Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Sign up to test Star Wars: The Old Republic!

Is has been rumored since yesterday, but just now BioWare put up the ability to sign up for testing Star Wars: The Old Republic (no mention of the word "beta" is made that I've seen, but these sign-ups are likely for closed beta).

Here is the official news:
We are excited to announce that we are now collecting information for those interested in applying for the opportunity to test Star Wars™: The Old Republic™. Our goal is to get feedback to help us make the best game that we can.

We will be selecting testers from the Star Wars: The Old Republic community based on various requirements such as systems specifications, age, and region. Because the testing program requires feedback from within the community, you must have an active Star Wars: The Old Republic (“TOR”) community account to participate (no banned accounts). The testing is limited to members who are 18 years of age or older and requires the acceptance of the Game Testing Agreement included in the TOR community sign-up process. Users that meet the requirements of the test and are selected for inclusion in the test program will be contacted via email (so make sure your email address is up to date!).

Game testing for Star Wars: The Old Republic will be rolled out in several phases over an extended period of time. These test phases will begin with smaller, tightly focused test groups, and later tests will expand.

Want to get your name on the list of potential testers? First, make sure you are a registered member of the Star Wars: The Old Republic community. If you’re not already a member, click here to become one today! Be sure to check the box to indicate you are interested in becoming a tester. If you’re already a member, go to the Game Testing Portal to begin the sign up process.

Please keep in mind that there are no guarantees that you will be selected once you have completed the sign up process. For more information about testing Star Wars: The Old Republic, take time to read the Game Testing FAQ.

We look forward to your help in making Star Wars: The Old Republic a success!
Of course, it could be many months before testing actually begins. But the sign-ups now being live does make the whole thing a lot more real.

[UPDATE] Apparently we broke the site as it's currently down with the following message:
Thank you for visiting www.StarWarsTheOldRepublic.com. We are making adjustments to the site due to the overwhelming response to the testing announcement. Please be patient and check back later. We estimate that the site will be back up in the next few hours.
Either way the wording should dispel any thoughts that this is still just a rumor.

[link] to the official news post.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Threat of Peace, Issue #16

Just another three pages for the web comic this week. Here's the official news:
The sixteenth issue of Threat of Peace™ sees Braden’s vengeance achieved against the Republic Commander who wounded him on Dantooine. Meanwhile, even as Jedi Grand Master Zym visits the ruins of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant to learn more about the attack on the Envoy, a bomb rips through the Senate Tower…

Check out the latest issue of Threat of Peace now.
The direct link to the latest comic pages still seems to be broken (unless it's something on my end), so you'll likely have to navigate to the last three pages manually.

Luckily next weeks is promised to be a bit more substantial. As Sean Dahlberg put it:
I’m mainly going to reiterate my post from last Friday. This week and last week are going to fairly light as we prepare for some upcoming announcements and reveals for next month (and throughout the rest of the year). We will be publishing Threat of Peace #16 this week. Next week’s posting we have something great lined up for you, though.

I do apologize for any agitation some of you may be experiencing because of this. While we know that some people may become upset over a delay, if something is not ready to be released, it's just not ready to be released. We would rather postpone something a few weeks rather than put it out when it's not ready. This includes having everything ready for our entire community so that those who read English, French, and German get their information at the same time.

Like I said, though, next week will be a good one. Also, convention season is now over, the Austin Game Developers’ Conference being the last. With that out of the way, we are ramping up our announcements and reveals.
I guess Sean doesn't count Eurogamer Expo as part of convention season (or they don't intend to show SWTOR at that expo, which is a shame since it's the only one I might be able to go to).

Can't wait to see what great things they've got lined up.

Monday, 21 September 2009

AGDC/PAX: Big Teams and Solo Play

A slightly misleading title perhaps, as the "big teams" refers to big development teams (instead of player parties), but ah well.

The last couple of days a few things have trickled out of GDC Austin, which was held last week (from the 15th till the 18th), as well as a couple of video interviews from PAX that I hadn't seen yet.

To start Gamasutra has an article about the talk BioWare Austin technical director Bill Dalton had titled "Star Wars: The Old Republic And The Challenges Of Big Teams". Here he talked about the challenges they face(d) in the development of SWTOR because of the large size of the development team. Here's an excerpt:
"It's great in the early days to run wild and free. You need to avoid getting panic-stricken over the fact that you're not generating game content," he says. However, "At some point, you really do need to say 'This is it, this is how the game's going to get delivered and we can't be messing around with that stuff anymore'."

Dalton showed some case studies from the development of The Old Republic to explain his problem-solving methodology. The game is being developed using the Hero Engine, an MMO engine which allows for real-time simultaneous editing by all disciplines -- great for visualizing changes, but put under strain by the size of the team working on TOR. Dalton was careful to note that his team stopped taking code drops from the engine providers some time ago and that the engine's capabilities may be profoundly different today.
It' an interesting read, particularly in seeing how the HeroEngine isn't an end-all-be-all solution to MMO development; just because they have this engine (which I believe still makes a lot of things a lot easier for them) doesn't mean that there aren't challenges and problems arising from that as well.

