BioWare tells tales of Star Wars: The Old Republic's storyline

Comic-Con 2010: Trio of EA studio's writing leads discusses the ways in which players will experience the narrative in upcoming MMORPG; space combat confirmed.

Who was there: BioWare Austin creative director and Star Wars: The Old Republic lead designer James Ohlen was joined onstage by principal writer Drew Karpyshyn and managing editor Alexander Freed.

What they talked about: BioWare has a reputation for knowing how to tell a compelling story, and the Electronic Arts-owned studio will be bringing this pillar of its game-development strategy to its first massively multiplayer online role-playing effort, SW:TOR. In a Comic-Con panel titled "Beyond Solo: Crafting the Multiplayer Story in Star Wars: The Old Republic" in San Diego today, three of BioWare's writing leads discussed just how they were cramming a story into the genre, in addition to announcing that starship-based space combat would be in the game.

BioWare says The Old Republic will have nearly 12 times the plot of the first KOTOR.

The panel began by taking attendees back to the beginning, five years ago, when the team first started to lay the groundwork for their MMORPG. Story being such a big emphasis for the studio, BioWare said that it first began to engage LucasArts to make a Star Wars online game because of the possibilities for telling a reaching narrative. A compelling story, he said, is the best way to immerse players in an RPG, especially when they feel ownership over it.

As BioWare has repeatedly noted, SW:TOR bears a storyline that is equivalent to a dozen or more versions of its acclaimed Knights of the Old Republic. The team emphasized that each player class--eight in all--has its own storyline to pursue, and each of these is equivalent to the plot in the original KOTOR. Also, SW:TOR's scope allows the team substantial latitude when it comes to telling a wide variety of stories.

Quests aren't limited to players' individual stories, however. The team discussed the concept of world arcs, which take place on a more inclusive scale and involve players joining up to complete a prolonged mission. The BioWare trio offered an example of the Battle of Hoth from the Empire Strikes Back film as one example of a world arc, where there are numerous conflicts and several principal characters to engage with.

However, given that SW:TOR presents an environment where players' individual choices matter to the way they experience the universe, grouping with others could be problematic. This is mostly the case because each player in a group will be able to interact with non-player characters who serve as quest pieces, and choices aren't always made on an individual basis.

BioWare felt that experiencing quests in this way creates interesting dynamics, and it wants to expose people to what it is like to try to cooperate and interact with others. However, the team also noted that they didn't want to punish players for grouping with people they didn't necessarily know. Therefore, even if the group decides to pursue a course that isn't what a player would have chosen individually, the player won't be knocked for it.

The team then shifted to the differences between the two factions, Empire and Republic. Namely, they noted that quests won't be shared between the two factions. This fact, along with the variety of gameplay between, say, a Sith warrior and a smuggler, will hopefully encourage players to continue creating new characters and experiencing the full breadth of the storyline from a variety of angles.

The fact that quests aren't shared between the two factions doesn't mean players from opposite sides won't be interacting with one another, however. For instance, many planets can be visited by both factions, but the quests will play out on different world arcs--ones that are focused on either Republic or Empire interests.

Quote: "For world content, we want you to experience what it's like to work with other people, and dealing with the fallout of that."--James Ohlen, on multiple group members engaging the same NPC.

Takeaway: BioWare's team of a dozen or so writers has crafted a massive amount of storyline content for players to experience in SW:TOR, covering both single-player and multiplayer quests. The challenge for players, now, is to experience all of that content.

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Discussion

75 comments
revanknight
revanknight

I have to say, I like the mechanics! You may be an important character, but I like how there will be situations where you'll have to team up with someone else. I think it WOULD create interesting dynamics. Demon's Souls is proof of that.

bleg32
bleg32

I've always been a fan of MMOs that realize that there are a million people playing and so it feels cheap when everybody is supposed to be the special savior of the world. Wish they would have done that. Not everybody has to be Luke Skywalker. I'm fine just to be a clone.

L3X18999
L3X18999

It rubs the lotion on it's skin unless it wants the hose again.

mschaef79
mschaef79

@amari24 Dost thou doubt the power of Bioware!? I have faith that they will deliver a long and meaningful storyline in the form of an MMO. Plus, they have Lucasarts there to help them along the way. We wont need a KotOR3 for a long time thanks to SW:TOR. Bioware shall deliver!

fLaMbOaStiN
fLaMbOaStiN

I've always been more of a solo-MMO player myself.. And as so i feel like im missing out playing MMO's because i could just play a single player game and get more of a cohesive story out of it.. The only MMO's whos story actually pulled me in was Fallen Earth; which is prolly the best solo-playing MMO out there. Lets just say i'd give my left nut for this game to come out tommarow.

