Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

A bit early, but that's because I'm off on vacation tomorrow morning and won't be back until January. So here's a Yoda Claus to celebrate:

Merry Christmas to all and Happy New Year. And remember, 2011 is the year that should see Star Wars: The Old Republic's release (along with a number of other big MMOs). Either way, it's promising to be a good MMO year. Maybe it'll make up for the rather lousy MMO year that 2010 was (pretty much the only good thing, in my book, was the large number of MMOs switching to a 'Freemium' model).

And see you all after the Fireworks; I'll do my best to catch up on all the SWTOR news when I'm back.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Timeline 11: Rebirth of the Sith Empire

Last Friday BioWare had a new Timeline update for us, talking about the rebirth of the Empire. Here is the official news:
In the years following the Great Hyperspace War, the Sith exiles on Dromund Kaas faced a daunting future on a harsh world. The guidance of the Emperor and the Sith Lords were critical, but Republic Intelligence has stolen historical records that indicate the resilience and determination of the early Imperial Military were no less crucial to the Empire’s reconstruction. Master Gnost-Dural has identified one Imperial Military Leader in particular whose story exemplifies the strength that runs throughout every level of Imperial Society.

BTC 1251 – Following the destruction of their ancient civilization on Korriban, the Sith exiles sought to rebuild their Empire amid the jungles of Dromund Kaas. The man who eventually earned the distinction of the being the Empire’s first new Grand Moff, Odile Vaiken, emerged as a critical figure in these dark years. While the Emperor and the Sith Dark Council were preoccupied with long-term strategies, Vaiken recruited non-Force users to form the new Imperial Military. This nascent but efficient army courageously battled the powerful native creatures on Dromund Kaas to carve out the space for a secure civilization. In later years, as the new Sith Empire grew in size and strength, Vaiken went on to establish the foundation for the modern Imperial navy and set the standards for constructing a fleet that would one day emerge from exile and crush the Republic. For common Imperial citizens, Vaiken became a model for their highest aspirations, proving that even non-Force users would play a vital role in restoring the Sith Empire to prominence and power.

Watch the latest Timeline holorecord, Rebirth of the Sith Empire, narrated by actor Lance Henriksen.

You can also download a high resolution version of this video.
Read on after the break for a full transcript of the timeline, as well as a couple of other updates (including a video interview).

Friday, 3 December 2010

BioWare Blog: Closer Look at Crew Skills

It's been a while since we've had a Developer Blog entry from BioWare (two months if I'm not mistaken). That's a pity as I always tend to enjoy them, and today's blog entry is no different.

First though is some expected, but still good, news: The Jedi Wizard has officially been renamed. Here's the official news:
A few weeks ago, we asked the community to help us rename the Jedi Wizard advanced class. Thousands of votes and many posts full of lively debate later, the polls have closed, and we have a clear winner! Without further ado:

The new name for the Jedi Wizard is… Jedi Sage!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the voting process. Your feedback is always important to us, so please join us on the forums and let us know what you think about the game.

- The Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ team
For anyone who's been following the official poll(s) (even if just looking at them once since they were posted) it shouldn't come as a surprise that "Jedi Sage" came out the winner. Even so I'm glad that we're rid of the "Wizard" name and will enjoy playing a Sage. Particularly since it'll give the feeling that it's a class that came out of the community, making it a little special.

The other update today is the blog entry as mentioned. In it Game Systems Designer Patrick Malott talks about the Crew Skill system and reveals another crafting skill (though the systems page hasn't been updated yet): Armstech. Here's an excerpt from the blog:

Though companions are vital to The Old Republic and the Crew Skills system, we do know that some players want to be the primary crafter for all their crafted items, or for particularly special pieces of equipment. It’s worth noting that players will definitely need to be directly involved in the process when learning rare schematics, and that Lightsabers aren’t acquired or assembled via the Crew Skills system. We’ll have more details on this later.
To be honest that quote makes me quite happy and now I feel free, so to speak, to be more excited about the Crew Skill system (which I maintain isn't a crafting system but a time management system). Though I don't expect player crafting on a level that you get in other MMOs I'm fine with that. At least it sounds like there'll definitely be something for players to do there. Maybe some kind of upgrading system akin to Knights of the Old Republic as I've speculated before; at least let lightsabers be the player's own (I'm fine with the Crew Skill system crafting crystals and such to be used in lightsabers).

And overall the Crew Skill system sounds quite good and an interesting diversion from the rest of the game, unique (as far as I'm aware) among MMOs. I do have some concerns about letting crafting/gathering continue when the player is offline (and I'm saying that as someone who doesn't expect to be a hardcore 'crafter'), but that's a minor thing. Right now I can see myself selecting one main companion to always take with me while I let the rest slave away on my ship to make cool stuff for me.

And that's as far as the updates today go. But I do have a developer quote, a video interview with Dr. Ray Muzyka and some release date news... after the break.

Friday, 26 November 2010

New Inhabitants on the HoloNet

BioWare added five new entries to the "Inhabitants" section of the HoloNet; two creatures, a humanoid species, and two droids. Here is the official news:
Details on five new galactic inhabitants are now available on the HoloNet! Read up on the dangerous Terentatek and Vine Cat – you don’t want to go up against these creatures unprepared. Also, find information on the legacy of the red-skinned Sith Pureblood, descendants of the original Sith species. And don’t forget about the droids! You’ll find data about the M3-M1 Medical Droid and the S3-F5 Inclement Condition Probe.

The galaxy is full of fascinating occupants, so make sure to check the Inhabitants holorecords frequently for new updates!
Because it might be a bit tricky to find the new entries among the ones that were already there, let me list the links to the new entries here:
That's it for the official update, but read on after the break for developer quotes from the last week, some details on a survey that's been sent around, a link to an interview with the new community manager and some humor from Eurogamer.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Studio Insider - Flesh Raiders

And again I'm a few days late. It's starting to become a habit. In part that's because this Friday was pretty much just a Fan Friday and I don't find those to be that interesting (still good to have them, but I'm allowed to not find them interesting).

The other part of it is that last week my NCsoft (i.e. Guild Wars) account got "permanently blocked". Apparently some unauthorized person accessed my account and NCsoft decided to block it to prevent "further damage". Which, in turn, had me fretting for a few days what damage might be done while I was trying to sort things out and get access to my account again. (Turns out no damage whatsoever from what I can tell). Anyway.

So, Fan Friday. It seems that they decided to split the "Developer Corner" out of the Fan Friday and give it its own thing, called "Studio Insider". Though I think I'll continue to list those under "fan" still for now (after all I pretty much added that label purely for the developer corner section).

The Fan Friday has the usual with community images, fan fiction, and Halloween costumes (ok, so that's not that usual). They also add a bunch of new wallpapers from the Timeline videos:

There's also a bunch of new Star Wars smilies, really making me think "way too much". Pretty soon people will be able to make posts entirely in pictograms and still make sense. I'm sure we can already pretty much tell the entire Star Wars saga in "C3PO talks to the Ewoks"-style (just replacing sounds with images).