Similarly GameSpot has an article about the talk BioWare Austin's lead systems designer Damion Schubert held regarding players who play solo for whatever reason. He lists a number of different types of solo players and how designers should cater to them. Here's an excerpt:
Schubert stressed that there is still a magic to massively multiplayer experiences, and all MMO games need them at some point since it's the genre's differentiating quality. Also, without that multiplayer feature, MMO games are competing on an unlevel playing field against traditional single-player games. MMO designers can work on combat, but they'll never match the God of Wars or Batman: Arkham Asylums of the world, Schubert said.

That said, Schubert specified that it is "unacceptable" to make an MMO game today that doesn't have a "significant chunk of gameplay" accessible to the solo player. He didn't suggest that everything be accessible to those playing alone, just that there needs to be something for all the different types of solitary gamers.
As someone who tends to play solo a lot myself I definitely find it an interesting read (and glad to see that the BioWare developers recognize solo players, even though I already knew that... in fact at times it seems as if people fear that they might cater to solo players almost exclusively). I often see people wonder why people like myself play an MMO if we play solo so much, but I don't get that confusion; it's like saying "if people want to play in groups then why don't they play hockey". I could go into reasons in-depth, but I'll just leave it at saying that just because one might play solo a lot it doesn't mean that you always want to play solo and that you don't want to interact with other people.

Third up is a brief video interview with Sean Dahlberg put on YouTube:

Thanks to Darth Hater for the link.

From that post at Darth Hater also noticed two video interviews taken at PAX by G4TV. The first is with BioWare Austin producer Blaine Christine and is about some balancing issues. Here's what G4TV has to say about the video followed by the video interview itself:
With all the classes in Star Wars: The Old Republic, a lot of players have questions about the game's balancing. You'd think that Jedi and Sith would totally own in the game, but that's not the case. BioWare Austin producer Blaine Christine spoke about class balancing and gave details on the recently revealed trooper class at PAX 2009:
"The trooper is from a very high-profile mercenary-unit that is the elite -- the cream of the crop in terms of the clone troopers. He's not just your average run-of-the-mill guy. First of all, he is a hero. So if you think of the most bad-ass trooper, could he theoretically take on a Jedi? Sure! And we've seen things like that in the movies where Obi-Wan is battling with Jango Fett, for instance. So it is possible."
Check out the full interview with X-Play's Adam Sessler!

Next is an interview with BioWare Austin producer Jake Neri about how SWTOR will change the face of MMOs. Here's G4TV's post followed by the video:
When LucasArts revealed that it was partnering with BioWare for a Star Wars MMO, millions of people (including Rodians, Mon Calamari, and Twi'leks) paid attention. Star Wars: The Old Republic promises to be like no other MMO to date. At PAX 2009, producer Jake Neri revealed how the game's story and combat will distinguish it from the pack.
"What we're really trying to do with The Old Republic is introduce the idea of story into an MMO. The genre has a ton of good games -- games that focus on combat and exploration and progression, but when we came together with BioWare to make this game, we wanted to focus on story and what that means in an MMO.

When we looked at the combat and we started out, the goal was to make it heroic and cinematic. One thing that's interesting -- I don't know if everybody knows -- is that everything that we've shown is up to level eight. At level eight, most classes you see are pretty impressive. We've got cool bounty hunter abilities that people look at and say, 'Wow, I can't wait to do that!' Our Sith warrior flipping through the air and rocking people to the skull -- people want to do that, right? It's cool. It's unique. It's exciting. It's heroic. From the beginning of the game, we're trying to deliver that experience."
Check out the full interview with X-Play's Adam Sessler!

They're decent interviews, though nothing really new in them that I noticed. Still worth a watch if you've got a few minutes to spare.

[link] to article about big teams at Gamasutra.
[link] to article about solo players at GameSpot.
[link] to video interview with Sean Dahlberg at YouTube.
[link] to video interview with Blaine Christine at G4TV.
[link] to video interview with Jeki Neri at G4TV.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Threat of Peace, Issue #15

This Friday is fairly content-light, as has been noted by Sean Dahlberg. Similarly next week will be fairly light with a comic and maybe something else as well. After that things will pick up again with reveals and all that.

As for today we pretty much just get the comic that was originally supposed to appear last Friday. Here's the official news:
The fifteenth issue of Threat of Peace™ takes us to the chaotic conflict on Balmorra where Republic military forces have failed to make the deadline for withdrawal. Lieutenant Tavus and Master Orgus land on Balmorra where the Republic general makes it clear that his forces are unable to withdraw—they’re been drawn back into battle with the Imperials after the heroics of Jedi Knight Fortris Gall. Master Orgus confronts his former Padawan even as Lieutenant Tavus and Satele Shan set out to visit another world where the war still rages…

Check out the latest issue of Threat of Peace now.
And it seems that the url directly to the comic is still broken, so you'll have to manually navigate to the latest issue once you get to the comic.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

PAX/GamesCom: A Couple of Interviews

I've got two more interviews for you (that were posted around the end of last week and somehow I missed). One from PAX and one from GamesCom.

