Posts Tagged ‘Q&A’

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SWTOR: Utinni!

June 8, 2011

I didn’t follow E3 as closely today, playing some catch up with my work instead (on account of all the time I puttered away yesterday, watching all the presentations). I did, however, catch a couple of Star Wars: The Old Republic live streams and features.

One of them was a live demo session hosted by Daniel Erickson from the show floor, answering fan questions and showcasing a Bounty Hunter questing on the planet of Tatooine. The video can be viewed here.

My interest was piqued immediately, for not only is the Bounty Hunter my class of choice, BioWare had also been teasing Tatooine for a couple weeks now and I was really looking forward to seeing it. Everything sort of fled my mind, however, the moment they revealed Blizz the little Jawa companion. Tally another point under the “Reasons to play a Bounty Hunter” column, please!

Oh em gee, will you just look at how cute and cuddly he is. Though, I almost choked to death on my Coke when someone actually asked if he was romance-able (he’s not, thank god). Sorry, but that’s just wrong. Sooo wrong.

They’ve done a wonderful job on the environment; despite the lowered graphic settings for the live stream, everything still looked very beautiful and Tatooine-y. Oh, and massive. Something tells me I’ll be extremely grateful for my speeder “mount” for traveling. Other highlights — a med probe ability that acts similarly to the Rift “soulwalk” when you die, unlimited inventory space for quest items, ability to switch out your companions on the fly for convenience while soloing or grouping, and many other quality-of-life features.

You can’t sell your companions, which was sort of obvious to me, but I still couldn’t help but be amused by Erickson’s answer of no slavery in the Old Republic — if only because it reminded me of how long I’ve personally pondered the ethics of selling, trading, and even sending your bridge officers through the mail like some kind of human chattel in Star Trek Online. Heh.

The other live stream I watched was the short interview on SWTOR raids (which they call “Operations”), as well as the trailer for the Eternity Vault encounter on Belsavis:

You know what it reminded me of? Oddly enough, Episode II. Yep, Attack of the Clones. Battle of Geonosis. The scene where Padme finally professes to Anakin that she truly…deeply…loves him (like, really?) before they and Obi-Wan are hauled off to become creature food, and Mace Windu and his 212-member Jedi strike team have to step in at the nick of time to rescue their asses. The scene where, outnumbered 50 to 1, the Jedi fight to the end in a charlie foxtrot of running feet, flying blaster bolts and flashing lightsabers, utter chaos exploding in every corner of the arena.

In short, Geonosis was a complete gong show and it was the first thing I thought of. Not that that’s a criticism of the above trailer, however. On the contrary. Large-scale battles like that should be messy, they should be chaotic. I thought some of the game footage they showed captured that vibe very well. That said, there were glimpses of what appeared to be boss fights, but also many encounters where the players split up to engage multiple enemies — the latter is what I hope we’ll get to see more of. In any case, I don’t know what else to make of SWTOR raids yet, with still so little to go on.

I did also manage to catch the Nintendo unveiling of the WiiU this afternoon. This year seems to be all about the possibilities for me. The possibility of me actually using a Wii product again for something else other than exercising and work out games if I got the touchscreen controller. The possibility I might actually be drawn into the world of handheld gaming by the Playstation Vita. The possibility I might finally have enough reasons to get a Kinect. All prospects, but nothing really jumped out at me.

My main interest still lies more in MMOs than in consoles or anything, though I’ve enjoyed every minute of the coverage over the last couple of days on games like Skyrim, Batman: Arkham City, Mass Effect 3, Assassin’s Creed Revelations and even Neverwinter.

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SWTOR: Friday Grab Bag

June 3, 2011

Quite a lot of Star Wars: The Old Republic updates to cover today, not just from the game site but from all around the net, which is something of a surprise considering how close we are coming up on E3. Granted, nothing earth-shattering, but I had expected things to get a little quiet. Or is this a sign of things moving forward, since by all accounts SWTOR is still on track for a 2011 release?

Advanced Class Page Update

First from swtor.com, the webpage for Advanced Classes has been overhauled so you can see their information laid out nicely without digging through all the regular class pages. You can view how a particular class “branches”, as well as the various skill-sets that become available as you level. A bunch of passive class abilities can be gleaned from this update, but otherwise it’s purely an improvement to the official site. Still, it’s much more informational than what we had before, and just look at all the pretty colors now!

New Lost Suns Comic

Another comic that will tie into the story line of SWTOR, taking place at the same time as the start of the game. The first issue of “The Lost Suns” will be available from next Wednesday, this time not as an e-comic, so I’m going to have to make the trek to my neighborhood comic book store.

