Star Wars: The Old Republic Item Modification Changes Explained

In a lengthy post on the official forums, Star Wars: The Old Republic associate lead designer Emmanuel Lusinchi has taken on the challenging assignment of explaining why the game's item modding system has been significantly revamped and how the game is better as a result.
To start with, we've introduced a new color and item type: the Custom items. Those are shown with an orange border and are fully moddable. This change is purely cosmetic. What we have done is take all fully moddable Prototype items (blue) and simply changed their icon color. This helps us create a better and more unique identity for fully moddable gear.

Since other games have used orange to signify truly rare and epic gear, let me clarify that orange in Star Wars: The Old Republic has nothing to do with 'epic' gear. (And for those curious, our version of 'epic' is a very deep purple, bordering on a rich blue). The orange we use is actually the old bronze color we developed a long time ago when our color coding was based on metals (bronze, silver, gold, platinum, etc).

Custom gear is actually pretty common: it can be obtained through class quests around level 8, as social gear, as space quest rewards and as light side / dark side gear. It is also the typical gear found in Flashpoints and as rewards for Heroic missions. Several pieces can be acquired using planetary commendations.

The second change introduced in the latest build is the locking down of the base mods (Armoring, Barrel, Hilt) and color crystal mod on the Artifact items (purple). To explain this change, I need to also explain the history of the the modding system...

So, the first version of the modding system had many issues. It is amazing that a system that is only a few months old is already quite misremembered, but that's because while the system implementation was less than stellar, players really liked the concept that tried to shine through and now remember it much more fondly that it truly deserves. The main issues of the old system were as follow:

- There were too many different modifications. Sure, the mods had a lot of flavor and made sense: triggers and scopes for guns, underlays and overlays for armors, power cells and crystals for Lightsabers, etc. But in the end, keeping the mods in all gear up to date every few levels was a major pain on the players' side. Remember, at that time, mods could not be extracted - so a replacement for each and every one of those mods had to be individually located every few levels. And let me tell you, creating and maintaining all those tens of thousands of mods on our end was also not exactly sustainable.

- Some items only had a few mod slots. I know everyone by now remembers a 'perfect' world where everything was moddable, but that simply wasn't the way it worked. Most premium (green) items did not have a full set of slots and which slots weren't present was a bit random. So, you could find a purple trigger and get all excited about fitting it on your moddable gun - until you realized the gun mysteriously had a scope slot, but not a trigger slot. Of course, your next gun could have a trigger but no scope. This left many players scratching their heads.

- Once slotted, a mod could not be removed. This had a very perverse effect: players would find a really good mod - say a purple overlay - but would really hesitate in slotting it into an armor. What if they find a cooler looking armor next level? Many players would end up saving their good mods for later and ended up over leveling them.

- Mods that were crafted or purchased were most of the time inferior to the mod already slotted onto a prototype (blue) item. This made the entire mod system somewhat useless. One of the main reason was that crafters could not create good mods. Reverse engineering - the main method to obtain prototype and artifact (blue and purple) crafted items - did not work on mod.

- Modding was only done at a workbench. This made it rather cumbersome as the players had to hunt down a workbench before they could fit a new mod into one of their items.

So, to summarize: in the old system, you could not take any piece of gear, fit it with the best mods and keep it all the way to the end levels: a lot of the green gear did not have all the slots, the mods that could be obtained were for the most part... not good, and you could not extract better one from existing gear.