Star Wars: The Old Republic is the highly anticipated massively multiplayer game from publisher LucasArts and Knights of the Old Republic developer BioWare. In addition to offering an exciting, story-driven experience that incorporates a branching multiplayer dialogue system, light side and dark side points, and more Jedi and Sith than you can shake a lightsaber at, the game will offer an entirely unique experience for each playable character class. And the most unique class in the game (or one of the most unique, anyway) will be the newly revealed Sarlacc enforcer--a profession based on the infamous Sarlacc pit monster that first appeared in the Return of the Jedi motion picture. However, rather than simply act as a static trap that gobbles up any hapless guards that happen to tumble into them, Sarlacc enforcers will actually play a crucial role in the seedy underbelly of The Old Republic's universe, working with Hutt gangsters and bounty hunters to affect the game's political landscape. Lead writer Daniel Erickson and lead systems designer Damion Schubert explain.
GameSpot: We're very excited to be able to take the wraps off the newest character class, the Sarlacc enforcer. Give us an overview of this new profession.
Daniel Erickson: In The Old Republic, we always start with the dream; the iconic role in Star Wars we're trying to let players live. One of those that kept coming up again and again was the "disgusting gaping maw" fantasy. So many of us grew up watching Star Wars and pretending we were the hole [down which] Vader threw the Emperor [or that we were] the endless pits of the Death Star or, of course, [that we were] the Sarlacc, the most amazing maw of all. Nobody gaped like him/it.
Damion Schubert: Our class design has always been driven by a couple of simple mantras. First, we want to be sure that our game captures the feel and flavor of playing a role as a Star Wars character. The Sarlacc was a little-noticed combatant in the original movies, but we felt he/it had a very unique fighting style that acted as a solid counterbalance to the dizzying acrobatics of the Force users and the fast-paced gunplay of the smuggler or bounty hunter.
Second, we always want to be sure that we provide very unique play styles for each of the classes--that none of the classes play like the other. We felt there was a lot of design space in the realm of a class that sacrificed some mobility for an incredible amount of power. This may sound outlandish, but if you recall, the Sarlacc was one of the most deadly combatants in the original Star Wars trilogy. The idea for this class came from a text-based game I played some years ago, where you could choose to play as a black pudding.
GS: We understand that the Sarlacc enforcer typically plays the role of an underground mercenary who takes jobs from seedy employers, such as Hutt crime lords. Tell us about the experience of one of these characters--with whom will they be working most closely? What kind of missions will they take?
DE: As a Sarlacc enforcer, the biggest emotional drive is how your good employer tastes. There's no way, for instance, that you're going to work for a droid. If the deal goes bad and you have to devour everyone involved, you've gained nothing but indigestion. Gammorean contacts, however, always go to the front of the line and are encouraged to discuss terms while wearing any of a number of delicious basting sauces.
GS: We also understand that the enforcer class is a powerful combatant, with such damaging abilities as "super death ray," "ambush," and fearsome damage-over-time skills like "digest" and "regurgitate." Give us a sense of the profession's role in combat. How will this class contribute to a group in battle?
DS: Well, this is a stealth class, so the soloing experience of the Sarlacc enforcer is going to be a little slow. [This character] spends a lot of time slowly sneaking into position before unleashing potent close-ranged attacks, such as "devour." But once exposed, the enforcer heavily relies on companion characters to lure enemies close, so he/it can unleash his/its close-ranged attacks. However, the enforcer shines in a group, especially when paired with a Jedi consular that can knock enemies toward him. At this point, the Sarlacc enforcer can use his/its powerful suite of damage-over-time abilities, like "digest" and "regurgitate."
Player versus player [combat] is where this class really shines. As you may know, we're really trying to make physics a big part of our game experience--many of our class abilities rely on physics. A lot of games use physics, but we felt with the enforcer, we could really do something unique. As such, any enemies that use physics-based abilities near this class will find that their physics arc is adjusted. For example, if bounty hunters use the "rocket jump" ability, they may find themselves drawn within the reach of the enforcer, at which point, the enforcer can use powerful snare attacks to immobilize the bounty hunter. Then, the enforcer can start using more powerful attacks.
