Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Pirate Bay Purchased

In breaking news, (completely unrelated to Star Wars: The Old Republic as it's at least one thing that it won't have to worry about) it seems that popular torrent sharing site The Pirate Bay, which has been the target of much controversy and legal action and yet remained standing to provide people with torrents for often illegal file sharing, has been sold for $7.8M. And it seems that the new owners want to go legit. Here is (part of) the official press release:
STOCKHOLM, Jun 30, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- The listed software company, Global Gaming Factory X AB (publ) (GGF) acquires The Pirate Bay website, http://www.thepiratebay.org, one of the 100 most visited websites in the world and the technology company Peerialism, that has developed next generation file-sharing technology. Following the completion of the acquisitions, GGF intends to launch new business models that allow compensation to the content providers and copyright owners. The responsibility for, and operation of the site will be taken over by GGF in connection with closing of the transaction, which is scheduled for August 2009.

"We would like to introduce models which entail that content providers and copyright owners get paid for content that is downloaded via the site, " said Hans Pandeya, CEO GGF.

"The Pirate Bay is a site that is among the top 100 most visited Internet sites in the world. However, in order to live on, The Pirate Bay requires a new business model, which satisfies the requirements and needs of all parties, content providers, broadband operators, end users, and the judiciary. Content creators and providers need to control their content and get paid for it. File sharers 'need faster downloads and better quality, " continues Hans Pandeya.
It is interesting to note here that the press release talks about "content that is downloaded via the site", which is something the previous The Pirate Bay owners have always contended the site doesn't provide (they provide files, namely the torrents, that tell you where to find the content and not the content itself). This could either mean that they're planning to start hosting content (perhaps through The Video Bay, a YouTube-like service they launched earlier this week), or perhaps that whoever wrote the press release doesn't agree with the contention of the old The Pirate Bay crew.

Regardless, The Pirate Bay itself has the following message on their site:
TPB might change owner

Yes, it's true.

News reached the press today in Sweden - The Pirate Bay might get aquired by Global Gaming Factory X AB.

A lot of people are worried. We're not and you shouldn't be either!

TPB is being sold for a great bit underneath it's value if the money would be the interesting part. It's not. The interesting thing is that the right people with the right attitude and possibilities keep running the site.

As all of you know, there's not been much news on the site for the past two-three years. It's the same site essentially. On the internets, stuff dies if it doesn't evolve. We don't want that to happen.

We've been working on this project for many years. It's time to invite more people into the project, in a way that is secure and safe for everybody. We need that, or the site will die. And letting TPB die is the last thing that is allowed to happen!

If the new owners will screw around with the site, nobody will keep using it. That's the biggest insurance one can have that the site will be run in the way that we all want to. And - you can now not only share files but shares with people. Everybody can indeed be the owner of The Pirate Bay now. That's awesome and will take the heat of us.

The old crew is still around in different ways. We will also not stop being active in the politics of the internets - quite the opposite. Now we're fueling up for going into the next gear. TPB will have economical muscles to let people evolve it. It will team up with great technicians to evolve the protocols. And we, the people interested in more than just technology, will have the time to focus on that. It's win-win-win.

The profits from the sale will go into a foundation that is going to help with projects about freedom of speech, freedom of information and the openess of the nets. I hope everybody will help out in that and realize that this is the best option for all. Don't worry - be happy!
I know that they call for visitors of their site to be positive, though I expect that might be part of the agreement as otherwise they'd devalue the property just after they sold it (which can't be legal). I just can't help thinking of Napster with that, which has a popular music sharing program which ran afoul of legal shenanigans and was forced to go legit, upon which everyone stopped using the once extremely popular service.

Interesting development at least, I wonder where this goes and what'll happen next. If anything, The Pirate Bay does seem to make for interesting stories.

Thanks to Kotaku, VG247 and Voodoo Extreme for originally reporting the news.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Star Wars Galaxies is Six

"Before there was Star Wars: The Old Republic or even World of Warcraft, there was Star Wars Galaxies."

Though I think most people would put Everquest or Ultima Online in that last spot, this is about that other Star Wars MMO. Because apparently Star Wars Galaxies turned six last Friday. And for the occasion Massively has an interview with lead producer Chris Field, talking about SWG's past and future. Here's an excerpt:
How long will SOE continue to support SWG?

SOE and LucasArts have continually pledged our commitment to SWG. Our two big announcements for the year coming at SOE Fan Faire will further reinforce our commitment to SWG going forward.

I have to ask, what do you think BioWare's The Old Republic means for SWG? Is there room for two Star Wars MMOs?

Questions regarding The Old Republic should be directed to our partner, LucasArts.
It's interesting, because it almost seems like these two answers are contradictory. To begin with he's actually wrong; he wasn't asked about The Old Republic directly, but what effect they feel it will have on Star Wars Galaxies. And thus, not even wanting to comment, just gives me a vibe that he feels in his bones that Star Wars Galaxies is on its last legs, otherwise I would have expected something like "there is room for two Star Wars games", maybe with some "they're two very separate games with a different target audience" or whatever.

And it's not unheard of that a game would even add new content while they know it's going to be canceled; I'm fairly certain Tabula Rasa did something like that. Not that I really expect that in Star Wars Galaxies' case; I would expect Star Wars Galaxies to continue for another year or two after The Old Republic launches, during which time I expect it to slowly bleed dry as most people looking for a Star Wars MMO are much more likely to look at the new kid on the block.

But as long as there are still people paying for it...

Anyway, normally I wouldn't really report on Star Wars Galaxies, but I thought with it being around for six years and with people obviously wondering whether LucasArts will drop Star Wars Galaxies in favor of The Old Republic that this might be a decent read.

Friday, 26 June 2009

TOR @ Comic-Con!

Friday comes early today; I haven't even left work yet. Perhaps that's because there isn't all that much there; more like an extended Fan Friday.

The main body of today's news is, as the title indicates, about them showing Star Wars: The Old Republic at this year's Comic-Con and what they'll be doing there. Here is the official news:
The Old Republic Panel
Can’t get enough of Star Wars™: The Old Republic™? Join the TOR Development Team at the Comic-Con International panel “Behind the Scenes - The Making of Star Wars: The Old Republic” on Friday, July 24th at 1:00-2:00PM. Head over to Room 7AB where Jake Neri (Producer, LucasArts) will speak with Hall Hood (Senior Writer, BioWare), Alexander Freed (Managing Editor, BioWare), Dallas Dickinson (Senior Content Producer, BioWare), and Jeff Dobson (Art Director, BioWare) about creating Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Limited Edition Threat of Peace™ Mini-Comic Giveaway
Thursday through Saturday, the Threat of Peace™ webcomic writer Rob Chestney, and artist Alex Sanchez will be joining the crews at Lucasfilm (Booth #2913) and Dark Horse Comics (Booth #2615) to give away copies of the Threat of Peace mini-comic. Stop by and get your own signed copy!

