Star Wars: The Old Republic Impressions: Warzones and Crafting

We take a look at the player-versus-player combat and crew skills crafting system in BioWare's massively multiplayer Star Wars game.

"Immersion" is the watchword for this massively multiplayer Star Wars game. It not only applies to BioWare's heavy investment in storytelling and fully voiced dialogue--about which we've heard plenty--but also to more traditionally game-y segments of an online role-playing game such as this: the player-versus-player combat, as well as the gathering and crafting system. In a presentation on the game's crafting and warzones (the PVP arenas announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo), BioWare bods Blaine Christine and Gabe Amatangelo explained how the number-crunching, stat-based heart of each would be concealed to maintain immersion.

The crafting and gathering, for starters, have been designed to fit into the player's experience in a way that is credible with respect to the fiction. As Christine puts it, more or less, it doesn't make sense for a badass Darth Vader-like Sith to skin womp rats for a new pair of boots in between conquering worlds. And, so, the coherent fictional basis for crafting is the crew skills system. "You are the hero," says Christine. "You make your crew work for you."

That crew is made up of the companion characters acquired as you play, with your spaceship as their base of operations. From the ship, your companions can be dispatched to gather materials and commanded to craft items while you go about the business of being, for instance, a Darth Vader-like Sith badass. These crew instructions can also be radioed back to the ship while you are planetside (we saw companion characters toiling over a spaceship workbench in the presentation), and crew members might join you while you quest. They may perhaps gather materials while you fend off enemies (we were shown a shot of Twi'lek character Vette foraging for materials while the player character battled a non-player character foe).

Among the four gathering skills to be included in the game is bioanalysis--the acquisition of information, schematics, and raw materials from living (or dead) creatures. With recipe-like items, companion characters will be able to manufacture useful kits for you; with one of the crafting skills, biochem, they can craft stimpaks, adrenals, and implants to confer benefits on your main character. Alongside gathering and crafting skills come mission skills. Of these, Christine touched on diplomacy and treasure hunting (one of Vette's specialties, as a Twi'lek pirate). With the latter, you can send companions off on errands to gather treasure, while diplomacy missions, for a dark-side character, involve having crew members do your evil bidding and spread your wicked influence around the galaxy. For these missions (say, bribing a senator), you might be rewarded with a shift in your light- or dark-side alignment.

The crew can also undertake this gathering, crafting, and evildoing while you are offline; progress is made both in game time and in your downtime, so you can queue up tasks. When you return to the game, you'll find your treasure hunted and boots crafted, for example, if the needed time has elapsed. It's an interesting remedy for the traditional grind in massively multiplayer online role-playing game profession systems.

Fighting for Alderaan reasons.

Away from crafting and back to fighting, Gabe Amatangelo discussed warzones and player-on-player combat. The warzones are instanced--that is, there will be multiple instances of each to accommodate multiple matches--and can be queued from anywhere in the gameworld, though the first warzone to go on show is set on Alderaan, Princess Leia's homeworld. Here, the PVP battle takes place around a recently discovered planetary defense cannon, with Republic and Empire teams fighting for control of the cannon to destroy the opposing force's ship, which looms overhead. At the moment, the warzone battles are fought with two teams of eight, which are assembled with the help of a matchmaking system, though team sizes may change before the game's release, and PVP combat is rewarded with "all the fixins'" says Amatangelo--meaning the expected gear and tokens.

In warzones, player immersion is kept intact with what Amatangelo calls "a visceral coat of paint" to dress up the points-based progress and other game-y elements considered immersion breaking. Instead of capturing flags or bases, you control gun batteries in order to point them at the enemy's warship looming overhead. Instead of a tick of points as you near victory, your progress is indicated by the visible damage on the smoking, burning ship. Devices, such as respawn timers, are hidden with fiction, too: If you are killed, you reenter the battle by riding a transport vessel down from your ship, with the journey to the battlefield masking your respawn delay.

Expect to hear more on warzones in coming months; Amatangelo says the next warzone to be revealed will be set on a derelict starship and will contrast with the capture-and-hold objectives on Alderaan with "an entirely different gameplay mechanic."

