On September 11 community manager Eric Musco and design director Chris Schmidt were guests to my friend Aviriia – a content creator and inspired PvP player! This article will give you the highlights of that interview, which aired live on Twitch and took about an hour. Link to the event is also attached at the bottom of the post!
Aviriia played host to Musco and Chris tonight live on Twitch to discuss some of the current hot topics related to Star Wars The Old Republic. In the following paragraphs you will read a very lose transcript of the interview mixed with my own analysis and thoughts.
Who are Chris Schmidt and Eric Musco
This should not be news to most of you, who read this article. I will be short.
Eric Musco is the community manager for SWTOR. He has been on this position for over nine years. More likely close to ten now. He was hired for that job as a regular fan of the game. Musco is playing the role of a bridge between the players and the developers bringing information back and forth.
Chris Schmidt is the design director. He has been with BioWare (and EA) for over eleven years. He started work on SWTOR before launch (which was in 2011). Later he joined other EA teams to work on other games, including Shadow Realms and Anthem. Shortly after Onslaught and 6.0 were released he was brought back to help the SWTOR team and has also been quite active on the forums as well.
How SWTOR devs fight off credit sellers
In the very fist sentence on this topic Musco made an analogy of BioWare being the “cops” and the credit sellers being the “criminals”. That’s what credit sellers are to any in-game economy. And this is a great analogy, I think.
Following on that Musco also spoke why the studio avoids being overly open and talkative on this topic. If a credit seller hears what the studio’s actions and methods are, they will likely change their strategy. BioWare doesn’t want the credit sellers to know exactly what measures are being taken against them and how.
Recently BioWare made a silent change. It was not announced at all, it wasn’t a part of a game update either. It did, however, produce results and positive ones. Musco explained that this change actually impacted the credit sellers.
I personally don’t spend too much of my in-game time on the origin planets or on the Fleet, but I too have a feeling that credit sellers spammers and emails have been somewhat less annoying lately. Probably because some of them have been successfully purged.
“We try to cover this from a couple of different angles.” – Musco said, and added “Some times we address the mechanism (chat) they use to sell you credits. Some times we go after the accounts that are moving credits through. And in some cases we do large systemic changes behind the scenes to try to address either side of it” – my lose transcript of Musco’s words.
The vast majority of credit selling actually happens through compromised player accounts. Keep your account safe. Use a Security Key! It’s easy to download the app on your phone and attack it to your SWTOR account.
Then Chris stepped up to address the economy side of the question at hand. SWTOR’s economy has been suffering from billions of credits pouring into the game for years.
I dare say the main reason for that are NOT credit sellers. I firmly believe the Cartel Market has a big share of the guilt here. What do you think?
Chris spoke of the regular inflation that happens with every live service game as it ages and expands.
BioWare often attempts to fix this by adding artificial credit sinks. The Amplifiers system is one of the purest and most recent examples for that. Another good example of an attempt to drain credits out of the economy are the insanely expensive shiny items added to vendors. Some times even incresing taxes of everyday things like traveling across the Galaxy goes a long way.
The problem with most of the actions taken by the developers to improve the game’s economy are reflecting badly on the “poorer” players. All of these credit sinks do not hurt as much the billionaires, but they really affect the gameplay and level of enjoyment of the players on the other end of the list, as Chris explained.
Amplifiers will be changed and improved, but it will not be so soon, actually. It will not happen in the next update or the update after that, Musco confirmed. Considering the next known updates are the October patch 6.1.4 and the Holiday Story Update 6.2, Amplifiers will likely not be touched in 2020. Ah, well, looking forward to 2021!
If this change is not ready for 6.2, it will be deployed early in 2021. Both Chris and Musco confirmed that this should happen in some time this Winter.
SWTOR 6.1.4 planned for October, will be available on PTS earlier
SWTOR’s latest update 6.1.3 released earlier this week. The next patch will be 6.1.4. Based on the number (and the Roadmap) you know that this one will not contain any story progression.
6.1.4 will bring the Feast of Prosperity seasonal event. This was teased in the last Roadmap, but we still know very little about it.
The Feast of Prosperity is going to be a new and quite unique seasonal event in SWTOR. It is expected to arrive in October and will include a number of new features.
The Devs are experimenting with new gameplay types that will be featured in the event. It will be a mix of traditional classic events like the Rakghouls and seasonal events like Nightlife.
BioWare teases this to be a very “non traditional event for SWTOR”. Much like Nightlife, Feast of Prosperity will only appear once a year, during the all season.It will be light-heated, filled with humor and casual fun.
The event along with the next patch will be made available on SWTOR’s Public Test Server (PTS). There is currently no time frame of when this will happen.
There will be a live stream to announce this and as it happens often PTS will be going live together with that live stream. “It will go into PTS in the not too far future from now” – Musco said. So, look for that announcement of an announcement of a… you get it :)))
Musco prompted us to do the math ourselves! My pleasure, man!
BioWare usually runs PTS for at least a week or possibly two when a whole patch is being tested. There are quite a lot of changes planned for 6.1.4 and the new event will be there too. Each time after PTS cycle concludes the next patch arrives in about three weeks. Considering the fact that 6.1.3 came very recently, I predict a planned release date for 6.1.4 in the last week of October. This means that for PTS to be able to run at least two or three weeks we should see it coming up around the Weekend of Septembrer 19th or some time in the following week, but not on the 21st (never on a Monday!).
