Friday, 30 July 2010

Nar Shaddaa: Crowning Jewel of the Underworld

Another planet reveal and, to me, a surprising one. Sure, the planet featured in KotOR 2, but I thought that with Coruscant already in the game we wouldn't get another city planet and with Hutta we already have a crime capitol. I was wrong, because today BioWare revealed that Nar Shaddaa will be in the game.

But first, comics. Today we also get the eighth issue of Blood of the Empire:
In the eighth issue of Blood of the Empire™, Teneb Kel is confronted with a strange and frightening vision of the past, the future, and of his greatest enemy. As he lies broken in the Lenico wasteland, he must seek the truth about Exal Kressh and the Emperor's goals within his mystical dream--or be utterly destroyed when he returns to reality.

Check out the latest issue of Blood of the Empire now!
That is not the only comic-related news though. BioWare is also reporting that the first issue of Threat of Peace is in print:
Issue One of Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ Threat of Peace from Dark Horse Comics is available in print!

"Threat of Peace" unveils a galaxy on the brink of destruction three hundred years after the events of Star Wars™: Knights of the Old Republic™!

For decades, the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire have been at war-the Sith have gained control of the Outer Rim, but their efforts to penetrate the Core Worlds have so far been thwarted. Now, representatives from both sides attempt to negotiate a peace treaty-but deception by the Sith puts the Jedi in an unfortunate position…

Pick up a copy of Threat of Peace Issue 1 from your local comic store, or order online directly from Dark Horse. An alternate cover version is also available at some outlets and online.

And don’t forget to check back in August and September for Issues 2 and 3!
And then there is the new planet, Nar Shaddaa:
Circling the planet Hutta is its largest moon – Nar Shaddaa, the ultimate corrupt city. Dominated by underworld concerns and owned by the Hutts, this sprawling mass of skyscrapers is considered one of the most dangerous and exciting places in the galaxy, where anything can be had for the right price.

Access the HoloNet to learn more about Nar Shaddaa. Check out this video to see the endless city that covers the moon's landscape. Also, don’t forget to visit the media section for never-before-seen screenshots, concept art, and wallpapers showing this capital of illegal commerce.
And as usual the planet also comes with a new wallpaper:

Nar Shadaa seems like an interesting planet to (re-)visit, though I must admit that I'm not entirely sure what it offers that other planets don't already offer. Ah well, Nar Shaddaa was rather popular I think so I'm sure a lot of people will be quite happy with this.

Finally, on an unrelated note, Massively has an interview with Alexander Freed. Here's an excerpt:
Massively: Since we can't talk about space combat because it comes out in PC Gamer, let's talk about quests.

Alexander Freed: We've got four different kinds of quests. We've got our class quests, which is what we've really focused on when we've talked to the press about story. It's traditional BioWare storytelling in an MMO space. The other three types of quests that we've got are all group quests.

We've got world quests which are essentially like the side quests that you'd see in Dragon Age or Mass Effect. They can be played in a group. That is where you see our multiplayer dialogue system in action.

Then we've got our flashpoints, which are our big, discrete, self-contained, fully-intended-for-group content -- not really intended to be soloable -- showcases of combat and storytelling in a group setting.

Then we've also got our world arcs, which are essentially long, connected sets of world quests telling one complete story with recurring characters. [These arcs are] really kind of showcasing multiplayer dialogue within the open world, so you can be doing them at the same time as you are doing the class quests. They are not in a separate space like the flashpoints are.
And that's it for now.

[link] to interview with Alexander Freed at massively.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

The Old Republic at Comic-Con: Space Combat Confirmed

The last couple of days Comic-Con was held in San Diego and BioWare was there with The Old Republic. In particular they held a panel where they talked about multiplayer storytelling in The Old Republic, during which they confirmed that there will be space combat in The Old Republic (and not much else beyond that). But we'll get to that in a bit.

First we also had a Friday update. This Friday was a Fan Friday, but we also got the first chapter of the Fatal Alliance novel:
Everything I have seen confirms my worst fears.
Initially revealed last December, Star Wars™: The Old Republic™: Fatal Alliance has hit the shelves! Written by bestselling author Sean Williams and published by Del Rey Books, this novel takes place only a few years after the Sacking of Coruscant.

