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Interview – Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Daniel Erickson (part two)

Sunday, 20 June 2010 17:00 GMT By Nathan Grayson

starwarstor2

The Star Wars films have always had a nasty habit of making you wait years between sequels. What’s up with that? Us though, we’re not like mean old George Lucas. Waiting’s not our style. Yesterday: part one. Today: part two.

Jump past the break to hear Star Wars: The Old Republic writing director Daniel Erickson’s thoughts on MMORPG endgames, why you shouldn’t just play as a Jedi, how TOR’s MMO nature will mesh with its single-player heritage, the game’s art style, commitment (or lack thereof) to a release date, and tons more.

[Interview by Nathan Grayson]

A lot of MMOs come out the gate with almost zero endgame content, and then they’re shocked when – three days later – they have a bunch of disgruntled level 60s saying, “Is this all? Where’s the rest of the game?” So are you guys going to have a lot of endgame content right off the bat? Is that something you’ve considered?

We haven’t actually talked about the endgame content at all. I mean, it’s obviously something that we think about. I don’t think that most companies think, “Hey, we’re not going to have any endgame content.”

The primary thing – and the reason we haven’t talked about it yet – is all of the stuff that’s in the works. Again, endgame – more than anything else – has to be based off what is fun in your game. If you’ve decided that your endgame is going to be entirely raiding, and it turns out that — because of the way you structured your servers and the way your combat works — raids suck in your game, you just shot yourself in the foot.

So we’re not going to come forward and talk about the endgame until we find out what fits the criteria of the Star Wars dream. Does it feel like cinematic combat? Does it fit all of these things? And then, how does it work with our engine and our particular system? That’s what we’re gonna lean into for our endgame content.

Are you afraid everyone’s gonna ignore your game’s other classes and go straight for Jedi? Because, you know, that’s the dream. Be a Jedi, wave the lightsaber around, make people say that they’re not looking for those droids, etc. What are you doing to incentivize players to try out other classes?

Really, the only thing you can do to incentivize them is to make the other classes awesome. And I think one of the things we’ve seen repeatedly is that people do actually pull to very different classes. People are starting to discover how cool the imperial agent is. He’s sort of our sleeper class. The one that’s really more about exploring our world than a classic scene from Star Wars. “Guy with sniper rifle” is a very different experience in an MMO. In the same time that your bounty hunter will kill a bunch of people, your imperial agent may kill the same amount of people.

But the imperial agent may do it with exactly one shot per person. Like, a lot of it is setup. You’re gonna get undercover. You may be stealthed. You’re gonna figure out what’s going on. Send out your little explosive piece that won’t blow up until there’s damage. And then one headshot, and it’s all over. And he never saw you.

It’s a totally different way of playing an MMO. The feel is really fun. So we’re hoping that with the trooper, the smuggler – and the smuggler, I have to tell you, I wanted to be Han, not Luke. I wanted a lightsaber, obviously. I wanted to swing it around. But Han was the man. Han got the girl. Han had the ship. So we think there’s a lot of different fantasies out there. At the same time, there’s a reason we split the Jedi and Sith classes. It’s because when we started talking about our Jedi and Sith fantasies, they didn’t match up. People would be like, “I wanna be a Jedi. I’m gonna use my lightsaber!” and then someone else would be like, “No, no, no! I’m gonna be all cool and Zen. I’m gonna be like ‘these are not the droids you’re looking for.’”

So we actually split those. You’ve got Mace Windu over here [gestures] and older Obi-Wan over here. And they’re very different. It’s the same thing with the Sith. The guy who wants to be Vader is very different from the guy who wants to be the cackling, crazy Emperor, or Palpatine, even – who wants to be the deceptive, smooth villain character.

And the nice part of it is that, at the end of the day, it’s The Old Republic [timeline]. There’s a ton of Sith and Jedi out there. So if people get excited and they really all want to be Sith and Jedi, it’s supported in there. And as they start to get more experience with it, they’re gonna see other things and say, “Hey, I wanna do that.”

Have you figured out what you’re gonna do in terms of your business model? I was chatting with some folks from Lord of the Rings Online earlier today, and they seemed to think the majority of MMOs would go free-to-play in the coming years. Are you thinking about following suit?

We actually haven’t talked at all about business models, and – this is probably gonna surprise people – but it’s not a decision the lead writer usually makes [laughs].

[laughs] Just figured I’d make sure. Ok, back to more game-related stuff. How are you making sure the single-player aspect meshes with game’s MMO side? What you’ve told me so far sounds really, really cool, but at the same time, I worry that I’m going to be completely taken out of the experience when one of my friends keeps messaging me about something stupid their mom said, or just something no lightsaber-carrying member of the Jedi order would ever be concerned with.

