Archive for September 17th, 2010

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“My Ally Is The Force, And A Powerful Ally It Is”

September 17, 2010

Every Friday I look forward to seeing what new updates the Bioware crew will have for us on Star Wars: The Old Republic. Among my favorite kinds of updates are the Developer Dispatch videos or the Developer Diary blogs. Like everyone else, I’m hungering for more on game content like species, combat or mechanics too, but I think delving into the minds of the devs can indirectly reveal information that is no less valuable. You get answers to questions about what goes into creating a game like SWTOR. How does one go about making something feel “Star Wars-y”? Who’s their audience? And a question that I’m also personally interested in — how’s their progress?

The video “Designing the Light Side” released today pretty much embodies everything I love about these Developer Dispatches. Even though I myself have very little interest in playing the Jedi classes, this update was something I had been waiting for for a long time, ever since its predecessor “Designing the Dark Side” featuring the Sith force users was released back on Christmas Day 2009. That’s almost 9 months between these two videos, and it’s amazing to me when I watch them back-to-back to see how much the visuals have improved, like more shadows on the models and more features in the environment.

Also refreshing is how much more detail the devs are willing or able to give. I mean, one minute into the Dark Side video and all we’re seeing are interviews, concept art and some stills. On the other hand, one minute into the Light Side video and people are already flying out a friggin’ airlock.

That’s…too awesome for words.

You’d think making the Jedi feel “Star Wars-y” would be a cake walk, but the fact that the two practically go hand-in-hand itself is a challenge for any developer making a game based on the IP. Only when you’ve convinced your audience that you’ve managed to capture the essence of the Star Wars universe’s most iconic figures can you possibly hope to do it for anything else. As usual, I think Bioware’s got it down to a science, everything from the look-and-feel of the armor to the color of the Jedi auras or abilities.

And okay, while I’m still not quite interested enough in the force-users to clamber up that Jedi bandwagon, I admit this video got me closer than ever.

For the most part, the topics covered mirror those from the Dark Side video. I love the “low-tech” and retro styles of the Jedi light saber hilts (I for one am completely enamored with the one shown at 2:17) and the combat movements and light saber “clashes” look very iconic…except for the effusion of sparks every time a light saber makes contact with another. I’m all for a spark or two for the sake of visual flare, but I’m not sure I’m crazy about the way they are now, showering them like an exploding power transformer. Lets hope they have a decent fire alarm system over at the Jedi temple.

Lots of new things as well; since the announcement of space combat they have included their comments about the Jedi “hot rod” ship and are a little more liberal with revealing in-game footage. Ahh, so much more in-depth than what we got for the Sith back in December, right down to the “Yoda Theme”-like music (hey, hey, Jaramukhti!) playing in the background. It almost makes me wish they would update the old Developer Dispatches it to include this level of detail.

Also of note is the Fan Friday, in which Senior Concept Artist, Ryan Dening, talks about designing the concept art for a Republic Capitol ship in the Developer Corner.

Some damn talented people they have over there.

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