Star Wars: The Old Republic Previews and Interviews

It appears that the recent Star Wars: The Old Republic press event at LucasArts' offices was populated by quite a few journalists, as several more hands-on previews and two more interviews have reached the web.

The first preview is at Kotaku:
I played through about 95% of a quest we'll call "The Tomb of Tulac Horde" because I'm not sure what its official name is, but that just about sums it up. I was in the role of a Sith Inquisitor acolyte with a nice rack and red hair and I was role playing her with an attitude problem that somehow didn't get her Force-choked even once during the play through. The quest involves going into a tomb to collect three tablets and returning to your Sith master. Additionally, you could accept a quest to activate something in the tomb called the Red Machine for some other dude standing outside the tomb. Also, you could talk to and accept another quest involving mind-raping a Jedi being held in a Sith dungeon, but I was told by a LucasArts representative not to pursue that quest.

The second is at VideoGamer:
Opposing the Sith Inquisitor is the Jedi Consular, a thoughtful Jedi who fulfils the Yoda fantasy. He uses telekinetic powers to neutralise enemies from range. Remember that bit in Episode 2 when Yoda used the Force to stop that hulking pipe from crushing Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin? That's the kind of thing you'll be doing as a Jedi Consular. BioWare shows the class in action in a live gameplay demonstration with a level seven Jedi Consular on the homeworld of Typhon. His Mind Maze ability freezes enemies in place and his Lightsaber Lunge finishes bad guys off as you'd expect it to. Other attacks involve more violent use of the Force. Force Pull does exactly what it says on the tin - I imagine it will be a popular mob pull technique during challenging raids. Force Slam lifts an enemy up high into the air then slams it down. The poor Flesh Raider Deathwatchers never stood a chance.

The third is at Eurogamer:
BioWare also showed off the AI companions you'll be able to collect for your character, which - along with the fully-voiced conversational options and moral barometer - it has carried over to The Old Republic from its single-player RPGs. The two examples given were Inquisitor Companions: Khem Val the Dashade, a hulking alien tank who fights with his fists, and Xalek the Kaleesh, a "Darth Maul-style" lightsaber-wielding damage-dealer. They were only shown filling these simple roles in combat, so the extent of interaction with them doesn't currently seem that different from a traditional MMO "pet" character, although we're sure BioWare has more complex plans in the works.

The fourth is at Joystiq:
Once we'd made our way into the ruins, we practiced an array of ranged attacks, including Force Lightning and an ability that leeched the very life force of enemies -- like nasty-looking K'lor'slugs and rogue combat droids. To be honest, it was very easy, basic stuff ... if anything, the demo seemed designed more to showcase how solid and good looking the game is at this point in its development than to really lay on the challenge. As we progressed further into the ruins, we encountered more side quests, including one where we were asked to locate and discover the secrets of a powerful device fueled by blood. Hey, we were playing Sith!

The fifth is at NowGamer:
Deceit and treachery are the defining characteristics of the dark side, and Malora wants you to bring her the creature's brain first so she can pour a chemical on it that will scupper Renning's experiment and allow her to usurp his position. Your options are: to do as she asks, bring her the brain, claim her reward and then claim Renning's reward; or to deny her request and take the specimen direct to Renning. Or, you can rat her out. Similar choices awaited us inside the academy itself, with Inquisitor Arzanon asking us to root out Sith traitors. It's a story mission, but it's by no means mandatory to do what your superior asks and you can refuse to kill them on moral grounds, in fact. Choose this path and Arzanon will let you know in no uncertain terms that your insubordination will make you a suspect, that he's now watching your every step. But like our encounter with Lord Renning, the long-term implications of our choice are unclear.

The sixth is at Destructoid:
The actual meat and potatoes of the game looks to be pretty standard, as far as MMOs go. Actions are controlled with function keys or mouse clicks, and there is no auto-attacking. People expecting a battle system like in KOTOR will be disappointed, as The Old Republic looks to offer standard MMO gameplay across the board. Players will start off in different areas of the Star Wars universe as an introduction, then focus on taking on instances and missions. A big selling point for BioWare is that The Old Republic will bill extremely plot driven. Considering this is a company that has never made an MMO before, they are relying on what they do best -- tell a story.

And then the first interview comes at us from IncGamers with creative director James Ohlen:
You mentioned the story, the full voice acting and so on and so forth. Historically with MMOs a lot of players skip over this stuff just to get on with the quests. Are you worried that you're going to be working on all of this in vain, or do you think people are actually going to pay a lot of attention to it?

No, I don't think so, and here's the reason why. Up until now most storytelling in MMOs has been basically done through a single method, and that's a text blurb shows up on screen in front of a character who's just standing there waiting for you to come and, you know, give you a quest to kill 12 things. And the fact is, that's not very compelling. Like, have you ever read a book where that happens, or seen a movie where two no, no. Story is something that unfolds over time, where you meet characters that are interesting, where you develop relationships with them, and that's what we're trying to do in this game, and I think that's going to get people into it. And the fact that it's fully voiceovered and that they have facial animations they feel like real characters that you want to interact with. The reason people skip over it, and I skip over it myself when I play MMOs, is it's just that it's not very compelling. It's hard to tell a story in a text blurb that pops up in front of someone. It's much easier to tell a story when you have a character that is fully animated, fully developed, and that can develop over time.

While the other is at VideoGamer with producer Blaine Christine: Is the idea that you want players to be able to solo everything?

BC: Yes. It is in fact a goal. We recognise it as a challenge but we have to support multiple play styles. We know that there are BioWare fans out there that may play this game because it is a BioWare game and they want to experience the story, maybe they're not a traditional MMO player. So we want to be able to support that. That doesn't mean you won't ever see anyone else in the game. But it means that we will balance it in such a way that if you want to play solo, you'll be able to go through encounters and successfully beat those.

On the flip side, we know that there are people who are huge MMO fans who are going to want to be grouped, and they go into the game for the social experience. We want to support that as well. We have a number of ways of doing that. Ultimately it comes down to balancing tools and how we balance effectively.