There are moms in Star Wars. That is canon. Totally established [laughs]. And stupid friends. That’s also a part of Star Wars canon.

That’s the part that people really haven’t seen much of yet. They’ve only gotten to see the origin worlds. The origin worlds are very story-focused, so a lot of the content – although your friends can come with you and play with you – is still really like “You’re Luke and you’re dealing with Yoda.” And yeah, you guys can team up together and you can go and help him out, but about half the content there is solidly single-player.

That proportion goes way down as the game goes forward. Again, it’s not single-player, per se. Your friend can go with you, but he can’t mess with [the story]. Later we get into the multiplayer stuff, and that’s what people haven’t gotten to see. The world arcs are huge. They are double-digit hours of quests – giant chains, all built for multiplayer, all built for your whole group to do this great story together. And that’s where you get the actual story of the war. That’s where you get the conflict between the Republic and the Empire. That’s where you’re trying to take over worlds. That’s where you’re changing history.

And it’s actually a real, honest-to-goodness storyline in both progression and pacing? It’s not just a thinly veiled series of “Kill 30 boars. Ok, now kill 60 boars” quest lines? You’ve done away with all the artificial length padding?

We set up our quests the same way we set up all BioWare games. First we write a story, and then we figure out who the players are and how much space it’s gonna take up. You know, it’s the same thing. The writers were the first people that ever came onto the project team, because we had to have all of this done before the world designers came in behind us. And then they have the entire story in front of them, and we’re building areas and things to bring this story to life.

So it’s a very, very different approach.

Do you have any plans for an open beta at some point – hopefully in the near future? After all, you said you’ve got the whole MMO here at E3, so surely you’re about ready to take it for a test drive, right?

I don’t know what the plans are for testing. I’m sure at some point we’ve got to open it up and let far more people play it than we can find even at EA. But, you know, the big one is we’re gonna do it when it seems like it makes sense for us and when we can learn things from it. At the point in time when we can still see what’s wrong with it [without need of outside help], then we’re not getting the best feedback. It’s not to find your obvious bugs or your obvious design flaws.

The game’s art style has been a point of contention for many fans. Especially after the hyper-realistic CG trailer you showed off at the EA conference this year, it just sort of seems like the art style you’ve chosen doesn’t quite fit the KOTOR universe’s darker tone. What made you decide to go with a cartoonier, stylized-realism look?

Well, the stylized realism had a couple of things going for it. And I have to say that the amount  of people who talk about not liking the art style who have played the game is a much smaller percentage.

We picked the art style, one, because it emoted really well. It was very easy to express emotions. It was very easy to see that, yes, we can communicate with these characters.

We also wanted something that was going to age well. If you try to go realistic – if you try to go sort of cutting-edge – you’re actually the thing that looks the worst in two years. There’s nothing funnier than the tech demo from a couple E3s ago.

And we wanted something that was going to run all the way up and down different computers. And, as our art director always says, it’s not acceptable that it runs and looks different on a lower end computer. It might punch a little more on a higher-end computer, but it still has to have the same basic look when you go down to a low level.

And if you’ve seen the game before, you’ll notice that it’s getting better all the time. We’re famous now for saying, you know, “We’re not going to show you anything until we know it’s done,” but we can’t do that with art. Because then we couldn’t show you anything. The last things that we ever finish up are characters, because we’ve gotta do so much work on them. For a long time, there was the one dude who, yes – everyone noticed – looked kind of like me. The bald dude with the big chin. And he didn’t have complexions to him. There was nothing happening under his skin. He kind of looked like a big plastic mannequin. But we had to show something, right? We couldn’t have just had a headless guy.

So it’s looking better all the time. Some of the comments that came in early have sort of disappeared over time. And some people will always pull towards the realistic, but personally, for me, I love to get out there and see who has some art direction — who tried to do something actually surprised me. Of course, I really liked the Kirby yarn game.

Did you see the Rayman thing from Ubisoft?

Yes, yes! It’s incredible.

Ok, a couple more questions. First up, how big is your script? You’ve crammed multiple larger-than-life RPGs into this thing, so it must be absolutely massive, right?

The game itself, when you talk about total number of conversations, is bigger than every other game we’ve ever done put together. At one point, we realized that, just for voiceover content, we were larger than 50 Star Wars novels – which was kind of surprising [laughs]. That kind of stuff is exciting and scary all at once.

When we talk about things like, “You can play through one faction, and then play all the way through another faction, and it’s totally different,” that’s huge. Even if you’re in the same faction, you’ve got a whole class story that’s going to take you all the way through everything. Yeah. There’s a lot of stuff there.

