Sunday, 4 September 2011

GamesCom 2011 Highlight Video

It's been a busy few weeks for The Old Republic. This weekend is testing weekend for a lot of people (in NA) giving them a few days to playtest the game. Last weekend was PAX and the week before was GamesCom. Busy times indeed.

On Friday BioWare posted a highlights video of the latter (mostly glimpses of other people playing). Here is the official news:

We had an incredible experience at this year’s GamesCom, with Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ winning the 2011 GamesCom Award for Best Online Game as well as being a huge hit with everyone that attended! The air was electric from the excitement as fans and journalists filed through our booth to get some hands-on time with both Origin Worlds and Alderaan Warzone PvP! The reaction from the fans at the show left us feeling incredibly grateful for having such a passionate and dedicated community.

Knowing that not everyone could make it to Cologne for the show, we wanted to share our experience with all of you. Thank you for all of your continued support and enthusiasm for the game!

Check out our GamesCom Highlight Video now!

Obviously there isn't anything new in the video, but it's nice to see the crowds.

Read on after the break for a couple of interviews from PAX and the developer quotes.

Somehow I completely forgot about this last week. But over at BioBreak Syp held a "not-so-serious" interview with BioWare community manager David Bass. Here's an excerpt:

Syp:  What was it like jumping into the SWTOR team so far along in the game’s development?  Was it hard getting your bearings?

David: It’s no secret that this is the biggest game BioWare’s ever made, and it’s probably the biggest game ever made period. I knew that coming into it, but this is definitely the first time that I’ve had to come to terms with realizing I’ll never know everything about this game. It’s just too big. So you learn it in pieces, you fill in the knowledge gaps as it becomes necessary. Like, “Hey, we’re showing an Operation at this con, so let’s sit down and go over it.” It’s definitely an unusual way of learning the system, but the alternative of sitting down and playing the game completely through would take me the greater part of a year, I’d guess, so I think this system works well.

It's a nice interview and I have to agree with his final comment. Elves are awesome. Sorry Syp.

The reason I remembered the interview now was because David Bass held another (a little more serious) interview over at Darth Hater. here's an excerpt:

Are we talking like a quality experience for the Game Testing Weekends, or is it just stress testing by trying to see how many people are in there and how it works out?

No, we're definitely hoping for a quality weekend. We aim for high quality in everything we do. We wouldn't be pushing it out this weekend if we weren't ready for it. Originally we just said September, which left it up in the air. That way we could wait and if we weren't ready we could say, "Okay, maybe we'll do it at the end of September." I think it was just last week they were talking about it and said, "No, we're ready for it. Let's do it!"

There are different series of tests each weekend obviously. Once people are invited, are they going to be in for the entire thing, or is this different sets of people every single week?

I believe that it is going to be an entirely new group of people every time. The goal of that is to get as many of the 1.5 million people who have signed up for testing in as possible. We really want to get people's hands on the game because we talk all the time about the game, but the thing about it is you're never going to fully believe us until you get your hands on it. That is what convinces people that this is the BioWare game they've been looking for.

Again a nice read and makes total sense that they'd want as many people as possible to get to try the game. Though I think they would probably better achieve that with a free trial period once the game is launched; betas generally really aren't a time where people see the game at its best (they've jsut been a popular time to try MMOs because that's the only time when an MMO has generally been free to play).

Another interview up at Darth Hater is with two members of the Creative Services team: Brian Arndt and Robin Khamsi. Here's an excerpt:

How does the approval process work and who is involved? How does the relationship go back and forth with LucasArts, EA, and BioWare including quality control?

[Brian Arndt]: The game is held to a really high standard. This includes everything about the game, and everything that goes out for the game, so there are a lot of people that approve a video. There is EA, BioWare, BioWare Edmonton, Lucasarts... I mean everybody cares so much about this game that they want to make everything that comes out for it the best we can possibly do. Things will get tossed around, and if somebody finds something that is a bug or something that looks out of place, they'll bring it up. "It isn't Star Wars enough," or "It doesn't feel Star Wars." It'll get brought up and we'll re-film and address those issues. It is a working relationship between all of the companies to make sure that no matter what comes out, it is awesome.

While on the one hand it's nice to hear the attention to quality going into everything, on the other I can't help but wonder it that's really a good thing. Lately I'm noticing that the videos that excite me most are the unscripted, unpolished, real-time anything goes ones. Like the video I posted last week of Huttball. it would've been nice if it hadn't been off-screen and was higher resolution, but if it had been polished and gone through that lengthy approval process to make sure that it tells the story they want it to, I don't think it would have be even half as interesting. I appreciate all the hard work the Creative Services puts in (and I do like polished videos, particularly those that give more lore information such as the Timeline videos... which we haven't had in far too long), but at this point I really most want to see pure gameplay, not some polished representation of it.

Either way though, it's a nice interview.