ShadowFlame6
ShadowFlame6

@ amari24 The storyline -is- as good as in a single player game. And by the way, this basically is a Kotor 3. It has the guy who wrote both original Kotor games as the lead writer.

nicedude82
nicedude82

Looks like I will be spending a lot of time playing this game next year... now I just need to get a better laptop...

amari24
amari24

Nice job BioWare! But I seriously doubt a long storyline in an MMO, could be anywhere near as good, as a storyline in a single player game. I like Quality over Quanity... With that being said, can you now give everyone else a KotOR 3?

Holy_Terra
Holy_Terra

@Xtremedude09 damn it cant find anything on the swtor forums about the beta... Im pretty sure you are right its been such a long time and so many people put their names forward its unlikely to include me any ty for saying.

z_eratul
z_eratul

@angelcar I completely share your views. Infact I have been thinking that this will probably be the only MMORPG i might get into. Plot makes everything OH so much more better. Amen.

angelcar
angelcar

Epic This has the potential of being the MMORPG that's ropes me in. Games have to have a good story in order for me to be engaged.

lightwarrior179
lightwarrior179

For me and many others the main problem with MMOs has been the lack of any character development or solid plot progression and the dishing out repetitive/generic quests. TOR here seems to represent a new vision for MMOs focused on storytelling and a proper quest structure while keeping the social aspects of MMOs intact. There are definite problems or questions in our mind, but I think that TOR can turn out to be a very important MMO if it's done right and I think there's no better developer to do it than BioWare at the moment.

Icehearted
Icehearted

I can understand your point, brakus, but I've seen games pushed out all too often by companies like EA because investors get impatient or they need their stock to rise immediately. Also, if it's EA's money, I'd say that would give them more leverage than anything, which was what happened to Origin and Ultima. I'll wait and see, but I'm still far from optimistic.

brakus
brakus

EA is fronting the money Icehearted, but this game is being handled by Bioware and LucasArts. And LucasArts is giving more control to Bioware with EA just backing the production cost. So EA is really just the money backer to this huge project. Plus, EA has since leaned that rushing an MMO project is a quick way to have that title die. ((Ex. Warhammer)) So they are giving full control to Bioware since they have had a great track record for game releases. Now many people will throw outthere that Bioware does not have experience with MMO, but I will counter with this: Blizzard had no experience with MMO until they released WoW. So I feel Bioware is doing something that will change the way other companies will design their games in the MMO world. Bioware has seen there is a huge target for an MMO that actually has story. Not the sub-par story we have seen from games past, but something that truely allows people to effect the way their character can change the environment around them. I think Bioware can do this and can't wait for the game to come out. Now the game might be taking away from WoW, but Wow took from EQ1, so if it works don't break it. We will see in the future another game that will take away from SWTOR, and build from there. Only time will tell, but from everything that I have seen on SWTOR website since this game was announced, they are really headed in the right direction.

Icehearted
Icehearted

@Gelugon_baat I wish more than anything that what you're saying is true. KotOR stands as one of my favorites (even the broken and truncated second one), but I loathe the MMO formula. I gave it a 3 year shot with WoW and never enjoyed it as much as I tried to. I've just been burned out, and I've seen enough devs failing to keep similar promises to be all that optimistic about what these guys are saying. Also, EA owns them, and EA has a strong rep of ruining franchises and rushing MMOs out for fast cash. Remember what happened to Origin? Ultima Online and such? EA had a big hand in that fiasco.

K-Grogg
K-Grogg

Too bad it uses the same old tired MMO combat system that every MMO released in the last 10 years has had. Maybe Dark Millennium will break the mold :/

cain19822004
cain19822004

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

wowner
wowner

One of the best articles ever. "in addition to announcing that starship-based space combat would be in the game." Only time will tell how it all plays out, however it's nice to see Bioware taking a more sensible response to questing and the like by adding breadth to the ever stale approach to questing. MMORPG's SHOULD be about character customization and community and the interactions with the world, thus creating a role, not a carrot-on-a-stick approach that causes the player to care more about gear and less about the fact that they ARE a specific race or class, and care little for those around him, I'm looking at you Blizzard. Bioware's approach is fresh and vivid, and something I believe a standard will be made from.

