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.

Since there are so many articles to go through I won't quote all of them. Instead I'll post links to all the articles first and then will pull out a few quotes here and there to give a bit of a taste. I'll also split things up into preview and interviews (and developer quotes). Let's start with the previews.


Near the end of 2010 BioWare gave a whole lot of press almost a whole day* (around six hours) of hands-on experience with The Old Republic. Journalists where given a pre-made Jedi character, either a Jedi Knight or a Jedi Consular, and let loose on Tython for hours of low level experience (they seemed to get to about level six to ten in that time). And then those journalists told us all about it in turn.

The resulting articles range from "cautiously optimistic" to generally quite positive. Though there were certainly those with concerns and uncertainties, the general impression seemed to be an overwhelmingly positive one.

Following is a list of all the preview articles that I've come across. While I'm certain that there are more articles out there, this should give a good general idea. After the list I'll pick out a quote here and there from some of the articles.
  • [link] to hands-on article at Eurogamer.
  • [link] to preview article at 1UP.
  • [link] to hands-on article at Massively.
  • [link] to preview article at MMORPG.
  • [link] to preview article at Ten Ton Hammer.
  • [link] to hands-on article at NowGamer.
  • [link] to preview article at VideoGamer.
  • [link] to preview article #1 at IGN.
  • [link] to preview article #2 at IGN.
  • [link] to hands-on article at GameSpot.
  • [link] to preview article at G4TV.
  • [link] to hands-on 'interrogation' article at GameSpy.
  • [link] to Jedi Consular impressions at Darth Hater.
  • [link] to Jedi Knight impressions at Darth Hater.
  • [link] to general information article at Darth Hater.
The Eurogamer article was the first one that I read, and also seems to be the most negative (or rather, most cautious). It should be noted that Eurogamer tries to be a more 'critical' website (often their reviews then to be more negative than those on other sites). Though I often find myself disagreeing with their views, I'm very glad that they tend to be as it tends to make for more honest impressions and I wish more game news sites would try to be more critical. Here's an excerpt from their article:
Put simply, the basic missions and forgettable characters at this level aren't interesting enough to sustain the cinematic presentation. Also, in a persistent multiplayer context, all this chatter has another, oddly immersion-breaking effect. Seeing other players standing around in a motionless, non-interactive trance while they page through lengthy conversation cut-scenes (represented by a buff called, appropriately enough, "conversation stasis") makes it feel as though everyone is playing in their own world, not yours.

If my day with The Old Republic has a big surprise, however, it's how well the conversation system works when playing together in a group in the Flashpoint.
Considering that Eurogamer is the only one so far claiming that the cinematic presentation isn't sustainable and, in fact, every other website is singing its praises (even if wondering whether it'll grow tired or not at higher levels) I'm not at all worried by the above quote. As I said I often don't agree with their views (and this is one I fully expect to disagree with them on). The final line is also worth noting as there were more websites exclaiming how enjoyable the multiplayer conversation system was (which is a point I fully expect to agree with them on).

Over the last year I've come to really enjoy reading the Massively website. I'm not quite sure what it is, maybe just a bit of like-mindedness or maybe it's Rubi's Flameseeker Chronicles for the Guild Wars games. Maybe it's because it feels like it's gamers like me writing for gamers like me. Either way, I also quite enjoyed reading their hands-on experience with The Old Republic; here's a quote:
Daniel Erickson insisted that Tython was dense -- and that it was small compared to later non-origin worlds -- but it looked pretty big to me, and several of the areas seemed much larger than necessary. Perhaps I'm trained to expect fairly small, concentrated quest hubs, so a large agricultural/religious village like Kalikori, which had only a few quests (all completable in the same run), seemed a bit weird. Then again, I was relieved I didn't have to linger too long in any one spot. BioWare kept me there just long enough before moving me on. Consequently, I always felt like I was moving forward, rather than like I was doing busywork to pad out my grind at each hub.
This is another thing that came up in a fair number of articles: BioWare said that Tython is one of their smaller worlds while the people playing it already found it quite big. This makes me happy; the more there is to explore and the bigger the universe feels the more enjoyable the game is (provided that it isn't just all empty space but that everything is actually filled in with something).

