To coincide with the announcement of Rise of the Hutt Cartel’s launch date, we fired some questions through on the expansion and got some replies from ROTHC’s content design lead, Brian Audette:
Can you give a little insight onto the journey that’s been undertaken to get to RotHC being a near-live expansion for SWTOR?
Brian Audette: A lot of what would ultimately come to make up Rise of the Hutt Cartel already existed in some early form around the time that we launched SWTOR. As with any live experience however you don’t really learn what players want and what you need to do next until the product is actually out there, so we spent most of our time after launch addressing player feedback and shoring up the existing game. It wasn’t until late last summer that we really started developing RotHC full bore. The great thing is by that time we had already solidified much of the art, writing and quest design, thus giving us the freedom to really jump into it and the time to make it shine. This was also when we decided to add our new Macrobinoculars and Seeker Droid content as part of Rise of the Hutt Cartel as well and a lot of work went into not only finding the most epic way to introduce those features, but to make them exciting and worth doing over and over again. We’re all really excited for people to finally get their hands on all of this new game play.
How did the development process evolve compared to the original game development i.e. did you have more/less time to flesh out story elements?
Brian: We learned a lot of lessons through developing and launching SWTOR that allowed us to get out in front of potential issues before they became problems with Rise of the Hutt Cartel. One of the most important things we did was getting writers, artists, engineers and designers together very early in the process of creating Rise of the Hutt Cartel both to get input from every discipline, but also to make sure everyone was on the same page. I think it was this attempt at synergy that allowed us to create an experience that feels incredibly tight, where story, visuals, and game play all work together to create one amazing adventure.
It’s fair to say there’s a significant cohort of ex-SWTOR players out there – what would you say that ROTHC offers that should make them want to come back?
Brian: Well first off, we’ve added a lot of great features and content to the game since launch including hard mode Flashpoints, new Operations, new Warzones, Group Finder, and the Legacy system. Rise of the Hutt Cartel builds on that content by adding Makeb – a whole new world of story content – allowing players to continue their character’s epic journey. We’ve got the all new Macrobinoculars and Seeker Droid content that will allow players to explore the galaxy in search of unique items, artifacts, and gear. We’re raising the level cap to 55 with new abilities and talents to train, as well as new gear and tons of class balances based on player feedback.
Finally, along with the launch of Rise of the Hutt Cartel we’ve got our 2.0 game update which introduces more tweaks and bug fixes along with four level 55 hard mode Flashpoints, and an all new level 55 Operation. If you combine all this with continued commitment to publish regular game updates featuring more new content and features and the fact that you can jump in and play much of the game’s content for free, it’s never been a better time to play SWTOR.
It’s coming up to 18 months since SWTOR launched and by that time ROTHC will have been live for 8 weeks or so – looking back what are three achievements you’re most proud of and what are three things you wish you’d done differently over that time?
Brian: I think that all the things I wish we had done differently can be summed up under one singular heading, that being getting more frequent and regular updates out to our players. An MMO is a service and we serve the customer best when we’re able to interface with them and react to their feedback in a timely, regular manner. Even though not everything is a simple fix and there’s always going to be issues and features that take months to get addressed, I think we’ve drastically improved our response time since going free-to-play back in November and we’re committed to maintaining a regular cadence of updates and releases going forward.
Some of the things I’m most proud of are features like Group Finder, the Legacy system, and the Cartel Market that have been huge improvements to the game and that not only make it better to play, but make it a better service as well. It took us a while to get our balance, but with Rise of the Hutt Cartel we’re off and running through year two of SWTOR and committed to providing quality service and top-notch game play well into the future.
What personally for you is the most exciting part of your involvement with ROTHC?
Brian: The most exciting part for me is getting to work with some of the most talented developers in the business. SWTOR and Rise of the Hutt Cartel have been group efforts from day one and as developers I think we’re always striving to outshine each other’s expectations the whole way. Every time I play through this content I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished and while I can’t wait for players to get their hands on it, I’m also really excited to start working on all the awesome things that are coming next.
So there you have it – is there anything in what Brian has said that particularly caught your attention or surprised you?