Icehearted
Icehearted

@cain19822004 No, I don't get it. An opinion is just that. Whatever a person decides to share should be their prerogative, just as it is yours to share what you think is a valid thought. Just because you disagree with him or personally consider his point unworthy of sharing doesn't change that his opinion is just as valid as yours. Attacking someone for having an opinion and sharing it, just as you have yours, seems hypocritical. @Pete5506 lol, it's a MMO, long probably isn't sufficient enough of a word to describe how long it will probably be.

NoseWeed619
NoseWeed619

Not surprising to hear that BioWare has made yet another amazing storyline.

Pete5506
Pete5506

Good to hear that the game is long

die3
die3

I've always been against the Pay2Play-business model. Whenever I buy a game, I'd like to be able to play it, not having to pay extra money to play the game I just had to pay for.. It's either P2P and free download, which is about the same (~€10/month, say you play for 6 months, that's €60), or you buy a game and play for free (Guild Wars, in which case the initial purchase is ~€40-50). Paying and then paying again just seems such a rip-off :/

deathstream
deathstream

Thumb me down if you will, but I STILL say that allowing one party member to completely change a group quest, essentially shutting others out of what they may have grouped to do is a recipe for failure. Has anyone who thumbed me down ever actually PLAYED an MMO? No matter how much story Bioware has in TOR, it will still pale beside the sheer amount of drama produced everyday by grouping dynamics. Taking an approach that increases the likelihood of group drama is a rookie mistake on Bioware's part.

aspenjke
aspenjke

"The Old Republic will have nearly 12 times the plot of the first KOTOR" Plot as the amount of story told is useless; it's the atmosphere that counts. I understand the need for marketing, and storytelling is indeed Bioware's forte, but a MMO can never match a single-player game in terms of immersion. Plus, I've got better things to do than grind for hours on "bring me X pelts" quests.

Caboose84020
Caboose84020

Maybe, you can do quests and mission, and do everything with people and/or NPC allies, and there will be squad commands and things. That seems like a cool concept, I think. Mainly for the reason that people were disappointed that the next title in the Old Republic franchise wasn't going to be KotOR 3, but this seems like it will be a cool game to interact with the environment, and solo for a lot of things, because there will be story, and plot that everyone will actually care about, unlike most other MMOs. Also, it would be very cool if there were no monthly fees. They might not even need to, considering this will have so many sales, and BioWare doesn't really need the money anyway.

cain19822004
cain19822004

@Icehearted Ok, let me rephrase what I said, what's the point in telling us you don't like to pay monthly? Sure, this site is for sharing opinions, but not all comments need to be shared, that's all, get it?

AzatiS
AzatiS

@cecpunkrock Im a pro , old arcade TEkken fan , and i love kazuya since i was playing with him in arcades , daily basis since TEkken 1+2+3 first released. I love that character... What this has to do with my point and how you can bring this up to counter my thoughts and points?... Im an MMORPG freak since 2002 ( daoc ) , ex WoW beta EU tester , and ex-hardcore raider. Lineage2 sub , Guild wars , warhammer online and more at least 12 try outs ( high/max levels ) on free mmorpgs , still player of Diablo 2 since its release. Current playing TERA and Korean Dragon Nest . And yes i like Tekken , i grow up with it , i made real money out of it. And yes , from what ive seen from videos , im afraid SW:TOR wont be that good as everyone sounds. My opinion. End of story. And kazuya kick ass!! Period. See ya

Cornicello
Cornicello

I'm not a fan of MMO games but I'll def get this one. It looks amazing.

tyco_ex
tyco_ex

I would have much preferred if they had just made a kotor 3 single-player game. And GW2 is going to knock this out of the water as far as being an mmorpg anyways.

Icehearted
Icehearted

@cain19822004 Last I checked this was an open board where we could do exactly that. I don't recall there being a rule where having a differing opinion as everyone else means we're forbidden from expressing them.

cain19822004
cain19822004

@Kats_RK No one's forcing you to buy it, the concept of pay to play MMOs has been around for some time, if you don't like it, you don't need to tell everyone, it's kinda simple.

