Saturday, 3 July 2010

E3 Multiplayer Demo

Concluding (or so I assume) their E3 showing BioWare bring us the multiplayer demo video. This demonstration has the four Republic classes going against a group of droids and was shown live various times to journalists at E3. In fact it's pretty much the same video shown during G4’s "half-hour blowout", but with BioWare commentary (and without repeatedly cutting out to the interview). Here's the official news followed by (a link to) the video:

E3 Multiplayer Demo

During E3 we gave live demos of multiplayer game play in The Old Republic for the press. Now we want to share the demo with the community! This demo shows how a diverse group of players use their abilities to complement one another in battle.

Commander Narlock readies his troops for an Imperial assault. As he does, all four Republic classes; a Jedi Consular, Jedi Knight, Smuggler, and Trooper join together to assist in fighting off the attack. Watch as each player does his or her part to take on the enemies, and beat the Imperial Troopers and Imperial Breach Droids.

As you can see from the link BioWare's news post also contains all the rest of the E3 2010 news they posted (including those G4 videos). As far as the new video goes it's probably good to remember that the Jedi Consular acts much as the camera there and isn't getting involved in the battle too much (beyond healing) because of it.

Beyond that there's a few other tidbits coming from E3; we're probably about at the tail end of that now. There might be a few more things (like perhaps some awards) after this, but I'm not expecting much more.

The first of these is that according to The Escapist (and CVG) BioWare said that going for a fully voiced MMO was a "dumb thing to try" (and they went ahead and did it anyway). Here's the news from The Escapist:
BioWare thought that making a fully-voiced conversation system in the upcoming MMOG Star Wars: The Old Republic was a "dumb thing to try" but decided to go for it anyway after seeing how well it worked in Mass Effect.

Star Wars: The Old Republic was unveiled at the 2009 edition of E3 as the first fully-voiced MMOG ever, but it wasn't always going to be that way. The original idea was to create a more conventional conversation system along the lines of that used in Dragon Age: Origins. But that plan fell apart when the Old Republic team ran headlong into Mass Effect, BioWare's other, more interesting hit sci-fi franchise.

Fully voicing an MMOG is "a massively insane expenditure and hugely complicated" undertaking, said BioWare Lead Designer and Writer Daniel Erickson. "You have to cast 16 of the best actors ever and then hold them for eternity." But when Mass Effect launched very early in the development of The Old Republic, Erickson gathered up James Ohlen, the lead designer on Baldur's Gate, Knights of the Old Republic and Dragon Age: Origins and gave it a look.

"We both saw Mass Effect and were like, 'Okay. There is no choice here'. So we rounded up both sides - us and LucasArts - and despite it being a huge undertaking, we showed them one with VO and one without and we attached a price tag to it," Erickson said. "We thought they wouldn't go for it. We were like: 'This is a dumb thing to try to go for [in] an MMO'. It came back unanimously from both sides - we had to do it."

"Mass Effect changed the world because you became the hero," he added. "We had to go back and rewrite everything. The storytelling system is totally inked from Mass Effect."

Star Wars: The Old Republic is currently targeted for release in spring 2011.
Personally the main problem I have with them trying to go fully voiced isn't so much for the released game itself as I'm sure that despite the massive amount of effort required they'll manage to pull that off. I'm worried a lot more about post-release content. As we can see from Mass Effect 2 DLC and Dragon Age: Origins DLC they seem to have significant trouble re-hiring the same actors again to provide voiced for additional content. It's one thing to have a voice actor for a companion character speak thousands of lines of dialog for the main game, but what if you're adding a couple of quests and the same character should really have a dozen or so extra lines? Isn't it going to be prohibitively expensive to hire all those actors again for just a few dialog lines each? And that again, and again, and again... you can't really hold off adding quests and such just because you want to pay your voice actors in one big chunk (if you can hire them back at all) and I seriously hope that they've got contracts with all of their voice actors that they have to come back in for however few lines they'd want to add (much as I suspect they have with the actors for the voices of both male and female Shepard). because otherwise I seriously don't see this work in the long-run; your companions are going to feel like empty husks in every bit of additional content.

So yes, though they haven't commented on that at all yet in that sense I do agree that it might indeed have been a dumb things to go for fully voiced. But we'll have to see after release if they can really pull it off (because it's only with additional content that we'll truly see if they can).

Anyway, that turned into a bit more of a rant than I was planning.