One interesting things I came across last week, partly related to The Old Republic (and more to BioWare in general) is that Ken Levine, creative director for Irrational Studios (the game developers who made BioShock and are currently working on on the at least equally interesting looking BioShock Infinite) held an audio interview BioWare co-founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk. Here's the text from the Irrational website:

This episode of Irrational Interviews features two guests. That’s particularly noteworthy, because either one of them alone has a list of accomplishments a mile long.

Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk co-founded BioWare, the RPG-oriented group that now consists of five locations within Electronic Arts. They started out as doctors (actual practicing medical doctors, mind you), and BioWare was once a developer of games as well as medical software.

As a fellow entrepreneur, Irrational creative director Ken Levine chats with the doctors about the challenges and perks of running a video game company–all three have seen their studios grow from small PC-exclusive teams to modern, triple-A, multiplatform dev studios. They also share the experience of starting out in fields not particularly related to games, Ken in screenwriting and Ray and Greg in medicine.

“We were having lunch one day after having made some medical education software,” recalls Ray, “then we realized what we’re really passionate about is video games. Why don’t we just make some video games? Take everything we own, and everything we make as doctors on weekends, to fund the company. …That was the extent of the conversation.”

It seems to have worked out.

iTunes Feed

Direct Download Episode 8

Irrational Podcasts RSS Feed

Normally I don't like podcasts all that much as I'd rather just read a written transcript (tends to go a lot faster and I can skip over any senseless ramblings). But I did quite enjoy listening to this interplay between three game development greats. Very nice interview.

The fansite TORWars posted an interview with Georg Zoeller. here's an excerpt:

You recently revealed the group stealth system for Smugglers and Agents. This sounds intriguing and fun. Can you expand on the details for us? What kind of range limitations are involved? Is there a cooldown or can it be used repeatedly? Can one Smuggler enable stealth for an entire 16-player Operations party?

[Georg] Zoeller:
Scoundrels and Operatives get, at higher level, the ability to temporarily overload their personal stealth field generator to cover an area of X meters around them, effectively cloaking every member of their 4-player group, but not an entire Operation party.

In testing currently, the stealth field stays active for a duration of 15 seconds and cannot be reactivated for 3 minutes after use due to the load it generates on the generator. Players who really like this skill can specialize via one of the skill trees to decrease the cooldown to two minutes.

While we initially had the group stealth field available to Gunslingers and Snipers, balance considerations from testing have lead us to replace it with something more fitting: these Advanced Classes instead gain the option to create a large defensive screen (similar to cover) around their position while in cover, protecting allies from incoming damage. While the stealth field is great for sneaking up onto objectives, the defense screen is great for holding onto them.

Considering that my Empire class will almost certainly be an Imperial Agent Sniper it's very nice to hear about the defensive screen ability. Sounds really nice getting a party buff like that.

Finally, has an interview with Gabe Amantangelo and James Ohlen. Here's an excerpt:
I got to play some of the PVP on the floor and I have to say it’s pretty damned fun. The Juggernaut is a beast. But I was hoping that maybe, this being PAX and all, you could give us some hints and nuggets on the World PVP?
Gabe Amantangelo:
Well, yeah we can give hints and nuggets. We’ll be showing more during our panel, and telling folks a lot more about it, but basically we’ll have designated areas where there will be PVP objectives. Philosophically we want to focus on making it like strike teams in an open world PVP environment as opposed to just zergs rushing all over. We want to capture those massive and even smaller battle moments from the movies.

We also want to expand it, and see how much we can get in before launch. But we want to expand it to territorial, staking your claim in an area sort of stuff.

James Ohlen:
But all the really cool stuff we’ll show off at the panel and into the next few weeks too. I think people will be really pleased with world PVP in TOR.

As I said last week I'm expecting a world PvP Friday update any Friday now, which should hopefully give some more details.

And except for the developer quotes that's it for now. Before I move on to the quotes though one quick note. Next weekend (including Friday) I'm out of the country so my update might be a bit later than usual. Then again, considering how late I tend to be with them the last few months you might not even notice much of a difference.

Anyway, on to the developer quotes.

Developer Quotes

  • [link] to Emmanuel Lusinchi on Emmanuel Lusinchi interview.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Jedi Consular power graphics.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Daniel Erickson look.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on modded items.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on character creator options.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on class names in PvP.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on Huttball run speed.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on test weekend NDA.
  • [link] to Chris Collins on EU Testing.
  • [link] to Chris Collins on EU Testing, part 2.
  • [link] to Chris Collins on EU Testing, part 3.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on testing weekend invites.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on testing invites.
  • [link] to Allison Berryman on forum issues.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on 'very soon'.
  • [link] to Stephen Reid on armor progression videos.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on IA Entrench and Area Cover abilities.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on /sit.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on IA group stealth.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on class roles.
  • [link] to Georg Zoeller on IA Entrench ability.
  • [link] to Chris Collins on EU Testing invites.
  • [link] to Chris Collins on EU Testing invites, part 2.
  • [link] to Chris Collins on EU Testing invites, part 3.
  • [link] to Chris Collins on EU Testing invites, part 4.

