Star Wars: The Old Republic Interview

In order to provide us with some new details about how companions will function in Star Wars: The Old Republic, the editors at GameSpot recently chatted up game director James Ohlen. Some good info in here:
GS: Why was the decision made to flesh out companions and their development? Did part of the decision have to do with a need to more closely complement the skill set of individual characters, for instance?

JO: We were originally a little gun shy about making the companions too complex. In a single-player BioWare RPG, players have the option to pause the game and micromanage their companions' actions. In SW:TOR, the game takes place in real time, all the time. In high-stress scenarios, such as war zones and operations, the added complexity of managing a companion would be too much for a lot of players. However, the AI for our companions turned out better than expected. Players who didn't want to micromanage their companions didn't have to. In addition, we actually removed companions from war zones and operations, as we felt these activities should be entirely controlled by players. So we decided to add a lot of the depth that we had removed early on in the design process back into the game.

GS: We know that you don't have to manage your companions' actions all the time and can basically leave them on their own to pitch in with their standard attacks in battle. But we understand that part of the new companion content lets you get more specific in setting their behaviors. What kind of controls or artificial intelligence can you set for your sidekick? Can you give us some examples?

JO: We knew that there was going to be a large group of players that didn't want to micromanage their companion. Since every player has to use a companion, it was important that we didn't force a gameplay style on those players. We added a system where players can customize the AI of their companions. You can decide exactly which abilities your companions will use and which they won't use.