All About Star Wars: The Old Republic

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Posted by Brad (2876 posts) -
Immediately after watching the following video for Star Wars: The Old Republic last week, I thought to myself: You know what, LucasArts, you have won this year's contest for best E3 trailer.

  

At the time, though, the triumph of that trailer felt bittersweet. While it's incredibly exciting and it actually reminded me why I once loved Star Wars (not a small feat, these days), it doesn't actually show what the game is going to look or play like.

I've since learned, though, that this crazy battle scene at least ties into the game. It depicts the sacking of the Republic capital world of Coruscant and the ravaging of the Jedi temple by the Sith. This conflict takes place 300 years after the events in the first Knights of the Old Republic, and provides the starting premise for the new Star Wars MMO LucasArts and BioWare are jointly crafting.

Want to play as Han Solo? Boba Fett? You're covered.
Anyway, I can't complain too much about this trailer's all-CG nature, because BioWare actually showed a ton of honest gameplay from The Old Republic behind closed doors at E3. Just to cover the big picture up front: Yes, this is a traditional MMO. It's got turn-based combat, loot, parties, guilds, player housing, raids, the works. Downed enemies sparkle when they have items you can pick up. Stationary NPCs dispense quests. Veterans of most any recent game in this genre will know what kind of gameplay to expect here.

Given the MMO trappings, what really struck me about The Old Republic was the degree to which BioWare is imbuing this traditional MMO framework with the feel of a single-player RPG. It all came across during a single sample mission, in which two players had fought their way through an Imperial capital ship in order to confront the captain about some misdeeds he'd been getting up to.

In most MMOs, when you get into a quest-related story sequence, all the dialogue and character actions continue to take place in the game world while you run around and jump over your party members' heads. But The Old Republic takes the control out of your hands, using close-ups and other dramatic camera angles to play out a cinematic interlude the likes of which you'd expect in an RPG where you're the sole player.

You also get to make dialogue choices using a wheel-like interface straight out of Mass Effect--and if you're rolling with a party, every member will get to contribute to decisions that sway the course of the mission you're on. How will multiple players contribute to dialogue choices? How will the game prevent other players from teabagging you in the middle of one of your dramatic cutscenes? Are all the quests instanced?

BioWare is cagey about logistical details like that at the moment, as you may notice in this interview we did.

  

BioWare wasn't the slightest bit reserved about the nature of your choice in this mission: spare the captain or kill him. The developer's parlance calls this sort of moment the "flashpoint" of a mission, where you'll affect how the mission plays out afterward. In this case, killing the captain meant having to fight off an invasion of Republic troops who boarded the ship, but company reps said if we'd made the decision to let the captain live, the mission would have gone a completely different direction.

The very outcomes of missions hinge on your decisions.
These sorts of decisions are going to grant you light or dark side points--they'll move your karmic slider toward good or evil, in other words--but again, BioWare isn't saying what your position on the moral scale is going to do for you, gameplay-wise. I'm also a little curious to see what your evolving alignment means to your character, since you'll already have chosen the good-guy or bad-guy faction (the Republic and the Empire, respectively), as per MMO tradition.

BioWare is starting to roll out more and more of The Old Republic's player classes, and the company is completely forthcoming about the fact that each of the classes will correspond directly to one of the revered characters from the Star Wars movies. There's the Imperial bounty hunter class, who might as well be Boba Fett, given his extensive Mandalorian armor and concealed weaponry like a wrist-mounted flamethrower. At E3, the company also unveiled the Republic's smuggler, the Han Solo class.

Let's be honest: Star Wars weapons don't play directly into the typical MMO model of combat, which generally has two opponents mechanically hitting each other repeatedly until one of them goes down. That looks a little strange when it's lightsabers you're talking about, which are supposed to kill just about anything in one hit--and let's not get started about the absurdity of two guys pointing blasters and shooting each other over and over. In that light, I'm glad to see that BioWare is at least working on playing to the strengths of each class's combat potential. The smuggler, for instance, will be able to take cover behind predefined barriers during a firefight. That will offer an increased defense rating, of course, but more importantly, it will just make the combat look better, which is something the MMO genre sorely needs.

