Saturday, 27 February 2010

Developer Dispatch: Returning to Taris

Another Friday (actually, Saturday by the time I post this) so another Star Wars: The Old Republic update. And today we get a developer dispatch video where they show off some of the recently revealed planet Taris, which is making a comeback in the MMO (after being utterly destroyed in Knights of the Old Republic 1).

But first, there's another issue of the comic:
The twenty-seventh issue of Threat of Peace™ concludes the volume with a surprising turn of events as Jedi Knight Satele Shan, Fortris Gall, and Special Forces Lieutenant Tavus report their battle with the Sith to Master Orgus Din. The story comes full circle when Braden the Bounty Hunter finally completes the contract which got him tied up in this mess in the first place.

Check out the final issue of Threat of Peace now.
And then there's the new video, as per the official news:
Once home to a sprawling planet-wide city, Taris was razed long ago by the Sith Lord Darth Malak while seeking to eliminate the Jedi Knight Bastila Shan. Now, a post-apocalyptic Taris is being realized in Star Wars™: The Old Republic™. After 300 years, Republic and Jedi leaders are moving forward with the efforts at colonization.

Watch insights from James Ohlen, Drew Karpyshyn, Scott Carpenter, and Mark How about the new environments – and adventures – awaiting players in our latest Developer Dispatch: Returning to Taris!
Looks like an interesting planet to visit.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Fan Friday with Fan Site Kit

Today's update is a Fan Friday update, including some community art, two bits in the developer corner, a couple of new forum avatars and the Fan Site Kit.

I'll just be lazy and copy-paste the entire thing:
Welcome to another exciting Fan Friday where we shine the spotlight on talented members of Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ community and share some gems from the Development Team.

This week, we also want to present you with the official Star Wars: The Old Republic Fan Site Kit! We know you’ve been waiting for this, and we think you’ll be impressed.

Be sure to see it all, plus check out the new avatars, and don’t forget to vote in the latest series of polls!

Community Creations

StandAlone has been busy creating some breathtaking Star Wars™ fan art. The three most recent paintings, Ambush, Inevitable Death, and Darth Satus were all created using TOR concept art for costume design inspiration. Fantastic job, StandAlone!

Developer Corner

In the Developer Corner this week, we’re giving you a quick look at some combat effects in Star Wars: The Old Republic, along with a creature render that we think you will appreciate. Be sure to visit the forums to share your thoughts on our progress!

(Edit: removed the embedded movie since it automatically plays, causing a lot or ruckus; you can see the movie of a trooper animation firing a heavy weapon at the Star Wars: The Old Republic website)

In The Old Republic, every class will have unique and visceral combat abilities. Check out this powerful and destructive Trooper!

This ferocious Rancor, with his dreadful claws and fangs, can easily obliterate any creature that gets within his reach.

Fan Site Kit

Star Wars: The Old Republic is pleased to provide fan site creators with a variety of materials to help build engaging fan sites. The Fan Site Kit includes concept art, high-resolution images, logos, and other legendary pieces of content from The Old Republic!

To access the Fan Site Kit, log in to your Star Wars: The Old Republic account above, click on the My Account button, and choose “Fan Site Kit” from the options listed under Account Management. In order to download the Fan Site Kit, you must fill out the required information, and read and accept the Fan Site Agreement. On this page, you will also learn how to get your site added to the Fan Site Listing page, so other TOR supporters can find and enjoy your fan site!

New Forum Avatars

From drones to droids, community members now have six new avatars to choose from on the forums. To update your forum avatar, log in and go to My Account, and click Avatar. We hope you enjoy!


We want to know! You can find these polls in the Surveys and Polls section of the website.
And that's it. Haven't checked the fansite kit out yet; will do that when I get home.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

HeroEngine Developer Simutronics Reorganizes

Gamasutra is reporting that Simutronics, who developed HeroEngine which, in turn, is being used by BioWare in Star Wars: The Old Republic, is reorganizing to support the growth of their engine business:
Simutronics, the company behind the HeroEngine that's used in MMOs including BioWare's upcoming The Old Republic, has reorganized in order to support growth of its engine business.

