Tuesday, 9 June 2009

SWTOR "Close to Beta"?

Let me start with a couple of interviews that I neglected to report on (I blame E3 madness).

First there's a video interview at GiantBomb, which starts at about six minutes into the video (after talking about Mass Effect 2 first).

Then there's an interview at StarWarsMMO. Here's an excerpt:
Well, what a few of our hardcore Single-Player members have a problem with is someone coming in with a name like “Han Leia Luke Organa” or something similar and having these players ruin both the game and the series for them.

TN: Well, for naming issues we have many name filters in place and stuff like that so you cannot use names like Solo, Han, Leia, and so on. I think the important part of this is that people who play MMOs like WoW and Guild Wars often play by themselves for a large part of the time. That is an interesting dynamic of MMO’s, they still deliver a great single player experience. If you want to reach out and play with other players that experience is there and it is great, but if you don’t do don’t have to. I play a lot of MMO’s myself, and I don’t find anything negative about it. You can turn off your chat, turn off names, ignore players, and so on and the end result is very nice,
Next there's a video interview at TenTonHammer. It is introduced with the following text:
Delivering a New Hope for a Star Wars MMORPG fans.

Bioware Austin Co-Studio Heads Gordon Walton and Rich Vogel, legendary MMO developers in their own right, discuss the keys to success for creating Star Wars: The Old Republic. Gordon and Rich will deliver an update on the SW:TOR's progress, chat about what it's like to work with LucasArts on a Star Wars game, and discuss why they elected to go with a fully voiced-over presentation of the game, the importance of story, and much more. Good discussion interwoven with scenes from the new trailer and the latest screenshots and concept art means that this is one Star Wars: The Old Republic video interview you won't want to miss!
And finally there's an interview at Gophn. There's a number of juicy bits in there, including the following excerpt:
[Gordon Walton]: Well, there’s a group of MMO players that find a lot of comfort in [grinding] because it’s predictable and they understand it. But everyone who doesn’t like that doesn’t play MMOs, right? And that’s one of the reasons that they go it’s stupid to grind in their worldview, right?…We think that you can have the best of both worlds. You can do a lot of stuff as long as there’s new elements to uncover while you’re doing it and it won’t feel like a grind if you don’t actually know everything that’s going to happen all of the time. So that’s one of the reasons behind doing a really story based game. And every class has it’s own unique story, several hundred hours of game play for every class.

Gophn.com: Wow. That’s quite a bit, several hundred [hours]. So my follow-up question was how big is this universe of Old Republic here that we’re talking about?

GW: The way we have calculated it is more content than every BioWare game ever done including the ones that will ship before us.
Gophn.com: Wow, really? That’s massive.

GW: By a lot. So when really, when you think about KoToR and KoToR 2… um, we’re KoToR 3 through KoToR (some high number)… so if you think about it you don’t spend more than a hundred hours playing all of the classes [in the KoToR 1 & 2]

Gophn.com: No, it wasn’t.
Several hundred hours of gameplay per class? Well, they kind of need that if they want this game to last people a long time. Though I fear for how much of that will be padding with boring activities like killing the same kind of monsters again and again just to try and advance the story a little again.

But that's not really the best part of the interview. The most interesting part is the following:
Gophn.com: Oh that’s fine…Well, what stage is it at? Is it pretty much at the end of the beta stage where it’s ready to go live?

GW: Oh no, we have a ways to go on the game.
Gophn.com: Because it looks polished when I saw some of the game play.

GW: Well, we have a lot of the game done, but not all of it’s polished to the level of the thing [gameplay footage] that you probably saw. So polish takes time. Tuning and polish takes time. We have a ways to go. I mean this is a huge game… we’ve done a big part of the game, but we still have a ways to go.

Gophn.com: Well, another thing we were wondering was when you get to beta stage, are you going to be having a certain amount of groups doing beta to test how it handles on the servers?

GW: Well, it’s a long time until we do that.
Gophn.com: Oh, I understand.

GW: We are close to beta though. Close to beta we are running through our own community. We have people signed up. We have about a quarter million people signed up. And we understand what their system specs are. So you know we’ll start with a lot of small testing and we’ll move on from there. Again, we’ve done a lot of in-house testing with outside people already. We do a lot of focus testing. We do a lot of version builds testing along the way because you can’t really make games without consumer feedback.
So not only are they close to beta, but they also already have a quarter of a million people signed up for it? Hmmmm.

First the second part. It seems likely that those quarter of a million people are the people signed up to the official forums. Though I don't recall any point where it asked for system specs or anything. On that Sean Dahlberg had the following to say:
On the site. All will be clear. Later(TM).

*Note that SeanDahlberg really does not have "Later" of "Soon" trademarked.
So that seems to confirm that everyone who signed up on the official site is automatically signed up for beta as well. But more details will be forthcoming.

The first bit, that the beta is close, seems to in part contradict other parts (like "it’s a long time until we do that"). One has to remember though that beta comes in many stages and what they're a long time away from is testing the servers. Instead they'll likely start with inviting a really small number of people to start with some small tests and then slowly ramp things up. Altogether that could mean the beta phase could take a year or longer with it being a long time yet before they start inviting people in larger numbers (let alone large enough numbers to test the servers).

Either way, it does seem like another clue that the game might see a release in 2010 (and I'm still holding to spring 2010).


New article over at Massively: The Digital Continuum: SWTOR turns up the heat Here's an excerpt:
The Sith example given at this year's E3 hands-on demo is, to me at least, the ideal that I hope the entirety of SWTOR aspires to achieve, because in my mind, it's one of the harder classes to present as three-dimensional. Most people think of Sith as full-on dastardly baddies, when in reality even they have differing opinions on how to get things done. A classic example is the eventual decision to invoke the Rule of Two, but BioWare's example of efficiency versus loyalty is also a good one.
A nice read.

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