There's also a bunch of new forum avatars based on characters in the Biography section of the HoloNet. Which, in my opinion, is missing the whole point of avatars a little bit as aren't they supposed to represent the player? In the same way that we know we won't be able to play General Garza it doesn't make sense to use the character as a forum avatar. But then, what do I know... people'll do whatever.

As usual the more interesting part of the Fan Friday is the ex-Developer Corner, now-Studio Insider where this time they have a step-by-step breakdown of the concept art generation for the Flesh Raiders. Here's an excerpt:
At this point I was not exactly sure how far we wanted to stray from the original design, so in terms of the head and protrusions on the body I threw out some different ideas on what could be done. I tried not to spend too much time on the base, but wanted to give enough detail so there was a clear idea of what I have in mind. I even threw in a crazy wacky one to see if the team wanted something completely that deviated from the current Flesh Raider model.

Of course they go for the crazy one! I have not added any armor yet, so naturally this model has the most striking silhouette.
But the breakdown wasn't all. They also added a short Q&A. Continue reading after the break for a sample answer from the Q&A as well as a number of developer quotes and some help for those of you with children.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Crew Skills Revealed

Ok, so I'm a couple of days late, but last Friday BioWare revealed the Crew Skills crafting system. There's also a new Community Manager (news near the bottom of this post). Crafting without doing any of the knitting yourself. Here's the official news:
The galaxy is full of resources and opportunities for your character to benefit and profit. The Crew Skills system allows you to gather those valuable resources, craft a wide range of useful items, and send your crew out on their own missions to retrieve rewards. With Crew Skills, you’ll be able to do all these things while your character stays in the action or even if you have to log off!

Crew Skills are a unique approach to a crafting system, built to suit the tastes of a broad range of players and to maximize your time spent adventuring and experiencing your character’s story while still earning useful benefits. Put your companions to work and get the most out of the galaxy’s myriad opportunities!

Learn more details about the inner workings of the Crew Skills Game System on the new Crew Skills System page.
The page also includes a video explaining Crew Skills.

In essence this is how it works.

You've got three "Crew Skill" slots. In these slots you put gathering skills, crafting skills and mission skills. As many of the three slots as you want can be gathering or missions kills, but only one can be a crafting skill (which is really limiting particularly considering that there seem to be more different crafting skills than any other type). Gathering skills lets you gather resources, crafting skills lets your crew make items from those resources and mission skills lets them go out and do 'unique' things offscreen (like diplomatic relations or finding valuable items).

For both crafting skills and missions skills it's basically just "you tell a companion NPC to do something and they go off and do it". Gathering skills have that too (you can tell a companions to go off and gather stuff), but with gathering you can also tell companions to harvest things you run into while playing. Or you can do the harvesting yourself (I really like that; that you have the choice to do it yourself if you want to).

Skills apparently still advance even while you're offline and when you tell a companion to dedicate a certain time (that you choose) to a certain skill they'll be unavailable for that time (so if you need a companion in 30 minutes, don't send them on a 23 hour mission). Since all this continues offline it seems smart to make sure all your companions have something to do until the next time you log in.

For more, including a couple of interviews, some developer quotes explaining a bit more about the system, my own views on the system and the announcement of the new Community Manager, read on after the break.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

EA publishing TOR solo

Just like Han EA is going Solo (with its trusty BioWarian wookiee to keep the engines running). Where originally was supposed to be done together with LucasArts it seems that the two have struck a deal for EA to take everything on.

Here's the news from GameSpot:
When Star Wars: The Old Republic launches next year, it will have only one publisher. At an event this evening, Electronic Arts announced it will be the sole distributor of the massively multiplayer role-playing game, due out in 2011 after sometime after the first quarter of the year. The game is being developed by EA's role-playing game studio, BioWare, at its Austin, Texas facility.

The MMORPG had been set to be co-published by both EA and LucasArts, the game arm of Lucasfilm, which created the Star Wars franchise. Lucasfilm will remain involved in the project as a "a key partner, collaborating on design and marketing, and as a licensor of the property." Speaking with GameSpot, BioWare co-founder Ray Muzyka said LucasArts would also remain involved in development of the game, as it is "part of the same organization as Lucasfilm."

The financial terms of today's deal were not disclosed, but the rationale was. According to EA, the deal was done "so that all publishing, marketing and distribution responsibilities can be centralized for efficiency."
It makes a lot of sense to me for just one of the two to do all the publishing. Things can get messy otherwise. And as far as publishing goes at least EA is definitely a powerhouse (and they've even got some experience publishing MMOs). In general, though as players we shouldn't really notice this sounds like good news to me overall.

From that link I also noticed a video interview I hadn't seen before (must've missed it somehow) about PvP:

Nothing really new there I think.

[link] to news at GameSpot.
[link] to PvP video interview at GameSpot.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Warzone Video

Warzones, crafting and (voting for) a new name for the Jedi Wizard. That's what BioWare has for us today.

This week was EA's annual winter showcase in London, during which they revealed details on warzones in The Old Republic as well as details on crafting. With the warzones BioWare released a new video showing some PvP; here is the official news:
Officially a neutral world, Alderaan has become the focus of Republic and Imperial political maneuvering. Even as conflict between Alderaan’s noble houses threatens to turn into civil war, Republic and Imperial forces engage in a secret battle that could decide the planet’s fate. High in the mountains, both sides fight for control of Alderaan’s massive planetary defense cannon—a weapon powerful enough to devastate an enemy’s fleet and ensure domination over the planet’s skies.

The battle on Alderaan is our first detailed look at organized team Player vs Player (PvP) in The Old Republic™. To secure the planetary defense cannon, players must deplete the enemy transport ship’s shields, driving their forces to retreat or be annihilated. Players must work together to control the defense system’s artillery units if they are to protect their fleet and emerge victorious.

We’ll be offering more insight into how Warzones work in the near future, but for now, we hope this video will give you a good sense of the Warzone experience in Star Wars™: The Old Republic™! Also, be sure to check the screenshot section to see how this battle is heating up.

I can't say that it interests me much, but that's because I don't find PvP to be interesting in the least. And while I find the video near sleep-inducing, I get that it's mostly the use of abilities and reacting to an ever changing situation that makes PvP exciting (and the video looks rather staged to me).

But if you want to know more about the warzones, as well as know what BioWare revealed about crafting, then Darth Hater has those details for you. Here's an excerpt from the latter:
The developers also presented an overview of The Old Republic's crafting system. BioWare announced they will use a Crew Skill crafting system, very similar to the one we speculated on in a recent podcast. Using their ship as a base of operations, players will be able to send their companions on crafting tasks, and particular companions excelling at specific duties.