Yep, it's a Star Wars MMO.
In general, though, The Old Republic is looking surprisingly complete for an MMO that's so far from release the developers won't even publicly pick a year yet. This was of course a controlled demo, so who can say what the rest of the game world looks like at this point--but the environments and characters BioWare did show off looked good enough to be included in a shipping game. The company has clearly taken a page from the World of Warcraft playbook by giving the art design a highly stylized nature, making the characters look a little cartoon-like in the interest of looking good on lesser PC hardware. But I was impressed and a little surprised by the technical detail in the world, too.

I was also pretty annoyed at the general quality and polish of what I saw in The Old Republic, because after I kicked WOW for the third time I thought I'd never play another MMO again. But when a BioWare rep capped off the demo by taking down a named Jedi with his Sith character, then looting that character, grabbing his blue lightsaber, and equipping it in a dual-wielding configuration with his existing red one, I felt that familiar combination of loot lust and Star Wars fandom that made me admit to myself before I even left the demo room that, yes, I'm going to have to try this one.


Staff
#1 Posted by Brad (2876 posts) -
Immediately after watching the following video for Star Wars: The Old Republic last week, I thought to myself: You know what, LucasArts, you have won this year's contest for best E3 trailer.

  

At the time, though, the triumph of that trailer felt bittersweet. While it's incredibly exciting and it actually reminded me why I once loved Star Wars (not a small feat, these days), it doesn't actually show what the game is going to look or play like.

I've since learned, though, that this crazy battle scene at least ties into the game. It depicts the sacking of the Republic capital world of Coruscant and the ravaging of the Jedi temple by the Sith. This conflict takes place 300 years after the events in the first Knights of the Old Republic, and provides the starting premise for the new Star Wars MMO LucasArts and BioWare are jointly crafting.

Want to play as Han Solo? Boba Fett? You're covered.
Anyway, I can't complain too much about this trailer's all-CG nature, because BioWare actually showed a ton of honest gameplay from The Old Republic behind closed doors at E3. Just to cover the big picture up front: Yes, this is a traditional MMO. It's got turn-based combat, loot, parties, guilds, player housing, raids, the works. Downed enemies sparkle when they have items you can pick up. Stationary NPCs dispense quests. Veterans of most any recent game in this genre will know what kind of gameplay to expect here.

Given the MMO trappings, what really struck me about The Old Republic was the degree to which BioWare is imbuing this traditional MMO framework with the feel of a single-player RPG. It all came across during a single sample mission, in which two players had fought their way through an Imperial capital ship in order to confront the captain about some misdeeds he'd been getting up to.

In most MMOs, when you get into a quest-related story sequence, all the dialogue and character actions continue to take place in the game world while you run around and jump over your party members' heads. But The Old Republic takes the control out of your hands, using close-ups and other dramatic camera angles to play out a cinematic interlude the likes of which you'd expect in an RPG where you're the sole player.

You also get to make dialogue choices using a wheel-like interface straight out of Mass Effect--and if you're rolling with a party, every member will get to contribute to decisions that sway the course of the mission you're on. How will multiple players contribute to dialogue choices? How will the game prevent other players from teabagging you in the middle of one of your dramatic cutscenes? Are all the quests instanced?

BioWare is cagey about logistical details like that at the moment, as you may notice in this interview we did.

  

BioWare wasn't the slightest bit reserved about the nature of your choice in this mission: spare the captain or kill him. The developer's parlance calls this sort of moment the "flashpoint" of a mission, where you'll affect how the mission plays out afterward. In this case, killing the captain meant having to fight off an invasion of Republic troops who boarded the ship, but company reps said if we'd made the decision to let the captain live, the mission would have gone a completely different direction.

The very outcomes of missions hinge on your decisions.
These sorts of decisions are going to grant you light or dark side points--they'll move your karmic slider toward good or evil, in other words--but again, BioWare isn't saying what your position on the moral scale is going to do for you, gameplay-wise. I'm also a little curious to see what your evolving alignment means to your character, since you'll already have chosen the good-guy or bad-guy faction (the Republic and the Empire, respectively), as per MMO tradition.