The GamesCom interview comes from Gamereactor and is a video interview with Rich Vogel, co-studio manager at Bioware Austin. They don't seem to have the option to embed the video, so here's the link instead and the description:
We had a chat with Rich Vogel, co-studio manager at Bioware Austin, about their upcoming first game Star Wars: The Old Republic. A MMORPG set in the old Star Wars universe first created in Bioware's classic Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KoTOR for short).
The second interview is a text interview over at TenTonHammer with producer Jake Neri from LucasArts and producer Blaine Christine from BioWare Austin. Here's an excerpt:
Ten Ton Hammer: What is the percentage of instance content for single player as opposed to multiplayer? (OneEyeRed)

Jake Neri: I don’t think we have an official ratio, but what we will say is that we do want the game to be accessible for any playstyle. So if you want to solo the game, you can solo the game all the way through. There will be certain things you couldn’t do because those things are requiring groups much like any other game, since we want to support grouping as well. We want you to be able to be social in both a small group and in a large group.

So there is a nice chunk of instanced content, and a lot of that is your story. We have to have key moments happen in an instance because otherwise you’re going to have 50 other people griefing on top of you.

Blaine Christine: I think a lot of where we do have that type of content is driven by the story. So if it makes sense in the story because we need a compelling moment like in the demo that we show where you’re running through an Imperial ship and that’s a key moment in the story for us as players, then it’s going to be an instance because that’s what makes sense. So as Jake said, it’s driven by the story.
There's not a whole lot of new information in the interview(s); it's basically a repeat of what they've said before and a "no comment" on everything else. But there's a few bits here and there that I can see.

In the GamesCom video interview Rich seem to confirm that there will be battlegrounds as part of a list of "things that other MMOs have". Interesting thing is that not every MMO has battlegrounds. I think that's partly a problem with them saying "we have things that other MMOs have too", as that list is far from solid. Do they have open world PvP? Not that I'm interested in that, but Champion Online doesn't (for example). Do they have Public Quests? World of Warcraft doesn't and yet I think it's more and more becoming one of those standard things expected of MMOs. Do they base their list of what standard MMOs have on WoW or on other games? Or are they really trying to include anything and everything (which no MMO has done before)? I guess that's why their supposedly reassuring answer of "we have the things that you expect in MMOs" isn't really that helpful until they list what things they feel that includes (such as battlegrounds above; I know I certainly don't consider them 'standard').

In the TenTonHammer interview they reiterate again that they want to appeal to all kinds, from single-player to large groups. They seem to suggest that a lot of the 'single-player' content might be in instances (which is perfectly fine with me). They note that you'll come across faction dueling between NPCs (which isn't really that much of a surprise). And they confirm that they haven't confirmed anything on pricing yet (without saying one way or the other and leaving every possibility open). They also seem to hint that you can likely customize the color of your lightsaber (without coming right out and saying so, but why else talk about different lightsaber colors in a question about crafting and item customization).

It's a bit strange how they're talking about them not wanting people to "game the alignment system", because no matter what you do people will game it. Even just so that they can call themselves "the most evil Sith" or such. And even things such as slight visual differences in powers you get will be enough for people to want to game the system (and when people want to they will; there's nothing developers can do about that). Besides, with the way they're talking about giving unique powers based on alignment they're also making it very desirable for people to game the system, so that kind of contradicts their stated intent.

Personally I think it would be much better to just ignore the possibility that people might or might not game the system and focus on making it enjoyable for those who have no desire to do so. But perhaps that's what they meant.

Their betimes repeated statement of "we've only shown level 8 so far" is also kind of funny, considering that it's an utterly meaningless statement without knowing roughly how many levels there are. If there are only ten levels in total then level 8 is really, really powerful already, while if there are 200 levels then level 8 probably hasn't even left the tutorial yet. As such, it doesn't mean anything without any context of how that compares to the most powerful characters players can become (i.e. max level for argument's sake).

Of course, they have said before that there's a level 40 as well, so that at least gives it a bit more meaning. But even then not that much without knowing whether level 40 is max or whether level 40 is really just the first stepping stone to hundreds of levels.

Either way they're decent interviews, just not a lot of information to get from them.

[link] to Gamereactor's video interview.
[link] to TenTonHammer interview.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Discover Coruscant, Capital of the Republic

Already revealed at PAX last weekend, the planet of Coruscant has now been officially added to the holonet. And, as expected, BioWare also made the reveal video available in high definition as well as a couple of screenshots and concept art images. And I must say, it's looking very impressive.

Here's the official news:
Coruscant. A symbol of power, prosperity, and innovation for civilization. The capital of the Republic serves as a hub of cultural influence and home to hundreds of alien species and from across the galaxy. Still recovering from the Sith attack during the Sacking of Coruscant, the planet has set out to rebuild what they have lost. Though the pristine skyline continues to grow, the lower level districts of Coruscant have developed troubles of their own.

