Thursday, 31 March 2011

UK Community Event

Two days ago SWTOR Community Manager Stephen Reid twittered that a special, London specific, announcement was coming. A bit later this was revealed to be a surprise community event in London next week (full post on the official forums):
On Tuesday, April 5th at gamerbase, inside HMV at the Trocadero (near Piccadilly Circus, London - here's a Google Map) we'll be doing a ONE NIGHT ONLY community event where a limited number of Forum members will be able to play Star Wars: The Old Republic!

Entrance is free, but INVITES ARE STRICTLY LIMITED on a first-come, first-serve basis.

While such events are very cool, I normally wouldn't separately report them like this (and instead catch them in the developer quotes post or reporting on any general events news posts from BioWare). This one is different though, because it seems I've managed to get myself invited. Earlier today I got this PM from Stephen Reid on the official forums:
You're attending the 7pm gamerbase session

THIS IS NOT YOUR OFFICIAL INVITE - just a notification to ease the pain of waiting.

Your official invite will arrive in your email tomorrow (Thursday).

I'll see you in London.

So it seems that next Tuesday I'll get a chance to play Star Wars: The Old Republic for an hour. And of course afterwards (either immediately or in the days after, depending on how fast I can type) I'll post a report here (assuming that's allowed, which I'm fairly certain that it will be).

I work fairly close to the Trocadero too (cycling past it every day on my way home), so is easy to find. Can't wait. :)

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Jedi Knight Character Progression

Bah, Mozilla officially released Firefox 4 (which I installed yesterday), but there's definitely some kinks to work out still. Ctrl-tab doesn't work properly and sometimes I get open tab spaces when it think a tab is still open, but it really isn't (though that might be one of my add-ons messing with things).

Anyway, got a relatively short Friday update for you today. It seems that all the PAX East stuff has been done and most of the developers seem to be cooling their typing fingers in buckets of ice as there's definitely far less dev posts this week (or rather, they're probably all back to work full steam).

For the Friday update itself they've got a new video for us, showing the Jedi Knight character progression. In two minutes the video shows an Obi-Wan Kenobi wannabe Jedi Knight at six stages of progression; starting as a padawan with a training blade, on to becoming a full knight and getting his first lightsaber. And then two stages for each of the two advanced classes. Here's the official news:

As you progress in Star Wars™: The Old Republic™, your character grows more powerful, gains experience, discovers new skills, and acquires more advanced gear.

In this video, you’ll get a sneak peek at how the Jedi Knight can evolve in The Old Republic. This is just a small sampling of the armors and skills available, but we hope this gives you a taste of how the Jedi Knight will look as he develops through the course of the game.

Leave a comment below, or let us know what you think in the Forums!

It's a nice video, particularly if you're interested in playing a Knight. Personally I'll wait for the Consular and Agent videos. I do like the look of those armors though (the sentinel more so than the Guardian). And the character graphics don't get on my nerves as much as they used to; maybe I'm getting used to it.

Read on after the break for the developer quotes.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Fan Friday and PAX East 2011 Roundup

I so told myself that I would do the update post before the end of the weekend this time, in part because I knew that there was a lot more to report than usual and I knew that I wouldn't have time to do it all during my usual lunch-break at work (due to work being crazy busy these days too). But a well, here we are. Blame Dragon Age 2.

The official update this Friday wasn't that big; a Fan Friday with Studio Insider, but last week there was also a load of PAX East reports from various game website. In fact I still haven't sorted them out (lucky me my friends decided to postpone tonight's Lord of the Rings Online session until after the next update hits the EU servers, hopefully tomorrow). And there's a metric ton of developer posts, unsurprisingly mostly revolving around PAX East. So that's been keeping me busy writing this post.