BioWare is starting to roll out more and more of The Old Republic's player classes, and the company is completely forthcoming about the fact that each of the classes will correspond directly to one of the revered characters from the Star Wars movies. There's the Imperial bounty hunter class, who might as well be Boba Fett, given his extensive Mandalorian armor and concealed weaponry like a wrist-mounted flamethrower. At E3, the company also unveiled the Republic's smuggler, the Han Solo class.

Let's be honest: Star Wars weapons don't play directly into the typical MMO model of combat, which generally has two opponents mechanically hitting each other repeatedly until one of them goes down. That looks a little strange when it's lightsabers you're talking about, which are supposed to kill just about anything in one hit--and let's not get started about the absurdity of two guys pointing blasters and shooting each other over and over. In that light, I'm glad to see that BioWare is at least working on playing to the strengths of each class's combat potential. The smuggler, for instance, will be able to take cover behind predefined barriers during a firefight. That will offer an increased defense rating, of course, but more importantly, it will just make the combat look better, which is something the MMO genre sorely needs.

Yep, it's a Star Wars MMO.
In general, though, The Old Republic is looking surprisingly complete for an MMO that's so far from release the developers won't even publicly pick a year yet. This was of course a controlled demo, so who can say what the rest of the game world looks like at this point--but the environments and characters BioWare did show off looked good enough to be included in a shipping game. The company has clearly taken a page from the World of Warcraft playbook by giving the art design a highly stylized nature, making the characters look a little cartoon-like in the interest of looking good on lesser PC hardware. But I was impressed and a little surprised by the technical detail in the world, too.

I was also pretty annoyed at the general quality and polish of what I saw in The Old Republic, because after I kicked WOW for the third time I thought I'd never play another MMO again. But when a BioWare rep capped off the demo by taking down a named Jedi with his Sith character, then looting that character, grabbing his blue lightsaber, and equipping it in a dual-wielding configuration with his existing red one, I felt that familiar combination of loot lust and Star Wars fandom that made me admit to myself before I even left the demo room that, yes, I'm going to have to try this one.


Staff
#2 Edited by Engine357 (33 posts) -

Yeah First, Besides that I just quit a 4 year WoW streak that started on release day, and I need a new fix, this game is shaping up to be my next addiction, however after years of MMO Gaming, I think FFXVI and Diablo III are still winning the Race for my Online RPG Money

#3 Posted by killdave (1073 posts) -

Bioware are awesome but starwars mmo is cursed thanks to Sony Online

#4 Posted by Metal_Mills (2980 posts) -

I can't wait. I wish they released some gameplay footage. I just hope it's not too much of a WoW clone. Grinding instances over and over for a Tire 3 set is boring as hell.

#5 Posted by Scooper (7882 posts) -

Was excited when they first put up their website and even more excited now. I don't care as much for MMOs as I used to but I do like the Star Wars universe a whole lot and can't wait to play this.

#6 Posted by Hamz (6846 posts) -

I have to agree that Star Wars weapons just don't feel right in an MMO combat system. Seeing two players fighting with lightsabers looks more like two players swinging glowing baseball bats at one another and removes that excitement of "Oh snap I'm a Jedi/Sith!"....

That being said the design looks great and BioWare do know how to make a great story in a game. So I'd imagine the persistant and unique story each player experiences will be both excellent and different each time.

#7 Posted by Bucketdeth (8004 posts) -

I`m going to wait for FF14, but I'll check this out, since I love MMO's : )

#8 Posted by Roboyto (80 posts) -

on the one hand, i have complete faith in BioWare at this point and think this game will probably turn out awesome....on the otherhand, ive recently kicked the WoW addiction and am not so sure about getting into another MMO, even if i am dying to see the storyline unfold in this one....and on my malformed third hand, i really really really really really wish BioWare would have made KotOR 3 to finish out the Revan story arc and let us experience what happened in his trip into the Unknown Regions first hand instead of(probably) doling it out as 300 year old history in this MMO

#9 Posted by rybodeus (17 posts) -

Im not really a fan of mmorpgs, and i admit i was alittle disappointed when i discovered that the next kotor game would be one. Hmmm, i may end up checking this out.