When a Smuggler discovers the legacy of a lost world onboard a derelict starship, a dangerous secret is brought to life. Allegiances shift as Jedi, Sith, Republic Troopers, and Imperial Agents maneuver for political power and personal gain. Ultimately, enemies must put aside their distrust to defend the galaxy against a threat of unthinkable proportions.

As an exclusive to The Old Republic Community, read the first chapter of Fatal Alliance before you head out to your local bookstore to pick up your copy!
Do people actually still "head out" to their local bookstore? I always just buy all my books online. Anyway, read the first chapter at the official website.

Then there is the Fan Friday update, with more amazing fan art and such to explore (which I'll leave to you at the link) as well as new forum avatars (from the various Timeline updates), wallpapers (from the Hope cinematic; though they're in rather awkward resolutions as there's no 16:10 widescreen) and polls. Then there's the Developer Corner, which I always find the most interesting part of the Fan Friday updates:

Developer Corner

We worked with The Old Republic developers to get you a first-hand look at game content that is currently in production.

The Cathar are among the many species you may come across in your travels through the galaxy. They are known for being strong, effective fighters, and are considered unique for their feline features and personality attributes.
So, no real surprise there, there are Cathar in The Old Republic. Of course the question remains whether they're a player species (and which class/classes will be able to play them).

And then there's Comic-Con. It's been going all around the net (for example here and here), but it's been confirmed that The Old Republic will have space combat. At the start of the "Beyond Solo: Crafting the Multiplayer Story in Star Wars: The Old Republic" panel that they held they confirmed as much. But they didn't go into any details, just saying that more details would be revealed in the next issue of PC Gamer (US). Shortly after Sean Dahlberg posted the following message on the forums:
First, thank you to all of you who participated in our Comic-Con Reveal mission! While we didn't quite make the numbers, we definitely saw how excited the community is about this and how everyone came together. After all of that, there's no way we could hold back with our special reveal at Comic-Con!

If you’ve been following the news coming out of the Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ panel at Comic-Con International, you’ve heard the announcement that we will indeed have Space Combat as part of the TOR experience! But what does that mean? Space combat is an alternative gameplay experience to the primary game of storytelling, questing, and ground-based combat. In space combat, you fly your personal ship to various “hot spots” on your galaxy map. From there, you will blast your way through asteroid fields, enemy fighters, frigates, destroyers, and a variety of other obstacles that will evoke memories of some of the great Star Wars™ space battles.

To learn more, pick up the October 2010 edition of PC Gamer which hits newsstands starting August 17th for screenshots and an exclusive interview or check back with us in the weeks to come.

Check out the cover of PC Gamer's October edition here:
And then a little later the following:
While there are some (okay, many) details I can't divulge at this time, I will say that with the entire game we're trying to make something that is fun, entertaining, and that emulates the action-packed combat and experiences seen in Star Wars.
I must say that the news surprises me. Generally speaking it tend to be a bad sign when developers try to focus on too many gameplay mechanics at once. You end up with two half games instead of one full game where one half isn't as good as the other half. Just look at Star Trek Online (which also had ground combat and space combat right off the bat and neither really seems to be quite there with the ground combat generally considered worse than the space combat). It's developers spreading themselves too thin and I wasn't expecting BioWare to take that same risk.

The one point of hope in that though is that they clearly seem to see it as something extra, something a bit outside the 'normal' game. The question with that is whether people are really going to be satisfied with that (is it going to be more of a 'dungeon' type thing and is that enough for people or do people really want deeply integrated space combat instead). But I must say that the whole idea of space combat never thrilled me to begin with (the 'space' part interests me, the 'combat' part not so much) so I can't really answer that.

And then there's of course one thing to keep in mind as well. Since they haven't detailed exactly what "space combat" is it might not be the X-Wing type combat that people seem to be envisioning everytime they mention space combat, but could be more something like in the first KotOR where you sit in a cockpit and shoot some ships flying by.

But I guess we'll see in due time (as in a couple of weeks when the issue of PC Gamer hits US retail stands and thus likely the Internet as well).

For the panel itself there's the article GameSpot wrote up on it. But it's probably better to just look at a 50-minute video of the panel itself:

There's some nice details in there. They explain the difference between class quests, world quests, flashpoints and world arcs a bit better. They talk about how the storylines of the two factions touch and yet are still different. They reveal how you get dark/light side points for your own choices and not for what the group ends up doing. They talk a bit about customizing your companions(' gear). And they confirm that player species are restricted by class.