“Deceived” Cinematic Trailer
We’ll also be showing the award-winning “Deceived” cinematic trailer at the Lucasfilm booth on Saturday and Sunday at 11am, 1pm, 3pm, and 5pm. Stop on by and check out the trailer on the big screen!

The Star Wars Spectacular
Join special guest hosts -- G4’s Olivia Munn and Kevin Pereira -- and get all the latest news from the Star Wars universe in an all-new show format. Be sure to look out for The Old Republic at this special event on Friday, July 24 from 5:15PM-6:15PM in Hall H.
Unfortunately I'm out of the country that weekend, but I'll report all that there is to report as soon as I come back.

For the rest today's update is community highlights and a couple of new official polls (can find them through the link I posted above). But hidden between them is a new wallpaper as well. This one is based on the Deceived cinematic trailer they released during E3:

And that's pretty much it. Will keep you updated when there's more to report. And have a good weekend.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Michael Jackson is Dead

I was just about to head to bed when I came across this news. Today the once King of Pop, Michael Jackson, has passed away. L.A. Times reports:
[Updated at 3:15 p.m.: Pop star Michael Jackson was pronounced dead by doctors this afternoon after arriving at a hospital in a deep coma, city and law enforcement sources told The Times.]
It seems that he was found not breathing in his house and was rushed to hospital, where he slipped into a coma and then died.

Now I know that he's had a lot of negative press over the last (two) decade(s) or so, whether deserved or not. And I didn't really care much for him anymore. But in my youth he was the King of Pop and my number one favorite musician. I listened to all his records and loved his music. "Thriller", "Billy Jean", "Beat It", "Bad", "Smooth Criminal"... I've just been looking through his singles discography again and it just brings back so many memories.

And I have to admit that I was rather curious as to what his comeback would do, whether he'd bring us more new music on-par with his old work. Unfortunately that will never happen.

My condolences to his family and my thanks to Michael for giving us so much wonderful music, regardless of what happened after.

Blogroll Added

Very small bit of site-related news. I added a Blogroll to the right (below the Blog Archive). There's not much in it except for the Overly Positive blog. Don't follow too many blogs myself so the list is likely to remain short.

But if anyone else has a blog that they feel might be interesting to the readers of this one (and me :p) then let me know and we can blogroll each other.

Oh my, now a blogroll and everyone. I'm almost becoming like a real blogger. ;)

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

BioWare and Mythic Form New RPG/MMO Group

Some interesting news today. It seems that EA is taking BioWare and Mythic all under the same umbrella of a "RPG/MMO Group" with BioWare's co-founder Ray Muzyka leading the entire group (and thus placing Mythic under BioWare's leadership).

With this also comes the news that Mark Jacobs, current General Manager of Mythic, will leave EA (or,in fact, has already left). He will be replaced by Rob Denton from Mythic and will report to Ray. On the BioWare side of things everything pretty much stays as it is (just with Ray and Greg, who will become Group Creative Officer for the new group, both getting more responsibility).

Here is the official news from both the BioWare site and the Mythic site:
Today we have important news to share with the community. EA is restructuring its RPG and MMO games development into a new group that includes both Mythic and BioWare. This newly formed team will be led by Ray Muzyka, co-founder and General Manager of BioWare. With this change, Ray becomes Group General Manager of the new RPG/MMO studio group. BioWare’s other co-founder, Greg Zeschuk will become Group Creative Officer for the new RPG/MMO studio group. Rob Denton will step up as General Manager of Mythic and report to Ray. BioWare’s studios remain unchanged and continue to report to Ray.

Mark Jacobs, current General Manager of Mythic will leave EA on June 23, 2009. We thank Mark for his contributions at Mythic and wish him the very best going forward. Mark played a major part in the success of Mythic with his contribution as General Manager and Lead Designer of WAR.

Mythic retains a strong team led by Rob who co-founded Mythic in 1995. Rob played a critical role in the development of Dark Age of Camelot. In his previous role as COO, he was responsible for all day-to-day management of the studio including all development, operations and support.

Please join us in celebrating the union of these two award-winning studios.
Of course we can only speculate what this means for Star Wars: The Old Republic. According to the news business will continue as usual. But with Mythic having experience launching and running several MMOs (Dark Age of Camelot and Warhammer: Age of Reckoning in particular) it wouldn't surprise me if the SWTOR team and Mythic would work a bit closer together now to ensure things go smoothly for BioWare's first MMO.

Either way though I wish them all the best of luck with this new group and I wish Mark Jacobs the best in whatever he decides to do next as well.


Over on the Warhammer forums one of the Mythic devs had the following added clarification:
For clarity:

Mythic is not "merging" with Bioware.

Mythic and Bioware remain independent EA studios within a larger MMO/RPG group.

So to be clear, Mythic and BioWare are not merging. Mythic is now just under BioWare control.


Just had to share this little gem from The Escapist user comments to this news:
In other news, EA plans to acquire Blizzard and Bethesda to further their goal of forming RPG Voltron.

Master Vandar Confirmed for The Old Republic

Master Vandar, the Yoda-like Jedi Master from Knights of the Old Republic, has been said to return in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Here is the news as Gamervision reports it:
You might not know the name Tom Kane, but you've certainly heard his voice before. His work has was in the Up trailer, he was the announcer for the Academy Awards, and even fills in as a Morgan Freeman impersonator for "Robot Chicken" from time to time. Gamers more likely know him for his work as Master Vandar Tokare from Knights of the Old Republic. Vandar, for those who don't know, is the only other creature (worth mentioning) in Yoda's species ever in Star Wars cannon. At a panel at Wizard World Philly, Tom confirmed that he would be doing a number of voices for BioWare and Lucasarts' upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic.