#10 Posted by Branthog (7342 posts) -

The CG trailer was fantastic, but there is no way I can get excited about an MMO built around Star Wars. I thought I was tired of vampires (which were played out by the end of the 90s). Star Wars, however . . . Ugh. Let's get some new IP and do something entirely new and awesome and let Star Wars die with dignity.

#11 Posted by dagas (2748 posts) -

If the combat is like KotOR I'm satisfied. I also don't really like MMO's, but since it's BioWare I still have high hopes for it.

#12 Posted by Reverseface (1221 posts) -

I'm REALLY looking forward to this now all the new info has surfaced i've just got a good feeling about it. I hope it doesn't disapoint and it could well compete with WoW the single player feel of the quests is a winner. Now all i need to do is convince my friend to come to the dark side. >:)

#13 Posted by Kajaah117 (1070 posts) -

I'm not going to renew my WoW subscription until I see more of this. This looks perfect to me, if only because of the instant familiarity. I have a hard time remembering all the WoW locations but I know damn well where Mos Eisly is.

I know we got let down by the last Star Wars MMO, but dude.... Bioware! By law it's a guaranteed masterpiece.

#14 Posted by Zaapp1 (657 posts) -

"That looks a little strange when it's lightsabers you're talking about, which are supposed to kill just about anything in one hit"

Two words, Cortosis Weave.

#15 Posted by stokerd (48 posts) -

I want me some Old Republic action. The trailer looks amazing. I hope we get to see some actual gameplay soon. If they continue down this road, this could be a really great game.

#16 Posted by blackjosh (55 posts) -

i am so freakin excited for this game and i don't even play mmo's... at all... but this is gonna be sweet!

#17 Posted by GioVANNI (1285 posts) -

Lower-end PC my ass.  I have a lower-end PC and I only get 30 FPS in WoW with low settings.

#18 Posted by Brendan (7696 posts) -
@Zaapp1:
Two Words: Lame Concept
#19 Posted by Resizzle (18 posts) -
@GioVANNI said:
" Lower-end PC my ass.  I have a lower-end PC and I only get 30 FPS in WoW with low settings. "
lol
#20 Posted by kallistosprom (48 posts) -

sorry i'm a wow player, this would have to be gods greatest gift to mankind for me to swap. I tried warhammer, hated that. I used to play ultima online before wow and the other star wars mmo. But still wow draws me back. Simple yet effective and addictive game. Good luck to Lucas Arts.

#21 Posted by Blitzer (386 posts) -
@kallistosprom:  I was a WoW player. Just recently quit. I still log once or twice a week to help noob friends level. But the raiding just didn't do me.
Guild i was in was 10/14 Ulduar.

Looking forward to this and Star Trek as well. I need a change from the fantasy MMO.
#22 Posted by yuncks (1 posts) -

In relation to the hitting people with light sabers (or taking a blaster shot to the chest) and surviving, maybe they could implement a stamina bar instead of a health bar, where successful attacks are blocked and the more you block the more your stamina goes down because it takes stamina to block an attack.  The more dmg that an attack would have done the harder it would have been to block so it takes more off your stamina than a weak attack for instance.  Once it gets too low, then there could be some cool finishing move where they stab their light saber through your chest, or take a blaster to the face instead of blocking it or dodging it.
Just a thought.. not to sure if it could work, but if they had variety in killing blows in this way it could add some spice to MMO combat and also make it look more epic

#23 Posted by TomA (2531 posts) -

Yay!!! I love Star Wars and i will tottaly play this game. It'll be a much needed break after WoW's, basic NPC who doesn't talk telling you to go do this 9 thousand times. And it also sounds like they're going to make things be able to advance in a different way. Adding much more gameplay than WoW could ever hope for. I got sick of WoW because there was just not enough for lower levels(52) to do. The leveling became so long and there was no variation in the game, but in TOR, just the fact that they have different speech options that all make things occur differently is enough to get me back into the MMO space, not to mention all the other awesome sounding things that are going into this game. Can't wait.

