Use the Force, be the Sith
Nothing says "holiday season" this year quite like a Sith hero.
December 20th, 2011
01:40 PM ET

Use the Force, be the Sith

Star Wars: The Old Republic” wants to put geeks and nerds in the “Star Wars” universe with its new massively multiplayer online (MMO) game officially released today. As organized as the "Star Wars" fan base is, it's no surprise that game-makers BioWare and Electronic Arts' servers are swamped.

While some of those who preordered were able to start playing around December 13, the development team at BioWare is very anxious for fans of the classic franchise to jump in and experience what it is like to live with (and perhaps battle against) Jedi and Sith. The writing team for the game spent 60 man years (that’s 525,600 hours) in crafting a world that they know is going to be closely analyzed by “Star Wars” enthusiasts.

Daniel Erickson, the lead writer on “SWTOR,” and his writing team pored over every bit of information they could get – from movies to books to comics to encyclopedias. He said they have to be on their game because there are three different types of fans out there, and they will all be looking for details specific to their memories of “Star Wars.”

“There’s folks like you and me who are first generation. Our thoughts when we think ‘Star Wars’ is immediately ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and the big scenes from that,” Erickson said. “Then we have a whole generation after that who the prequels are really what ‘Star Wars’ is for them. Then we have the third generation coming after that who show up at the conventions to play the game in their Commander Cody outfit from the ‘Clone Wars’ cartoon.”

Erickson said they tried to represent the "Star Wars" world as a normal, functioning world and not go into the minutia or crazy trivia. They wanted to provide enough information and detail that was relevant to the character class being played. But, at the same time, they respected the franchise and recognized that good storytelling is very important to the “Star Wars” legacy.

“If you are just going to nerd out on ‘Star Wars,’ the only people who are going to enjoy it are other people who are going to hard-core nerd out on ‘Star Wars,’” he said. “The thing that makes ‘Star Wars’ so brilliant, and why we all loved it in the first place, is because ‘Star Wars’ is extremely acceptable and is very universal. It’s sort of the great Western fairy tale. So, ‘Star Wars’ done well should be totally accessible for anybody who jumps in.”

There are eight classes featured in “SWTOR,” and each class has its own unique storyline. Erickson said the team expects a majority of people to gravitate to being a Sith or Jedi, each of which has two individual classes to choose from. But there are four other classes that are not Force based and give players options to experience parts of the “Star Wars” universe that they never have before.

“I know when I was a kid, I always wanted Luke’s powers, but I didn’t want to be Luke. I wanted to be Han. Han was awesome. Han got the girl. He had an ultra-cool life.”

The audience for the game is expected to fall into three categories: the “Star Wars” fan, the MMO fan and the BioWare fan who is used to playing the company’s role-playing games. Erickson said there is plenty for everyone.

The “Star Wars” fans will get to live their own “Star Wars” trilogy. Each story has three giant pieces to it that are larger than the normal role-playing game. Erickson describes it as “finally getting to live and star in your own ‘Star Wars’ trilogy of movies”

The MMO fan is likely to enjoy the context and high production values surrounding the activities they will do in the game. Sure, you’ll get to kill lots of people and creatures, but those kills will have meaning and understanding rather than just killing as “grinding.”

“Getting a consistent world and galaxy that holds together, that actually puts way more meaning on all of the great activities that you always enjoyed doing,” Erickson said. “You’re not just feeling powerful and just feeling like you’re accomplished in this world because you’ve got really cool outfits on. The whole world is reinforcing your fantasy.”

While there is guild building to allow for groups of players to take on large missions, the solo player can also have great success, but at a cost. Erickson said lone wolf players will miss out on some of the best content involving multiplayer missions, but they will still have an amazing RPG experience.

Erickson said their ultimate goal is to make all the fans feel comfortable and immersed in the game environment and experience. “Star Wars” has its own life with big, overarching themes, good versus evil, and the space opera/1950s serial action film feel, he said. And despite changing the characters and the time period and the main plots, he thinks people will “nerd out.”

