Star Wars: The Old Republic Preview and Editorials

BioWare's upcoming MMO set in the Star Wars setting has been the subject of some more coverage after being showcased at GamesCom, like this preview from VideoGamer:
The Eternity Vault is what BioWare has to say in response to criticism of the lack of social play. It's the most recent of their "Operations" game modes essentially 8 to 16 player raids for high-level characters. The Vault is a prison compound built to contain a powerful force wielder who, as the objective has it, you're told to save.

The Operation starts with a dozen Sith Empire characters hurtling toward a frozen planet in the comfort of drop-pods which have been released from a nearby ship, a sequence that probably echoes film visuals more than your average Raid.

This leads to the first battle which has been designed for the purposes of the demonstration to show how differing classes compliment each other in combat. Outside the gates of The Eternity Vault, we're shown droid guards who work in concert with strategically placed automatic turrets. The Juggernaut character barrels into the central group of droids - a tank class by any other name - while the Operative heals from the sidelines. A Mercenary character is left to deal damage to the remaining droids while Sorcerer and Powertech classes turn their attention to the turrets. If it sounds like a fairly standard set up - good. If BioWare can prove it can appeal to the MMO traditionalist then it has got their market sorted.

GameSpy offers an editorial on the title, in which they wonder whether it can hold gamers' attentions after launch:
I've long heard concerns that TOR's core gameplay is a little too close to games like EverQuest, Rift, and World of Warcraft -- but that in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing. As I see it, TOR is best understood as an evolution of a template that has served the genre well. It doesn't merely mimic the model and place it in a fresher setting (hello, Rift!), but neither does it go out of its way to be something bizarrely different. Of course, TOR has that whole "Star Wars" thing going for it; some people, indeed, seem to be so tired of the standard fantasy setting of most MMOs that they're ready to switch over for the allure of the Star Wars universe, even if it just ends up being World of Warcraft in space.

But branding only gets you so far. TOR needs to be unique, engaging, and able to survive without depending on a mass of fanboys eager to accept quests from their friendly neighborhood Jawa. Star Wars Galaxies got sucked into the black hole of obscurity after Sony Online Entertainment got hold of it, Star Trek Online failed to go where most MMOs had already gone before, and DC Universe Online made headlines for about the same amount of time it takes to read a graphic novel. Conversely, Rift managed to nudge a place in the market, despite having no preexisting IP.

Furthermore, TOR needs to be playable on as many computers as possible. People like to rag on World of Warcraft's graphics these days for what they see as blasphemously simple and outdated textures, but it's important to realize that these welterweight pixels are a big factor in the game's success. While TOR's PC specs look tolerable enough, BioWare's decision to lock Mac users out of gameplay already means it's missing out on a sizable chunk of would-be Jedi.

And finally, PC Gamer offers some comments from BioWare on raids:
(We absolutely agree with you on that,) he said (the Operations we have are going to be. the time commitment is light, and is very flexible as to who comes in and out of the raid, or the Ops as it were.)

(The difficulty level is; as soon as you hit max level, the gear that you're in, you can put a group together, you can go in and you can do Normal mode difficulty and experience these iconic, epic Star Wars moments with your friends as well as people you just met.

(We don't intend or we don't expect people to be on Vent and communicating with each other, but we expect them to know how to play their class because if you've gotten to Level 50, you know how to play your class. And we want to just make sure that we open it up so that a lot of people can enjoy these epic Star Wars moments.)