After an absence of several weeks, James Ohlen has reappeared on Twitter asking players of Star Wars: The Old Republic for feedback regarding story elements found in the game. The question asks which type of storytelling is your favorite.
Endings are a topic of much contempt recently in gaming. Some argue endings should conclude the narrative, bringing resolution to the characters and leaving the audience satisfied. Others argue endings that subvert the expectations of the audience and leave a lasting impression are the most memorable. Despite which side you might agree with, it’s clear endings cannot fulfill the expectation of an entire audience. Take note that this article delves into the endings of both the Trooper and Imperial Agent storylines.
When BioWare first announced Star Wars: The Old Republic, they released a video explaining the collaboration between LucasArts and BioWare as well as some of the key features of the game. One of these features was the lack of a save button. Traditionally in BioWare games, players could see the result of their choices in-game and then load up a prior save to see what happens when they make a different choice. However, in Star Wars: The Old Republic, there is no save button; the decisions you make are the decisions you live with. As more information about the game comes to the surface, the key feature of making decisions that last seems to have fallen by the wayside.
By now, it is common knowledge that Star Wars: The Old Republic aims to make story the fourth pillar of the MMO genre. One of BioWare's key tools to achieve this is the multiplayer dialogue system. A blending of Mass Effect style conversations and traditional MMO group play, this system adds a new variable to how players choose where they want to go and who they want to bring with them. After talking with Jeff Cannata on our podcast, I decided to take a closer look at how this system will change how groups will play MMOs.
More yellow text appeared on the Developer Tracker today from both Daniel Erickson and Rob Chestney about "Peace for the Republic?", the latest Star Wars: The Old Republic HoloNet Timeline entry.
First, Rob Chestney explained how the events portrayed in Obsidian's Knights of the Old Republic 2 are relevant to Star Wars: The Old Republic, but were not covered withing the Timeline series:
Hey Folks, always nice to see the healthy debate sparked by the Timeline pieces. I love Star Wars history and particularly anything relating to KotOR. Even though KotOR 2 was developed by another developer, lots of folks at BioWare played and enjoyed it, including myself. If you look closely within the game, you will find several references to events or characters from KotOR 2, and we absolutely treat it as canon. I will also say that there have been discussions about the final fate of the Exile, who was indeed a woman according to the canon.
In a thoughtful forum post, BioWare's Lead Writer, Daniel Erickson, expanded on a subject he touched on in our interview and again with Ars Technica: the misconceptions people may have about the Sith as the "bad" side of the galactic struggle of dominance.
An interesting thread. I always like to see what responses the philosophical discussions provoke. Hopefully people noticed that there were no quotes from me saying the Sith were good -- even the interviewer ended on it being an excuse to unleash ones hate. It was a clever title masking a more complex truth, which is that morality is shaped by culture and people. Genocide, slavery, human sacrifice and more horrific wars against people who have different beliefs than can be easily counted have all been part of the human experience and to my knowledge not one culture has ever stood up and said "We're doing this because were terrible people."
While 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.
While talking with Jake Neri about the Trooper, we decided to use the opportunity to gather more information about Star Wars: The Old Republic. The LucasArts producer offered what limited insight he could into BioWare's James Ohlen and his recent comments on endgame.
First, we have to address James Ohlen. First off -- he is a total badass. He probably did more really amazing RPGs than anyone around, so he is allowed to say things like that. He is allowed to think outside of what us, the rest of us normal humans, are allowed to think about.
I agree wholeheartedly with intentions being the measure of moral alignment under normal circumstances, but incorporating it into a video game complicates matters greatly.
Since a game is finite we have to narrow down what would normally be a near infinite number of approaches to any given situation to only a few. Within these limits it's our job to pick a range of options that gives the player enough diversity to role-play and we have to communicate as clearly as possible what those options are so the player isn't unpleasantly surprised because a choice isn't quite what they thought it would be. In that sense we have to assume that when the player selects an option they are doing so "in earnest," playing at face value, because it's impossible for a designer to know the player's intention for selecting any given option.
The tricky part is trying to then add additional layers of intent onto the same choice. For example, if I accost the player with a group of thugs working for a local crimeboss, and those thugs indicate that the player can avoid an unpleasant demise if the player agrees to poison a close associate. A player might agree to the task only as lip service to get out of a fight, without ever intending to follow through on it. It's up to me to either make it 100% clear that by choosing that option you fully intend to poison your friend, or I need to account for your deception and present other options later.
Because choices can be ambiguous it's best to try and assign points on the alignment scale based on action rather than intent. In the above example, the player shouldn't get darkside points until they reach the point of no return, in this case going through with the poisoning.
This obviously, doesn't address everyone's concerns, but I hope it'll reassure everyone that we're doing our best to avoid hanging you out to dry with a bad decision.
After reviewing many of our recent speculation articles, we felt it was time to take a step back and reveal the core foundation of the logic that drives our conclusions. We strongly believe BioWare is approaching game design in a significantly different manner than what we see in other MMOs: instead of simply copying primary game elements and introducing a few new ideas, we believe the core principle at BioWare is to completely avoid significant MMO flaws through design innovation that wont negatively affect other areas of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Therefore, we believe these design innovations will compliment each other and integrate seamlessly throughout the game.
When attempting to solve common MMO problems such as stale character progression, faction or class imbalances, BioWare must use the Star Wars universe itself to creatively consolidate their design innovations. We think BioWares fourth pillar of Story actually has to permeate even further into the other pillars of Combat, Progression, and Exploration and these pillars are intertwined in such a way that they seem to solve these issues from the outset.
Arguably the greatest rift in the Star Wars: The Old Republic community came from the possibility, now reality, of four of the eight classes as force users. This discussion spawned shortly after the Sith Warrior was released and described as a melee focused class, and only grew in intensity. Having nearly a month to think about this design choice, we felt it was important to weigh in with our opinion.
incgamers has a new interview with BioWare's James Ohlen on story and endgame raiding:
"Obviously the endgame of our game is very important and something we've put a lot of thought into, but at the end of the day, there's a lot of different ways to do endgames," said Ohlen.
"I can't go into detail on how we're doing it, or if we're doing those things [battlegrounds, endgame raids] or in what form they're going to be coming, because we're still working on that and developing it, but in no way does us focusing on story in any way challenge us in that area."
The Star Wars: The Old Republic official forums received a visit from Rob Chestney earlier today. The community was treated to some insider information about the comic, and possibly the game. While Rob does remind us that the following information does not officially confirm or deny any official stance, there are some interesting things to be gleamed in the following quotes.
I always love it when you guys pick up on stuff in the comic. I try to sneak in as many game content hints as I can. At least that way, whatever you may feel about the art or the story, there's still something there to make it worth reading.
Since the announcement of Star Wars: The Old Republic, there has been a continuing discusion over whether or not the Sith are actually "evil". The original movies seem to point that direction, however the expanded universe has proclaimed them to simply be a different point of view. The real question for those of us following TOR's development is, "Are The Old Republic's Sith evil?"
Developer Blog #10 discussing voice over production work in Star Wars: The Old Republic with Shauna Perry is now online. It is quite an interesting blog to read for those looking to learn more about the way voice overs in video games get recorded and the people behind them. We found the most important thing of note (to us) in the article was a quote from Shauna Perry:
The entire game script contains approximately 40+ novels worth of content.
How much does that script weight in paper form? You could probably seriously or fatally hurt someone with that thing