During the fourth and final day of New York Comic Con, we had a chance to speak with Cory Butler, Live Producer at BioWare on Star Wars: The Old Republic. In the interview, we discuss the team's preparations for launch, goals for testing in targeted regions, the lack of central US servers, approach to dynamic spawning, and more.
As we are a little over 9 weeks away from launch, what's the mood like among the development team?
Cory Butler: Everybody is really excited. We are just kind of heads down, looking to finish things up, tie off some loose ends, and everybody is really pumped to get the game out there and have people start to play it for real.
Hit the jump for the interview in full.
Hey, this is Baelor from Darth Hater. We are here at New York Comic Con and I am here with Cory Butler, Live Producer for BioWare on Star Wars: The Old Republic. We are going to ask Cory a few questions on the state of the game and what they're doing at Comic Con. So, Cory, we're here at Comic Con in full force, but for those who are unable to attend, can you give me an idea of what you're showing on the floor and what might be different from previous demonstrations at other conventions?
Cory Butler: Sure, we have the hands on booth and here we have all the origin worlds available, all eight classes for play starting at level one. Then on the other end of the booth, we have PvP so we are showing the Alderaan Civil War and Huttball Warzones.
Great. You recently announced targeted testing in non-launch regions like New Zealand and Australia. Can you elaborate on the reasons and goals behind the opening of testing to those regions?
Not in too much detail. We are always interested in seeing how the game is performing around the world. We are going to keep testing and testing the game in lots of different places.
Are there any other regions you are evaluating to starting testing in at this current time?
Oh sure. All sorts of regions.
BioWare has previously stated that there will not be a server or data center in the central US. Can you give us some insight regarding that? What led to that decision? And address any concerns by some guilds that have members on both coasts that might be concerned about potential latency and time zone issues?
Yeah, we have our east coast and west coast data centers, and then our European data centers. That just seemed like the right plan to do, and it's actually been working out really well for us. Through the testing program we're kind of kicking the tires on all those servers and everything is working really well. I don't think latency should be an issue for anybody on the east, west coast, or central areas.
Not too long ago BioWare began the second phase of the pre-launch guild system that consists of guild alliances and adversaries. Can you describe what you are seeing in terms of this feature and what approach you are taking to balancing server population?
Yeah, as far as what we are seeing, everybody is really excited about it. We are seeing a lot of registrations, seeing people getting their adversaries and allies lined up now. With server populations it's something that we monitor really closely. We just kind of tweak the dials, turn the knobs accordingly. It is something that we are hyper-aware of, to keep it at just that sweet spot.
Can you speak to the status of guild testing and its progress or impact on the overall game testing program?
Not in a lot of detail. We kind keep a lot of that stuff in our back pocket. It is definitely giving us a lot of insight into what the guilds are looking for, what they are expecting in the game and it has given us a lot of great ideas for what we want to do post-launch.
BioWare typically has semi-regular maintenance windows for various services, including the website, and announced an extended period for this Tuesday. Can you explain some of the factors that necessitate that sort of downtime, and should players expect a regular maintenance schedule post-release?
All of this stuff now is leading up to just getting the game ready for launch. The extended maintenance window, the regular maintenance windows, all that stuff, it is really just getting the game ready for the big day. Post-release we will have regularly scheduled maintenance but it most likely will not be at the level it is now as far as frequency.
Can you describe the philosophy behind designing in-game systems to support player issues, such as bug reporting, stolen characters, etc?
We are doing a lot of things to address that stuff. Our Customer Service department is top notch. Our people over in Ireland are on the case. I had an issue just the other day playing on the weekend and they had me up and running, fixed and going within 20 minutes.
Good response time.
Yeah, it was great.
How does BioWare plan to address high population pockets in a zone? For example, with phasing and increased spawn rates, etc.
That is stuff that we are looking at all the telemetry on, were studying the numbers. We are seeing how long players are waiting to kill a boss monster or whatever, and we are going to tweak those spawns accordingly.
So you're making a lot of use of Georg's numbers.
Of all the game systems like crew skills, space combat, Warzones, Operations, which one do you enjoy the most? And how do you feel it brings innovation to MMORPGs?
That is a tough question. There are a lot of them. It kind of depends on how much time I have and if I'm playing with other people or not. I love going into the Flashpoints with friends or doing the Eternity Vault if there are a lot of guys around. If it is my lunch break and I am by myself I will typically jump into some space combat and run some missions on that.
Great. We are a little over two months away from launch now and launch is quickly approaching. As the team counts down the days to release, what would you say to the incoming horde that is about to assault your servers?
*Laughs* Have fun. Come on in. We have been waiting for this day for a long time and preparing for it. And like I said earlier, we're all really excited and we can't wait to open the gates.
One last question for you. In terms of the NDA, what factors are the team considering and weighing in terms of how and when to lift the NDA?
There have been a lot of internal discussions about that. I can say that we are definitely discussing it.
Cory, thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us. Have a great end to New York Comic Con this year and we will see you in game.
Thanks a lot.