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Star Wars: The Old Republic – hands-on

“The Sith is an action-point class. Do you play many MMO games?”
“A few.”
“So he plays a bit like the rogu... oh, you’ve got it.”

At that point, with the help of BioWare’s Rich Vogel, we’re knee deep in Republic corpses, taking down wave after wave of plastic-clad troopers. Our Sith character is deflecting their blaster fire with his lightsaber while we come to grips with his abilities. He earns points by swiping and smashing; he can then spend them on finishing moves. We Force-choke one foe, hanging him by his neck, watching his legs writhe in pain. As he drops to the floor, trying to catch his breath, we turn away and slide a lightsaber into his ribs.

Even at this early stage, The Old Republic is as polished, as playable and as slick as... that other major MMO. Why? How? Because BioWare Austin, the studio responsible, have paid attention to the details from the very start. And their ambition seems limitless. They want to make an MMORPG that encapsulates the essence of their single-player games: a true online sequel to classics like Knights of the Old Republic and Baldur’s Gate. They want to make a game with proficient, modern production values, fully voiced cutscenes and multi-threaded conversations. They want to reduce the grind – removing the tedious fetch 10 and kill 20 quests that plague the genre – and tie everything into their story. They want to introduce genuine consequence, giving parties of players the kind of moral choices their single-player games have become famous for. Except that in this world, there are no save games, no chances to go back and see what might have happened.

Right now, this is the most exciting game in development. As the aforementioned Force-choked trooper slides to the floor, clutching his chest, a horrifying truth becomes apparent: The Old Republic is a credible World of Warcraft killer.

What’s extraordinary is just how playable it is, even at this stage. BioWare have been playing with the working game for months, and are now smoothing the myriad details into a workable whole. “We didn’t want to show the game until there was something playable,” says studio co-director Rich Vogel. “We didn’t even want to announce the game until we had something.” And, as it turns out, the huge Austin studio has already created plenty. “The game is playable. We have a server up and running, we can play the game at home.”

The promise is huge: an MMO that is both as intuitive as an action title and as engrossing as a story-led game. The Star Wars universe, now a few hundred years along from the events of Knights of the Old Republic, and thousands of years before the events of the movies, is the perfect setting for a sci-fi MMO. It’s going to be as rich and deep as any MMO has ever been. But it might not have been this way.

The other studio co-director, Gordon Walton, explains that BioWare could easily have ended up making an MMO other than this one. “We had many options, and we knocked it down two or three several times, but everything came back to Knights of the Old Republic. It was the right universe. We just had to make the deal, so we did.”

Once that deal had been struck there was the formidable task of creating a studio of over a hundred people, which would then produce the content required to fill out a massive, multiplayer world. “BioWare Austin came in to existence in early 2006... We started the game working with only a few people. We’re now a very, very large studio,” says Walton. “Some of the staff came from SOE, but the early seeds were all BioWare. James (Ohlen) has some considerable experience; he was the lead designer on Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate 2, Neverwinter Nights and KotOR. We knew who the high level core creative team was going be. But the key hire that wasn’t settled on day one was Ohlen, because we didn’t know who we would get.”

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82 comments

  • nawkhelson - November 18, 2009 1:28 a.m.

    WoW sucks, wasted 3 years playing that...i have high hopes for this...
  • faevalentine - July 28, 2009 5:22 a.m.

    I'd love to play this with other ex-SWG players out there. PM me if you are one! That game was cool in it's hayday. WOW is the booty-call of MMOs - nothing new or exciting, but always available. As for whether European countries' apparent indifference to the Star Wars license could hinder this game, I doubt it. Never underestimate the power of a good license.
  • showdowturbosplat - July 14, 2009 10:49 p.m.

    i already got a acount on this im all set for dat game
  • shelcobsohn - July 14, 2009 7:42 p.m.

    8==D
  • shelcobsohn - July 14, 2009 7:39 p.m.

    i need a better computer, right now. i need to play this game and my laptop is most definitely not going to run it, considering it cant even run wow smoothly. send me stuff
  • lorht - July 12, 2009 8:28 p.m.

    I realy hope that swtor will crush world of warcraft and that it will be like i hope it will be, i think it will be released mid 2010 If anyone is looking for a good Darkside raiding guild then please take a look at www.untamed.co.nr
  • may.be.vital - July 12, 2009 6:51 a.m.

    I WANT!!!!
  • walrusthewill - July 11, 2009 9:52 p.m.

    Be careful, anything that relies on a few selling points and telling them over and over again has to be treated carefully,(fully voiced, no mission twice), Plus star wars only has the huge fan base here in America, all those Korean and German and French people arent as into star wars as America is, since it is geared towards Americans. NEVER NEVER EVER call a mmo a WOW killer, there is no such thing, people are too lazy to begin new connections and star from scratch, and that is the only reason people have stayed with WOW over some arguably better games such as Conan and WAR(its a shame what happened to it). Thats my five sense, there will not be a WOW killer probably till past when the world is supposed to end(2012 is my call)
  • Icehearted - July 10, 2009 1:07 a.m.

    If this article was any fluffier it'd be made off bunnies. I'll reserve my opinion about how great this game is after I've actually tried it for myself. I certainly hope, but sincerely doubt, this game will avoid grinding and time sinks, which are exactly what finally turned me off from MMOs to begin with. Again, I'll just wait and see what they decide to do.
  • Sareith - July 9, 2009 12:53 p.m.

    Hmmm Cool mabey it will be better then their last games not saying those sucked they were great it's just they were a little disapointing.
  • okinaru666 - July 9, 2009 2:10 a.m.

    I loved the Baldur's gate and KotOR series and i cant wait for this game
  • Gwydion80 - July 8, 2009 7:26 p.m.

    If they keep away from the wow leveling system I will be happy. I hope they can make it more like the d20 system leveling, it will make each character more unique.
  • TheCommunist - July 8, 2009 3:48 p.m.

    Star Wars MMO... wasn't there already one like that called galaxies or something?????
  • sean1773 - July 8, 2009 1:18 p.m.

    this sounds likes its going to be hit or miss. if they do everything they want to it will blow many minds. if not it will be money wasted and dreams of a story driven mmo will stay dreams
  • MitchyTdawg - July 8, 2009 6:17 a.m.

    there is no way my pc is going to be able to play this :/
  • jar-head - July 8, 2009 2:19 a.m.

    Gr kicks all and any ass. i'll meet the rest of you sw nerds in december for this game under Jarhead
  • gijas04 - July 8, 2009 1:14 a.m.

    " Or, hey, space-combat? Vogel raises an eyebrow. “Oh, we have all that too." This is what I loved most bout SW Galaxies.
  • revanchist - July 7, 2009 11:08 p.m.

    FINALLY, something to do besides naxx!
  • doomdoomdoom - July 7, 2009 10:32 p.m.

    this doesn't really look to good to much like cartoon if it is rated E i am going abandon all hope if it is another MMO i am going cry (like a man) if the game is shit i am going to laugh at u all if the game is good i should be on xbox and ps3
  • Master_Leep - July 7, 2009 9:21 p.m.

    In a lot of the screen shots, it looks as though the player is on foot. Even at level one there should be a way to ride around on a speeder, tauntaun,hover car, or something. Not only is it Star Wars, but who wants to run around for miles in anonther MMO. That was always an issue for me, running around for ever...

Showing 1-20 of 82 comments

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