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.

1 comment:

BakaMatt said...

I don't quite buy the reason given for human-only races that's being given out. In a galaxy as diverse as the one in Star Wars where thousands of races live together, it seems a bit odd to picture NPCs who would constantly be reacting to your appearance or hounding you for racial details if you happened to be a Wookiee or Hutt or Trandoshan or whatever. In most planetary communities, they'd be hard pressed to go one city block without passing a dozen or so various alien races. What if we flipped the point of view around? Is every non-humanoid species going to stop the player and ask what humans are really like, or stop everything and gawk at the strange-looking "alien" human?

It stinks of a PR-spin cover for the fact that it's much simpler to create a single set of animations for humanoid frame, less modeling needed for each unique set of armor, less continuity gaffs to look for when writing dialogue, etc. I imagine it's more to do with development costs than relegating non-humanoid species to sidekick roles.