Access the HoloNet to learn more about the history of Coruscant and the struggles facing the citizens as they rebuild the planet after the attack.

This year at the Penny Arcade Expo, attendees were treated to a special sneak-peek of the Republic capital world of Coruscant! For anyone who was unable to attend, or anyone who would like to relive the video in higher quality, we invite you to check it out!
Though the expected next part of the online comic is absent, all is forgiven considering how good Coruscant looks. Very impressive work on the part of the environment artists.

[UPDATE] Sean made a post on the forums giving some insight into when the next issue of the comic might appear:
Yes, we have two different options: (a) release it on Monday if all goes well or (b) release it next Friday with the other update. Either way, we will be releasing Threat of Peace #16 on Sep 25th and getting back to the regular schedule for it.
So there you go; should have the comic sometime next week, but it's only this issue that's (planned to be) off-schedule.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

PAX: SWTORCore Interview

The website Star Wars: The Old Republic Core has an interview up with Dallas Dickinson and Tim Temmerman.

Here's an excerpt:
Core: Placement of the story is very important to the fans. You've got your two major games beforehand with a lot of story, but not a whole lot of resolution. You've got Reven and the Exile both going off into Unknown Space...

Dallas: Yeah, we wanted to give ourselves enough distance from those so that it's not just those stories, that's part of the reason we're about 300 years after them. But as we've dropped hints to, and in some cases confirmed when we shouldn't have, you're going to find out a little bit about those characters, things that have happened to them, where they went, because its a follow up to Knights of the Old Republic, you can't leave people hanging. There are locations we've already revealed that are locations that you should remember from KOTOR and the same is going to be true for some of the story stuff- you're going to find out a little about what happened, but its not always going to be the most important part of the story.

Core: Lineage is very important in Star Wars Universe, you've got your Horn line, your Skywalker line- are we going to be seeing remnants of some of the characters, for instance descendants of Bastila or anything along those lines?

Tim: We're definitely using some of the characters and factions you've seen in previous games. I mean, it's kind of what drives KOTOR and makes up the universe. It wouldn't be complete if we didn't go back into that history and update things.

Dallas: Like you said, the whole universe is about lineage and these houses and how there are these far more powerful families that interweave and weave in and out, so you're definitely going to see that, you definitely going to see not just references to houses from the Old Republic area but actually there's some houses and lineages from the movie eras that you're going to see some references to already.
It's a nice interview. But one of the things that has some people take special notice to is how it seems to confirm the use of the trinity. I say "seems", because I don't actually think it does. Or, at least, it doesn't confirm that classes will be dedicated to one of the roles of the trinity. Instead it seems much more likely (and in line with what BioWare has said before) that you can 'spec' classes one way or the other. For example, I can see a Sith Warrior work as a melee damage dealer class (by focusing more on the offensive lightsaber powers) or as a tank (by focusing more on defensive Force powers).

My only, perhaps futile, hope is that as a player you don't have to lock yourself into a role; I'd like to be able to be a damage dealer one time and a tank or healer another with the same character depending on how my mood strikes me. I dislike having to pick a role and then being locked into it for the rest of your gaming career (barring creating another character, which is not really a valid option as I tend to have enough trouble keeping up with just one character).

The interview also has some further notes on alignment and the Sith Warrior, some of which is encouraging while still leaving a lot of question marks (do you have to have Force Choke? Is the gameplay still "rage"-focused? Can you actually make choices that are undoubtedly good and not just tactically advantageous? Etc), but I promised myself that after my rant I'd lay off of talking about my feelings regarding the Sith Warrior for a bit.

Either way, it's a good read even if they do still tend to be a bit vague now and then and there's a good helping of "no comment" as well.

[link] to the interview with Dallas Dickinson and Tim Temmerman.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Rant: Light Sith Warrior

BakaMatt made a comment on a previous blog entry asking me to explain a bit further what I would want to see for the Sith Warrior class. I know that I’ve been fairly negative with the way the class has been described. This stems from me originally most looking forward to playing that class, but now it looks like the kind of character, the kind of story, I would want from it won’t be possible.

So what is it then that I am looking for?

Put shortly what I want to play is basically “a Jedi on the Empire side”. A Force user who uses the Light Side of the Force, likely follows as close to the Jedi teachings as one might without the centuries of Jedi indoctrination, but who still fights for the Empire.

This, I feel, is what BioWare has been promising when they said that you will be able to play a Sith (Force user) and that you will be able to be Light Side. But with them now describing the class as learning to use the Dark Side, with the class using hate and anger to fuel their powers, and with even their ‘good’ choices seeming no more than “the lesser evil” (saving the captain not because saving a life is good, but because it’s tactically advantageous) it doesn’t sound like that will be possible anymore.

Some confusion comes, perhaps, from the question of what is a “Sith” and what is a “Jedi”. A lot of people seem to hold the view that “a Jedi is a Light Side Force user and a Sith is a Dark Side Force user”. But that, to me, seems to be ignoring the question of faction.

