Star Wars: The Old Republic Updated Q&A - Companions

Star Wars: The Old Republic will let you adventure with computer-controlled companion characters. Game director James Ohlen shares new details.

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Star Wars: The Old Republic is the highly anticipated massively multiplayer online role-playing game based on the pre-A New Hope version of the Star Wars universe that developer BioWare first developed for its critically acclaimed 2003 RPG, Knights of the Old Republic. But you knew that. You know the game will let you be a Jedi, a Sith, a bounty hunter, and many other classes. You know the game will have warzones (player-versus-player arenas), flashpoints (instanced content similar to dungeons in other games), and operations (large-scale adventure areas similar to raids in other games). You probably know a whole lot about this game because it has been a long time coming. And you probably just want to play the game already, and we don't blame you. Unfortunately, it's not available just yet--but we do at least have some new details on the way companion characters in The Old Republic will work.

Companions, as you've probably heard, are computer-controlled characters that will join you in your adventures--not unlike the companions that have joined you in other BioWare games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Just like in those games, your companions will interact with you, pass judgment on your decisions, and even fall in love with you if you decide to romance them. Your character will eventually build up a stable of different companions but will be able to travel actively with only one at a time. However, the development team has recently fleshed out the way companions work to add lots of new options and abilities, such as customizing appearances and even gaining levels. Game director James Ohlen explains.

Star Wars: The Old Republic's companion system will furnish you with loyal comrades in battle…and maybe even a virtual girlfriend who's blue. Like, literally blue.

GameSpot: We understand that companions in Star Wars: The Old Republic have been greatly fleshed out since the last time we played with them--players will even be able to customize their appearances? How much freedom will players have to mess around with how their companions look? Any chance a companion's appearance will change with your character's alignment between the light and dark sides?

James Ohlen: Players are able to customize the appearance of their companions in two ways. Because companions are full characters with inventory slots, players can change the equipment their companions are wearing. You can give your tough-as-nails Mandalorian warrior companion some badass Mandalorian armor. Or you can put her in clothes reminiscent of Princess Leia's famous gold bikini. Players can also change the skin color, hair, and facial features of their companion characters. We wanted players to have more freedom than in any previous BioWare RPG when it came to companion customization.

GS: We also understand there will be a new companion controls system that assigns an actual class to your companions. Tell us about how this system works and what it will add to the game.

JO: Fans of BioWare games are used to their companions having almost as much depth as the main character. We felt it was important that we do the same thing in SW:TOR. Companions have a class and can also level up and gain a full suite of combat abilities. They have their own ability bar, just like the players do. Players can also modify the artificial intelligence of their companions' behavior on the fly.

GS: So now, companions will gain levels and even unlock skills. How in-depth will companion advancement be--is it as in-depth as player character advancement? Will they be able to choose advanced professions?

Laugh it up, fuzzball!

JO: While players won't be able to choose advanced professions for their companions, companions will be unlocking new abilities as they gain levels. Some of the abilities will be completely unique to companion characters. For example, the Wookiee companion character has an ability that lets him toss enemies around like rag dolls--just like Chewbacca did in the movies.

GS: Why was the decision made to flesh out companions and their development? Did part of the decision have to do with a need to more closely complement the skill set of individual characters, for instance?

JO: We were originally a little gun shy about making the companions too complex. In a single-player BioWare RPG, players have the option to pause the game and micromanage their companions' actions. In SW:TOR, the game takes place in real time, all the time. In high-stress scenarios, such as war zones and operations, the added complexity of managing a companion would be too much for a lot of players. However, the AI for our companions turned out better than expected. Players who didn't want to micromanage their companions didn't have to. In addition, we actually removed companions from war zones and operations, as we felt these activities should be entirely controlled by players. So we decided to add a lot of the depth that we had removed early on in the design process back into the game.

GS: We know that you don't have to manage your companions' actions all the time and can basically leave them on their own to pitch in with their standard attacks in battle. But we understand that part of the new companion content lets you get more specific in setting their behaviors. What kind of controls or artificial intelligence can you set for your sidekick? Can you give us some examples?

