Fans of Star Wars: The Old Republic may have a release date (December 20, 2011), but that doesn't mean they're any less hungry for information on the upcoming MMORPG from BioWare. The first of two SWTOR related panels was held early Friday afternoon at New York Comic Con, debuting a new trailer and allowing some of the development team to tell fans about the game.
Before introducing the panelists, they showed the mash-up trailer that took clips from all three prior cinematic trailers for the game, to much applause.
BioWare Austin's Senior Community Manager Stephen Reid led the panel, joined by Game Director James Ohlen, Writing Director Daniel Erickson, and Cory Butler, Live Producer.
Reid asked the fans "who knows anything about The Old Republic?" and virtually everyone in the panel room cheered. An overview of the game came next to fill in the few attendees who are in the dark about it. The game is an MMORPG that takes place about 3,600 years before the original trilogy of films in the Star Wars mythos. The three cinematic trailers lead directly into the game's story. Each of the eight classes, based on iconic Star Wars character types, has "hundreds" of hours of wholly unique gameplay. There is also an overarching story that you'll play with thousands of other gamers.
"But we're making an MMO, not a movie, and gameplay is very important to us as well," said Reid.
Reid went on to note that the entire studio is working solely on this game. Butler's team is dedicated solely to making sure the servers run 24/7. Since last march, there have been 4.8 million hours of testing in the game, so they are very committed to making this the best game they can.
Erickson announced that there are 15 Flashpoints shipping at launch. "These are what you think of in an MMO as a dungeon." "There will always be a Flashoint of the appropriate level that you can do through the entire leveling experience. There are several that are just endgame Flashpoints, as well." These group-focused gameplay moments are split between being more action-focused, more story-focused, and more puzzle-focused. They will also have hard modes once you reach the level cap of 50, so that you can play them again.
In addition, there are large-scale endgame group battles called Operations. In addition to the one they've shown, Eternity Vault, they soft-announced a new Operation at the panel. A screenshot showing a Hutt was on screen, and Erickson said if these opportunistic gangsters are around with two factions trying to destroy each other, they'll "seize the opportunity."
Warzones, the Player vs Player battles in the game were next. Huttball is the one that has been demoed at several conventions, and they've discussed the second, on Alderaan, in the past. Now a new gameplay trailer for the third war zone, The Voidstar, is being shown. This is an ancient abandoned Imperial yessel. "We were inspired by the boarding sequence in Episode IV," said Ohlen. In this, each player has to move from zone to zone in the warship and try to set charges to blow up key points. There are four sections, and you have to fight through to try to get a data core. It sounds familiar to "Rush" in Battlefield 3, with one team trying to capture points and the other trying to defend.
"We wanted to have social areas in the game where players can easily meet up with, and are encouraged to meet up with, other players." So for these Social Zones, you can go to your respective faction's fleet, meet players to go on Flashpoints and Operations, or trade, buy, and sell items. Fans who purchase the collector's edition of the game have a separate VIP section in their fleet as well.
After the presentation, they started the fan Q&A, which Drew Karpyshyn, lead writer of the game's predecessor Knights of the Old Republic and writer of the novel Revan joined.
Erickson confirmed to a fan that he and his team are still writing, but that they're done writing the game that's shipping, heavily implying expansions are already being worked on.
The team couldn't comment on any smartphone apps that might integrate into the game, and couldn't talk about the whole world PvP yet either.
A fan asked about gear and abilities that's different based off of your light side or dark side points. Ohlen said that light side dark side is important to Star Wars, and important to the game as well. He announced that going dark side will actually corrupt your character, changing their look. There are also items that you'll receive based on your choices, but right now they're staying away from abilities. There are ways to "repent" as a high-level player and change back from dark to light (or vice versa).
Pyzak will not be in the game for launch "but if we can get it in at a later date, you never know," said Ohlen.
A fan asked if bounty hunters can actually take bounties, and was told not at launch for sure.
Drew Karpyshyn did reveal that in his new novel, Revan, will be where the Emperor and his rise to power will be shown for the first time, ahead of the game.
The fan Q&A was cut short (as a full hour-long Q&A was scheduled for Friday evening), and a new game trailer was revealed. In it, we saw the in-game models of characters that have been shown in the cinematic trailers, including a force choke by Darth Malgus. Vehicles, new weapons, and more were shown off as well.
The release date was also changed to a global release date of December 20, 2011. So those in Europe don't have to wait a couple extra days anymore.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!