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Star Wars: The Old Republic (Part 2)

28 Nov 2008  by   Paul Younger

In the second part of our interview, we discuss combat systems, story and lore as well as well as the feel the game will have with Bioware’s James Ohlen, lead designer on the highly anticipated MMO.

You describe SW:TOR as a story driven MMO. Now one reason, I believe, that MMOs didn’t focus too much on story in the past, is, that story always interrupts gameplay. How are you going to deal with that?

We don’t exactly look at it that way. We believe there are four pillars essential to a compelling gameplay experience: Exploration, Character Customisation and Advancement, Combat, and Story. For us, story is an essential part of the gameplay experience, and in some ways, even the most important. Story is what gives motivation to a player’s actions. Story creates the context for your character’s existence and story makes the immersive gaming experience believable, emotional, and exciting. For what it’s worth though, we do recognise that story is less compelling to some people, so we’re spending a great deal of time playing the game, making sure the quests are fun, and making sure that the pacing of story, combat, and exploration is just right. There’s definitely something for everyone.

When it comes to designing worlds going to the extreme is usually the Star Wars way (all desert, all sea, all forest, etc). Do you stick to that format with the new planets and how difficult is it to find new and original environments?

The variety of worlds in the Star Wars galaxy is one of the many rich features of the franchise, and we’re looking to build and expand on what’s already been established. When people sign up to play a Star Wars game, they’re looking for a Star Wars experience, and we appreciate that as well as anyone. The great thing about Star Wars is that it’s totally alien and totally familiar at the same time. In The Old Republic, you’re going to see a lot of the iconic worlds, and you’re also going to see some planets you’ve never seen before. We want these new planets to feel new and original, but we also want them to be immediately recognisable as Star Wars planets. It can be challenging to achieve this ideal, but our team’s making it happen.
 
Can you tell us more about player/companions interactions: how frequently your dialogues with them will evolve? What will you gain from learning their story? And if you group with another player, will the two companions interact with each others?

If you’ve experienced BioWare games in the past, then you really know what to expect. Companion characters will get involved in your personal story and you can choose to get involved in theirs. They have their own identities and their own opinions, and some of them won’t hesitate to tell you when they disagree with you. Basically, you can befriend your companions, draw closer to them, learn more about them, and possibly even romance them. Alternatively, you can deal with your companions in a more contentious fashion… you can be rude aggressive, and even abusive… of course some may actually like this… but others, well you may drive them to abandon or even betray you. Taking part in your companions’ stories will unlock new opportunities to interact with them, so whether your interactions are friendly or cruel, it’s definitely a great part of the game to explore. In terms of companions interacting with each other in groups, it is something we’ve discussed, but we’re just not ready to get into detail on that just yet.
 
Considering the combat system, is it correct to say it’s works a bit like the Matrix Online system where the game shows you the result of your actions?

We haven’t talked much about the combat system so far, and there’s certainly no specific combat system that I’d compare it to at this time, but I will say that we’re focused on creating a really dynamic, visceral combat experience. We want every battle to be really fun, and I think we’ve already created a really impressive system, but we’re not done refining it. One other point I can make about combat at this time is that we want it to look very “Star Warsy”. When you swing your lightsaber at an enemy, they’ll either block it, dodge it, or it’ll make contact and that contact will be very attention-getting. What we don’t want are instances where the only way you can tell what’s going on in combat is by looking at the numbers, the animations and effects will show you what’s happening. When you see some gameplay video, you’ll see that combat is not only exciting to take part of, it’s also stunning to simply watch.

We’re really excited about Star Wars: The Old Republic and we’re glad you are too. We have a lot more to talk about in the coming months, so I hope we’ll be hearing from you again.
 
We’d like to thank our sister site, Gamona.de for conducting the interview. Click here for the German language version. Click here for part one of the interview.

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