Friday, 26 March 2010

Biographies and Smuggler's Vanguard

For a long time people have speculated what other HoloNet tabs there might be, and today BioWare revealed one of them: Biographies. This gives us a bit of background information about a couple of the NPCs in the game, but more on that in a moment.

The first update today is the release of a short story by Robert Chestney named "Smuggler's Vanguard", giving a closer look at one of the characters from the Timeline. Here's the official news:
Get a closer look at one of the most popular characters from the Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ Timeline series. Hylo Visz, the daring Mirialan pilot who broke the Mandalorian Blockade, is the protagonist in a new short story published on Written by BioWare’s Robert Chestney, ‘Smuggler’s Vanguard’ tells a story from Hylo’s past, when she was contracting on a high profile job for the Hutt crime cartel. Caught between two of the Hutts’ most brutish goons and a suspicious Corellian corporation, Hylo is forced to rely on her instincts and her luck to squirm out of a difficult situation and find a way to profit against the odds.

Check out ‘Smuggler’s Vanguard’ on now!
And as said the other update reveals a new section to the HoloNet and with it some background information on three characters: the imperial Grand Moff Kilran, the independent Nem'ro the Hutt, and the republic Grand Master Satele Shan. Here is the official news:
Curious about some of the characters you’ve seen in Threat of Peace™, the Developer Walkthrough, or the “Deceived” cinematic trailer? Now you can find out all about them!

We are thrilled to introduce a new expansion to our HoloNet archives: Biographies! Now you can view profiles of several of the galaxy’s most notable figures. Each entry highlights someone you may meet, travel with, or fight alongside or against as you help determine the future of the galaxy in Star Wars™: The Old Republic™!

Just like the Classes, Planets, and Timelines sections, the Biographies archives will be expanded regularly, so check back often to make sure you get the latest updates!
To commemorate the release of all this background story information I'm adding two new labels. One for blog posts reporting on official story content: story. And another for these new biographies: npcs ([UPDATE] changed label name so that it can also include news post for "inhabitants"). The intention is that the first one will contain such things as official short stories and the second one contains any new biographies they post; based on the HoloNet layout they've got room for a lot of them.

It's a bit of a gamble as there might not be any more short stories, or the number of biographies might remain very limited, but if that turns out to be the case then I'll just edit this post and roll them up into some other label.

For now, enjoy the background information.

oh, and I'm off on vacation next week (for an extended Easter vacation), so it'll take a while to report on next Friday's update, and any other news popping up next week.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

This is not the Game Tester Login page that you are looking for...

Sean Dahlberg posted on the forum in regards to the "hidden launch website", confirming that it is indeed a game tester login page:
You have indeed found the login portal for Game Testing. That said, this is not a new page and we are not ready to make any additional announcements about our Game Testing Program. When we are ready, we will make sure The Old Republic Community is the first to know!

If you haven’t signed up yet to be a tester or wish to learn more, access our Game Testing Portal.
And a little later he posted some more answers:
A couple of quick answers:
  • Yes, it is indeed called the Game Testing Program and not anything else. As when we originally announced sign-ups, Game testing for Star Wars: The Old Republic will be rolled out in several phases over an extended period of time. These test phases will begin with smaller, tightly focused test groups, and later tests will expand.
  • We thought about waiting until it hit 2,000 posts but figured it was more important to get the information to you sooner than wait.
  • Good insight, Skyewauker.
  • In regards to, just know that we'll always keep the TOR Community updated here
  • I would have posted the announcement sooner but I spent too much time working on this (not really).
The site has probably been around for a while, maybe as they were working on setting up the portal in advance, maybe for running demos at conferences and for publishers and such, or maybe for internal testing. Either way it'll likely be what's going to be used by beta testers and such as well. But with the launch at least a year away it'll probably take a while before they open it up to the first players.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Rumor: Hidden Launch Website

No post for over a week and then suddenly three in a few hours; go figure.

Darth Hater are reporting that industrious forum goers have uncovered an swtor subsite. Here's their news:
Two ingenious forum goers by the names of Ianril and Zechio discovered a little IP that then became Originally Ianril discovered an IP address that appeared to come from EA after doing a ARIN search. After a couple minutes of investigating Zechio found that the security certificate referenced as an address.