This Crew Skill system will be divided into three majors groups: Gathering, Crafting, and Missions. We were given two examples for each major group: Gathering will be comprised of jobs like Bio Analysis and Slicing, Crafting includes Artificer and Bio Chem, and lastly Missions will involve activities such as Diplomacy and Treasure Hunting.
Next to all that BioWare is showing that it's listening to the community. After the massive outcry over the "Jedi Wizard" advanced class name they've now selected three names (plus "Jedi Wizard") for the community to vote on, saying that the winning choice will be the final name ingame. And to help people decide they're giving use a breakdown of the general Jedi Wizard skill branches:
Earlier this year, we announced the Advanced Classes System which allows you to customize your character according to your play style. We also revealed the advanced classes for the Jedi Consular: Jedi Shadow and the Jedi Wizard. Since then, we’ve been working on a new name for the ‘Jedi Wizard’ Advanced Class and have come up with three new possibilities.

Now we want to open it up to you, the fans. There's been some great feedback on class names in the past, so we're offering you the chance to help us make the final decision!

The chart below presents a high-level overview for the Jedi Consular’s advanced classes:

  • Telekenetics: Ranged Damage using Force attacks, such as ‘Telekenetic Blast’ which does high damage in an ‘area-of-effect’
  • Balance: Overall survivability and utility, with abilities that enhance both melee and Force attacks
  • Seer: Healing and buffs using the Force, with abilities like Serenity to boost Force regeneration and reduce damage taken
There are four names to choose from: Jedi Sage, Jedi Seer, and Jedi Adept – along with the option to keep it Jedi Wizard. This poll will determine the final title that appears in game. We’ll be tallying the results from the English, French, and German communities to determine the winner. Voting ends at 5:00PM CST on Thursday, December 2nd so vote now!

We look forward to hearing from you!

- The Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ team
As of this posting "Jedi Sage" has more than half the votes in all three (language) polls, so it's looking very likely that that'll be the winner. Personally I just voted the most popular option in an "anything but 'Wizard'" vote, but I'm quite happy with Jedi Sage.

Finally, on a different note, Eurogamer has an interview up with Doctors Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk from BioWare. They talk about a number of things, including Dragon Age 2 and that EA Louse business from a while back. But regarding Star Wars: The Old Republic what's interesting is that they're asked about a release date and oddly no longer seem to want to commit to a spring 2011 release date:
Eurogamer: When will Star Wars: The Old Republic be out?

Ray Muzyka: Next year.

Eurogamer: Can you at least say whether it'll be the first half or the second half of the year?

Ray Muzyka: No. We're just saying 2011.
That is quite different from what they've been saying in the past where they've always stated "spring 2011". Signs of the release having slipped perhaps?

Anyway, go and vote to make sure to crush the "Jedi Wizard" name as completely as possible. And happy Guy Fawkes day.

[link] to warzones and crafting article at Darth Hater.
[link] to interview with Ray and Greg at Eurogamer.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Imperial Agent Intel

It seems that there is a leak somewhere in Imperial Intelligence, as today a whole lot of classified information on the Imperial Agent has been made public. (Okay, so it was really just BioWare doing their usual Friday update, but I thought that sounded more interesting). We got information on their Advanced Classes, on one of their companions, on one of the alien species they can be, on their spaceship and even a gameplay video. Here is the official news:
The Imperial Agent class delivers an experience unlike any other in Star Wars™: The Old Republic™, and this week, we’re excited to share new details that highlight what makes the Agent so unique.

Learn about the Agent’s Advanced Classes and the combat tactics they rely on. Specialize as a Sniper and leverage distance and concealment to get an edge on your enemies, or master stealth, surprise, and combat medicine to become a versatile and deadly Operative.

In addition, check out the following updates for more intel on the Imperial Agent class:
  • If you’re looking for a companion with attitude, visit the Biographies section to read about the Agent’s dangerously charming Rattataki companion, Kaliyo.
  • Aliens are incredibly rare among the ranks of Imperial Intelligence, but if that sounds like your kind of character, be sure to inspect the new Chiss Inhabitants page for information on this enigmatic species.
  • The Imperial Agent’s sleek starship is one of the most unique models in the galaxy. Check out the X-70B Phantom-Class Prototype in the starships section to get a tour.
  • Last but not least, watch the new class gameplay video to get a look at the Agent in action!
I must say that I'm really liking the sound of the Imperial Agent class. It's definitely going to be my class if I play Empire. In fact, I'm considering switching my main to it (though the lure of the lightsaber is strong). I mean, I just love the sleek design of that ship, just look at it:

Additionally I've got some character design for an Imperial Agent that's more evolved at the moment than what I've got for my Jedi, so who knows. Maybe I'll just have two main characters and alternate between them. But yeah, quite enjoyed today's update.

Oh, and George Zoeller had a quite note on the forums about the Agent's healing ability compared to the Smuggler's:
Agents and smugglers are equally capable on the healing front.
And that's it. Have a happy Halloween.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Fan Friday and Biographies

Last Friday BioWare made another "Fan Friday" post and updated the HoloNet with three more Biographies.

The Fan Friday consist of the usual fan art, polls, new smilies and avatars for the forums and a few new wallpapers:

But as usual the most interesting bit is the Developer Corner where this time Senior Concept Artist Ryan Dening talks us through making a piece of concept art of Kaas City:
The purpose of this concept was to revisit Kaas City. A lot of the work had been done earlier on, and we felt there were things we could do to make it so much cooler.

We already had a view of the city since it had been built in-game, but we wanted to integrate it into the surrounding landscape better and give the Imperial city its own architectural style. Also, we wanted to establish a stronger mood and define the Citadel better (main central building). I started with screenshots from the game to make sure I wasn't moving anything important and to make sure I captured the player’s view.

For inspiration I looked to the sketches of Coruscant by Ralph McQuarrie. Some of them have a dark gothic feel and I wanted to portray that in the Sith Empire's capital city. Clint Young had done an earlier concept of the Citadel, and I wanted to re-incorporate some elements from his design. Our style for the Empire is very angular so I felt that should be reflected in their architecture, as well.

I went into the game and took screenshots of the view I wanted to capture looking out towards the Citadel.

I kept the front platform and the building to the left as I knew they were going to stay. I added in some perspective guides to help me keep everything in-line, and then I loosely blocked in some shapes and colors to get the overall composition.

In order to refine the shapes and designs, I began building up forms with highlights and shadows. I cut in some details for the foreground building on the left from an existing concept Clint had done, and started adding some finer details like windows for scale.

The finished concept. I filled out the lighting and continued to refine details. From here, individual elements can be broken out in more detail for the environment artists to build.
Get the entire Fan Friday update in the official post.

The second update this Friday was the addition of three new character to the HoloNet's Biographies section adding a renegade ex-Republic General, a disillusioned Republic diplomat, and a mysterious Imperial Spymaster. Here is the official news:
Meet more of the compelling characters you’ll interact with in Star Wars™: The Old Republic™. New additions have been added to the Biographies section of the HoloNet!

This update includes profiles of some of the most enigmatic characters in The Old Republic Era: the renegade ex-Republic General, Bouris Ulgo; the disillusioned Republic diplomat, Diab Duin; and the mysterious Imperial Spymaster known only as “Keeper”.

If you haven’t visited the Biographies section in awhile, you’ll notice that a few companion characters have been added as well. There are still more to come, so check back regularly.
For those somewhat disappointed with the update Director of Marketing, Leo Olebe, made a post on the official forums:
Hi Folks!

