Star Wars: The Old Republic – Q&A with James Ohlen

Inside a seedy cantina at E3 2010, Ten Ton Hammer came across James Ohlen, Creative Director for BioWare Austin and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Inside a seedy cantina at E3 2010, Ten Ton Hammer came across James
Ohlen, Creative Director for BioWare Austin and style="font-style: italic;">Star Wars: The Old
Republic. After a few drinks,
James answered some questions posed by Ten Ton Hammer premium members.
Was your question answered? Read on!

style="font-weight: bold;">
Ton Hammer: Good afternoon. We’re here at E3 2010 and with me
is James Ohlen, creative director for BioWare and lead designer for
style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Star
Wars: The Old Republic style="font-weight: bold;">, which is what you guys
want to hear about. We have some questions from our premium members and
we’re going to talk to James today who is willing to answer
our premium members’ questions. Ten Ton Hammer, this is the
reason to go premium: you get your questions answered at E3. James,
thanks for joining us.

Good to be here.
I’m looking forward to answering some questions.

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alt="star wars: the old republic picture"

First question is about PC housing. PC housing, alongside personal
space, and guild systems seem to be a big focal point of an MMOG
community. Is
style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">TOR style="font-weight: bold;"> bringing any of these to
the game?

Well, at E3, we’ve announced that each player will get their
own personal starship, and basically that starship is a place he can go
back to and do a lot of different activities and his companion
characters stay there. There are a lot of other things you can do on a
starship, but we’re currently not at liberty to talk about,
but we will be revealing in the future.

How’s that for a teaser? Yeah, we got to see the starships in
the demo here today and they look pretty cool. They’re pretty
big and something to look forward to.
style="font-weight: bold;">

question from a reader is will I be ushered along a storyline and have
very little room to sway or can I sway off and go in a different

Our game is very open. We’ve developed several worlds, and
each of those worlds is wide open, huge worlds with many square
kilometers and you’re able to explore those worlds any way
you want, just like your standard MMOG. We do have a class story that
drives you through the world and that class story is personal to you
and it takes you from the beginning of the game to the end of the game.
If you want to take a break from your class story and want to do some
world quests that are not a part of your class, you can definitely do
that. In fact, the majority of the content is that in the game. So,
it’s not like you’re just going along you class
quest like a solo quest throughout the entire game, there’s a
lot of room to go off and do whatever you want whenever you want. Also,
within your own class quest, you can make choices and those choices
impact on how your class quest unfolds. There’s a lot of room
for choice; it’s not a linear game by any measure.

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Will the worlds be instanced, where only myself and my party can enter
or will it be an open range for everybody on the planet?

Just like I was talking about earlier, these worlds are huge public
spaces. When you go to the world of Coruscant or Tatooine,
you’re going to have a huge world to explore with many square
kilometers and it is all public space. You’re going to see
all the other players that are part of your shard running around doing
their thing, and there are phases within a world and those phases are
often where class events take place, but that’s a very small
percentage of the space. It’s not a heavily instanced game.
We are using instances, which we’re calling phasing, to do a
lot of our storytelling, but it’s a massively multiplayer
game. That’s what people are signing up for and
that’s what we’re giving them.

Will there be content for hard-core gamers or is there only going to be
content for casual gamers?

Well, you need to make a game for both and that’s a lesson
we’ve learned over the years. You have to make a game that
appeal to the hard-core as they’re your most important fans;
those are your evangelizers. Those are the guys you don’t
want to get pissed off, so you have to make sure that those guys get
what they’re expecting. I’m sure that the hard-core
MMOG fans, the hard-core style="font-style: italic;">Star Wars
fans, and the hard-core BioWare fans are all going to have something
for them. We’re also going to make sure that the casual guys
who haven’t tried a BioWare game or an MMOG are able to get
in as well. But that’s not our focus. We want to make sure
our fans are satisfies with what they get.

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Fans have heard a lot of thought behind making non-jedi a popular
choice and powerful characters. Is there a ratio of jedi to non-jedi
that the team prefers to see among the player base?

We’d love to see an equal breakdown of 50/50 or 25/25/25/25
with the four classes. It’s hard to predict what
it’s going to be. We’ve seen surveys done on our
message boards and the breakdown is pretty even, despite the jedi and
sith getting a bigger percentage than the other classes. We
don’t know what’s going to happen, but we think
that the non-jedi classes are very exciting, very interesting, and have
a lot of appeal to them. Who doesn’t want to be Boba Fett?
There are a lot of people who want to be Boba Fett or a trooper or Han
Solo or the class that’s our own addition to the canon which
is the Imperial Agent, and that’s a very cool class. A lot of
people when they first play him are surprised because he plays so
differently due to the fact that he’s a sniper.

What kind of thought goes into creating encounters? We did get to see
the first revealed group footage. We saw people playing as a group live
here at the demo. We got me was that every class in that team had a
specific role and they were playing it well. What kind of thought do
you have to put into designing these kinds of encounters?

There’s a lot of work that goes into designing all of our
encounters. We have a huge design team and we first had to figure out
what each class’ role was going to be in the game, and we had
to balance that. We also had the fact that we have advanced classes and
when you choose an advanced class, which can change your
class’ role. Then the designers who were responsible for
spawning the game were putting encounters in, they had to make sure
that when spawning the game, they had to take in multiple factors into
account. How you spawn the game differs on what you’re
spawning for. If you’re spawning in a public area where
anybody could play in at any time, you have to spawn in a particular
way. It needs to be soloable, but at the same time, there has to be an
advantage for a group to go through that. We also have group only
content, which is content that if you’re trying to do it
solo, you’re going to get your butt kicked. That’s
to encourage people to link up to see content that they
wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.

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alt="star wars: the old republic picture"

In the terms of boss monster fights, our big huge fights at the end of
some our flashpoints, those we’ve put a lot of thought and
effort into to make sure that it’s balanced, so we encourage
players. The first few times, they’re going to die, but
they’re going to have to figure out, “how do we
beat this? Is our party working together making sure that
we’re going to win? We have to make sure that the bounty
hunter plays his role, that the sith warrior plays his role.”

You heard it here. There’s definitely going to be multiplayer
and there’s definitely going to be solo play. I think
everybody is going to be happy to hear that. James, I really appreciate
your time today as I’m sure the Ten Ton Hammer viewers do.
Best of luck with
style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Star
Wars: The Old Republic style="font-weight: bold;">.

Thanks. This was great. We all love the Ten Ton Hammer readers and we
can’t wait until they’re able to play our game.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Star Wars: The Old Republic Game Page.

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