JO: We knew that there was going to be a large group of players that didn't want to micromanage their companion. Since every player has to use a companion, it was important that we didn't force a gameplay style on those players. We added a system where players can customize the AI of their companions. You can decide exactly which abilities your companions will use and which they won't use.

GS: Can you give us a general update on the game and its progress? What's being focused on in the beta at the moment?

JO: We're getting really close. You can play the game from start to finish. You can play the end game content, including flashpoints and operations. All the core game systems are in. Right now, we're making some balance changes to the space game, to the itemization progression, and to the leveling curve. We're improving enemy AI across the game. We're polishing late-game quests. But mostly we're focused on bugs. We want the game to hit the high standards set by previous BioWare games, and that means providing our fans with a polished experience.

This spunky little R2 unit, and many other companions, await you in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about companions or about the game in general?

JO: Companion characters are going to be a significant innovation to MMORPGs. All of the testing feedback we've received so far on these characters has been extremely positive. We didn't expect something so core to the BioWare experience to be such a wonderful surprise to MMORPG players.

GS: Thanks, James.

Discussion

142 comments
Chemical-mix
Chemical-mix

I was looking forward to this game, but i played WoW to absolute death and literally woke up one morning and was bored of it. That was over a year ago now, and i'm not sure if TOR will just be more of the same, for me...

masterkalax
masterkalax

This has the potential to be exactly the kind of game I've been waiting for. A good story is what draws me into a game, and I already love the star wars universe. I stopped playing wow because I wasn't able to participate in the storyline (old raids no longer being run, end game taking way to much time to be at a level to play), but TOR looks like it may address this problem. Can't wait for launch :)

jerusaelem
jerusaelem

*Waits patiently for the "we decided to skip the MMO aspect entirely and just make Knights of the Old Republic 3 like we should have in the first place. We had a minor gas leak in our studios and we're not sure WHAT we were doing the last couple years. It was likely also responsible for the abysmal turd that was Dragon Age 2. Again, we're sorry for any confusion and please enjoy KoToR 3!" update, followed shortly by the "Oh, and we decided to not make it look like a ugly cartoon after all! Man were we ever high on Krylon when we came up with THAT!" update.

Sethalos
Sethalos

Can't wait for this to be released!!!

CarlitosWay
CarlitosWay

@monktheking I will probably level up by myself as well. Not so much for to avoid the community, but rather to get as much content from the companions as possible. I know i will be playing several formats to see what i get. TBH, i have no idea how to start :)

monktheking
monktheking

@carlitosway Unfortunately i realize that is the case with most MMOs - but i was informed by another poster that it will be possible to hit level 50 with your "companions". If that's the case, i'll be plucking down for this.

CarlitosWay
CarlitosWay

@monktheking Endgame content in any MMO means grouping up with someone. I have yet to play an MMO were killing hardcore bosses can be done solo. Personally it would seem to overpowering. One of the main concepts behind MMO's is socialization. And in this day and age, with all the social gamers, that is an important asset. However, as far as leveling goes, i think i read it somewhere that it was entirely possible to level with just companions. Please do not quote me, because i am not entirely sure. But i think i read it somewhere.

AzatiS
AzatiS

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

AzatiS
AzatiS

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

coryblaze
coryblaze

@azatiS This it cause this is getting dumb. This is a post about Star Wars and you have been making it all about yourself. When did I ever say a "good game with good graphics is better then a good game with bad graphics"... I didn't. I said it DEPENDS on the game we are talking about. Too me good game play is the most important factor. You however ended your first too posts with "so graphics is everything"... LOOK you did. You said graphics are everything. You said if the game has good graphics with a good game it means it is the best. NOT me junior!!! Like I said YOU are saying this buddy not me! Go and look YOU said it!! So you can cry "damage control" all you want... you ended the first too post "so graphics is everything". That sounds like someone, YOU, is saying graphcis are. Again this is off point seeing this is Star Wars. Now AzatiS if you were to READ what I said... my point was simple. People on here are complain about Star Wars cause of "bad graphics". If people would see that this game is promising way more in other parts. They might see that judging this game on looks... they will miss out. If you judge ANY game on looks... you could miss out on a GREAT game. Read, listen and look at what you are saying junior. There is no right or wrong!

monktheking
monktheking

This game looks very promising. I just hope i'm not "required" to play with other people online. I put "require" in quotes because i realize there is a companion system - but with most MMORPGs you really need to group up with other people if you want to reach the end-game. I just hope this game is solo friendly.