But let's get to it. As I said Friday was a Fan Friday and Studio Insider day. The Fan Friday has the usual fan art and a couple of new forum avatars, as well as the following new pieces of concept art:

The Studio Insider on the other hand sees World Designer Jesse Sky explaining how they go about making the animations for the ingame cinematics. here's an excerpt:
To start off, the Animators get together with the Cinematic Designers to figure out what actions need to be recorded by the actors at the motion capture studio (you know, that place where people wear skin-tight suits with ping pong balls all over them). For this particular scene, we needed the player character to Force Push some guards away and slay a couple of Hutts. Each human’s action, from the player character thrusting his hand forward to the guards getting knocked to the ground, is then captured individually. You can’t exactly throw a human actor into a Jabba suit and expect to get a good result, so in this case the Hutts were animated by hand.

There are some crucial differences between motion captured animation and animating by hand. Motion capture is exactly what it sounds like: the actor's motion is captured using the suit and is translated into data that we can use to make our characters move. As a result, the animations we get are very natural and realistic. To animate something by hand means the animator will pose the character like they would an action figure. Essentially, we create a series of poses with a little help from the computer to smooth out the movement between poses.

Don't forget that you can click two of the images in the Studio Insider post to get a brief video on the animation in action (though I personally also would've liked to see the/a final result, which they didn't include).

The Studio Insider also includes a brief Q&A about Flashpoints, which we'll briefly look at after the break. There you'll also find links to lots of PAX East reports and a load of developer posts.

Beware Beta Scams

BioWare posted the following message on their forums, which I thought would be good to repost here front-and-center:
It has come to our attention that there are multiple individuals and sites claiming to sell testing accounts, “beta keys,” or other offers of access to our Game Testing Program. All of these offers are false. BioWare is not issuing invites to Game Testing via any method other than those we outline here on

We must caution you that these offers are often scams designed to steal your money, credit card information, or identity. While we understand that you are eager to participate in Game Testing, your security is extremely important, and attempting to participate in these offers could put you in very real danger.

Furthermore, the sale of accounts with access to the Game Testing Program is strictly prohibited by the Game Testing Agreement. We closely monitor the activities of all accounts involved in the Game Testing Program, and are quick to notice accounts that change hands. In the event that an account in the Game Testing Program does change ownership, we immediately take action to the fullest extent possible, including permanently banning the account from the Service.

You may also encounter e-mail scams that indicate you have been invited to the Game Testing Program. If you are invited to the real Game Testing Program, you will receive an e-mail with instructions from Any other e-mail address claiming to offer an invitation is likely to be a scam. If you receive an e-mail and are in doubt or are concerned about its validity, please forward your concerns to If you do receive a genuine testing invitation from us, you will also be able to view the invitation and testing information at

If you discover a scam pretending to offer access to the Game Testing Program, please forward all relevant information to us at Your security and the security of your fellow community members is important to us, and we appreciate your help.

It always surprises me that people apparently fall for scams like those the post warns about. But apparently people do or I wouldn't be getting that constant stream of WoW "please give us your account information" emails (and I don't even play WoW). Always be extra careful checking what site an email is actually sending you to; scam sites can be very good as pretending that they're the real site, but there will always be some anomaly in the url they're sending you to (try and spot the mistake in ""; hint, it's more obvious in a different font).

Also, despite the message above saying that you should check that the email is from "", be aware that it's really easy for scammers to fake where they're sending emails from and appear as if they're sending email from just that address (it's called "spoofing"; in fact, I'm amazed that BioWare would even suggest that as a way to check the authenticity of emails). The only sure way is to manually enter the address for their tester website as the message above suggests.

Always be careful with your passwords and your personal details (unless your name is Gabe Newell and you're giving everyone your login details to prove how secure your new Steam Guard feature is). And make sure that you've got unique passwords for everything (instead of one password that you use for everything because when that one gets out all your accounts are suddenly at risk).

And on a different note; I'm still working on the Friday update post.

Monday, 14 March 2011

PAX East 2011

This weekend was PAX East and BioWare was present showing off The Old Republic. As told last week people had a chance to either play through any of the class' starting areas or play through a mid-level four-character Republic Flashpoint.