The first quote that I'll pull out is one by Georg Zoeller (in fact they're all by Mr Zoeller this week) about one of the Consular's abilities. As you might know the Jedi Consular gets a telekinetic ability (or maybe even multiple of them) that pulls objects out of the ground and throws them at the enemy. it's basically their way to do ranged damage. But so far we've only really seen it pull one object out of the ground. This is what Mr Zoeller had to say about that:

The 'tank engine' as people call it was always a placeholder. Consulars will project a large variety of objects into your enemies.

That said, they are going to be pulled out of the ground, which may be 'immersion breaking' for some and beg the question of 'how come this planet has become the dumping ground for broken astromech units', which may be a mystery.

The limitation here is a technological one and while we're interested in pursuing a more environment appropriate selection of objects for you to throw, it won't happen for launch.

I think one of the safest objects to include with probably be a variety of large rocks and such. In natural environments it definitely makes sense to be able to pull those out of the ground, and even in man-made environments if often wouldn't look too strange (one could see it as breaking off some concrete from the ground and such). For the rest I'd almost suggest putting specific placeable items in all environments for the Consular to throw around so that it doesn't look lik it's always pulling from the ground, but then I think that they probably have their hands full placing enough cover in every area for the Smuggler/Agent. besides, it would probably raise questions such as "but why can't I take cover behind that tree-stump that the Consular can throw around?". As long as there's a variety of items being pulled from the ground with this ability I think that we can ignore if things don't always make sense.

The next quote by Georg talks about why the ball in Huttball is explosive:

The ball is not a hologram, it's a... well, explosive device encased in a shell of uranium (very heavy material) that is being held afloat by a force field.

Why is it explosive you may ask? In earlier versions of the Huttball rules, the Hutt got greatly displeased with the fact that some teams liked to hide and turtle extensively in their own back field. And so he had a little safety added to the ball. When the Hutt gets greatly displeased by the lack of action, he can now create some action himself by hitting that remote detonator button...

That's... just hilarious. I wonder if they'll actually include that in the gameplay. If they ever include support for player-run tournaments then it would be nice if the players running the tournament (and not participating in the match itself) could trigger the explosion just to keep a game running. But I think that for now it's just a lore thing.

In another post Georg talks about class roles:

There are no specific 'tank classes'. This is where The Old Republic is different. There are roles you can specialize into by spending points in your skill trees. Which roles are available is based on your AC, but you will ultimately pick one or try to hybridize by spending points in multiple skill trees.

A DPS-specced Juggernaut is not even close to a tank specced Juggernaut. He will go down just as fast (or slightly slower due to slightly higher defense) than a Marauder.

Heavy armor is nice (we're talking about single digit % defense increase over medium nice), but in terms of game mechanics, what matters ultimately is your cumulative ability to survive or avoid damage. One AC can have armor, another AC can have the ability to deflect more damage, the resulting ability to survive would be the same.

I think that this has been known for a good while now, but I thought that it might be worth repeating. I get the impression that a lot of people don't really understand how classes work; don't really see that the two advanced classes for a class are really separate classes. And with the different skill trees within an advanced class even one class can have two very different roles. Though I do fear that with this people are going to be encouraged to focus almost exclusively on a single tree and that this might lead to very cookie-cutter builds. But ah well.

Finally there's a post talking about the Imperial Agent's Entrench ability (and ability visuals in general):

The different, more beefy animation of Entrench is very much intentional as the ability changes the rules of the battlefield dramatically.

While entrenched, the Sniper has tremendous defensive bonuses, and cannot be interrupted or otherwise controlled and the very visible fortification effect around the normal cover created by this ability is necessary to signal to other players that they're now engaged in potentially a very one-sideded confrontation for the duration of the ability.

Abilities that dramatically change the rules of the battlefield need to be broadcasted clearly to all participants to avoid confusion (e.g. if an Inquisitor brings up his static barrier that absorbs incoming damage, you see the very visible lightning shield flare up around his character to allow players to understand why their attacks are not working).

It makes a lot of sense to clearly broadcast such information. Though I also think that it can be nice to let players guess a bit more I'm sure that would just lead to a lot (more) whining and complaining on the forums and such.

And that's it.

[link] to interview with David bass at BioBreak.
[link] to interview with David bass at Darth Hater.
[link] to interview with Brian Arndt and Robin Khamsi at Darth Hater.
[link] to audio interview with Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk at Irrational Games.
[link] to interview with Georg Zoeller at TORWars.
[link] to interview with Gabe Amantangelo and James Ohlen at MMORPG.

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