AzatiS
AzatiS

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

CarlitosWay
CarlitosWay

@Azatis This is the last time i will quote you on anything that you write. Because to be honest, none of it is even making sense anymore. My logic is the following. I like THE GAME of GW2. I think its got a lot of potential. I dont like the PLAYERS like YOU. Thats the only downside i see to it. I have never said anything BAD about GW2, minus about people like you. How am I the troll, when my comments are favored over yours? Let me quote your first post in THIS thread (which btw, is thumbed down 7 times) "Games looks like WoW dressed in SW. I bet youll like it. And this statement coming from some beta testers i know. So lucky you" That is the epitome of TROLL. And i didnt even say anything to you about that comment! I left you be. I let the GS comm. decide what they think. And this is the last thing i write, because apparently you have no idea what to write about next. You say i am on D3 forums, and that (conveniently) my "threads" are deleted. Is my forum account deleted too? Because being a moderator for a forum MYSELF, i know that threads do NOT get deleted unless there is a very good reason. So if you wish to accuse someone of something, bring evidence. Because otherwise your just an idiot who has to make up a story to win an argument. Please, PM me the link to the forums and i will personally look for this "troll" you accuse me of being.

AzatiS
AzatiS

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

CarlitosWay
CarlitosWay

@Azatis Show me a link to where i am on D3 forums. Go for it. I bet you its as worthless as you "insider information for TOR". Look its plain and simple: You dont like this game. Then move along. You insist on spamming here about GW2. Nobody wants to hear it. You THEN criticize us for DEFENDING TOR, calling us trolls, when in fact you are the only one going out of your way to comment on a game you say you dont like. I mean, what else do i need to say here? You are like those fools who preach for the value of opinion, and then say everything anyone else says is stupid, because you feel like it. You dont like TOR. Congrats. People like you is what keeps me AWAY from GW2. Oh yea, you didnt know? Since i saw those videos a GW2 follower showed me, i started following the game with aspirations of playing. But people like you is what is definitely making me not like the game. And to finish, you are partially right on one thing: graphics play an important part in game quality. However, all this ends in the point that I made. How a game is liked is a matter of OPINION. End of story. You respect opinions so much, why dont you do it now?

AzatiS
AzatiS

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

AzatiS
AzatiS

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

coryblaze
coryblaze

@azatiS Haha I guess someone isn't reading their own posts. Aren't you the one who ends every post with "Graphics is everything?"... Oh no you aren't saying graphics are everything. Hahaha Also, why do you care when this game comes out? Everyone has said that this game has bad graphics. Therefore it will be a good game, possibly, with bad graphics. According to you it isn't good. Cause remember "graphics is everything". Sounds like people though understand where I was coming from. So for the people who are actually excited for this game, despite the graphcis, good for us!

CarlitosWay
CarlitosWay

@coryblaze Save yourself the headache brother and dont argue with AzatiS. Its absolutely pointless. He insists to spam about GW2 in all his posts, yet he parks himself in TOR trolling. Hell, he even accuses me of being on a forum that i have never been a part of. Point is, nobody here (minus beta players) can judge this game, either gameplay or graphics wise. End of story. AzatiS, how the hell do you know that GW2 or has good gameplay? You've never played it. Nobody has. People have SEEN it, but never BEEN in it. When both games come out, judge away. But at the end of the day, the words :"best, better, worse" are ALL opinion based words. One mans trash is another mans treasure. People say EVE online sucks, yet it has a very static 300,000 player population. And they dont stop updating. So please, try to actually ENJOY updates instead of marring them with petty discussions.

