E3 has concluded, with many more SWTOR-related interviews happening on the third and last day. At this point there’s a lot of repetition, as the BioWare representatives go over the talking points that they’ve been covering throughout the convention. A few more details have emerged, however!
Probably the most surprising was mentioned in at least two different interviews with James Ohlen, Creative Director and Lead Designer for SWTOR: players are limited to a maximum of five unique companions. We knew that there were only five crafting stations in a player’s starship, but there had been speculation that up to ten companions were possible. Apparently not: your player can up no more than five companions in their stable.
When James talked about the endgame—which he called the “elder game”—he confirmed that in addition to flashpoints and space combat missions, there are three warzones (presumably that’s the final count for launch). He also said that there are repeatable quests, that are focused on the war between the Empire and the Republic. So yes, for better or for worse, SWTOR has the equivalent of daily quests for the endgame. In his words, “hours and hours” of play once you reach level 50.
He talked briefly about some of the activities your companions who weren’t currently with you could do on your behalf: diplomatic missions, treasure hunting, bounty hunting, building you new armor and weapons (i.e., crafting).
James said that they’d just invited 1000 people in to test the game, who are playing through the entire 1-50 experience. Whether they were joining the existing cadre of testers, or whether this means that how many people are currently testing the game, remains unknown.
He emphasised that a goal of their development was to eliminate the grind associated with modern MMOs. This means that your class story and the world arcs that you would encounter as you moved from planet to planet would not include the standard kill or collection quests. The reasoning was that they didn’t fit in with the style of cinematic storytelling that the class and world quest arcs are built around. Those kill quests are still present, however: they appear to be standalone world quests that pop up as you enter specific areas, and are intended to fit into what you’re already doing as you following the primary quest arcs.
Another interesting tidbit emerged in yet another interview with Daniel Erickson, regarding multi-player dialog. For the most part, whenever a dialog choice is presented to a party, each player “rolls” to see whose choice will win. As already known, a player’s choice (in terms of light and dark side points) is based on their own choice, rather than whichever wins. The new element was what Daniel referred to as vote nodes: occasionally a choice requires the party to vote; an obvious example is when the choice is given as to whether to execute someone or spare their life. From what he said, each player again rolls, adding to a total for each choice. Whichever total is highest determines what action results. Thus it’s possible for three members of a party to vote to spare someone’s life, but if they all roll badly, and the final member who votes for an execution rolls very high, it’s game over for the victim.
BioWare seem to have revealed a vast amount of new detail about SWTOR. It’s been made clear that the game is effectively finished, at least as far as the 1-50 leveling experience is concerned. The company is now in full-on polishing mode: fixing bugs as they are found and tuning. They seem confident that they will be shipping the game sometime in 2011. It has become clear that there probably won’t be an open beta, and if there’s a closed beta—though it’s unclear how this would be different to their existing testing, perhaps the difference being that the NDA would be lifted—then it would be announced at the same time they reveal the actual release date.
From everything we’ve seen, SWTOR is living up to its promise. The gameplay experience will be similar to existing MMOs, but the cinematic storytelling seems to be adding an entirely new dimension that hasn’t been seen before. It will be worth the wait. Now we’ve just got to get through the next few months that lie between us and its release!