"We actually couldn't remember how Vandar sounded," he said during the Star Wars panel. "No one in the room had any clips and we didn't have a copy of the game. I still don't know if we got it right." Kane has been voicing several characters in the Star Wars Clone Wars cartoons including Yoda, and has been tapped to bring over his talents to BioWare's fully voice-acted game. Besides Vandar, he will be voicing other characters as well, but didn't reveal any of them. It was already known that BioWare would be using a full cast of voices, but it's good to see that they aren't trying to do it on the cheap, and are reusuing some fan favorites from over the years. I wonder if any other Star Wars actors will reprise their roles in the game, or if Tom Kane's talented larynx will simply replace them all.
There has been some speculation on how this works with the continuity of the KotOR games. After all, for darkside players Vandar was killed at the end of KotOR 1 and even if he survived he was reported killed (along with a lot of other Jedi) in KotOR 2 due to Darth Nihilus.

Personally I fear that BioWare might be going with the canon lightside ending of KotOR (which would also mean Revan is male, which is something I would absolutely detest), but perhaps they'll write it such that no matter what supposed death you got he somehow survived it all. Or perhaps it's just a holo recording that we'll hear and not the actual presence of the character itself.

Either way though, it's nice to know that Master Vandar will be back. I quite liked the character.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Game Critics Award and Blur Interview

Two bits of unrelated news, except that one probably contributed to the other.

First of all in our E3 2009 Wrap-Up we listed that SW:TOR was nominated in three categories of the Game Critics Awards. The Game Critics Awards are E3 awards voted on by 29 major game publications and are generally considered "the definitive list of what really stole the show at E3" (as Kotaku puts it).

Here's an image showing all the judges:

Now the results of those awards are in and Star Wars: The Old Republic won Best PC Game (out of the three nominations it got, losing to Mass Effect 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 in its other two categories). Click the image above to go to the list of all winners. Congratulations to BioWare and LucasArts.

The other bit of news is that IGN has a video interview with Blur regarding the creation of the Star Wars: The Old Republic trailer we were shown at E3 (and which I still consider the best cinematic trailer for a computer game I've ever seen). Let me try and embed the video below:

Not really any information about the game or even much about the video itself, more talking about what things Blur does and how they enjoyed working on the video and hearing the praises. But decent regardless.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Threat of E3 Highlights

Friday once more and two updates. First is issue nine of the Threat of Peace comic and, apparently, this one concludes the first chapter. I really need to read the whole thing from start to finish again because I still have no idea what's going on. Anyway, here's the official news:
The ninth issue of Threat of Peace™ concludes the first chapter in a dramatic fashion when a battle breaks out between Republic and Imperial starships crossing paths in transit. Jedi Master Dar’Nala is captured by the Imperials, and Satele Shan is marooned in an escape pod with Imperial protocol droid SP-99 and only a small hope of ever being rescued.

Check out the latest issue of Threat of Peace now.
The second bit of news is the E3 Highlights we expected last week but didn't get.

Here is the main text:

Star Wars: The Old Republic (TOR) kicked off at E3 with the help of the local 501st Legion. Championed by costumed Jedi and Sith from the Old Republic era, Dr. Ray Muzyka, Co-Founder and General Manager/CEO of BioWare and General Manager/Vice President of Electronic Arts Inc., and Darrell Rodriguez, President of LucasArts, revealed the first TOR cinematic trailer, “Deceived”, at the 2009 EA Press conference.

At the TOR booth, the team took E3ers through the first live demo featuring a closer look at the game’s newly revealed class, the Smuggler, as well as the combat, flashpoint, cover, and multiplayer dialogue systems.

Highlighted features from the demo:
  • TOR will be the first fully voiced MMO – Every playable character (male and female) and every non-playable character in the game will be brought to life by voice actors - resulting in several thousand speaking roles and hundreds of thousands of recorded lines of dialogue! This gives players a compelling and immersive story telling experience.
  • Choice matters – Story drives choice, and choice drives action. Critical choices impact the outcome of your story dramatically. In the demo of an Imperial Flashpoint, attendees had to decide whether to kill an Imperial Captain who disobeyed a direct order, or to spare the Captain’s life. Depending on the choice, the TOR demo went in two different directions, each group seeing unique areas and content. Explore the press write ups below to find out what each path was like.
  • Meet the Smuggler – Blast, bargain, and charm your way through the war-torn planet of Ord Mantell. Inspired by Han Solo, the Smuggler can unleash a flurry of bolts from his blaster or dodge a patrolling group of Separatist soldiers all while hijacking enemy contraband.
  • Cover System - The first cover system of this type in an MMO! The demo team showed off the cover system for the Smuggler. Gain a tactical advantage by taking cover behind various objects (trees, rocks, buildings, etc.). When in cover, characters can switch to other cover points and also have access to special abilities.
  • Unique class stories – Each class story is exclusive and storylines are also specific to each allegiance. For example: the storyline for a Smuggler (a Republic Class) is 100% different from the Bounty Hunter story (a Sith Empire class). You won’t share any content or missions.
  • Multiplayer dialogue system – Another MMO first! E3ers got a preview at a new multiplayer dialogue system that allows players to engage in the storyline choices together. This creates a highly interactive and immersive gaming experience.
  • Additional TOR features - The TOR team would like fans to know that Star Wars: The Old Republic is a massively multiplayer online game with all the features that players can expect from a MMO.
The Development Teams at BioWare and LucasArts would like to thank the press, fans and community for all of their support. We plan to have even more new and exciting updates for you as we progress on our journey of creating Star Wars: The Old Republic.
I've left out their selection of links and awards, because you can find those (and more; every single SWTOR E3 2009 link I've seen) in a previous blog post I made. I've been keeping that list updated since E3 started and am still keeping it up-to-date. Though I think that starting now if I find any new links I'll also post a news item for them (E3 concluded over two weeks ago after all).

I also included four article links from BioWare's post that I didn't have yet (including an MTV one that seems to be a broken video and a Time one that doesn't have much of anything) and added a number of awards I didn't have yet. Though I left out the German and French awards because, one, I couldn't find them and, two, even if I could I couldn't understand them anyway. I provided links to all the awards as well since I think it's disingenuous to claim you've won something and then not show where. As such I found that a couple of the ones BioWare listed were really no more than a few individuals' personal picks and I'm sure I know a couple of thousand more people who'd vote for SWTOR.

For the rest I also changed the sorting a bit. I now made all the links on the site name and sorted the lists by site (with the exception of the Start of E3 bit).

As for the highlights themselves there's nothing there that we didn't already know. But that makes sense considering how close we've followed E3 already. I do worry about the "Multiplayer dialogue system" though. Maybe I'll rant about it in detail sometime later, but I fear that it could be a real disincentive to grouping. Why group if that means risking your story will take a turn you're not happy with, or you get alignment points you don't want? With how choices can't be undone that could become a real problem. But we'll see as they release more information on it.

