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Today at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, I sat down with BioWare Austin's Daniel Erickson, Star Wars: The Old Republic lead writer, and asked him some questions about the game, some of them suggested by our very own community.
Can we expect any interesting references to Knights of the Old Republic, stuff that only KotOR players will recognize?
Absolutely. In fact, there is a huge amount of content in there that references Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2. Both games ended with a lot of unanswered questions and there’s been a lot of curiosity about what happened to Revan, what happened to the Exile, what happened when they went off to the deep space, what happened to all the other characters. We’re going to wrap up all the KotOR questions.
There are a lot of very recognizable places, although obviously most of the people have moved on.
Could any KotOR characters actually appear in TOR?
Well, there is only one person that we know of that can live 300 years.
How can The Old Republic appeal to someone who is not that much of a MMORPG fan, but is a fan of Star Wars or the KotOR games?
The one thing I’ve been saying all the time, and the reason why I’m here is if you’re a KotOR fan, you are going to love this game, I can guarantee it. It’s as much KotOR as you could ever want, and it never ends, and you can keep your character going on forever. Every one of our character stories has all of the choice, all of the amazing storyline, anything that you’d want in a KotOR sequel, expect that there are 8 of them and they’re all different.
Alexsau1991: Are the use of single/duel/double lightsaber going to be limited to their respective advanced classes or are they specialisations? I.e. could a Sith Marauder, for example, wield only a single blade if he or she so wished, and could a Sith Juggernaut wield two?
Right now, the double-bladed lightsaber and the dual-wielded lightsaber are connected with the advanced classes. Any Jedi or Sith can have a single lightsaber. But then the double-bladed lightsaber, the dual-wielded lightsaber are with specific classes. Right now the Consulars and Inquisitors have the double-bladed lightsaber the dual-wielded lightsaber is only for the Warrior and Knight advanced classes.
Mozzillest: Is there any way people can mod their companion characters? From changing armor and weapons to having different names - so it doesn't look like every Sith Warrior class has the same Twi'lek following them around.
They are very customizable in terms of the look and feel. Each class has its own companion characters, they can be entirely looted, entirely kitted out, like in other BioWare games, which makes the whole loot routine a very interesting one, since someone can try to get some loot for their companion character that they don’t even have with them right now. Not only can you customize how they look and what outfits you put on them, they also have, beyond their normal abilities, a customizable AI kit, so you can give them a grenade kit or a healing kit, which tell them to behave in a different way. They will also level up, just like you’d expect in an RPG.
Heaven's Agent: Are there going to be more than two races available for each class?
We haven’t released a number specifically. We’ve given a token one for each one right now, we’re trying to make it fit the setting as much as possible. It will keep getting tweaked.
Heaven's Agent: What reasoning was used to decide to limit races to specific classes?
Different species are limited to different classes, but it’s not necessarily a one-to-one. It’s really limited based on what you can expect based on where the galaxy is back then, so although you might, for instance, see Zabraks in several different classes, you are not going to see a Sith Pureblood playing a Jedi.
It’s the first time the Sith Pureblood appear in a game, isn’t it?
Absolutely. Actually, they haven’t really appeared outside the comic books before. And what’s interesting is that these Sith “Purebloods” are not in fact of pure Sith blood. The real purebloods are actually a much more alien race. These are Sith that still have enough Sith blood in them that they still have the red color, still have the facial tentacles. So you can see that they are Sith.
Can you tell us more about the Chiss in TOR?
One of the things we did early on is we tried to find a species that really wasn’t very well known in the modern day and make them allies with the Empire. The Chiss, as we know from the EU, will eventually disappear after this for a while. They get rediscovered later. The Empire grabbed the Chiss on their way in, and they made a deal with the Chiss Ascendancy. They are the only Imperial allies out in the galaxy. All the other people that are aliens on that side were basically conquered people.
I am personally a huge Thrawn fan, my favorite books of the Expanded Universe are the ones by Timothy Zahn. There are no force-blocking wombats in the game, but I loved Thrawn.
Heaven's Agent: Will we have some means of choosing our character's appearance, regardless of the equipment we wear?
An amazing amount, actually. You can choose your face features, tattoos, scars, which look amazing in the game, there’s some stuff that comes only with very specific character types as well. The Sith Inquisitor has a choice of different slave brands. And with different species, genders and body types, you can have a pretty wide range of characters. One of the things we didn’t want to do was start your character, walk out the door, and then see yourself.
Heaven's Agent: What methods are there for acquiring possessions to decorate houses/ships? Rare drops? Crafted goods?
We have said that there is going to be starship customization, but we’re not going into exact details right now. We made the starships incredibly intricate and detailed to begin with, so we’re still working out what’s the best way of doing customization.
Are there any more planets to be announced?
We are not done announcing planets. One of the things we have to point out to those of you who already played the game here is that what you guys are playing are the origin worlds, and the origin worlds, even the biggest ones, are less than a quarter the size of a normal planet. Our worlds are huge and as you’ve seen, they’re not like most MMO worlds, not one, flat plane that kind of curves. They are dense, intricate and detailed. The game is huge.
Alexsau1991: Will there be an announcement when the beta opens for Europeans, or will it be an unnoticed transition?
Hard to say for now. Beta for us is not something we schedule. Beta comes along when we think we’re done, we think we squashed all the bugs, and then we need you guys to come in and say “no, you guys suck”.
Will the players be able to influence the game world to any extent?
Some of the stuff, especially in terms of the larger scale wars. But overall, it’s a more directed type of game. You’ll obviously be changing your own story, what characters return, etc. In terms of changing the fate of the entire galaxy, it will be a pretty limited scope.
Can you tell us more about the space combat?
We sat down and we looked at what was going to look Star Wars. We wanted something that was action-packed, cinematic, that looked like the movies. We explored a number of different ideas. We didn’t want to make it so that you’d just wander around and see if there’s any interesting meteors in the area. Space combat areas, like the rest of the game, are directed, interesting story events.
How much research into the Star Wars universe, the Expanded Universe did you need to do for this game?
We have to really know Star Wars. We respect what came beforehand, and we want to make sure that our stuff fits in. We’re not here to bust up the EU and make it into something new. We not only have to respect the EU that makes sense, but also the parts of the EU that are used within other parts of the EU, and come up with things thanks to which that this actually does make sense because of this and this.
Like the Holiday Special?
Not so much of the Life Day. There’s not that much singing going on in the game.
There’s a lot of ancillary products that we love that are not canon, luckily, like Star Wars Tales. One we have in the office is Hate Leads to Lolipops, which is a ridiculous, non-canon story about Palpatine finding a Darth Maul toddler, and luring him to the Dark Side with candy. There’s a lot of the stuff that’s fun, but we don’t have to worry about. But we’re really trying to stick with the canon stuff. One thing that people are really going to notice is, especially with the Empire, we really tried to venerate the Sith that came before in the EU, to really include references to all the prior Sith Lords. It’s pretty complicated stuff.
Are there any small references to the sillier parts of the EU?
We tried to stay away from it. One of the things that is always really important to me when building a fiction is that our games are not self-referential. They do not break character, they do not break the fourth wall. There’s plenty of games that do that. What we’re trying to do is build an experience in which there’s lots of humor in the game, but the humor comes from funny characters, not ones saying “Hey, we’re in a game! And it’s Star Wars, and it’s silly!’.
Any Gungans or Ewoks in the game?
We have announced no Gungans so far. I’m fairly sure, we did the research, that at this point in time Naboo has not been discovered. And we have not announced anything on Endor yet.