There are few events in the world that are as perfect for Star Wars
fans as the San Diego Comic-Con, and that fact was readily apparent by
the vast number of Jedi, stormtroopers, and Sith walking the show floor
on a daily basis. The folks at Lucasarts and BioWare did not miss this
fact during their summer convention planning, and Star Wars: The Old
Republic had a strong presence at the show. With the latest cinematic
trailer running full bore above their heads, Ten Ton Hammer's Cody Bye
had a pleasant chat with developers Jake Neri, Hall Hood, Dallas
Dickinson, Alexander Freed, and Jeff Dobson about multiple aspects of
SW:TOR, including fan expectations, combat content, and exploring the
Ten Ton Hammer: Obviously
the response you're getting here at Comic-Con has been tremendous. Do
you think that the expectations or SW:TOR continue to grow with every
conference and convention that you attend?
It makes me feel strange, but wonderful.
think we're all flattered, inspired and humbled by the fans. I think
there's pressure there, but it's positive pressure. We have high
expectations for ourselves as well, and I think we're meeting and
exceeding our personal goals.
fans are definitely behind us. That inspires us to keep working hard at
making this game amazing.
on wants to disappoint an enthusiastic fanbase and it's very gratifying
to get that sort of reaction.
Ten Ton Hammer: I was
talking with a gamer that hadn't actually heard of Star Wars: The Old
Republic, and when I mentioned that the game was going to be fully
voiced and would focus heavily on story, he thought it would never work
simply because gamers - especially in MMOs - constantly skip past story
to get to the action. How do you fight that sort of cynicism?
There's something different with the story you get in BioWare RPGs.
There's voice over on all the NPCs and all the characters. It creates
an immersion that simply isn't there in other games. That's one of the
things we learned with Mass Effect - and I think was one of the reasons
why the game was so popular when it was released.
To some degree, I welcome the cynicism because people are going to play
the game and completely change their minds when it comes to story.
Ten Ton Hammer: You often
talk about how story really bolsters the gameplay experience; do you
think its ever limiting in anyway? Do you think the game could be more
popular if you took a more WoW type of story route?
think there's a misconception out there that believes that all you do
is sit around and watch story the entire game long. I think if you
carved out the percentage of passive story versus activities that you
engage in while you play, there would be a vast majority going towards
the activity side of the ratio.
We [Lucasarts] understand that the guys at BioWare have been making RPGss for a long
time. One of the things that I think everyone is trying to sell in MMOs
is the idea of story. We believe in story, and we believe in the fans
that like story. But if you don't like story, you're going to be able
to play the game at your own pace the way you'd like to play.
The game is a story-driven game, but people should give it a shot. The
cynics should come in and try it, and the people that love story will
definitely have a ball with our game.
our job to make sure that you don't want to skip the story. That's what
we're trying to achieve, y'know?
also want to take a shot at the content versus story suggestion. You
look at a game - to pick a random example - like Bioshock. How much of
that game is story and how much of it is context? If you remove all of
the audio logs and all of the overhead stuff, you don't get a smaller
game if you remove that. You would just have a game with much less
context to work with.
People look at Bioshock and they react to it emotionally. The context
is there so that everything you see and do in the game is meaningful on
a different level than just "Can I shoot this bad guy?"
Ten Ton Hammer: It's
interesting that you mention the percentage of story in the game... is
that an indication to the fans of just how much content you're putting
into the game?
you think about BioWare games in the past, they relied heavily on the
actual action. That's why you play these games.
If you want to have *just* a story, go and watch a movie. If you want a
story that you are a part of and emotionally involved in - where you
get to drive the action forward and engage in activities that alter the
outcome of the story - that's the thing it should feel like.
That's what we're driving towards.
We're simultaneously building a fantastic amount of content based on a
story, but we're also building an MMO that is an RPG with really
under deliver on any - combat, exploration, progression, and story -
we're not creating the game we want to create.
all need to link together. When you're looking at the percentage
numbers of story vs. content, that would be actual dialogue versus
combat encounters. Ideally, ninety-five percent of the game has story
and there's obviously a reason why you're doing something in the game.
We know that it's an MMO and you're chatting with your friends - and
that won't necessarily be a part of the story - but you're asking them
if you want to get together and go do this particular quest or activity
together. Technically not story content, but all of your in-game
activities should be tied into the story in some form or another.