#24 Posted by Envoy (16 posts) -

No!!! BRADDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!

#25 Edited by ahoodedfigure (4238 posts) -
SOS, DD.

I think if they're using this property to basically retell the story of Star Wars using the Sith as the Empire, that's cool, and it might patch a few holes in the original narritive.  But I think I get caused physical pain now every time the sanctioned creative folks bring out the same Star Wars tropes over and over again without adding anything new to the world.  It feels like the universe was given X many creatures, and now, instead of being given more to feel a sense of wonder about, we're given the back stories of all the creatures we already saw...  which is at cross purposes with what a lot of people GET out of Star Wars in the first place (fantastical new things to see, mysteries to make up your own ideas about).

I hope it manages to revolutionize the idea of Star Wars, but I'll wait to see if someone else's inner child gets resurrected before I submit mine.
#26 Posted by ElectricHaggis (630 posts) -

The lightsaber combat was still interesting to watch in KotOR.  I guess I expect something similiar in this.
It sounds like something I'll want to play when it comes out.  Hopefully I'll have a PC more suited to playing games by then.

#27 Posted by Arjuna (886 posts) -

Well, it looks like the game will have a good opening cinematic...

#28 Posted by CarolynP (91 posts) -

How 'bout a game of PaZAAK!

#29 Posted by CL60 (16906 posts) -

Everything I have read about this from peoples impressions from E3 seem extremely good.

#30 Posted by Spacetrucking (942 posts) -
@GioVANNI said:
" Lower-end PC my ass.  I have a lower-end PC and I only get 30 FPS in WoW with low settings. "
Incidentally, most BioWare games tend to have terrible framerate problems on launch. I really hope they nail down a playable framerate before launch for this one (same goes for Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age actually).
#31 Posted by PureRok (4235 posts) -

After the horrible game that was Mass Effect I'm a little skeptical.

#32 Posted by FlipperDesert (2082 posts) -

Didn't like WoW, if this successfully creates a narrative I care about (I played KotOR for a month straight, by the way.) they may be onto something here.

Also, I totally wanna be a badass bounty hunter.

#33 Posted by Lazyaza (2169 posts) -

Going by past experiences I am very skeptical of any and all mmos, but the simple fact this is a sci-fi mmo instead of a traditional swords and magic fantasy one has me interested regardless of the star wars license.
I still play wow on and off, have done for the past 4 years or so and dear god am I sick of that game but their just never seems to be another mmo that gets the basic stuff right that wow always has. If this game does that hell yes I'm on board.   

#34 Posted by giyanks22 (2681 posts) -

This game looks pretty amazing. I cannot wait to see some actual gameplay footage probably next year at E3.

#35 Posted by whallett (28 posts) -

I'm sure Bioware knows what they are up to and will put a good product out.  What would worry me if I was Bioware is what will Blizzard to in response to a real challenger.  An updated engine or Starcraft MMO may crush all competition. 

#36 Edited by darkjester74 (1571 posts) -

Sigh...I really thought I had successfully sworn off MMOs....Guess its back to the grind for me when TOR comes out.

Also, that trailer was effin amazing...I dont care if it is just CG, its just badass.

#37 Edited by PenguinDust (12454 posts) -

This is my number one anticipated MMO, and if it's good, will emerge me again into that time-sink I thought I'd given up when I quit WoW.  I have a few other possible MMOs as secondaries, i.e. The Agency, Champion Online, APB, etc...but none of those look like they may own my soul again like WoW once did.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in again."

#38 Posted by Media_Master (3283 posts) -

I really like this MMO, I hope that there isn't a monthly fee.

#39 Posted by TheHBK (5464 posts) -

Cool, havent been looking foward to a good PC game since Half Life 2?  This and StarCraft 2 have me thinking about getting a new PC.