For the people at home BioWare had not one, but two movies; a new trailer created with in-game footage and a developer walkthrough of the Flashpoint they showed at PAX. Let's start with the former, as per the official news:

We are pleased to present Fate of the Galaxy, a brand new trailer for Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ fresh from PAX East 2011.

Tension between the Republic and the Empire is running high. The uneasy truce established by the Treaty of Coruscant is quickly tearing apart at the seams, and a return to all-out war has begun in all but official terms. A new generation of heroes, both light and dark, emerges to face the difficulties of these chaotic times, and fight for the fate of the galaxy in this most desperate age.

This trailer, created using in-game footage, is the first update you’ll see from PAX East this year. Even if you can’t join us on the show floor, please check back here tomorrow for more updates. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook to get more live updates from the show floor!

We hope that you enjoy Fate of the Galaxy now!

In the second video the developers play through the Flashpoint, at least the portion shown at PAX, to give the people at home a taste of what it's like. Here is the official news:
Visitors to this year’s PAX East in Boston, MA are lucky enough to get to play through Taral V, a mid-level Republic Flashpoint. In the gameplay demo, a strike team assaults an Imperial compound on Taral V in an effort to recover an ancient navigational computer the Republic desperately needs. Their success depends on teamwork and skill – will they prevail?

Don’t worry if you can’t join us this year at the show – we’ve put together an in-game walkthrough of Taral V that takes you through the demo with developer commentary. Enjoy this in-depth look at the gameplay of Star Wars™: The Old Republic™!

That second movie came as quite a surprise; while I was expecting something like that I wasn't expecting it until next Friday at least (and certainly not on a Saturday). But it's quite nice to see a playthrough that wasn't taken with shakey-cam.

Read on after the break for a lot of stuff from Darth Hater, a few links from a week ago, and the weekly developer quotes.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Pre-Launch Guild Program

Ooh, a mid-week update.

Today BiOWare launches the new Guild Headquarters for Star Wars: The Old Republic where people can register their guilds and look for guilds to join. Here is the official news:

Today, we’re excited to announce the launch of the new Guild Headquarters (HQ) as well as the Pre-Launch Guild Program. Many members of the community have already been organizing guilds on the forums, and we’re now happy to provide the tools to officially register and reserve your guild’s name. In this new section of the website, you can search for an existing guild to join or you can create a new guild and begin recruiting members. When Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ launches, you may be able to import your guild directly into the game, subject to availability and meeting certain criteria*.

Every guild gets its own guild mini-site on, complete with information about the guild, its recruitment status, and its own public and private forums. Create or join a guild now and you’ll have the opportunity to have your own space to socialize and organize before the game launches. Every guild is automatically entered into the searchable guild database, which makes it easy for players to find their ideal guild. Get your guild together early and get ready for The Old Republic!

To learn more about guilds in The Old Republic, check out the Guilds Game System page for details, and to search for or join a guild, visit the Guild HQ now! Also be sure to visit the Guilds FAQ for answers to commonly asked questions.

*Conditions and restrictions apply. See Guilds FAQ for full details.

Interesting stuff. I'm sure that the various guilds will love it.

[EDIT] Just been reading the FAQ and had a few additional thoughts.

The FAQ talks about placing guilds automatically on servers (and during phase 2 you can align your guild with allies and adversaries). This is actually quite clever as it should help BioWare spread out the initial population by ensuring that large guilds don't all end up on the same server.

And considering that there are RP guilds it seems logical to assume that there will be RP servers as well (which is good news that I don't recall having been confirmed yet).

The only question I have is whether players will also be automatically allocated to servers, but I doubt it. This seems purely a measure to ensure spreading out population by putting large guilds on different servers.

Another interesting thing to note is that for a guild to be automatically transferred to the game like this at least four members in the guild need to have pre-ordered the game. Though I can understand it as a measure to ensure that there are going to be enough people in the guild, it's also a clever trick to increase the number of pre-orders. I can see that guilds that want to ensure that they're in the game might ask more of their members to pre-order just in case something goes wrong with a few of them.

