Life in The Old Republic #2: Game Mechanics and Statistics

Hello all, it's Andrew Halliday again with the second post of Life in The Old Republic. Today, I want to showcase the mechanics, statistics, and controls of Star Wars: The Old Republic. To do so, we will use my Sith Warrior, Tarahl, for the examples.

Figure 1: Tarahl, Sith Warrior. The first picture is as I designed him. The second picture shows the effects of the Dark Side. The third picture shows his current headgear, as of time of writing.

Tarahl was the first character I ever created, and, to use gaming parlance, is my "main." As of this writing, he is at Level 36. His class is Sith Warrior and his advanced class is Juggernaut, meaning he uses one lightsaber and specializes at defense (as opposed to the Marauder, which uses two lightsabers and specializes in attack). As a Sith Warrior, Tarahl began on Korriban, and fought to become the apprentice of Darth Baras, one of the Sith Lords present when the Treaty of Alderaan was negotiated. As his apprentice, you execute Baras's will across the Galaxy.

Figure 2: Darth Baras, the Sith Warrior character's master. I love his armor; it looks Steampunk.

Gameplay: The game is played like any other Third-Person Roleplaying Game (RPG) for the PC. The character is moved using the keyboard (normally the WSAD keys or the arrow keys). The default walking speed is approximately six meters per second. While not in combat, the player may use Sprint, which roughly doubles speed. Sprint was originally an Ability you had to pay to train, but became free at character creation as of Update 1.2. As of Level 25, you can buy and use speeders to increase your speed outside of combat. The mouse is used for looking around and accessing the environment. Left-clicking a character selects them as a target. Friendly targets are green, enemies (NPCs or players from the opposing faction) are red, and neutral characters are yellow. When a character is targeted, you may use different abilities on them, such as attack or heal. The right-click has different uses: right-clicking an enemy will activate a basic attack, while right-clicking an object will activate it, and right-clicking a mission-giver will start a conversation. Holding the right-mouse button will activate Mouse Look (allowing you to look anywhere), and holding both mouse buttons together makes you walk in the direction of the cursor.

Figure 3: Tarahl's user interface (click for larger image)

The user interface (UI) allows you to access the different parts of the game. The top-centre holds the menu bar, where you can activate any number of tabs, such as the Mission Log, the Abilities list, the Map, and the Customer Service window. The bottom-right corner shows the mini-map, with nearby shops or mission objectives highlighted clearly. The bottom-left corner shows your Companion. The top-left corner shows the chat-box, while the top-right corner lists the missions I'm actively tracking. The centre shows your current health and the ammo used by your class. Sith Warriors use Rage, which is generated during combat; I activated an Ability to generate Rage before taking the screenshot in Figure 3. Different classes use different ammo-types, with different mechanics. For example, Kyrahn, my Jedi Consular, uses Force as an ammo, which is drained with continuous use, while Lenahra the Trooper uses Ammo much in the same way, though My'Tillinahr my Bounty Hunter's weapons generate Heat, which must be drained or her guns stop firing. The ammo type is increased/restored/otherwise improved by repeated use of the basic attack function and by using specific abilities (ones that generate Rage, or vent Heat). Next to my health and ammo bars are the ones for my target. Below that is the Abilities quicktab. There are four total, which can be cycled through using the arrows on the tab. These can be customized to your liking. They can hold a maximum of 12 abilities each, for a total of 48 abilities that can easily be accessed. Certain Abilities quicktabs may be excised and placed elsewhere on the screen to facilitate use; Tarahl's UI has quicktab #3 on the left-hand side of the screen, and I've filled it with less-critical abilities that I still want easy access to, such as my Speeder and main buff. Game Update 1.2 introduced the UI editor, which allows players to have a gamescreen tailored to their needs. For example, if your favourite game places the mini-map in the top-left, then you can manually move the mini-map there and place the Quest log elsewhere. Statistics: Attributes: As a roleplaying game, TOR's inner workings operate based on random number generation (rolling dice) affected by character statistics. These statistics are visible on your character sheet.

Figure 4: Tarahl's Character Sheet.