Despite all this writing I did here, the update itself was rather lukewarm this week. I guess that's what you get when they show you things you've already seen from other places.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Smuggler Class Reveal

The Smuggler shipment has arrived!

We knew that it was coming, but even so it is nice that now it is here: the official reveal of the Smuggler class. The official news post has this to say:
Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ reveals the next playable class, the street savvy, credit seeking Smuggler.

Making a profit from the desperate needs of a war-torn galaxy is how the Smuggler earns his credits. Transporting contraband, stolen goods, and highly sought-after fugitives through treacherous trade routes is in high demand, and more and more Smugglers are taking advantage of this opportunity.

Any self-respecting Smuggler must be able to shoot or charm his way out of the most complex predicaments. They must be incredibly quick-witted, able to bargain with the underbelly of society, and most importantly, they must be able to deliver… their lives depend on it.

Find out more about the Smuggler and download the latest Smuggler wallpapers.
Quite nice. Stealth, trickery, cover, crack shot, lots of luck, flying by the seat of their pants; it's all there. And of the ability videos I particularly like the middle one of the smuggler quickly rolling into cover and shooting from behind it. Almost enough to make me reconsider wanting to play the class (maybe it'll be an alt somewhere down the line, but at the moment I doubt it).

Still, I really, really wish that the character models didn't look so horribly badly proportioned as it makes them look utterly ridiculous. With the Trooper and Bounty Hunter it isn't so bad in their heavy armor, but with the smuggler it is particularly noticeable. I can't get over it and I can't understand why their art department would make such a horrendous choice.

Ah well, ignoring that (hard as it is) and forgetting that we pretty much already knew everything, it's a nice update. Though it seems they'll do the E3 update next week then.

[UPDATE 20090613] Seems that they added Smuggler wallpapers to the official update:

Friday, 12 June 2009

E3 2009 Wrap-Up

E3 was last week and through that week and this one I've been busy collecting all the interesting links (interesting to me at least), including a lot of Star Wars: The Old Republic links. And though I'm sure that later today BioWare will post their list today as well (together with the expected official Smuggler class reveal) I thought I'd post mine first.

Most of them I've already posted in previous blog entries, but it might be nice to get them all in one place and neatly sorted (I hope).

  • Start of E3

    At the start of E3 EA had its own press conference, showing SW:TOR at the end as well. And at the same time a couple of other bits were released as well.

  • E3 Demo Impressions

    The press conference was before E3 started, but during E3 itself BioWare showed a SW:TOR gameplay demo to a lot of journalists behind closed doors. Though we unfortunately didn't get to see any of that gameplay footage, we did get a lot of impression articles from all those journalists talking about the demo.

  • E3 Interviews

    Next to the demo impression articles a number of journalists also got to interview the BioWare guys about Star Wars: The Old Republic. Most of them are video interviews, but there's a couple of text interviews as well. None of the video interviews have any gameplay.

  • E3 2009 Awards

    A number of news sites also like to give out awards after E3 to indicate which games they feel had the best showing in which categories. Here are links to awards in which Star Wars: The Old Republic did well.

    • BigDownload - E3 2009 (Different) Awards
      • Best Behind Closed Doors Booth
      • Best Developer Award
      • Best Cinematic Trailer
    • Crispy Gamer - The Crispy Awards: E3 2009 Edition
      • Best Overall Game of E3
    • CVG - The PC Games Of E3: Hit and misses from the show floor
      • Hit
      • One of "the two best games at the show"
    • G4TV - X-Play's Best of E3 2009
      • Best Trailer
    • Game Critics Awards (Nominations)
      • Best PC Game
      • (Nominated for Best Role Playing Game)
      • (Nominated for Best Online Multiplayer Game)
    • GamePro - E3 2009 Awards: The 27 Best Games
      • Gold Medal
    • GameSpot - E3 09 Editors' Choice Awards (Video)
      • Best MMO
      • Best PC
    • GameSpy - Best of E3 2009 Awards
      • PC Game of Show
      • MMO Game of Show
      • Best Trailer
      • Best Use of a License
    • GameTrailers - Best of E3 2009 Awards
      • Best Online Game
    • IGN - Best of PC E3 2009
      • Best Persistent Online Game
      • Special Achievement for technical Excellence
      • PC Game Of The Show
    • Joystiq - Joystiq's Best of E3 2009
      • Elizabeth Haroer's pick
      • Krystalle Voecks's pick
    • MMORPG - Jess Lebow's MMO Story Hour: Top 5 Exciting Things From E3
      • Jess Lebow's #1 pick
    • Rock, Paper, Shotgun - E3 09 Diary: Award Show!
      • Smelliest T-Shirt
      • Best Private Booth Design
      • Favourite Game
    • TenTonHammer - E3 2009 Awards
      • Best of Show
    • Voodoo Extreme - Reader's Choice Awards (votes)
      • Best PC RPG Award
      • Biggest "Holy Shit! Moment Award
      • Best Trailer Award
      • The Big Kahuna Award - Game of Show

  • Other Links

    Not all links fit into one of the above categories, so I'll list those here.

    • Edge Magazine - Massively Multisaber (scanned pre-E3 article: page 1, page 2)
    • Gamasutra - Q&A: BioWare Plays It Cool With Star Wars: The Old Republic
    • IGN - Command Prompt Podcast, Episode 48 (only the start is about SWTOR)
    • Kotaku - The Old Republic Wordier Than Entire Run of The Sopranos
    • Massively - The Ditital Continuum: SWTOR turns up the heat
    • MTV - Sex In ‘Star Wars: The Old Republic’? (video seems broken)
    • Time - A Disturbance in the Force
    • YouTube - Video of Republic Guards (these 'guards' where stationed outside the closed doors where BioWare was showing SW:TOR to keep people out)

My take on things?

As you can read I followed the EA press conference with a lot of excitement. But when BioWare came and went without showing Star Wars: The Old Republic and the conference going into a deluge of boring sports games I got kind of bummed… until Star Wars music started blaring, lost of Jedi came on stage and they showed one massively impressive cinematic trailer for The Old Republic. That, for me, was definitely the highlight of the press conferences, if not the entirety of E3 2009.

Afterwards we were all anxiously awaiting to finally see some real gameplay footage. Before E3 the developers had teased a fair bit about how great their E3 gameplay demo was and thus a lot of people were expecting to see it. This came to a head when on Wednesday we followed the Live ‘Demo’ coverage by IGN (which turned out to just be an interview) and the Stage ‘Demo’ at GameSpot (which again turned out to just be an interview). Getting somewhat upset Sean Dahlberg finally came out and explained that we weren’t going to see any demo footage, not yet anyway.