IGN has two articles that I've found on the hands-on, I suspect one for the EA Winter Showcase and one for the Jedi Immersion Day, each with a different author. One played a Jedi Knight and the other a Jedi Consular. And both seemed to find the game quite enjoyable. Here's a quote from the Consular article:
The Consular's opening abilities are, by and large, much more memorable and immediately impactful than that of my short time with the Inquisitor. The Consular has a stock-standard melee lightsaber swing which, like the Inquisitor, is a series of blows rather than one solid thwack. Much cooler, though, is the ability Project, in which the Consular tears from the earth a massive boulder and hurls it at a target. It's a long-range ability with a bit of a cast time, but it deals solid damage and is a good opening move. Plus, it's pretty potent looking -- the boulder animation conveys the weight of the object quite well.
A number of articles went into some detail on what abilities they had at their disposal and how they used them. It's nice in that sense to get an impression of how the game played for them, and nice to have a bit of an idea what direction of play the classes tend to lean to. Though it's also important to realize that not only are abilities among the primary things likely to change (as such it's like that the Inquisitor has more impactful abilities now than when the author tried it last) and that they're describing low-level gameplay. Future abilities, choice of advanced classes and skills within them, equipment and requirements of content all tend to change how a class plays. Of course this is obvious, but still something good to keep in mind.

GameSpot starts their article with first talking about the presentation BioWare gave before the hands-on, where the journalists were shown the Crew Skill system and the first Warzone. But it then moves on to talk about their experience playing the game. Here's an excerpt:
Our first official act as a Jedi consular was to hop onto a speeder--the game's terrestrial fast-travel system, which lifts you up in the air on a state-of-the-art speeder bike and whisks you away to your destination (not unlike a certain other eagle-headed bird that does something similar in a certain other online game). We headed out to the next outpost in the wilderness to rendezvous with our master and to rescue some holocrons and/or fellow padawans. We met with our master, a liberal sort who, surprisingly, associated with a hunter of the savage Trandoshan race (the same reptilian race as the bounty hunter Bossk from The Empire Strikes Back), and we received our first mission: to retrieve a missing set of ancient holocrons that belonged to some of the earliest Jedi--one of which belonged to the very first fallen Jedi who went on to found the evil Sith order.
The speeders were mentioned in a few articles as well, working pretty much the same way as World of Warcraft's flight paths. Other articles also noted that they tend to be rather slow, though still faster than going on foot. Maybe this'll be tweaked, but otherwise BioWare might want to reconsider called them (and using) 'Speeders'. ;)

That Trandoshan by the way is said to be the first companion character for the Jedi Consular, a character meant to be able to tank so that the Consular can stay more at range, though reportedly the tanking ability wasn't working that well yet. In general the articles make mention of the companion characters (including the droid that's the first companion for Jedi Knights). One of the features they described that sound quite nice is the ability to send your companion off to sell your junk for you (they disappear together with your junk for a minute or so and then return with money from the sale). This sounds a lot like how the pets function in Torchlight, though one article mentions grey items specifically so the question is whether you can have them drag anything off as junk and possibly keep some grey items if you desire, or whether it's completely automated. We'll have to see.

