The panel at Comic Con talked mainly about the story in The Old Republic. Consisting of James Ohlen, the Studio Creative Director and Lead Designer, Drew Karpyshyn the Principal Writer and Alexander Freed, the Managing Editor, the first bit of information they revealed was that, yes, there would be space combat. As James said, “If you have starships with turrets and guns, you’ll just have to have something to use them on.”
The Bioware team of writers is three times as large as the Knights of the Old Republic team and have been working on the story three times as long. “It’s an enormous challenge and yet incredibly satisfying working this huge blank canvas,” said Alex, “Every class in The Old Republic has a story longer than KOTOR.” Then as you add on the multiplayer story, the World quests and the personal quests, you’ll see that SW:TOR begins to amount to ten times (and larger) the size and story of KOTOR.
There are three basic types of story arcs and hence quests in SW:TOR, the class quests in which your personal story arcs are also covered: the world quests which are one-off quests and are shared, that is anyone can do the quests. These quests tell the overall story of the world. Players participate in the overall conflict and these will also tailor to your class in that they will react differently depending on your class; and finally, what Bioware is calling Flash Points – these are your group stories, similar to a dungeon and are repeatable. So yes, you can kill the Captain (the very first demo revealed by Bioware) over and over again.
Throughout the presentation, the panelists reiterated that the Bioware touch will permeate SW:TOR. “We will keep track of what you’ve done,” said Drew. “You will feel the consequences of your history with and NPC and your actions will be revealed in multiplay dialog.” Which is to say that your group mates might find out what you’ve really been doing if an NPC growls at you while welcoming them in a Flash Point quest.
James was careful to let us know though, that darkside / lightside points will only be accumulated based on your personal choices. Which is to say, if your group leader decides to kill the Captain although you’ve argued against it in the dialogue, instead of getting darkside points for killing him, you get instead, lightside points for arguing against it. “The puppy is still dead,” said James to much laughter. “But you don’t take the fall for it.”
“You can be as evil as a Jedi, or as good as a Sith as you like,” Alex reminded the audience, “But you cannot really switch factions. You never cross over.”
From there, we went onto audience questions and a few other bits of information were revealed, such as:
After the panel, I met with Alexander Freed and we spoke further about the Companions. The intent is to make Companions more than just window dressing. Yes, they can be customized and equipped, and they will grow in level as well. The Companion you are trotting around with at level five will be less powerful than at level 50. Each class will have an explicit set of companion characters, and who you end up with will be attained through quests and story activity.
“Companions will augment your abilities,” said Alex, “they won’t replace players, but depending on your class, the companion who is a doctor or a Sith apprentice could certainly help you do something you otherwise couldn’t do solo.”
Players can gather several different companions, but will not be able to have more than one companion out at a time. Their loyalty is not guaranteed and your actions and choices in the world will impact they loyalty to you. Your companions will hang out in your starship (player housing) and can dislike each other.
Given that Bioware loves making stories where player decisions and choices really impact the story they play, I asked Alex about it. After laughing at my description of making decisions that could turn around and bite you in the tush 10 levels later, he said that they obviously had to be more careful with that in an MMO, assuring me that it wasn’t all that bad. “We don’t want people to think… What? I have to re-roll my character??”
The choices you make impact your personal story, but won’t close out important parts of the world story, just make it a different flavor. There will be great re-playability for the players that like to level very quickly and roll another class as each class has its own story, and you can dance on the line to the other side to see how that story plays out, especially if you’ve played it straight the first time.
Alex again stressed, without providing details, “Dark side / light side points in the Flash Point games are only applied the way you want. Only you will affect your alignment.”
So there we are - all the information on Companions available at this point in time. No further information on Companion leveling or whether you can direct a Companion like a pet – maybe you can try and they only obey if they really, really, really like you.
“Han, run in there and engage.”
“What? Are you crazy? I don’t love you that much!”
Wouldn’t that be something though?