Saturday, 28 November 2009

SW:TOR in Total PC Gaming UK Magazine

I went to buy my Christmas cards today and as I walked past the magazine rack in the store I noticed that one magazine had "Exclusive Star Wars the Old Republic" in big, bold letters on the cover, on top of an image of a Jedi that I hadn't seen before. Picking up the magazine (which turned out to be "Total PC Gaming") found that it had a five-page preview (not counting the title page). And since it includes the last two classes it's definitely new. So I bought the magazine.

The magazine comes with a DVD containing screenshots and videos of the game (some 45minutes worth), but it's nothing you haven't already seen. All the screenshots can be found on the official website as well (a number of them fairly old in fact). The videos consist of the cinematic trailer from E3, the gameplay walkthrough from CamesCom and the four developer dispatches.

The article itself is a little more informative, though most of it we all already know by now. Still, considering that the only information on the two new classes come from a German magazine it's nice seeing an English view (leaving off any possible translation errors). Though I'm sure they wouldn't like me posting scans of the article, let me instead go through the article and pull out some quotes.

It starts by talking about how BioWare wants to bring the fourth pillar of story to MMOs. Since we've all already heard this a million times before there's nothing new here. From there it moves onto another big selling point: full voice-over. Again nothing new.

But then it moves onto the Sith Inquisitor and some examples of very early gameplay:
As a Sith Inquisitor, we began our hands-on in the apprentice training grounds -- a very early beginning to our dark side experience. The Sith Academy on Korriban is situated in a dusty red, martian-style landscape whose native fauna comprimuses mostly of force-sensitive Tuk'ata, otherwise known as Sith Hounds. Naturally they're not friendly pooches and will agro within a few feet.
The article details how SWTOR has some standard MMO-style kill/collect side-quests. But what impresses the writers of the article is the Mass Effect-style dialog wheel (ugh) and the moral choices you get to make.
Deceit and treachery are the defining characteristicts of the dark side, and Malora wants you to bring her the creature's brain first so she can pour a chemical on it that will scupper Renning's experiment and allow her to usurp his position. Your options are: to do as she asks, bring her the brain, claim her reward and then claim Renning's reward; or to deny her request and take the specimen direct to Renning. Or, you can ret her out.
The article talks about how you get a similar choice in a story mission where you're supposed to root out Sith traitors, but you can refuse to kill them on moral grounds. When you do however your quest giver makes it clear that he distrusts you and will keep a close eye on you. The article then wonders how much of a long-term impact these choices will have, whether characters can cross the light side/dark side boundary (which we know that they can) and how choices will affect abilities, stats, PvP and end game, not giving an answer to any of them and just leaving the question hanging.
BioWare is saving [the answers] for a much later date and James [Ohlen] only goes as far as to tell us that these are important choices, that "the end game will de tied to the story."
Next the article talks about abilities and such, noting how it's drawing from the Star Wars arsenal.
As a dark side apprentice, our Sith Inquisitor already had access to dark lightning as well as some basic Force abilities and his lightsabre skills. In the Star Wars tradition, this would already put him far beyond the average Republic foe, so mob encounters within the training instance consist of small groups of weak soldiers that stand a better chance of posing a threat.
The article compares combat for the Inquisitor to Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, mentioning "short-range DPS lightning attacks, lightning mez effects and, of course, various melee lightsabre techniques". They even compare the Inquisitor to a melee DPS class ("under the hood"). But the difference is that even at low level you have "more scope to play with your abilities". James Ohlen notes that "combat is a little more like what you see in a single-player Star Wars game than in an MMO".

It then goes on to talking about the choice in career path that every character gets at a point in the game, giving you two choices. It compares it to that approaching level ten in Aion.
A Smuggler, for example, is a Han Solo-type class who makes use of stealth and cover to tackle enemies, but at some point you'll get the choice of pursuing the stealthy line by becoming a Scoundrel, or take a more direct approach to combat with the dual-wielding, sniping Gunslinger. Intriguingly, the Gunslinger also comes with the 'Smooth Talker' trait, which gives you additional dialogue options.
Similarly the article notes that the new classes will get two paths. For the Jedi Consular "one (route) is more support healing and the other is more of a controlling stun path where he's doing damage and taking people out of the battle with telekinetics". And for the Inquisitor it is "a fast Darth Maul path that uses the staff lightsabre and does lots of damage, and the other is a more controlling, lightning, Palpatine-type character". Which, to be honest, confuses me as it sounds like the Inquisitor can play pretty much exactly like the Warrior. I guess, and the article notes something like this (as I'll get to in a bit), that the difference is that the Warrior wears heavy armor and the Inquisitor is more of a glass canon.

