Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Item Modifications in the Old Republic

The Subject At Hand

Recently, World of Warcraft instituted a system in which you could take the graphical skin of an existing item and overlay it on another, so that the second item would then look like the first. This answered the prayers of many people who retain the belief that some of the earliest skins for armor in WoW were the best. They can now get awesome new items, pay some cash and make those items look like something they obtained in 2005.

In Star Wars: the Old Republic, they are instituting a system that, at its most basic, might allow for this kind of thing. But it is so much more. This is the Item Modification system. While the end result, if you choose to view it as such, is to allow you to keep the same look as you level up, while still keeping armor up to date and competitive, the details are more complicated than that.

I'm here to examine some of those details.


When I first envisioned making this site, I had a few things I specifically wanted to talk about. This will be one of them. Part of my reasoning for posts like this is to better understand the systems myself. By explaining, I am requiring myself to have solid information and understanding myself. Also, I know some people who are not as likely to grasp the systems as quickly as I, or do the research I will. So instead I write about it here.

The information in this post is incomplete. Changes were recently made to this system, and with no access to the game until at least the 15th, I'm not fully aware of the extent of the changes. Much of this is based on a recent post on the official forums, as well as some research.

In The Details

There are varying levels of item rarity, as in pretty much every MMO around. This is something games have issues getting away from.

Grey: The vendor trash. The purpose of this equipment is to take up space until you sell it.

White: This is standard equipment. In the earliest stages of your adventures, you will get upgrades from these. Later, they are another color of vendor trash. These do not have any special stats beyond the very basic. They have armor rating and weapon damage, and nothing else.

Green: Green is the color of moving forward. At this stage, an item will have special stats on it beyond the most basic stats that White gear will carry. It will feel good to receive, and you will eventually think it the lowest of the low.

Edit: just found this after I had posted.
Blue: Blue items are better quality than green items. The stats will be better than the Green items, but they will not have mod slots, or, if they do, they will not have a complete set of them.

Orange: In SWTOR, Orange is the color of customization. Orange, Brass, Gold, whatever. It's the new blue. Anyway, Orange weapons are standard (White) items with modification slots. Into these slots, you will be able to place mods that you find, through drops, rewards, or crafting. These modifications will define the power level and capabilities of the Orange item. It will have no stats of its own.

Purple: Purplez are a staple that cannot be escaped. In the Old Republic, they are Artifact level weapons. They will have extraordinary stats of their own, and may also have a limited number of modification slots.

While there may be other types, these are the current levels of rarity and power in the game.

So what's the point of all that, you might ask? It seems like other games so far. In this, you would likely be assuming that mods are similar to enchantments or gems from other games. And there you would be incorrect.

Modding Means ... ?

There are details unavailable to me at the moment regarding the mod slots in items, as they've made certain slots available to all items. So this is incomplete, but written with an understanding of what they seem to intend.

Modifications come in several types. They are essentially small items that you then attach (slot) into a larger item to improve it. They carry stats with them. There are three types I'm sure of right now: Barrel (gun), Armoring (armor), Hilt (lightsaber). There are definitely other types of mods, but they are not limited to a specific type of item, and will be lesser in power than these three. With the changes to the system, it is unclear what they will be called.

So, example.

You have found the Best Gun Ever. It has smiley faces all over it and a lolling tongue at the end of the barrel. You can imagine firing no other weapon at an enemy ever. And you received it at level 12. With 38 levels to go, you foresee the day in which you will have to let your Death Tongue go so you can have better stats on the Pea Shooter. This will be a terrible day for you.

A Custom (Orange) gun will have several modification slots. One will be the barrel, and the others may be specifically named mods or just Mod 1, 2 and 3. Until recently, guns would have different mods than armor, than lightsabers, and then you would be able to constantly get mod drops that meant nothing to you. They have since consolidated some, not all, of the mod type so they can be shared across equipment types.

Anyway, the barrel modification is specific to guns. If I understand correctly - and without the game in front of me, I may not - the barrel modification will define the base damage of your gun. It was also carry base statistics, like Cunning, Endurance, etc. When you slot a better barrel into your Death Tongue, it will increase the base damage of your disgusting monstrosity to a level on par with your current level, assuming you're not slotting poorly.

Other modifications will allow you to add stats to your weapon, improving it further. It is unknown to what degree they will carry base stats or secondary stats. Color Crystals are known to change the color of your lightsaber or blaster shots.

When, as a quest reward, you receive the Pea Shooter, and it has much better stats than your Death Tongue, the Custom nature of the Pea Shooter insures you stay happy. You remove the modifications from your new gun and replace the mods in your Tongue with them. Your Death Tongue is now, stat-wise, the same as the Pea Shooter, but still looks like its disgusting self. Congratulations. You narrowly avoided looking like a sane person.

As you find new equipment, they will have their own mods attached when you receive them. If they are an improvement, you'll be able to remove them and place them in another item. With the secondary mods, you will not necessarily be limited to the same item type (gun, armor, lightsaber). You could take a mod from a piece of armor and place it in your gun if it serves you better.

What Does It Mean?

This is an odd system. It allows for customizability of old weapons, so you might never let go of your old equipment that you like the look of. If you found the perfect armor at level 14, you could realistically be wearing it at level 50.

The advantage I see with this system is that it insures the usefulness of Crew Skills that create mods. You will always be able to sell what you create, because it will be an upgrade for someone. You can obtain these upgrades over time, replacing individual mods as you go, so while the prices could be lower on the Galactic Trade Network for these than for whole weapons in the previous patch, you'll have more sell-through. And as long as you are using a custom item, you will always be able to maintain the correct stats on it.

The biggest disadvantage I see with this system is that it renders the individual items meaningless, beyond visuals, and this could affect those who craft those items greatly. Armormech and Armstech can make new armor and weapons, but why would you need it? All you need is more mods to make your existing armor better. At that point, the crafter is selling an aesthetic and not intrinsic value. I imagine some items could have more mod slots, and that would be of interest, but in the end, the Armstech crafter makes barrels and guns. When will those guns be useful?


I think the system is very interesting, and has great potential. I worry for crafters, since I tend to play one. And until I am able to actively work with this system, I don't know how well it work. But it's certainly different. In this day and age, different in MMOs is good.

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