Exclusive SWTOR Design Q&A - Lightsabers, The Force, and Space Combat

Updated Fri, Oct 24, 2008 by Cody Bye

Questions by Cody "Micajah" Bye and Media Group C

Answers by James Ohlen (Lead Designer), Gordon Walton (Studio Director) and Rich Vogel (Studio Director)

The announcement of a Star Wars-based MMO from BioWare and LucasArts came as no surprised to anyone that's been following the industry for the last few months. After EA's CEO John Riccitiello made a comment to a reporter at E3 2008, the cat was undoubtedly out of the bag. However, the details of Star Wars: The Old Republic - and the official announcement - were still months away. When Ten Ton Hammer's managing editor, Cody "Micajah" Bye, was given the chance to ask a number of questions to the BioWare game designers at the official SWTOR announcement, he jumped at the chance. In the following interview, you'll find answers to questions regarding space combat, level caps, Force potential, and whether the Jedi and Sith will destroy every other character in their path. If you want gameplay based answers to your questions , this is the place to look!


The level cap was one of many things that BioWare zipped their lips about.

What kind of level cap do you have in mind?

James Ohlen: We are going to have a level based system, and we are going to have a level cap, When we know what that is we'll share it with you.

Gordon Walton: There are a lot of thing that we aren't going to be able to share with you simply because they're still in development. BioWare games go through a lot of iteration before we ever settle on something.

We'd rather give you real information than blow smoke up your....whatever. When we share something with the community, we've played through that part of the game enough that we're confident that it's going to be in the final game.

We're really, really committed to no overhyping the game.

Rich Vogel: It's BioWare and it's Star Wars. Overhyping the game could be very easily done. We want to make sure we meet the expectations of the game,

Is there any space-based aspect to the game?

James: We can say that we're going to have different worlds for you to explore and that you're going to have a method of travel from world to world. But again, we can't go into any details on how you go from world-to-world. I know it's a little disappointing, but it's something we definitely can't talk about at this point.

You stated that you're bringing "Star Wars combat" to the MMO space. Does that mean you're bringing combat from other games, like Jade Empire or Mass Effect, to the genre?

James: Basically, when we call it Star Wars combat, what we want to bring to the MMO space is combat that feels like it's coming from the Star Wars movies. Typically, MMO combat is very slow and is really caveman combat where you run up to a creature and hit the creature over the head with your weapon.

As you saw from the gameplay movie, we're leaning more towards combat that looks much more visceral and that it could've come from the movie. You've having lightsaber duels and blaster-like combat that is fast-paced and also heroic.

One thing that we don't want to have happen in our game is the situation where you get a bunch of players together to beat up one guy. That's just not very heroic and it's something that we don't want to have happen in our game. We're looking for much more heroic battles where you're the group that's outnumbered. If you think about the movies, the heroes are the ones that are heroic because they're fighting against the odds.

With thousands of years to choose from in the Star Wars universe, what made you guys decide to go back to the Old Republic era rather than picking something new?

James: We're actually basing this game 300 years after the events of the Knights of the Old Republic. 300 years is a long time. For example, think back to 1708 in our time; the Napoleonic Wars hadn't even happened yet! That's how much time has passed.

SWTOR takes place 300 years after the events of KOTOR II.

That way we have a lot of freedom, but we're also able to pull things that people enjoyed from the Knights of the Old Republic. We might be able to do some cameos with those characters that can live for more than 300 years. We can also take the themes from KOTOR I and II and explore them more in our game.

There are quite a few questions at the end of the Knights of the Old Republic II that we can answer in SW: TOR.

Are you prepared for a world where there going to be hundreds of people clamoring to be Jedi and Sith? Will you be encouraging players to take a look at other classes besides those two?

Yes and yes. Within our own company, we've been doing surveys on what classes people would want to play, and it generally gives us a good idea of what the populations are going to look like on a particular origin world, especially if a class is going to be more popular. That allows us to make certain decisions.

We also definitely want to encourage players to try other classes. We have a system in place to do that, but - again - we can't talk about it yet because it hasn't been finalized. It's pretty exciting.

One of the things that may be different about our game than other MMOs is the amount of replayability in the game. When you play a Jedi from level 1 to whatever our cap is going to be, and then you start a new character that's a Sith and go all the way through that character's story, you won't actually see any content that's the same. It's a completely different experience. It's almost like playing a completely different game.

There's going to be a big appeal to go and try those other classes. Plus, because you're adventuring with your buddies, people are going to tell you some of the exciting stuff that's going on with their classes. You may get bits that are spoilers, but there's honestly so much story with each class that you probably won't remember.

Gordon: One thing that we should cover about this, and it's one of the challenges, is this idea that all the other classes are wimps and that the Jedi rule. But if you actually think about it, the Jedi are getting popped by people that aren't Jedi all the time. That and not everyone's fantasy is going to be to play a Jedi.

The Jedi are not all-powerful beings in SWTOR.

James: Every class in our game is heroic. If you look at the universe, heroic characters are able to really give the Jedi a challenge every time. Jango Fett and Boba Fett are two great example. Jango Fett is able to take out a Jedi in the Attack of the Clones movie - he may get killed by the highest level Jedi in Mace Windu - and Boba Fett essentially incapicitates Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi who is then rescued by Han Solo.  

There are definitely different people that can take out the Jedi. And also the clone troopers in Episode III. The may have had the upper hand, but imagine if there was an Elite Clone Trooper! If you're the best of the best, you can probably kill a Jedi.

Rich: We certainly don't imagine that Jedi can one shot everything.

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