Monday, 28 February 2011

BioWare Blog: Living the Life of a Live Producer

Last Friday BioWare added a blog entry to their site where Live Producer Blaine Christine looks at what's involved in being a live producer. In his article he includes some quotes from the people included in the game testing program. Here's an excerpt from the article:
What sort of feedback, you say? Rather than bore you with details of the bugs that were found and the fixes that were made, we guessed that you’d rather hear about what The Old Republic is like to play, right? So we asked our Game Testers to share a few of their thoughts with you. Please note, their names have been changed to protect their NDA compliance!

“The questing experience in TOR was amazing! The voiceovers and cinematics actually make me wonder how I ever survived the 'grind' without them.” – GP

“As one of those people who didn't really care about story in an MMO, after playing TOR I can't imagine playing another MMO unless it has as much focus on story as TOR does.” - PA

“I've been waiting years and years and years for an MMORPG experience like this. The combat is incredible and never gets old. The grind is gone. I am so happy the grind is gone (so, so very happy). The stories are fantastic, well written, well acted, well animated, incredibly immersive, and the inclusion of choice takes it into territory that other MMOs have only dreamed of. Lastly, this game makes you feel like a bad***. The entire time. And I love that.” – JA
Though I'm sure that these quotes were picked because they were overwhelmingly positive (and, in one case, funny though in fairness I don't think that they've tested long enough yet to know whether there is a new definition of pain and suffering over a thousand years) and it would be interesting to hear how representative these views truly are, it's still nice to hear (and in the end the only thing that will really satisfy people like myself is playing it ourselves and thus making our own opinions).

Read on after the break for the developer quotes.

There's nothing to report beyond the official news than the developer quotes on the forum the past week, so let's get right to that.

Developer Quotes

As last week these are the quotes up to the official new post last Friday. I'll add the quotes since then to next Friday's post.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on Allison Berryman. (sounds kinky)
  • [link] to Daniel Erickson on PAX East.
  • [link] to Jo Berry on Obi-Wan Kenobi.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on Allison Berryman, part 2.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on PAX East.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on PAX East, part 2.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on PAX East, part 3.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on PAX East, part 4. (squashing our free ponies hopes)
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on empty maps.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on selling grays.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on restoring health/energy.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on game testing invites.
  • [link] to Daniel Erickson on Sith Marriage.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on downtime.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on selling grays, part 2.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on BioWare's perceived preference.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on selling grays, part 3.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on selling grays, part 4.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on selling grays, part 5.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on selling grays, part 6. (in binary)
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on update before PAX East.
A lot of quotes again, and again I've picked out a few I thought might be the most interesting.

The first post I'll quote is one by Jo Berry, who talks a bit about Obi-Wan Kenobi and whether he's more of a Jedi Knight or a Jedi Consular (in game terms):

Although, personality-wise, whatever role Obi-Wan Kenobi took in life--general and warrior, Jedi Master, hermit--he was always a mentor and teacher to the people around him.

You can tell he enjoys giving Luke lessons aboard the Falcon in A New Hope, and he even tries to lay some wisdom on Han Solo. Obi-Wan always prefers to mediate disputes peacefully; he can drive off a pack of Tusken Raiders without needing a weapon, though he’s not shy about using his lightsaber when it’s really necessary.

And these are qualities that the Jedi Consular often demonstrates along his--or her--journey.

I must say that to me it seems more that Obi-Wan is a Knight as, in the movies, most of what you see him do is fight with his lightsaber. You never see him use the force much, never see him as much of a scholar or mediator (beyond what every Jedi should be) and it seems to me that some might be confusing his role as a teacher with that of a consular.

So it's a bit disconcerting to see him described more as a Consular. Maybe that just comes down to that the Consular represents how the Jedi should be and the Knight represents what popular culture seems to have made them (fighters with glowsticks). Then again, the whole split between Knight and Consular is a very unnatural one as I think that the Jedi are all just a wide variety of people (and other beings) with a variety of interests and focuses. It feels restrictive and unnatural, for example, that one can't play a dual-wielding Consular, a staff-wielding Knight or one with a different leaning towards abilities than the class gives. Which is probably more the inherent issue with a class system to begin with.