I'm fairly sure that I'm the last person that you want to hear from, but I wanted to chime in and say that we love your enthusiasm for the game and ongoing support. I know that it can be frustrating when we don't reveal new, specific game system information. Remember, the story and lore of the game is very important, thus the steady stream of content that is focused on learning more about the galaxy that you will adventure in. As we've always said, when things are at a quality level where we are ready to reveal them, we will. We never want to promise something that we aren't ready to commit to.

I can tell you that we have some game system stuff coming up that I think you'll like. Yes that's a tease, but never fear - we "hear" you and want to provide you with lots of great info to chew on.

Can't wait to hear what game system stuff they've got coming up. Though I like reading about the backstory of the game as well.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Daniel Erickson on Sith Purebloods

Daniel Erickson made another post on the official forums, giving a bit more explanation on the meaning of "Pureblood" in "Sith Pureblood":
Originally Posted by HawnkView Post
So... if the Sith species was extinct during the first KOTOR (or so says the loading screen that I just saw) then how are they justifying Sith Pureblood as a playable race in SWTOR?
Hey folks,

Happy to clarify.

In the time of KOTOR, the Republic believed all of the original Sith Empire had been destroyed. Those who had not been killed were chased far into deep space where nobody had ever returned from. Thus Revan's surprise when coming upon them and his dedication to going back to stop the threat when his memory returned.

That said, the Sith "Pureblood" in SWTOR are anything but pure Sith (from a species point of view). The name is a vanity. In the last 1000 years it has become clear that there is a direct correlation between those with enough of the old Sith blood in them to still be born with original Sith species traits (red skin, etc) and Force Sensitivity. While not any stronger in the Force than the more human Sith, it is extremely rare to find a "Pureblood" who is completely without Force Sensitivity. Thus those with the marks of the old Sith have come to call themselves "Purebloods" with the obvious insinuation that they are superior to those without. The more Sith species features (face tendrils, etc) one has, the more superior they can claim to be.

All of this is, of course, purely the realm of fashion and societal politics. While no non-Pureblood would stand up and say the entire claim was foolish (the Pureblood rate of Force Sensitivity is exponentially higher than those without and besides many of the Emperor's inner circle bear the red skin) the majority of the Dark Council are not Purebloods. Showing that, in the end, talent and a lightsaber win out over bloodlines and a haughty pedigree.

Hope that helps!
Sounds like a perfectly suitable explanation for the Sith to me.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Timeline 10: The Fall of Exar Kun

The tenth Timeline update, revealed by BioWare today, looks at the history of Exar Kun, his fall to the dark side and how he was defeated. Here's the official news:
The stories of Exar Kun’s fall to the dark side and his campaign of destruction against the Republic have been told as warnings to Jedi Padawans for generations. After witnessing the return of the Sith Empire, Master Gnost-Dural has realized a new relevance to Exar Kun’s role in history.

BTC 347 – Decades before the outbreak of the Mandalorian Wars, a promising Jedi named Exar Kun began exploring the secrets of the Force. Despite the warnings of his Masters, Kun didn’t hesitate to experiment with the dark powers of the ancient Sith. After being confronted by the spirit of the fallen Sith Lord Freedon Nadd, Exar Kun harnessed the power of the Sith Temples on Yavin 4 and embarked on a campaign to destroy the Republic and the Jedi Order. After aligning with the Krath Cult and fellow fallen Jedi Ulic Qel-Droma, Exar Kun’s armies managed to destroy the Jedi library on Ossus, but that was to be his final victory before being betrayed and defeated. Centuries later, the Jedi have learned that Exar Kun’s campaign took place even while the ancient Sith Empire remained in exile on Dromund Kaas. Jedi Master Gnost-Dural now asks, if Exar Kun’s rise to power was encouraged by the spirits of the ancient Sith, what might this suggest about their support for the resurrected Sith Empire?

Watch the latest Timeline holorecord, The Exar Kun War narrated by actor Lance Henriksen.

You can also download a high resolution version of this video.
And here is the full text transcript:

































Interesting thought from Master Gnost-Dural there that the spirits of the ancient Sith Lords might not support the Sith Emperor. He could be right. Or he could be wrong and the spirits were playing a long game that's much deeper than the Jedi master could see through. Or perhaps the Sith spirits don't really care who becomes Dark Lord of the Sith and are justas happy to back one as the other; as long as a Sith Lord ends up ruling.

What's also interesting is how often Yavin 4 has been mentioned now in various official SWTOR sources. At this point it would be really surprising if the planet is not included in SWTOR as a playable planet (perhaps one for high-level raid dungeons as it's sure stressed often enough how powerful and dangerous the various creatures on the moon are). After all, what's really the point of this update if it doesn't somehow come back in the game?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

EA Louse Dishes Dirt On Warhammer

It's quickly making the rounds online, but it seems that a blogger styling him(or her)self as "EA Louse" (in a wordplay on "EA Spouse" made a rather condemning post towards EA and, particularly, BioWare Mythic.

The truthfulness can, of course, be very much put into question. There is absolutely zero evidence that this isn't all just some made-up hoax. Though similarly there's little evidence to say that it's all false.

Either way the poster seems to have made the post in a rather disgruntled state, claiming to have found out that he (or she) will soon be fired in another round of layoffs come this November apparently. The poster comes across as an artist (possibly an animator) who worked on Warhammer Online and is now airing a whole list of grievances towards how the development of that project went.

You can read it all at the blog (as well as several posts made in the comments by the blogger). But for us the most relevant bits are where the poster talks about Star Wars: The Old Republic. And, according to the poster, it isn't pretty:
And Bioware? Don’t make me laugh. They’ve spent more money making the Old Republic than James Cameron spent on Avatar. Shit you not. More than $ 300 million! Can you believe that?

And you know what they’re most proud of? This is the kicker. They are most proud of the sound. No seriously. Something like a 20Gig installation, and most of it is voiceover work. That’s the best they have. The rest of the game is a joke. EA knows it and so does George Lucas,they’re panicking , and so most of Mythic has already been cannibalized to work in Austin on it because they can’t keep pushing back launch.

Old Republic will be one of the greatest failures in the history of MMOs from EA. Probably at the level of the Sims Online. We all know it too ……
Again, how much of it is true is anyone's guess at the moment. The poster could be telling the truth, the poster could be understating the truth, the poster could be making the whole thing up, heck the poster could quite possibly not work for EA at all and be some disturbed kid in a bid for fame.

If there is truth to it then there's a few things to remember. One, when people lose their job or are otherwise upset then things tend to look very grim and everything tends to look amplified in the negative direction. Secondly it's all a matter of perspective and the poster might be judging the thing completely wrong or completely misunderstanding the situation; the poster doesn't sound like someone very high up so can only guess at a lot of the motivations. And third, regarding SWTOR the poster probably doesn't have that much more inside knowledge than the rest of us (the poster isn't working on SWTOR directly and only gets things from hearsay and speculation within the company). It's certainly not unusual for game developers to move members from one team to another, particularly one that it very, very big and is very, very much in the spotlight. That doesn't mean that the project is in trouble. It's also quite possible that the poster is somewhat disgruntled over the MMO (s)he worked on not doing very well in the end and all attention now seeming to go to SWTOR; it might be some kind of vindication if SWTOR fails too ("see, it wasn't our fault but it was EA's fault").

