Author Topic: Star Wars: The Old Republic  (Read 4934 times)

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Offline GamerMan316

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Star Wars: The Old Republic
« on: July 23, 2009, 06:31:43 PM »
Preview from CVG

The Sith is an action-point class. Do you play many MMO games?" "A few." "So he plays a bit like the rogu... oh, you've got it."

At that point, with the help of BioWare's Rich Vogel, I'm knee deep in Republic corpses, taking down wave after wave of plastic-clad troopers. My Sith character is deflecting their blaster fire with his lightsaber while I get to grips with his abilities. He earns points by swiping and smashing; he can then spend them on finishing moves. I Force-choke one foe, hanging him by his neck, watching his legs writhe in pain. As he drops to the floor, trying to catch his breath, I turn away and slide a lightsaber into his ribs.

Even at this early stage, The Old Republic is as polished, as playable and as slick as... that other major MMO. Why? How? Because BioWare Austin, the studio responsible, have paid attention to the details from the very start. And their ambition seems limitless. They want to make an MMORPG that encapsulates the essence of their singleplayer games: a true online sequel to classics like Knights of the Old Republic and Baldur's Gate. They want to make a game with proficient, modern production values, fully voiced cutscenes and multi-threaded conversations.

They want to reduce the grind - removing the tedious fetch 10 and kill 20 quests that plague the genre - and tie everything into their story. They want to introduce genuine consequence, giving parties of players the kind of moral choices their singleplayer games have become famous for. Except that in this world, there are no savegames, no chances to go back and see what might have happened.

Right now, this is the most exciting game in development. I'm playing in a private booth away from the crowds at E3, soloing while BioWare's lead developers watch. As the trooper slides to the floor, clutching his chest, a horrifying truth becomes apparent: The Old Republic is a credible World of Warcraft killer.

What's extraordinary is just how playable it is, even at this stage. BioWare have been playing with the working game for months, and are now smoothing the myriad details into a workable whole. "We didn't want to show the game until there was something playable," says studio co-director Rich Vogel. "We didn't even want to announce the game until we had something." And, as it turns out, the huge Austin studio has already created plenty. "The game is playable. We have a server up and running, we can play the game at home."

The promise is huge: an MMO that is both as intuitive as an action title and as engrossing as a story-led game. The Star Wars universe, now a few hundred years along from the events of Knights of the Old Republic, and thousands of years before the events of the movies, is the perfect setting for a sci-fi MMO. It's going to be as rich and deep as any MMO has ever been. But it might not have been this way.

The other studio co-director, Gordon Walton, explains that BioWare could easily have ended up making an MMO other than this one. "We had many options, and we knocked it down to two or three several times, but everything came back to Knights of the Old Republic. It was the right universe. We just had to make the deal, so we did."

Once that deal had been struck there was the formidable task of creating a studio of over a hundred people, which would then produce the content required to fill out a massive, multiplayer world. "BioWare Austin came in to existence in early 2006... We started the game working with only a few people. We're now a very, very large studio," says Walton. "Some of the staff came from SOE, but the early seeds were all BioWare. James (Ohlen) has some considerable experience, he was the lead designer on Baldur's Gate, Baldur's Gate 2, Neverwinter Nights and KotOR. We knew who the high level core creative team was going be. But the key hire that wasn't settled on day one was Ohlen, because we didn't know who we would get."

The team has both been hand-picked from the main BioWare studio in Edmonton, and recruited from the now large and experienced pool of developers who have previously worked in the MMO industry. But getting a game like this right is not just about having talented people, it's about having loads of talented people. "Once you go over 100 people, communicating what you're doing, and what you're trying to achieve, and how everyone's little element fits in, that becomes very difficult," says Vogel. "Get beyond a tribe and you have a problem."

And this game does encompass more than one tribe. While BioWare might have already done loads of creative work with the KotOR games, they aren't entirely free to mess with the canon. Star Wars is still owned, and tightly controlled, by LucasArts. "Everything has to be cleared," Walton admits. "But it's actually been relatively smooth. Part of the decision to use the KotOR era was to allow us some latitude, some freedom to get away from the films. So we're in an ideal spot have a lot of familiar stuff, but there's loads of freedom."