In Star Wars: The Old Republic one plays either on the Republic side or on the Empire side. Which side you play on restricts your choice of class (Republic only has Jedi and Empire only has Sith). So what, then, do you call a Dark Side Force user on the Republic side? It seems to me that in the past these have always been called “Sith” (hence the confusion), but only because there was no Sith Empire, just the Republic. And these Dark Side Force users were just calling themselves “Sith” in an attempt to seem more like the Dark Side Force users from the Sith Empire (and to set themselves apart from the Jedi). I think Kreia actually makes a remark along those lines in KotOR 2.

But technically I think a Dark Side Force user on the Republic side should be called a “Dark Jedi” and, similarly, a Light Side Force user on the Empire side should be called a “Light Sith”. The latter is what I was looking forward to playing; one who might perhaps be called a “Jedi” by all those on the Empire side, but who would still have the Sith class and still fight for the Empire.

So why not just play a Jedi then? Well, and let me be clear, I’m not looking for a defector. I’m not interested in a character that leaves the Empire and starts fighting for the Republic suddenly. After all, such a character would likely have a lot of friends and family and such in the Empire that they wouldn’t want to abandon. Instead such a character would try and work from within, do good things, keep a good philosophy, etc. Perhaps even try to defeat the Emperor to get rid of what’s hurting the Empire the most. And statements from BioWare that you can play just that now seem to sound more like it being for selfish reasons instead.

The appeal of such a “Light Sith” character lies in the fact that you’re playing a good character in a difficult situation where everyone expects you to be evil. Playing a Jedi is less interesting to me because Jedi are expected to be good. I don’t like playing that which everyone expects me to be. I like the added depth and complexities that come with the struggle to be good in a situation where evil is all around you, trying to lure you down. The Sith Academy in KotOR was for me the most enjoyable part as there I was good, trying to survive (and remain good) in an evil environment. But it seems that BioWare is going with a very dull “Republic good, Empire bad” and alignment choices being nothing more than being a little more or less so.

Perhaps BioWare will offer that yet; the Sith Warrior class actually looks like a lot of fun to play (such melee classes are right up my alley). But if so, how hard is it for them to state that they’re only thus if they choose to be (they sure added it for the Bounty Hunters that they could be more independent)? With the descriptions they’ve given I fully expect the Sith Warriors point building to be called a “rage bar” (and Light Side users wouldn’t use “rage” at all) and not given a choice in whether to take Dark Side abilities (sure, there might be a few abilities if you make a lot of “good” choices, but does everyone get Force Choke or only those of evil alignment?).

We will see, but so far I’m very disappointed in how one-dimensional they’ve painted the Sith Warrior; as nothing but evil. Boring. And every time that they describe the class as evil without also adding that you have the choice to be truly good my heart sinks a little further.

I hope that makes sense and is understandable.

PAX: Massively Interviews BioWare/LucasArts

Massively has an interview they had at PAX with LucasArts producer Jake Neri and BioWare producer Blaine Christine.

Here's an excerpt:
Especially since you've got such a strong singleplayer element in the story and choice features, how important is grouping to Star Wars: The Old Republic?

Blaine: I think it's a very important message we want to get out right now, because there's a lot of questions out there. People are saying, "Okay, we see it, we get it. It looks like a BioWare game and that looks like a singleplayer experience." We really want to make sure that it's clear that it's not [a singleplayer game]. Obviously what we've shown so far are the new things we're trying to bring to the MMO space, but grouping is going to be very important.

The closest demonstration we've had so far is where we show the flashpoint where we've got the the Sith Warrior grouped up with the Bounty Hunter. That's a grouping experience, and that includes your story experience, which is something we want to be sure people are clear on. When you're grouped, it doesn't impede the story whatsoever, so you can still progress the story as a group. It's not a singleplayer experience in any way, shape or form.

That said, if you want to do solo play that's something that you can do as well. It's a goal of ours to make sure that we cater to all those play styles. It someone is like, "I don't wanna group, I wanna play a BioWare game. I wanna go through the story and do things on my own." you can do that. You're gonna see other people running around the world, as you would in any other MMO. On the other hand, if you want to group you're gonna be able to go through the game that way as well.
They also talk a bit about varying class mechanics, about catering to different groups of players, about multiplayer dialog, about other species (just confirming it again), about Star Wars locales, about player housing (not confirming or denying anything) and about roleplayers. But overall nothing really new there even if it's a nice read regardless.

[link] to the interview.

GameIndustry.biz Interviews LucasArts President Darrell Rodriguez

GamesIndustry.biz has an interview up with LucasArts president Darrell Rodriguez. Here's an excerpt:
Q: And when you're making a decision about who to work with on something like that, obviously BioWare has a great track record - but were there any other contenders? There's already a Star Wars MMO out there, after all, so why now?

Darrell Rodriguez: Why not now?

Q: Some people might say that one reason might be World of Warcraft...

Darrell Rodriguez: Yeah, that's interesting, and kudos to World of Warcraft and the folks there, it is a phenomenal offering. But we've got a very strong IP, Galaxies is a great IP as well, and why not now, related to people's desire to see more Star Wars?