I think this is going to be a good one. Written by the same writer who did the “Blood of the Empire” (which I enjoyed a lot), “The Lost Suns” will star Theron Shan as a Republic spy sent on a mission to discover secrets of the Sith Empire. Yep, another Shan. Glad to see Bastila’s line has been so prolific. Theron, however, is apparently the estranged son of the Grand Master Jedi Satele Shan — but he himself is not a Jedi. From the moment “a secret son” was translated from the Aurebesh found on Satele’s biography page, the identity of this young man had been shrouded in mystery, making me wonder if the title of the comic is also meant to be a clever play on words.

Ah, the delicious mystery — this is why I love comic and book tie-ins. The Q&A also states that Theron’s story will have profound repercussions on the plots in the game, along with “about a hundred pages’ worth of aliens, outfits, spaceships, and landscapes based on game content”. Sounds good, though I would probably pick this one up even if it had zip to do with SWTOR. I can never turn down a good Star Wars comic after all.

SWTOR at E3

E3 is right around the corner. This new article pretty much lays out what to expect — sneak previews of an encounter with the Eternity Vault on the planet of Belsavis, the struggle to dethrone a usurper on Alderaan, and a battle with Sandpeople and more on Tattooine.

Signs also point to the possibility of a new cinematic trailer, just like the last couple of years. If you get the swtor.com newsletter, you might have noticed an image at the bottom of the email teasing something happening on the site June 6:

If the image looks familiar, that’s because we’ve already seen snippets of it from the novel trailer for “Deceived“. As Jaramukhti has already pointed out months ago, that seemed like a hell of a lot of work just for a book trailer, no? His hopes that the footage will turn out to be the making of a new cinematic may pan out after all. Me, I’m hoping it will be a release date trailer! Too optimistic, maybe?

MMORPG.com Interview

A pretty comprehensive interview with Georg Zoeller on the subject of Advanced Classes, going over the system and looking more closely at specific abilities and details of the classes. I think the reason why there’s so much information on these ACs is that they’re really trying to emphasize the point that it’s really more like 8 classes per faction rather than the 4 — each branch will have its own story, the AC choice will not be optional, and as far as I know, once you make the decision you can’t take it back.

EA Launches Origin

EA debuts Origin today, their new direct-to-consumer gaming platform for gamers to purchase and download EA games and other content. They’re clearly gunning for services like Steam with this, which is both bad and good I guess, since I do all my digital game purchases through Steam exclusively at the moment, but buying stuff like DLC and other content for Mass Effect, Dragon Age etc. and keeping it all together could be easier with Origin.

In addition, “digital downloads of Star Wars: The Old Republic will be available exclusively on Origin later this year”. What this means for me, I don’t know. I was always planning on getting a boxed Collector’s Edition, but the idea of no-hassle digital delivery is also very appealing. But what to do, what to do, when both avenues will no doubt offer “exclusives” to tempt me?

More…?

I’ve been keeping an eye on Twitter all morning, and the forecast was calling for scattered SWTOR updates throughout the day from everywhere. There may be more coming, I don’t know, but they’re definitely ramping up for E3 and when next week rolls around I’m sure things will get even more crazy.

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SWTOR Sith Inquisitor: “Treachery Can Break Even The Mightiest Foe”

May 13, 2011

Late last night Gamespot posted a new video along with an exclusive Q&A, the curtain-raiser to what was expected from today’s Star Wars: The Old Republic Friday reveal — the Sith Inquisitor class update.

First, the video. Love the deception, love the force lightning, love the calm and cool-headed attitude of this badass Zabrak chick who is the very model of an upstanding emissary to the Empire. When considering most of the class videos that came before, it’s also a breath of fresh air to see someone who isn’t brutishly running around bashing in people’s skulls. As Daniel Erickson pointed out in the Gamespot interview, the Inquisitor is the “thinking-person’s Sith”; their strengths are in treachery and manipulation.

But if I have to nitpick, I can’t say I’m a fan of the “warlockian” outfit used in the video. I hope having to endure those monstrous shoulderpads isn’t part of the “rigorous trials” process on the long journey to unlock the secrets of the dark side.

If I haven’t already made up my mind to play a Bounty Hunter, I think I would have seriously considered the Sith Inquisitor. In the words of lead combat designer George Zoeller:

“Through advanced class and skill selection, the player can mold this class to fill any of the traditional roles of characters in massively multiplayer games.”