Oh, and while we're on the subject of GameSpot videos, last week I neglected to post GameSpot's video about Composing the Music of The Old Republic. While not quite as nice as BioWare's video of last week (in my opinion), it's still a nice watch:

And that's it for now.

Friday, 16 July 2010

The Sound and Music of The Old Republic

I nearly wrote "The Sound of Music..." there. Though regardless today's update shows us that the hills of The Old Republic are indeed alive with it.

What is less alive, however, is the planet that Teneb Kel founds himself in as you can see in today's Blood of the Empire issue:
In the seventh issue of Blood of the Empire™, Teneb Kel finds himself beaten and bloodied in the aftermath of the Lenico colony's destruction. Trapped on a strange planet, he must draw upon the ancient Sith arts in order to ensure his survival--and to learn the secrets he needs to resume his vendetta against Exal Kressh.

Check out the latest issue of Blood of the Empire now!
After that nice appetizer the main course of today's update lies in the sounds and the music used in The Old Republic. Not only do we get a developer blog entry, but also a new developer dispatch video centered around the original music included in the game.

In the blog entry Orion Kellogg, Audio Producer at LucasArts, goes over all the various sound categories included in the game; voices, alien speech, music and sound effects. Here's an excerpt:
"Sound is 50 percent of the moviegoing experience, and I've always believed audiences are moved and excited by what they hear in my movies at least as much as by what they see.” – George Lucas
When you consider the legacy of Star Wars™, what you hear has indeed moved and excited its fans: the orchestral score, the Cantina music, Chewie’s roar, and the pew-pew of a blaster rifle instantly take us to a galaxy far, far away. Developing sound for Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ requires that we bring together the talents of dialogue writers, cinematic designers, voice-over actors, musicians, engineers, and production teams at both LucasArts and BioWare. It’s our job to create an audio experience that enhances the emotional experience of the game and reaches the quality level expected of the Star Wars franchise. As fans and as game makers, we’re excited and privileged to breathe life into every planet, every weapon, and every creature that beeps, squawks, or just plain talks…and it’s not as easy as it, er, sounds.
Read the rest of the blog over at the official website.

But as nice as it was to read the blog entry, I think the highlight of today's updates is the new Developer Dispatch video. In fact, for me, this is probably the most enjoyable Developer Dispatch video yet. I just love hearing the new music; sounds absolutely fantastic. Here's the official news:
The emotional experience of Star Wars™ comes to life in new music created exclusively for The Old Republic™. From soft melodies that ring in the forest of Alderaan to the magnificent booming of a battle scene on Ord Mantell, a talented team of composers, musicians and developers came together to create a magical score for the game.

Watch Developer Dispatch: Music of The Old Republic to see what goes into weaving the familiar Star Wars riffs with a new original score. And learn how music impacts the thrilling moments in video games as well as movies.

Next week is Comic-Con and as you might've seen in last week's update BioWare is going there as well with The Old Republic. Additionally it seems that they might have a surprise reveal for us, but there's a catch. They want a minimum number of followers to their Facebook and Twitter pages or they won't reveal it (until later). As Sean puts it:
Comic-Con International is almost upon us! You already know about the “Beyond Solo” panel being held on Friday, but we have something extra we want to announce during it. You’re going to work for this one, though. If we get at least 200,000 “Likes” on our Facebook page and 30,000 Followers on our Twitter page by Friday, July 23rd, 2010, we will bring you this cool reveal!
If you don't want to join Facebook or Twitter though then you don't have to. Personally I have absolutely no desire to join either. If they don't reach their target then all this means is that they'll just release the information a little bit later. And I certainly can be patient. Again, as Sean puts it:
Hey everyone,

While I'm sure this is obvious, I'll say it anyways. If you don't want to join us on Facebook or Twitter, you don't have to. And it's not like (pun not intended) we're never going to reveal what we'd like to. Anything we want to reveal will all be done over time and before the game is out so everyone can decide what they want to do with the best information available. So, in the worst case scenario, you just get the information a little bit later.

And I forget who mentioned it earlier but yes, the final result is the combination of the numbers for our English, French, and German fan pages on each of those social networks. So it's not 200,000 each (ie, not 600,000)... it's 200,000 total for Facebook and 30,000 total for Twitter.
And that's it for now. We'll see next week if they reach their target, what happens at Comic-Con and what else they might have in store for us.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Death of Roleplaying, Rebirth of Adventure?

