Finally, after such a long period of nothing but promises and actually quite interesting Class Change blogs, the Developers of The Old Republic allowed a Twitch Stream showing more than just basic Companions changes and Story spoilers. Sure, there were those included as well, but they were a part of the overall larger scheme of showing off more of what was changing in the game.
It was a very informative Stream, and only one aspect was announced at not being covered: the Alliance system. Nico Okarr is becoming a part of this for all eligible players once the first nine chapters of the story were completed, but as they detailed Companions separately it is to be assumed that this is a whole other system entirely which just happens to feature potential Companions. The more, the merrier.
This is just to offer my thoughts on what we'll be seeing when the expansion launches. Order of topics based on that of the Stream, of which you can find a write-up here and a YouTube mirror here.
New Character Details
I like the idea of each Class having a recommended Discipline with a Tutorial mode thrown in. Of course experienced players can just debunk both of these and go with what they're happy with. Whether the allocated gear is all DPS or Discipline-dependent will remain to be seen, but I have a feeling that players who choose Tank or Healer will still get lumbered with DPS gear. Curiously, the Mercenary Musco is seen controlling has some Defense and Absorb points.
Receiving up to fifty character slots per server is a very extensive addition indeed, and I think most of us know at least one person who will try to fill those up. I only have eight active characters so I personally can't see the need to have so many slots available but it's doubtless nice for those players who do require more space in their character lists.
The change from the four main-stats to Mastery isn't exactly "new", as it was first made known at a Q&A event, but it's nice to see how the stat window is managed with both this change and the rolling of Surge into Crit. It's certainly nice to have all of the stats clearly visible in one place!
Fresh Level 60s receiving an "advised" Crew Skill set, all at maximum rating of 500, is a decent addition. It would be incredibly annoying for new players who just want to jump straight in to be bogged down in crafting obsolete gear and the like. Curious to know if starting a Fresh 60 auto-grants the 400 and 450 Skill Level Achievements for the associated Crew Skills, if not the Level 50, 55, and 60 Achievements for that Class. Probably not, but it could still be something to watch for.
We already knew most of what was coming from the previous Developer Stream, but it was nice to see the Companion gear-tab and how to switch their roles.
Of potential interest is that the Companion quickbar now only has five Combat abilities, not including "Attack" and "Passive", with no apparent way of extending it. At least, the little "+" is nowhere to be seen. I'm assuming that these abilities are simply the "Core" abilities dependent on role, but it will still be interesting to see whether these are just the five abilities granted or whether there are more besides.
Influence, which of course replaces Affection, has also finally being given official confirmation. The previous "official" word on Influence stated that it would only act as Affection does now, in that it would increase Crew Skill proficiency. Now the "official" word is that it presumably still does that whilst also boosting Companion Combat performance. I'm really pleased that they're making Affection/Influence have some actual noticeable function and it will be interesting to see just how powerful Companions can get with full Influence for a player with maximum Presence.
Cartel Market Companions sound really interesting. They only showed off the Akk Dog but this paves the way for potential "generic" Companions, such as a generic Jedi or Soldier. Admittedly what makes the companions of The Old Republic so great is that they have stories, and Cartel Companions will not, so perhaps it is best limited to creatures for the time being, whilst the generic humanoids could be a part of that "Alliance system" Nico is apparently a part of.
The icons for various missions are changing. Repeatable missions are finally receiving a unique icon, and class and planetary "main" missions will receive glowing purple icons. Side missions, now not needed to level-up, are classed as exploration missions. 12-times XP is indeed going away but it has been reported that only the planetary "main" and class missions will be required. How exactly this will work remains to be seen.
This change is decent but has far been overshadowed by another incoming change: Level-Sync.
At first we were told that Level-Scaling would affect Solo-Mode Flashpoints; we'd be scaled down to the appropriate level to ensure that there would still be a challenge. There weren't any other specific details, so we were not told whether we would lose any abilities as a part of this or whether it was simply a "cosmetic" scale-down.