Even so, there were a massive number of articles by people who had seen the demo behind closed doors, and they were pretty much unanimously impressed. And from their descriptions we too started to get a good feel for the direction that BioWare is taking their story-based MMO. And a number of interviews and other articles too all helped to increase our understanding of what this game is going to be.

Overall we learned a lot of new things. We learned that the game is entirely voiced (including the player characters), we learned about group dialog, we learned about the Smuggler class, we learned about how massive the scope of the game is (hundreds of hours of unique content per class), we learned how choices can affect missions, we learned about dual wielding, and probably a number of other things that escape me at the moment.

This seems to be reflected in the various rewards SW:TOR seems to keep getting all over the net, including some “game of show” awards. Though obviously people’s tastes differ and there’s obviously a clear difference between those (journalists) who have seen the behind closed doors demo and those of us just watching from a distance. But overall I think it’s safe to say that Star Wars: The Old Republic was one of the top games at this year’s E3.

Now if only we would get that gameplay demo footage.

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.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Intelligence Agency Class Hinted?

E3 is over, but that doesn't mean that the articles coming out of E3 have dried up just yet. Over the coming week there'll probably be more articles popping up left and right. Particularly from less known sites.

One such is a video interview at Zam.com. Here's an excerpt from the lead-up text:
We had the opportunity to go behind closed doors off the show floor to get a private gameplay demonstration that had us looking at each other in amazement. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to record what we saw but it's this gaming enthusiasts opinion that if Star Wars: The Old Republic plays similar to what we were shown at release -- naysayers are in for a big surprise and fans of BioWare, KOTOR and brilliantly developed MMORPG are in for a special treat.
it's a nice interview; I particularly like the start where they talk about each class having its own story (again), emphasizing how more unique they can make it because of the story being class specific so that they don't have to make a generic story that works for all classes. And later they talk about how it might be unique stories, but they still cross paths and have parts together as well for the larger story.

But interesting is that they mention the Intelligence Agency for the first time, as being responsible for acquiring that Republic ship that the Sith crash into the temple with. They also mention realizing that the entire security grid is in that temple (and that too sounds like something the Intelligence Agency would figure out) and since we've first seen the video people have been wondering what the twi'lek is. Some think she's a companion for the Sith, others (like myself) think that she hints at the third Sith class. And for a long time we've been speculating that it'll be a 'Spy' or 'Intelligence Agent' or such. So anyone else get the feeling that a lot of things are suddenly getting together here?

Of course, it could be nothing. But I found it... notable.

Other things of note are that in post like this one Sean Dahlberg has been confirming the number of voices (pretty much):
One thing I'd like to clarify is that each class will have it's own unique male and female voice.
So not "voices", but the singular "voice". So basically there'll be no choice of voice (just of class and gender) where each class has a unique voice (both for male and female).

That is... somewhat disappointing as it would mean that if you get three male Sith together then they'll all sound the same. Which would shatter the illusion. So either you can't get multiple of the same class together in the story parts (which I doubt) or hopefully they will have some sort of voice morphing to make each voice distinct anyway. We'll have to see.

Another nice tidbit, at least something I hadn't noticed before, is that on each planet's page in the Holonet there's a little icon looking like a mountain and clicking on that gives a short fly-by movie for the planet. Nice, never noticed that before.

Friday, 5 June 2009

BioWare Blog: Happiness is a Warm Gun

And then it was Friday. E3 is over (I'll see if I can post links and my thoughts over the weekend) and we're back to regular Friday updates.

First is the next issue of the Threat of Peace webcomic. Here's the official news:
The eighth issue of Threat of Peace™ catches up with Jedi Knight Satele Shan and Master Dar’Nala as they travel to the Outer Rim to ensure that Republic military withdrawals are conducted in accordance with the Treaty of Coruscant. They’re accompanied by the ever-observant Imperial protocol droid SP-99. As Republic and Imperial leaders are adapting to the new galactic landscape, a disturbing new alliance is developing behind-the-scenes in Nar Shaddaa’s criminal Underworld.

Check out the latest issue of Threat of Peace now.
Seems the Jedi aren't too happy about the forced peace and we see some plot brewing on Ord Mantel.

The other update continues the theme of the last couple of months and focuses on the Trooper class. This time we get a BioWare blog entry in which Principal Lead Combat Designer Damion Schubert talks about creating the Trooper class. Here's an excerpt:
When we start designing classes, we want to start with the experience–what should it feel like to play– what should it feel like to play as a Jedi or a Bounty Hunter? When doing so, we often touch upon character archetypes seen in the films: what would it be like to play the Han Solo experience, the Boba Fett experience or the Darth Vader experience? We were still concerned about how these classes would fit into an RPG advancement system and fulfill certain MMO needs, but first and foremost, our top concern as we were designing the Trooper was “Will playing this make me feel like I’m a Trooper?”
Most interesting is a statement near the end: "He’s got an array of morale-themed party buffs designed to strengthen himself and his party." Considering that Troopers already get heavy armor, heavy weapons and grenades I'm wondering if that isn't a bit much. Besides, I was expecting the fourth class to be more buffing-based. But we'll see.

Decent update at least. And we already know what we're getting next week as well (Smuggler reveal and E3 highlights).

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Death of Two Davids

Among all the glitz and excitement of E3 I regret having to report the, unrelated, deaths of two of my heroes. Or, at least, two persons I quite admired.

First is actor David Carradine, who apparently died through suicide by hanging in his Bangkok hotel The Escapist reports. He is best known for his role leading role in the Western series Kung Fu. And, more recenty, for playing Bill in Quentin Tarantino Kill Bill. Though I don't know the man himself, when seeing him act he always came across as a very charismatic man to me and I am saddened that he seemed to have found no other way out of whatever troubled him beyond taking his own life.

The second is, to me, an even bigger blow as the writer David Eddings has passed away as well, The Escapist reports. Best know for his fantasy novels The Belgariad and The Malloreon, I greatly enjoyed his books when I was young. In fact, I can honestly say that it is because of him (as well as Tolkien and Terry Pratchett) that I am such a fan of fantasy writing, buying all his books as soon as they were available and reading them voraciously. I think I have more of his books than any other author and he had a major impact on my life. That he is now gone from us is, I feel, a great loss to the world.

A sad day.

Lack of Leaked Gameplay Movies Explained

Thanks to forum user Wabeka (and Sean Dahlberg for highlighting it) we now know why no Star Wars: The Old Republic gameplay videos have been leaked from their E3 presentation.