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Discussion

230 comments
ZJohnnyZ
ZJohnnyZ

I just hope that the single/solo player portion of this MMORPG has respawn so I can grind and level up to overpower the bosses like I have in all my favorite cRPG’s since the PC Junior, my personal favorite tactic.

questclub
questclub

I wet my pants over this game already. They talk well and all sounds exciting - just hope it blends well and doesn't end up a grind for max level and then a grind for loot and tokens with hundreds of wipes on raid bosses.

davro33
davro33

[quote="UBERxL33T"]why are so many good game manufacturers wasting time and resources making a MMO/MMORPG? With WoW around, they all turn out no more than mediocre. I just think they would be better off making a game in a genre where they aren't overshadowed like in this case, WoW being the superior (based on popularity and ratings) in the MMORPG genre, and GW(2?) and Aion to fill the cracks of alternatives.[/quote] So by that line of thinking, Blizzard should have never made WOW b/c EverQuest ruled the market during the 90's.

UBERxL33T
UBERxL33T

@Lucius_Scipio I'm going to hold you to that >:-)

grokh
grokh

@Elrax Where did you get the wrong idea that i was talking about f2p mmo´s? I much rather buy a game with all its content and be able to play a good singleplayer / online when i please without having to pay monthly fee to keep owning something i already bought. This whole idea that all games should have online subscription or downloadable contents screams money milking. F2p mmo´s is different conversation that i didnt bring up. cheers

Lucius_Scipio
Lucius_Scipio

@UBERxL33T - Yes, it's true that Bioware and Bethesda have only made RPG's until now, but Blizzard had never made an MMO before WoW. I'm crossing my fingers that Bioware will be the first company to give Blizzard some real competition. It'll happen (IMO) if they can apply their excellent story telling skills in the MMO genre while making us feel that were' having a real impact in galactic events.

UBERxL33T
UBERxL33T

@Lucius_Scipio Yes, but Bioware and Bethesda make RPGs. But, what you said IS true and I certainly agree with you. I anticipate Star Wars: The Old Republic's results.

Lucius_Scipio
Lucius_Scipio

@UBERxL33T - Up until now, Bioware is (by far) the top organization to compete with Blizzard. They're track record is so good that they may be one of only two companies (Bethesda being the other one) who has a chance to dent Blizzard's dominance. If this game was being developed by any other developer, I would agree wholeheartedly. This game has a chance and the potential rewards are very good.

UBERxL33T
UBERxL33T

I know I'm going to get thumbs downed for this, but why are so many good game manufacturers wasting time and resources making a MMO/MMORPG? With WoW around, they all turn out no more than mediocre. I just think they would be better off making a game in a genre where they aren't overshadowed like in this case, WoW being the superior (based on popularity and ratings) in the MMORPG genre, and GW(2?) and Aion to fill the cracks of alternatives.

iamrob7
iamrob7

Please please just release a single player version so I can play through the storyline without having to engage in some tedious MMO. Honestly I hate the fact that I am being forced to play an MMO to play a sequel to one of my favourite games. Just release a stand alone version for people like me please.

KJS713
KJS713

Sith 4 life!!! XD

kez1304
kez1304

@SDSkarface I for one will be playing a bounty hunter...

SDSkarface
SDSkarface

This game will be Biowares first failure, remember you heard it here first. Like Square did with their abysmal FF MMO series, Bioware has now tainted the numbered single player offline Kotor main series by including this MMO with its namesake. The PvP could be interesting tho.. provided you can talk to and understand the other side (unlike WoW,Aion etc) but the main problems with these star wars games especially MMO's are ...Everyone wants to be a Jedi (or Sith) it remains to be seen what Bioware can do to make the other classes seem more interesting to players.

aspenjke
aspenjke

Bioware talks a lot about immersion in their upcoming game, but you have to face it: an MMO will NEVER offer the level of immersion that a single player game can. Still, the phrase "focus on immersion" can be heard in every interview. This just proves that they have nothing new to bring to the table, see? Not only are they adding spot voice overs only for key quests and characters, but making the so-called "immersion" (which is a myth) the center of their marketing strategy. The devs repeat it like a mantra in the hopes to convert some bored WoW players. Bottom line is: there should be no reason for anyone to believe that this game will be better than WoW, partly because Bioware doesn't "lack" experience in making those kind of games, it just doesn't have it whatsoever; and partly because the "immersion" thing is nothing but a scam. Immersion may be greater than in other MMO games, but what's 2 over 1 compared to 5 (a fully voiced single player RPG experience)? Just sayin'.

