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PAX 2009: Massively interviews BioWare and LucasArts on SWTOR part 2

Kyle Horner

What were some of the inherent challenges in getting the multiplayer dialog system to work in a natural way?

Blaine: Well first of all I just want to clarify that the system is not finalized yet. But in terms of the intent behind it, basically when we play the game now and when you see the demo live or online, what we've kind of discovered is this really great dynamic between the players.

When you're confronted with a key decision like: Do we kill or save the captain of this particular ship? It becomes a very competitive mini-game in-and-of itself. You might say, "Jake, dude, I wanna kill him!" and he's like, "No we're gonna save him!" and you don't know what your teammate's gonna do next! Especially right now when we're playing right next to each other, but if you've got your Ventrilo on and you guys are duking it out trying to figure out what's gonna happen in this situation, it becomes a really fun meta-game.

So if Bob is a Sith Warrior and he's doing the mission with the captain and his friend Abe is playing a Bounty Hunter, is the decision to kill the captain ultimately up to Bob, or can his friend intervene?

Jake: I think some of that depends on you guys and how you wanna play it out. If you're coordinating and you're on the same page, then you guys'll probably be able to move towards the same decision. Like Blaine said, the system is totally under development as we speak and there's so many edge cases of weird scenarios that we're working through. The main thing for people to understand is our goal is to make it fun, awesome, balanced and prevent any sort of griefing or dissatisfaction. Those are the things that we're working towards right now.

What we see right now is that it's fun to just participate in a conversation -- that's new, that's unique. We wanna take that to the next level and for it to be fully awesome when it comes out.

Blaine: So the biggest thing there is the intent behind it, as Jake was saying, is to provide a better mechanic for storytelling and it goes back to your earlier question about grouping. So we had to sorta ask ourselves. "How do we deal with grouping and storytelling?" and we just sorta said, "Why not allow everyone who's in the group to participate in the conversation?" so that's what we're working on.

Star Wars is a universe that has a plethora of races, humans obviously being the only one we've seen fully voiced so far, but are we going to be playing and hearing alien races?

Blaine: We have let slip that there will be playable alien species -- we haven't talked about the details on that yet.

The other thing I'll just point out is the example that we have so far if you watch the gameplay footage is: We have the initial conversation with the Bounty Hunter, it's the first conversation we see as a Bounty Hunter in the game, you'll actually see a Nikto named Jory speaking in his native tongue as it were, in the demo. So that's the little tidbit for those that watch closely.

All MMO zones get more fantastical as you progress, but Star Wars offers some especially unique locations. Will SWTOR's zones emphasis this advantage?

Jake: Yeah, we're trying to make everything unique and true to Star Wars as possible. So I think you'll see our environments reflect that. Second to that -- whether their grandiose at a low level or not -- in our Sith Warrior demo you're on a the desert work of Korriban, however it's not just an open plain. It's amazing academy shots and ships flying in and crazy large creatures running around. So we're certainly trying to push that Star Wars art and feel. We want you to always feel heroic and in the distinct world of TOR. But yeah you'll see a lot of native Star Wars elements as time goes on, sure.

Blaine: It's one of the beauties of the license, as you're pointing out. We'd be foolish not to take advantage of that.

We're sure you've seen this rumor floating around, so we've got to ask. What are your thoughts on player housing? Do you think it's worth pursuing at an MMO's launch or later down the line?

Jake: We have seen the rumor on that, and all I'll say is that is a rumor. Player housing is an interesting feature in an MMO, but we haven't talked at all about that. That's been just pure speculation. We do have player housing in Star Wars Galaxies, so I think we've seen how popular that can be for a number of people, but that has nothing to do with SWTOR. That's just truly my experience on galaxies.

I do get what you're asking there about the passion players have for it. I have a daughter who's a huge Webkinz player and she has houses and rooms and things -- I totally get that. But as far as TOR goes, we've talked nothing about that.

Tabletop gaming has been one of the many avenues of ways to explore the Star Wars settings. So will you be facilitating SWTOR roleplayers in any way?

Jake: Without a doubt Star Wars itself, at the highest level, would be nothing without its fans. A number of these fans celebrate the IP with their own twist on it -- showing their love. You see a lot of people in costumes here. We have the 501st, which is an organization that goes around the world for charity dressing up at events and we see that fall into almost all of our Star Wars games. So do I anticipate that there will be roleplayers in our game? Absolutely. People love that, they want to assume a role in the Star Wars world and we're better for it. So I think that we will absolutely see it and we'll be excited to have them.

Blaine: From a BioWare perspective, obviously traditionally- hopefully known for our RPGs.

Neverwinter Nights!

Blaine: Yeah yeah! Those are our people, that's who we want to cater to. I think that bringing RPG into the MMO space for the first time is a great opportunity and that it allows us to hopefully facilitate that to an even greater degree than what's come in the past.

There's a lot of emphasis on each class having its own story and experience. Will there be a binary story path for each class or something more nuanced and dependant on your myriad choices?

Blaine: So I think there's two things we can talk about there. So one, obviously you can expect each one of those class storylines to be similar to what you've seen in Knights of the Old Republic or traditional BioWare storytelling. Obviously we like to put twists into those storylines, as people know. We like to allow choices that do have impact on the story in some fashion, and so that certainly carries through into our game.

So part two of that would be that within our world there's an overarching story, which sort of ties all of the classes together. Those are quests that when you participate in those they're not dependant on your class. Then you have the class quests and those are again very specific to what you're doing, but again people could potentially have a part in that story as well. So there's multiple threads and ways that the story is told.

Thanks for your time Blaine and Jake!

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