Hoops0123
Hoops0123

Drew Karpyshyn is an excellent writer as well, if anyone has read his Darth bane series of books you'll have confidence in knowing that when he writes your story arc that its going to be good.

TheZohan
TheZohan

I love the fact they mentioned space battles in this game. I'm also looking forward to pvp warzones on alderan, warping in as an imperial agent and sniping some jedi or tanking a few sith as a massive damage dealer republic trooper with a big gun! Looks promising so far, lets hope they don't get too distracted by story that they miss out mass participation features like raids, but we will have to wait and see.

Elrax
Elrax

Dude, I think its also because the ones who made WAR are helping out Bioware with SW:ToR on the multiplayer aspect of the game.

sylvaedawn
sylvaedawn

"A compelling story, he said, is the best way to immerse players in an RPG, especially when they feel ownership over it." This is definitely true! At least for me...

AzatiS
AzatiS

SW:TOR reminds me of WARhammer online in many aspects. Dunno if this is because of EA but... 1) SWTOR hasnt shown anything spectacular yet, they trying desperatly to make big hype around their game when in reality they are all talks and theyve shown.... nearly nothing? Really!! Ofc SW big heavy name , its hype on its own though , we havent seen anything spectacular, high end gaming, Animations are bad , armors and fights are just ok... Classes unispiring etc etc... Well this is bad , considering we are near release ( less than 7 months and in beta stage ). Exactly the same happened with Warhammer online. Big hype, big talks thru countless interviews and podcasts and in the end was the biggest letdown ( based on its hype ) MMORPG i ever played ( and ive played tii many... I hope they polish their game more and actually show us how will play and some high end gaming., Enough with interviews ,blablabla , small bad trailers and all.

ekultus
ekultus

Dude I already know how this game will go down. The story was awesome but everything else sucked.

KoolzKatz
KoolzKatz

For me the perfect situation would have been for SW:TOR to be a single player RPG for the consoles and PC. I have played plenty of MMOs and i hate playing with others and being forced to group. I dont like the idea of having to go along with someone elses choice but still Old Republic looks very promising and being the huge Star Wars fan i am, i will definetelly give it a try.

dkdk999
dkdk999

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Goldrock
Goldrock

Dude its a mmo since the days of ultima and eq1 they are all made with the same exact concept a virtual playground mainly with the rpers in mind people who enjoy a persistant story its not a platform game people need too get off that mind track.

Icehearted
Icehearted

Pay to play fetch quests, grinding, and repitition? Pass. This will be like just about any other MMO, more of the same wherever you go, only with a differently skinned mob or a different set of parts you need to collect to attune yourself to the Sarlacc Pit raid instead of the Dagobah raid. They're pitching a lot of the same things others have before just to get a finger into Blizzard's WoW pie, but Age of Conan, Star Wars Galaxies, Warhammer have all been there, and have all done that, and it's all the same in one sense or another. I'm sick of WoW, unless this is more than stat boosting, grinding, and repetition I see nothing worth note. Seriously, how is grinding for just the right gear to get +.002 agility so you can finally start grinding for that +.003 agility gear considered game play? How is that fun? What's the point?

Kats_RK
Kats_RK

Looks good but i don't like paying monthly

fluteboy95
fluteboy95

I hope Bioware gives ship combat a makeover, because in KOTOR it was not the "bees knees." Really, that was one of my only beefs with the game. Im still not really understanding how this whole interacting with other players in a galaxy influenced by your choices works, but I don't plan to do a ton of MMO playing. I love Bioware stories and I love them when I can enjoy them in my own way. But no matter how doubtful I am I will buy this game. May EA continue to allow Bioware to be win.

delvedeep
delvedeep

Is there going to be any endgame content? The SW:TOR team keeps talking about story. Awesome stuff I think. But I'm wondering if there's going to be content to make me want to keep playing the same character once I hit max level or finish my story? It would suck if I hit the end and, say, credits roll. Blah blah blah.

green_dominator
green_dominator

I think Star Wars TOR looks like it will be interesting enough but I think it's wrong that the game isn't going to be on consoles. On the other hand I wouldn't pay $60.00 only to pay a monthly fee over and above my ISP and XBOX LIVE so it's just as well.......

cjasko94
cjasko94

I'm not even a huge fan of mmos but this is turning out to be a hell of a game. plus I love every thing that bioware has put out so far :)