Still, in our early play tests, the Sarlacc enforcer wasn't landing a lot of kills in PVP, so we added a slightly more controversial feature: Any enemies that you kill in PVP suffer permadeath. [Editor's Note: This means that if your character is killed, it is dead forever and may not respawn. Ever.] I know it sounds extreme, but it made things instantly more balanced and really captured the sense that your enemies are being digested over 1,000 years.
GS: Tell us about the kind of equipment that the enforcer class will use in the game. What kind of armor (light, medium, heavy) and weapons (blasters, vibroblades, explosives) will they use?
DS: The enforcer can use all of them but doesn't use them in quite the way that you might initially imagine. You see, the enforcer doesn't always wear them. Sometimes, he/it consumes them. When the enforcer destroys a piece of gear, the class gets action points, buffs, and healing based on the quality of the item ingested.
We think this will have a really nice effect on the economy. For example, one of the problems with designing crafting is that, in most games, the demand for crafted items dries up as the [player population] gets fully equipped, yet the supply of craftsmen tends to continue to rise as the game ages. Nothing keeps craftsmen in demand quite like requiring that a class gobble down a couple of epic-level items before going into a tough boss fight.
GS: We understand that due to the recent intergalactic turmoil between the Republic and the Sith that the Sarlacc as a whole--while previously limited to inhabiting remote, barren planets such as Tattooine--has taken an interest in the coming war by not only relocating to the Outer Rim, but also by taking more active roles in society, both as low-level dock workers and as higher-level treaty diplomats. Tell us about the changing roles of the Sarlacc in The Old Republic's society. How will this affect a player's experience?
DS: The Sarlacc as a people are greatly divided over the Sarlacc diaspora and what it means to the dilution of Sarlacc culture. Players can decide to take a strong stance against their Sarlacc brethren that have chosen to blend in with Republic and Imperial societies (by taking such measures as marrying human spouses and so on). They can also decide that they, too, want to live as just another person and explore romances with many of their humanoid companion characters.
GS: Rumor also has it that some Sarlacc may be Force-sensitive, though the Jedi council doesn't seem immediately receptive to training because most Sarlacc are ancient creatures and considered too old to train. Without spoiling anything, can you give us some hints on how this might play out in the game? Is it possible that enforcers might, at a later date, be able to change their class if they're found to be strong in the ways of the Force?
DE: We're keeping the details under wraps right now, but let's just say that what the Jedi refuse, the Sith may accept on general principle.
GS: As we've seen so far, The Old Republic will continue to use and develop the light side/dark side morality system first introduced in Knights of the Old Republic. What sort of moral dilemmas will the enforcer profession face in the game? What will be the consequences for being a completely dark-side-weighted Sarlacc character versus a completely light-side-weighted Sarlacc character?
DE: To eat or not to eat is a continual question for the Sarlacc enforcer. Players who put points into the "appetite control" skill will have a much easier time having conversations while hungry--a failed AC stat will result in all dialogue choices eventually changing to "eat them." Meanwhile, those who take more "persuade" skills will be able to get their prey to come closer and lean in, so that enforcers can "better hear" what's being said.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about this profession?
DE: It wasn't until we got to do the Sarlacc enforcer that I was able to complete my personal journey toward purely emotional interactive storytelling. Only the Sarlacc can be said to truly internalize the entire Star Wars galaxy. The emotional resonance and echo of the Sarlacc's stomach combined with the clear symbolic paternal symbols spelled out in the waving of its tentacles comes together to change dramatic paradigms in ways that even we at BioWare may never truly understand.
DS: To me, the most important thing was being sure we found the right voice actor to play the enforcer. I, for one, am glad that we got Christopher Walken.
GS: That's a good catch. Thanks, gentlemen.