I’m just reading the latest issue of GemeStar (Germany) from Aug 2011. Usually I (Petrosis – my name in the TOR community) try to translate the articles in full, but this time I’m not gonna do it. First the article is pretty big (pages 22 to 30 inclusive screenshots and adds), and second I doubt I’ll have the time for full translation. But I’m not gonna leave the SWTOR community without at least some highlights from this big article, which claims that finally BioWare talks clear and open about the game and it is over with the half-knowledge about this epic MMORPG.
I’m going to read the article and give you the most important information from the it. I was very careful and precise when translating quotes from developers. If something doesn’t look right, then it’s not the translation, but the author who is mistaken :). I follow this game since it was first announced on Oct 2008 and I know what is old and new information for the dedicated SWTOR fans.
First the article starts with the remark, that if somebody wants to annoy Daniel Erickson only have to compare TOR with WoW, and how it is similar to the MMO mammoth but with better textures. Neither Daniel nor me as reader can agree with such noobish observations.
The author talks about the class stories and how huge they are. Nothing new here. Each class will have it’s own Star Wars trilogy. And they talk about companions of course. And here is the first small gem of new info or it seems so. Georg Zöller, while talking about the combat roles of companions mentions ” by the way there will be a sixth companion, but I can’t reveal who that might be without revealing the story.”
Moral choices play big role in the story and in the affection points for your companion. Vette for instance carries a shock-necklace and if she plugs herself into a dialogue you can give her an electricity jolt to silence her, but that won’t make her like you. There are some other things that affection points can affect – besides the relationship with companions. Georg Zöller talk about something that is currently in testing: “We are still iterating if the companions loyalty can not affect its combat and crafting abilities. This would be logical, but we don’t want to punish the players fir how they play.” Who wants to be evil must remain evil without all his companions fleeing from him.
One thing is sure. Affection point will affect romances. “After the first Mass Effect players wanted affairs with Tali and Garrus” says Erickson “that is a girl with gas mask and another alien.” BioWare will allow such fantasies. Bowdaar? Noooooo!!! But there won’t be ant explicit scenes. “Star Wars movies” explains Erickson “have love scenes like in the 40-ies”.
The articles talks further about light and dark side choices and alignment. Nothing much new there. Force alignment will give access to certain gear. “There are certain places in end game, which player of the other force alignment won’t be able to visit” adds Erickson. “The Jedi council is not so blind towards the dark side like in the movies.” Besides, Erickson promises that gray characters will receive exclusive missions too. About the question if force alignment will influence appearance Daniel Erickson smiles: “Oho! That will be a KOTOR tradition, but we didn’t talk about that yet.”
Further they talk about the personal story. The story arc ends after the third chapter, but BioWare is already working on more content. Of course they are not talking about that yet. Although there are other world stories – like working for or against other factions. There won’t be faction points a la WoW. “We don’t want to throw people on battlefields and tell them: Smash so many heads, then you will get a new pair of gloves or a hat” explains Erickson. There will be world bosses, but no dynamic events like in Guild Wars 2. Why so? Erickson explains “We had to throw away that idea, because we had to do so much other stuff.”
After the third story chapter, what will be the end game? Operation (raids), PvP and few more that they didn’t reveal yet. Gabe Amatangelo talks about rewards in Operations. After each boss fight there will be a bag of rewards for each player. Inside will be class specific items and commendations with which one can buy gear. Nothing new there for the informed fans. You can’t take companions in raids. We know that too.
Further they talk about “social points”. They will give access to some titles and cosmetic items. “Those who like to hang around with sand-people costumes on guild parties must gather social points” jokes Erickson.
The companions level up together with the player and learn new talents. But those are firmly determined. You can’t choose between companion talents. “The five companions cover all needed combat roles” says Zöller. And we already know about customizing the companions with items and through changing their looks.
There is not much new stuff about crafting except the info that companions can do up to five crafting missions – one after another – while the player is offline. This would be an amazing feature for those who can’t log in each day to play. But on the other side the author of the article could have mixed things up. There are five companions for each player and instead of five missions for all companions at once he might have understood five missions per companion in a row. I think this needs confirmation on the official forums by a developer.