[Simutronics], founded in 1987, will now be home to two new divisions: HeroEngine and Simutronics Games. The company promoted Neil Harris to president of HeroEngine, overlooking licensee support, and Herb Marselas as VP of engineering. CEO David Whatley is taking over as president of Simutronics Games.

HeroEngine is used by a wide range of customers, including large and small studios that make anything from games to government applications, Simutronics said in a statement. Aside from BioWare's highly-anticipated MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic, HeroEngine is also licensed by Zenimax Online Studios, the sibling studio to Oblivion developer Bethesda Softworks that's working on an unannounced online game.

Marselas said the company is currently hiring. A statement said that due to new licensees, Simutronics will be expanding its development teams near Washington, D.C. and St. Louis, MO.

HeroEngine's website said the engine features live collaborative development via online, real-time game creation that offers instant feedback, and middleware that includes SpeedTree, FaceGen, Scaleform GFx and others.

The HeroEngine was originally developed by Simutronics for the MMORPG Hero's Journey, which has been in development for several years and has yet to receive a firm release date. Simutronics is also the developer of games including GemStone IV, DragonRealms, Modus Operandi, Alliance of Heroes, and CyberStrike 2.

The Simutronics Games division will focus on social networks and iPhone game development, the company said. "I've always had a passion for creating games, and our new corporate structure lets us take what we've learned over the past two decades and focus exclusively on applying it to new gaming platforms," said Simutronics Games president Whatley.
That unannounced MMO that Zenimax Online Studios is working on is rumored to be Elder Scrolls Online.

Whether this reorganization will have any effect on SWTOR is the question. Possibly the reorganization will allow Simutronics to give BioWare more support with the engine if they need it. But it's nice to hear that the engine is doing well enough to warrant the reorganization. And perhaps Simutronics will finally manage to finish Hero's Journey; I think it's been in development for over ten years now.

[link] to news report at Gamasutra.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Ultimate Sacrifice

There's an interesting phenomenon happening on BioWare's social forums; or at least something that I find interesting.

But before I start a few things. To begin with this post has nothing directly to do with Star Wars: The Old Republic, instead it is about Dragon Age: Origins (specifically) and Mass Effect/Mass Effect 2 (to a lesser extend). It also contains spoilers regarding the endings of those games. Though I'll try to keep from being too specific (no 'how' or 'why', just 'what'), if you don't want (some of) the possible endings spoiled then it's probably best to refrain from reading this post. So with that out of the way, let's get going.

If you've played Dragon Age: Origins then you'll know that it's a story-centric game during which you're asking to make a number of choices with varying levels of consequences. Nowhere is this more evident that in the final choice of the game where you're asked to give your own (character's) life to save the world. There are other ways to do this as well, but each has their own drawbacks (and depending on earlier choices not all of them will be available). In essence, choosing to make the "Ultimate Sacrifice" (which is also the name of the achievement you get for the choice) is the noblest choice to make.

But of course that leaves BioWare with a problem. After all, they want to continue creating more games and (downloadable) content in the franchise for you to buy and play. There are, as I see it, several ways for them to deal with this situation and how to continue on from Dragon Age: Origins.
  • The "Shadows of Undrentide" Method

    Probably the easiest way for BioWare to deal with the matter is to pretty much ignore the whole thing. Give players a new main character to play, set it in an area far (enough) away from the previous game and have a new story that doesn't reference the old one. This is, roughly, what BioWare did with their first expansion to Neverwinter Nights.

    Of course BioWare got a fair amount of critique for this decision from a number of fans (though personally I never had an issue with it). Most people wanted to continue with their character from Neverwinter Nights instead of starting a new character. This is certainly understandable; if you've got a good story then you want to see it continue.

  • The "Mass Effect 3" Method

    It is possible that, depending on the choices you make, your Shepard doesn't survive the end of Mass Effect 2. But just as you could import your savegame from Mass Effect 1 into Mass Effect 2 to see the consequences of the decisions you made in the first game, so too will you be able to import your savegame from Mass Effect 2 into Mass Effect 3. That is, unless your character dies (a story death) in the second game as BioWare have said that you can't import the savegame of a dead Shepard.