The article then mentions the typical MMO (trinity) roles:
"It's important for players to fulfil different roles, so thatwhen you go into combat you feel that you're an important part of that combat, not just a fifth wheel. We do have the classic roles in there but we didn't want to define the classes as those roles from the very start. We wanted to let the player play their Star Wars fantasy, to let them play Luke Skywalker as a Jedi Knight, then once they get to the kind of levels where they're grouping in the tank/DPS manner, that's when they start thinking about career choices."
Finally it goes on to companions, how every class has them and how the ones you've unlocked are kept in "a holding system" that BioWare isn't talking about yet, but which the article speculates (and I agree) is probably some kind of Ebon Hawk-type hub. It notes how companions are there to comment on stories and quests and how they have a role in combat. Basically if you want a tank then you take the tank companion, etc.

It also mentions a couple of examples, like "The Sith Warrior has a Twi-lek and she's more of a roguish, smuggler-type character" (should sound very familiar to anyone who's seen the cinematic trailer). And the Sith Inquisitor "might want to pick the Dashade, which is a big, demonic, seven-foot tall creature that's really dangerous and immune to a lot of Force powers while being good at taking damage". And it mentions that a Darth Maul-type player might want to take another Darth Maul character to do as much damage as possible because in a group "your job is DPS".

Which brings me to a thought. I'llg et to the class sidebars in a moment, but those list the article's take on the class roles. But considering the above as well as the class role talks a little more up I suspect that each class actually has two roles with your one depending on your specialization choice. For the Sith Inquisitor this would be either ranged support (the Palpatine type) or melee damage (the Darth Maul type). This would explain to me why it seems articles (as well as people in the forums) have such a hard time grasping the purpose of the classes. As such one could argue that SW:TOR has sixteen classes (for mechanics purposes) instead of eight and I can fully see group requests asking for a specific specialization instead of just a class in general (like asking for the healer Jedi Consular specifically). Anyway.

The article closes with how it feels that SW:TOR has the best chance of becoming a mega-MMO (liek WoW) of all the MMOs they've seen over the years because it seems to have all the right ingredients in place: a very popular IP, backign of a huge publisher, created by the leading RPG developer, and the resources and experience of experienced MMO developer Mythic.

Next to the main article it also has a very brief (three-question) interview sidebar with James Ohlen and sidebars describing all eight classes. The interview asks whether a Smuggler or Trooper can really go head-to-head with a Force-sensitive character. James Ohlen assure that this has been something that they kept in mind from the start:
Liek a Trooper isn't just a guy in armour, he's a guy in ridiculously huge armour with giant guns who can call on air strikes and has thermal detonators... he's basically a walking tank. So he's able to take on a Jedi. He has to keep them at range though; Jedi are the ultimate close-combat fighters, so none of the other classes can survive against a Jedi or Sith within lightsabre range.
Interesting how he keeps "Jedi" and "Sith" in general terms (instead of saying "Jedi Knight"). Though pet classes are my favorite type of class (and one which SW:TOR doesn't have; part of why I'm so upset with the last two classes) after that is the melee healer type. And I'm starting to wonder if you could play a Consular in that manner.

Anyway, James goes on to call up the Obi-Wan versus Jango Fett battle again, nothing that Jango could hold his own because he and Obi-Wan are both about level twenty characters. But then when Jango runs into Mace Windu that the latter is "obviously at the fiftieth level because they fight and Mace cuts his head off and it's over instantly". Sneaky confirmation of the game having a level 50?