At this point the community is trying to figure out what this all means. A few members of the community reported seeing this after logging in:

This along with the quotes from the interviews with the dev team, here at Darth Hater, seem to suggest that testing might be starting.

Random Dev Quotes

Over the last week or so a number of developer quotes have popped up across the Internet as well. They're all pretty minor things on their own, so I thought I'd collect them together in one post.

Kotaku notes that BioWare's general manager Ray Muzyka made some comments about the pricing plan for Star Wars: The Old Republic. According to them he said that the game's pricing plan will "be more of the traditional business model with maybe some twists as well."

He didn't specify what "twists" those might be, but he did note the following:
With Star Wars: The Old Republic, we haven't announced anything yet. But what we're striving to do, to clarify what I said earlier, is to make sure the fans and the audience that we're trying to reach feel they are getting something they understand and feel that it is a good value for their money — and feel that there is a way they actually want to engage in the experience, both in how they play it and how they pay for it. That's our high-level goal.
Ars Technica had a discussion with lead writer Daniel Erickson in which he gives some views on how the Sith might see themselves. As he notes it is, after all, unlikely that they'd see themselves as evil. There's quite a few good quotes through the link (and the article fairly short) so I recommend reading it. Here's one of those quotes:
You're training children to deal with this power, and then demanding them to be incorruptible, and holding them to a standard that we don't even ask from any of our own societies. We looked at these issues and said, 'We could come up with an entire thematic run with this.
Over on the official forums he explains even further:
An interesting thread. I always like to see what responses the philosophical discussions provoke. Hopefully people noticed that there were no quotes from me saying the Sith were good--even the interviewer ended on it being an excuse to unleash one’s hate. It was a clever title masking a more complex truth, which is that morality is shaped by culture and people. Genocide, slavery, human sacrifice and more horrific wars against people who have different beliefs than can be easily counted have all been part of the human experience and to my knowledge not one culture has ever stood up and said “We’re doing this because we’re terrible people.”

If you were raised in a culture that believed that an all-knowing god chose one man to rule over all others and passed that right through their bloodline, it would not seem odd, evil or tyrannical to you that there was, in fact, a king who fulfilled that role. Similarly if you were raised to think an entire group of people were marked as superior by their abilities (the Force in the case of the Empire) as to be above the law in the same way it would seem as natural as the aristocracy did for thousands of years of human history. If you were one of those privileged people and were taught to embrace your most base emotions, to take whatever you could grab by strength of arms or scheme and wit, that it was your ambition and lack of restraint that brought you freedom and purity…

You see where I’m going with this. It’s important to realize that while no amount of a dark side embracing Sith justifying himself to us (if for some reason you could get one to deign to do so) would convince us that he was a good person (he is after all pro-hate and pro-murder along with being anti-restraint), he does not see himself through our filter or he could not be who he is. Nor does the Empire as a whole see itself as the Republic sees it. If it did any stories told from that side would lack depth or compelling drama. “So, Darth Evil, it seems like we’re in the wrong here…” “Yes, Admiral. We are. We’re very bad people. My mother is extremely disappointed in me.”

Storytelling is about conflict and the conflict between ideologies and cultural perspective gives us some of the richest material to work from.
According to VG247 producer Jake Neri told them that they have no idea just how large the MMO could get. he said this as part of a larger interview; here's the bit about the game's size:
As far as planets in the game go, are more going to be added to the MMO map with more expansions, or chapters? Going back to the lore, with so much there to play with, just how big do you see the game getting?

Neri: I have no idea. I mean, I guess it really depends. We would love to imagine this game lasting for years and years and years, so I don’t know how big it could get. I know that at launch we plan on providing a substantial amount of content; stories, planets, adventures, zones, zones that are ripe for conflict and others that are safer for low level players. I am not exactly sure where we will net out by the time the history of the game is done, but we do have to continue to support new exploration and new planets.

