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Hyperspace Beacon: PAX holo-journal


You are reading your guide to Star Wars: The Old Republic and beyond! The scoop on EA-BioWare's next great MMORPG is brought to you here in the Hyperspace Beacon.

As everyone should know at this point, Penny Arcade Expo exposed players to the latest video game experiences this past weekend in Seattle, Washington. Three representative from Massively attended this extraordinary event. Contributing editors Justin Olivetti, Rubi Bayer, and I braved the cross-country travel to the "sleepless" city. Although we were there to get interviews and impressions of all MMO games, we each had our own specific games that we wanted to see in action. Justin came to see Lord of the Rings Online. Turbine was demonstrating its free-to-play model. Rubi wanted to see DDO and, of course, Guild Wars 2. In fact, we could barely tear her away from GW2's booth for more than five minutes at a time. And I had one goal in mind for the weekend: play Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Follow my daily adventures in SWTOR at PAX after the break.

Day One
Meeting new people is challenging enough, but it's even worse when you're sick. "Hello, it's nice to meet you, Mister Christine." *cough* *hack* *cough* "Have some Purel. You're going to need it." But I muddled through.

The Old Republic's set-up was insane! Eighteen stations lit up the showroom floor. LucasArts Marketing Manager Rob Cowles told me this was the company's biggest set up in the United States. Cowles also told me that BioWare just passed a milestone in its production schedule, and the graphics quality of the game is 10 times better than what was currently showing on the floor. This was extremely exciting news for me considering that I thought the current graphics quality was sharp and crisp.

I watched with seething anticipation as waiting for my turn to experience The Old Republic for the first time. The beginning quests for six out of the eight classes were set up on various styles of Alienware desktop and laptop computers. The developers, such as Lead Writer Daniel Erickson, would stand over the player's shoulder, giving tips on where to go or how to maneuver more efficiently. The bystanders observed the action on 24-inch monitors which were mounted above the player's head and duplicated the gameplay below.

The unfortunate side effect of working in the gaming industry is that sometimes you have to put your job ahead of playing. There were far too many interviews I had to conduct to wait in that line. SWTOR, you will have to wait this time, but I will be back!

Day two
Friday beat the crap out of me. Couple the stress of interviews with what had to be the flu -- PAX pox, maybe -- and it seemed that Saturday was going to be a bust for me. I had already asked my co-workers to take my interviews and panels, but at the last minute I decided I would tough it out. Besides, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. the exhibition floor would be open to press only. So this could be my chance to dive into The Old Republic without having to wait in any kind of silly line!

With the press allowed onto the showroom floor a hour before the 70,000 other attendees, I was able to get in and play three classes right off the bat. The trooper was first. I will get into the details a bit later, but I can tell you that I was not impressed at first, until I finished the first mission on the transport, then everything was like butter. I flipped to Sith inquisitor and spoke to Alyson Bridge (I hope I got her name right; it was loud, and I was still a bit deaf), who is part of the web team. She gave me a couple of pointers about the interface and told me how much red-skinned Zabraks "kick some ass." Lastly, Blaine Christine came over to ask what I thought of the game then suggested that I try the smuggler, because SWTOR is the first MMO with a cover mechanic. BioWare has a very fine MMO in the works. I can't wait to play it more.

If you read the post by Alyson Bridge, you know there were 75 VIP passes given to Star Wars enthusiasts who mentioned Darth Revan to one of the SWTOR exhibitors. Guess who got one? That's right. It was Justin Olivetti, but he was kind enough to give it to me since he would not be attending the SWTOR event.

It was in the VIP waiting area where I ran into the whole TOROCast crew. The members were preparing their video and web equipment to broadcast the event live on their stream. As I understand it, they were unable to broadcast the video, but they continued to serve their community by posting updates live.

At last, the moment we were waiting for: the SWTOR presentation at PAX. Dallas Dickinson, whom I had not seen on the exhibition floor the last two days, and Blaine Christine presented a humorous break-down of what the fans have been told so far. The Hope trailer in surround-sound in incredible. You can feel the Imperial fighters fly over your head. Regardless of the technical difficulties, Blaine and Dallas allowed three fans to play the infamous group combat scenario. The pair attempted to assist the combatants by announcing tips as they waged war. The fans were victorious. As a final treat, the audience was there to witness the Darth Revan Complex video. The crowd cheered and roared as the famous assassin droid HK-47 popped on the screen retorting, "Interjection: silence, meat bags."

Sometimes approaching a developer can be overwhelming, especially one I greatly respect, like Mister Blaine Christine. He is an energetic, personable person who seems to truly care not only about the game he is creating but also about the people who are playing it. I will post the whole interview a bit later, but I was able to ask a significant number of your questions.

In a related side note, I know there are questions he will not be able to answer. Public relations and marketing prevent that. So, I told him, "I know you will not able to answer all my questions, but I will attempt to phrase them so you can at least give me something." He had a laugh at that.

Admittedly, though SWTOR did not have the best booth at the show (I would have to give that award to End of Nations and Rift), I did enjoy LucasArts' presentation greatly. This wasn't because it was flashy or attention-grabbing, but because all of the people present at the booth were developers (rather than strictly PR people from outside companies), and all of them were passionate about their game. They knew how the game worked and what it was about, and they were willing to answer any questions the fans had to offer.

I have great hopes for this game -- it is off to a wonderful start. Stay tuned to the Hyperspace Beacon for more guides through the SWTOR universe and stay in touch with Massively for my interview with Blaine Christine and my detailed impressions of SWTOR gameplay.

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