Musco also confirmed that we will not get any more info on the event until PTS opens up: “Basically you will go from having no information to seeing literally all of Feast of Prosperity and go play it on PTS. You are not that far away from going from zero to a hundred [percent]”.
Changes to Amplifiers are coming, but not soon
In a recent forum post BioWare revealed upcoming changes to the Amplifiers system. Chris added in this interview that this is something the devs have been planning for quite some time.
Nearly an year this system has been in the game now and the amount of data gathered is more than enough for some solid changes to be planned.
“We are not quite sure where it’s landing” – Chris said. This means that they are currently working on potential changes but it’s either too soon to talk about it or the changes they have made so far are not pleasing them.
The Amplifiers re-rolling system in SWTOR is one gigantic credit sink and this will be among the first changes to be addressed.
The amount of RNG is just too much and Chris acknowledged that. It’s a funny thing with RNG in SWTOR. BioWare introduces RNG in one place with one update, then fixes it in another update, but then introduces RNG in another place. We are rotating in a closed loop for years.
It all started with Update 2.4 (I believe?) when the Guardian and Juggernaut had the RNG nearly removed from their abilities. Many other classes and changes followed in that direction in the next patches.
And do you remember the PvP lockboxes in 1.0? Ouch! Moving on!
How is BioWare addressing toxicity in SWTOR PvP
Since SWTOR arrived to Steam in July this year the game’s population has seen a great boost. New and old players are trying the game to see what it is about or how it has changed since the last time they played it.
RELATED ► SWTOR Steam Achievements Complete Guide
Also in patch 6.1.2b BioWare decided to change the way PvP mission rewards are granted. Instead of rewarding participation, the PvP missions now require wins for completion.
Both of these factors play a big role in the growing toxicity in the PvP setting of SWTOR.
Let’s not forget the fact that Ranked PvP is not actually gated behind a tier of gear or valor rank, which would not be too hard to do, but will also not be the optimal wall to stop players from queuing for it before they are actually prepared to do Ranked PvP.
Chris spoke a little bit on why the studio is reluctant to revert the changes made to PvP missions. He is against the idea of rewarding loses. He believes that if players develop that mentality for Regular Warzones, they will most likely bring it with themselves to the Ranked PvP front as well.
These changes to the missions happened too soon and Chris wants to have a bit more time for a proper meta to form around them before he decides if a change is needed.
So, what is the dev team doing to address toxicity in PvP? “It’s a super tricky thing to do. You can’t police the internet” – Musco explained. He also added that “there’s always going to be some drama, some argument.”
That said, Musco also confirmed that the devs are aware that lately things get out of hand and out of the norm more frequently: “From the out-of-game perspective the one thing that we are looking at changing how we monitor and action people who are harassing.”
Aviriia recently became a target of such a harassment and this kind of started a wider and louder wave of vote for intolerance to PvP toxicity.
Much like with exploiters, BioWare never discusses actions taken against harassers either. If you report someone and feel like your report has been completely ignored, this may not be true.
Musco confirmed that the studio is constantly acting against player harassment. The trouble is that if someone harasses you today and you log in and see them again online in a week or so, this doesn’t mean that no action has been taken against that player if BioWare caught them in the act. They may have received a one-day-ban meanwhile.
The sad truth is that in every single game that has PvP there is toxicity. I can’t say for myself if the increased level of negativity is because of the recent changes BioWare made or simply because SWTOR is now more popular than it has been in years.
Chris announced an upcoming forum post he is working on. It will detail some upcoming changes that are made in an attempt to deal with the rising toxicity and issues when it comes to Ranked PvP and players queuing for it while they are not ready yet. All of these should be ready for patch 6.1.4.
Potential changes to the in-game reporting system are coming as well. When Aviriia asked Musco about that automatic-like response players get when using the report function in-game, he immediately admitted that this response is what makes people believe they are dealing with bots and nobody ever reads their reports.
For privacy and law reasons they are not allowed to discuss with you if and what happens to the person whose account you have reported, but Musco assured us all that these reports are actually being read by real human beings. Well… that’s nice.
How SWTOR devs deal with working from home
The past few months have been very challenging not only for you and me, but for the whole world. BioWare and EA included. Figuring out how to work from home, take care of your children and still deliver new content on recurring basis is not easy to do.
Chris expressed belief that the team has really gathered together. Meanwhile, while all of the world situation was changing for worse, Musco had already left the office. He recently had a child and thanks to a pretty generous BioWare and EA maternity program, he was away taking care of his family on a long “vacation” before the “work from home” decision was made.
Musco praised EA as a company for all of the accommodations they have made for all of their employies as they all adjust and adapt to working from home. I wish I loved EA as much as Musco apparently does, but that’s likely never going to happen. Yeah, even with Jedi Fallen Order being one of the best EA games I have played lately.
Did you know that Aviriia wrote a PvP guide for VULK.com? You can check out her work on the SWTOR PvP at Level 75: Beginners Guide right here!
Below is the full archive of the live stream event with the Interview. Aviriia, Musco and Chris discussed a few other topics that are worth to hear, even if you run the video on the background as you do your regular routine of your day.