Interview: Story In-Depth With Daniel EricksonWhile attending GDC last week, Darth Hater was fortunate enough to be invited out to the LucasArts office in San Francisco for a hands-on demo featuring the Trooper class. After finishing our time with the game we spoke with Daniel Erickson, Star Wars: The Old Republic's lead writer about the classes, their stories, and a few of the choices players will be facing in game.
What are the similarities and differences between the Trooper and the Bounty Hunter?
Daniel Erickson: The Trooper is close to the Bounty Hunter in terms of they are the two classes that will stand in the street and shoot at you. Obviously the Bounty Hunter is much more a gadget person, whereas it's much more traditional ordinance if you're a Trooper.
I wouldn't say they are similar at all story-wise. If you want to talk tone, you have a western on one side; that is what I always think of. The Bounty Hunter is the bad guy with a gun who is going to roll into town and try to show the entire galaxy that he is the best that has ever lived.
The Trooper is someone who has been trained, raised, orderly, and has an actual chain of command. Although he has a lot of independence in the field, the Trooper is the furthest from being his own man. He belongs to the Republic, whereas the Bounty Hunter is completely his own person. He runs his own crew, he does whatever he wants.
One of the things with the Trooper that we thought was very important is that the Jedi have a, they sort of have a black/white world in macro view. They are the Light side, and the Sith is on the Dark side. There were wars for centuries between the two sides. The Republic is a country, you know. The Republic is a very large country, but it functions like you would expect it to. There are crooked politicians. There are people who are after their own advancement, and the Trooper has to balance his own patriotism and his own morals all the time and sort of deal with "hey, what do I do here?"
When we did the piece that we're showing at GDC, we wanted to do Ord Mantell and wanted to show a man at the point. Because the Trooper is actually going into an enemy stronghold from a Separatist group that is trying to break away from the Republic. But they aren't trying to break away from the Republic because they hate peace and they hate goodness; they are trying to break away from the Republic because the Ord Mantell government is completely corrupt and has ties to organized crime.
It ends up putting the Trooper in an interesting place where he gets to interact with Separatists that maybe aren't that bad of people -- but some of them are -- and you get to make a series of decisions as you're going through the space. You run into people (where you will think) "okay, how much of this is bluster, and how much of this is political song and dance." People will spew propaganda at you and then back up when they realize that there is actual danger, etc. It is a very different tone. Something that we try to do with all eight of the classes is that they really are being written and put together as almost different genre explorations in Star Wars.
Is there anything about the Star Wars lore in the Old Republic that you are really proud of that you think the players might not notice?
Daniel Erickson: I don't think they are going to consciously notice what we tried to do at the beginning. And I think that one of the most important things that had to permeate the game is that this is a real place with real people.
One of the quotes that is going to live with me forever is that "the Sith don't wake up in the morning and have their evil pancakes and evil coffee." But it is extremely important that when you are playing on the Imperial side that you notice that this is a real place and that these are people with a different philosophical view: they do not see themselves as evil. Everywhere you go, and from the example of Ord Mantell the same thing, the Separatist people didn't wake up in the morning and say "we hates some people" You have to have continuity, and especially a motivation.
You cannot begin to write a story until you know what all your characters want, what they are trying to achieve, and why things are there... being able to go through the world and never know unless they sit down and go through an endlessly long conversation with us. But we can talk about why the statues look a particular way on Korriban. Why the street layout is the way it is on Ord Mantell. Why Alderaan is actually sectioned the way it is. Because all these things come from the basis of the people that live there, what is happening at the time, what is the history that is happening right after it, and what the mindset of the people are. People are really surprised, for instance, that the writers ended up coming on a year or more before we were making anything except writing stuff for the world. But having that stuff, even if players never see it consciously, is what gives its depth and the continuity and the feel of you're going to live and play in an actual space.
Is there a part where people's individual class stories come together, or are they their own silo in the story branches?
Daniel Erickson: Well, the story branches have to connect because it's one galaxy and there is larger story happening. It's essential that all the players understand that they are within the same realm of what is going on. That is why we have a writing team, although one person tends to own a class and say "hey, this is what is going on." All of our earlier discussions were about what the meta-story was, what the conflict was, what changed between chapters. When the world goes forward, what are the outcomes? What is really happening?
There are things that go on in the Jedi Consular story that the Jedi Consular is very investigative; they really get into the nitty-gritty of things. There are things that the Jedi Consular will discover that if you played those, it will shed a lot of light on where the Jedi Knight is going. But when the Jedi Knight is handling them, for the most part, the Jedi Knight is really running into battle, being heroic and doing that sort of thing instead.
One thing we were trying to figure out: using the concept of origin worlds, how do you tie in stuff that is happening at one end of the galaxy with the other? It could be that separate -- where someone at point A had no idea what was happening at point B. But what you are saying is that effectively, they will come through.
Daniel Erickson: Absolutely. One of the most rewarding things is, even as people are beginning to test and play, as you go through one class, and you start talking to your friends who are going through another class, or you start going through another class... you are going to start putting things together in ways that you never would have when you just did the one class. You're going to start to get a larger picture of the whole story and what's actually happening in the galaxy.
One of the biggest concerns that we've seen in the community is about grouping and group decisions. From a story perspective, can other people in your group and people that you hang with while you're leveling up, impact your personal story?
Daniel Erickson: So there are two very separate things that we have going on: your personal story, which is your class story, and then the world stories. And to be clear, there are large ongoing world stories as well. There are a whole series of quests that will take you double-digit hours to do that you can do multiplayer, and that you can make all the decisions, and you guys can go through the whole thing together.
Think about everybody going to Bespin in Empire Strikes Back, and they're going to run through that. So yes it is possible for Han, if he had decided to, to go with Luke and hang out on Dagobah. No, it is not possible for him to change his training sequence. He does not actually get to affect the Jedi Knight story there. He can come, he can be part of it, and he can help fight through it. Though I guess he wouldn't have been very much use at the tree. You can come as multiplayer and hang out with your friends, and you can see all the stuff they are doing. But no, you don't have the ability to actually mess up their story.
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