“There’s a quintessentially 'Star Wars' feel that when you turn it on, you go, ‘Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it. This feels like 'Star Wars.'’ You can still settle in to your nerd phase and say this is the Star Wars I know and love.”

soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. schleprock

    "As organized as the "Star Wars" fan base is, it's no surprise that game-makers BioWare and Electronic Arts' servers are swamped."

    What on Earth is this supposed to mean? Poorly written article.

    December 22, 2011 at 6:47 am |
    • Renu

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      November 15, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  2. Mike

    A lot of people, including a lot of my friends, have been referring to this as "WoW in space". That's not, exactly, an unfair comparison. The game does implement quite a few WoW gameplay mechanics... however, most of those mechanics are now MMO staples (and many of them, one could argue, didn't originate with WoW... for example, DAoC had travel routes before WoW even launched.) But I think the biggest case that could be made for why this isn't WoW is the story-centric gameplay. In WoW, you basically bounce from quest to quest, one of many adventurers doing so. There's nothing particularly special about your role in the galaxy, because even as a character you know that everyone else is doing the same thing. In SWTOR, many characters will experience their character's storyline differently because they make different choices in the game, and those choices have long lasting effects, such as changing NPC's opinions of you, making some quests available or not, etc. Every character's experience is more or less unique (obviously some players will end up choosing the exact same options in all their dialogs just because those choices adhere to a certain archetypical response, so it's not completely unique, but it has the capacity to be so through the sheer number of choices and outcomes available).

    If you're looking for an MMO that plays more like a single player game (specifically a single player Bioware game, like Knights of the Old Republic or Neverwinter Nights), this is your game. All those story options that pulled gamers like myself into past bioware games are present in this one as well, but in the wrapping of an MMO.

    December 21, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  3. someguy

    All i know is my kids really enjoy it and it looks very clean and glossy on thier monitors
    they say they like it more than WoW and that PVP in this game is pretty darn good

    December 21, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  4. Myto Senseworth

    Games.....waste of time.....

    December 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • slamwich

      Comment sections.... waste of time....

      December 21, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • chris

      Well aren't you an ignorant jerk.

      December 21, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Thatdude

      Hobbies a waste of time...

      December 21, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Gamer

      Life . . . waste of time . . .

      Go watch American Beauty and leave us alone.

      December 21, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Schmedley

      Wasting time is the whole point, isn't it? I'm trying to think of something that isn't a waste of time... Work? Nope. Movies? Nope. Fixing the house? Waste of time and money... Drawing a blank here...

      December 21, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  5. Cygnus Rising

    This game is a lot of fun. I never enjoyed World of Warcraft the way I have with this game.

    December 21, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Raul

      Jak zzoacbyłem ostatnie dwa zdjęcia, zanim przeczytałem wpis, to wyglądało to dla mnie jak miejsce, gdzie dzielni mieszkańcy Alaski mają rzeźnię, a wzorki są zrobione z krwi.

      February 1, 2012 at 2:43 am |
  6. Dinosaur1972

    Dear author .. you don't POUR over information. You PORE over it. After that, you should study journalism.

    December 21, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • James Hawk III

      *sigh* Yes. I grieve for the destruction of the English language–this gets through copy edit (assuming there's copy edit) because human beings have ceded that to word processor spell checkers.

      December 22, 2011 at 7:16 am |
  7. Rob

    just like all the other MMORPGs, it won't take off until they stop charging a fee on top of the cost of the game....

    December 21, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Little Jeffy

      Yea, that explains why the MMORPG with the most subscribers of all time has always had a fee.

      If Old Republic becomes the next MMORPG standard "Setting the Bar Here" game, people will flock to it like they did to WoW. They won't care about subscription fees.

      If the performance of the game is not clean, polished, and deep enough at launch, they'll go back to WoW, and then you're right they won't be able to recover until they make it a "Free to Play" game long enough to draw the audience back.

