Star Wars: The Old Republic Previews

A couple more previews of Star Wars: The Old Republic are ready for consumption, though they each take a very different approach to conveying information about BioWare Austin's sci-fi MMORPG.

PC Gamer starts us off with something of a roundtable discussion about the game with other MMO developers:
If TOR is as well-made as BioWare's other releases most of which have been praised by fans and critics alike and still fails, it'd speak volumes. It could prove that there's simply not enough room for more than one WoW-sized MMO in the subscription market, something Richardsson already believes. (If you start out with the goal to '˜take down' WoW, you will fail miserably.) Others, like Age of Conan's Game Director Craig Morrison, wonder why anyone would ever try to (beat) WoW, considering the amount of funding it would take to compete with such a well-established game. BioWare claims they only need 500,000 subscribers for TOR to be profitable, but that number would undoubtedly feel like a letdown for a project of this size. If TOR fails to meet expectations, we'll likely see an even faster rise of the free-to-play business model. Bigpoint's CEO and founder, Heiko Hubertz, whose browser-based Battlestar Galactica Online recently went into open beta, believes that free-to-play is becoming the more viable option. He told us, (While WoW has clearly demonstrated its staying power, plenty of other games have shifted to F2P after failing to achieve critical mass and return on investment through subscriptions.)

Even more important than finding out what happens will be looking back after the dust settles to determine why it happened. BioWare and EA are investing as much (or more) time, money and effort into making their story-based MMO than any game developer could reasonably expect to before launch. But what if we find out afterwards that MMO gamers simply aren't looking for that kind of narrative? Nexon's Minho Kim is skeptical: (I'm really curious if people will love the [voiceovers] beyond the initial experience, or if we will hear people say '˜I grinded through eight hours of voiceovers today.') There's also a chance that BioWare's game is simply flying too closely to WoW's style of gameplay, something Todd Harris is weary of in general. He told us, (A developer would be foolish to try to chase WoW's success by developing a game that's too similar.) If TOR fails, developers will likely look to revolutionize on different fronts, such as integrating different styles of combat, deeper persistence, more complex economic and social systems, more challenging encounters or one of the many other ways to mix up gameplay without requiring TOR's massive budget.

And then shares some more impressions based on their hands-on time during EA's press event:
Choosing your Advanced Class is a fairly simple affair. I spoke to a few NPCs who briefly explained the important aspects of the Mercenary and Powertech, and then I simply returned to the original NPC to make my final decision. While the Mercenary and Powertech both continue to wear heavy armor, the Powertech is the only one of the two with access to Shield Generators, which grant hefty bonuses to your character's durability. Skill trees also opened up at this time, with Bounty Hunters of all stripes sharing the Advanced Discipline tree (which gives many general bonuses), and two trees unique to the Powertech: Firebug and Shields. As you would imagine, the Firebug focuses on improvements to the Powertech's Flamethrower-based abilities and DoTs, while the Shield tree focuses on well, shields. I opted to go down the Firebug tree as the early boxes offered additional endurance (HP).

With my Advanced Class selected, we attempted to figure out my class quest bug, eventually leading to BioWare's Daniel Erickson whisking me off to Star Wars: The Old Republic's Debug Room, a giant white room lined with random NPCs whose names denoted their various functions. Some short fiddling and a load screen later my class quest returned whee! I checked in at the Dromund Kaas spaceport, prompting a short dialogue scene where I rebuffed my bossy companion Mako and I was off to return to Kaas City.