Just look at this YouTube video:

Witch such elite guards it is no wonder. That and the a Sith Spy class of some sort hasn't been announced yet so we couldn't rely on that to get our secret Deathstar pla... I mean gameplay footage.

P.s. YouTube is giving me some headaches so I'm not sure if the embedding works; that's why I added a link as well. I'll leave it as is for now.

No E3 Gameplay Demo

As you might be aware BioWare is showing a gameplay demo behind closed doors at the E3 press event. Since they've been teasing this demo for a while now a lot of people (including myself) were expecting to get to see this demo. And expecting it to be shown at one of the stage demos with the various news groups (IGN, GameSpot, G4, etc) lots of people tuned in yesterday when these sites had Star Wars: The Old Republic listed on their schedule.

But they all turned out to be just interviews, showing the trailer or some other already revealed footage (or even KotOR footage) during it. Leaving a lot of people disappointed.

Then Sean Dahlberg posted the following note:
Hey everyone, we know there has been a lot of talk about watching The Old Republic Demo that is being shown during the E3 Press Event. Currently, we are only showing this behind closed doors.

We will update you on when and where we’ll be displaying this publicly in the future. Stay tune next week when we update the website with Smuggler details and our E3 highlights.
So, in short, unless somebody smuggles out some shaky-cam footage (unlikely as they're not likely to allow people to record the demo) we won't be getting to see the gameplay demo for some time yet.

Sean later followed up with the following message:
Since there are some questions about this, let me clarify. No, I am not saying that our E3 highlights will contain the E3 demo video footage. We will update you when and where we will be showing you this.

Next week (June 12th), we will be doing our highlights (basically an overview) of what we did reveal during E3. We will also be posting details about the Smuggler then.
Now I thought we'd get the official Smuggler reveal this Friday, but that quote makes it sound like they're doing that next week. Or maybe he's referring to a dev blog or dispatch video. As for the E3 highlights I'm not expecting anything more than a list of articles that I've already posted (and whatever more come out over the coming week). That's what you get when you're fairly on-top of everything.

This leaves the question as to what they'll do this Friday then. One might speculate that the HoloNet and cinematic trailer are this week's update (which wouldn't be unreasonable at all). But Sean had one more message:
I do apologize to those of you are are upset or disheartened by this. We were hoping E3 would be a happy occasion; we brought the HoloNet online, we showed our first cinematic trailer, we talked about some things we haven't talked about before, and we let you hear from people who aren't working on the game (and therefore, people not as biased as, say me) about their opinions of the game.

At the end, I know it isn't even the demo all of you want (although, clearly, that is something you all want to see, too). It's the game itself. And while things could have gone better, I hope all of you do realize this is nonetheless a big occasion in getting that end goal to all of you. But I am nonetheless sorry and apologize to those of you who are upset.
He is right of course. It is very nice to hear from people other than BioWare staff about the game. I still think that the bit I quoted from Kotaku in a previous post is most telling: "What Needs Improvement? Not a thing. Seriously." And the HoloNet as quite nice, as is the cinematic trailer. Compared to other weeks we're definitely being spoiled rotten.

As for wanting the game and not the demo? Well, kind of. I definitely want the demo first so that I can see for myself whether this is a game I'm truly interested in playing. I have every expectation that I will be, but I've been wrong before.

So since we're not getting any gameplay demonstration video now I'm currently thinking that perhaps we will see this during the Games Convention Online in Leipzig (start of August) or during GamesCom in Cologne (middle of August).

The interviews weren't a total loss however. For one it was nice seeing some other BioWare developers talk about the game and again it struck me how enthusiastic they too were. It seems clear that they have a lot of heart for their game, and from the looks of it so far they have every right to be proud of their work.

Other tidbits include that when asked whether they'd be at next year's E3 to reveal more of the game the answer was something along the lines of "I hope not". Since E3 is an event where one only shows games in development this led many to speculate that the game is supposed to be released before then. Then again, an MMO is never truly finished and new content always needs to be added so I don't see why they couldn't be back next year to show their future plans for the game.

Another thing that they noted was that they're still iterating on a lot of systems, such as PvP, and that a lot of that isn't ready to be shown yet. This makes sense, in most games systems are still being iterated on until well into beta. And unlike most MMO developers they seem keen to try and not over-hype the game (hard as that might be) by not making any promises. They're intent on only showing parts of the game if they're very certain that it's ready and that they're happy with the way it's going. They don't want to tell you their ideas for the game, however good those might sound on paper, only to have to remove them because they didn't work well in the game.

And they said that we might see some familiar characters (where I think they were mainly referring to the movies and the Knights of the Old Republic games), but only where it makes sense for them to be alive during the time of the MMO (which rules out most all of them, except droids such as everyone's favorite assassin droid HK-47) as the game is 3000 years before the movies and 300 years after KotOR 2 (meaning most everyone would be dead). And they said that any characters that might appear would appear as a cameo, which I take to mean that no characters will take up a large role in SW:TOR's story. So no, the game will not heavily focus on Revan (or at least that's how I'm reading it), which is good since Revan was different for pretty much everyone and BioWare sticking to only the canon version of Revan would greatly suck.

[EDIT] Forgot to mention; they also noted that they're not taking any other games' recipes for their classes, which I interpret as meaning that they're not going with the "Holy Trinity" (for those that don't know, the Holy Trinity is that the classes are structured around there being a 'tank' class, a 'damage' class and a 'healer' class; the tank takes damage and makes sure enemies attack him, the damage class hurts the enemy, and the healer class keeps them all alive). Which is good news, as the trinity is very dull and uninspired.

Anyway, I'll leave you with a link to a Kotaku news post stating that the game already has more recorded dialog than the entire run of The Sopranos.

[EDIT] Found a link to the GameSpot 'Stage Demo'. Note, again, that it's mostly an interview and that there's no gameplay being shown.

[EDIT] Found another interview on GameTrailers and instead of making a new post for it thought to just link it here instead.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

E3 Demo Impression Articles

E3 is in full swing and as part of the show BioWare is showing off Star Wars: The Old Republic to the press, including a gameplay demo that people can play themselves (as opposed to the developers handing the controls to give a demonstration).

Here's a list of all the demo impression articles (that I've found so far):
I'll add any more articles I find on the demo to the list.

To give you a couple of random excerpts from the above articles:

Besides one of the most beautiful cinematic trailers I've ever seen -- which depicts Sith forces infiltrating a Jedi temple and laying waste to the place before general hell breaks loose -- The Old Republic looks like the real deal.