It's an interesting thing. But I'm not in a guild, so maybe I'm misjudging how guilds will react to this. I think that they'll generally like it, but I can see how there might be concern about the auto-placement.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Bounty Hunter Report

Lately I seem to have the habit of posting the Friday update on Monday. But ah well, better late than never.

Last Friday gave us three update; an update for PAX East, an update on the soon to be released SWTOR novel "Deceived", and a class update on the Bounty Hunter giving up their advanced classes, their ship, and more.

So let's get started with the latter. Here is the official post:

Get on the wrong side of the wrong people, and you’ll find yourself pursued by a Bounty Hunter, the most dangerous professionals in the galaxy. Bounty Hunters do what it takes to cash in on their marks, utilizing the best in weapons and defensive technology to bring in the target – dead or alive. The technology your Bounty Hunter uses is up to you; choose to specialize in prototype shield and heavy armor technology to become an unstoppable Powertech, or spend those hard-earned credits on the most destructive arsenal available as a Mercenary.

There’s much more to the Bounty Hunter, and we’ve compiled all the details for you:

  • Meet Mako, an orphaned computer slicing prodigy from Nar Shaddaa who can join your Bounty Hunter as a companion.
  • Discover more about the Rattataki, a species with a violent history perfectly suited for Bounty Hunting.
  • Tracking marks through the galaxy requires the perfect ship. The Kuat Drive Yards D5-Mantis Patrol Craft satisfies all the Bounty Hunters’s needs – speed, efficiency, and unstoppable firepower.
  • Check out the new Bounty Hunter class video to see a Bounty Hunter in action, and hope that you’re never on the receiving end of this dangerous professional.

The Bounty Hunter never really interested me personally, but it's nice information for those who do like the class. And don't forget to check out the new class trailer in either case.

Read on after the break for the PAX East update, a trailer for the Deceived novel (yes, a trailer for a book), more on the Bounty Hunter in an interview on IGN and the weekly developer quotes.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

GDC 2011: The Travails of Localizing SWTOR

GDC 2011 is in full swing with game developers from across the industry coming together to share knowledge and experience. BioWare is at the conference as well and, as Gamasutra reports, had some experience to share (during the "Game Localization Summit") regarding their work localizing Star Wars: The Old Republic. Here's an excerpt:
"Localization is essential. Are we still talking about this?" asked Walton.

"The chart on costs of making a game are going up and worldwide competition is increasing... At a hypercompetitive rate." Meanwhile, "the most expensive games are where we're seeing a down trend in the market," he said. "In the end, if we don't make money with games, people won't give us more money to make more games."

BioWare mandates a simultaneous ship for localized products despite the huge amounts of text and dialogue in its titles (Dragon Age Origins had 1 million words; Mass Effect 2 400,000.)

In the case of localization, which allows developers to reach wider audiences with their work, "for once the business people and game making people are in alignment," said Walton.

The article goes on to talk about how important BioWare feels that localization is and how they go about it (in general terms). At the end it reveals that doing good localization can be quite expensive (they're talking about a seven-figure number per localization for SWTOR).

Meanwhile Darth Hater is reporting that EA's CEO John Riccitiello spoke about SWTOR at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference. Here's an excerpt:

We're building a product with BioWare in Austin... and if you don't have a history, BioWare is probably the only developer in the world that is an even-tier to Blizzard in terms of RPGs. The history of BioWare shows they can go toe to toe. They've beat them many times when they go toe to toe in the market place. They've shipped multiple 90-rated products for EA in the short time they've been a part of Electronic Arts.

We're starting with one of the two great developers of RPG's. We're starting with a Star Wars fiction and we're investing what it takes to make a truly great product. Now the challenge of course is, how will that do in the marketplace? We think there's some possibility for challenging WoW for market leadership but that's really not in our calculations.

In general it sounds sensible; make a good product and you should do well. DOn't worry about beating the current market leader. As long as they're confident that they can make a good profit (and to me the numbers seem reasonable enough) all is well.

[link] to localization article at Gamasutra.
[link] to Morgan Stanley quote at Darth Hater.