Star Wars: The Old Republic – An Update from PAX East 2011

Updated Mon, Mar 21, 2011 by Ethec

If any vestiges of late 2010 hate over the future of Star Wars: The Old Republic remained at PAX East 2011, not even an Imperial probe droid could detect a trace. BioWare held a commanding presence on the show floor, offering demos, Q&As, and t-shirts at the top of the hour and hands-on demos, limitless cosplay, and t-shirt tosses in between.

Space Combat – First Look

You had to be either lucky or good to catch a demo of TOR space combat at PAX East 2011. Every hour throughout the day had a demo or Q&A of some kind on the SWTOR stage, but the dev team only got their pew-pew on once or twice a day. That said, it was obvious that this isn’t just popcorn content to Producer Cory Butler, who I caught up with after the demo was complete. “The Star Wars fantasy isn’t complete, in my mind, without the ability to get in your starship, fly around, and kind of have those Han and Chewy moments.”

star wars the old republic

Your companions and SWTOR omnipresent voiceover work will help deliver the story flavor, but don’t expect to just laugh it up, fuzzball. Cory explained that the content scales up quite aggressively: “We do have dogfights with interceptors, but you also come up on some Imperial cruisers with big turrets firing at you. There’s a really great cinematic moment where you’re going through an asteroid field. You’ll fly past two large asteroids and suddenly see this massive cruiser just waiting for you. It’s pretty fun – you’ll get a bonus quest out of that to destroy the cruiser’s turrets."

That said, Space combat prowess won’t be required to progress in Star Wars: The Old Republic, but Cory feels its something players will enjoy. “It’s a supplementary experience to the game.  If it’s not your thing, you’re not going to have to do it to hit your max level, but it’s certainly something we feel people are going to like to do.”

Not to mention that space combat seems like the right blend of Star Wars feel and casual appeal. “It’s a tube shooter,” Cory explained, “so it’s a little wider than on rails, you have a lot more room to move around. You also have a lot more enemies flying at you and lots of different types of enemies, and also lots of missions where you can work with friendly AI.”

star wars the old republic

Just not do together. “It’s a solo experience,” Writing Director Daniel Erickson explained. In terms of interactivity you’ll hear companion voiceovers, but these are just “flavor” – companions don’t add any sort of accuracy or damage increases. During the demo (video below) Daniel explained that players will be able to loot or create better shields, propulsion, and armaments for their ships which are unique to each class (except for the Jedi and Sith, who share the same ship type for authenticity’s sake).

During the demo, Cory used the Galaxy Map to find space combat hotspots and then dove into the dogfight with a mouse click. But will players be ambushed as they travel, similar to travel in other BioWare games like Dragon Age II?  “We haven’t talked a lot about the details on how that’s going to work,” Cory explained, “but if you’re familiar with Mass Effect and how ships work there, it’s a similar experience.”

Space Combat Demo from the show floor:

Ten Ton Hammer Video: Click to play.

Taral V Hands On

TOR was easily one of the hottest hands-on demos on the show floor at PAX East 2011, rivaling such big-budgeted titles as RAGE and LA Noire. Or, at the very least it it seemed that way, given the lines. SWTOR demos lasted an ungainly 45 minutes and, worse, were cloistered into teams of four.

These factors conspired to make the SWTOR line the slowest in the facility, but Producer Cory Butler didn’t mince words about how less-than-ideal playing SWTOR on a show floor is. “It’s not really something that’s designed for 15 minute hands-on sessions. It’s not that you have to play for longer, but once you do, the hook comes in. 15 minutes will get you through your first conversation and on your way to your first quest. A good day of play will get you hooked.”

So our hands-on experience was just meant to give us a feel of group dynamics in a level 32 flashpoint, got it. But what is this flashpoint we speak of? “Flashpoints are highly story driven multiplayer instances.” Cory explained. “Like everything else that BioWare does, story is very important to us, so we want to showcase that in everything we do.”


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