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

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

any vestiges of late 2010 hate over the future of style="font-style: italic;">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

You had to be either lucky or good to catch a demo of style="font-style: italic;">TOR
space combat
at PAX East 2011. Every hour throughout the day had a demo or
Q&A of some kind on the style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">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

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Your companions and style="font-style: italic;">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

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 style="font-style: italic;">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.”

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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 style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">Mass Effect
and how ships work there, it’s a similar

Space Combat Demo from the show floor:


Taral V Hands On

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

These factors conspired to make the style="font-style: italic;">SWTOR
line the slowest in the
facility, but Producer Cory Butler didn’t mince words about
how less-than-ideal playing style="font-style: italic;">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.”

The story so far: Master Eteg assembles a crack team of you and three
of the nearly 70,000 PAX East attendees to free a Jedi from her
captors. The multiplayer conversation doesn’t play out as
rule by majority as we previously thought, but by a random roll by all
group members, winner responds. Before the Jedi can be located in the
Maelstrom nebula, a computer must be stolen from an Imperial facility
in Tyral V, a heavily fortified Imperial planet.

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A Trooper laying down some

The four Republic classes selected for the mission were as follows:

Trooper (Advance Class: Vanguard) – The tank of the group
with heavy armor and a reactive shield, also having various
“taunt” abilities and heavy armor, plus
cryogrenades to slow enemies and sticky grenades for area-of-effect

Jedi Consular (Advance Class: Sage) – A ranged class that can
deal lots of damage, the Sage can have a tough time limiting aggro if
not careful. The Sage can also act as a backup healer.

Jedi Knight (Advance Class: Guardian) - The DPS of the group, the Jedi
Knight has fairly decent armor and can act as an off-tank in a pinch.
The Guardian’s ranged attack consists of a lightsaber throw.

Smuggler (Advance Class: Scoundrel) – The primary healer with
some crowd control and utility abilities.

Since I selected the Scoundrel, I can tell you a bit more about this
particular advance class. The scoundrel has an energy pool that refills
at about one of a possible five ticks every few seconds. From this
pool, he can attach low-cost “slow release
medpacks” which stack up to three times, or select a
medium-cost medium heal or a high-cost high heal. This is all pretty
standard, except for a special healing ability that essentially
detonates the slow-release medpacks stacked on a friendly player at no
cost, offering a burst of healing. This was very useful when the
primary tank suddenly took a big hit.

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A smuggler is always cool.

The Scoundrel also had a number of ranged attacks which drew from the
same energy pool, the ability to deploy a portable shield and work from
natural cover. The Scoundrel also had a Lucky Shots ability (crit rate
increase), a buff that increased the group’s Presence (each
of the classes has one group buff), a set of utility abilities like
Surrender (threat decrease) and Cool Heads (energy rate increase).

After an early near-wipe, things progressed smoothly. The Taral V
creatures, such as Jungle Crawlers, River Lurkers, and Vicats, attacked
Imperial units and our group equally. Nice atmospheric elements such as
crashing spacecraft and lightning strikes added to the fun.

Things rose to a fevered pitch when our group met Captain Shemonek in
the Imperial Base. The good Captain spawned a massive River Lurker
named Ripper. The key was to have the Vanguard tank Ripper while the
Guardian off-tanked Captain Shemonek. The healers split up as well
– I watched over the Vanguard while the Sage healed the
Guardian, supplementing his damage when possible. What caused our group
to wipe the first time was a cluster of adds which we got a little too
close to.

We might have won out even then, but my chief complaint against style="font-style: italic;">SWTOR
from the demo is how hard it is to discern who has aggro from where
when most of the enemy units are firing laser weapons.  It was
clear that groups will need strong communication skills and role
diversification to get through flashpoints like Tyral V, and if the
rumors were true, only a handful groups succeeded at the challenge. As
to whether or not our group brought down Captain Shemonek and Ripper, I
can’t say definitively, since I have a pact of secrecy with
my counterpart at Zam and the group’s Vanguard.
Let’s just say it was close.

For the official walkthrough of the Taral V hands-on: href="">check
out this post.

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The Jedi Consular in action -
poor robot.

Advance Guild Registration

The rumor at the show was that 21,000 guilds were created in the first
48 hours of style="font-style: italic;">SWTOR’s
innovative demos. Most of these, if true, are
one-man “name it and claim it” operations, but the
response from the fans on the floor was overwhelmingly positive.

A few current and future guild leaders we talked to expressed concern
over the uncertain time gap between now and launch – as in,
what’s there to do now except make campaign promises and
badmouth the competition. Yet Cory was bullish on the concept.
“There’s a lot of strategy behind the guild
program. We wanted to let the fans get in and start playing with it
early.  To me, it’s an exciting opportunity to get
in and start recruiting and taking applications and also pick a name
for your guild.”

While naysayers may continue to bemoan style="font-style: italic;">SWTOR
as a highly traditional MMORPG in Jedi robes and criticize style="font-style: italic;">TOR’s
slightly chunky graphics and UI in comparison to the sassy sleekness of
Wars 2
, dyed in the wool style="font-style: italic;">Star Wars
fans could find a lot to love at PAX East 2011. The character models
were spot on, dodging fears of overly caricatured style="font-style: italic;">Clone Wars
builds, the pageantry of a style="font-style: italic;">Star Wars
universe is in full effect, and BioWare is certifiably making big
strides in storytelling and social outreach, if perhaps less so in the
gameplay or graphics department.

Thanks to Cory Butler and Daniel Erickson for their time, and may the
Force be with BioWare as the game ramps up towards an undisclosed
release date.

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

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