The ever great SWTOR site Darth Hater was also present for some hands-on experience and as always they give a quite detailed accounting of their experience, having three articles for it. One with their Jedi Consular Impressions, one with their Jedi Knight impressions and one with general information they learned. And each of these articles several pages long. Let me post two quotes from their site; one from the Jedi Consular article (though I realize that I've been posting more Consular quotes than Knight quotes; I guess I find the Consular more interesting) and one from their general information article:
We started off our journey as Jedi Consulars as Level 1 characters on Tython. Our characters were pre-made; Dover played a male Twi'lek, while Emlaeh played a female green skinned humanoid that appeared to be a Mirialan. Similar to many caster classes in other MMOs, the Jedi Consular starts as a simple mix of ranged abilities and default attacks to finish. Initiating combat with the Project ability and following up with the training saber quickly becomes the obvious mode of play; however, this combination of melee and Force abilities quickly diminishes as you progress through the opening area and gain access to new skills.
THe main reason why I chose this quote? Yay, confirmation of twi'lek for Jedi Consular. :D The second part shows (and they go into a bit more detail in the next paragraph in the article) what I mentioned before: how a class plays changes as you progress through the game. It also highlights that the Jedi Consular is less of a melee class (though the Jedi Shadow will probably up the amount a melee again a fair bit).
Multiplayer dialog system was actually really fun; it felt like it was an accomplishment to get a word in edgewise during the conversation. It was interesting to hear the different responses from the group members, and this made the entire thing flow quite well. Some people would choose noble and honest answers, and some of us called people jerks and said we want to shoot something. It feels like a real conversation between people with differing opinions.
I mentioned it briefly above already, but a number of articles commented on the multiplayer dialog. And indeed I can see how it would be quite fun. Just the fact that when you're playing with others all of them respond in conversations, instead of just the player who 'owns' that particular story, is a big thing. I've played a number of more story-oriented games in multiplayer (Neverwinter Nights 2 is the first that comes to my mind) where it simply wasn't much fun. It always tended to feel like it was one player's story and the rest where just there to watch, which isn't fun for any involved. So it's great to hear that The Old Republic seems to have solved that problem.

There are a lot more details in the various articles, including some slight spoilers on the early stories (so you might want to be careful if you want to remain completely unspoiled). Personally I decided that I didn't mind so much knowing a bit about the first five hours of gameplay, considering that the game supposedly should last for months. And I think in the end that reading about what things happen in the story and actually playing through them, doing the conversations and watching the cinematics involving your character, are two quite different things.

But I'll leave off quoting any more of the previews and leave it to you to read them if you're interested. Instead, let's continue on to the interviews.


A number of website also took the opportunity to interview various developers about the game, particularly Daniel Erickson and Gabe Amatangelo (on the PvP systems), but there's also one with Georg Zoeller that I've found. As with the previews I'll first list all the articles and then will pull out a few quotes below.
  • [link] to interview with Daniel Erickson on Crew Skills and Jedi classes at Ten Ton Hammer.
  • [link] to interview with Daniel Erickson at MMORPG.
  • [link] to interview with Gabe Amatangelo on PvP at MMORPG.
  • [link] to interview with Gabe Amatangelo on PvP at Ten Ton Hammer.
  • [link] to interview with Gabe Amatangelo on PvP at Darth Hater.
  • [link] to interview with Daniel Erickson on Jedi Classes at Darth Hater.
  • [link] to interview with Georg Zoeller at TOROcast.
  • [link] to video interview with Daniel Erickson at Gametailers.
I'll start with a quote from Ten Ton Hammer's interview with Daniel Erickson, pretty much because it happens to be the first one in the list. As the lead writer Mr. Erickson has his fingers in pretty much every part of the game (considering how big story is in BioWare games) and he answered questions about the Jedi classes, companions and Crew Skills as well as other things. Such as in this quote:
Ten Ton Hammer: I’ve run into a couple of lore objects in the world so far in my play sessions, and lore objects obviously tie into your codex. Could you talk a little bit about what the codex is and what it does for your character?

Daniel Erickson: The codex is a few things. The first thing is that it’s the encyclopedia of what is all this stuff. The rpg always presents an interesting phenomenon because the first time, you are you. You’re supposed to actually be that person who has actually lived in that world for 25 years or so and should understand a lot of the basic concepts of that world. Who are these people? What is this place? Why is this happening? The codex is an ability for us to fill in a bunch of that and a huge amount of backstory. We have so many codex entries for those who want to know how the history works and other stuff because a lot of people really care about that content.

The other thing we did with it is that we spread it out. We put them on different things, and we put a tracker on it that said how many you found, and….boom! We have a collectables game. Some of the codex stuff is stuff you need to know on the critical path. The rest of the codex stuff is spread out over the world and you actually get xp for getting codex entries and whole groups of codex entries.
I quite like that. I generally enjoy codices and such, enjoy the background story details they give and the sense of collecting. I enjoy that they tend to reward you for exploring; go around a corner nobody really has to ever go around and find some sparkling glowie that gives you another codex entry. But what particularly strikes me in the quote above is Daniel's explanation of the codex helping you to play the role of someone who has lived all their lived in this (Star Wars) universe. It is definitely true that a codex, when done well, will give you information that your character is already supposed to have. Run into an alien species you've never seen before, but your character is supposed to know? A few details have just been added to your codex for it. This could be a great help with roleplaying.