Of coruse, all of that is speculation on my part. it's also possible that it's all true.

Well, at least apart from the part where he talks about how Sanya lost her job as she, in turn on her blog, points out that that wasn't quite how things went. Again, that could just be the difference of perception and speculation.

Either way, whether it is true or not, I am sure that this isn't the right way to air one's grievances however much people might be applauding the daring of making such a post now. I've got a feeling that EA's legal team isn't going to be happy regardless of whether it's true or not.

And regarding SWTOR nothing has really changed. The game could still be great, the game could still be terrible; we still won't know until the game is released and we're all playing it by the (potentially) millions. The only thing that has changed perhaps is that a few more people might be aware of the possibility that, despite all the marketing and hype around SWTOR, this game could actually be bad. But I could've told you that without such a blog post.

Take it how you wish. I'm labeling it as "rumor".

[link] to EA Louse's blog post.
[link] to Sanya's response to the blog post.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Ilum: Dark Plans for Power?

Today's official update is a planet reveal. And a surprising one (to me anyway) at that. After Hoth already having been revealed I'm surprised to see another ice planet. But regardless, BioWare revealed that they have included the ice planet Ilum in the game. Here is the official news:
With the final outcome of the war between the Sith Empire and the Galactic Republic still undecided, the icy planet Ilum sits squarely in the cross-hairs. The crystals that grow here in abundance are the source of incredible power and possibility. Jedi and Sith alike have long sought them for their Lightsabers, but the ramifications may go much deeper.

Recently the Empire launched a major assault against the Jedi on Ilum, destroyed the Order’s sanctuaries, and initiated an ambitious operation of unknown intent. With its forces already spread thin, the Republic has been unable to strike back in such a remote region, but what price might they pay for losing this valuable resource?

Access the HoloNet to learn more about Ilum. Check out this video to see images of the icy terrain, as well as the crystals themselves. Also, don’t forget to visit the media section for never-before-seen screenshots, concept art, and wallpapers showing the scene from every angle.
And as usual they also have a new wallpaper for the planet:

Learn more about the planet, as well as look at new screenshots and concept art, on the HoloNet page.

Daniel Erickson on Quest Content

On the official forums Daniel Erickson made a rather sizable post detailing the kind of quest content that you'll encounter in Star Wars: The Old Republic. This ranges from your class quests to world quests and beyond. Here's the entire post:
This one can get confusing as there is a great deal of content in the game, all geared for slightly different experiences. So let's get to it, yes?

--There is no repeated content across factions. Easy enough.

--Every Class has a completely unique storyline with their own companion characters and quests that takes them from the very first level through the very last and leads them naturally into the end game content. We call these Class Quests.

Now the questions and ideas that can be harder to get your head around if you haven't yet been one of the few lucky ones to actually play the game.

--"Is all your faction specific content Class Quests?"

Absolutely not. It's a multiplayer game, built for multiplayer storytelling. Which means all classes in a faction will have access to all of the same content except the Class Quests.

--"What is the breakdown between Class Quests and multiplayer quests?"

On the Origin worlds it's about 60% Class Quests, dropping to about 40% on the Capital worlds and then even lower for the rest of the game. The whole idea is to get you into the game, teach you about your class and your story, then get you out there playing with other people. We need to meet Obi-Wan, get our lightsaber and learn about the rest of the galaxy, but then it's time to get the gang together and go to war. We're still going to take breaks and run off to Dagobah but that's now the minority of our story. So the game very purposefully starts with more single player content and then moves strongly towards content that can be played multiplayer.

--"What are all the different types of multiplayer quests?"

Whew, that one's a big list but I can hit the major stuff. 1) World Quests: One-offs or short chains built for easy pick up and play. Grab a PUG or your friends and have a short adventure together. 2) World Arcs: Epic quest arcs that go from four to ten quests or more and follow a storyline across an entire planet. Big decisions and branching questlines you may have to play multiple times (in different playthroughs, they're not repeatable) to see all the content. Built for long play sessions or a series of short sessions where you and your group want a huge adventure that may stretch over tens of hours. Also very PUGable as long as you're grabbing like minded folks. 3) Flashpoints: Instanced, heavily scripted major story and action pieces built for groups to go in and get the very best of BioWare's multiplayer storytelling. Built to be played in a single sitting.

Now here's the fun part. Our multiplayer content has lines, choices and content that is specific to each class and content that is only there if you're in a group. Did the Jedi Consular really just convince the Sith boss to stand down and not fight us? Did the Bounty Hunter really just shake down the Moff for more money? Did the Smuggler just leave the group with that attractive quest giver? Um...are they coming back? It's fun to replay the game and see all the different content but it's also a blast to play with friends and be completely surprised by what they say. Often you'll find yourself saying "Okay, that clearly was not one of my dialogue options!"

Hope that helps!
He later made another, smaller, follow-up post explaining about solo-ability of quests. Here is the second post:
Hehe. One more time!

Multiplayer quests can still be played solo! Though a few really challenging ones are really better with friends or you'll have to wait a few levels...

The vast majority of your Class content can still be done with friends! There may be a time you turn to your group and say "I need to talk to my crazy, world-destroying dad alone. Give us a minute?" but that's the exception to the rule.

Hope that helps!
Yes, Daniel, that certainly helps. I'm personally particularly glad to hear confirmed that multiplayer quests can be played solo. Particularly since the Class Quests apparently taper off after the origin world.

On a different note Darth Hater has some quotes from a Q&A with Damion Schubert. It's from a panel about 'grind' in MMOs held during GDC Online (which took place these last few days). There's nothing specific about The Old Republic in it, but might help to shed a bit of light on some general thinking. Anyway, here's an excerpt from Darth Hater's post:
Comment: Achievements in singleplayer games don't necessarily feel grindy but achievements in multiplayer games can feel grindy.

Damion Schubert: Possibly yes, I have actually found plenty of singleplayer game achievements that were incredibly stupidly grindy as well. Part of what you see a lot of these companies trying to do is they are actually trying to move the hardcore game play to the achievements in order to get the grindy, really hardcore stuff off of the main critical path. So everybody can hit max level and the hardcore why don't you try this stuff out here. Part of that is that there are a lot of players who won't log into these games unless they have something to do and the achievements offer a way for designers to create those things vaguely cheaply and make them very much with varying levels of difficulty and insanity to accomplish. So I think when you see that what you see is them to some degree trying to make content because otherwise, I know some people may disagree with me, but I know a whole bunch of players and I am the player type that's like "Oh, I don't have any quests or objectives to do." "Why am I here?" "Why am I not playing another game?"
That's it for the moment, though later today we should get another official Friday update.

