Learning that he won’t have to travel the cold interstellar
reaches of Star
Wars: The Old Republic
himself, Ten Ton Hammer’s Jeff “Ethec”
Woleslagle decided to track down lead writer Daniel Erickson. Evading
ruthless bounty hunters, Ethec met with his quarry to discuss a
player’s companions and crew in the upcoming MMOG, along with
details on classes, stats, quests, and more.
First, for the
first time the press has gotten a chance to play the game for an
extended period of time. Even though we’ve had our doubts
about the game in the recent past, I can’t believe how deep
the experience just through level 7 - it’s more of an RPG
experience than I’ve had in an MMOG in a very long time.
Every time we have
a discussion, we always try to insist that BioWare games need to be
shown in a large chunk because they’re story-driven and so
much of it comes from contacts. Trying to show a BioWare game in
fifteen minutes is like trying to take your favorite page from your
favorite novel and show somebody how good a book it is.
skills and companions, help us get our terms straight. What’s
the difference between crew and companions. Are crew members just
companions that you don’t happen to have with you?
Crew refers to
everybody. There’s a little button to despawn your companion.
When you despawn your companion, they are available. So you can be
standing around waiting for the flashpoint to begin, realize you have
ten minutes before you show up, despawn your companions with you, send
them on a five minute mission, and wait for them to come back.
So crew skills
and missions are governed by offline timers?
Yes. You can also
take a companion that is with you and send them back to sell all of
your gray stuff, which works on the same timer system. Are you willing
to be without them for a minute so they go sell all of your junk?
good to have a Wookie as backup.
one of my favorite features from Torchlight
and I’m glad to see it’s catching on.
big fans of games, all kinds of games. (laughter)
How immersive is
the crew skills concept? When you send your crew out to scavenge and
stuff like that, are they actually in the world? Could you possibly run
They are not. They
are off-screen. They are fictionally in the world, but the world is
very big. It’s like telling them to go off somewhere in China
to find you something. Your chance of running into them is pretty rare.
"The Consular is much more
cerebral. They’re always going to be our scholar, the
diplomat, the person who sees what’s happening under the
surface. They present two very different play styles."
How do crew
skills and companions change players’ gameplay experience?
Are there enough choices to provide plenty of variety even within a
particular class, sort of like a NPC-based talent tree?
haven’t talked about maximums yet. Obviously, all of the
classes have their own companions and we wanted there to be enough that
you can balance your mini-party. Your actual combat stuff is balanced
in a number of ways. You have your advanced class. You have your skill
trees within your advanced class. You have which companion character
you take, and then you have the AI kits that you give your companion
characters. You can go to the vendor, get a healing AI kit, and then
give it to your companion. Now, not only do they have a healing skill,
but they know how to use it and how to heal appropriately.
You’ve now built a totally different mini-party than you
would have you gone with a different advanced class, a different skill
tree, gotten the grenade kit, and given that to a more aggro companion
character. There are bunches of them in the game, but we’re
not talking about how many per class yet.
never replace group mates? And are players limited to having one
companion with you at a time?
No. They are
definitely not another person in power. And, correct, one companion at
to the crew.
run into a couple of lore objects in the world so far in my play
sessions, and lore objects obviously tie into your codex. Could you
talk a little bit about what the codex is and what it does for your
The codex is a few
things. The first thing is that it’s the encyclopedia of what
is all this stuff. The rpg always presents an interesting phenomenon
because the first time, you are you. You’re supposed to
actually be that person who has actually lived in that world for 25
years or so and should understand a lot of the basic concepts of that
world. Who are these people? What is this place? Why is this happening?
The codex is an ability for us to fill in a bunch of that and a huge
amount of backstory. We have so many codex entries for those who want
to know how the history works and other stuff because a lot of people
really care about that content.
The other thing we did with it is that we spread it out. We put them on
different things, and we put a tracker on it that said how many you
found, and….boom! We have a collectables game. Some of the
codex stuff is stuff you need to know on the critical path. The rest of
the codex stuff is spread out over the world and you actually get xp
for getting codex entries and whole groups of codex entries.