Finally, can you commit to a 2011 launch?

That is where we’re committed. Spring 2011.

And there will be no delays?

It’s happening. There will… er, be no delays [laughs].

All right. Well, I’ll make sure to include that shifty eyed glance you just did in the interview text.

[laughs]

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1 Comments

  1. Droid

    I’ve never understood those who think that there’s an “endgame” in an mmo. If all you do is rush to lvl up as fast as possible to the max, avoiding any of the story or other content in the game, well I don’t want to be playing with people like that. I assume that they are usually kids thinking that they will show off to friends or something. Of course a game needs plenty of normal content in it for those like me taking steady progress throughout, but it sounds like they have that all covered, and can easily add more with updates.

    #1 5 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    More GTA 5 information has been posted by modders poking around in the files of the PC version. This time, instead of zombies and horses, textures for the Army Cavalcade, Feroci and SuperGT vehicles have been found. New leaked vehicles Barbarian, Detonator and Tampa are also mentioned in the thread. A screencap of the files […]

  • Sony leaks: Uncharted movie similar to National Treasure but more “intense” and not as “silly”

    Sony Pictures wants the Uncharted film to be similar in tone to the National Treasure franchise, but not as soft or silly, and with deeper romantic storyline than the Nicolas Cage films. The information on the upcoming film was pulled from emails and database files derived from the Sony Pictures hack last year by North […]

  • Star Wars: Battlefront isn’t just a “big-budget Battlefield mod,” says DICE

    DICE boss Patrick Bach has promised Star Wars: Battlefront isn’t just a “big-budget Battlefield mod,” as the game carries the Battlefront title for a reason. Speaking with Eurogamer during Day 2 of the Star Wars Celebration yesterday, Bach said the team stayed true to the “core ethos” of the Battlefront series by adhering to what […]

  • New Steam policy restricts accounts to protect users from phishing scams and spam

    Valve has implemented a new policy on Steam which limits user accounts which have spent less than $5 through the store. The new policy is to protect users from phishing scams and spam. If the users hasn’t spent anything on the store, they at least have to have $5 sitting in their Steam Wallet. This […]

  • Latest Flash Sale on the US PlayStation Store discounts action games and movies

    Sony is hosting another Flash Sale on the North American store with plenty of action games, and some films, to help get your weekend started. The list is super long, so here’s a few highlights: Army of TWO The Devil’s Cartel Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Bayonetta Beyond Good & Evil HD Castlevania: Harmony of Despair […]

  • A new expansion for Postal 2 called Paradise Lost was released today

    It appears Postal 2 has a new add-on available. No, it’s not for the 2003 version, but the Complete Edition which was greenlit on Steam 10 years later. Called Paradise Lost, the add-on stars the Dude and contains a new single-player story campaign and new areas featuring free-roam gameplay. The original voice actor for the […]

  • GTA 5 patch 1.01 is now available for PC, fixes launcher and framerate issues

    Rockstar has released patch 1.01 for the PC version of GTA 5 and along with a fix to the character’s facial features changing when transferring to PC, the launcher will no longer drain your CPU and crash. Here are the full patch notes: Fixed an issue where the GTAV Launcher would use an abnormally high […]

  • Ultra Street Fighter 4 will arrive on the PS Store for PS4 in May

    Ultra Street Fighter 4 will be released on PlayStation 4 in May, Capcom has announced. All characters, levels and previous DLC will be included in the PS4 version, including a fix to input lag found in the PS3 version’s controls. The fighting game will be released digitally on the PS Store May 26 for $24.99 […]

  • Upcoming Dark Souls 2 patch to fix weapon degradation glitch

    Weapon degradation wan’t an intentional feature in Dark Souls 2, and now that it has carried over into Scholar of the First Sin, the glitch will be patched out in an upcoming update. The glitch also affected the framerate of Dark Souls 2 on PC, and on all platforms with Scholar of the First Sin. […]

  • Star Wars: Battlefront is now available for pre-order on Origin, Amazon, others

    Star Wars: Battlefront is now available for pre-order through EA’s Origin service as well as Amazon and GameStop. Star Wars: Battlefront pre-orders, as previously reported, will include early access to the free Battle of Jakku DLC. The planet is included in the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and finds the New Republic coming […]

  • Star Wars: Battlefront – watch the lovely reveal trailer here

    The first trailer for Star Wars: Battlefront was released today after much anticipation. Watch the lovely game reveal below, all captured on PlayStation 4. The trailer was revealed during an EA panel today at the Star Wars Celebration, and featured Lucasfilm concept artist Doug Chiang, the game’s senior producer Sigurlina Ingvarsdottir, and other members of […]