    That makes sense. After all, Mass Effect is the story of Commander Shepard; if Shepard is dead then it's the end of the story. Additionally Shepard's death in Mass Effect 2 is more the result of failure instead of a conscious choice to give up your life for the greater good; as I understand it you only get it as the worst possible outcome with all your squadmates dead as well (you can see this ending on YouTube; as you can see Shepard only dies because there isn't anyone left to save him).

  • The "Let's Ignore It" Method

    Another way to deal with the potential death is by letting the story continue, but not dealing with the 'inconvenient' death at all. In this all the choices you made in the game are preserved, except that the fact that your character died is ignored and they let you continue to play your character as if nothing happened.

    This, according to the official FAQ, is the solution BioWare seems to be taking for Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening. There is no story explanation, they pretty much just ignore the story. This makes one wonder why they would even bother including all the rest of the story, but I've got a feeling that that's just an artifact of the import method and that the purpose of this option is to have the same skills and stats as your old character.
Unfortunately none of these solutions are really satisfactory for Dragon Age: Origins (and the Awakening expansion in particular). The first isn't satisfactory because Awakening continues on where the main game left off. I would've had no issue with this personally if they had chosen to tell a completely separate story in a completely separate part of the world (i.e. not Ferelden).

The second solution isn't satisfactory either. Mass Effect might be the story of Shepard, but Dragon Age isn't, in my opinion, the story of the Warden. You can already see this from the fact that they're allowing you to play a different Warden (one from Orlais) in the expansion; one who never went through the story of the main game (instead of doing what Mass Effect 2 did and give you a Shepard who did go through the events in Mass Effect 1). A stronger reason for why it's unsatisfactory however is that where the death in Mass Effect 2 is the result of poorly made choices, the one in Dragon Age: Origins is the result of a very deliberate and valid choice. As I said, choosing to give your life is probably the noblest choice to make. That choice deserves to remain valid within the world.

And the third choice doesn't satisfy at all either. While it might be good to have the option available for those who just want to play the same character again and don't really care about story, it doesn't satisfy anyone who does care about story (which, presumably, is why the majority of people play BioWare's games to begin with). Sure, one could choose to play the new Warden, but that means that the story you experienced in the main game doesn't continue as you'll be left with the stock choices that they made. And playing your old Warden again is worse because with that the story goes out the window altogether.

Which leads us to the interesting phenomenon I started the post with. Over on BioWare's social forums people are clamoring to have their character stay dead.

Let us examine that desire for a moment; what is it exactly that people want? It is clear that people want to continue the story, continue in the world that they created through their choices. People want the choices they made to remain valid; what happens to Alistair, what the status is of the main areas you visit, etc. These things are important. Just not importing isn't satisfactory because it's likely that who rules the country isn't who it was when you played (and we know that this will come up in the expansion).

But having some excuse to 'resurrect' your character (and there are various options that BioWare could go with even if they've said that they want death to have meaning in their world and thus are unlikely to do resurrections) isn't satisfactory either because that invalidates the sacrifice that your character made. And it feels cheap to boot. How is it an 'Ultimate Sacrifice' if it isn't permanent?

So what people really want to do is import the decisions of their dead Warden, but play the game with a new character (namely the Orlesian Warden). Ideally people even want that the game makes some references to the noble sacrifice your old Warden made ("that other Warden who sacrificed his/her life to safe us was the greatest hero of our time" or such).
  • The "The World Goes On" Method

    The character remains dead and players get to play a new character (with a separate background story), but the decisions that the character made before their dead are still in effect in the world and still noticeable. This is perhaps the most realistic method, story-wise.
But that, to me, is fascinating because I think that it might be one of the only times that players are actively asking for their character to remain dead. Usually players try their utmost to keep their character alive. In fact, that is the whole point of most gameplay where dying means that you lost the game. As such it is evident of BioWare's ability to tell emotionally engaging stories that they've turned this on its head with people actively hoping that their character remains dead.

I just hope that BioWare cares as much about story as they say they do.