DarthPlush
DarthPlush

@aspenjke: *sigh* How do you know they're not good at MMOs if they've never tried to do them before? That's like saying "I suck at riding bikes" without ever having ridden one.

DarthPlush
DarthPlush

@VolcanoMan001: I think you're mistaking the game industry for a charity service. Of course they're going to make people pay money to play an MMO. Why do you think so many companies have gone the MMO route? It's profitable, and they are *companies* - they're there to make money. What can you do? Give feedback in regards to the service they are providing in exchange for the money you are spending. As for following the MMO "formula" - if it's successful, why break it? I think the main reason this game has been so popular even before it comes out is the fact it is built on innovation and changing your "standard formula". If it's not your thing, though, I understand... but then why bother commenting?

JeffreyCor
JeffreyCor

Looks good, but really wish they were doing Kotor 3 and not using this as a replacement to it.

Trains7
Trains7

My only worries for this game are future content. How will they handle the huge overhead and time constraints in adding additional content with full voice acting?

aspenjke
aspenjke

Wow. Battlegrounds called "warzones", matchmaking, entry queue, zzz... I hope this game fails hard and Bioware learns to stick to single player games. You know, the ones they're good at.

VolcanoMan001
VolcanoMan001

@Allfer2 Uh OK, a more intelligent interpretation would be that I was simply giving my opinion about the game, having played many MMOs already. I just don't see anything new here, and that is all I was saying. Why people feel so offended that they have to hurl personal insults in response, I don't know. Grow up. Having said that, if they break the established formula of the grinding-time-sink (ie. like the comment made by Icehearted), then I may give it a look.

Mr_Ditters
Mr_Ditters

I'll take old school SWG with battles of 70 people over this instanced pvp garbage any day of the week.

Icehearted
Icehearted

Whoa whoa whoa, there.... did you say they're eliminating monotonous grinding? But, how will they squeeze us for profit? How will wallets be milked? Indeed, how will man know who among us are dedicated and who among us are noob?! Joking aside, as a retired WoW player and part time Guild Wars dabbler, I can very well see how pruning the need to grind and such is both welcome and necessary. I don't believe I'm alone in suggesting that we as gamers are fatigued with the idea of long time sinks, of grinding our hours away in anticipation of only as moment of brief enjoyment. Games like WoW very rapidly become less fun and more work, and lose their luster in the process. WoW has, in that respect, jaded a lot of us, so following their formula is a recipe for disaster. A respectful nod to the devs for seeing this and trying to evoke change.

mbashour
mbashour

that was such a bad pun in the caption lol

organbank
organbank

DCUO is going to pwn this game. Which will not be hard considering that EA/Bioware have ZERO customer support, QA and released the buggiest games on the planet.

Allfer2
Allfer2

@VolcanoMan001 What your last comment told me is Hey I'm weak and insecure so I can't handle playing an MMO without becoming addicted to it. And, on top of that, I also feel the need to make fun of people who can control themselves and do play MMOs so I can feel better about myself" Just what I interpreted

Allfer2
Allfer2

None offense meant to anyone who is saying this game will be a subscription thing, but on the official website FAQ they've said that pricing is yet to be determined, and seeing as many MMOs have currently gone to a one time fee or free2play format to compete with games like WoW I wouldn't be surprised if this game ends up being a one time fee sort of deal. (But I'l probably pay for it no matter what the pricing is)

VolcanoMan001
VolcanoMan001

@DarthPlush How would I know? Simply because it is an MMO, which follows a standard formula established in every other MMO to date. Will it innovate some things? Sure. Will it follow the standard MMO time sink/money leeching formula? Very likely, why wouldn't it? That is just not something I am interested in, but to each their own...

DarthPlush
DarthPlush

@VolcanoMan001: Without having played it, how would you know? And they want you to be awesome from the start, regardless of your level, you're a badass, you're a hero.

Decrate
Decrate

i like the idea of destroying an enemy ship rather than waiting till the number goes to 1600 or capturing 3 flags.