Yeah, especially in light of the bombshell that dropped last month updating the Inquisitor and Jedi Consular to tanking classes. I predict the two classes will fill similar roles in the game, and while I’ve only seen the Consular in action, if the Sith Inquisitor displays even a fraction of the same versatility I witnessed…well, I stand by my declaration — that in terms of gameplay, I think these two classes will probably be the most versatile and interesting to play.

However, I’m still going to have to give the SI the edge here — nothing beats being able to zap people with force lightning coming out of your fingers!

That said, the Sith Inquisitor Advanced Classes are very different. Assassins wield double-bladed lightsabers and they have the potential to fulfill damage, support, or even tank roles. Sometimes they even get to wear cool ninja-type armor like this! Now that’s an outfit I can learn to love:

Sorcerers, on the other hand, rely more on force-based abilities to do battle — lightning strikes and force storms are the kind of powers you find in their arsenal. They can also use the force to control their enemies or heal their allies.

Sorcerer armor style, however, is a little more distracting. I don’t even really know what to say. It’s like sci-fi meets shamanism. I love it, but at the same time I don’t — it’s a great look, but it’s also going to take me some time to get used to seeing it in the Star Wars universe:

As with every class update, the information also includes a known associate/companion: Khem Val, a member of force resistant and not-so-pretty Dashade species who according to his description sleeps dormant in the tomb of Naga Sadow on Korriban, waiting for a worthy Sith Inquisitor just like you to come along to finally wake him from his stasis. I assume you don’t do it with a kiss.

And of course, the ship — the same one that Sith Warriors use which was first revealed in their update — the Fury-class starship . Or what I like to call the love child of the Millennium Falcon and an imperial TIE Interceptor.

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SWTOR: Product Of Your Environment

April 15, 2011

It’s that time of the month again for another Star Wars: The Old Republic Fan Friday and its complement feature Studio Insider. The topic of the latter is of particular interest to me — Environment Polish.

I couldn’t help but give a little chuckle when I read the quote from Senior Environment Artist Robby Lamb that said “Environment art often goes unnoticed in a game, as it’s the creation of the world around your character.” Well, maybe some people overlook it, but yours truly has been known to take screenshots of in-game wall paintings and even of the patterns of cobblestones beneath my character’s feet if I think they look interesting.

The environment artists of SWTOR ensure the game will still be playable at a decent framerate even after they add touches like lighting and props. So much of the look and feel of SWTOR appears to be involved in this process, which also made me think about the game’s art style. I’ve seen words like “cartoony” and “unrealistic” used to describe the graphics, but I really don’t think they’re that bad. Keeping the minimum system requirements at a reasonable level may be one of their main priorities, but at least to my eyes, there is also a certain timelessness to the stylized look. And quite honestly, nitpicking the graphics is the furthest thing on my mind when I see a purdy screenshot like this.

I know one thing for certain — this game is going to look fantastic on the highest settings.

Onto the Community Q&A, I thought this month’s was one of the best so far. I wouldn’t mind if they did more of their future updates in this format, not just for their Studio Insider. Every month, information delivered this way always seems so much more detailed and specific — and more relevant to what the average player or fan would want to know, in my opinion.

The two things that piqued my interest in the Q&A; first:

Furthermore, you can customize your companions with kits that add extra abilities such as Grenade Launchers, Flame Throwers, etc. Regardless of which companion you choose to travel with, they will shape how your character approaches combat and will complement your strengths or help make up for your weaknesses.

I found out a lot about these “kits” while I was at PAX East, chilling and chatting with a bunch of other gamers while we were all waiting in line. While each companion will belong to an archetype and have their own ability set, you are also allowed a bit of flexibility to customize them. One person gave me an example to illustrate this: say, you have a companion you really like (or maybe want to romance!) and you want to bring them with you everywhere you go. But what if you’re a healing class and they are of a healer archetype too? Will this be redundant? As I was made to understand it, no, you can still bring your companion-of-choice along regardless, because you’d be able to equip them with a kit that would give them other useful abilities that help supplement your playstyle. Indeed, it sounds good if this is the case.

Second:

If changing skill distribution also involves a role change for the character (such as from damage focused to medic), chances are you will need to obtain a new set of equipment to go along with the change in gameplay experience. If no role change is involved (e.g. changing skills within the Gunslinger Advanced Class), you are likely able to reuse most if not all of your equipment.

D’oh. One thing I’m loving about Rift right now is the way I can juggle multiple roles on a single character and still keep my equipment sets to a minimum — unlike my “Swiss-Army knife” druid that carried around no less than four different sets of armor, 10 rings, and like half a dozen trinkets at all times. I doubt it would be so bad in SWTOR, but still…I’m a big fan of having inventory space.