I've been debating with myself over the order of the two parts in the title there, because the supposed “rebirth” came before the supposed “death”, but somehow putting it the other way around sounds wrong. Maybe it's in a way me trying to keep things positive, but well get to all that.

And I hope that you'll forgive me this, really long, rant, but it's something that I need to get out of my system. Though it has some bearing on The Old Republic (for which they've made the same choice) if you're just interested in news about the MMO then you might want to skip this.

For the last couple of days I've been... upset. I suspect that I'll probably remain such for a while to come. Last Thursday was supposed to be “a great day for BioWare fans” and for a number of them I'm sure that it was. For a lot of others, like myself, though it turned out to be quite horrible.

It started out quite good. I can safely say that my all-time favorite game is Dragon Age: Origins, giving the perfect blend of roleplaying and story. So the initial announcement that BioWare is making Dragon Age 2 was a wonderful one. However, it quickly turned out that Dragon Age 2 is going to be more Mass Effect than Dragon Age.

Read after the jump for the rest of it.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

First Test Footage Leaked

Just yesterday BioWare announced that testing The Old Republic is officially underway, and today we've got the first leaked videos. reports that they have two videos of the testing (one of the Smuggler, one of the Trooper).

I'm not going to post the videos here, for that you'll have to go to the original site. The videos are up on YouTube right now, but I suspect that they'll disappear soon (YouTube complies with copyright takedown requests). Then again, I also expect them to reappear again soon (on YouTube and other video services). People know that these videos tend to disappear so they tend to download them as soon as they can (and yes, you can easily download video from YouTube and such sites) and then repost them when the originals disappear. Once it's out there it's impossible to take back.

And I must say that in posting this message I feel somewhat caught between, on the one hand, wanting to comply with BioWare's desire to keep these leaks off the net and, on the other hand, a certain 'journalistic' duty in reporting the news. Hence the compromise in that I did post the link to, but I'm not embedding the videos. I hope that you, and BioWare, understand.

For what it's worth, I hope that whatever person leaked these is caught and kicked out, to be replaced by someone who will actually help make the game better (and no, I'm not talking about myself).

Let me also repost what Sean Dahlberg said about the Game Testing Agreement (which I don't think I violated in any way):
We have seen many questions about the Game Testing Agreement and we want to clarify a few things.
  1. Per the Game Testing Agreement, a user can state there is a Game Testing Program.
  2. Per the Game Testing Agreement, when someone is selected for testing, they can disclose the fact that they are a member of the Game Testing Program.
That is the extent of it and anything else would be a violation of the Game Testing Agreement. Users that are found to post or even repost confidential materials (such as invitations, Game Tester Portal, etc) will be permanently removed from the Game Testing Program and subject to discipline up to and including permanent removal from the service. This is not limited to screenshots of the game but taking "screen grabs" or sharing of confidential documentation and materials.

If you have any questions pertaining to this, ask them here.
In addition, Sean also made the following massive post about game testing:
First, we definitely share in everyone’s excitement. This is another step in preparing The Old Republic for launch and the team is just as eager for this as all of you!

Since there is a lot of questions and discussion about Game Testing, I thought it might be a good time to start a new thread. A few threads you may want to check out, though:

I’ve been reading through a lot of the posts and there are some really good questions in there so I’ll do my best to answer them.

First thing, what we announced is “Game Testing". This is currently underway and will end near the release of the game and happen in a variety of stages. We will be inviting people to different stages and just because you get invited to one stage doesn’t mean you’ll be invited back to another one. Unlike testing that many of you may have participated in with other games, we aren’t looking for people to test “everything". Each of our tests are focused on a certain or a set of goals and areas. We want people to have clear direction on what we’d like help evaluating.

The Game Testing Program is all about us validating the features and design of the game. If we find an area that people just aren’t enjoying as much as we’d like, it shows us that we need to adjust that feature. That is much easier to do when you have clear goals and ideas as to what we are looking for instead of just “the game".

Another thing I see people inquiring about is what I mean when I keep calling things the “service". While the game is a big part of it, it isn’t everything. We look at the entire experience as the service; the website, the community, the game, etc. This holds as true now as it will once we're done with development and fully launched the entire service.