Dominicobaggio
Dominicobaggio

Im probably totally alone in this but i thought instanced pvp ruined wow. It killed the immersion, where before you travelled to a town and had wars or fought in the actual fields now you waited in line to go into an instance, fight against other players. You also got the situation where because the rewards were unique, people would just cheat, ie, some times in capture the flag the strong team would not bother capturing the flag, just kill the other teams, over and over and over again... (i suprised a few lame teams doing this by sneaking the flag back and beating them. All in all i will have to see how it turns out but i prefer the choice for a full pvp world like real life rather than a zone type thing. Fair enough have arenas where its zoned. They suit the backstory of the game. Hope this is good though, give me a reason to build a super pc alongside the new shogun game!

eyebrowless
eyebrowless

sweet. this game kind of dropped off my radar for a little bit with school work and other great holiday games, but now its right back at the top. Can't wait for its release!

BornGamer
BornGamer

This game will sell a million then tank horribly. It'll be Warhammer Online all over again, only twice as expensive for EA.

SnuffDaddyNZ
SnuffDaddyNZ

i uprated you darkmask, yes she is adorable.

SnuffDaddyNZ
SnuffDaddyNZ

"BS hype that GS spewed out for DA" Can people please stop making on the spot acronyms (not pun)? I know what BS and GS are - but WTF is DA? I would think you meant Dragon Age, but then I see "mediocre buggy, ugly mess" and I get confused. Dragon Age was teh best game of '09, I finished it without a bug popping up, and I have the screenshots to prove it's a AMAZING looking game. On topic, this SW MMO is g b an e f at rtl, cuz anytime yur not doin sumthin frm the films it won't feel lik SW a a.

darkmask1991
darkmask1991

Gamespot Interviews just got more enjoyable...

Nodashi
Nodashi

@ Axeman87 You kill Jedis disabling them first - or using Flamethrowers, etc. They even said it in past interviews. Every weapon without a single energy "projectile" (I know, energy is NOT projectile, but that's how lasers behave in the SW universe). will possibly hit lightsaber classes.

Slayerduckie
Slayerduckie

Yet another PvE-Based carebear fest. I had high hopes for this one, but it seems i ll be sticking with L2 till something worthwile with open pvp comes out.

Born_Lucky
Born_Lucky

This is the same bought and paid for, over the top, BS hype that GS spewed out for DA - which turned out to be a mediocre buggy, ugly mess. I know kids buy into this crap - but you adults don't have that excuse. GS is in the tank for Bioware - period.

Coconutmunkee
Coconutmunkee

Oh good grief. Those of you that are worried about "monthly fees" listen very closely. $15 a month is 50 cents a day. You can hardly find a movie theater these days that an adult ticket doesn't cost close to $15. If you can't fork out 50 cents a day, you either need to (as an adult) find a new line of work; if you're under 18, you need to mow some freaking lawns (or shovel snow). On topic: I'm usually very firmly against PvP in any game I play, but the mechanics here seem pretty solid and engaging. As long as the combat is semi-balanced I can see a lot of fun being had here. Also, I'm digging the crafting idea.. I just hope there is *some* actual player involvement other than setting up a crafting queue.

dukerav
dukerav

@ lorider25: "Of course the majority of players will be either Jedi or Sith that's what drove so many people to like Star Wars in the first place. I will be joining the legion of Jedi and Sith Noobs who will be playing this game also. You can hate me if you want." Not hating on you at all here, but as for me I am going a different route. For me it will either be Bounty Hunter or Smuggler to begin with as my main. Sure I will probably try out a Jedi or Sith class at some point but the previous two classes really seem to interest me the most at the moment. I am definitely most likely in the minority here, but oh well.

axeman87
axeman87

@PolarGamer I counter your shotgun with Light Saber throw.

axeman87
axeman87

Oh.. and since (according to Ep1) deflecting blaster fire is childs play for a Jedi, how do other classes shoot at the Jedi/Sith classes?

PolarGamer
PolarGamer

Are there pole dancers in this game? Do the pole dancers have star destroyer nipples?

axeman87
axeman87

Just wondering... for PVP, if your a Jedi (like EVERYONE will be) could you be as powerfull as Star Killer? (since he part of the Star Wars universe and and all...) If so, does that mean that other classes, like... say the Bounty Hunter can carry a Star Destroyer to help balancing issues?....

Mr_Clark
Mr_Clark

@wallmart56 Game costs more to make, costs more to maintain, costs more to update, costs more to play. Like it or not, its simple economics.

pasheffi
pasheffi

You know i was initially on board for this game, but i have zero hope for it now. Not a chance it comes out in 2011 either.