Next the article asks whether James sees SW:TOR as a WoW killer. But James doesn't look at it that way. He says that they're not competing with WoW but instead try to build their own niche. He hopes that SW:TOR will offer things that appeal to different people ("or the same people for different reasons"). He feels WoW and SWTOR can exist in the same time.
It would be great if it becomes as successful as Warcraft, but we're not planning for it, we just need to get close to its success -- and that's still huge.
Then the article asks whether this is a new MMO are for BioWare, to which James answers that it SWTOR is successful that they want to stay in the MMO market.

Lastly the article has sidebars with all the classes, Smuggler, Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular and Trooper for the Galactic Republic and Bounty Hunter, Sith Warrior, Sith Inquisitor and Imperial Agent for the Sith Empire. It calls the Smuggler "the most charismatic and manipulative", using stealth and distraction. it also mentions that at later levels a Smuggler can get "a long-range sniper ability" as well as smooth-talking abilities for favorable dialog options.

The Jedi Knight is said to don "suits of heavy armour" and prefer lightsabre combat, using the Force for defense (both for themselves and their group) and short-range pushes and AoE stun tactics. For the Jedi Consular it says the following:
The role of a Jedi Consular within a larger group is to maintain the health of other classes and to apply the occasional buff. They're equipped with ranged and melee Force attacks for solo play, but once you have the option to specialise, the Jedi Consulars can focus more on their passive Force abilities or move to building upon Force stun and telekinetic powers to deliver damage and to support melee DPS and tank classes with mez effects.
For the Trooper it noted that they use the latest weapons and technologies, battle armour designed to withstand heavy assault, blaster rifles and detonators. And that they "have the ability to call in air strikes to blanket-bomb mobs".

On the Empire side it starts with the Bounty Hunter and how they're criminals and just tolerated because they get the job done. It mentions that they use "illegal and lethal stolen weaponry", that they have various tricks, are a versatile class and "one of the few that can tackle a Jedi in melee".

The Sith Warrior uses rage, hatred and fear, relies heavily on lightsabre assault and paralysing Force powers. They wear heavy armor and "is more than willing to risk experimental technologies and even augmentation to advance his own prowess". For the Sith Inquisitor it says the following:
Sith Inquisitors prefer attacking at range but, unlike its fantasy equivalent, they aren't shy about the front line. They are happy to tavkle multiple enemies in melee with a combination of lightsabre and debilitating Force abilities. Once the career path option opens op, you can move into a Darth Maul-type character with a lightsabre staff, plying your trade as a lightly armoured but extremely acrobatic warrior. Alternatively the Sith Inquisitor can remain at a distance, focusing on the ever-deadlier DPS Force lightning abilities.
The Imperial Agent is compared strongly to the Smuggler, calling it Lawful Evil to the Smuggler's Chaotic Good. it's said to use stealth tactics similar to the Smuggler and have "a lethal equivalent of a backstab strike". The class is said to have even less honour than the typical Sith and stoop to nefarious means.

The article also has a number of screenshots, mostly showing the new Jedi Consular and Sith Inquisitor classes. Next to the concept art on the cover (as show above), which I'm guessting is a Jedi Consular considering the green lightsabre, it shows a screenshot of a Sith Inquisitor with a double-bladed lightsabre shooting purple lightning at an enemy from a distance. It has another shot of a lightsabre-less Inquisitor doing the same to a Trooper, with a comment saying "Heavy armour and high Force resistance characterise the Republic Trooper".

A couple of small screenshots I've got trouble making out (since they're small and partly across the middle), but there seems to be a Jedi fighting some big, red, bipedal creature, another shot of a Jedi facing the camera, what looks to be a Smuggler or Agent shooting a rifle, and a Jedi/Sith Force-pushing some kind of droid.

larger shots on the final two pages include four characters around a shuttle including a bald, black guy and what looks to be a Jedi Knight as he's wearing armor and brown Jedi robes (with the hood up) over that. THere's a small image of a double-bladed sabre wielding Inquisitor facing off against a Trooper. An imagine of a Consular with one sabre doing some Force thingy (yellow sparks at her hands) before three droids. Another of a Consular in a stance ready with her lightsabre (the lightsabre hilt in this image looks rather huge to me; I've seen tree trunks that are smaller). And finally an image of an Inquisitor indoors holding up both hands with purple lightning jumping between them.

