Monday, 31 January 2011

Flashpoint Update: Taral V

When playing MMOs I often find myself playing solo more often than not, so last Friday's official update showcasing a new Flashpoint (i.e. group dungeon) wasn't that interesting to me. Still, it's nice to see some of the story-based content that they're including and that the group content contains just as much story as well. Here is the official news:
Some missions are too dangerous for just one hero. In Flashpoints, players team up with others to confront monumental challenges at pivotal moments in the game story. Fight deadly foes, make decisions that determine the outcome of the story, and get some of the best rewards in the galaxy as you and your allies experience Flashpoints.

The new Flashpoints Game Systems page features more detailed information about Flashpoints along with an exclusive video look at Taral V, a never-before-seen Flashpoint from the game. Get ready for great multiplayer action in Flashpoints in Star Wars™: The Old Republic™!
To save you some time looking up the video at the official site, here it is from YouTube:

I find it funny how they keep referring to "the Jedi prisoner" instead of referring to the individual by name. Sounds very awkward and, to me, smacks of some big identity reveal for said Jedi waiting to happen.

Next to the video there's also a new Game Systems page with some details on a few Flashpoints, showcasing Taral V and givign this description regarding Flashpoints in general:
Taral V is just one of several unique Flashpoints in Star Wars™: The Old Republic™. Every Flashpoint takes a group of Imperial or Republic players through its own self-contained adventure, culminating in one of several outcomes based on player choices. You won’t have to miss out on any of the story, though – Flashpoints exist in specially instanced parts of the galaxy and can be repeated as often as you’d like. Flashpoints feature enemies that require skill and cooperation to defeat, and are much more challenging than single-player missions, but they offer valuable loot and rewards. Gather up your allies and get ready for explosive multiplayer action in Flashpoints!
What I find most interesting here is that in the examples they list there seems to be a clear interplay between Republic and Empire. The low-level Republic Flashpoint is about a Republic transport being attacked by Imperials... and the low-level Imperial Flashpoint is about imperials attacking a Republic transport. Could this be players seeing two sides of the same conflict? Seems very likely. The mid-game ones, including Taral V, is similar with the Empire one being about tracking down an escaped prisoner (could that be "the Jedi prisoner"?). And then the last one is just one Flashpoint that both can play. I wonder whether it's pretty much the same for each or whether they approach the same Flashpoint from different directions. They promised no repeated content between sides, so it's a little confusing to see something listed that looks like repeated content.

Anyway, that's the official update. Read after the break for a Q&A at GameSpot on Flashpoints as well as developer quotes from the last week.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Rumor: The Old Republic launching in September

As far as rumors go there isn't a lot of meat to this one. So it's good to remember that this is a rumor and likely to be false. This isn't an official release date announcement by any stretch of the imagination.

Anyway, website MCV is claiming that they have "development sources" saying that Star Wars: The Old Republic will release in September. Here it is in their own words:
BioWare's MMO will arrive later than some had expected, sources tell MCV

Long-awaited MMO Star Wars: Old Republic will be released worldwide this September, development sources have told MCV.

The date is later than many had predicted, with EA CEO John Riccitiello himself suggesting a year ago that a spring 2011 release was likely.
And that's really the entirety of the rumor; the rest of their article looks back at some other 'recent' news (such as EA Louse). It doesn't specify what their 'development sources' are or whether those would be sources that would know such a thing (it could be developers of a completely different company making a completely different game making an educated guess based on publicly available information as those are, technically, 'development sources' as well; heck I probably would've guessed September or October too).

After the break I'll look at two issues pointed out in the comments and handle some news noting that investors are being pessimistic towards SWTOR.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Quesh: Dangerous Investment

Here we have a planet that BioWare could blow up.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Today is Friday and that means nearly weekend. But it also means another update from BioWare on their MMO. This time the update is the reveal of a new planet: Quesh. Here is the official news:
In a distant corner of Hutt Space, the poisonous planet Quesh orbited untouched for centuries, until the surprising discovery of rare adrenal chemicals drew the Galactic Republic to further explore this dangerous world. Unable to process the chemicals into adrenals, however, the Republic was forced to turn to the Hutts for help.

Recently, the Sith Empire learned of this secret and lucrative operation, and swiftly came to steal the prize. The battle over this toxic treasure may be one of the most brutal ground conflicts the galaxy has ever seen, but the winner will gain access to powerful adrenals and a source of extreme wealth.

Access the HoloNet to learn more about Quesh. Check out this video to visit the poisonous world, and don’t forget to visit the media section for never-before-seen screenshots, concept art, and wallpapers showcasing the planet.
The planet looks and sounds like a Hutt holiday resort, and from the description that's not entirely wrong. Well, except that none of the Hutts involved are really happy with the whole thing, but that's probably just a Hutt thing.

But what caught my attention most was that when looking the planet up on Wookieepedia, it drew a blank. "Perhaps the archives are incomplete" it enthusiastically suggests next to a picture of a perturbed Obi-wan. Lost a planet have you, indeed. (note that while writing this post someone added the page so there are a few details in it now).

What's more likely though is that the planet didn't exist yet until BioWare invented it for their game. But that also means that BioWare can do whatever they want with it, including blowing it up. After all it's not going to break any continuity to blow up a planet that none of the other material refers to (as it didn't exist in the universe until now).

