Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Comic-Con 2009 Wrap-Up

I'm back from vacation; my grandmother's party was a great success and I quite enjoyed my couple of days. And now that I'm back I'm scrambling to pick up on the Comic-Con news that was released over the weekend.

We'll start with BioWare's Friday update which was, as expected, a Fan Friday. But they also noted a couple of the conventions that they're taking the game to. And, most interestingly, the public gameplay demo that they're showing. For those (like myself) who can't attend these conventions they'll also make the gameplay demo video available through the website. Here's the news:
TOR at GamesCom and Penny Arcade Expo
Star Wars: The Old Republic will be will be bringing the power of the Force to two more conventions this year, GamesCom (Cologne, Germany; August 19-24 ) and Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) (Seattle, Washington; September 4 – 6). During the conventions, the team we will be showcasing the first public gameplay demo as well as giving away Star Wars™ goodies to attendees. Stop by the community cantina and hang out with some of the members of the Star Wars: The Old Republic team.

If you can’t make the shows, don’t worry! We will have the gameplay demo footage available to the community on our official website. To stay up-to-date on The Old Republic’s conventions this summer, visit the Community Events page!
I can't help but wonder if they'll also come to the Eurogamer Expo end of October, which I'll at least be able to attend (provided playing Dragon Age: Origins doesn't keep me too busy :p).

With the Friday update they also added a number of new avatars to the official forum, three bounty hunters, two smugglers, a trooper, two nautolans, two wookiees and, strangely enough, four jawas.

But more interesting perhaps is that over the weekend several websites had interviews/Q&As with BioWare/LucasArts about the game.

First there's the Star Wars: The Old Republic - Exhaustive Q&A over at IGN, which seems to be the questions that people could post to IGN last week. And it does indeed cover a lot of ground, including lifting the veil on a few things we didn't know yet. Though it also repeats a fair bit of things we already did and has a "we're not commenting on that yet" with a number of them. Even so, it is an interesting article to read.

Here's an excerpt:
IGN: A lot of people wanted to know about the healing system. Will The Old Republic use a trinity system; the tank, healer, and the DPS class. Will the healer play a massive role, or will groups be able to go with no healing?

Dallas Dickinson: We want to make sure that we have many, many MMO roles filled there, but it's really important to us that players are able to actually play their experience either as a group or as a solo. So there are a number of ways that healing comes into the game. Several of our classes have healing branches that they can follow that will have some specific healing powers, but we don't want to make it a requirement for the base core game. That said, you're obviously going to be better off, especially when you get into higher-level stuff and into PvP, if you have healers on your side.

Jake Neri: I think we have a unique sort of twist on how healing works. I don't think we're speaking in total detail about it, but I think the people will be excited for it, and it's definitely a unique function of our game.
Some of the things to take out of the article:
  • Instead of having dedicated healing classes it seems that certain classes can (optionally) specialize in healing. Though specializing in healing isn't needed even when playing solo.

  • The combat, though using familiar MMO mechanics, really feels more action based and cinematic.

  • Character customization is very important, one of the ways they're achieving it is the equipment and items that you find changing your appearance.

  • All classes have slightly different combat mechanics. (Note that this does not exclude the possibility of classes being mirrored, a question they refused to answer.)

  • Several planets will be shared by some starting classes, but starting planets could be (re)visited by (other) classes as well. Players will cross paths. Planets have varying sizes; some planets being multiple zones.

  • There will be guilds and group play. Solo play is supported all the way through and one doesn't have to get involved in PvP at any point (though there is PvP as well).
IGN wasn't the only one though, TenTonHammer also has a Comic-Con Interview. It has the same issue with questions they don't want to answer yet and there's not a lot of new things there, but still a nice read.

Here's an excerpt:
Ten Ton Hammer: It's interesting that you mention the percentage of story in the game... is that an indication to the fans of just how much content you're putting into the game?

Dallas: If you think about BioWare games in the past, they relied heavily on the actual action. That's why you play these games.

If you want to have *just* a story, go and watch a movie. If you want a story that you are a part of and emotionally involved in - where you get to drive the action forward and engage in activities that alter the outcome of the story - that's the thing it should feel like. That's what we're driving towards.

We're simultaneously building a fantastic amount of content based on a story, but we're also building an MMO that is an RPG with really exciting content...

Jake: The four pillars.

Dallas: Exactly.

Jake: If we under deliver on any - combat, exploration, progression, and story - we're not creating the game we want to create.

Alexander: They all need to link together. When you're looking at the percentage numbers of story vs. content, that would be actual dialogue versus combat encounters. Ideally, ninety-five percent of the game has story and there's obviously a reason why you're doing something in the game.

We know that it's an MMO and you're chatting with your friends - and that won't necessarily be a part of the story - but you're asking them if you want to get together and go do this particular quest or activity together. Technically not story content, but all of your in-game activities should be tied into the story in some form or another.
One interesting thing, perhaps, to note in that interview as well is that, apparently, they haven't shown anything past level eight yet. Of course they haven't said how many levels there are (could be that there's only ten levels), but it's a good bet that this means they haven't shown anything past the first quarter of the game and definitely nothing high-level yet.

Next up, MMORPG.com also has a Comic-Con Interview with pretty much more of the same. This article seems to have a couple of (small) inaccuracies though (like talking about an "Empire Trooper" where they undoubtedly mean a "Republic Trooper").

Here's an excerpt:
All classes will also have their ranged as well as close combat skills. "Players will be able to use weapons to put their targets back into the correct range for their primary weapon skill," said Dallas, "A stun for example, so you can run up and engage in close combat or move further away for ranged combat."

Combat will be easy to get into, especially in the lower levels. The game will be designed for solo as well as group play. "SWTOR is not just about the single player experience," said Dallas, "It's an MMO and will contain the various features one expects to find in an MMO."
Finally the Darth Hater website has an audio recording of the Behind the Scenes panel at Comic-Con (I think that's the one that G4 was supposed to go to, but managed to miss).

Here's a direct link to the podcast.

There's a fair number of interesting tidbits in that podcast, including confirmation that players will be able to play species other than human (there was some concern over that on the official forums).

Another interesting thing is how they're comparing the Smuggler class to the Bounty Hunter class. This is leading some to speculate that the two classes are mirrors, but that's not actually what the developers are saying. They're comparing them on having similar style stories; both have stories dealing with the the criminal underground. That doesn't say anything about their gameplay mechanics (which is what class mirroring is all about) though; on that I'm still convinced that the Trooper and Bounty Hunters are gameplay mirrors of each other.

But to get back to the story equivalents, that does lead to speculate on other classes. It seems like that the Jedi and the Sith classes are story equivalents (as well as gameplay mirrors), both dealing with the Force 'religion'. With the Trooper being a class with a military story one can speculate that there will be a class with a military story on the Empire side as well, which fits in perfectly with earlier speculation of an Imperial Officer type class. That still leaves the last two classes, but another type of story that's important in Star Wars which hasn't been handled yet is a political story, which would fit earlier speculated classes such as a Senator or such for Republic and, maybe, a Governor/Viceroy for the Empire. Those are pure speculation, of course, but it would fit.

Anyway, that should have me caught up with current events again. If I come across anything more (either from Comic-Con or something new) then I'll post it of course.

[link] to the IGN Q&A.
[link] to the TenTonHammer interview.
[link] to the MMORPG interview.
[link] to the Behind the Scenes panel.


Anonymous said...

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Ayane said...

Thank you, Margaret. I'm glad to hear that you enjoy reading my blog and hope that as I continue to update it you'll continue to do so. :)