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.