Yes, testing is only in North America now. Currently the service is all supported here but it won’t always be here. Our entire community is very important to us. As you’ll note, with few exceptions, our updates go out simultaneously in English, French, and German. This is because we treat the community as one as much as possible. But we have some time till Spring 2011 (although it is getting closer every day!) and right now, we’re doing what is best for the service in the long-run. We could of just not announced what locales we’re testing in now but we felt it better to be upfront with our community. We also could of held back on testing altogether and not start until we can in all of the areas we’ll be launching the service but I think most of you will agree that we would lose valuable time and feedback if we did that. We’re not announcing just when yet, but we definitely plan on opening up phases of Game Testing to other countries before we launch (and not as a last minute “Open" test).

A couple quick notes/answers:

  • We didn’t announce that Game Testing Began today, we announced that it is underway… subtle difference but there is one.
  • Make sure your email address is up-to-date! This means that the account name that you use to log in to the website is the email address we will be sending an invitation to if you are selected.
  • For those worried about missing any of our transactional emails, make sure you add to your address book!
  • How often will we send out updates? As often as possible! It will be different time intervals for different tests.
  • You do not need to sign-up again if you did previously but I would recommend making sure your Additional Details and System Scan are up to date (as well as your email address)! And you can do this any time under "My Account".
  • What data do we track? A lot. If you read the Terms of Service and Game Testing Agreement, you will get a good idea of it all.
  • Since this is all part of the service, any accounts that are in a suspended status when we are sending out invitations will not be invited. As I said, it’s a total service and your account is treated the same throughout the entire service. If you are temporarily suspended, once your suspension is up, you will be eligible again for testing.
  • Speaking of Community – No, post count does not weigh any in the decision of who gets into testing. If community participation was a factor, it would be based on the behavior and quality of interactions with the rest of the community.
And last but not least, I’ll reiterate the point that being able to have the community help us test The Old Republic is very important and valuable to the development process. The Game Testing Program allows community members to give us quality feedback so we can make adjustments and have a highly effective service and entertaining experience when we do launch. Our expectation is that players of The Old Republic will follow the terms of the Game Testing Agreement and ensure that the confidential pre-release information we’re sharing with community members remains confidential.

This thread is now open for questions and discussion!
On a lighter note, posted an interview with lead designer and story writer Daniel Erickson. In it Daniel claims that The Old Republic is "the dream game" for BioWare fans and for MMO fans:
Stories of Star Wars games in general have been frequently disappointing - with a couple of notable exceptions. What does The Old Republic offer that's new?

If you played Knights Of the Old Republic, you'd know it's Bioware's bread and butter and the place we go back to. The big difference to us is not only does it have real story - it's got an amazing cast, it's all VO, it's all cinematic dialogue - it has eight stories.

Every one of the character classes has their own complete path through there. That allowed us to use stories that usually you dont even get, right? Even when we did Knights Of The Old Republic, we had to run sort of a generic story, because we didn't know whom you were to begin with - where you were coming from.

Now we know, hey, you chose to play a smuggler, so we can tell a story that is fly by the seat of your pants, funny, romantic, everything's always going wrong, you're always in over your head. Choose to play a bounty hunter and you get sort of a Western feel to the story; you're one man with a gun, you answer to nobody, you make your own decisions your trying to show you're a bad-ass in the world.
I don't know about you, but I'm honestly getting sick of hearing about how 'cinematic' a game is. Maybe that's because of the atrocities they're committing to Dragon Age 2 in name of making it more 'cinematic', destroying what made the original game so great. More and more I'm starting to think 'if I want cinematic, I'll watch a movie'. What I want out of a game is great gameplay and, most of all, being able to get into my character (instead of having a pre-voiced personality).

But anyway. Sorry for that rant. I'm just still very upset at what they've done there.

[link] to leaked beta videos at Leakerz.
[link] to interview with Daniel Erickson at CVG.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Game Testing Officially Underway

It was rumored a couple of weeks ago that testing for The Old Republic (with people from the community) had started. But now BioWare have officially confirmed it. Here is what they had to say:
Game Testing for Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ is underway! Those selected to test will gain access to the game and be able to provide valuable feedback to help us tune particular areas of gameplay and begin the process of balancing and tweaking our content.

Game Testing is an on-going process being rolled out in several phases. These phases began with smaller, more focused tests with community members from North America, and later will expand to other territories. Users selected for the test program will be notified via email with more information on accessing the Game Testing Portal. If you’ve not been chosen yet, you may be selected in the next wave!