That freedom is important, because BioWare's great big innovation for MMOs is going to create massive lore headaches. BioWare intend for The Old Republic to be the first successful story-driven MMO game. On the face of it, that doesn't make much sense: surely we've been told that the player's story, not the developers story, is the point of MMO games?

Playing The Old Republic rapidly defeats that twisted logic. My demo begins on the bridge of a Star Destroyer, talking to a captain who has done a very, very bad thing. In this case, a crime punishable by death. A fully voiced cutscene follows, with the kind of dialogue choices and moral consequences that you'd usually expect from singleplayer roleplaying games.

"I'm sorry for my failures," says the captain. "Just please, respect my crew."
At this point, I'm given a choice: kill him and promote his first officer, or let him live. The first time I play, I let the poor sap live. Then we launch the Star Destroyer into hyperspace, the better to ambush a rebel freighter.

When we arrive the freighter attacks, launching pods filled with troopers and Jedi toward our Star Destroyer. The captain assesses the problem quickly, and orders all turbolasers to track and destroy the pods. He also asks the medical bay to stand by. A few invaders make it through. When distress calls come from engineering, and my party fights from the bridge down through the decks, it's a fairly simple process, and we're reinforced by a steady stream of revived NPC characters, fresh from being healed by the medical droids.

The next time round, I decide to kill the Captain. His ambitious first officer quickly assumes command, and immediately orders the Destroyer into hyperspace. At arrival, the pods are sent out again. My new First Officer is smug, yet inexperienced. She ignores the boarding parties and demands all fire be focused on the freighter's engines and powerbays. "If they can't move, they can't attack."

The ship is quickly overwhelmed.Distress calls come in from all decks. I have to head off immediately. The numbers are striking, particularly without the buffed and healed reinforcements from sickbay. Rather than a group of cut-off and lonely rebels, the encounter ends with a particularly vicious Jedi.

The demo demonstrates, so very clearly, what BioWare mean by choice and story. The Star Destroyer serves as an instance, like WoW's dungeons, yet this wasn't simply a romp through a series of angry monsters. It was a back-and-forth through different portions of the ship. And, at any point, I could invite my mates along to help.

BioWare aim to fill ToR with this kind of mission to a truly extraordinary extent. Each of the six player classes will have an entirely unique, entirely separate story and series of quests. If you were to play each class in turn, you wouldn't repeat a single mission, or see a repeated location.

It gets better. Each of those campaigns is the equivalent of one of the previous KotOR games. A grand adventure for each of the six character classes (see Class Act). Each of those campaigns is fully voiced, with multiple paths (and every dialogue choice is spoken. This is probably the largest voiceover project the games industry has ever undertaken). It's a big, big, big game.

What BioWare are delivering is the largest expansion of detail within the Star Wars universe ever conceived. They're fleshing out one of the least detailed periods of Star Wars history, where Sith and Jedi existed in mutual antagonism for centuries - the galaxy teetering on the brink of war, having already suffered many catastrophic conflicts, culminating in the sacking of Coruscant itself - the galactic capital.

This creates a problem: most people aren't familiar with the expanded Star Wars universe. BioWare have groundwork to do, as Vogel explains: "So all this stuff we're doing around the game: the comic, the timeline videos, that's all to bring people up to speed with the setting. Millions of people have played KotOR but we want millions more who have not played a KotOR game to be up to speed with the setting and engaged in this universe. That's why we're doing all that stuff."

This kind of development comes naturally to BioWare after years of RPG development. They're a veritable content-building army. But their multiplayer gaming comes from a difference angle: they've had to hire staff who were more familiar with the MMO scene. Did that create problems? "Not really," says Vogel, "because even the singleplayer guys want to make multiplayer games, and they want to solve these problems."

What was more important still was that BioWare, like Valve, get a playable prototype in place as soon as is feasible, and start designing by playing. "We get stuff up very early, and make sure it works," says Vogel. "If something doesn't work you just let it go as quickly as possible."

