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Hyperspace Beacon: Sithing up for PAX East


If you haven't been paying attention, then you wouldn't know that Star Wars: The Old Republic is going to make a huge appearance at PAX East this year. However, unlike past appearances, this presentation is all about giving the fans a first-hand experience with the game. The SWTOR community team has promised Flashpoints, Jedi classes, and origin worlds that the fans can see, hear, touch, and feel. For a fan who has been following the game since before October of 2008, this is far more exciting than any on-stage performance.

With all of the hoopla, it may be difficult to know every single thing that is going on. And as your guide through the vastness of hyperspace, I should give you a guideline so you do not miss a vital piece of the event. Follow me after the cut for a breakdown of the planned events and some suggestions for things to do while attending PAX.

Among the many other things to do at the BioWare booth, checking out the first public demonstration of a flashpoint just has to be number one on your list. Multiple community questions may be answered during this demonstration, many of them socially related. Perhaps with this playthrough, we will finally see whether Damion Schubert, the lead systems designer for SWTOR, accomplished his goal of putting the "the solo player in a position where they want to take part in [multiplayer content]," as he said at GDC this past week.

There are multiple tidbits here that I think every fan should look for in this instance, the first being the group dialogue system. Familiarize yourself with it, because this a key, unique feature of SWTOR. Most importantly, pay attention to how it affects the dynamics and consequences of gameplay mechanics. Secondly, watch the dynamics of group interaction. For instance: How often do people in your party have to communicate in order to accomplish group goals? And is it going to be possible to communicate with text chat or do you find that voice chat is the only way to go?

Hopefully, there will be a few more machines with Jedi characters on them versus demo stations with the other characters that have already been playable at other conventions. However, if you have played the other classes at earlier events, I would recommend that you play those classes again to see the changes that have transpired from one convention to the other. We have seen some stellar screenshots and trailers of late. Do you notice any changes, and do they hold up in game?

Regarding the Jedi classes specifically, you would be remiss if you did not attempt to catch the nuances of these class stories. Particularly, pay close attention to what grants you light or dark side points. Also examine the outcomes of those decisions. Our Senior Editor Bree Royce talks about these choices in her hands-on at Jedi Immersion Day -- the "What kind of talk is that?" section. If one were to judge Jedi solely on how they were portrayed in the prequel movies, then he would probably say they were stoic and one-dimensional. In Knights of the Old Republic, Jedi were a bit different -- Bastila, in particular. Do the Jedi of SWTOR have personality? Do they live up to your expectations? Are the consequences of your choices severe enough? Are they too severe?

Senior Community Coordinator Allison Berryman announced in her post on the official forums that PAX will see "live Q&A sessions with Developers from the BioWare Austin team. Ask James Ohlen (Lead Designer) and Daniel Erickson (Lead Writer), as well as other team members, your burning questions." Hopefully, you take advantage of this opportunity. This is your chance to get in on some of the "booth chat." If you have not had a chance to talk to any of the BioWare developers, I suggest that you do this time around. Like most developers today, they are avid gamers who truly understand where you are coming from. I can only speak from my experiences talking to Daniel Erickson, but he is very approachable and not afraid to answer all your "burning questions."

If you are looking to be a part of the SWTOR community (I'm going to assume that most of you reading this column are), you will want to get to know the Community Team at BioWare. Unlike community managers for other types of games, MMO CMs usually take an active role in the future development of the game. These men and women are much more than forum administrators. They are your liaisons to the development team. I can and will ask them about how they plan to represent the community's different aspects, but the best way to get the answers you're looking for is to talk to one of them. Stephen Reid and David Bass would be your primary contacts, but I am sure there will be multiple members of the community team floating around the booth who can answer your questions or at very least direct you to the person who can.

If there is one thing besides the booths that you simply shouldn't miss, it's the PAX parties. SWTOR is not having just one party but two. The fansites of SWTOR are putting together a celebration at the Times Irish Bar for a meet and greet of fansites and fans of fansites. This is really a compilation of sites whose admins decided that, although there is competition among the fansites, it's all in the spirit of fun and making this community the best it can be. SWTOR will have an official party directly after the convention closing on Saturday night at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel right next to the convention center. This one is invitation only, so be sure to hit up one of the aforementioned community team members for your pass.

That's pretty much my agenda for PAX. What is yours? And if you're not going, make a comment below or send me an email expressing your "burning questions" so I can do my best to see them answered. Until next week, may the Force be with you.

The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!

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