That's not to say that they will blow it up (or do anything drastic like that). But it almost seems too good an opportunity to miss and I recall one of the developers remarking something about wanting to do such. There might be other planets that BioWare invented (or for which they otherwise can get clearance), but I think that so far Quesh is the first planet we know of in The Old Republic that's created purely for the game (Voss already existed and is known to exist in the New Republic era).

Oh, and before I forget, here's the new wallpaper for the planet (the screenshots and concept art are all on the planet's HoloNet page):

That's it for the official update, but read on after the break for developer quotes from the last week, a quiz to test your SWTOR knowledge, a video with a glimpse of space combat, and a few more fun bits not directly related to the game from over the Holidays that I forgot last week.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Jedi Immersion and Starship Creation

Bah. I had managed to finish reading through all the articles from over the holiday season and was well underway writing a post with all of them, including an enthusiastic "and just before the Friday update too", when I suddenly spot the Friday update in my RSS reader. And I had a funny image and everything, see:

No, that picture doesn't have anything to do with the rest of this post, but one doesn't need an excuse to post pictures of Darth Vader playing ice hockey against Master Chief.

Ah well, I'll just rewrite the bit before the break, insert the Friday Update, and we should be good to go. Luckily for me the Friday Update this day doesn't seem to be a very meaty one (though nice regardless).

That's because today is a Fan Friday. That means fan arts from the community (love that twi'lek dancer), fan fiction, new smilies and avatars for the forums, and in this case also an announcement that they'll be at PAX East beginning of March. Another nice thing though is that they're revealing some concept art of Dromund Kaas, Tatooine, and Belsavis:

You can get all the details at the official news post.

But these days with every Fan Friday they also include a Studio Insider post, a little behind-the-scenes look at what's going on with development, as well as a community Q&A. This time they give us an insider look at the creation of my favorite The Old Republic starship, the Imperial Agent's X-70B Phantom. Senior Concept Artist Ryan Dening and Senior Environment Artist Christopher Reeves talk us through the design and building of a starship. Here's an excerpt from the interior design:
The first step for the interior was to take the top view and design a floor plan. This was dream fulfillment for me because usually the interior and exterior designs of ships for games don't have to line up, or there is no interior at all. It was really fun to figure out where to put everything. For the first time, we were making these ships exist in real space and giving the players the experience of owning their own Starship. From the top down view, I sketched the room volumes over the exterior concept.

Now that I had my layout, I needed a style. I wanted to capture the exterior feel - sleek and advanced - but the writing for the agent required a living space where he/she could entertain important guests and charm possible lovers. Once again, rough sketches were done and reviewed.
Charm possible lovers? Ooh, I'm liking that. And as I said, this starship is definitely my favorite, sleek and stylish. With this and with all the good information on the Jedi Consular (see below the break) I'm becoming more and more certain that I'll play them both. Which is good, as it gives me one on each side (Republic and Empire).

The Studio Insider is closed off with a number of community questions and (developer) answers. Here's one such:
Q: Will there be specific quests and/or chains within the class quests for Advanced Classes? (asked by ROFLBATLECOPTER)

Advanced Classes do not have a direct impact on quests or storyline. They obviously have a huge impact on your character’s progression and abilities in addition to the weapons and armor you are allowed to use. Rest assured that, this being a BioWare game, there will be plenty of opportunities to make significant and impactful decisions throughout the course of each Class story. So much so that I suspect many of you will want to play individual classes more than once.
Read the rest of the questions as well as the entire description on the starship creation at the official Studio Insider post.

So far for the official Friday Update today. After the break I'll be handling a whole lot of articles from over the holiday period so that I'm officially caught up again. This includes preview articles of journalists having extended (some six hours or so) play experience with the game, a number of interviews, and a lot of developer quotes from the last week or so. So continue on after the break to read them all.

Monday, 10 January 2011


2011. The year that Star Wars: The Old Republic (is said to) launch.

Over two years we've followed this game and by the time it does it will be (at least) two-and-a-half. But the time is definitely getting closer. Will it be worth the wait? We can only hope.

I've been back from vacation for nearly a week now, but am still in the progress of catching up with all the news (both general game news and SWTOR-specific), so it'll take a bit before I've updated this blog to be up-to-date with everything. It seems that over the last few weeks a number of game sites published their hands-on experience with the game and I'll post it all here... once I've had a chance to read it all.

Next to reading news I've been busy with a number of other things as well; catching up on my tv shows, catching up with my friends in Lord of the Rings Online, enjoying my gifts (I got the last two campaigns for Guild Wars; Factions and Nightfall, as well as book 13 of The Wheel of Time series) and I got invited to the Rift beta last weekend (it's pretty much as I expected: very solidly put together, very standard MMO design I've seen a dozen times before, Rifts quickly lose their appeal to me and even become frustrating as they interfere with the rest of the game). But I promise I'll catch up.

For now, let me just post the news from the official website from the last few weeks (i.e. the Friday updates). Articles from other sites I'll hopefully be able to post later this week.

Though I usually try to put the official news before the break, since there's a fair bit of it now read after the break for a Deceived excerpt, a Fan Friday with Studio Insider, more information on the Trooper, a developer blog post on cinematic design, and new Holonet biographies.