BioWare, LucasArts Talk Design, Chastise MMO Genre In Old Republic Session

In a Gamasutra-attended Q&A session following the announcement of BioWare and LucasArts' Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO, lead designer James Ohlen, BioWare Austin VP Rich Vo
In a Gamasutra-attended Q&A session after the announcement of BioWare and LucasArts' Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO, BioWare developers -- including lead designer James Ohlen, BioWare Austin VP Rich Vogel, and studio co-founder Gordon Walton -- fielded questions from journalists alongside LucasArts producer Jake Neri. Calling the product "BioWare's biggest game" and "probably one of EA's biggest games," Ohlen discussed the game's design in broad terms for the largely consumer-oriented crowd of journalists, talking at the reveal event held in San Francisco's Presidio at LucasArts' sumptuous offices. Though the specifics of the game are not being revealed, Ohlen revealed some insight into the game's class design -- "If you want to be a Han Solo, that should have a very different story feel from a Luke Skywalker." This implies both adherence to the films' character archetypes and tight integration with the story-based design of the game, as is being promised. Ohlen described the size of the writing team as "three to four times the size" of a typical BioWare product, under lead writer Daniel Erickson. PVP play will be "a big part" of the game, he said. A "big challenge" in development is finding a way to make other classes as powerful as the Jedi and Sith, who obviously wield nearly god-like powers in the films and other fiction in the Star Wars universe. In particular relation to this, Ohlen noted in-fiction examples of Jedi being killed by non-Jedi; he said, "If you're a non-Jedi class, you'll be a very powerful version of that class." Ohlen also hinted that the game will be able to be nearly completely soloed -- "If you want to play through your epic story on your own, you can do that" -- but that the developers are going to "encourage" multiplayer. LucasArts' Neri continued this thread, in an understated way -- "Like any other MMO, we want to encourage social play." In slight contrast, Walton used the event as an opportunity to implicitly criticize the MMO market. While saying that all of the games in the genre that the team has played have "taught us something", he suggested that the MMO market is "crying out for novelty, for something new you can't get anywhere else," calling it a "medium that isn't really developed yet." While a lot of salient info -- such as the battle system, space travel, and the nature of the gameplay involving the companion characters each player will play alongside -- is being held back, Walton explained why. "If there's anything MMOs suffer from, it's blab-itis," said Walton, and he believes that over-revealing initial MMO announcements then underdeliver on these early promises, a strategy the BioWare team is clearly unwilling to take.

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