I recently talked to some key figures at BioWare to ask them about Shadow of Revan. On the phone call and livestream, Charles Boyd, the lead writer for the expansion, not only gave an overview of the story but played a bit live. Producer Bruce Maclean discusssed the production side of the game. And even Game Director James Ohlen popped onto the call to let us know how much this expansion means to him.
About that Revan guy
My biggest curiosity was about Revan himself. I wasn't concerned that he was in the game nor the expansion; I actually expected him to pop back up again sometime. But here we have a character that was the central protagonist of the first Star Wars game by BioWare, a central positive figure in the second Knights of the Old Republic game, and the main protagonist in a novel that carried his name. However, in this expansion, he is set up as the big bad. Ohlen was a part of the team that created Revan in the first place, and Boyd has been on the writing team for SWTOR well before launch, having penned the Trooper story personally.
So I asked Ohlen and Boyd if they were afraid of any backlash regarding using Revan as the big-bad. Ohlen simply said that "whenever you're dealing with a character that's so attached to a lot of players, you have to be concerned about backlash." However, he wanted to emphasize the reason that they are doing this expansion in the first place. "We really wanted to tell the last chapter of the Revan story," he explained. "We feel that there are a lot of other stories that can be told in the Knights of the Old Republic universe, and we wanted to set it up so that we can tell them in the future."
A lot more stories to tell
"We feel that there are a lot of other stories that can be told in the Knights of the Old Republic universe, and we wanted to set it up so that we can tell them in the future."
Obviously, Boyd was more story-focused when dealing with the question of making Revan the enemy of this chapter. "I think it's important to note that while he is the big-bad of this," he said, "it's not because he's randomly nefariously evil or something. There is a lot of depth to it in the storyline. I think once people play through it, they will understand why we chose Revan to play this role in the story."
Ohlen continually emphasized this idea that BioWare had other stories to tell with Star Wars: The Old Republic. So this led me to ask more about the updates to the stories. Ohlen just said there are "a lot of other stories that can be told." Does that mean that SWTOR is changing the time between updates -- a shorter cadence? That's when Maclean jumped in. "We are working on a lot of things for next year," Maclean clarified, "and we are still talking about how we are going to release those things. As we get through next month, we'll have that hardened to the point that we can talk about it."
Call me optimistic, but that sounds like the content release cadence will be increased next year. At very least, we are looking at an expansive story, not a shrinking one like a lot of naysayers would like us to believe.
A new player species
One of those items that can be confirmed to be released sometime next year is a new player species. Gaddock Teeg from the Unnamed SWTOR Podcast reported from the Community Cantina Tour in New York the news that Togruta will be next player species. But there was no audio recording, and BioWare did not confirm that in any way on the official site. So I mentioned this to Maclean since I had him on the line; I figured that this would be a great time to get him to confirm this rumor.
"What?" he laughed. "You heard that at a Community Cantina? Now that we are past our period of silence around story and trying to be secretive about Shadow of Revan, we want to lead back into the Community Cantina as an opportunity to tease things that are coming. Right now, we are working on Togruta as a playable species. [We] don't know what the timing for that will be. It's not an expansion feature. It's a Cartel Market feature. Therefore, in terms of priority, our priority is Shadow of Revan."
Canon cameos and player stories
With Togruta confirmed, maybe I could get them to confirm some other things, like iconic figures who might be hanging out on Yavin during this time period. Exar Kun or Naga Sadow, anyone?
Boyd attempted to sidestep my question, "I won't get into the other canon characters, but I am a fan of them as well." When I pressed him, all he could say was, "Just play through it, and you'll see." Although it wasn't a direct answer, it gave me all the information I needed: Exar Kun and possibly Naga Sadow are linked to what Revan is doing on Yavin IV.
We were able to talk about a great number of things, including the solo flashpoints. When you jump into one of the Forged Alliance flashpoints (Tython, Korriban, Manaan, and Rakata Prime), you will receive a droid companion to help carry you through the tough fights.
We also talked about briefly about the new class missions, which were written by my favorite BioWare writer, Alexander Freed, who wrote the Imperial Agent and Makeb Imperial storyline. If you have played the Agent story, that should make you excited about the upcoming class missions that Boyd said are like "cappers to what had happened in the class storylines before hand." He continued by saying, "It's really about defining who you are now in the galaxy after all this time since the completion of your class story."
Although the focus was clearly on Shadow of Revan, the developers talked about the future of the game. James Ohlen even mentioned that Knights of the Old Republic fans are going to be surprised and they are going to love the news that's coming out in the future. "Our plans for the future are more exciting and epic than you've seen before." He told me that SWTOR has been very successful and that the BioWare crew has been "very ambitious in what [it's] been planning." He said, "We're not slowing down. We're speeding up." Then Boyd jumped in to say, "This really is a kicking-off point. It's only going to get crazier and more exciting from here."
Many thanks to Charles Boyd, Bruce Maclean, and James Ohlen for speaking with me. May the Force be with you all.
When readers want the scoop on a launch or a patch (or even a brewing fiasco), Massively goes right to the source to interview the developers themselves. Be they John Smedley or Chris Roberts or anyone in between, we ask the devs the hard questions. Of course, whether they tell us the truth or not is up to them!