AzatiS
AzatiS

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

coryblaze
coryblaze

@azatiS Haha you claim I miss the point but you are the one missing you. You are wanting to put games in order of good to bad. I'm NOT. Yes, AGAIN, a game good overall and good graphics IS good... yes (GW2 can say hi all it wants... I wasn't that big a fan... my opinion doesn't matter). You said you agree... there is some games that have bad graphics but good gameplay right?? DONE! End of converstion. That is all I was saying. These people who are getting hung up on Star Wars cause they have cartoonish graphics are hanging on to a mute point. The game promises so much elsewhere. Give it a shot. You judge a game soloy on graphics and you will miss out. You see?? Are games with good graphics and a good gameplay good? Of course dumb queston. However, are they the best EVER... depends. That is like asking what is the best game ever. I still play oldish 64 games with aweful graphics... but I have more fun playing those then a game that just came out (example YOU brought up GW2).

PrplMnkyDshwsr7
PrplMnkyDshwsr7

Looking forward to this, playing WoW for 5 years, I always leveled alone, disliked questing with friends and guildies. This adds a whole new aspect to leveling and questing really excited.

KodiakCS
KodiakCS

After the DA2 incident, we learned that it's not impossible for Bioware to fail. So let's hope that this game grows to be more than another WOW clone. As far as the combat/endgame content goes (we've seen the eternity vault), I'm quite dissapointed: static dumb MMO combat with totally predesignated character roles (healer, tank...). And where's the greater story arc despite war between red and blue? Any 'Politics'? Any mysteries that can players put on an obsessed hunt through the galaxy? Are e.g. planets static or can their allegiance change depending on decisions and victories? Impact of player decisions on the overall outcome? Is there any outcome at all? I deeply hope that the companions and the story element provide more than just a distraction from the usual MMOing. Come on BW, dare to do something NEW! ...But I guess it's to late for wishing that...

AzatiS
AzatiS

@coryblaze keep it to subject ,my lack on english doesnt matter in the end. As long as you getting my point is fine , dont bring this into conversation. You and many others claiming that gameplay and content >> graphics all the time.. I agree The thing here is that THERE ARE games with SOLID graphics and YEAH , guess what , they provide solid gameplay and content as well ( GW2 says hi ) So , ill do the question again to you. A good game overall WITH good graphics isnt better than a good game with bad graphics to you or not? Is so simple question really. Bad english or not you can understand it , dont you? And where i said graphics is everything?

argotto
argotto

I am not sure how to feel about this game. Big fan of good MMO's, but so far it feels like they are making up for their lack of experience with multiplayer games by putting in more single player content. My issue with this is this. Why would I want to pay 15 bucks a month for a single player game? I want an MMO that feels like it is multiplayer all the way through. this game so far does not have that kind of aspect or appeal.

coryblaze
coryblaze

@azatiS... You need me to tell you that good game with good graphics is good?? If I can understand you poor attempt at english, good games with good graphics are good... duh! But as I said I have played games that were good with out good graphics. Still had a good game. Again, I said I've played a bad game with good graphics... still a bad game. So no graphics aren't everything. It depends on the story, the gameplay the overall game. NOT just one factor... such as graphics.

MichaelMorbid
MichaelMorbid

developing a romantic relationship with an MMO NPC... so this is how civilization dies... with thunderous applause.

rhymesmatter
rhymesmatter

Companions?Romance?...This is it ... A true BIOWARE game to the backbone...

MichaelMorbid
MichaelMorbid

we're probably going to end up skipping this one. too many things that make this sound lame from the beginning. companions work in a single player game, but what incentive is there to play with anyone else if you get them in a MMO? sounds like they aren't using any of the real potential of an MMO either. combat is 100% of this game, the classes can't hold a candle to the sophistication of those in the d20, and wtf is that jedi wearing? battle armor robes? seriously, think about that for a minute. battle armor robes. :/

Zloth2
Zloth2

@northArrow, it's not quite that simple. First of all "the graphics" is wrong. Every decent PC game lets you fiddle with the graphics settings. (It's a real pity that so many people completely forget that when they look at game screenshots and just assume their PC could never do that.) Second, you really only want to make it accessible to people who are willing to pay the subscription fees. There's no point in handling the lowest of the low end systems because those people aren't going to be willing to pay you anyway.