It continues - Clone Wars is an expansion of the universe there - and BioWare proved that they were good shepherds of the IP with KOTOR. So we decided to partner with them because of that, and also their passion for it.

Q: When you look at a timescale for the life of a product... Star Wars Galaxies has been going for about seven years now, and there are still updates begin added -

Darrell Rodriguez: And we're continuing on.
He also talks briefly about possible subscription models and it might seem that they might use a number of different models (and they might), remember that he does not seem to be talking specifically about SWTOR anymore, and more about the IP in general. After all, remember that rumor of a FreeRealms-based Star Wars MMO? Additionally he's talking about Asia and it's quite possible (if not likely) that they'll just have different business models in different countries.

So while I personally would be quite happy with micro-transactions and such, those of you who are not don't have to panic just yet.

Oh, I'm also going to try something new. Inspired by Darth Hater I'll start adding the actual links (again) at the bottom of the post so that they're easy to find.

[link] to the interview with Darrell Rodriguez.
[link] to GamesIndustry.biz's interpretation on some of his answers.

Monday, 7 September 2009

PAX: Full Demo Videos

You've already seen pretty much all of the demo from the various movies in the previous posts, but now there's both the day one and day two demo movies in their entirety. Both of them are "off screen" though, but we take what we can get.

The first one is from GameSpot and has pretty decent quality for an off screen recording:

And the second one is from Darth Hater, cut into four parts and put on YouTube. This one also contains the trooper and some dancing emotes:

Darth hater also has the full, uncompressed, movie up for download.

[link] to the GameSpot video.
[link] to Darth Hater's videos.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

PAX: More From PAX

PAX has about come to a close, but from the last there a number of things more have surfaced, most of it thanks to the people over at Darth Hater (who have been really excellent this PAX weekend).

First off they have an audio interview, including full transcript, with Dr. Greg Zeschuk. Here's an excerpt from the transcript:
Dr. Greg Zeschuk: I’m Greg Zeschuk from Bioware and I’m here to chat with you guys about… I think a variety of things today.

Pete: Absolutely, first off, tell us a little about your background.

Dr. Greg Zeschuk: I’m originally a medical doctor, like my other partner of Bioware, Dr. Ray Muzyka, and both of us started Bioware more than 15 years ago now. We’ve made a lot of games.

Pete: I’ve played every one.

Dr. Greg Zeschuk: Yea, a lot of familiar names, you can go search on the internet and find out. Now I’m actually part of the MMORPG group now, I’m actually the group creative officer, and Ray’s the group’s general manager. We worked on Bioware’s stuff and also helped out with Mythic. A lot of exciting things going on.
Direct link to interview with Dr. Greg Zeschuk.

Secondly they have some gameplay footage of the Trooper, though this is available in several places and I think the off screen footage at Kotaku is probably better quality.

And they also have some footage of the Sith Warrior:

They showed a bit more during the demo though (most of it already shown in the gameplay walkthrough video that they showed before), though for the Flashpoint they picked the option to let the captain live this time and there's a few other differences. The best version I've seen so far (in fact, the only version I've seen so far) is the footage AncientAngel found on YouTube, though unfortunately the filmer's camera ran out of steam before the end of the demo so it ends abruptly. Here's the videos (minus the Sith Warrior one which is already above):


Female Bounty Hunter:

Flashpoint Dialog:

Flashpoint Gameplay (ends abruptly):

Next up Darth Hater has a quick interview with Tim Temmerman and Jake Neri.
We had the chance to get a quick interview with Tim Temmerman and Jake Neri of LucasArts to discuss the Republic Trooper gameplay that was shown in the second demonstration. This the audio version of the interview and as stated before the video versions of all of our interviews will be up after PAX so look forward to that later on. Thank you again to Tim Temmerman and Jake Neri of LucasArts for the interview. For now we hope you enjoy the audio form of this interview.
Direct link to interview with Tim Temmerman and Jake Neri.

And finally there's the third Q&A session. Unfortunately they had some major issues during it. It seems that PAX's Internet connection couldn't handle it and thus the connection to the feed was lost quite frequently for quite some time. As such a fair bit of the Q&A is missing. And they had trouble with the audio capture as well, so there won't be an audio file of it either. Which is a shame, as they seemed to cut out just as some interesting questions were asked. Anyway, since there isn't really that much interesting there I'm not embedding the videos; find them at the link above.

Only thing that concerns me, a lot, is how they answered the question about the Sith Warrior taking light side choices. From what they're saying you won't actually play a light side Sith and will always play a dark side one (just one that sometimes makes less evil choices). In fact, with the comparison they're drawing this shows it even more. "And Darth Vader would do that because...?" That's the point; he wouldn't, because Darth Vader wouldnt' make the light side choices. But if you don't offer them and actually have them have an effect, then your supposed 'alignment' system is an utter joke. I mean, in KotOR when you took the dark side choices you were, pretty much, playing Darth Vader. But since they're splitting it between two classes now what's the point of making alignment choices if in the end you're not actually going to be as good as the best of the Jedi?