[link] to Damion Schubert Q&A at Darth Hater.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Sean Dahlberg moves on to Faxion Online development

Sean Dahlberg has been, for nearly two years, the Community Manager for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Then about a month ago news came that he had left BioWare.

We now know where he went to as Massively reports that he's working on design for the free-to-play PvP MMO Faxion now. Here's Massively's news:
For some of our readers, the idea of managing the community for Star Wars: The Old Republic would be a dream job. (How well this lines up with understanding what community managers actually have to do is debatable.) Sean Dahlberg, however, has apparently decided that he's had quite enough of that scene, so he's packed up and moved on to UTV True Games and Faxion Online. It's a bit of an odd move, and Dahlberg has put up a short entry on his personal blog explaining why he's moved on and what he's moving on to do.

Faxion Online is a free-to-play game focused on the war between Heaven and Hell, with what Dahlberg describes as a sense of humor resembling that of the inimitable Dungeon Keeper franchise. He explains that while he enjoyed working with communities, he wanted to get back into designing fun systems for an actual game, and he felt that he could make a larger contribution by shifting focus to his current occupation of Senior Game Systems Designer for Faxion. For more details and a few more tidbits about what's planned for the free-to-play title, take a look at his full entry.
As the news mentions Sean posted some details about the move on his blog.

Having never heard of Faxion before it came as quite a happy coincidence that MMORPG.com has a chance to check the game out at GDC Online (which is going on in Austin as I write this). Here's an excerpt:

True Games, recently acquired by UTV, has several online games in their development stable. They include Warrior Epic, Mytheon, Sky Legends and Faxion (Fac-shun) Online. Faxion is their first completely internal project and Creative Director Mike Madden was on hand to show off the game. Mike’s game credits include stints at Ubisoft, Wolfpack Studios and Stray Bullet. With MMO Shadowbane under his belt, he is no stranger to PvP focused MMOs which is what Faxion Online is all about.

You are a lost soul, finding yourself in Limbo. You can redeem yourself… or not. In Purgatory City, you make your choice. Will you fight for Heaven or for Hell? Will you gain your horns and demon wings or will you gain your halo and angel wings? Who will command the seven deadly sins? Heaven, or Hell?
I'm not sure if it's my kind of game, but I can understand wanting to work on developing a game rather than managing a game's community. And perhaps I'll give the game a shot when it's out (though somehow I doubt it; PvP isn't my thing). Either way, the best of luck to Sean and the team at UTV True Games.

[link] to news at Massively.
[link] to Sean Dahlberg's blog post.
[link] to Faxion impressions article at MMORPG.

Friday, 1 October 2010

BioWare Blog: Designing the Advanced Classes System

To explain some of the choices in BioWare's approach to the advanced classes system in The Old Republic, this Friday's update gives us a BioWare blog post from Principal Lead Systems Designer, Georg Zoeller. Here's an except:

Example: The Smuggler

Han Solo, Lando, Talon Karrde… There are plenty of different Smuggler personalities to be found in the Star Wars universe to choose from and this is reflected in the versatility of their available Advanced Classes:

The Scoundrel

The Scoundrel is not afraid of getting his hands dirty, as the ‘Scrapper’ skill-set has an off-hand Scatter Gun, a number of powerful (but not necessarily fair) melee moves and access to a Stealth Field Generator with various possible upgrades for a dramatic entrance … or exit.

The ‘Sawbones’ skill-set on the other hand offers ways to dramatically improve the Smuggler’s healing and support-related abilities, including access to the powerful Emergency Medpack.

And, if all else fails, the Scoundrel seems to have the uncanny ability to Shoot First, a very useful skill to have for sure.
To be honest I had completely forgotten about the skill sets. That gives me some hope that I wouldn't have to play a Consular as a healer (as I can't stand the double-bladed lightsaber). I tend to just stick to one skill tree (for the most part) anyway.

Other points of note in the article include that you choose an advanced class when you get to the Advanced Class trainer on your faction's capitol world (which I'm assuming is right after you leave the 'tutorial' world such as Tython) and that this choice is mandatory (you have to pick an advanced class).

It was also noted, again, that all names related to classes that you see on the site are subject to change. Hopefully that's a hint towards a possible name change for the Wizard.

Anyway, read the entire blog post at the official site.

Monday, 27 September 2010

World of Darkness Announced

The big news this weekend, MMO-wise, was World of Darkness. Ever since CCP (developers of EVE Online) and White Wolf (creators of the various World of Darkness tabletop roleplaying games and such) merged it was pretty much known that CCP was working on a World of Darkness MMO. And that was pretty much all everyone knew. But this weekend during The Grand Masquerade, which is as I understand White Wolf's official conference, CCP officially announced their next MMO: World of Darkness (though some sources report it as "World of Darkness Online").

Read more details after the break (as well as an off-screen video).

Saturday, 25 September 2010

A Boy and His Wookiee

This week's Friday update gives us a number of "smuggler secrets", though I'm not sure if a Wookiee as one of the Smuggler's companion NPCs really counts as a secret. We also get the last issue of Blood of the Empire, wrapping up the storyline (but in such a way that it's bound to come back up again in various ways in the game itself). Here is the official news for the comic:
Blood of the Empire™ reaches its twelfth and final issue, and Teneb Kel must face the aftermath of his actions. Exal Kressh is defeated, but the Emperor and the Dark Council will have further plans for their servant. What fate is Teneb prepared to carve for himself? And what will he do about Maggot?

Check out the latest issue of Blood of the Empire now.
With Blood of the Empire finished it makes one wonder... how are they going to fill every other Friday now?

Maybe they'll fill it with more updates like the Smuggler update we got this week. With some details on the advanced classes for the Smuggler, information on the Twi'lek species that you can play as a Smuggler, details on the Smuggler's Wookiee companion (to make the Han Solo fantasy complete), details on the Smuggler's starship and even the Smuggler video (which was already released exclusively by Machinima last week) it's definitely some heavy-duty Smuggler information that they smuggled in. Here is the official news:
No two Smugglers are exactly alike, and you’ll be able to customize your character to fit your play style. You’ll face many choices in how your Smuggler develops as you explore the Old Republic galaxy. One of the most important decisions will be which Advanced Class to pursue—whether you want to become the fastest draw in the Outer Rim as a Gunslinger, or whether you prefer to specialize in some of the Smuggler’s more cunning tactics as a Scoundrel. Both paths have their own rewards and more choices within their various disciplines, but you’ll have to choose what style suits you best—or better yet, maybe you’ll want to try them both!

If you’re interested in playing something just a little more exotic than human, you might want create a Twi’lek Smuggler. Learn more about this species and get a closer look on the Twi’lek Inhabitants page.

No Smuggler would be complete without a Wookiee companion, so we’d like to introduce you to Bowdaar, the mighty Wookiee warrior. You can learn more about this known associate on the Smuggler page or by accessing Bowdaar’s biography.

A Wookiee’s not the only necessity. A Smuggler wouldn’t be able to do much smuggling without a personal starship. Check out the new Starship section of the HoloNet, and make sure to look at the Smuggler’s Corellian XS Stock Light Freighter. It’s the ship that can make the “Balmorra run” in just a handful of parsecs, and if you choose to play the Smuggler, it will be yours.