To make a long story short, despite Jo's explanation I don't think Obi-Wan is either one or the other class as the Star Wars characters weren't made to fit into narrow class roles. Trying to fit them into them seems, to me, an effort in futility.

Next up Georg Zoeller made a number of posts about selling gray items. Here's the first post:

In TOR, you indeed have the option to command your faithful (or scornful) companion to make a trip to the nearest market to lighten your backpack and fatten your wallet by selling objects of purely monetary value.

As you command your (possibly hateful or even loving) companion to do so, which they will only agree to if you are not engaged in hostile activities and they are convinced your life is not in immediate danger, they will arrange for quick transport to the closest market and return after a short while (roughly a minute, subject to tuning) with your hard earned money.

It is assumed you trust your (trustworthy) companion in so far as to accept whatever they tell you in regards to the prices they negotiated and will not undermine your (purely professional) working relationship with them with potentially insulting questions about taxes, fees, union dues and other applicable fees.

In other words, yes you can do that.

And the second post:
We're really looking more at this as the movie equivalent of a menial task.

If it doesn't matter to the story at hand, movies rarely show people doing the boring tasks of their daily routine (brewing the coffee before drinking it, searching for the remote in the couch before turning on the TV) in real time. Why? Because they focus on the heroic, interesting stuff, they focus where the action is.

Same for us - we want to you focused where the entertainment is, not held up simulating repetitive tasks for the sake of simulation.

Now, don't get me wrong - a certain amount of simulation is often helpful to ease the player into the world and make them feel at home ("Hey, I know how this works - it's just like ....!") - but we are definitely focusing a lot more on the not-so-standard, action, romance or story heavy elements of your experience.

In this specific case - your companion is a vital part of your character. Without her (or maybe a group member instead), your combat effectiveness and options are reduced, your downtime lengthens and, well, you are without a companion.

Example: As a Shadow, your enemies' position relative to you is of tactical importance in battle. Without a group member or companion to distract or engage an enemy, it is very hard to get into an advantageous position behind the target during battle to use some of your more devastating opening moves.

So, to counter your suggestion that this should take more time - we don't see a good reason for that. Making the less interesting parts of MMO game experience (like, eh, selling grays) take a long time at the expense of the interesting parts (like introducing fleshraiders to your lightsaber, shooting first or even dancing with your companion next to the sarlacc pit) is not the design philosophy we're going for

There's a few more posts in the series (more on that in a moment), but at least this is interesting. For anyone who has played Torchlight (there might be more games with similar systems) the mechanic should sound familiar. There you can load some items onto your pet and send your pet away to sell it (however a cat or a dog manages to negotiate prices the game doesn't explain). The pet stays away for a while depending on a few variables (I think it depends on how deeply into the dungeon you are, but it's been a while), usually somewhere around a minute.

And I must say it's a refreshingly pleasant system. You don't have to stop playing just because your inventory is full, just have to take it a little easier while your pet is away. So I'm glad to hear that SWTOR is adopting a similar system.

As for the other posts (which I won't quote here); in those Georg addresses some concerns that have risen recently. In a previous dev quote it was said that your ship's hold acts as your bank, which caused some concern that people wouldn't be encouraged to gather in social areas as everyone would be off in their own privately-instanced ship instead. But Georg clarified that even though you use your ship as bank, you also have banks (as well as crafting stations) at various public places across the planets and that going to the nearest social gathering place for these is often easier than going to your ship.

I'm not entirely sure how that'll work out. I think that a lot of people will consider their ship 'home' and might just want to return there constantly. Particularly if it's a convenient place where you have access to everything (assuming for a moment that these social gathering places do not have everything at every place). And on the flipside I think that if players don't have quick access to their ships then that might be frustrating too. But we'll see how it plays out.