One of the things that you hit on is the fact that there is all this rich lore and so there’s endless possibilities of what we can do, and endless planets that we can go to. I think it’s safe to say that we would love to continue tapping into that as time goes on. So, I don’t know if that gives you the number that you are looking for or not, but philosophically you’re right. We want to be exploring either the current stuff that’s going on or the extended universe stuff that’s going on. We want to be in the mix with all that and pull the really cool stuff out and give people what they want and expect from a Star Wars game.
And finally over on the official forums Damion Schubert made a comment about experience gain in groups:
We increase the XP pool for each group member in it, and then divide that pool. I don't have the number in front of me, but its something we'll be tweaking as we play anyway.

The general gist is that we want to reward grouping, but not so much that grouping is the only way to play the game (something that is very easy to do if you tilt the table too much, and then balance the levelling curve to that rate gain). That being said, as some have mentioned, grouping with another person increases your killing efficiency and reduces your risk of death substantially, to the degree that being in a group of two is vastly more efficient than 2X killing efficiency (this is like most MMOs). Still, you want to reward grouping enough to help ensure that you overcome the friction associated with grouping (finding groupmates, getting to them, tolerating idiots, etc).

Other notes:
  • Yes, we have anti-twink measures. Yes, high level players get shut out if they kill creatures too far below them. This is a fine line - you want to let high level players help their new friends, but you really don't want high level players hunting in low level areas, as that can be disruptive to the lowbies.
  • Yes, compared to other MMOs, we give you more XP for completing quests and less for killing creatures. These numbers will also likely be continually tweaked.
  • Yes, harder things give more experience.

Originally Posted by Xavior View Post

Group of 5 level 10's killing a level 10 mob: 100 xp each
Group of 3 level 10's killing a level 10 mob: 100 xp each
Solo person of level 10 killing a level 10 mob: 100 xp

no one gets screwed, no one is forced to group and everyone is happy.
Balancing it's not that easy. Instead, you need to look at XP gain per hour. A group of 3 can kill (let's say) 5X the creatures than a solo player can in an hour, which means that if you give everyone the full XP value, grouping is 5X(!) more efficient than soloing. If you balance the curve to that, the solo player gets screwed.

In our curve, we push that towards being closer to 2-3X. Still a significant advantage, but the grouper has to deal with all of the inertia of forming a group.
And that's it for now.

GDC Fan Friday

I guess I'd better post this before it's Friday again. But yes, I'm terribly late on this one.

Last Friday was a Fan Friday in which the developers also put up a list of GDC-related posts for The Old Republic around the web. But I'll get to that.

First there is the section of "Community Creations". Let me quote the original post:
Fan Art

Community member Hazaz created some beautifully detailed character sketches that can be seen in the Hazaz Art thread on the forums. You can see the finished art along with some line drawings that help illustrate the creation process. Great job, Hazaz!

Daennika took a shine to the Sith characters shown in the “Deceived” cinematic trailer, and was inspired by The Old Republic concept art for costume design in his recent Sith Warrior creations. He is a completely self-taught, casual artist with no textbook background, and only started digital art about four years ago. There are multiple images that depict the Sith “warrior”, or cool dudes from the trailer forum thread. Very cool style!

Fan Fiction

Community member terminalpleasure posted a captivating piece of Fan Fiction titled “An Unexceptional Jedi.” All six chapters of this gripping narrative are sure to keep you entertained from start to finish!

Sith Guide

Have you watched the Star Wars™ movies and played the games, but still find yourself wondering about certain aspects of the Star Wars™ ethos? Danik Kreldin, a member of The Old Republic community, created a Short History of the Sith for Newbies guide that will help you better understand everything there is to know about the Sith. If you’re leaning more towards the dark side, this information is sure to bring you up to date before diving into a Sith class. And if you’re a member of the Republic forces, get to know your enemy by reading this guide. Fantastic work, Danik Kreldin!
Next up is the "Developer Corner" in which they show us some work-in-progress stuff for the game. There's some animations showing Sith (Inquisitor) Lightning, but I'm not going to embed the video since it plays automatically and makes noise. You can watch it at the original post. But there's also some images of customization for female faces, showing a variety of hairstyles and makeup and such:

(Embed code doesn't seem to be working; find it instead at the original post.)