Anyway, sorry for that rant. But was just a very disappointing end to the PAX weekend. Maybe I just need some sleep.

[link] to the interview with Dr. Greg Zeschuk.
[link] to Kotaku's videos.
[link] to AncientAngel's videos (note: the full demo videos are better quality of the same).
[link] to interview with Tim Temmerman and Jake Neri.
[link] to the day 3 Q&A.

PAX: Coruscant Confirmed

And then some.

Normally when you hear that something is 'confirmed' it is some guy who says that he talked to someone on 'the inside' who 'let slip' that... etc. But the Darth Hater team is really on the case at PAX this weekend and they're doing much more than just stating "someone told us this"; instead they're showing us the reveal video BioWare showed. In typical shakey-cam footage, but still.

My prediction for thus Friday's update? Coruscant officially revealed (probably with a downloadable version of that video shown and most likely with a holonet page).

That's not the only thing the Darth Hater team is bringing us from PAX though. Before the reveal they had several more audio interviews and video of the second Q&A (which they streamed live as well). Not that there's that much new in it, but nice regardless.

The first interview is with Dallas Dickinson:
We had the chance to sit down talk about Star Wars: The Old Republic with Dallas Dickinson of the Bioware team. This the audio version of the interview and as stated before the video versions of all of our interviews will be up after PAX so look forward to that later on. Thanks again to Dallas and the Bioware team for the interview. For now we hope you enjoy the audio form of this interview.
Direct link to the interview with Dallas Dickinson.

And the second interview is with Donna Prior:
We had the chance to sit down talk about community moderation and Star Wars Lore among other things with Donna Prior of the Bioware Community team. This the audio version of the interview and as stated before the video versions of all of our interviews will be up after PAX so look forward to that later on. Thanks again to Donna and the Bioware team for the interview. For now we hope you enjoy the audio form of this interview.
Direct link to the interview with Donna Prior.

And finally there's the Q&A:
We will be covering the second question and answer session with the developers live over UStream today from 1-2PM PST (4-5PM EST). We would like to invite you to join us on UStream to interact with us and developers during this question and answer session. Your question, if asked in UStream, could be answered by the developers.

The live version is over but the archived version of the live feed is now up. Click read more to see the embedded videos.

Part 1:

Part 2:

We will be doing another live Q&A session tomorrow with new questions for those that did not have the opportunity to get their questions in. We should have a post up about it tomorrow morning reminding people with the new link. Also there will be an audio version of this Q&A up tonight for those that would prefer it. Thank you to Bioware for allowing us to do the live stream of the Q&A.
Oh, and as an added bonus BioWare also revealed that the first KotOR is available on Steam (and you can see here) for about $10.

And on the official forums people discovered that the Direct2Drive version mentions that community members (those with an account on the official forums) will get 25% off of the price there. It seems that the UK version doesn't make any mention of such a discount though.

Good stuff. And Coruscant confirmed. Of course people are already starting to speculate whether it'll be a starting planet for any class and if so, which class.

[link] to the Coruscant reveal trailer (note: the GameSpot video is higher quality of the same).
[link] to interview with Dallas Dickinson.
[link] to interview with Donna Prior.
[link] to day 2 Q&A.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Rumor: A New Star Wars MMO?

TenTonHammer has an interesting rumor up.

Apparently SOE, makers of Star Wars Galaxies, have partnered (again) with LucasArts to create another MMO in the Star Wars universe. Supposedly this one uses the Free Realms engine and will be aimed at a much more casual audience, and will be set during the Clone Wars period (so much for SOE learning from its previous mistakes).

Here's the news from TenTonHammer:
From time to time we get to hear some juicy tidbits while we travel from event to event. With crowds of adrenaline-pumped gamers, and energetic developers, lots of conversation takes place, and every once in a while we hear something that causes everyone’s ears to perk up.

The latest of such incidents: Ten Ton Hammer has learned from an inside source that Sony Online Entertainment has once again partnered up with LucasArts to do another Star Wars MMO. While we have not yet learned the title of the upcoming game, it sounds like SOE is planning to use the browser-based Free Realms engine to power the game, and the game’s setting will be the Clone Wars. Does this mean Star Wars mini-games within the game, like the holographic chess-like game as seen in A New Hope? Unknown, but it would be cool to hit up a cantina with some buds and sit down for a few mini games.

A casual Star Wars MMO property was probably obvious in hindsight. Look no farther than LEGO Star Wars for proof that a fun, stylized version of Star Wars can sell big, attracted kids and adults alike. Plus, there was an unusually large focus on Star Wars Galaxies at this year’s Fan Faire, and perhaps this was in attempt to rekindle the SOE/LucasArts hype.

Too soon? Former and current Star Wars Galaxies players can still remember the sting of the NGE that changed the face of that game for everyone. SOE has repeatedly said that they have learned from their mistakes, and plan to not repeat them. If SOE isn't expressly targetting the hardcore segment this time around, they (unlike BioWare) won't have quite the same initial level of expectations to deal with.