If you haven’t signed up already, it’s definitely not too late! If you’re not already a member of the Star Wars: The Old Republic community, click here to become one today! Be sure to check the box to indicate you are interested in becoming a tester. If you’re already a member, go to the Game Testing Portal to begin the sign up process. Note that you must be at least 18 years of age to accept the Game Tester Agreement.

Please keep in mind that there are no guarantees that you will be selected once you have completed the sign-up process. For more information about testing Star Wars: The Old Republic, take time to read the Game Testing FAQ.

We’re looking forward to your help in making Star Wars: The Old Republic a success!
Good luck to all those who got selected and please try to remember that you're there to help make the game better, not to have fun. In fact, it's probably best to expect the testing to be no fun at all. And remember, as Sean Dahlberg puts it:
Being able to have the community help us test The Old Republic is very important and valuable to the development process. The Game Testing Program allows community members to give us quality feedback so we can make adjustments and have a highly effective service and entertaining experience when we do launch. Our expectation is that players of The Old Republic will follow the terms of the Game Testing Agreement and ensure that the confidential pre-release information we’re sharing with community members remains confidential.
Anyway, BioWare also announced their plans for ComicCon this year. By going to ComicCon you can get a signed page from Blood of the Empire, see the Hope cinematic trailer on the big screen, and attend a number of Star Wars related panels. The most interesting of these, for fans of The Old Republic, is the following:
1:00-2:00 PM – Beyond Solo: Crafting the Multiplayer Story in Star Wars: The Old Republic

Meet up with James Ohlen (Studio Creative Director and Lead Designer, BioWare) Drew Karpyshyn (Principal Writer, BioWare), and Alexander Freed (Managing Editor, BioWare), along with Morgan Webb (G4's X-Play)as they discuss the creation of the multiplayer, planet-spanning story in Star Wars: The Old Republic. While much attention has been paid to the unique individual stories of each of the eight classes in the game, the team is excited to share their approach to the broader stories that players will experience in The Old Republic.
Read the rest of the details on ComicCon at the link above.

In different news, last week BioWare's The Old Republic won the Best of E3 2010 Game Critics Award for "Best Role Playing Game". The Game Critics Awards are voted for by a number (31 to be exact) of gaming publications and thus can be seen as a measure of how the professional gaming press saw E3. So congratulations to BioWare and the The Old Republic team for making the list.

Speaking of E3, make sure that you don't miss Darth Hater's Hands On Impressions article. It's by far the most in-depth E3 hands on article out there, filled with details that haven't appeared anywhere else. The Darth Hater team had a massive number of people attending E3, all geared towards getting as much details on The Old Republic as they could. Definitely not one to miss. Here's an excerpt:
UI Impressions

The User Interface, or UI, of The Old Republic will seem very familiar to anyone who has played a modern MMO. Although not revolutionary, this familiarity should make it easy for most gamers to pick it up quickly and intuitively. We were limited to only a few abilities on our low level characters, but we noticed there were a total of five possible action bars for high level characters who are flush with skills.

The UI was functional and compact, reducing screen clutter, but it may not be effective for hardcore players looking to maximize their information in minimal space. Thankfully the standard design and options imply a great deal of space and flexibility which is an encouraging sight for people looking to mod their heads up display.

One thing new to the UI in this build was Fly Text notifications during combat. Similar to some WoW mods or Borderlands, the Fly Text would show damage or healing done by displaying numbers coming from the target itself. This optional feature helped visualize the action on screen by letting players see exactly what they were doing to a target without needing to look at a scrolling log. While not revolutionary, it was a nice addition.
They seemed to be particularly impressed with the AI, noting that enemies have an "alarmed" state where they notice you (and you can see them noticing you as they'll look at you), but they won't attack yet unless you get closer. And on top of that in combat human enemies often seek cover instead of just rushing headlong into you to get pounded. But they talk about a whole lot of other things as well.

And finally on a completely non-TOR related note... BioWare announced Dragon Age 2. Though there are a lot of question marks I have and a number of concerns, particularly that they seemed to be going with a pre-defined character this time (which if it's anything like Mass Effect will ruin what made Dragon Age special and so deeply enjoyable for me), at the moment I'm trying to remain hopeful that it'll be even close to as good as the first game. We'll see.

[link] to Game Critics Awards.
[link] to Hands On Impressions at Darth Hater.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

E3 Multiplayer Demo

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

E3 Multiplayer Demo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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