#40 Posted by mubress (1517 posts) -
@Media_Master: There will be a fee. No doubt.
#41 Posted by TheGreatFillip (6 posts) -
"Just to cover the big picture up front: Yes, this is a traditional MMO. It's got turn-based combat, loot, parties, guilds, player housing, raids, the works. Downed enemies sparkle when they have items you can pick up. Stationary NPCs dispense quests. Veterans of most any recent game in this genre will know what kind of gameplay to expect here."

Pretty pissed about this. I was really hoping for some really new innovation with battling and how player interact. I hate WoW and what it has done to the WarCraft universe and characters. I am excited for this, but if it is just a WoW clone with voice actors and morality, I will be unbelievably pissed.

#42 Posted by Nakirendral (55 posts) -

Meh! I got burned out on MMOs b/c of WoW. Just like about 90% of the Giantbomb audience. The only way I could ever get into MMO Star Wars is if the first month is free to try, and the healing mechanic rocks. Holy Raiding Priest for life.

#43 Posted by MichaelBach (876 posts) -

Should be frikin sweet !

#44 Posted by Stephen_Von_Cloud (1530 posts) -
@TheGreatFillip said:
" "Just to cover the big picture up front: Yes, this is a traditional MMO. It's got turn-based combat, loot, parties, guilds, player housing, raids, the works. Downed enemies sparkle when they have items you can pick up. Stationary NPCs dispense quests. Veterans of most any recent game in this genre will know what kind of gameplay to expect here."

Pretty pissed about this. I was really hoping for some really new innovation with battling and how player interact. I hate WoW and what it has done to the WarCraft universe and characters. I am excited for this, but if it is just a WoW clone with voice actors and morality, I will be unbelievably pissed.

"
Being a traditional MMO is being a "WoW clone" now?  Huh?  Was Everquest a Wow clone too?
#45 Posted by Jimbo (9775 posts) -

I think if you've seen the lightsaber combat in KOTOR, there's no reason to expect it to feel weird here.  I don't expect the players to be stood there taking it in turns to swing at air like WoW or whatever, hopefully the lightsabers will mash against each other until somebody dies, just like KOTOR. 

There's still damage being taken, it just isn't shown in the combat animation.  It makes more sense if you think of the 'health bar' as a 'how close am I to losing this fight' bar.

Couple of things I'd like to see them do in TOR:

  1. *Forced random name generation (but re-roll until you get something you like).  I get mad pissed off with retarded names in MMOs.
  2. *'Jedi' (and 'Sith') will be way oversubscribed (in terms of trying to get a balanced party together), so I'd like to see 'Jedi' split into 3 seperate classes (just like KOTOR did) - you could probably work Guardian / Consular / Sentinel into established MMO classes pretty easily.
#46 Posted by Frohike (12 posts) -

This sounds iffy to me.  They're relying on the SW theme to carry people's interest, and this hinges directly on how well designed the missions are.  Hopefully they'll make that aspect noticeably superior to prior MMOs, but frankly I doubt it. They seem completely stuck on prior MMO models and ideas. That cutscene "lose control of your character" method is actually a throwback to something like FFXI, and the "dialog tree" has been done in MMOs before too.  Honestly, it looks to me like they're appealing to SW fans whose MMO experience is relatively recent.  As a jaded MMO player, I find this game increasingly unappealing as I learn more about it.  Time will tell, I guess.

#47 Posted by Linkyshinks (9880 posts) -

God I love that trailer.

#48 Posted by Maxszy (2064 posts) -

Awesome article Brad! Thanks so much!

I am in the same boat, though only kicked the WoW habit twice. Told myself I wouldn't play an MMO again. Then when this was announced a few months after I had quit...I knew I had lied to myself when I said I wasn't going to play an MMO again.

#49 Posted by InsanePotato (206 posts) -

Just like you Brad i've kicked WoW several times and judging by the gameplay and that dam cinematic the habit is about to come back. Well..... at least it isn't WoW drawing me back again i guess.

#50 Posted by TomA (2531 posts) -

SO AWESOME!!!!!!

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