  • Star Wars: Battlefront has 40-player battles, play as Darth Vader and Boba Fett

    Star Wars: Battlefront will take place during the original film trilogy’s timeline, according to a report from the Associated Press. It appears the information was posted ahead of time, (via Kotaku) as the report is written in past tense. According to the report, players will take part in “frenzied shoot-outs between up to 40 players” […]

  • Microsoft confirms departure of Xbox Europe VP Phil Harrison

    Microsoft has confirmed the departure of Phil Harrison, its corporate VP of Xbox in Europe. According to a statement, Harrison left to pursue interests outside of the company, Xbox boss Phil Spencer told GI.biz. “Following a successful tenure as Corporate Vice President in Xbox in Europe, Phil Harrison has chosen to pursue business interests outside […]

  • Battlefield Hardline Rent-a-Server option coming to both last and current-gen consoles

    Battlefield Hardline players will be able to take part in the Rent-a-Server program, similar to the one in Battlefield 4, when the first patch for the shooter is released. Rental servers will come to both last and current-gen consoles, and CPU issues will be addressed in the patch as well, which PC players will be […]

  • Chip’s Challenge and unreleased sequel Chip’s Challenge 2 arrive on Steam next month

    Chip’s Challenge, the 1989 top-down tile-based puzzler created by Chuck Sommerville, is heading to Steam along with the unreleased sequel Chip’s Challenge 2. After the release of the first game, Sommerville spent two years developing the sequel, only to find the trademark had been sold. The trademark’s new owners wanted him to fund the publishing, […]

  • Pillars of Eternity patch betas hitting Steam, update 1.05 to drop in May

    Patch 1.04 for Pillars of Eternity dropped yesterday, and according to Obsidian Entertainment, players can expect the next round of fixes to arrive in May. According to a post on the Kickstarter page, patch 1.04 contained quite a bit of fixes, and going forward, the team plans to continue squishing bugs, adding additional polish and […]

  • Goat Simulator comes to Xbox platforms

    Goat Simulator continues its plan to dominate all platforms under the sun by releasing on Xbox consoles. Goat Simulator has been released on Xbox 360 and Xbox One. The store page for the Xbox One version is now live, but the 360 one is lagging behind. Don’t know what this game is or what it’s […]

  • Alienation: first co-op footage revealed

    We have our first look at gameplay footage from Housemarque’s Alienation. Housemarque has finally given us a look at their upcoming shooter project, Alienation. The twin-stick shooter will feature co-op and the new video shows it in action. It’s a short one but still manages to demo several environments. The game was shown off at […]

  • ReShade SweetFX supports GTA 5, user-made presets begin popping up

    GTA 5 modders started making presets for ReShade SweetFX as soon as they realised the tool supports it. To the modding community’s delightful surprise, shader-altering tool ReShade SweetFX was discovered to support GTA 5. What this means is that anyone can download the tool, mess around with the post-processing options, and inject them into GTA […]

  • Project Cars goes gold, full track list revealed

    Project Cars has finally gone gold. Project Cars developer Slightly Mad has announced that the racer has reached gold master milestone. “We know the wait for the game to be released was worth it, as we’re confident the quality and realism level we have achieved will provide our fans with the game they are all […]

  • Dragon Quest Heroes has a stupid subtitle in the West

    The Western release of Dragon Quest Heroes has been given the most absurd subtitle. Square Enix announced a while back that Dragon Quest Heroes will come to North America and Europe this year. Unlike in Japan, it will launch only on PlayStation 4. Earlier today, the Japanese publisher revealed what the game’s logo will look […]

  • Minecraft vulnerability allows users to crash servers remotely [UPDATE]

    A security flaw discovered in Minecraft’s code that could give perpetrators the ability to crash servers remotely has been fixed via a patch by Mojang. Update: Mojang has released an update to Minecraft patch 1.8, listed as version 1.8.4, and it is available now. It fixes reported security issues, in addition to some other minor […]

  • Official Bloodborne merchandise now available, including a limited edition statue

    The PlayStation gear store has added a new section dedicated to Bloodborne merchandise. The first set of items is as good as you’d expect. If you’re a fan of Bloodborne and want to make sure everyone around you knows it, you’ll be happy to know that Sony has added a few pieces of Bloodborne-branded gear […]

  • Destiny Xur update: should you buy The Last Word?