The interactions with Braden gave the developers a chance to show off the massive amount of voiced dialogue in this game. The Old Republic will be the first fully-voiced MMOs; all the NPCs as well as all the PCs will have full dialogue. Moreover, the main interactions with the NPCs will play out in cinematic cutscenes that allow the player to input their own responses in a Mass Effect-style dialogue wheel. As Braden introduces Ayrik to his companions, a Nar Shaddan tech specialists and a Trandoshan security officer, Ayrik has the option to respond in ways that emphasize his moods. Whether he responds with humility or arrogance, cruelty or greed, will impact the way the rest of the story unfolds.

Our party confronted the captain and engaged in "multiplayer dialogue," which is another one of Star Wars: TOR's unique features. During the conversation, our bounty hunter and our Sith team members were each given a dialogue option during the conversation, which ended with the group decision of either killing the captain as punishment or sparing his life. Decisions like this will apparently give you and your party members a few moments to cast your votes before the game locks in the party's decision.

After the demo the BioWare folks explained that Star Wars: The Old Republic is being made with all the trimmings of an MMO. Full PvP, groups, raids, guilds, auctions, and crafting will play major parts in the game design and have players building up their resources to battle it out across the galaxy.

Leading up to this decision was a quite remarkable fight. SWTOR is designed to let you fight two, three or four enemies at once without certain doom. The fight for the bridge saw the Sith player perform some really splendid moves to take out multiple targets, including a Force Jump that let him target enemies on the other side of the sizeable level, and leap into them, lightsabre slashing as he landed.

But being an MMO, which is supposed to be about more than just hacking and slashing guys, I couldn’t help but struggle with the combat. Maybe it’s the console gamer in me, or my virgin status when it comes to MMO, but I kept expecting my character to lock onto the nearest enemy and await my command to attack, and instead I often had to hit the “TAB” button to make him pick a target. I also had some trouble moving and fighting at the same time, even when using the arrow keys. But these, as I said, are issues more about my gaming experience, or lack thereof, than with this particular game, so anyone who’s played WoW or any other MMO for more than a week won’t have these problems.

The combat feels a bit faster and more active than in WoW; the BioWare guys noted that there's no auto-attack option. So while combat doesn't quite match the fidelity of 1:1 input that you'd find in, say, a Ninja Gaiden or a Devil May Cry title, but it does translate into a more frenzied, button-pressing affair.

What Needs Improvement?
Not a thing. Seriously.

Stepping outside in central Hutta revealed a wonderfully detailed environment, with a very satisfying draw distance. The sense of scale and detail in The Old Republic's zones and instances can't be stressed enough. If anything, the environments far outshine the characters themselves, with BioWare's stylized approach to player design contrasting a bit strangely with the rest of the world.

Choices will also drive gamers to either the Light or Dark Side of the Force: "If you go totally Dark Side you will have some abilities that are available to you that aren't available to players in your same class who took a kindlier route," Dickenson said.

Anyone familiar with a modern MMO will feel at home with SW: TOR’s combat system. Special power bubbles with numerals line the bottom of the screen and action is fairly relaxed, or at least, actions have a certain cool down time.

Or, in other words, two characters from two different classes won't receive any of the same quests. The replay value here is going to be mind-boggling.

Overall, I say this adds some fuel to the hype. Naturally, you can't determine the worth of a game from a single controlled demonstration, but the gameplay looked solid. Like I said, if you're familiar with Knights of the Old Republic, you'll feel right at home playing this MMO.

We were told that this is Knights of the Old Republic 3, 4 and 5 and so on, but one you can play through with your friends. In addition to the player-vs.-environment mode, it was confirmed that there will also be a player-vs.-player mode.

After marching out two dozen Jedi in full regalia at Monday’s EA press conference for Star Wars [The] Old Republic, we weren’t entirely surprised to see that LucasArts had dressed up its own meeting room to similar effect, with stormtroopers posted at the door, an interior theater worthy of a movie set, and enough costumed Star Wars folk roaming around to fill a small convention.

We were also shown how the game starts players off with characters who actually feel heroic. During the demo, a bounty-hunter character was sent out into a town, whereupon he immediately started laying waste to the local police force. As it was explained, "we want you to feel like the hero from the start; it's going to be hard to expect to be the toughest bounty hunter in the universe if you start off shooting rats in an alley." As a result, this detail certainly carried a much more epic feeling than so many other MMORPGs.

Most impressive of all was the fact that even at this stage in development this was running for real on computers in the very same room as us, with the action being controlled by servers back at Bioware Austin's base of operations.

As the devs told us, the majority of the game can be done without a single bit of help from another player. They said that the main appeal of MMOs is the experience single player with the option of being with other players. They confirmed that names, chat, and so on could all be turned off or ignored if you really, really wanted absolutely nothing to do with other people.

Upon receiving his goals he arrived at the planet Hutta (home of the Hutts) and battled with some enemies. The combat was dynamic and involved much more than most MMORPG's and wasn't just stacking up attack commands.

The movement is what really sold it for me, though. This isn’t a game with two guys smacking each other in the face with light sabers. The combat looks fast and both sides will parry each other’s blows as iconic sparks fly. The fights end logically too. It’s not just a final smack followed by a death animation. When the guy dies that last blow clearly killed him.

I was also pretty annoyed at the general quality and polish of what I saw in The Old Republic, because after I kicked WOW for the third time I thought I'd never play another MMO again. But when a BioWare rep capped off the demo by taking down a named Jedi with his Sith character, then looting that character, grabbing his blue lightsaber, and equipping it in a dual-wielding configuration with his existing red one, I felt that familiar combination of loot lust and Star Wars fandom that made me admit to myself before I even left the demo room that, yes, I'm going to have to try this one.

As you can tell, on its narrative side, The Old Republic is still asking far more questions than it's answering. When it comes to combat, we can be clear: it's standard MMORPG stuff, but it's faster, and there's more of it.

"Heroic Combat" was a battle idea shown off where your character takes on multiple targets with a bit of style, and goes a long way to empowering the player. It's all a part of crafting a "real emotional impact" we're told, and from what we've seen, this is definitely going to be the case.

[EDIT] Added the link to AusGamers.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

"Deceived" Cinematic Trailer Released!

I kind of already reported on this, but I thought I'd make an official post to announce the "Deceived" Cinematic Trailer (as it's just that awesome). As such I've removed the video tag from the previous post (counting the links to the video as 'links' instead).