They also added a couple of new forum avaters:

As said they also posted a bunch of links to articles coming out of GDC, but I covered pretty much all of them already in my previous post. In fact, the only new link is the one to Giant Bomb (and they're still missing the Gamespot and The Escapist links).

Oh, and they also mentioned that they'll be at E3 again this year, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.

And that's it. The most exiting thing was definitely the shots of the character customization.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

GDC 2010

I'm not entirely sure what happened. All that I can think of is that when Darth Hater updated their website it broke my rss feeds to them (both on this site and in my Google Reader). So I pretty much missed all their updates over the weekend and they had a lot of them. Hopefully the feeds should be fixed now though.

And they weren't the only ones. With GDC last week, even though Star Wars: The Old Republic had no specific presence, there were a number of interviews and details popping up all over the web. In particular from the off-site event that LucasArts held where the press got some hands-on time with a Trooper.

Over on the official forums Sean Dahlberg made a post listing a lot of them (some of which I already reported on before):
While there were no panels this year specifically related to The Old Republic during Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2010, there are a few panels that consisted of BioWare developers.

There was also an off-site event specifically for The Old Republic that various press and fan sites were invited to. None of this information will show up till early next week so keep your eyes peeled for that.

We will be updating the list in this post as more articles and threads appear and we plan on having a wrap-up article next Friday.
Check out Star Wars: The Old Republic on X-Play as Adam Sessler covers GDC2010, Wednesday, March 17th @ 6:30 PM ET
He didn't get everything yet though; here's a couple more he missed so far:
Since Sean posted the X-Play video has also been released:

As for a few other things; IndustryGamers reports that, according to one analyst, EA are looking to get 2 million subscribers when Star Wars: The Old Republic releases next year:
Between major successes like Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2, BioWare has quickly become one of the most important studios throughout all of Electronic Arts since the publisher acquired the RPG specialists. EA has already indicated that the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO is the "largest ever development project, period, in the history of the company,” and it's quite clear that expectations for this title are huge.

Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia recently came away from a meeting with EA and reported that although "earnings are somewhat depressed due to ongoing expenses of the Star Wars MMO, management has high hopes for this and believes 2M+ subs is possible." He added that a little over 1 million subscribers is needed to reach the break-even point, but the ultimate goal is to get several million subscribers.
According to GamerVision Star Wars: The Old Republic isn't the only Star Wars MMO in development. They say that "trusted sources" confirm that Sony Online Entertainment is working on a Clone Wars MMO. This is not the first time that we've heard this rumor. Here's what they had to say on it:
Thought EA's The Old Republic was the only Star Wars MMORPG in development? Think again. Trusted Gamervision sources have confirmed that there is a second MMO in development by Sony Online Entertainment, the creators of once awesome, now less-than-awesome Star Wars: Galaxies. Supposedly called Clone Wars Adventures and due by the end of the year, it's to be a browser-based game aimed at a much younger demographic than The Old Republic. Namely pre-teens, the same audience for the popular Clone Wars television show, and far away from those who might even consider subscribing to BioWare's RPG.

So far that's all the information we have, though I'd be surprised if there wasn't an official announcement fairly soon. We're still waiting on details involving the gameplay and pricing model, as any specifics are still unknown, though thinking it's going to be modeled after Free Realms, Sony Online Entertainment's free-to-play online RPG, isn't a stretch. Odds are it will follow a similar pricing model, built on microtransactions instead of a costly monthly subscription. Either way, we expect to hear more information soon, and will be sure to keep you up to date on the other Star Wars MMORPG. Odds are it's going to be much, much different than The Old Republic.
This Friday is said to be a Fan Friday, during which they'll also do a GDC Wrap-Up.

Monday, 15 March 2010

IGN Video Interview with Daniel Erickson

I just barely made the previous post or a video interview popped up on IGN. It's fairly brief at two-and-a-half minutes and has Daniel Erickson talk a little about the Trooper.

"A lot more of the game, really soon" is what caught my attention most, though that's probably referring to E3.

[link] to video interview with Daniel Erickson at IGN.