Further there are more known facts about PvP. No companions in warzones. Georg Zöller says that they are still experimenting with the number of players in warzones. There might be some pretty big battlefields. And they are working on an option to fight players from the same faction if there are not enough players from the opposite side.
In the open world there will be PvP too. (This part interests me the most.) According to Zöller: “There will be special PvP missions on the planets”. The author of the article suggest that players might capture buildings or eliminate enemy leaders. “Through tasks we give the PvP frames and concentrate it in certain areas” adds Zöller. Will there be armed vehicles? Georg answers with a promising “may be”. Similar to Warhammer Online players will execute missions in certain areas in which enemy players can cross their way.
PvP battles will reward players in first place with money and experience points. Warzones will reward the players with commendations. With them you can buy certain stimpacks. “Whoever gathers a lot of commendations can buy long term rewards” promises Georg Zöller. “But we don’t know yet exactly what they will be”. Through PvP one receives also valor points. With those you can unlock PvP ranks and titled. And special gear? “This is possible” confirms Zöller. “But we don’t have final solution about that”.
There is something about space combat, but we know all about that already.
With this I finished reading the article. The author seems to be familiar with the MMO world and looks competent. I had worst experience in the past, where journalists that most probably have interest in shooters and obviously didn’t like online games were writing articles about SWTOR. I hope you liked this blog. Thanks for reading!
Some time ago, Damion Shubert – The Lead Systems Designer for Star Wars The Old Republic (SWTOR) was talking in his blog – Community: The Third Element – about the two major approaches for creating content for MMO games. Those two are most commonly known among players as SANDBOX and THEME PARK. He was basically saying that SWTOR is going the middle way. Instead of explaining what sandbox and theme park means and how SWTOR is combining both, I’ll let Damion Shubert demonstrate it in his own words:
“Massively multiplayer games are not new. … One of these questions, still asked today, is whether or not massively multiplayer environments should strive to be games or to be worlds.
Advocates of the world philosophy see the space as a simulation or a sandbox. Fans of this viewpoint favor freedom and realism above all else – players have the ability to use and abuse almost anything around them, including other players. In ‘world’ MMOs, players tend to have a wide range of possible actions, most of which have relatively little depth. The depth of the world MMO comes from the interactions – players are urged to explore the world, and to find their own fun. The world MMO hates artificial constraints like classes or level requirements.
The game philosophy is quite the opposite, of course. Advocates of this view favor fun and balance more than anything. The game MMO is often described as being more like a theme park than a virtual world – player activity is tightly controlled, in such a way to help maximize the chance the player will have a fun, balanced and interesting combat experience and, in general, not be nasty to each other. The game MMO has no problem with introducing arbitrary rules to provide a tight, visceral gaming experience. Players can perform fewer actions, but these actions tend to have greater depth (such as a deeper, more balanced combat game)…
I’ve long advocated that moderation is the way to go, and I believe on The Old Republic we are successfully travelling a middle path, a centrist path that takes the strengths of both: provide a directed and balanced game experience inside a lush, free-form Star Wars world.” (bold letter emphasis by Petrosis)
You can read the entire blog here: http://www.swtor.com/news/blog/20100402_001
Well, I believed what Damion Shubert was saying in his blog back then. But I start to doubt his judgement about this matter. “Traveling a middle path” implies that SWTOR is somewhere in between SANDBOX and THEME PARK. Or it could be that it combines both elements successfully. At the moment I think that SWTOR is not going the middle path and is just another THEME PARK game with hints at some SANDBOX elements. Let me explain why.
The THEME PARK:
SWTOR is clearly advancing a lot in terms of story telling inside a MMORPG. And I can confidently say for most players, that touched those BioWare stories – they like them, one way or another. I like the story element too. But the story inside SWTOR is clearly a THEME PARK element. The player will start with a certain class and advance from levels 1 to 50. This is another theme park element, despite the customizations you can do within your class. We know for some planets that they will have content for certain level range. In-fact in a thread on the official SWTOR forums – Epic Rewards for Finishing Class Quest? – Georg Zoeller is talking about “level 40 planet”. It is an example of course, but the idea is clear. Some planets are designed for certain level ranges. But I hope it is not all planets. There are 17 announced planets and I’d like to see a few of them only for the end game. Not like in another MMO that should not be mentioned here – to have each zone assigned to certain level of content – and thus destroying the Open World PvP.