It must be noted here that all people have to go on really is that faq I linked to earlier, which certainly seems to imply that the only way to import a dead Warden is to pretend this Warden never died to begin with. The faq is particularly light on details regarding the new Warden you've got the option to play and it is quite possible that they'll take another possible approach; one that isn't quite the previous one, but could be good enough to serve:
  • The "Knights of the Old Republic 2" Method

    When you played Obisidan's sequel to BioWare's Knights of the Old Republic you couldn't import your savegame, and yet they managed to continue the story from the first one (for the most part). They did this by just asking the player what decisions they made in the first game. This could be done subtly as in KotOR2 by asking as part of the normal dialog, or it could be done blatantly by just bringing up a list at the start with "what choices did you make in the first game?".

    Either way it worked in KotOR2 because the first game didn't have that many impactful choices to begin with (Revan's gender was one and being darkside or lightside was another, but I don't really recall any other big choices) and because KotOR2 only referenced the choices in a sideways manner (Revan was only ever mentioned in dialog). As such it might work in Awakening; ask the player about the main choices that are reflected in the expansion, but even so it might still feel like it's not really your world you created, but just some facsimile.
In the end the whole situation might just be an indication of how difficult it really is to support a myriad of possible player choices within a product. Despite BioWare's claims the main choices you made in Mass Effect got little more than cameos in Mass Effect 2 and never really impacted the main story.* I would hope though that they'll do their best to allow all the possible choices to continue (even if a lot of the lesser ones don't really have any apparent effect in the expansion).

And most of all I hope that they'll allow the story of Dragon Age to continue if your Warden made the ultimate sacrifice to save the world, because the choice is too unique to just sweep under the carpet with a "let's just forget that the whole thing happened".

As one poster on the BioWare social forums said: "For the Ultimate Sacrifice choice to be meaningful, the dead Warden's world has to persist after his death."

* For some example; whether you save the Counsel or not doesn't really matter since you get no more than a few minutes of holographic time with them during which they treat you pretty much the same regardless of your choice. Whether you saved Ashley or Kaiden doesn't really matter because one will just take the place of the other in a brief cameo where they do nothing but scold you. Whether you saved Wrex or not doesn't really matter because if you didn't you just get a different krogan in his place. Whether you saved the Rachni Queen or not doesn't matter as all you get it a brief, cryptic message from an Asari without any followthrough in the rest of the game. Etc.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Taris: Legacy of Sith Destruction

This Friday brings us a new planet reveal. But first is the next issue of the Threat of Peace comic:
The twenty-sixth issue of Threat of Peace™ delivers the final moments of the battle between the Sith and the Jedi in Dantooine’s crystal caves. The death of Master Dar’Nala restores the prospects for peace and Jedi Knight Satele Shan refused to continue the fight. As the Republic heroes guardedly depart the crystal caves, Lord Baras offers one final opportunity to Satele and a chilling prediction for the future.

Check out the latest issue of Threat of Peace now.
The more exciting update though is the unveiling of another planet, namely Taris. If you've played Knights of the Old Republic then you might remember Taris as the planet bombarded by Darth Malek (while you were still on it), which eventually destroyed all life. But now it seems that in an act of defiance the Republic has decided to try and recolonize it. As per the official news:
Once home to a thriving civilization, Taris was razed by the Sith Lord Darth Malak 300 years ago during the Jedi Civil War. As a symbol of hope, redemption, and defiance, the Republic has begun an unlikely effort to re-colonize Taris. To do so, they will have to deal with the toxic soil, dangerous pirates, and ferocious rakghouls – the only survivors of the Sith bombardment. Determined to overcome the challenges, Republic and Jedi leaders are moving forward with the effort. However, Imperial intelligence has other plans…

Access the HoloNet to read about the history of Taris and the re-colonization of this ruined world swarming with rakghouls. Also, see the scarred surface of Taris in this video and visit the media section for exclusive screenshots, concept art, and wallpapers!
Definitely sounds like an interesting planet. I just hope that it's not a PvP planet (existing solely to have players fight each other). But we'll see.

You can find screenshots and concept art on the planet's HoloNet page and there's also a new wallpaper:

So that makes eight planets so far. It definitely feels like they've ramped up the planet reveals in the last few months.