SWTOR in PC Gamer UK Magazine

When I dropped by the supermarket this weekend I noticed that one of the magazines had a familiar Sith Warrior (this one) on the cover. And indeed, what I found was PC Gamer UK's April 2010 issue, which they've labeled "The MMO issue". And indeed it is, with articles looking at WoW: Cataclysm, a number of future MMOs, rating a number of current MMOs against each other, a free trial for EvE Online on the cover DVD and a number of other articles. But the main article of interest is a six-page article, titled "Tour de Force" looking at Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Not that there's much of any new information in it. Considering when the magazine was published it can't even cover the presentation given last week during GDC. Though it's still a nice read.

I won't include scans of the article because I'm sure they'd not be happy with that. But I can briefly walk you through it and highlight what it talks about.

The article starts off talking about how you can make story decisions as in previous BioWare games, but this time you can bring friends and discuss the big decisions. The article notes how incredibly huge the game is, including a quote from James Olhen on how they're "creating more content than Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 1, Dragon Age, and Knights of the Old Republic put together, and throw in Baldur's Gate too." It also mentions how it has more dialog already than both Mass Effect games put together, and how when it's done it'll have more recorded dialog than all their (17, including expansions) games combined.

The article then goes on how, with so much story and voiceover, it is tempting to think that The Old republic will be a "pseudo MMO" much like Champions Online, relyign heavily on instancing. But according to James Olhen The Old Republic doesn't work that way. "Our public areas are part of one contiguous world," Olhen says. "Not just our cities -- 90% of the game, actually, will be a public area where you can run into other players." According to the article James compares server size with WoW servers, noting that some instancing is used for the more complex and stories and personal missions. "But missions that are group-oriented, that you can do with your friends, those'll take place in public areas."

As the article goes on to explain one should probably see it more like your traditional WoW-style MMO, except that instead of boring text boxes with quest descriptions you get Mass Effect 2-style cinematic conversations. In fact, ME2's lead cinematic designer Armando Troisi is on the ToR team now.

The article goes on a bit more about the cinematics and story telling, noting how every class has its own story. Olhen compares it to Dragon Age's origin stories, only going all the way through the game. It also talks about how you can recruit NPCs to fight by your side (though it doesn't mention that you can only take one of them with you at a time). You'll be introduced to one early in the game, but will meet others you can recruit later on. These companions have their own personal stories which, because the companions are unique to your class, can tie in to your class' story as well.

Olhen also talks about whether you might run into another player with the exact same companion. "it was one of our concerns early on in design," Olhen admits. "But you're not going to have identical companion characters. We're thinking of ways to make sure you can customise them so you don't get confused, so you don't get the Chewbaccas mixed up."

It then talks about how your class determines your story, your voice, your companions and your abilities, but that you get choice further down the line in your abilities. At oen point you can evolve into one of two more specialized classes. The example given is for the Sith Inquisitor; either a Darth Maul path with the dual-bladed lightsaber or the Emperor Palpatine path concentrating more on Force powers. A sidebar also mentions the choices for a Jedi Knight; either a tougher heavy armor warrior or a damage dealer with two lightsabers.

The article talks about how even after that choice of path you can still customize your abilities further; "There are certain powers that you can unlock or have locked away from you as you level up."

The thing that the writer of the article seems to be most worried about is the visuals of the game. He likes the style of the environments, but finds the characters "rather ugly" and "plastic-wigged, big nosed". Which has been my main complaint with the game as well. The article blames it on the amount of content that they'll have to create, particularly since the team is apparently not that much larger than the Mass Effect 2 team was. "it's not like we're double."

it talks a bit about the combat and how it's pretty much just "whittling people's hitpoints down -- like most MMOGs, but unlike other BioWare games". it points to the developer walkthrough video to let you judge for yourself. It talks about how fighting and questing is going to be 90% of the gameplay, and how BiOWare isn't commenting much on the other 10%, though they note that it includes open world PvP, more structured PvP, crafting and endgame. The last one is said to include classic systems, but also something brand new "that hasn't been done in an MMO before". They still want you to be questing at endgame though as they don't want it to be completely different from what you've been doing.

The article concludes with how they're hoping for an MMO that doesn't ape WoW, and that The Old Republic might just be it.