The final quote I'll put up today is a big one as Daniel Erickson talks about Sith marriages:

Hey folks,

Easy to give the official answer. But first let's make sure we're all on the same page. Cultures change over time. They move one way then another, values shift, influxes of new peoples or discoveries change what is considered normal, etc. So if we're strictly talking about TOR then arguments based on things that happened thousands of years earlier or later aren't really applicable except to compare and contrast. Our views on modern marriage are not those of ancient Rome, and I doubt in 3,000 years they will be the same. So let's talk about where Jedi and Sith during the time period of The Old Republic.

For the last two hundred years the Jedi Order has been getting steadily more conservative. The liberalization that was necessary to restock the Jedi's numbers in the century after the events of Knights of the Old Republic II is now looked back on as a necessary evil. In the time that followed there were a number of terrible Dark Jedi who emerged as warlords and worse.

The two factors that showed up the most often in analysis of what caused Jedi to fall were unorthodox training methods and romantic entanglements. Thus in the following centuries training became more orthodox, with a return to the Jedi Order's earlier traditions. Which Masters were allowed to train padawans (and which could train more than one at once) became more restrictive and romance became one of the most guarded against emotional weakness. As the game opens it is possible to get married as a Jedi but it requires a lengthy process of approval including from the Jedi Council itself. A couple must prove beyond a shadow of a doubt they are both able to handle the strain romantic couples can endure. All children of Jedi are taken from them and raised by the Jedi as a whole, the same as other Force users in the Republic.

For the last thousand years the Sith Empire has needed stability and growth more than anything else. That means alliances that prevent power struggles. It means encouraging the creation of more children. Which in turn means marriage and a focus on family.

Where once the individual was judged largely alone, bloodlines are now incredibly socially important. A Sith from a long line of powerful Sith will find his path through the Academy easier, his opportunities increased. A family with no Force-users who suddenly find themselves with a Force-sensitive child will sacrifice everything they have to get them martial training and mental discipline coaches - for if that child passes the Academy and becomes Sith the entire family will rocket to the penultimate social class in Imperial society, side by side with moffs and governors, second only to Sith themselves.

Marriage among the Sith is usually between only two people and is often to forge a political alliance. Marriages of love do happen often among the lower ranked Sith but decrease the closer the Lord is to the top of the pyramid-shaped power structure. Marriages between Sith and non-Sith are rare as the Sith believe it dilutes the chance of a Force-sensitive offspring. It is a common, though unspoken of practice, for Sith parents to kill a non Force-sensitive offspring and deny it ever existed, claiming the baby was stillborn, etc. A Sith with openly non Force-sensitive offspring is believed to be admitting the thinness of the blood in his or her family line.

Adultery is common among the Sith but officially illegal. Divorce is strongly frowned upon but killing one's spouse for adultery or any other provable offense is socially acceptable. The one time you see obligatory divorce is when a member of the Dark Council breaks a couple apart to stop the assimilation of too much power in one place.

Hope that helps!

Daniel Erickson

I always find lore stuff like that interesting.

Anyway, that's it for last week.

[EDIT] For some reason Blogspot messed up most of the newlines (making everything one big block of text). So I had to manyally fix all of them, inserting paragraph marks to make sure it understand. If it still messes up with too much or too little space then my apologies.


Dwism said...

nice roundup!

Regarding Obi-wan, I've always felt like the original movies (lets call em "old obi-wan") portrayed him as, what I would define as a counselor, whereas the "young Obi-wan" movies had him depicked more like a Jedi-knight.

Come to think of it, maybe that has a lot to do with how the two trilogies play out against each-other.

Ayane said...

Perhaps, though I wonder if that's due to the fact that old Obi-Wan acts mostly as a teacher. I'd imagine that even Knights would act as teachers just as Consulars use their lightsabers too.

But then I think that the whole split between Consular and Knight doesn't make a lot of sense (beyond what kind of story you're trying to tell). Even taking your split it's still one character fulfilling both roles (at different times in his life).