Don't let us give you the impression that SOE plans to take on BioWare, and their highly anticipated MMOG debut, The Old Republic, particularly given the engine the game is rumored to be based on. More plausible is that it will be based off the Clone Wars CGI animated film, offering a more stylized approach to the universe. Free Realms boasts over four million registered players, and a lot of this can undoubtedly be attributed to the accessibility and polish of the web-based engine. The initial download is exceptionally small, as the client downloads content as players explore the world. This formula seems more and more to be a key component to popular MMOGs, if the success of Free Realms and to a larger extent, World of Warcraft, is any indication.

So who’s the target audience of the game? Again, it’s unknown. It’s possible, though quite unlikely, that it will be aimed at a younger audience. More likely it will target a casual crowd of several generations who have had Star Wars ingrained as much into their culture as Burger King and McDonalds.
So it sounds like they're making a Free Realms-type Star Wars MMO for casual players. Of course the question is how this would affect the other two Star Wars MMOs, Star Wars Galaxies and Star Wars: The Old Republic, but in truth it likely won't affect it much. After all, it's (probably) going for a very different audience and a very different gameplay experience.

Though, unless I'm mistaken, I think it would be the first franchise to not only have three MMO, but three MMOs running at the same time.

Remember that it's still a rumor though.

PAX: Darth Hater Audio Interviews

Over at Darth hater they've got a couple of audio files up, an interview and a Q&A session, recorded at PAX (which started today).

Here's their text on the interview:
We had the chance to sit down talk about Star Wars: The Old Republic with Sean Dahlberg of the Bioware team. The video version of this interview will be up later today. We had to delay the video and text versions of this interview due to bandwidth issues at PAX. Audio Quality is a bit dodgy at times but overall it went well. Hope you guys enjoy it.
Direct link to the interview with Sean Dahlberg.

And here's their post on the Q&A session:
We just got out of the day 1 developer Q&A session that Bioware held and it was AWESOME! We asked if we could get confirmation on two force using classes per faction and you could speculate on whether or not they did (not clear from the audio). The audio of the entire Q&A is below. Enjoy .

Note: First 2 seconds is really loud, try to have your volume low for that portion.
Direct link to the day 1 Q&A session.

I must admit I had some trouble keeping my mind on the audio and I'm sure I've missed a number of things. But I did notice that they seem set on having multiple servers. Which, after Champions Online's single server, is a huge disappointment. Feels like a huge step back.

For the rest though I got the impression that they were decent audio files.

Oh, and according to Darth Hater Sean Dahlberg made a couple of comments on the release date (or rather when it's not going to be) and on testing. Here's the text from their site:
After the interview was recorded Sean was able to confirm that “the game won’t be out this year” and “hopes to do testing soon”. No real solid date but at least we have a confirmation that the game will not be out this year as many have speculated. The beta comment is also rather vague on whether this is SoonTM or soon. Unfortunately we were not able to record this portion otherwise it would have been up in audio form.
Interesting, but not really anything I didn't expect already anyway.

[EDIT 20090906] Added direct links to the audio interviews.

[link] to interview with Sean Dahlberg.
[link] to day 1 Q&A.
[link] to Sean's additional hints.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Timeline 4: The Empire Changes Strategy

BioWare gives us another timeline update this Friday (is it only the fourth one?) in which Jedi Master Gnost-Dural, as voiced by actor Lance Henriksen, explains what led to the rise of the new Mandalore responsible for the blockade and how the Empire was behind it.

Here is the official news:
Jedi Master Gnost-Dural has entered a new holorecord in the Jedi Archive. After a thorough analysis of the evidence, Master Gnost-Dural has discovered that the Mandalorians’ return to the galaxy and alliance with the Sith was no coincidence—it was the result of years of shadowy machinations by the sinister agents of Imperial Intelligence.

BTC 14 – Frustrated by a series of Republic military victories, the Empire began exploring alternative strategies in its drive to conquer the galaxy. Despite the tantalizing offers of Imperial Diplomats, members of the galaxy’s notorious underworld refused to swear allegiance to the Sith Empire. Thus, Imperial Intelligence began laying the groundwork to win the underworld’s loyalty through other means. Infiltrating the gladiatorial arenas of Geonosis, Imperial agents fixed the fights to cultivate the rise of a new Mandalore—an Imperial puppet who would call forth some of the galaxy’s most proud and independent warriors to unknowingly aid in the Empire’s dark designs.

Watch the fourth Timeline holorecord, The Empire Changes Strategy, narrated by actor Lance Henriksen.

You can also download a high resolution version of this video.
Hmmm, definitely seems to make it more likely that there will be some Imperial Intelligence class. What's more, during all if it each time there's a character that seems to represent the imperial intelligence this character looks nothing like an officer. There's one exception, but there it seems more like they're saying "Mandalore is under control of the Empire". And it briefly shows diplomats in imperial uniforms as well. Of course, it could mean anything and nothing, but at least this update does seem to suggest that there might be an Imperial Intelligence class (by that or another name) to 'mirror' the Smuggler.

Here's the full text.




















Nice update and always a pleasure to hear Mr. Henriksen.