Raids, warzones, flashpoints – all those are THEME PARK content. And I have no problem with any of those theme park elements. In-fact I think that they can very much exists together with sandbox elements within the same MMO. But what are SANDBOX elements in a MMO for me?
Customization – something desired by the majority of players, and even according to many polls on the official SWTOR forums. But I’m not worried about customization. As seen from game-play videos and screenshots on the official SWTOR forums – there is plenty of customization to satisfy – if not all – but most player damands for customization in SWTOR.
Player Housing in SWTOR is another game-play feature that is pure sandbox and in high demand on the official SWTOR forums. Many players seem happy with the player ships, but those are not the player housing that most of the MMO players want. The real sandbox player housing must be an option to put a house on the open world map and not inside some instance (LotRO style). Those houses can group up as player towns and allow even more sandbox options – like shuttle-ports (which clearly effects the travel system on a planet), cantinas (social areas by players for players). I don’t need to explain too much about player housing – sandbox style. Because first from what we’ve seen it wont be in SWTOR, at least not at launch, and second this will make the article too long.
Crafting – this is another sandbox element. SWTOR will have crafting, and although not so complex in nature it seems that it will be better than some crating systems in current MMOs. Most crafters want their sandbox game to have meaning for the players – especially in end game, and bring rewards as well as recognition by other players. We still have to see more how BioWare’s Crew Skills work inside the game. For me personally if the crafting system doesn’t make difference in the game economy and has the prime spot in the market system – it will be a failure, no matter the twist is has. We hope for the best.
Open World PvP and not warzones is another sandbox element and very important for many. By the way, that other MMO that we will not mention here has Open World PvP in theory, but actually it is not working, because the whole world of Azeroth (oops it slipped) is a big THEME PARK. People stay in the capital cities and wait in a queue for mini games (battlegrounds, dungeons and raids – all a repetitive content). Devs have stated that SWTOR will have Open World PvP. But no more details on that yet. If all planets are designed with content for certain levels, and at the max level players hang out in the two capitals – Dromuns Kaas and Coruscant – because there is nothing to do outside in the THEME PARK world, then Open World PvP will not exist in SWTOR no matter what devs say now. But we still need to see what kind of end game content the devs have for us. Because the sandbox game play features dwell at the max levels, in the end game.
I’m not complaining or predicting doom and gloom. I just have a question that still doesn’t have a clear answer. Does SWTOR go the middle route and combine strong features in theme park and sandbox approach? How much game and how much world SWTOR will be? Damion Shubert wants us to believe that SWTOR is going the middle path. But we don’t see much of that – yet.
Just small comparison. Theme Park elements: Story – yes, Raids – yes, Flashpoints – yes, Warzones – yes. Sandbox elements: Customization – yes, Crafting – yes, Player Housing – no, Open World PvP – no real info on that. Just that small comparison doesn’t show me a middle way between THEME PARK and SANDBOX. And I completely agree with Damion Shubert on that – the best way is the middle way. Not compromise between both, but combine all the best from both approaches. That will be a recipe for a very successful MMORPG. But we don’t see that yet.
What do you think about that? Can BioWare deliver the right MMO universe for Star Wars geeks and MMO pros and the casual player? I’m sure they try their best for that. Just show us more of the sandbox, BioWare. Then we will believe you. You will make a lot of fans even more happier.
I just finished reading two articles in the GameStar magazines – GameStar XL (01/2011) and GameStar MMO Magazin (Dez 2010). Both are in German. The first article written by Petra Schmitz is the more skeptical one. They are actually two articles grouped in one big preview about SWTOR. In the first part she predicts that SWTOR will have big financial difficulties, because of the big money invested, and the needed number of players over certain time just to return the investment – the whole thing looks impossible to achieve. But I’m not worried about that part. The most important second part of the interview had some good and bad news about the game. I’m going to translate everything from both magazines and put it on the official SWTOR forums for all the fans to read it in English. But here are some important points I got from both journalists.