      December 21, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • BlueDestiny

      You're right, Free To Play and MT are the new model, the only one that makes sense. I never understood why someone would pay a monthly fee for a game, especially since there's 4 of us in the household, making a whopping $60 a month and 2 of which play very casually and not regularly. It doesn't make sense for paying monthly unless you're playing a lot of hours all the time. For casual players, FTP is the only way to go, and for the rest of us, makes alot of sense too.

      December 22, 2011 at 3:13 am |
      • Vida

        That terminally felwad study was an MMFA item a while back, Mark. I noted there that the gee, thanks standard reminded me of a line from Mrs. Loober (Luber?) on the recurring Todd and Lisa skits with the original cast: Count your blessings, Todd. At least you have a spine. Those damn American poor people ingrates, huh?

        November 16, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • BlueDestiny

      PS meant that makes for $60 a month in monthly gaming fees. Forgot to mention, the other alternative is Lifetime subscriptions, which I'm a fan of, too. Hate monthly fees. Terrible idea, always was, always will be.

      December 22, 2011 at 3:15 am |
  8. Gross

    wanted Luke's powers but wanted to be Han because he got the girl? So, in reality, if Luke got to bang his sister, you would have wanted to be Luke.....disturbing...

    December 21, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  9. Pete

    I played SW Galaxies and had lots of fun, but at the end of the day, 13 million go back to Warcraft.

    December 21, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • DarthWhodey

      I've played wow since it first released. Picked this game up last night and within the first 10 min of playing decided to cancel my wow membership. Old republic is one of the best games I have played and I believe it will be the first mmo to actually compete with wow. Pick this game up if your a fan of mmo's or star wars it is alot of fun.

      December 21, 2011 at 10:20 am |
      • Thad

        You should go outside or try talking to a girl.

        December 21, 2011 at 11:12 am |
      • DarthWhodey

        Im actually married thank you.

        December 21, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • MoreGun89

      They actually cancelled SWG right before TOR's release. The game has been more than polished before even beta and is amazing! It's not a grindfest, has a great story, fantastic combat, and the multiplayer conversations and missions are fantastic! Excellent game, while it still has a few minute bugs, I really can't count them against the game at all. We'll put it this way, after 7 days of playing off and on, I'm still in awe!

      December 21, 2011 at 11:51 am |
      • Julie

        Minute bugs? How about all the folks with 2+ hour server queues? Seems like a pretty big one to me...

        December 21, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
      • not a bug

        the game just came out, Everquest had wait times, too

        December 21, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
      • Mike

        The 2+ hour wait time isn't a bug, it's the fact that the servers aren't built for the number of people attempting to access with them... and for good reason. Every game, including WoW, had a major drawdown in subscriptions shortly after launch. The good ones increase back up later, but it's a prudent move not to instantly provide for 10 million simultaneous players in a game that "only" has a million or so pre-orders. The queues will go away as some people move on to other things, or as people move to lower population servers. EQ 2 had them, Warhammer Online had them... it's fairly normal. And it could be worse... WoW's servers weren't even stable for the first week and a half after launch, and once they were, the queues on some servers were on the order of 5 hours or more.

        There are a few graphics bugs still... apparently they made characters scalable so they could have Hologram versions of them, but sometimes the hologram sized one (without the hologram texture) is used in the game world, and you end up holding a conversation with (or getting yelled at by) a certain angry 3 inch tall trooper lieutenant. That and a few lighting bugs are the only eye grabbing ones I've seen so far.

        December 21, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  10. Julie

    The game is a blast! I got in early because I pre-ordered the game, and I'm running around the galaxy as a bounty hunter, shooting things in the face and trying to recover my stolen space ship. Even if you're not a huge star wars fan, it's a nice change of pace from most fantasy-based MMO's, and there's plenty of solo content to keep MMO newbies happy!

    December 20, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  11. OG

    Geeks and Nerds? Really..? You dont have to be a geek to get into the Star Wars universe.

    December 20, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Joe Shimo

      Lies.

      December 20, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Thad

      Shut up nerd.

      December 21, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  12. Skippy

    I would like to think they could get a MINKA KELLY character in here.....ggggrrrrrrrr

    December 20, 2011 at 5:04 pm |