FULL FIRST DETAILS
US, October 21, 2008 - It may have been one of the worst kept secrets in the industry, but the cat is officially out of the bag today. After rumors based on corporate cooperation, speculation about job postings, and even an outright acknowledgement by n high-ranking executive, LucasArts and BioWare have finally officially announced their joint massively-multiplayer online game at an event in San Francisco today. Titled Star Wars: The Old Republic, the new game is the first MMO for BioWare and the second Star Wars MMO for LucasArts.
Though the official announcement is today, we were recently down at BioWare's Austin studio for an exclusive look at the game. We'll be exploring many facets of this game over the next few days, examining the setting, the intriguing moral gulf between Jedi and Sith, and the stylized visuals. Today we're going to focus primarily on the issue of story and the concept of companion characters.
The Old Republic finds itself threatened once again by the Sith Empire.While in Austin, we had the chance to sit down and speak with many members of the Star Wars: The Old Republic team. Creative director James Ohlen and principal lead writer Daniel Erickson gave us a broad overview of the design goals, while senior content producer Dallas Dickinson and art director Jeff Dobson filled in some of the specific details. VPs and co-studio directors Rich Vogel and Gordon Walton, themselves veterans of previous MMO launches, helped to define the game in terms of the practical needs of launching and maintaining an MMO. BioWare's director of marketing Leo Olebe and LucasArts' PR manager Amy Stojsavljevic were also on hand to discuss the franchise as a whole.
Before we began talking with the designers, we chatted with BioWare founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuck about the new project. Ray admits that they've "wanted to make an MMO for a decade" but were just looking for the right partner, the right developer and the right IP. Now they've found it in LucasArts, BioWare Austin and the Knights of the Old Republic setting.
Set 300 years after the events in Knights of the Old Republic (and featuring some familiar faces), Star Wars: The Old Republic will put players on either side of a massive war between the Republic and the Empire. "It's not a day-in-the-life of Star Wars," Ray emphasizes; "It's about being a hero." They want the game to fit the scale and proportions of a conflict that spans the entire galaxy. The game will follow BioWare's emphasis on "choice with consequences" with room for players to be ambiguous or conflicted about their motives. In short, Greg says, it's what BioWare fans want: a perpetual RPG that delivers the full BioWare experience.
The battle rages from the capital of Coruscant to the far reaches of the Outer Rim.BioWare roleplaying games are typically built on four pillars -- combat, exploration, progression and story. The first three are already a big part of the MMO landscape and are areas in which BioWare has excelled. But the excellent stories that BioWare has consistently delivered in their single-player roleplaying games haven't really found a reliable expression online. Ray and Greg want The Old Republic to focus on the fourth pillar of adding story and character within the MMO genre. Moreover, they actually want the game to leverage the social aspects of the MMO to drive the narrative in ways that haven't been possible in their single-player games.
Fans who are concerned that they're not going to recapture the magic of the original Knights of the Old Republic may be comforted to learn that The Old Republic team is made up of many veterans, not just of Knights of the Old Republic, but many of BioWare's roleplaying games. James Ohlen seems to have had a hand in designing every game the studio has made, from the original Baldur's Gate right through to Jade Empire. Not surprisingly, we've been told to expect that The Old Republic MMO will feel and operate like a BioWare game. There will be a big focus on character, on digital acting, on moral flexibility, on a lively and reactive world.
The sense of scale, however, will make Star Wars: The Old Republic different from every other BioWare game. In response to community pressure to scrap this game and just make Knights of the Old Republic 3, the team suggests that there's enough content in Star Wars: The Old Republic to call it "Knights of the Old Republic 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9." At first hearing, it's easy to suspect that's just marketing hype, particularly since it was delivered to us more than a couple of times by more than a couple of different people. Nevertheless, it seems to be entirely accurate to claim that, in the team's words, this is "the biggest and most ridiculous BioWare game ever made."
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