This philosophy is what has made ToR's combat system so excitingly diverse. BioWare have developed different game mechanics for every character class. The Jedi and Sith are melee-focused magic users, while smuggler and trooper classes will use cover to keep out of trouble, and fight with blasters. The bounty-hunter, the only other class so far revealed, can use the kinds of tools we seldom see in MMOs: a jetpack and a flamethrower. Walton explains that this was intentional: "You have to do that if you want players to have different experiences while playing together."

Each of the classes has their own separate game mechanic, and each needs to be catered for within the layout of the levels. As I trundle down a Star Destroyer corridor as a Sith, I notice abandoned equipment lockers and crevices at the side of the room. "Hmm. Are they for the smuggler class to hide behind?" "Yes. It's causing a real headache for our level designers."

And all this takes place in the name of fun. BioWare want their first MMO to be as full of life, character and story as their singleplayer RPGs. "We have to ignore the top of the hardcore," says Walton, talking about those players who will simply ignore the story and min-max their way to the top end of the game. "We need to make a game that is accessible to the Star Wars fan, and the BioWare fan. Because really BioWare is a company that is about making a great RPG experience, not about making games for a hardcore MMO audience."

"We've been iterating the first ten levels, and playing, and making changes based on that. You have to get the foundations right if you're going to make the entire game work. We have a person who works on balance for PvE, a person working on choreography... And fun dominates that. Balance means balancing for fun. Is it fun? Then that's how it should work."

It is fun: just a few minutes of combat demonstrate that. A Sith character leaping into the fray, a smuggler hanging back and using cover. "I don't know if you noticed," Vogel says, "but it's all synchronised combat. We have a synchronised animation system, it's not like every other MMO where it's two guys dancing, watching each other run through the animations. This is like KotOR. Blades hit, we can block stuff, people are actually parrying - you always know why he hit." This combat dynamic, combined with group dynamics, will be fascinating to work with. But what if you want to join the party halfway through a mission?Isn't that going to be confusing for other players? "We actually have a system to do that. You have to decide: either we're going to start over for you, or they could join you where you are."

"It's a fun challenge," says Vogel. It's the kind of challenge BioWare seem to relish. "There are two flavours to our design team. There are the story guys who say 'we want to make everything as detailed as a singleplayer game', and then we have the hardcore MMO multiplayer guys who are always going to ask that exact question: 'Where are my guys? Where are my guys? Why can't I meet them?'"

Providing the solutions to these problems is something Walton seems confident about: "You're playing this game live, in a hostile environment, on a buggy connection, and it works because we got the best-in-industry people from all over. We have a huge amount of programming experience from different MMOs, all of whom are terrified of launch day. They have every horror story, everything to prepare for going into the launch."

That launch is going to be vital. This is BioWare's bid to reclaim their territory on the PC. "The PC is in a terrible place," says Walton, "but online is in a great place." Does he see the PC and online as separate platforms? "They are different platforms. They require different methodologies." For Walton the evolution of online gaming has created both a new format, and a new gamer. "They're looking for evolution, not static. They're looking for a differentiated product. Look at Team Fortress 2... You have to keep bringing out content, or the game disappears after the first weeks."

Vogel chimes in at this point: "The PC industry is like the music industry, it's evolving away from a sold product to an online presence." An online presence. There's one online presence that looms so large on the PC that it scarcely needs mentioning: World of Warcraft. Even when The Old Republic is at its most exciting I can only think back to how much I've already got out of WoW. Something ActiBlizzard boss Bobby Kotick once said springs to mind: anyone intending to take on WoW had better have some pretty deep pockets. But do you really need a billion dollars to take down WoW?

Vogel laughs: "You have to be smart. You have to develop with people who have experience and understand the game." Walton is similarly upbeat: "If I was doing a fantasy RPG on the same plane as World of Warcraft, well, you better spend a sh*t load of money." But he doesn't see taking WoW on at its own game as a realistic, or even desirable goal. He argues that new MMOs need to create their own template. "I thought Age of Conan would be more differentiated. We were betting that both Age of Conan and WAR would have been bigger than they are, but that's down to their execution, not the market... Age of Conan would have really had something if they've maintained that great experience beyond the first 20 levels... What happened to that? When you get past the first 20 levels that experience went away. You can't do that, not in this climate. The market is ready for differentiation. There's a lot of WoW fatigue. It doesn't matter how good that game is, you're going to get tired of it."