Remember those are their personal opinions and impression. But they had 6 hours time to play the game. Petra Schmitz played the Jedi Knight, and Stefanie Kautschor played the Jedi Consular. They were able to level up to level 7 and reached the point where they finished the questing on Tython and were sent to Coruscant, where all classes end after their starting planets. Apparently we are going to see some updates about those classes in December and may be even in the coming Friday update on the official site.
According to them the story is great, the dialogs too due to the voice-over and the cinematic experience. Although they found the quests dull, because they had to kill only one creature through all Tython quests over and over again – the Flesh Raiders. Additionally they found the AI for the flesh raiders to be very dumb – hence they whole experience was without challenge, because it was easy kill. They could not group together, because they had class specific quests, or rather the Jedi Knight could not enter the flashpoint for the Jedi Consular. Further they find nothing innovative in the way how the mobs are dispersed in small groups and when you kill them new ones respawn for the next player. Typical for any MMO.
This was recently revealed on the official site and GameStar had nothing new to reveal there. But they found the idea for Crew Skill cool. So, they like this aspect of the game.
This was the big shocker for me. According to Petra Schmitz SWTOR is going the path of Warhammer Online and their battlegrounds. But the statement that “an open PvP system where Jedi and Sith, Smuggler and Agent, permanently and everywhere could punch the nose of their rivals is not planned yet.” Under a small picture from the Alderaan warzone I read small text “The PvP in the Old Republic is only in instanced warzones.” From other developer interviews before I personally understood that SWTOR will have Open-World PvP. But now I’m very disappointed. I still hope that this is some kind of misunderstanding. May be they draw such conclusions because they didn’t have open-world PvP fights during their hands on time. I hope that is the case. Because if SWTOR doesn’t have Open-World PvP from day one – it will be one of the major disappointments for many fans.
Some small details
The Jedi Consular was Twi’lek – according to Stefanie Kautschor – an ugly one. She writes in her article that he looked more like Shrek. Petra Schmitz writes also that they both didn’t like the character creation system, but in the same time their characters were premade. How they found out what the character creation system is – I don’t know.
You buy your skills – which Petra Schmitz finds funny, since the Jedi are not about selling knowledge about the force for profit. But they understood the need to prevent inflation in the game by finding way to get back the money that players looted in the game world. Nothing new and unexpected here.
There are reveals about the story for the Jedi Knight and the Jedi Consular. But whoever is interested in those details have to read my full translation of those articles (when I’m ready to post it). Here is the link to the SWTOR forum thread.
I really hope the skepticism of those journalists is exaggerated, or at least BioWare fixes those issues before release. And most important – we all expect Open-World PvP. If there is none from day one it will be a much bigger disappointment then the rail shooter type of space combat.
Crew Skills is the crafting system in SWTOR. Instead of the players character his companions are those who craft items in the game. The player gives orders for Gathering, Crafting or Missions. His companions are those who get him the materials. Then they can be assigned to different crafting tasks by the player, who knows the schematics of certain items. Up to 5 companions can craft on the single crafting station in his ship.
Those who don’t like crafting can enjoy the Missions system, where his companion go to Diplomacy or Treasure Hunting mission (two other categories will be revealed later).
Those who want to become the most famous crafters on the server can achieve that through acquiring rare schematics and be among the few that can craft this particular item. The hard core crafters might choose two gathering skills and one craft. They can assign their companions for gathering and crafting tasks up to 23 hours.
Gathering includes Bioanalysis, Scavenging, Slicing and one unknown yet. Crafting can go into Artifice, Armormech, Biochem and 3 unknown yet. Missions can be Diplomacy, Treasure Hunting and 2 still unknown.
For more information on the topic visit: http://www.swtor.com/info/systems/crew-skills.
The fan podcast “We Don’t Serve Droids” is still alive. Our home is at http://wdsd.podbean.com. Our task remains the same – to talk about the MMO game Star Wars The Old Republic. Our main focus is still the combat system and particularly the Player versus Player interaction (PvP).
The game is still in development, but is near completion and expected to come live somewhere in Spring 2010. May the force be with you.