If someone were to say that Star Wars: The Old Republic was a highly anticipated game, the prize for understatement of the year would be handed to over them.
Ever since it was revealed through an interview EA CEO John Riccitiello did during E3 2008, MMO players and Star Wars fans alike have been itching to get their hands on it, and the fervor has grown steadily with each passing year as BioWare tries to placate us with its trickle of information and assets.
Once in a while, the game is shown to press outlets at events like GDC, and most recently, EA’s spring showcase in London this week.
VG247’s Joe Anderson went to have a chat with the game’s executive producer at Lucasarts, Jake Neri, whom – if you recall – we spoke with back in March.
Read on below the break and see if he has any new nuggets of information for you.
[Interview by Joe Anderson]
VG247: Obviously there are a lot of Star Wars fans out there awaiting the release of your title, does this add to the pressure of development?
Jake Neri: Yeah, it adds to the pressure. I think it also adds to the enthusiasm from the development team. I think that we have been fortunate enough to have a real strong reception from the very passionate fanbase. I think that when you have that everyday community interest in your game, then it sort of feeds the team and really provides us with the appropriate, positive pressure to continue to work hard.
There are a lot of folks working really hard on the game and we are doing everything we can to live up to expectations, that’s for sure.
VG247: This marks the first time that Bioware has created an MMORPG. Do you worry that your game will be badly received and how would you react to this?
Jake Neri: Bioware has really lead and set the standard for what an RPG is in general, so I think adding the massively part it probably the easy bit. I think getting the progression part, the story to be right and getting classes to play well is all something that comes natural to Bioware, so I don’t think that there is too much to be concerned with there.
We have heard this a lot, and we understand people are saying ‘well you haven’t done it before’, but sure there are a lot of things that a lot of us haven’t done, but when you start with the pedigree that Bioware brings to the table – look at Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Baulders Gate. They have done a great job for years, 15 plus years, so I think when you have this pedigree behind you that you can take on any category and do fine with it.
The team’s also veterans of the MMO space, a lot of us on the Lucasarts side have MMO experience, so I think you are going to find that this is not a concern.
Would life be easier for you if World of Warcraft didn’t exist? Are you worried about competing with it?
Jake Neri: Not at all, they have a great game and we have always approached this as we are just going to make the best game we can. We have a great feature set that is interesting and will offer players something unique, but we will just need to put it out there and see what happens.
It is the reality of where we are at playing in that space, so like I say, we will see what happens.
There are a lot of MMORPGs out there, so what makes Old Republic so special? What does it bring to the table that others don’t?
Jake Neri: Well, in Lucas Arts and Bioware, you have two companies very passionate about the story we are trying to tell. We have a fully voiced experience in that every character in the game will be fully voiced and this really adds to the immersion for the players.
Star Wars also adds a tremendous amount in that it is one of the most recognized brands globally, and when you mix that with what Bioware does best, like the combat which is very fast paced and tries to make you feel like a hero early on, instead of making you wait until you are a high level.
A number of these things are really going to resonate with people and I think that once people get a chance to play it they are really going to like what they are playing.
We take it very seriously how the game looks in the eyes of our fans, and we will continue to take this very seriously.
Has any elements of the game, such as graphics, story or gameplay taken any more significance than the other. Are any of these more important to you?
Jake Neri: One of the things I have learned about making an MMO, is that it is really just a symphony of mini-pieces, so you can’t really just focus on one thing over the other.
I suppose there could be prioritisation over how you develop the game by trying to get your core pieces down first, and then broaden and add features. The success of the game, though, is when all the pieces come together and then you throw the people in and they have a good time.
We have an emphasis on different things such as story, combat and classes, so there are a lot of different areas of focus, but then we are trying to mash a lot of different of areas together into a fun experience.
Do you ever see The Old Republic coming to consoles?
Jake Neri: We haven’t really talked about consoles yet, we are trying to focus on PC first and this is where we are at right now.
Do you personally prefer to develop for PC or consoles?
Jake Neri: Over the last couple of years, I have been fortunate enough to work on MMOs and I have come to love that. The good thing about PC is that although there are a lot of challenges there, it is an ongoing platform and is one which we can service readily and get support to consumers faster than we can on a console.
If you want to have a game where you can sustain a community, then I think the PC is the place to do it as you do not need to wait on certain approvals and processes to get through.
What do you think of the new found fad for motion control? Is this something that you would like to work with in PC development?
Jake Neri: It is interesting. I have seen people kicking around ideas and we have kicked around ideas about how motion control would work on a PC. The challenge with doing this in a MMO, is that you have people in the world that can’t control how they are going to react, so there’s technical hurdles for things that we can and can’t do.
I do think it’s interesting as I play a lot of Wii with my seven year old daughter and she kicks my butt in bowling all the time, so I think it is expanding who is interested in games and it is bringing something else to the mix.
Are you pleased that your game isn’t being developed by Activision given their recent reputation?
Jake Neri: [laughs] You know, I don’t even know how to comment on that. Reputation aside, the company have had some decent success and I couldn’t comment on that at all.
I am happy to be working with Bioware and Lucasarts on The Old Republic and that’s all I have to say on that matter.
SWTOR is slated for release in spring 2011.