wanted a by-pass. And yes, I tried arguing for a better system before legacy unlocks; and when I did, I was met by apathy, or the ole accusations of “laziness” and/or “just wanting it easy” because god forbid we replace a system of stat unlocks that most players dread doing with something that they might enjoy. Sure, maybe “some day” they’ll put in a different system, but this type of by-pass generally takes the wind of the sails of most players to campaign for something better. 

I’ve been through this before on other games, and it’s always disappointing when the player base settles for a by-pass to a crappy system instead of asking for an improved one.

Greaterdivinity
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Greaterdivinity

Capedavenger It’s quite stable nowadays. I don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon. It’s “sinking” just as much or as little as the majority of the other major Western MMO’s out in the market.

Capedavenger
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Capedavenger

Greaterdivinity AldosAC Yes, what a brilliant metaphor that “Tortanic” appellation was too…this Fucking Ship is Taking Forever to SINK…

Fathdris
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Fathdris

JakeDunnegan Fathdris Weird features work best when optional, in my opinion.

DanielMoreno2
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DanielMoreno2

sray155 DanielMoreno2 A Dad Supreme Estranged You seem to be able to divine information that was never said or implied. What he said is very different from what you are claiming. In fact if you give it a quick watch, you’ll see that this is the case. The Legacy screen isn’t just unlocks like I said before. In fact, he implied that once you get a datacron it is unlocked in that screen, not that it is available to unlock in that screen. Meaning that if you get it, or have already gotten it, then every character in the legacy gets the bonus. 

Here is the livestream. I jumped it to the appropriate time to save everyone else the hassle.

JakeDunnegan
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JakeDunnegan

Fathdris Yeah, not amused by that concept at_all. If they’re looking to make it so newbies can play with their veteran friends, there are many other ways to do it. Pretty much EVERY other way to do it – would be better.

Fathdris
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Fathdris

Now if we can just get them to abandon the crappy level scaling thing… All will be right with the galaxy.