Mr. Erickson wasn't the only one interviewed. Gabe Amatangelo was subjected to a number of interviews as well. Since he's the Lead PvP Designer on The Old Republic all questions directed to him were about player-versus-player combat. Now, PvP isn't really my cup of tea, but this quote from an interview by MMORPG on cover in PvP still sounded interesting to me:
I noticed something that's special about the Star Wars universe is that you've got characters with light sabers, and you've got characters with guns, hiding behind cover and popping over. How did you balance that, as you are going to have players rush ahead, and then you'll have players who can run back really far, shoot shoot shoot, and then run off.
Gabe Amatangelo:
That's a great question. The cover system in PvP, and even in PvE, I think is just so bad ass. I think it's awesome, as it gives it a whole other element to MMO combat, another feel that just takes it to the next level. It's another component. I mean I'm really excited about cover. Now as far as balancing it, as testing and time goes on, we'll continue to tune things, but there's a number of things that can happen. For example, someone is planted in cover, and perhaps they have a specialization that makes it so people can't charge them, while they are in cover, and it allows them to keep the gap for a little while. We're going to toy around with things like that, as well as other things, and we'll get the balance there as well as balance gets in an MMO.
I found it interesting because it was nice to hear that someone with a focus on PvP found the cover mechanic interesting in PvP as well. Another thing that I found interesting was the description of the respawn timer in PvP; basically you respawn on your ship and then have a cinematic flight back down (the path changing based on the situation in battle), allowing you to see who is fighting where and acting as your delay before getting back into the fight. I like that, turning a gameplay mechanic (respawn timer) into something cinematic (considering that the entire game is cinematic) and interesting.

The third person subjected to on interview was Principal Lead Combat Designer Georg Zoeller as TOROcast interviewed him. He answered a number of questions regarding various gameplay aspects, including these ones about healing:
TOROcast: Early in development, BioWare said that they were doing something unique and special with healing. What is happening that is different compared to a typical MMO design?

Georg Zoeller: In Star Wars: The Old Republic, improving your character’s Presence attribute, which governs healing ability, also improves the character’s active companion in various ways. Coupled with the ability to adjust companion behavior and equipment, this enables the player to function as a healer; even in solo situations.

TOROcast: It has been long debated about which class is the best healer for the Republic since it is known that the Smuggler has healing abilities. Will one class be a superior healer or are they both completely viable as a primary healer?

Georg Zoeller: All classes with access to healing abilities (and there are more than you think) are completely viable as primary healers in The Old Republic.
His comment on there being more classes with access to healing than we thing spawned some discussion on the forums, with some arguing that he might be referring to companions with healing abilities. But on the official forums Georg clarified his statement as follows:
I was referring to (advanced) classes, not abilities.

Let the speculation begin
And later added (here) that not all classes have healing abilities. Georg, you tease you.

I'll close off the list of interviews with a video interview from Gametrailers (to give you some relieve after all that text). Though it's called an 'interview' you don't actually hear any questions being asked and only hear Mr. Erickson replying. For all we know he was just babbling away and someone filmed him as he did. Anyway, here it is:

There are of course more details in the various interviews, but I'll leave that for you to read if you desire. I'll leave quoting the other interviews and instead will move on to developer quotes.