Obsidian Developing Wheel of Time Games

Well over a year ago I reported that Red Eagle Games was looking to develop games (including an MMO) based on Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. Now they've announced that they're partnering with Obsidian Entertainment to do the game development (for, I assume, the single player games). As Dragonmount reports:

Noted RPG Developer to Assist Red Eagle Games in Building Video Games Based on Robert Jordan’s Fantasy Series “The Wheel of Time”

Malibu and Irvine Calif. – February 12, 2010 – Red Eagle Games and Obsidian Entertainment today announced they have entered into a services agreement which provides a comprehensive framework for Obsidian Entertainment to work closely with Red Eagle Games’ in-house development team to create new video games for the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 based on Robert Jordan’s best-selling fantasy series, The Wheel of Time.

“The development team at Obsidian Entertainment has demonstrated time and again that they can successfully blend storytelling with technology to craft a superior RPG game experience,” said Rick Selvage, Chief Executive Officer of Red Eagle Games. “Obsidian Entertainment is the ideal development partner to help Red Eagle Games take Jordan’s beloved characters from the printed page to exciting new forms of interactive media.“

“Obsidian Entertainment is thrilled with this opportunity to work with Red Eagle Games in developing games based upon The Wheel of Time series,” said Feargus Urquhart, Chief Executive Officer of Obsidian Entertainment. “The Wheel of Time is a rich universe that lends itself to incredible gaming possibilities.”

Red Eagle Games was formed in 2006, and the Company plans to publish a line of video games on all major platforms, including consoles, personal computers, handheld systems and wireless devices. The Company’s Wheel of Time games will be available through retail channels around the world by the Company’s distribution partner, Electronic Arts. Red Eagle Games’ principals Rick Selvage and Larry Mondragon are also producing a live-action motion picture based upon The Wheel of Time for Universal Pictures through their production company, Red Eagle Entertainment.

“Although Red Eagle Games is both a game producer and publisher, as a new company, we quickly recognized that we could benefit from supplementing small in-house creative and technical teams with a proven third party developer,” said Larry Mondragon, Chief Operating Officer of Red Eagle Games. “Our alliance with Obsidian Entertainment is a perfect fit and will greatly improve the quality, cost and time-to-market for the first-generation of our Wheel of Time games.”

“The Wheel of Time is one of the greatest and well-received fantasy series of all time,” said Chris Avellone, Chief Creative Officer of Obsidian Entertainment. “Games set in Robert Jordan’s universe have the chance to deliver on the epic storylines and the complex characters that the series is known for – and this is one of Obsidian’s strengths. It’s a natural fit.”

Obsidian Entertainment was established in 2003 by a group of experienced industry veterans. With the company’s first title, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords for Lucas Arts (2004, Xbox & PC), Obsidian quickly established itself as a top-tier developer of critically-acclaimed role playing games featuring strong characters, richly conceived visuals and storylines and teeming with action and adventure. Obsidian subsequently developed the Neverwinter Nights 2 game series for Atari, based upon the popular Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. Titles in this series included Neverwinter Nights 2 (2006, PC and Mac/OS X), Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer (2007, PC), and Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir (2008, PC). Obsidian is currently completing two major games for planned release during 2010, Alpha Protocol (PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, to be published by Sega) and a much-anticipated sequel in the Fallout series, Fallout: New Vegas (PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3).

The details of Jordan’s meticulously crafted series have captivated readers since 1990, when The Eye of the World, the first book in the series, was published. Eleven additional books, including one prequel, have since been added to the series and have consistently appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List with the last five of his novels in the series debuting at No. 1. Jordan passed away in 2007 at the age of 58, but his publisher, Tor Books, subsequently announced that a final trilogy of novels will bring his epic series to its long-awaited climax. The most recent installment in the series, entitled The Gathering Storm, was published in October of 2009 by Tor Books. The last three novels are being penned by fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson using notes, audio recordings and draft materials left with Jordan’s wife and editor, Harriet Rigney.

Jordan’s wildly popular books have been translated into 24 languages, and have sold about 44 million copies worldwide. According to Tor Books, the publisher of The Wheel of Time novels, there are about 65,000 The Wheel of Time fan Web sites as a part of a vast global on-line fan community.

