With Star Wars: The Old Republic being the most recently released premium MMO charging a monthly subscription, much of the discussion has focused on how sustainable its business model can be industry-wide. But for players who are actually paying that fee, the largest concern is exactly how BioWare is going to be earning that charge every month.
The details provided so far for Patch 1.2 give a sense of how many issues, large and small, will be addressed and more importantly, what they have in mind for the long term of The Old Republic.
The easiest criticism that can be leveled at BioWare is that TOR took more than a few gameplay choices and systems from existing MMOs, but it's already clear that the development team isn't looking to distinguish themselves on gameplay alone. The support team has already acted quickly to address a troublesome exploit, on top of promising updates and fixes on a weekly basis. That frequency of support certainly sets a strong precedent, but every once in a while a much larger update is required.
That's where Patch 1.2 comes in, set to drop this month. To get across just how many tweaks and responses to fan conerns will be introduced, BioWare has opened up a Q &A on their forums to narrow down the changes most pertinent to the player base. Unlike the pages upon pages of patch notes that can appear geared towards the more hardcore Guild members, many of the proposed changes coming with Patch 1.2 will be addressing problems that most players will be familiar with.
For starters, timing damage output with character animations will once again be refined, with the Republic Trooper's Mortar Volley attack given as an example. Nothing can take a player out of a role-playing experience like seeing a weapon strike revealed to be little more than a programmed equation, so this one is nice to hear.
But as far as offering a compelling, entertaining experience goes, players will be happy to hear that The Old Republic's travel/space station systems are also a priority for the development team going forward. There is nothing worse than deterring players from visiting planets due to the amount of time it will take to travel to an orbiting space station, take a shuttle to the planet's spaceport, then run through the equivalent of a space-airport terminal before beginning a quest. According to Senior Designer Brian Audette, this monotony will soon be a thing of the past:
"We've absolutely heard what the fans are saying and have been exploring options to address these issues. While we are still investigating allowing speeder use in Space Ports, we've also been looking for other ways to get people from point A to point B with greater haste. One such feature will specifically affect planets that have Orbital Stations instead of Space Ports such as: Tython, Korriban, Hoth, and Belsavis. We'll be adding an option for players to go directly to their ships from the surface shuttles as opposed to having them run through the Orbital Station to their airlocks."
Streamlining the travel mechanics will be a great way to keep players from feeling the grind that unavoidably comes with MMO leveling. Unfortunately, the spaceships themselves will not be able to be sold or bought due to the amount of the campaign that takes places within them, but the team promises that expanding ship customization is something they are looking into.
While these changes won't be coming for some time, Patch 1.2 will bring players new unlockable emotes. Stealing a spaceship from a rival Bounty Hunter would be great, but we'll settle for dance moves so enticing that even companions will feel the need to join in.
Obviously changes can only come little by little, but the introduction of character families and the changes made to the economy with Patch 1.1.5 surrounding galactic trends in the speeder industry, as well as recent discoveries of white lightsaber crystals are promising. If the development team is committed to interacting with the community in ways that are both inventive and entertaining - even if it means turning players into virtual stock-traders and economic forecasters - we're game.
Are there any specific gameplay issues that you would like to see addressed next? It's hard to think of any major glitches or exploits that have managed to avoid detection, but if you know of any please fill us in.
Patch 1.2 for The Old Republic is expected to release sometime in March 2012.
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