Finally, if you love the Smuggler as much as we do, we can guarantee you’ll enjoy the new Smuggler Class Gameplay Video. This video captures the spirit of how the Smuggler plays in the game, and if you look carefully, you might even see something you’ve never seen before.

Finally, on a slightly different note, Massively reports that Hasbro is apparently making a line of The Old Republic action figures. As the article puts it: "To have action figures made meant that you had 'arrived' in Star Wars fame". Here's the full text:

If you're anything like the other billion Star Wars fans in the world, then you most likely harbor a deep-rooted affection for the action figures (NOT dolls!) that became synonymous with the film experience. Ever since Kenner started the toy line in 1977 (and Hasbro after that), kids and grownups alike have decorated their bedrooms, offices and private sanctuaries with hard plastic likenesses of Luke, Leia and Chewie.

Star Wars action figures have not been confined to just the movies; sets such as Evolutions, Clone Wars, and Shadows of the Empire have all received their own lines. To have action figures made meant that you had "arrived" in Star Wars fame, which is why The Old Republic fans should rejoice to know that their as-of-yet unreleased MMO will become immortalized in Hasbro's lineup.

TTH reports that Hasbro's Derryl DePriest confirmed TOR action figures are in the works for the 2012 roster. DePriest said on ForceCast.net, "We're going to have to work in some of those great characters." Just which TOR characters will be made into dolls, er, ACTION FIGURES is anyone's guess at the moment, but there are already several possibilities in the characters we know from the cinematic trailers and the Holonet.
I have to agree with that last line; it is indeed likely that they'll include characters such as Darth Malgus and Satele Shan. I'm also kind of expecting Hylo Visz (the Smuggler who broke through the Mandalorian blokade as per the Timeline) because she has such a distinct appearance. But we'll see.

Anyway, that's the entirety of today's post. She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid.

[link] to action figures news at Massively.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Developer Dispatch: Designing the Light Side

Today BioWare has a new video for us, a Developer Dispatch where the developers talk about designing the Jedi classes. But first, today is also a Fan Friday with community art, new forum icons, new wallpapers (from the Hope cinematic trailer) and new poll questions. The most interesting bit though is, as usual, the Developer Corner in which Senior Concept Artist Ryan Dening describes the process of creating a piece of concept art. In particular it's concept art for a Republic Capitol ship that needs to be able to measure up against the Empire's (Old Republic period) Star Destroyers. Here's an excerpt:
When creating this design, my major inspiration was drawn from the medical frigate and rebel transport; those ships are some of the coolest looking because of their odd shapes and 'greebles'. I tried exploring some ideas based on these, but incorporated smooth, cleaner looking shells that related to other ships we'd already designed. I also wanted to make sure this ship felt somewhat tied to the Endar Spire from KOTOR.

In the end, I think we got something that hits the notes we were going for and looks really cool modeled in the game.

I started with some rough thumbnail sketches (left side). Once we decided to make the ship bigger, they all felt too small or similar to existing ships (left side). I took some of the elements I liked and did a couple new designs that had the mass and feel we were hoping for. Ultimately, we went with the ship design highlighted in red (right side).
I think that the final concept design looks very interesting and I can definitely see that going up against a Star Destroyer. Though it does lack the... simplicity of a basic Star Destroyer it'll be quite interesting to see how this turns out when modeled in 3D. Anyway, read the entire Fan Friday at the official website.

But as said, today also gives us a new Developer Dispatch video. Here is the official news:
Guided by the Light Side of the Force, the Jedi are the ultimate defenders of peace, justice, and the Galactic Republic. The developers of Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ are taking great care to ensure that Players can experience the classical Jedi fantasy represented in the films by such iconic characters as Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, and Yoda.

At the same time, choice is at the heart of The Old Republic and Players can also explore many other ways they can take their Jedi characters. Whether that means walking the path of the Dark Side like Anakin Skywalker or simply adopting a unique combination of fighting styles, a variety of options will be available.

Watch Developer Dispatch: Designing the Light Side, and learn about the process involved in creating the Jedi classes for Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I can't say that I agree with all the choices that BioWare has made for the classes, particularly the Jedi classes. One of the problems I find myself facing is that I'm often caught between the type of story a class tells and the kind of gameplay a class has; either I don't like the kind of story the class seems it will tell and do like the kind of gameplay it has, or I don't like the kind of gameplay it has and do like the kind of story. I'm hoping that I can make a Consular (whose kind of story I do like) that doesn't use a double-bladed lightsaber (a kind of weapon I detest and wish that BioWare had kept it just to the dark side) and doesn't focus too much on healing either (as I don't like playing pure healers). Even so the dispatch was quite nice to see and it did make me more excited about the Jedi classes and stories.

The video should be available for download later today (it isn't yet as of this writing). But you can already watch it on the website.

Speaking of videos and staying strictly on the Republic side, earlier this week Machinima had an exclusive smuggler trailer video. Check it out:

The video shows what looks to be a peek at the Smuggler's stealth gameplay as well as what looks to be a Wookiee companion (no surprise there). And I kinda have to laugh at the Smuggler mentioning that he has the best ship, considering that all class ships are supposedly equal in abilities (same weapons, same speed, same maneuverability, etc). Though maybe it's for a large part self-deception on the side of the Smuggler. A well, it's a nice video.

And that's it for now.

[link] to Smuggler trailer at YouTube (from Machinima).

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Corellia: Freedom under Fire?

We get another planet from BioWare, and this time it is Corellia. But first there's another issue of the Blood of the Empire comic:
In the eleventh issue of Blood of the Empire™, Teneb Kel faces off against his enemy, Exal Kressh, for the final time. Two Sith apprentices, both aware of the secrets of the Emperor, now locked in battle in the tombs below the Sith Academy on Korriban--what will become of them? And who will choose the future of the galaxy?

Check out the latest issue of Blood of the Empire now.
As exciting as the comic is though, the main update this time is of course the new planet. Playing an important role int he Galactic Republic Corellia is the next planet to be revealed. Here is the official news:
Home to some of the Republic’s most influential leaders, the notoriously independent world of Corellia is of critical strategic significance. It’s been a symbol of personal and economic freedom since the Republic’s earliest days, and it’s become the center of all the Republic’s industry and enterprise. Despite long-standing evidence of corruption in Corellian government, the citizens have always been staunchly loyal to the Republic. Losing contact with the planet and receiving images of destruction has caused grave concern in the Senate for what may be happening on the ground in Corellia’s capital.

Access the HoloNet to learn more about Corellia. Check out this video to see the images of destruction that are causing so much concern. Also, don’t forget to visit the media section for never-before-seen screenshots, concept art, and wallpapers showing the scene from every angle.
I remember when playing the Star Wars Galaxies beta I spent pretty much all my time on Corellia (I think I made just one brief excursion to Naboo with another character at one point), working on my tailor skills and doing the simple missions. I remember some of the parties that we had there when beta started to run to a close. But though I loved it's rolling meadows and open landscape, by the time of release we got a bit bored of the planet and decided to spend the main game on other planets.