There's also a sidebar on voice acting, with a picture of Jennifer Hale (who voiced Bastila in KotOR and female Shepard in the Mass Effect games). In The Old Republic she'll apparently be playing a Republic Trooper (and it doesn't say whether that's an NPC or whether she'll do the voice for the player character). The sidebar also notes how they've pretty much tapped out Hollywood and how they've got voice talent from England as the Imperials all have to have a British accent.

And that's pretty much it. The only thing I glossed over a bit is the opening paragraph. Not that it includes any details at all, but I just though that it was hilarious. I hope that PC Gamer doesn't mind me sharing that bit with you; enjoy.
You remember the scene: Luke severs Darth Vader's hand in a stroke of poetic justice, but pauses before the kill. He could rid the galaxy of a villain, or give his dad a chance at redemption. He hesitates.

The emperor cackles. He hesitates. Vader looks around nervously. He hesitates. A crowd of stormtroopers gather, shuffling uncertainly. He hesitates. His eyes glaze over.

Somewhere behind the scenes, Harrison Ford is tapping away furiously to Mark Hamill.

"dude just kill him already lol"

"stfu he's my dad"

"cmon man we've been on this quest every night this week, lets just turn it in and hit the vendors"

"i need the lightside points, dick, im like this close to getting Force Heal"

"heal? ur kidding, right? dude when i roll jedi imma be all about the LIGHTNIN. LIGHTNIN, bro."

"u think i dont need heal? ok, hands up who lost their hand. oh thats right, i can't put my hand up CAUSE I LOST MY HAND."

"u got robo hand, thats like +5 STR. whats the matter, too cold for Luke's private time? u know the dark side always has Force Grip for that ;)"


"im nailin ur sister"

* Mark Hamill has disconnected.

Thanks Tom Francis for writing that.

GDC Hands-On at 1UP & Eurogamer

Last week was GDC and though Star Wars: The Old Republic didn't have a direct presence there LucasArts did show it off to a bunch of journalists. And now that those journalists are getting home after the conference the first accounts of that are starting to pop up.

Though I suspect that there'll be more in the coming week, the first two are from 1UP and Eurogamer. There's nothing really new in the articles that I've noticed (1UP takes a slightly odd approach for how it will 'dethrone' STO as the premier space MMO... I wasn't aware that STO was crowned as such). But it might still be nice to read.

Here's an excerpt from 1UP's article:
Story Driven Experience

When playing a story mission in Star Trek Online, it's all text delivered through a little dialog box. More times than not, it's usually an alien race harassing a Federation colony, and you need to step in and blast them out of the stars. From the little that we've seen of The Old Republic so far, this much is certain: you will have many different story arcs available to your character available out of the box on day one. Recently we saw some of this in action as we got a taste of the Trooper's story arc, and what it was like to be a part of Havoc Squad (a mercenary group, essentially). The mission assignment itself was simple: infiltrate a base on Ord Mantell and obtain a secret weapon known as the ZR-57. Though, during this mission, we interacted with other members of our squad, talked with the locals to pick up side-missions along the way, and even decided the fate on some of the guards in the base -- all with spoken dialog for every character (even ours). Adding that level of immersion in an MMO is huge; it felt like we were playing Knights of the Old Republic all over again (that's a good thing).
The article at Eurogamer is a little more sober. Though they seemed to enjoy what they've seen, they did note that they're starting to worry considering how little of the actual MMO parts have been shown. Here's an excerpt:
Like the Inquisitor demo, it's a strictly single-player experience. We all play offline in separate instances of the same mission. As RPG gameplay goes, it's slick, accessible, pacey and enjoyable - but in common with everything LucasArts, EA and BioWare have shown of The Old Republic so far, there's nothing massively-multiplayer about it. They've shown an appealing and obviously high-quality game, but they simply haven't shown us an MMO yet.
I'm not quite as worried about that as they are. Not so much because I have faith in BioWare/Ea/LucasArts to get it right (and I'm sure that they'll do a decent job of it), but more because I'd be happy with a single-player game online that has persistence and which you can play with others when you so choose. But I can see why one looking for a more traditional MMO experience might be concerned.

