How Star Wars: The Old Republic will move gamers

Comic-Con 2011: From speeder bikes to light speed travel, BioWare developers discuss player options and character progression.

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Who was there: Star Wars: The Old Republic game director James Ohlen, executive producer Rich Vogel, and community manager Stephen Reid, with senior content producer Dallas Dickinson moderating.

What they talked about: The first thing players will see when they start a new character in Star Wars: The Old Republic is the iconic Star Wars text crawl. The development team was adamant about recapturing the magic of the movies, and so it felt it was important that every class receive its own introduction in this fashion. In addition to this intro, each character class will have several hundred hours of unique story content, with Dickinson adding that players "will not see one duplicate mission" between the classes during their personal story missions.

Truly the Harley of the Old Republic.
Truly the Harley of the Old Republic.

Moving from personal story to galactic exploration, the panel addressed how players will get to and around the many planets in The Old Republic. Getting planetside will be a breeze using your personal ship's galactic map and light speed travel. Originally, Vogel said, light speed travel took several minutes to complete to help communicate the sheer amount of distance traveled. However, after focus-testing this feature, the development team decided to treat light speed as a form of quick travel. On the planets themselves, the team showed off its latest vehicle additions: speeder bikes and landspeeders. While they didn't offer any specifics on how these vehicles will function, they did show off a variety of different designs.

Afterward, the panel moved to character progression and combat. With character progression they showed off a wide variety of armor sets and other cosmetic items. Ohlen went on to explain that the items designed for each class were all inspired by the appropriate characters from the movies--from the trooper's armor to the bounty hunter's helmet. For combat, Ohlen chose to focus on the role of companion characters. "Companions are going to be a huge part of The Old Republic," he said. Players will be able to change the clothing, weapons, and much more once the game is released. And while it's not final, the team also hinted at including adjustable companion AI and issuing them specific combat commands.

As the panel came to a close, the floor was opened up for questions from the audience. While most of the questions prompted responses already covered in the presentation, the panel did go into some more detail on how each player's personal story will be impacted in group play. In brief, during a group decision the player's character will be awarded points based on the specific choice he or she wanted to make--even if the rest of the group voted another way.

The game's special edition was also detailed and will include the journal from master Gnost-Dural, a Darth Malgus figurine, a galaxy map, a soundtrack, and several unannounced in-game items. As far as a release date goes, the team wouldn't say anything more than this holiday season.

Quote: "We try to make sure that we match the iconic roles people want to play in the game."--Rich Vogel on character classes.

Takeaway: The Star Wars: The Old Republic development team is definitely shooting for the moon with a fully voiced massively multiplayer online game with hours and hours of unique content both for solo players and groups. As this game continues to grow, it should be interesting to see how the developers bring all these features together in one complete package.

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