As per the official news post:

The Sacking of Coruscant. It was the crowning achievement of the Sith Empire’s ambitious military strategy and the moment that changed the history of the Old Republic forever. You may have read about it before, but our first cinematic trailer captures this event with breathtaking action and beautiful detail.

Republic leaders have traveled to Alderaan to engage in promised peace talks with the Sith Empire. The most powerful Jedi have accompanied them to safeguard against an Imperial deception. The Empire’s real motive, however, was simply to lure the Republic’s strongest defenders away from Coruscant and set the stage for an audacious attack. Under the command of Lord Angral, the Sith fleet approaches the Republic’s capital planet for the first time in centuries. In advance of the fleet, the strongest Sith Warriors have flown a stolen Republic ship into Coruscant’s orbit. Their mission is critical – to destroy the planet’s defense grid mainframe hidden in the heart of the Jedi Temple.

Watch the Deceived cinematic trailer now!

Still a very impressive movie.

On a related note, for those thinking that the Sith might be Malak (and indeed he does have some vague resemblance with the mouth piece and everything), BioWare has clearly stated that it's not Darth Malak.

[EDIT] Oh, and I forgot to mention. The newly released Holonet has a page for classes. As you can see there are eight slots for classes, four on each side, so it stands to reason that there are eight classes. The Bounty Hunter and the Trooper are the only ones officially 'revealed' thus far and we know that they're 'revealing' the Smuggler class this week. We also know that Jedi and Sith will be two more classes, making the total of known classes five. That leaves three classes. Of these the Twi'lek girl in the cinematic trailer is likely one (likely the Empire counterpart to the Republic's Smuggler), perhaps a Spy or Imperial Intelligence Agent or such. So that leaves two, which I personally believe will be a Senator/Diplomat type class (the Leia/Padmé-archetype) and some kind of Imperial Officer type class (the Grand Moff Tarkin-archetype). But we'll see.

Monday, 1 June 2009

EA's E3 Press Conference

EA's E3 press conference just concluded.

Near the start of it Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk came on stage talking a bit about Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2, showing videos for both. And while that was very cool (I'm much looking forward to both games), no Star Wars: The Old Republic. Instead I get bored with sport games for half the show. There were a few other games after that (The Saboteur looks interesting though I'm not sure if I can get into the main character), but beyond that...

...there suddenly sounded loud Star Wars music (which, silly ol' me I didn't even recognize at first). Then a lot of guys in Jedi and Sith outfits (hooded robes and all), wielding lightsabers (I'm sure it was the plastic kind, but still) came on stage and then there were the two central persons who revealed themselves to be Ray Muzyka and Darrell Rodriguez from LucasArts.

Ah, so we are getting some Star Wars: The Old Republic after all. (Here's the section with only the SW:TOR bit)

And indeed we did. They talked a bit about it, most of it already long-known (story centric, fourth pillar, great cooperation between BioWare and LucasArts, every class a unique story and experience, etc). But one definitely new thing is that the entire game (as in every single character) will be fully voiced. Ray commented that this may be one of the largest voice-over projects ever.

And then they had another great surprise... a very cool looking pre-rendered cinematic. It was definitely showing things from the Sith perspective, a Sith Lord of some kind accompanied by a twi'lek woman (with what later turned out to be blasters... so I'm thinking the Empire mirror to the Republic's Smuggler) walk towards what looked like some Jedi temple, with the Sith Lord taking out characters left and right. There was a brief glimpse of a Bounty Hunter, clearly working with the Sith, and they encountered a bunch of Jedi in the temple. More Sith warriors showed up and it turned into an epic clash, at the end of which the Sith Lord killed the Jedi. "You were deceived, and now your republic shall fall."

Looked stunning. And I've been trying to find a link to the press conference or the video in question, but right now the official Star Wars: The Old Republic is down (for "scheduled maintenance", which could be to upload the movie or such, but it wouldn't surprise me if the site is being pounded right now).

Actually, as I'm writing this there seems to be something back... but the site is incredibly slow. They've got "The Holonet" up (though not sure yet what that is... I think that's the devtracker) and the new item shows a "Deceived" cinematic trailer, which I'm absolutely positive is the movie I just described above.

In the meantime I'll just link first to this exclusive Q&A on The Smuggler class at GameSpot, which I found as I was looking for news on the press conference. Here's an excerpt:
Dallas Dickinson: We are showing a lot of "MMO Firsts" at E3, the biggest of which is the fact that we are the first-ever fully voiced MMO (both players and non-player characters have full voice throughout the game). This is one of the largest voice-over projects in the history of games--we're taking storytelling in MMOs to the next level, with real cinematic conversation. We're also giving the first in-game look at a couple of classes (the bounty hunter and the smuggler) and a few planets (Hutta and Ord Mantell). The smuggler class utilizes a dynamic cover system in combat, which is also a first for the MMO space. Finally, we're going to show one of our "flashpoints" to demonstrate the amount of real-player choice that we offer in The Old Republic.

GS: We're pleased to be able to reveal the smuggler class in this E3 story. Give us an overview of this profession.

DD: The smuggler class is meant to evoke the Han Solo fantasy. The story, appearance, character, and the way the class plays in combat are all based on Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, and other great smugglers of the Star Wars universe. As a smuggler, you'll need to get by on quick thinking, charm, luck, and your ability to outsmart others. Instead of being a heavily armed tough guy (like the trooper), the smuggler has to be one step ahead of his opponents in combat, which is why we have implemented a "cover" system for the class. To succeed, the smuggler has to stun opponents, shoot from around corners, and, yes, shoot first.
Sounds interesting. If the fourth class (if there even is one) on each side isn't interesting then this might be my third character (as I'm definitely playing Sith and Jedi first).

Still not getting through to the official site. But my wonderful love just pointed me to GameTrailers.com for the video. So get it there in the meantime. And if you do manage to get through to the site then the video is supposed to be here.

Will post more news when I get it (after I get some sleep).


Ok, not quite sleep yet. In the meantime, while the site is still dreadfully slow, it did manage to load the holonet news post. This is what it had to say:
Finding information about Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ just got a lot easier. We’re introducing the HoloNet— the galaxy-spanning data network in the game which is also now partially accessible to you here on the website. The HoloNet contains detailed records on classes, planets, factions, and a timeline of Old Republic History. Check back often to learn the latest updates on the game’s features and to start planning how your Star Wars™ saga will play out.

Access the HoloNet now!
So not the dev tracker, but an ingame and out-of-game information source keeping track of all their lore and game information. Neat. Can't wait to see it in action (tomorrow).