Today, we have a special treat, an exclusive interview with Jake “jneri” Neri, a Producer with LucasArts on Star Wars Galaxies, who gives us a closer look at the new Beast Master expertise system.

We also have an exclusive video of this system, which you can see here too.

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WarCry Q&A: Beast Master Interview
Answers by Jake”jneri” Neri (Producer, LucasArts)
Questions by Robert “Sabrehawk” Cox

imageWarCry: Beast Master ranks up there as quite possibly the most-wanted feature by the community since the NGE left hordes of Creature Handlers with full datapads and empty hearts. How intense was the pressure to get it right? How do you think you did?

Jake Neri: There was definite pressure to get the Beast Master system right, as we had heard time and time again from players that they loved the old Creature Handler profession. The team took the overall idea of the Creature Handler profession, with all its high expectations, and made it far deeper and way cooler. I think now we see that Beast Master is exactly that: much more compelling than any similar features previously in the game, and also much more accessible to all players.

WarCry: In the old days, Creature Handler was seen by some as just an online version of Pokemon. How has the team dealt with that view? Was there an effort made to make Beast Master a serious, viable sideline career as well as a hobby?

Jake Neri: We weren’t really concerned with how the Creature Handler profession was perceived when it was in the game more than a year ago, as the current Beast Master system is very different and far more robust. What we did focus on was how much our players enjoyed collecting their creatures and ultimately interacting with them, so that was the basis of the new Beast Master system. Because the system is contained within a profession expertise tree, we fully expect players to spend their talent points in it to grow and progress their characters’ careers, while also using the resulting Creatures to adventure, explore and engage in combat.

Of course, there will naturally be a “hobby” element to the system as well. We’ve found that many of our players are collectors of all types of things in the game, from the items they put in their house, to their speeders and mounts. We anticipate that many players will spend a good amount of time harvesting and trading pets to grow their collections. I think the incubation process, with its ability to create unique, mutated creatures will definitely keep people engaged in the system from start to finish.

WarCry: It’s been pointed out that players can spend all 45 of their expertise points in Beast Master expertise. Is it meaty enough to make that worthwhile?

Jake Neri: Yes, the system is definitely robust enough to make it worthwhile for a player to spend all his or her talent points in the Beast Master tree. However, it all depends on what the player wants to get out of the Beast Master system. If the player wants the most effective pet possible, he or she will need to spend all 45 points there. However, the player is more interested in creating Beasts, and not necessarily their combat abilities after they hatch, they won’t need to spend all of their points in the tree. The point of the Profession Expertise System as a whole (including the Beast Master tree) is that players need to really think about what type of character they want to create and what kinds of activities they want to engage in. The whole thing is a series of trade-offs that ultimately create a galaxy full of incredibly unique characters.

WarCry: What’s the one feature that you wanted for Beast Master that just wouldn’t work out?

Jake Neri: Funny enough, when I read this question I actually had to get on the phone with the game’s lead designer, Thomas Blair, because I honestly couldn’t think of anything that we wanted to get in the system that didn’t make it. Thomas confirmed my suspicions: we managed to get all the features in that we wanted to. In fact, we ultimately delayed the release of Chapter 6 by two weeks to make the system as complete as possible. Of course, as with any of our new features and systems, we will be carefully watching how players interact with it, and make any adjustments or improvements that we deem necessary in the future.

WarCry: In the long run, how will Beast Master affect combat, both PvE and PvP? Will there be a difference? How will a fully-expertised combat character stack up with a full-on Beast Master counterpart?

Jake Neri: Overall, the Beast Master system should have a positive effect on all combat as it provides new levels of intensity and challenge to the experience. Players who specialize in the Beast Master tree will definitely be an asset to any group and will also be very handy in combat situations. Certainly some classes will stack up better against a Beast Master than others, but that’s the point of the Profession Expertise System as a whole.

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