And that's it. I don't know the publication much at all so no idea how good they usually are. I also have no idea if they have a tendency to post their articles online after a period of time as well (like some other print magazines tend to do), though they do have their own website as well as seen to be associated with the NowGamer gaming website. So who knows. For now you'll have to do with the description I gave above, which I think should include all the more important details.

Friday, 27 November 2009

The Legacy of Alderaan

This Friday BioWare reveals the planet Alderaan:
Ever wonder what happened on Alderaan before the Death Star reduced it to an asteroid field? Now you can see it for yourself! We are excited to announce Alderaan – a planet famed for its natural beauty – as the next playable planet in The Old Republic™! For thousands of years this planet has been a shining example of peace and diplomacy, but now a bloody civil war threatens the legacy, and the very future of Alderaan.

Access the HoloNet records to research the history of Alderaan, and find out about the civil war consuming the planet!

Be sure to check out the Media section for never-before-seen screenshots, concept art, and wallpapers of this beautiful planet of snow-capped mountains and lush green forests!
New screenshots and concept art on the holonet page, and there's a new wallpaper:

On a side-note, I still haven't decided whether to stop with the blog or not. At this point I'm asking myself whether I really contribute anything to the swtor community. There are better news blogs out there (like Darth Hater), which leaves me with wondering if the original purpose for starting this blog (keeping track of the news for myself) still applies.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Rumor: Last Two Classes Revealed

It seems that German magazine PC Gamer has already been released and includes the last two classes. Considering that the classes coincide with the rumors that have been flying the last week or so (apparently they were revealed to the press at the same time as the Imperial Agent and some people claimed to have been at the press event) and how authentic the scans look it's likely true.

According to the articles (and other rumors) the last two classes are: Jedi Consular and Sith Inquisitor.

Yes, that means another Jedi and Sith class, which makes absolutely no sense (and means that there's no class based on Leia/Padmé either). Deeply, deeply disappointing and I must say that my anticipation for this game, my desire to play it, has dropped well below zero.

Have fun reading the tragedy from the scans (if you read German) while I consider whether I want to continue with this blog or not (after this is made official).

Jedi Consular
Sith Inquisitor


[UPDATE] Rumor is not a rumor anymore. <sigh>

Friday, 20 November 2009

Threat of Peace, Issue #20

Todays update seems to be just a Threat of Peace comic. Here's the official news:

The twentieth issue of Threat of Peace™ catches Lord Angral aboard his battle cruiser. After receiving a tip from his criminal partner, Angral turns back to Korriban to confront the traitorous Lord Baras. At the same time, Jedi Master Orgus Din surprises the Bounty Hunter Braden in a Nar Shaddaa cantina and demands to know who was responsible for the attack on Coruscant.

Check out the latest issue of Threat of Peace now.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

James Ohlen on Endgame

It seems that IncGamers is preparing a (video) interview with James Ohlen, giving us a sneak preview by showing his statements regarding the endgame of Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Here's the text of their article:

BioWare has confirmed that Star Wars: The Old Republic's focus on story will not interfere with its plans for the endgame.

Speaking to IncGamers, BioWare's James Ohlen said that the developer will have no problems enticing players back for more once they reach the max level.

"Obviously the endgame of our game is very important and something we've put a lot of thought into, but at the end of the day, there's a lot of different ways to do endgames," said Ohlen.

"I can't go into detail on how we're doing it, or if we're doing those things [battlegrounds, endgame raids] or in what form they're going to be coming, because we're still working on that and developing it, but in no way does us focusing on story in any way challenge us in that area."

Star Wars: The Old Republic

He added that the fact that each class in The Old Republic has its own story will add to the game's replayability factor.

"Just to give one example, if you were to play a Jedi Knight on the Republic side, and then if you were going to play the Bounty Hunter on the Imperial side, it's actually like two different games," he said.

"None of the story content, none of the combat - none of it's shared. So you essentially have just played two different MMOs."

"You're going to have a really epic, awesome ending when you finish your class story arc in this game, but that doesn't mean that your character can't continue," he explained.

Look out for our full video interview coming soon, and you can read our preview right here.

Interestingly enough it looks like their preview linked at the end doesn't actually work. Ah well, they should have the interview up soon enough I'd guess.