At the end of the presentation, the point is made that what BioWare have shown is nothing like the MMOs we know of today. Where are the PvP arenas? Or the large, 25+ player raids? Or auction houses? Or, hey, space-combat? Vogel raises an eyebrow. "Oh, we have all that too. We're just going to wait a little bit to show you that." That's a promise that seems too good to be true. Stay tuned. The Old Republic is going to be huge.


Offline TaraJayne

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2009, 07:13:43 AM »
This is going to be the next thing that absorbs my life
Can't wait for Shenmue 3



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I've had it right up to here with them.

Offline Handshakes

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2009, 10:46:34 AM »
My burning hatred of MMOs was going to make me skip this one, but if Tara is playing I just might have to reconsider.

Tara in the Princess Leia slave costume? Worth the price of admission.

Me in the Princess Leia slave costume? Worth the price of admission for everyone else.
Your mom!

Offline nCogNeato

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2009, 02:12:09 PM »
Me in the Princess Leia slave costume? Worth the price of admission for everyone else.

I'd pay to play.



Offline TaraJayne

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2009, 04:33:54 PM »


Me in the Princess Leia slave costume? Worth the price of admission for everyone else.

That would be a lovely site. Dont forget that you would have to be chained up
Can't wait for Shenmue 3



I hate jokes that rely on visual imagery.

I've had it right up to here with them.

Offline Failed

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2009, 02:30:09 PM »
MMO's are the scourge of humanity, look how quickly this thread deteriorated.... it's because the devil is associated with MMO's and his hand is at work here.

Repent, little sheep. Follow Failed to the light, i'm putting the stud back in Studity ... stupudity, STUPIDITY ... got there eventually.

Offline xnightcrawlerxx

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2009, 08:30:46 AM »
The Sith Warrior class was just revealed by Bioware

sith goodness
« Last Edit: August 30, 2009, 08:52:21 AM by xnightcrawlerxx »

Offline xnightcrawlerxx

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2009, 02:17:34 PM »
Beta signups have started for the highly-anticipated Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO, LucasArts and BioWare announced today.

Fans looking for a chance to test this massive online game can do so by going to the office website and go to your new account page and opt in for testing.

LucasArts notes the testing will be an ongoing process, but spots will be limited. So don't wait to sign up.

beta test

Offline TaraJayne

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2009, 04:47:25 AM »
Thanks NightCrawler.
Can't wait for Shenmue 3



I hate jokes that rely on visual imagery.

I've had it right up to here with them.

Offline nCogNeato

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2009, 11:05:31 AM »

Offline TaraJayne

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #10 on: October 08, 2009, 11:22:45 AM »
Thanks NightCrawler.

... nerd



...says the one who completed Mass effect again and again ;)
Can't wait for Shenmue 3



I hate jokes that rely on visual imagery.

I've had it right up to here with them.

Offline nCogNeato

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2009, 01:36:15 PM »
Thanks NightCrawler.

... nerd



... says the one who completed Mass effect again and again ;)

... and again ... and again ...  ;D


Offline xnightcrawlerxx

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2009, 06:45:15 PM »

Offline TaraJayne

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #13 on: October 09, 2009, 04:18:23 AM »
Of course I do. Your my favourite Canadian :D
Seriously though I am not sure if I should play this game. I want to but I know I will get so into it.
I hate MMO's but I love star wars. You can even be a Sith. I might play it just for a week. I did that with World of Warcraft.....It was the most boring week in my gaming life
Can't wait for Shenmue 3



I hate jokes that rely on visual imagery.

I've had it right up to here with them.

Offline nCogNeato

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2009, 10:40:00 AM »
Thanks NightCrawler.

... nerd



...says the one who completed Mass effect again and again ;)

tj has my back O0

lol

I meant TJ is a nerd, but you bring up a good point.             ... nerds   :D


 

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