First and foremost: choice. Never before in the history of MMOs have there been quests with multiple outcomes depending on your actions, and with those actions having long-term effects. As in previous BioWare games, the circumstances of your birth do not determine whether you’re good or evil; it’s your actions that determine your alignment with the Force. In The Old Republic, you’ll frequently make difficult choices about whether to follow the Dark Side of the Force and do something despicable for a quick reward, or do the right thing and earn Light Side points for your character. The kicker: this is an MMO, so unlike a traditional RPG, you can’t save and go back to see what would have happened if you’d taken the other road. You’re stuck with your choices, so you must choose wisely. Adding this level of choice is a huge undertaking that literally doubles the workload of the game’s writing team.
“We’re really excited about bringing story to the MMO space,” says Muzyka. “We love MMOs, we play pretty much all of them collectively, and we think there are a lot of amazing games out there, but we think we’re adding something new. In addition to exploration, customization, progression, and combat, we’re adding a meaningful story that you get to play through as a character. You get to live the experience as a Jedi, Sith, or other classes.”
Quests the design team has in mind - formulated by saturating countless whiteboards with fantasies based on the movies - are complex operations involving multiple objectives with several group members acting as a team, says Muzyka. “The thing about Star Wars is that it’s not all about combat or exploration; there are some subtle moments, too, like where Obi-Wan is sneaking through the Death Star. You’re doing some things kind of behind the scenes that are really important, and you feel like you have a purpose. Imagine you’re in that role, and you’re the one that’s turning off the Death Star’s tractor beams and force fields.” Meanwhile, your friends are fighting their way through guards to rescue a hostage or to escape.
For Ohlen, this project is about realizing the perpetual RPG he’s dreamed of since working on Baldur’s Gate: “I always wanted a space where I could, as a player, go and play my RPG forever. I’ve got those characters, I’ve got my stuff, and I’m just going to keep having adventures in this world. Even sequel RPGs start over, right? Now, it’s new characters in a new place, and we’re going to start you at level 1. You never get that campaign feel. My first thought when they brought up the idea that we were going to do this story-based RPG was, ‘Wow, we can actually have this, a place where I can go with my friends and have these adventures and do these stories, and we can keep doing it.’”
Principal Lead Writer Daniel Ericson estimates that The Old Republic will have more quest content at launch than every BioWare RPG to date, combined. That list includes Baldur’s Gate (and its Tales of the Sword Coast expansion), Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn (and its Throne of Bhaal expansion), Neverwinter Nights (and its three expansions), KOTOR, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect. Fans who were expecting a KOTOR III will not be disappointed, says Muzyka. “We joke that we actually are doing KOTOR III, IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII. It has that much content in it.” Essentially, the team is creating multiple games - if you play every quest as a Republic character and then start a Sith character, Ericson promises you won’t see a single repeated quest anywhere.