Star Wars: The Old Republic Studio Insider #6 and Community Q&A

It's time for another "Studio Insider" feature for BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic, and like they already did with the fifth and third, it's coupled with a community Q&A. First, principal lead animator Mark How discusses the process behind the MMO's combat animations:
Hi. My name is Mark How and I am the Principal Lead Animator at BioWare Austin. Many ideas have been dreamt up since the inception of this extraordinary game and the animation team has been hard at work since the very beginning. While we see each project as a challenge, we have a lot of fun imagining all sorts of unique, action-packed scenarios that can play out in The Old Republic. Of course, the main purpose of animation is to produce characters that adhere to the basic laws of physics, but good animation also ties into many other facets of game design. Today, I'll tell you about our experiences and techniques that go in to our creating the animations that compliment the exciting and visceral combat in The Old Republic!

We start out like any other game that has big ideas for combat: at first we thought about the classic battle between Jedi and Sith. When you picture these powerful Force users meeting, you think of how they Force Leap into battle! You think of their Lightsabers clashing, and how they use the Force to push and pull each other around the battlefield. We wanted to be able to replicate this sense of action and exhilaration in the way we capture the combat animations. We wanted to show Force Lightning exploding from your fingertips and have your character show their raw mastery of the Force by hurling large objects at your enemies. We also had many ideas about ranged combat; about ducking behind cover and blasting your way through a pack of enemy troops. Knowing that many of you who will play the game are going to be playing as non-Force users, we wanted to capture that feeling as well.


Once we knew what our rules were for combat, the programmers and animators were able to create a Lightsaber clashing system that could predict the volleys of weapons fire and other attacks being thrown at the player from all directions, and have the player dynamically react to '˜block' these attacks. Not only that, but we were able to keep this system active while players were deflecting directed attacks, engaged in melee combat or even running. Players may not even realize all the factors that are coming into play to visually represent the combat experience, but we believe it's critical for making the player really feel fully engaged in the fight. Without these dynamics, the players would wind up locked in certain animations when they go to engage in a (Stock strike) or (Project,) and then the combat would really be failing to capture the feel of Star Wars; it would give the player the impression that they are watching the action rather than taking part in it for themselves.

We've iterated on the mechanics for a long time, and I think the Lightsaber combat system that the programmers and animators ultimately devised has really gone beyond expectations. Even in a battle scene with multiple players and multiple targets, each Lightsaber wielder can be seen attacking opponents with varied tactics while deflecting, parrying or dodging the attacks of the other enemies. It gives the whole experience a really dynamic, visceral feel, making the player feel like they're taking part in an intense battle where their character has the heroic qualities expected of a Star Wars icon.

Then, a snippet from the community Q&A:
Q: What incentives will there be for players to focus on targets outside of the typical (gank the healer) strategy; and how will factors such as burst damage, crowd control and (PvP tanking) play a role in accomplishing this? Marsobot

A: Winning will be the incentive. Attacking the healer will be the right decision sometimes, but not always. A key contributor in ensuring this is the tanks' Guard and Taunt abilities. Guard will redirect half of the damage through the Tank's mitigation and avoidance. A taunted target will deliver less damage to everyone but the tauntee. Players will be able to easily visualize which Tanks are guarding and taunting, who their targets are, and when damage is deflected through clear animations and effects. This adds to the dynamics of a skirmish as players of varying skill levels can easily react to and be on their toes about who the real targets of opportunity are and when. Additionally, Tanks will be recognized and rewarded for how much damage they deflect in this fashion on Warzone scoreboards.

We have a fairly large health pool to burst damage potential ratio. This allows for burst damage to be useful when the time is right, while not letting it dictate the outcome of all skirmishes.

And as far as crowd control goes, there is '˜Resolve.' Every time a player is crowd controlled they build up Resolve, which is pictured as a bar over the characters head (below the health bar). Once a player's Resolve Bar is full it changes colors and starts to decay over time, during this they are immune to crowd control. The visual element helps with PvP accessibility, and tuning the Resolve values allows us to achieve a fun tempo ensuring crowd control as its place but isn't the end all be all of PvP.