Developer Quotes

The developers have been quite prolific posting on the forums the last week or so. And a number of these posts tend to be quite large, so I'll not quote them in full here. Instead I'll do as I did with the various links above and first give you a list of links and then pull out a few quotes here and there. Of course all of them are on the official Star Wars: The Old Republic forum.
  • [link] to David Bass introducing himself.
  • [link] to David Bass on individual gamers being as important as guilds.
  • [link] to Daniel Erickson on humor in The Old Republic.
  • [link] to Daniel Erickson on class story writers.
  • [link] to Kyle Garner on story and gameplay.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on BioWare's stance on information release.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on classes with healing.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on BioWare's stance on information release, part 2.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on not all classes having healing.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on BioWare's stance on information release.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on BioWare's stance on information release, part 2.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on BioWare's stance on information release, part 3.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on BioWare's stance on information release, part 4.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on BioWare's stance on information release, part 5.
  • [link] to Daniel Erickson on KotOR 2 in SWTOR.
  • [link] to Rob Chestney on BioWare's stance on information release.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on BioWare's stance on information release, part 6.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on BioWare's stance on information release, part 7.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on the 'Star Wars Experience' in combat.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on player control over Companions.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on healers. (German)
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on healers, part 2. (German)
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on PAX East.
As you can see from that list a big topic was BioWare's stance on information release. It started with clarification on how and when they release information and people kept having questions and bringing up things that the developers kept answering. There's a wide variety of topics there including when things are considered ready and why the Timelines are in the form that they're in.

The first (non-Friday update) developer post after I left though (and one which incidentally I'm not seeing anymore at the moment after a refresh of the devtracker) is Davis Bass, new community coordinator in charge of guilds, introducing himself. Here's an excerpt from his post:
I’ve seen many of you point out that we’ve been keeping our cards close to the chest when it comes to guilds and their role in The Old Republic. Behind the scenes, we’re working to prepare some guild features for reveal in 2011, and I can’t wait to share some of our plans with you when the new year begins.

Over the next few months, I’m going to be reaching out to many of the guilds on our site, but if you want to hunt me down first, you can always feel free to send me a PM.
Several weeks later (after the Holidays) Daniel Erickson talked about humor in The Old Republic. Here is is full post:
Hey Folks,

Our target when it comes to humor levels has always been squarely aimed at the films, especially Episodes IV and V. Star Wars is not a comedy but it is often funny and that humor comes through character. KOTOR and Dragon Age are both good examples of that approach. And like both of those games you can greatly change the humor level or general adventure tone by which companions you take. Running around with C-3PO or Lando is going to always be funnier than adventuring with Obi-Wan or Leia.

As Destrucshot points out, humor levels are different across class stories as well. The Smuggler is the closest to being action-comedy, the Agent is closer to Mass Effect's more serious tone with only the occasional lighter moment, and the others cover the spectrum between. Hopefully the variety of class stories and companions will give people a chance to find not just the gameplay build but the world tone and humor level that works for them.

Malren, no worries. Fourth wall breakers, out of context jokes and pop culture references are strictly policed. Star Wars needs to feel as timeless as possible.

Hope that helps!

Sounds good to me.

Then there is the whole discussion on information release. It started in one thread (picked pretty much at random by Mr. Reid) and went across a couple of them. Here's an excerpt from his first post:
Let's see if I can dig in a bit here and give you some insight. First of all, to re-iterate the general attitude towards development on The Old Republic. It's fairly simply summarised - we talk about things that will be in the game when they're ready to be talked about, and not before. That's an easy mantra to explain, but it's tough in practice, especially over a protracted development period - which any MMO goes through, TOR being no exception.

With a long development period and a regular update schedule (every Friday - even holidays - since the website launch, in case you didn't realize), maintaining the attitude of 'talking when ready' is even harder. It naturally leads to a couple of things; one, weeks in which we have to be 'light on detail', and two, a heck of a lot of speculation in-between 'major updates'.

As you can see, those two things don't always mix well together.
There's a lot more, even just in that first post (the man can write him some seriously long posts... not that I'm any better). Like here's a bit where he responds to a post asking more developer posts even if there's not much to say:
You're right, but it's a balancing act and always will be, and in two senses -

One, every hour or two browsing the Forums takes me (and others) away from getting other things done. (I cannot emphasize enough how much bigger the job of 'community' is than just reading and responding to forums - which is a common (and understandable) misconception.) Sometimes, we just have to prioritise other stuff... there is a LOT going on. (I just can't talk about it yet, blah blah yadda yadda.) So we've all got to balance that, myself particularly.