    Xur is selling one of Destiny’s top hand cannons today: The Last Word. Is it worth grinding the coins for? The answer is a resounding YES. The Last Word is one of Destiny’s best Exotics, and one of the best Hand Cannons in the game. Our Destiny expert Alex notes that it’s one of the […]

  • Destiny: Xur location and inventory for April 17, 18 – The Last Word edition

    What did our good buddy Xur bring for us this week? Xur: Agent of the Nine, Destiny’s weekend vendor is back with more Exotic offers. Xur is your guy if you’re after Exotic weapons or armour, provided you have the Strange Coins for them. Head over to the lounge in the Tower Hangar, you’ll find […]

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt discounted for Gold members, pre-load now live

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt files are now live on the Xbox Store. Xbox One owners with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt pre-orders can start downloading the full game to be ready for launch. The file size was confirmed earlier to be just over 25GB. Those who have yet to pre-order can do so at […]

  • GTA 5 files accessed by modders, reveal horses, zombies, more

    Modders have managed to pry GTA 5′s file lock open and expose many of its interesting innards. GTA community modders have gained access to several of GTA 5′s archives on PC. These files were previously believed to be inaccessible. Popular modding tool OpenIV, which was used in editing files in GTA 4 (hence the name), […]

  • Bethesda’s E3 invite features Dishonored, Doom, Wolfenstein… but no Fallout

    Bethesda is going first at E3 this year with a showcase of games on Sunday night. What clues can we see in the press invite? Skyrim publisher Bethesda has sent out confirmation of its E3 showcase, taking place Sunday June 14. The invite includes a number of Bethesda game characters including Wolfenstein’s BJ Blazcowicz, a […]

  • Here’s Crytek’s VR demo, because dinosaurs

    Dinosaurs! This is precisely what virtual reality is for. VR demos are all over the place and CryEngine developer Crytek has produced one of its own, showing off how the engine is flexible enough t- Look, let me level with you: I don’t care. I only care about dinosaurs. Hush now and watch the dinosaurs. […]

  • StreetPass update adds birthday collecting, VIP Miis and more

    StreetPass collecters should take advantage of an optional update. It’s International StreetPass Week, so now’s the time to break out the 3DS and go hunting. Don’t leave your home network without first checking out a new optional update, though. Kotaku reports the update prompt is available from the leftmost icon in your StreetPass Mii Plaza. […]

  • Massive Uplay sale offers cheap games in time for the weekend

    PC gamers can grab a sweet saving or two in Uplay’s Spring Sale. Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Far Cry 4, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Alien: Isolation are all on sale as part of Uplay’s Spring Sale, among many other titles. The sale offers discounts of up to 85% off digital […]

  • Fix for GTA 5 PC Windows install bug releasing today

    Rockstar is set to release a patch today that will fix a bug preventing players from installing the game. The bug is tied to Windows usernames that use certain characters not supported by Rockstar. There’s already a workaround available on the Rockstar Support site, but those waiting for an official update will be able to […]

  • Prey 2 dev’s new mobile horror Lost Within out now on iOS and Fire

    Remember Lost Within, that mobile survival horror erstwhile Prey 2 developer Human Head Studios was making with Amazon Game Studios? It’s now available on iOS and for Amazon’s Fire devices, through the appropriate App Stores. There’s a little bit of extra info on it on the AGS blog, if you’re keen; unfortunately the blog doesn’t […]

  • Let’s take a look at Blood Bowl 2′s Chaos faction

    Blood Bowl 2: The Chaos Theory is only the latest in a much loved series of games based on a game based on two other games. Blood Bowl is a popular Games Workshop tabletop game which blends the fantasy universe of Warhammer with a fantasy sport drawing inspiration from American football and related games. It’s […]

  • “Second-person” shooter Screencheat coming to PS4 and Xbox One

    Goldeneye players should be familiar with the concept of screencheating, which is what this new indie is all about. Screencheat has been on our radars for a while but has now been confirmed for PS4, sparking a new wave of interest with a trailer and PS Blog post. However, it was one of a number […]

  • World of Warcraft Timewalking will make old dungeons fun again

    World of Warcraft will soon introduce a feature called Timewalking, designed to make you feel young again. When WoW players participate in a Timewalking event, they’ll be transported to a randomly selected classic dungeon. Upon entering, their level and gear will be scaled way, way down to the Dungeon’s Heroic level – so they won’t […]

  • Bloodborne and Dark Souls messaging – in real life

    Soapstone is a cool little app that mimics the messaging system found in Bloodborne, Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls. Bloodborne and Dark Souls fans will surely agree that the asynchronous multiplayer side of things, with players leaving anonymous tips, encouragement and jokes for each other, is one of the cooler aspects of the From Software […]