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It Happens In A Flashpoint

January 28, 2011

Late in the evening on Thursday, Gamespot published a new article about Star Wars: The Old Republic Flashpoints so it wasn’t surprising to see that it was also the subject of today’s update. The new entry titled Flashpoints Overview is pretty scarce on information, though it does include a new video featuring a first-look at Taral V, a mid-game (level 32 and above), Republic only flashpoint (Darth Hater also has a cool dissection that’s worth checking out):

Here’s a random thought that possibly might only interest Hunter, given our little wager over the number of planets we think there will be at launch — with the reveal of the Taral V flashpoint, could we expect the presence of other individual self-contained instances like this scattered across the game on many different worlds? This led me to think that the famous “dozens” of planets claim by the devs could have meant these worlds as well, and not just the fully explorable ones released so far. I think our bet came forth from that quote in the first place, which is why the thought struck me.

Anyway, the update also lists the names of a few other flashpoints we can expect to see in game. It’s not complete, but it’s enough to see the availability of flashpoints to players on both factions and its apparent spread from early game all the way up to end-game. Nevertheless, I felt more information could be gleaned from the Gamespot article.

Some of the answers about Taral V in the Q&A from World Designer Jesse Sky are worth contemplating:

Taral V can be played in roughly 90 minutes, which is about the average length for a flashpoint. A completionist play-through would probably take more than two hours. If you have any stealthy friends, you might find them particularly useful on this mission.

Interestingly, in the video we actually get to see a quick glimpse of a “stealthy” player at work. Sky’s choice of words give me pause, and let’s just say I cross my fingers and hope that “particularly useful” doesn’t translate to “almost necessary”.

90 minutes is I think a fair length for a flashpoint, though I have to question what he meant by a “completionist play-through”. Does that simply mean clearing the place completely of all enemies? Or are there other little extras we can expect from inside these instanced flashpoints? It’s Bioware, so I had to wonder. Especially given what Sky says later on in the interview:

Flashpoints are repeatable by design, and we strive to include elements that keep them fresh for multiple play-throughs. The gameplay focus in a flashpoint is very tight, which contrasts a bit with adventuring in the open world, but it lets us empower players in some really interesting ways. For example, you might explore the area and discover a secret that changes the mechanics of a boss fight. Or you might make a story decision that alters the course of the gameplay.

The inclusion of little extras and secrets notwithstanding, that’s incentive enough for me to explore flashpoints, though Sky is still vague on what he means when he says they’re “sympathetic” to players who are tired of the “traditional” dungeon experience. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but having the best equipment found in flashpoints and other “reward structures” in place to me sounds like item progression, which on the face of it I wouldn’t mind so much but which I hope won’t be too greatly emphasized. Admittedly, I’d be a little disappointed if it were, but I can’t say I’d be very surprised either.

Personally, what motivates me isn’t the gear, it’s the cooperative gameplay. Speaking of which, that’s another thing I’ve been thinking about a lot — flashpoints are balanced around and intended for a full group of four players.

I know smaller groups make for more intimate and tight-knit interactions, and not that I mind getting cozy with my fellow players, but I do admit I’ve been perplexed by SWTOR’s group size ever since last year — especially in light of this post I saw on We Fly Spitfires last week, where Gordon points out that larger groups allow for more variety in party make-up. According to him, 6 is the prefect group size and 5 is World of Warcraft trying to be special, but Bioware seeks to one-up (or should that be one-down?) even Blizzard with 4-man parties. I look forward to seeing how the dynamics in a four-player group are going to work out in this game.

Finally, Sky ends the Q&A on a positive note, mentioning that they are heading into their “homestretch”. Despite rumors that surfaced earlier this week that SWTOR will be delayed for a September release, the devs appear to be giving the impression they are still on track, and as late as Tuesday evening, community representatives are still acknowledging a Spring release (thanks to Harbinger Zero for the link). Personally, I still very much doubt we’ll be seeing the game until at least late summer, and it wouldn’t surprise me even if the rumors for a fall release turn out to be true.

Would that be so bad though? Don’t get me wrong, I’m hoping SWTOR will come out sooner rather than later, but God knows I have enough games to keep me busy this spring and summer, and I fully trust Bioware to know when the right time is to release the game. I figure I’ve waited this long already, a few more months isn’t going to kill me…though on the other hand, sifting through the angst and vitriol on the forums that will come with another half year more of Fan Fridays just might.