Voodoo Extreme has it's list of E3 2010 Reader's Choice Award Winners up and The Old Republic won in two categories: "Best PC MMO Or Online Game Of E3 2010" and "Best PC Trailer Of E3 2010" (and runner-up in "Best Overall PC Game Of E3 2010"). To be honest though I find the list a bit suspect; reading the winners in the categories make it seem to me that people just voted on the games they knew, the games that they were excited about even before E3. I can't help but wonder whether that list wouldn't looked any different at all had the voting been done before E3. Maybe it's that I just disagree with pretty much every category (except the best PC trailer one), but I honestly don't think that the games that won made the strongest showings at E3. Or maybe I'm just naturally inclined to like new things I haven't seen before over things that I have. Either way though, congratulations to The Old Republic for winning.

Over at MMORPG they've got an article up titled "Overall TOR E3 Recap and Opinion on Showing". In it the author briefly goes through the things shown at E3 and how they experienced their attendance at the expo. Here's an excerpt:
The first thing the Bioware folks did was sit us in a small dark theater where were given a basic rundown of the game's features by SW:TOR Producer Jake Neri as well as a screening of the previously shown "Hope" cinematic, which I'd only seen on my laptop screen until then so it was definitely worth watching a second time.

Jake then talked about armor progression in Star Wars: The Old Republic, revealing to us a short clip featuring the game's Bounty Hunter class and the various armor sets he'll acquire as he progresses through the game. We were able to grab that video for you all after our appointment, so be sure to watch it here. The armor was pretty slick, and I imagine that gamers will feel pretty intimidating when decked out in that last set.
And I think that's about it for E3 news for now. Though I do have a couple more things for you.

First of all Gamasutra reports that they're going to use Monolith Software for monitoring the MMO. As I understand it the purpose of the software is to ensure that the hardware performs well. Here's a description from the news article:
Monolith -- which has no relationship with the similarly named game developers Monolith Productions or Monolith Soft -- says its IT management solution is designed to "increase the operational efficiencies of network operations centers (NOCs) while delivering a fully integrated, open architecture platform for managing fault, availability and performance management."

The company says its software is a "multi-tenant, fault/event management and availability/performance monitoring solution" that collects, analyzes, and correlates data through web-based dashboards, which allows developers and publishers to visualize and monitor that information in real time.

BioWare chose Monolith's solution for its ability to manage the real-time monitoring of thousands of devices at several data centers in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The developer says the solution also fits into its Linux environment and met all of its requirements, including specific customizations.
Guess that it's a good thing that they have something like that.

And finally, though I doubt it'll come as much of a surprise to anyone who's been following TOR, VG247 reports that regarding releasing The Old Republic on consoles BioWare hasn't even discussed it yet. Which, as a PC gamer, is good news as that means they're not trying to fit skill activation and such into console controls (for when it possibly is released on console or not) and instead just use the full capabilities of a PC without having to hold back. Not that I have anything against consoles, but far too often it seems that games simply don't use the full capabilities of PC just because they might be released on console at some point (or worse, because they're really just a poor port of a console game). Different platforms have different requirements. Anyway, here's an excerpt:
“I have no idea if it’s possible,” Erickson said of a console version. “I’d have to ask our tech director.

“I can tell you that it’s not anything that we’ve even discussed. There is nobody anywhere in Bioware laying the groundwork for that because we have a very large complicated game to ship first.

“We all know the drawbacks of PC. We all scream at our boxes and try to make stuff work. But at the same time, the interface is made for games. The mouse/keyboard interface allows so much less restriction [than console]“.
And that's it for now.

[link] to fully voiced news at The Escapist.
[link] to fully voiced news at CVG.
[link] to E3 Reader's Choice Awards at Voodoo Extreme.
[link] to E3 recap article at MMORPG.
[link] to Monolith Software news at Gamasutra.
[link] to no console news at VG247.

1 comment:

BakaMatt said...

Re: The Voice-Over Rant, Future Content & Actor Contracts

Quoting Daniel Erickson above when he mentions the challenge of fully voicing an MMO - "You have to cast 16 of the best actors ever and then hold them for eternity."

This line seems to point that they've thought of this issue and went with long term contracts - at least for the character classes (8 classes, 2 genders). I don't see why BioWare wouldn't have the foresight to do the similar thing with companions and other major NPCs. I have confidence that we won't have jarring changes in voices as content is released later.