[link] to James Ohlen's statements on endgame at IncGamers.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Imperial Agent Demo Walkthrough

Blame Dragon Age: Origins for me neglecting to post this earlier, but over at Darth Hater they posted a walkthrough of a demo they got a few days ago. Members of the Darth Hater staff were flown over to get a personal demonstration of the new Imperial Agent class and in the article they describe their findings.

Here's an excerpt:
Daniel Erickson, lead writer and the man behind the machine for this demo, explained that the Imperial Agent is designed to approach combat situations intelligently, setting up a plan of attack and then executing on that plan, as opposed to just going in guns a-blazing. His first example of this approach was an “Exploding Probe” that the Agent could send out from behind cover. This probe moved to the target and began hovering, with the mob completely oblivious to its existence. The Agent then shot the target and, at the first tick of damage, the probe also exploded causing a cascade of damage that killed the enemy.
There's quite some nice insights in there.

Additionally their latest podcast includes the audio version of the interview with Jake Neri that I pointed out before. In between segments of the interview they comment on what was said as well as what they saw in the demonstration they got.

Thanks to the Darth Hater team for giving us all those details.

[link] to demo walkthrough at Darth Hater.
[link] to podcast at Darth Hater.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Imperial Agent Class Reveal

As predicted today they officially "reveal" the Imperial Agent class (meaning that it gets its Holonet page). Here's the official news:
Outfitted in the smartest, sleekest, high-tech gear, the Imperial Agent always has the right tools at the right time. Using their abilities of subversion and subterfuge, these covert operatives infiltrate and assassinate enemies of the Empire with deadly efficiency.

Access the HoloNet to read the intelligence reports on the Imperial Agent, view videos, screenshots, and concepts. Pledge your allegiance to the Sith Empire by outfitting your desktop with our Imperial Agent wallpapers.
And here's an excerpt from the HoloNet page:
The most elite operative within Imperial Intelligence is the ‘Cipher’ Agent—recruited and trained to carry out the most dangerous and sensitive assignments the Empire has to offer. Whether working undercover or carrying out assignments in broad daylight, the Cipher races along the razor’s edge of disaster, using carefully orchestrated tactics that leave little room for error—the smallest slip-up can be catastrophic. Each successful mission, however, shifts the galactic landscape in the Empire’s favor, and the Agent plays a supremely critical role in securing Imperial domination.
Sounds like players are going to be part of 'Cipher'.

Also, don't forget the new wallpapers (though they don't really do it for me):


From the gameplay videos that does indeed look very much like the Smuggler gameplay. Gotta love that airstrike though.

Darth Hater Interviews Jake Neri

Darth Hater have an interview with Jake Neri, Producer at LucasArts for Star Wars: The Old Republic about the Imperial Agent class. It's quite interesting, talking a bit more about how the class plays, using cover and gadgets and such. Here's an excerpt:
Dover: One interesting thing that I’m sure everyone who is listening to this is really sinking their teeth in that you mentioned earlier was the fact that the Imperial Agent can go stealth. Stealth has always been a difficult concept for some MMOers to handle, but it seems you taking it with the “Stealth Belt” you guys called it?

Jake Neri: Yeah, there is a lot of lore and fiction in Star Wars about the “Stealth Belt” mechanics and things like that. We are looking to grab from there. That is one of the things about working with Star Wars, most every permutation of everything related to any combat, sneaking, or fighting, war, battles, or anything, it’s there for us to draw upon, and that’s just a perfect example of that. It’s not necessarily something you have to go buy, or get, but something as a class you have inherently. It’s one of your abilities. And we fictionalize it through the fact that you have a belt.
Sounds like an interesting class; I've always had a thing for sneaking around and such.

There should be a Holonet page up for the class later today.

Alright, back to Dragon Age for me right now.

[link] to interview with Jake Neri at Darth Hater.

Friday, 6 November 2009

BioWare Blog: Writing the Jedi Knight

Alright, so it seems that I can't predict worth a damn. Last week I predicted that we'd get the next class reveal sometime around Christmas. And though technically not a reveal (no holonet entry yet), today we get to know the sixth class. But I'll get to that in a moment.