Today's stream answered those questions - abilities will not be taken away - but also provided an entirely different outlook. The scaling wouldn't just affect Solo-Mode Flashpoints; it would affect planets as well. Arriving at a planet will scale the player down to the maximum level that they could do the content at. For example, Musco's Mercenary is scaled down to 18 on Dromund Kaas.
Experience can actually be gained in this way which will not be rendered ineffective due to advanced level. This will be particularly interesting since you can apparently do lower-level content at Level 60 and still get the Experience to level up to Level 61.
I for one don't mind level-scaling but I have some questions about it; for planets such as Alderaan which have a bonus series, is that level taken into effect when scaling, or is it in some regards area-dependent? Take again Musco's Mercenary and even Inquisitors, who have story missions on Dromund Kaas later in the game when they would be Level 36+. These areas are phases so would the phase rework the scale to be where the mission says you would need to be? Of course, the phases might actually be scaled down themselves...
Again, I won't mind it - heck, it might even make PvP Servers less of a "hazard" on some planets - but there are still areas which I will of course be investigating once I get the chance.
Quality of Life
There's a lot here to talk about.
The UI Editor is receiving a Snap-to-Grid function, and we can export/import Keybindings. I... I have no words to express my delight.
Legacy Datacrons were stated to be being worked on soon after Fallen Empire was announced, and this stream showed that they are indeed being introduced and that they are retroactive. Seeing as Datacrons will become even more of a prerequisite with the changes to Mastery - somebody with all Datacrons stands to gain a further 400 Mastery at Level 60 - this is a very welcome change, particularly as it means that you only need to take one character to do all of them unless you really like Codex Entries. At least we won't need to run our multitude of alts to Makeb or farm pigs on Rishi once already done...!
I mentioned in passing that the maximum level for Crew Skills is remaining at 500, meaning that we won't have to pay 100,000 Credits for "Amazing Biochem" or whatever anymore. Indeed, nobody should have to, as Musco's L17 Jedi Guardian has a maximum of 500 Synthweaving, Bioanalysis, and Diplomacy. Apart from needing to educate that Guardian in the art of selecting Crew Skills I can't see this having any drawbacks. The need to purchase the higher levels of Crew Skills was particularly annoying and I'm pleased they changed that.
We knew that Commendations would be seeing a cosmetic change in 4.0. By this I mean that the name is changing but nothing else, meaning that there will be no conversion from Elites and Ultimates into Basics. No, now the Basic, Elite, and Ultimate Commendations are now the Common, Glowing, and Radiant Data Crystals, and not only has the limit on the latter two been increased to 500 but the Weekly Cap has been completely removed. Hoorah.
On a side-note, yes, this does mean that people should be able to purchase the best Level 65 Offhand available to them when they hit that level. Seeing as Highlighted Hard Modes are providing another "quick and simple" way to get it I don't particularly mind this.
Cape Clipping when mounted is finally "fixed", by simply gluing the cape to character's legs when in a vehicle, although I for one do not want to see what happens when a caped character sits cross-legged on a hoverchair. That could get messy.
Items from previous events are returning at long last, such as the Containment Officer and Sand People Bloodguard gear from the Rakghoul Outbreak and Chevin Events, respectively. They require event currencies from all three "current" recurring events, which are the Rakghoul Resurgence, Gree, and Bounty Hunting events. These items don't come cheap, however. Also of note is the fact that every Event vendor - Jeelvic included! - are moving to the Cartel Bazaar for ease-of-access.
Heroic Missions can now all be found on one Mission Terminal, which also provides a transport. It seems that there aren't any Heroic-4s available through this and they've all become Heroic-2+ Missions. Certain missions may still require four people, but with abilities remaining regardless of scaled-level this may be the edge some classes need to solo the majority.
All in all, I think these changes will be very positive for the game and I look forward to seeing them implemented when the expansion goes live later this month.