Does that tie in
with items at all? Do you get tokens or stuff if you unlock all the
haven’t actually talked about anything that deals with
achievements or milestones yet.
jedi showing a tin can who's boss!
We explored the
Jedi Knight class extensively in our Tython preview. Could you talk a
little bit about the Consular?
With the Jedi
Knight, you got about five minutes pretending that it’s the
normal beginning of a BioWare game where you’ll need to learn
everything about training, and then everything goes horrible and you go
straight into the action. At one point an NPC stops you and says,
“If you have any questions, do it now.” You can
choose to not do that and be the action star the whole time.
The Consular is much more cerebral. The Consular is exploring a mystery
on Tython. They’re dealing with ancient Tython and what
happened back in the day and how it’s affecting things now.
They’re learning about force wards, and they’re
learning about stuff that nobody on the Jedi Council knows about.
They’re always going to be our scholar, the diplomat, the
person who sees what’s happening under the surface. They
present two very different play styles. One of the things
that’s interesting about people who have gone through and
played both on Tython is that it feels like you are playing two very
different games. Even when you’re doing the same side-quests,
you’ll notice that your contextualization of them is very
"Every time we have a
discussion, we always try to insist that BioWare games need to be shown
in a large chunk because they’re story-driven and so much of
it comes from contacts. Trying to show a BioWare game in fifteen
minutes is like trying to take your favorite page from your favorite
novel and show somebody how good a book it is."
traditional RPG stats such as Strength, Endurance, and Willpower. How
do they tie into the classes in Star Wars: The Old
guessing certain stats are more important to certain classes?
You’ll notice on your powers page that if you mouse over each
of them, it will tell you what derivatives come out of them and that
makes it fairly straightforward. Obviously, the ones that give you a
better melee attack, you’ll be more interested in as a Jedi
Knight, although a Consular could use that. The Consular is the one
that deals more with Force powers and stuff like that. The guy with the
sniper rifle will be more interested in accuracy.
That really is
the combat distinction between the Consular and the Jedi Knight. In
other words, the Jedi’s melee abilities versus the
Consular’s ranged Force powers?
The Consular is
very interesting because they’re a middle-ground hybrid that
goes in and out of range. They still use their lightsaber for a lot of
abilities, but the vast majority of Consular powers are Force powers
and not lightsaber powers.
As you go forward
in the game and start grouping with other players, I assume that the
Knight would be a tank or DPS?
The two advanced
classes for the Knight do tend to lean in those two directions. The
advanced class system exists because we’re already making the
game story-wise bigger than every other game we’ve done put
together. We pretty topped out at eight. It’s already huge
and ridiculous, but for an MMOG, we wanted more classes than that for a
variety of gameplay. Each of the advanced classes is basically a full
class that we would have done. Under each of the advanced classes is a
skill tree that you can entirely differentiate how that advanced class
will work. The two primary sections that you would go off with the
Knight would be the “do a lot of damage” or
I noticed at a
few points on Tython where it makes sense to group. Are you ever at a
point where you have to group to get through the content?
Never. Well, to get
through which content is the point. You’ll never be forced to
group to get further in your class content. If you can’t
progress your class content, you can’t progress in anything.
There are plenty of places where groups are helpful; plenty of places
where groups are really mandatory. All of the things that are marked
heroic mean get a group or don’t try to do this for quite a
There are also instance areas within a flashpoint that you can do by
yourself, but there may be areas within that flashpoint that as soon as
you walk into will go “Heroic area!” and you know
you should get a group of guys if you want to tackle that area. Never
will your forward progress in the game be stifled. If you just an
anti-social, people-hating, RPG-loving guy, you could play the whole
game like a BioWare game and just pretend that you’re just in
an enormous single-player rpg. You would miss a bunch of cool stuff,
but you could do it.
Our thanks to Daniel Erickson for this interview.