Anyway, that's it. Over the weekend I also noticed an article in PC Gamer (UK) on The Old Republic; but since I've got the magazine at home I'll report on that later. I'll just say that there's not really anything new in that either.

[link] to hands-on article at 1UP.
[link] to hands-on article at Eurogamer.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Breaking out on Belsavis!

Today brings us a new planet and an announcement as the Friday update. Let's start with the latter.

For a long while BioWare has run the Threat of Peace webcomic on their site, but now they've announced another webcomic that's soon to come, namely "Blood of the Empire". Just a wild guess here, but it might have something to do with the Empire and with blood. Here's the official announcement (plus the sneak peak):
BioWare™ and LucasArts have once again teamed up with Dark Horse to create this original comic series published entirely online. Blood of the Empire features a new perspective and strong character-driven story written by BioWare’s Senior Writer Alexander Freed and published by Dark Horse.

Set in the years before the Treaty of Coruscant and the establishment of peace between the great galactic powers, Blood of the Empire sets the stage for The Old Republic with new heroes, new villains and new revelations about the inner workings of the Emperor’s cabal.

Be on the lookout for the release of the first issue of Blood of the Empire coming soon on the Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ website. Get a sneak peek at the series below!
Now here's hoping that it's better than the other webcomic (which seemed to be so all over the place that it was hard to follow, getting only three pages every two weeks).

The other update is the announcement of the prison planet of Belsavis. Here's the official news:
Since before the Great War, the ancient Rakatan prisons of Belsavis have been maintained by the Republic and used to incarcerate some of the galaxy’s most dangerous Sith lords, Mandalorian warriors, and ferocious aliens. Having recently discovered the location of this Republic super prison, the Empire is determined to see its allies released.

Access the HoloNet to learn more about the ancient prisons of Belsavis, and the horrible secrets contained within its vaults. View the glacial world of Belsavis in this video and visit the media section for never-before-seen screenshots, concept art, and wallpapers depicting the setting – and the struggle – of Belsavis.
And of course a new wallpaper for the planet (screenshots and concept art can be found on the planet page itself, as well as a short video).

Strange how many MMOs seem to have a prison zone (with the players usually fighting the escaped prisoners). Maybe because of that I kind of expected a prison planet in SWTOR. But regardless should be an interesting place to quest. Hopefully BioWare can give it some more interesting stories besides "convicts are escaping; go catch them" and "help the convict escape".

Then there's also a comment by Sean on Star Wars: The Old Republic's (lack of) presence at GDC this last week:
While there were no panels this year specifically related to The Old Republic during Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2010, there are a few panels that consisted of BioWare developers.

There was also an off-site event specifically for The Old Republic that various press and fan sites were invited to. None of this information will show up till early next week so keep your eyes peeled for that.

We will be updating the list in this post as more articles and threads appear and we plan on having a wrap-up article next Friday.
And that's it for the moment. According to another of Sean's posts next week will be a Fan Friday which will include a GDC wrap-up.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Plans for endgame in place

Not really that surprising, but BioWare's Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk noted that they have plans for The Old Republic's endgame in place, as noted by VG247:
BioWare bossman Ray Muzyka has told VG247’s US editor Stephany Nunneley that plans for what happens after you finish Star Wars: The Old Republic are in place.

But speaking at GDC alongside fellow head of the studio Greg Zeschuk, the pair wouldn’t go into specifics as to what would be coming.

“We have plans for end game, but can’t be more specific,” said Muzyka, before teasing: “Actually, we can, but we won’t.

“But soon actually, it’s nice to be able to reveal things a little bit over time.”

“It’s been a long cycle, but we knew that going in and we’ve been very thoughtful about details. People who play MMOs want details,” added Zeschuk.

That said, there will be stuff in the game from the go that will keep you occupied for a long time.

“We have a story in place that will keep people playing and having fun for a really long time, and you should see the pillars we have describing to us what makes a great MMO or RPG for that matter, as they’re very similar kinds of pillars,” said Muzyka.

“We look at narrative and story, we look at combat and conflict, progression, customization, all those have aspects that transcend the primary main game and all of them have place in the end game too.”