Even so, I'm happy to see Corellia make a return in The Old Republic. Though I must say that from the screenshots and videos the planet looks quite different than what I remember. Perhaps that is because in The Old republic things seem to focus on Coronet City where in SWG I preferred to spend more time out in the fields (I didn't much enjoy SWG's architecture). It will be quite interesting to see what stories and adventures are to be had on this planet, even if (or maybe because) I'm sure that it'll be quite different from my memories of the planet in SWG beta.

Also, don't forget the new wallpaper:

On a side note, the new person(s) doing the web updates for BioWare unfortunately don't seem to use full urls so while I'm doing my best to catch all of them when I copy-paste the news source html to the blog I apologize if I miss any, causing broken links. Maybe they will learn, but right now I must say that I think Sean did a better job.

Which brings me to a bit of sad news. Last week it became known that Sean Dahlberg has left BioWare:
Hi Everyone –

Sean Dahlberg has recently left BioWare. We would like to thank Sean for doing a great job building the TOR Community and we wish him well in his future endeavors!


The Star Wars: The Old Republic Team
The message doesn't say why he left or anything which, particularly with such a short statement, always gives me the feeling that the parting wasn't amicable. Either way I wish Sean the very best and want to thank him for the wonderful job he's done in the community.

In more pleasant news, PAX was last weekend and since then a few more interviews have surfaced.

First is a video interview with Daniel Erickson conducted by TOR-Syndicate. here is the video:

MMORPG also held an interview with Daniel Erickson, which they wrote up as an article. Here's an excerpt:

Once it was clear that Dan couldn’t talk too much about character creation just yet, we moved on to his role on the team: containing the massive winding monster that is the game’s script. We asked him how big the script was actually getting, or perhaps tome would be a better word. Dan said they’d recently hired a new writer and his “initiation” was to catch up to where they are with the story by reading a 1,000 page summary text. Yeah… that’s a lot of Star Wars fiction.

We asked Dan what exactly being the lead writer on such massive project is all about. There are so many lines of dialog, so many quests, so many classes to write for… not to mention all the different choices players have when it comes to each quest and the resulting paths opened with each choice. It’s plain to see that managing such a project would be a nightmare of continuity. That’s what Daniel Erickson is tasked with. He’s the task master when it comes to keeping it all together, and more than that finding a way to make each section of the game somehow interconnected and not feeling like just a bunch of pointless exercises in killing womp rats.
A final interview, this one with Blaine Christine, is over on Massively. Here's an excerpt:
Massively: What can players expect from the endgame?

Blaine Christine: Let me preface it by saying that we know endgame content is very important for folks, so it is something we are definitely going to focus on. We have not released a lot of details yet, but what we have said is that we will indeed have raids. We haven't announced specifics around what will definitely be endgame content. Additionally, we have mentioned our player vs. player Warzones. We will have multiple Warzones. Those will mostly be higher-level content, where players participate in larger player vs. player battles, where they experience epic Star Wars ground combat on kind of a grand scale. Then beyond that, we expect -- because it's a BioWare game with BioWare storytelling and multiple branches through the stories -- part of our endgame is players playing through classes that they haven't played or replaying through certain classes to see how certain companion characters or certain branches can affect the outcome of that particular storyline. Additionally, we will have the auction house, crafting and harvesting, guild play, and all the things people are expecting out of an MMO.
Finally Daniel Erickson has made a post on the official forums with some clarification. Apparently, in a conversation with a fan at PAX, he said something like (when speaking about what species players will be able to play): "If you can't imagine it making out with Princess Leia, you probably won't be able to play it." People got confused over that since a lot of people tend to have a pretty strong imagination and can imagine all kinds of things making out with Princess Leia (personally I can only think about her making out with Han Solo, but there you have it). So Daniel posted:
Hey Folks,

Sorry for the confusion. Booth chat is, let's be clear, not an official information release. What you got was one line of an extended conversation that was had between me and one of the players at the booth. We started talking about what made a hero in Star Wars and then, once that was clear, there were some jokes about what the romances would look like had we gone for the toybox approach of letting you play anything in the action figure line. That's the part of the conversation the quote came from.

The first part was merely a repetition of something we've said before. Namely that lead characters in an RPG must be something the player can relate to. There has never been a movie or major Star Wars series with a complete freak job as the lead and that's because dramatically it doesn't work. We don't understand what it means to be a giant lizard or a droid or a walking ball of jelly. We love the weird characters but they are always the sidekicks, not the emotional connection in the movie. To do an RPG that way every NPC you ran into would have to react to you depending on their own cultural bias and the entire "into the strange" adventure that is Star Wars would be lost as you would be the strangest thing in the room. People would constantly be asking you for information about your weird species and their emotional content that the vast majority of players simply wouldn't have and their ability to really BE this character would be nil.

So whether it’s Dragon Age, Mass Effect or The Old Republic, PCs are near enough to humans for us to crawl into their skin. They have generally understandable facial expressions, they don't look ludicrous speaking the basic language, they can interact with the rest of the galaxy without a constant "what the heck?" reaction from the NPCs. The freaks, the droids, the weird that we get to know and learn about--that's where our companions come in.

It's okay to turn to your companions and say "What are you supposed to be?" It's not okay to look in the mirror and say that.

In the future I can see a day where we would do a Trandoshan or Wookiee type story but it would have to be just that. Not a simple graphic swap where now your smuggler is a giant lizard man and nobody notices but a full class story where you learn what it means to be this strange alien and deal with the rest of the galaxy and their reactions. For the present, however, our heroes are our projections of self, headed into a galaxy of wonders and adventures.

I know that this isn't what some people want but I hope it helps them understand that game design isn't simply throwing random features into a game because they seem cool. You have to have a goal, a final holistic ideal that you're trying to hit. The Old Republic is, and always has been, about starring in your own version of a Star Wars movie. Not playing a background character from scene 5, not about living a humdrum day to day existence in the Star Wars worlds (there are no refreshers--sorry!) and not about pulling out the extended action figure line and getting to use it as virtual costume party. None of these are, by themselves, bad goals and could absolutely be fun in a very different sort of game. But in TOR they would work directly against what we were trying to achieve.

So did we limit species choice for romances? No. Did we limit them for our goal of bringing cinematic storytelling and the dream of living the Star Wars movies to the MMO space? Absolutely.

Hope that helps!

So I guess that proves that Wookiees won't be a playable species. Though before Wookiee lovers despair to much, it also offers the possibility of, sometime in the future, there being a truly Wookiee-oriented story where you not only get to play one but actually experience what it's like to be one (instead of just being a human with fur who can only speak in grunts). At least I certainly hope that they'll do that in some kind of expansion or DLC or something.

Anyway, I think that's it for now.

[link] to video interview with Daniel Erickson at YouTube (from TOR-Syndicate).
[link] to interview article with Daniel Erickson at MMORPG.
[link] to interview with Blaine Christine at Massively.