Two, while you might not mind us sticking our heads in here and not saying much of substance, others will mind. A lot. We don't want to 'spam up' the Dev Tracker with general chatty posts, even if I do like to wax eloquently on the latest episode of whatever I'm watching. So we've got to watch that balance again.

That said, we've been quiet. All I can say is we've been busy. Really. Honest. You're going to see why Soon.
Considering how much time it's taking me to add all these dev quotes here now, I'm all for not including lots of 'fluff' post too. <nods> Then again I only put game-relevant quotes here anyway. So post away, devs!

Georg Zoeller also added some words on when a feature is considered ready to be talked about. Here is his first post on the subject:
In game development nothing is ever 100% confirmed - and in a BioWare game, we are very open to changing even major things late in development if they are found to be not fun or not helpful to the overall game experience. We're in the business of shipping polished, fun games.

What we don't do is talk about features that we have not verified as 'yes, this is working and fun' to avoid creating hopes and excitement about things that sound great on paper / initial implementation but cannot withstand full impact with actual players.

It's a bit of a conservative approach for sure, but naturally it will become more open the closer we get to launch. (And really, who is served with getting excited about an awesome feature only to find out that the idea didn't work out?)

And please don't think that the community team is withholding information just for fun - Often, it's as simple as Stephen walking over, asking "Hey, we'd like to do a community spotlight on Feature X, they are really anxious to hear about it" and people like myself going "Well, that's great, but we just made this major improvement to the system and until we have tested it out and verified it is actually working, we don't want to talk about it."
Here's another quote by Stephen Reid from a post where he answers a number of points. This one in particular is about announcing what the Friday update is going to be a few days ahead of the update:
Oh, Bondal, we were doing so well together - but here's where I have to disagree. While I have the utmost respect for my illustrious predecessor I won't be following in his footsteps in this regard. I think it's fair to say we've proven by now that you're going to get a Friday Update, every Friday, come holiday or high water (There actually was a flood in the studio last year!). You're just going to have to wait and see what it is. Frankly, whether we announce it early or not, we'll always have disappointed people, while we'll also have elated people!
I have to disagree with him on one little point there though. As I recall, since they started with the Friday updates, there has been one Friday where they didn't have any update at all. Though that was well before Mr. Reid joined the team. One Friday. For shame.

Rob Chestney, whose team is responsible for much of the Friday Updates, gave some insight into the Timeline updates. In the following quote he explains why Jedi Master Gnost-Dural might sometimes seem sympathetic to the Sith:
The Timelines are told from the perspective of Jedi Master Gnost-Dural, who, for the benefit of the Jedi Council is analyzing Sith and Jedi history, looking for insights into the causes of the conflict, and at specific events from the analytical perspective of a historian.

If he sometimes seems sympathetic to the Sith, it's because he's at great pains to acknowledge the successes of the Jedi's enemies. At this point in time for Gnost-Dural, and when the game begins, there is an uneasy truce, but the Sith clearly have the upper hand. The Jedi need an honest assessment of the war, and how the Sith Empire managed to achieve what it did.
Makes perfect sense to me.

On another topic, Georg Zoeller talks about why the system for the Dragon Age: Origins companions wouldn't work in SWTOR and what we can expect from them. Here is his post:
As someone from the Dragon Age design team, I can tell you that system wouldn't scale onto an MMO at all

Let me try and set your expectations correctly.

You won't be able to directly control companions (e.g. no RTS point and click), they run their own AI and you won't be able to fully script them like in Dragon Age.

You will however have basic control over their actions and you will be able to customize their behavior / role through kits.

Companions are not just simple '20% additional DPS' kind of attachments to your character.

We're going to talk about companions in much more detail a bit into the future - we've just made some significant changes to them based on feedback from Game Testing, which we need to validate first before making them all public.
And I think that's enough quoting of developer posts for now. As I said there's a lot more, all of them linked above.

And that's also it for today. Though I do think it's more than plenty.

* I think that there were in fact two days as some articles talk about the EA winter showcase in London and others talk about "Jedi Immersion Day" in San Francisco. But in the end it doesn't really matter.

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