revanknight
revanknight

You know, I always wondered what it would be like to have a jawa companion. I always figured a jawa would be an engineer-type of a character. Can't wait to find out! :D

keech
keech

@Snaptrap You're telling me you don't see an inherent problem with your mentality? Having "the option to pay or to work for the content" kills any sort of balance the game could have. I've yet to see a F2P game have any sort of balance. The players willing to shell out $25+ a month will always have the edge over the ones who don't, no matter how much they play. Which means they either have to spend money to keep up, or play the game and always be inferior to those that pay. Which brings me to my second point. F2P models stifle development creativity. When everything released has to revolve around getting the player to pay, and pay, and pay. You end up with content that just feels like a con. Also, what happens when a developer decides they don't want you to work for the content, and instead just want you to pay for it? Fact is I've seen plenty of F2P and P2P games. I've yet to see a F2P game that comes anywhere close to the same quality as P2P games that have actually succeeded.

kaliban
kaliban

lol I DO want a Blizz plushie! that would rule

Nodashi
Nodashi

Blizz really reminds me of Vivi, the mage from Final Fantasy 9. He's prolly gonna be my favorite companion. He'll suply enought fluffyness to the game so I can be a really cutthrat Sith Inquisitor.

PrplMnkyDshwsr7
PrplMnkyDshwsr7

Will be interesting to see how the companions affect the game balance(the inquisitor w/ tank companion was neat) and pvp servers.

J_Dangerously
J_Dangerously

@thiagocgarcia Did you read the article? These companions are 'set and forget'. You'll rarely, if ever, have to issue a combat command if you don't want to. On top of that, they won't be allowed in instanced flashpoints (dungeons) or operations (raids). This isn't forcing any sort of hunter-style gameplay at all.

eternal_blade3
eternal_blade3

Looks amazing, though not nearly as epic as ME3.

thiagocgarcia
thiagocgarcia

its like all the players are hunters (world of warcraft) im really sad about this. i dont like hunters

BornGamer
BornGamer

I was in beta. Bad game will fail. Message ends.

Sideras
Sideras

I so unhyped over SWTOR, but I actually feel like playing because I think they will pull of their typical story and character depth. I mean I've seen so much crap like their half-asses WoW-ish PvP and raids, but this here caught my attention.

midnight_trashh
midnight_trashh

@lorider25 Have you even played the beta? I'm 31 years old and couldn't care less about graphics either. I also used to think the graphics were bad like you, but I actually got to sit down and play the game for myself. The graphics are not bad at all, the environments in the game look really well done. What your seeing in these videos is nothing what the actual game is like. I can't say much about the game because of the NDA, but I can tell you once this game is released everyone complaining about this games graphics blah blah blah will be eating their words, (No Offense) because the graphics is not what makes this game so unique compared to other MMO's and it's not just the story or voice-overs that they mention over and over in these trailers. You really can't judge a game by watching previews and trailers. I learned that the hard way when I went out and wasted 50$ when Age of Conan was released. Not saying that is a bad game either it's just not what I expected it to be after how the developers portrayed the game to be the second coming of jesus.

KillerBill316
KillerBill316

@revanknight Somehow I get the feeling that good 'ol HK-47 won't be companions for us lowly players. I'm personally hoping he is, but he seems just too... important to hang out with us. :(

sony9876
sony9876

@arthas... taking forever.. you mean like Diablo3 that just got pushed back to 2012. Tor is to be released holiday of 2011 and my guess is its going to release right after they close down starwars galaxies. So thats around dec-15 on. /shrug, but who knows.

DeadDorf
DeadDorf

Can I set AI on my character, too?

sony9876
sony9876

people sure do talk alot of crap about the graphics yet wow maintained its hold on the industry with graphics from 2005. Aion, age of conan, war hammer online all had great graphics... where are they now ? All horribly designed games. Tor is fine the way it looks, just means you really dont have to run out there and buy some expensive rig just to play it. Tera online looks like another aion clone... lets see how long that one last when its realeased.

AzatiS
AzatiS

@coryblaze And what about good games with good graphics? Arent better than everything else...? So graphics matters in the end arent they?

Arthas045
Arthas045

I think this game is starting to loss some hype.... Seems like its taking forever for the release..