About Red Eagle Games
Based in Southern California, Red Eagle Games is an independent video game company undertaking the transformation of Jordan’s literary masterpiece “The Wheel of Time” into high-quality interactive gaming products for the personal computer, game consoles, mobile and wireless devices, and online play. Red Eagle Games’ Web site is located at

About Obsidian Entertainment
Obsidian Entertainment is an entertainment software development company passionately dedicated to making high quality, next-generation Role-Playing Games for PC and console systems. Based in Irvine, California, Obsidian Entertainment’s Web site is located at
Shortly after Larry Mondragon of Red Eagle Games added the following additional clarification (as you can see in the comments at the link above):
Hello Everyone!

Thanks to Jason for posting the announcement of our relationship with Obsidian. However, I would like to set the record straight about two important aspects of our development plan.

First, you will all be happy to hear that we are not planning to make a traditional “movie” game that merely recasts the picture we are currently making with Universal. Instead, we want to concentrate our development efforts on telling the other facets of The Wheel of Time story. And as you know, we have a lot to choose from– literally thousands of years of history and scores of major characters, nations, geographies and critical moments in the history of the world since the beginning of the Third Age.

Thus, we have been vetting many creative ideas for game formats, including games derived from the Age of Legends, The Breaking of the World, the War of the Shadow, and even a game concept that focuses on the battle among the Forsaken to become the one and only Nae’blis. We are also looking at skill-based games that are based on the testing of the Aes Sedai for the shawl and the wielding of the many intricate sword forms that are second nature to an experienced Warder. All of this is to simply say that we are critically thinking about game design for an entire family of WOT games that are consistent and supportive of the story portrayed in the movies, but that do far more that merely retell the plotlines, characters and scenes from the films. Trust me when I say that we intend to build games that will excite the imagination of every WOT fan. We just ask that the Wheel of Time community wait to see the fruits of our labor before passing judgement on whether we have been successful in our efforts.

I would also like to make one additional clarification. We are not licensing our WOT development rights and stepping back from the process of building these video games. Quite to the contrary, Red Eagle Games will have an internal development team of its own. However, rather than staffing up a 200 person studio from scratch, we decided some time ago that for our first games it would be far more prudent to hire a small in-house team (e.g. positions such as Art Director, Game Designer, Story Writer, Software Architect, Quality Assurance Director, etc.) and rely on a third party developer to provide the majority of developers and their associated overhead and infrastructure. In this way, we will be providing technical and creative direction to our external developer.

Obsidian Entertainment is a highly-respected game developer with a well-deserved industry reputation for building quality action/role-playing games. By eliminating the need to recruit and manage a large internal workforce within Red Eagle Games, we expect that this new relationship with Obsidian will enable the Company to achieve substantially lower development costs, a shorter production cycle, and improve the quality of our initial video game releases.

We follow the message boards here on Dragonmount closely. We will always give careful consideration to your thoughtful comments and suggestions.

Kind regards,

Larry Mondragon
Chief Operating Officer
Red Eagle Games
I must say; at first I wasn't sure at all about the single player games as I feared that they might just be a quick way to cash in on the franchise, but with Obsidian behind the development this has me really excited. Obsidian has made some pretty good roleplaying games (though not quite as enjoyable as BioWare's games I enjoyed KotOR2 and NWN2 well enough), so there's definitely reason to hope that this too will be some good roleplaying game(s).

I just hope that they'll let you play an Aes Sedai. :)

[link] to announcement at Dragonmount.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

EA Earnings Call

Yesterday EA had its Q3 FY10 earnings call, during which (as I understand) they let shareholders know how the company is doing and where it is going. That means that we get a sneak peak at what they're planning to publish in the coming year.

Regarding Star Wars: The Old Republic they made statements which seem to suggest that (unsurprisingly) the game won't be released before March 31, 2011. As VG247 reports:
EA’s confirmed that BioWare’s Star Wars MMO, The Old Republic, won’t make the publisher’s next financial year.

Speaking in EA’s Q3 earnings call last night, CFO Eric Brown said the game won’t ship in the 12 months ending March 31, 2011.