Each character has six Primary Attributes, which have the largest impact on the game mechanics. These attributes are Aim (improves damage from ranged attacks), Cunning (improves damage from tech-based attacks), Strength (improves damage from melee attacks), Willpower (improves damage from Force attacks), Presence (improves all characteristics of your active companion), and Endurance (improves health). All of these statistics increase as you level up. Furthermore, equipping certain items, using Stims, and locating Datacrons (artifacts scattered throughout the game) can improve these further. It is important to focus on improving the most useful attributes for your character. For example, if given the choice, a trooper should reject an item that improves Strength, preferentially seeking items that improve Aim. There are also a number of Secondary Attributes that affect the game further. These attributes can only be increased by equipping items in the game (more on that later in the article). These attributes include Absorption (improves damage absorbed by a shield), accuracy (increases chance of your attack hitting your enemy), alacrity (increases the speed at which attacks are activated or channeled), critical rating (increases chance of scoring a critical hit), defense and resistance (increases the chance that an attack against you will miss, be it normal or tech/Force-based, respectively), expertise (increases damage and healing in PVP combat), Force power (increases damage or healing via the Force), power (improves damage and healing from normal skills), shield rating (improves the chance that a shield will activate; independent of absorption), surge rating (increases the damage done by a critical hit), and tech power (increases damage and healing from tech-based skills). Items: Every item in the game has numbers showing its effects on the player equipping them. Each player starts with one weapon, a shirt and pants (or something analogous; one piece of armor to cover the top-half and another for the bottom-half) and boots. As the game progresses, you can find gloves, gauntlets, headgear (helmets and masks), earpieces, implants, and artifacts. Advanced classes also allow players to take on a second weapon, or an alternate item for their off-hand, like shield generators or Force focuses. Each piece of equipment has statistics that are added together and contribute to your character. The Armor values for each piece of equipment you're wearing are summed and that is your Armor rating. This mitigates the amount of damage you take from enemies (only energy and kinetic damage; elemental and internal damage are not affected by armor). Your weapons have Damage values (usually as a range), which says how much damage your attacks will do. Almost everything you wear will also affect your character in some statistical way, and you can choose specific armor sets to maximize certain traits. For example, Glove A has a lower armor rating, but offers +5 Endurance and +3 Defense, and so my Sith Warrior/Juggernaut might prefer it to Glove B, which has slightly higher armor, but offers +3 Strength and +4 Alacrity, traits that Tarahl doesn't need as much. Combat: Battles in TOR are based on a two dice rolls. The first roll indicates whether or not an attack hits. Your basic attack has an accuracy of about 90%. This is improved with your Accuracy, and is hindered by your enemy's Defense or Resistance. The second roll indicates how much damage is done, based on the damage range of your weapon, if the attack is successful. Your Critical rating will judge if you get a critical hit (and, if so, your Surge indicates how much damage the critical hit does). Your target's Shield rating tells if your shield activates (if you have one equipped; these are limited to Tank classes, more in a future article), and Absorption determines the amount of damage your shields absorb, if they activated. If the damage is Energy (blasters) or Kinetic (lightsabers, swords, objects), then your target's Armor will help mitigate the damage. Elemental (fire, poison, etc.) and Internal (Force-choke, Force-Crush, etc.) damage cannot be mitigated by armor. In the end, either the attack missed, has been absorbed, or hits, generating a number to show the amount of damage done (in Hit Points). When your enemy's number of Hit Points reaches zero, he dies. This exact same mechanic works when you are attacked as well. Other Statistics: There are other statistics in the game that are factored into your experience. Regardless of your class or allegiance, numerous missions allow you to make choices that are either Light or Dark. Selecting either side will provide a set number of Light or Dark Side points. As these add up, you are given a rank that reflects the difference between your Light and Dark points. A given rank allows you to use equipment that is exclusive to that rank (for example, a special lightsaber exclusive to people at Light II or higher). Furthermore, choosing Light or Dark options can alter your companion's affection for you. This has proven difficult for Tarahl, who wants to build up Dark Side points, but loses affection with his lead companion Vette when doing so. I will talk more about Light/Dark in the next article.

Figure 5: Vette, the first Companion a Sith Warrior gets. She doesn't like it when I do Dark Side things. I make it up to her with presents.

Social points are generated when engaging in conversations with NPCs (such as mission-givers and mission objectives) when in a group with other players. When in conversations, which are cinematic and fully voiced in TOR, you get opportunities to select what your character will say. Every time you make a choice on what to say, you get social points. A dice roll is used to determine which player in the group gets to actually say their piece. You get more social points if your choice is the one selected by the game. A higher Social rank gives you access to equipment that has very little value in gameplay, but looks interesting. Playing in groups will be  the subject of a future article. Valor rank reflects the amount of experience you have in PVP combat. You earn it by playing in PVP events, such as Warzone matches, or by fighting other players, either on the open map (on PVP servers) or in designated areas devoted to PVP play (on all servers). Tarahl's Valor is very low; I have not yet played very much PVP. The last trait I want to discuss is Companion affection. As you progress through the game, you build up an array of Companion characters. When playing by yourself or in very small groups, one Companion is with you by default, and the rest are on your ship. You select which Companion is with you, and can assign any of them to perform Crew Skills (more in a later article). Each Companion has a measurable amount of Affection for you, which starts at zero, but slowly changes over time. Certain dialogue choices in conversations may change Affection, even if it is not a Light/Dark option. For example, Vette's affection increases when you are insolent or sarcastic with your Master. You may also improve affection by giving the Companion gifts. There are different types of gifts, which can be earned in Crew Skill missions or purchased from vendors, and each Companion's tastes affect which one they prefer. You get more affection by giving them a gift they like. Vette would treasure an Underworld Good gift, but has no need for an Imperial Memorabilia gift. In almost all cases, Affection can only be altered on the Companion currently with you (there are certain group conversations in  your Class Quests that engage all of your companions). Conclusion: In the end, all of your statistics affect how the game is played. Your character's ability to attack, as well as defend against attack, is dependent entirely on these numbers, and so it is best to keep track of them. I want to note that a lot of the data on character sheets and on attributes came from the official TOR website and from Force Junkies. Tip of the Week: Check the statistics before equipping new items. Even if that new lightsaber deals higher damage, its other statistics may make your old blade a better choice, depending on your game style. Next week I'll be looking at the storytelling of the game. This will include cutscenes and the Light/Dark mechanism.

About the Author

Andrew Halliday contributes to EUCantina as a writer. He writes our column "The Star Wars Dissection," published every second Monday, and also reviews episodes of The Clone Wars television show. He began writing in 2010, sending letters to the podcast The EU Review, using mathematics to look at certain trends in Star Wars content. These monthly analyses were expanded into his column in 2011. He has a degree in biology and a love for all things science and math.