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The Digital Continuum: SWTOR turns up the heat, part 2

Kyle Horner

That mythological release date

How can I hope for a 2010 release date with BioWare promising fully voiced acting, branching story/dialogue and all other standard MMO features? Yes, it's a lot to ask of one company, but thankfully all this work isn't falling solely onto BioWare's shoulders. Lucas Arts and Electronic Arts are both heavily involved, count on it, and much of the legwork of voice sessions -- among other things -- will definitely be handled by their people.

More importantly than all that back-up is the money and time that have already been -- and will continue to be -- invested into the game. There's no question that EA is looking to tap into new and old markets, with the old market being Blizzard's.

When's the best time to pull away World of Warcraft players? When they're bored with last year's expansion, and the next one isn't until sometime in late 2011. Just imagine if Warhammer Online launched in the fall of 2007, when Wrath of the Lich King was over a year away. Assuming it was in the same shape that it launched in last year, a lot of people who've sadly departed would've still been employed. Blizzard's owes as much of their unexpected success to timing as they do to game design. Timing matters and BioWare, EA and Lucas Arts all know it -- especially by the looks of the game's E3 presence.

Somtimes it's hard to remember that BioWare Austin began operations in March 2006. My prediction: Next year, the game will show even stronger at E3 and follow that up with a widely marketed release date landing sometime in holiday of 2010.

Toss out the sink first

Traditionally, we hear about combat "concepts" or progression "concepts" before anything like classes, story and world design are anywhere near finished. And many developers tend to tout features on paper before they know if they can really achieve it. BioWare -- much like Blizzard -- is anything but a traditional MMO developer any maybe that's why I feel different about them. They've already shown they intend to bring their own brand of game design into the MMO arena, and they've got the backing to do it, too.

A lot of people scoffed last year when BioWare spoke about "The fourth pillar of MMOs" being story, but early reports show signs of that promise being kept. My mind boggles when I consider the amount of people likely working on this game night and day right now, and how much that pace is probably going to continue in the coming months in an attempt to capitalize on the right timing.

I'm going to end this on a frank note. Star Wars fans are legion, and never before has the MMO community been as huge as it now stands. Both of these groups want the same thing: something familiar, fresh and exciting. Star Wars can be all of these things, and in the hands of the creators of games like KOTOR, Mass Effect, Baldur's Gate and Dragon Age, familiar, fresh and exciting are fitting descriptors

It's just as easy to jump on the hate train as it is the hype train, I know this all too well. But when the cards are stacked like they seem to be here, the difficult thing is to be honest with yourself. And honestly? I can't wait to see how SWTOR turns out.

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