First of all we have another Threat of Peace comic; the nineteenth issue and the start of the third chapter (and here I didn't even realize that the previous chapter had finished). Here’s the official news:
The nineteenth issue of Threat of Peace™ marks the start of the third chapter in the story, beginning with the Bounty Hunter Braden returning from his visit to Coruscant. Reporting in, Braden gets further orders from Nok Drayen, and an insightful question. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Tavus meets Jedi Knight Fortris Gall in the ruins of the Jedi Enclave on Dantooine. The truth about the recent attacks begins to unfold.

Fans of the series will be pleased to know that the Star Wars: The Old Republic: Threat of Peace webcomic will be published as a graphic novel by Dark Horse Comics in Spring of 2010. The book will comprise all issues of Threat of Peace as well as all new, previously unreleased content.

Additional materials will include all-new cover art and previously unseen sketches from the comic as well as concept art from the Star Wars: The Old Republic video game. Liner notes will provide new insight on the characters and storylines in the comic and how they relate to what players will experience in the game.

Star Wars: The Old Republic: Threat of Peace will be available at comic shops and bookstores in early May 2010. We’ll have more information about the publication early next year.

Check out the latest issue of Threat of Peace now.
The main update this Friday however is another BioWare blog entry, this one by Drew Karpyshyn (writer of the Darth Bane novels). It seems that Drew has been redeemed, leaving the darkside behind as he's working on the Jedi Knight class. Though he still seems to struggle with all those tempting darkside choices. Here's an excerpt:
Let’s start this blog off with an introduction. My name is Drew Karpyshyn. I was the lead writer on the original Star Wars™: Knights of the Old Republic™ game, as well as the author of several Star Wars™ novels. And I’m here to tell you about the Jedi Knight character class.

Now, anyone who’s familiar with my novels Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, Darth Bane: Rule of Two and the upcoming Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil might be surprised to hear I’m working on the Jedi Knight class. But I was excited to step away from the dark side so I could embrace the challenge of writing the “good guy”. (Or “girl,” of course.)
The blog makes me feel a lot better about the Jedi Knight class than the GameSpot Q&A does actually. All those moral choices that Drew talks about should make for a very delicious class (where the Q&A painted the Jedi Knight more as a "Sith Warrior in a different color robe"). The only real drawback tend to be that in the morally black-and-white Star Wars universe such moral choices are always incredibly obvious. Even with Drew's examples I'm scratching my head trying to figure out where the dilemma is.


I thought that that was it, a nice blog entry and the fortnightly comic. That's about in line with the usual Friday updates. But then I got a second email from Sean noting this little gem:
And the next class reveal is…

For those of you who may have attended or read reviews from the Electronic Arts European Press Tour that happened earlier this week, you already know the answer to this. It’s the Imperial Agent!

The Imperial Agent is heavily inspired by several classic Star Wars characters such as Zam Wessel and Grand Moff Tarkin. Imperial Agents work behind the scenes to get the work of the Empire done. Specializing in high-tech gear, the Imperial Agent always has the right tools at the right time. They use abilities of subversion and subterfuge to infiltrate and assassinate enemies of the Sith Empire with deadly efficiency. Players who choose to be Imperial Agents in The Old Republic (TOR) will see the underbelly of the Empire in a whole new light.

Stay tuned for the Imperial Agent’s HoloNet update next week. In the meanwhile, join the speculation on the Imperial Agent’s class forums!

UPDATE: IncGamer has some screenshots up, too:

... as well as our very own Darth Hater:

So the next class is the Imperial Agent. Very nice to have that bit of persistent speculation finally confirmed. Though I must say that I'm a tad surprised that this class is the Grand Moff Tarkin archetype as that leaves me utterly confused about the fourth class (ok, not 'utterly', I can still see something like a Trade Federation Viceroy type class, commanding battle droids).

And as said, IncGamer has a bunch of screenshots as well:

Looks like a nasty class; I wonder if high-level players will get a Death Star to blow up Alderaans with. :p

With the Imperial Agent now confirmed I'll risk making another prediction: we'll see the official reveal next Friday. ;)

Though I guess that I'll be neck-deep in Dragon Age next week, I'll still do my best to post an update.