Star Wars: The Old Republic Interviews

There are a pair of new article-style interviews concerning Star Wars: The Old Republic to point you to today, starting with this piece on Joystiq that offers commentary from BioWare's Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk about their decision to go with a subscription-based business model and whether they'd consider going free-to-play with SWTOR or other titles in the future:
"I'm not saying it's better or worse. It just doesn't supplant the other things. 'Cause we can do some things no one else can," Zeschuk added. In his eyes, a free-to-play dev isn't able to throw the same amount of resources and time at an MMO project, and that marks a big differentiation between the two business models. "The free-to-play people can't invest to the level we can invest, and can't create something of the size and scale of something we can create," he said. The idea that free-to-play will take over all other MMO business models, he said is, "from a business perspective, ridiculous."

Beyond SW: TOR, BioWare's Mythic branch is also operating Warhammer Online and Dark Age of Camelot, among others, so I asked how many MMOs BioWare - now a label itself under the EA name, encompassing eight studios around the world - could sustain. "I think it's the kinda thing that you can adjust the size of the business and what you're doing with it to make it a good investment," Zeschuk told me. While he admitted that "you don't want to be making a whole bunch of them [MMOs] at the same time," his view is that MMOs are a scalable business - this attitude is exemplified by BioWare's use of multiple studios to piece together The Old Republic, rather than massively scaling up a single location and potentially facing massive layoffs down the road.

Before moving off the subject, Muzyka managed to sneak in a bit of a tease regarding BioWare's future work in the free-to-play space. "You can re-imagine things and kinda envision them in different ways," he said of the business model's advantages. "We have some other stuff we haven't announced yet coming from our play-for-free team that I'm really excited about. It's gonna bring back some IP that people have a lot of fond memories around." As with most of our BioWare speculation, we're gonna go ahead and hope for some form of a Jade Empire "re-imagining." Pretty much anything Jade Empire, is what we're saying.

And then we stop by PC Gamer for a piece featuring lead writer Daniel Erickson commenting about the processes that were used to create the game's dialogue and story content:
(It starts with the plot summary which is very much like a story idea pitch,) says Erickson. (That's written very much like a classic story they're going to do that in word and paragraph and whatever. We're gonna go through that, we're gonna see if it's just a good story in general? Does it have the right things that you need for a Star Wars story: are there great characters? Are there great twists? Is it overly predictable?)

Once a narrative has been decided, it has to be applied to the MMO format. There are plenty of logistical questions that need answers before any writing can begin. How many NPCs will be needed to tell the story? How many conversations do they need to have? What do they have to communicate in each one? All of this gets decided in a series of detailed design documents. Erickson tells us that (the idea for the design document version of it is that if we had to hand it to a different writer they could do it and, although the words would be different, it would generally come out about the same.)

After that, each story line gets passed back and forth between the writers, artists and animators. A line like (and then a the annoying Gungan is hurled face first into an exploding sun) is easy to write, but technically almost impossible to realise. It's initially up to the world designers to help decide what is and isn't going to work.