“We are not assuming that we bring a major new MMO to market in fiscal ‘11. We will continue to increase significant development cost as we prepare this title for launch,” he said.

Both EA and Lucas has previously said the game is aiming for a “spring 2011″ release, putting the launch in either April or May 2011.

As CEO John Riccitiello added, the costs involved here are gigantic, so don’t be hugely shocked if this trundles off into the back half of next year.

“It’s a significant cost,” said the exec. “MMOs can cost as much as two to six, seven times as much as a front-line title, if they’re done right.

“It is a major investment for us.”

Brown eased through analyst questions in the call last night by assuring the mega-costs involved in developing the game will be repaid in full.

“I think the important point here is you ask that title goes live, and we’re not giving any specific date, we’ll move from a net OpEx investment mode to a highly profitable op-income contributor,” he said.

“So it’s a pretty important step change, when you compare a year with the MMO active versus the development stage that we’re currently in this fiscal year.”

Get the rest of the news from EA’s Q3 release here.
As I said, not really surprising since they already said that their target date is Spring 2011.

[UPDATE] Sean made a post about this as well:
Nothing has changed since we last posted about this last month. While we have not announced a specific date, we can confirm that we are targeting a spring 2011 release for Star Wars™: The Old Republic™.
As I said before. :)

[link] to earnings call report at VG247.

Friday, 5 February 2010

BioWare Blog: Composing the Sith Inquisitor

Despite the title of the piece this week's Friday update give us a BioWare blog entry that isn't about the music for the Sith Inquisitor class, but about the story of the class. Or rather, it is about trying to convince us that that class truly is different from the other Sith class. Here's an excerpt:
But BioWare and LucasArts have always been about story, so it’s not just the Lightsabers and the Force powers that differentiate the two Sith classes. With two Sith classes, we have the opportunity to explore the Sith order from two very different perspectives, to develop a more complete picture of the Sith Empire at the time our game is set, and to present strikingly different character arcs and choices.

Whereas the Sith Warrior class is all about the martial side of the Sith, the Inquisitor is about the darkest of dark side secrets; everything that’s weird and unsettling and dangerous about the Force. The Inquisitor is about power not (solely) through brute force and intimidation, but through manipulation, corruption, and knowledge.
I don't buy it; it still feels like an arbitrary limitation on the classes. While Han Solo could never because Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader could definitely become (like) Darth Sidious. After all, the choice of being more martial or more mystical is, for the Jedi, one that they make constantly throughout their life and not just once when they first enter the academy. Palpatine is so powerful and relies so much on the force because he is old and lived for a very long time. Give Vader the same time and lifespan and he too would be a master of the dark side of the Force.

That they can show two sides of the Sith Order with the two classes is true, but you can just as easily swap Darth Vader and Palpatine around and still have the same stories. In fact, didn't Vader grow up as a slave too originally? You can do the same with any class; that you can tell two soldier stories with a "Noble Trooper" and a "Common Trooper" doesn't mean that it's a good idea to do so, particularly if you're still missing out on other stories that the class can't tell.

Oh, I'm sure that the two stories are going to be quite different, that's not the point. I can take the exact same character with the exact same abilities and tell two entirely different stories. What matters is that you can't tell all stories with all classes, thus making it important to have classes that have stories only they can have. They had exactly that before announcing that they have four force-sensitive classes. But while there are so many stories that can't be told with the classes they have they chose to have two classes per side that can have the exact same stories?

Not to mention that this way they're limiting player choice and customization because now you apparently can't choose to be a duel-wielding, lightning-throwing Sith because one ability falls in one class and the other in the other class. If Darth Vader wanted to learn Force Lightning then he could, but players can't do the same.

But I guess that I've just come to the realization that I don't like this strict class approach that SWTOR is using one bit. It's shoving players into narrow roles instead of leaving them with freedom to make their own choices. Warhammer Online did the same thing and while there at least it made sense (being based on a miniature wargame and all) it did feel incredibly restrictive. The only thing you can be is one of the limited (eight) things that the developers decide you can be; so where does that leave player ownership? Where does that leave making the player the co-writer of their own stories?

Anyway, that's enough ranting from me for now. You can read the whole article on the official SWTOR site.