The MMO was announced back in October 2008, with a release set for spring next year. Wont be out before April, though.
As I said, nothing really shocking yet. But thought it was nice to hear the bosses' thoughts.

[link] to news article at VG247.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

SWTOR is EA's "largest ever" project

Though this should come as no surprise to anyone, Eurogamer is reporting that Star Wars: The Old Republic is EA's largest ever project. Their text:
BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic is the most expensive game ever created at EA.

The publisher's chief banker Eric Brown described the MMO as the "largest ever development project, period, in the history of the company".

He said a packaged game usually costs around $30m to make at EA, but "any MMO costs significantly more than that".

When asked by a member of the Wedbush Morgan Securities audience in New York today how the cost compared to World of Warcraft, Brown said Blizzard spent "$100 million, perhaps more" to ship the game in 2004.

"That's lifetime [research and development] to actually ship it and obviously then there's maintenance subsequent to ship and expansion packs," Brown added.

These days, WOW makes around $100m a month from subscriptions. EA no doubt hopes SWTOR will recoup costs in a similar fashion.

"MMOs are sizeable undertakings," quipped Brown.

EA is steering Star Wars: The Old Republic towards a spring 2011 release. Take that with a pinch of salt, as these things slip.
I can see how that might make one nervous; developing a triple-A MMO is clearly risky business.

[link] to article at Eurogamer.

Endgame is "Brand New System"

ComputerAndVideoGames, the digital arm of PC Gamer magazine, has posted a message noting that James Ohlen told them that the endgame content in Star Wars: The Old Republic will be a combination of classic MMO systems and something new. Here's their article:
Bioware has revealed that end game content in Star Wars: The Old Republic will mix the classic MMO system with "something brand new".

The 'endgame' content offers players incentives to stay in the game once they've reached maximum level.

Speaking to PC Gamer in its new 'MMO issue', the game's creative director James Olhen said:

"We're looking at classic [endgame] systems, but we're also doing something brand new that hasn't been done in an MMO before. So we're going to mix those two together."

Olhen then got hushed by the game's product manager, but added that Bioware was keen for players to continue questing after hitting maximum.

"We want to make sure the endgame isn't completely different to what you have been doing," he said. "So there will be a natural progression... We want to make sure that when people play ToR they feel like they never run out of content... that it's an epic story."
As I understand it the magazine has the complete interview, but since I don't have access to that I can't tell you anything more than I've already quoted above.

Even so, sounds intriguing. I wonder what they've got cooked up. Though I rarely make it to the endgame (in fact, has only happened in one MMO to date).

[link] to news item at ComputerAndVideoGames.

Friday, 5 March 2010

BioWare Blog: Finding Balance in the Force

Today's Friday update sees us another BioWare blog entry, this one written by Joanna Berry and centered around the Jedi Consular. Here's an excerpt:
As a Jedi Consular, your journey begins among the ruins and forests of Tython, still full of dangers and secrets after so many centuries. But the business of the Jedi Order is never confined to one world. You may find yourself inching through ancient ruins seeking proof of lost cultures, discovering and mastering forgotten Force techniques, planning an assault on an enemy base with Republic armies waiting on your unique insights, or even representing your order to a strange alien culture, whose first question is: “What’s a Jedi?”

And as your knowledge and experience grows, so does your reputation. The Jedi Council will entrust you with its most dangerous and delicate missions. Among the Sith, there will be whispers in the highest circles of a powerful new enemy. Maybe you’ll even get the chance to teach a new generation of Jedi, just as your master taught you.
Though I still would've preferred some Republic Senator class or such, I think I'm coming to terms with BioWare's class choices (don't have much choice; can't change it anyway). And as such I thing that at the moment I find the Consular probably the most interesting class. With the Empire Sith classes not really seeming to offer the Light Side path I was hoping for, I'll probably just revert to playing a Jedi and the mysticism and spiritualism the Consular class (potentially) offer definitely appeals to me.

Though I do expect that it'll all just be a pretext for using your powers to kill enemies. Pity.

Anyway, it's a nice article; always enjoy reading these BioWare blog entires.