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Star Wars: The Old Republic Column: Making the 'Super Secret Space Project' Great

By Michael Bitton on September 18, 2013

BioWare didn’t have an official presence for Star Wars: The Old Republic on the PAX Prime floor this year, but the team was still determined to make some news for fans of the game. At the PAX Prime Community Cantina tour, BioWare unveiled a new teaser video, finally giving fans a sneak peek at the game’s “Super Secret Space Project”.

If you’re unfamiliar with the SSSP, it’s essentially BioWare’s redeeming answer to the crappy space game they delivered to us at launch. A team at BioWare Austin has been working away at this thing for some time, but we haven’t heard or seen anything on it up until this year’s PAX Prime. The video shown was incredibly brief, but seemed to hint at off-rails space combat and perhaps even space PvP. While the latter would certainly be an appreciated bonus, the former is absolutely essential.

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Since PAX, there have been a number of data-mined leaks that paint a pretty positive picture as far as what could be in store for fans looking forward to a meatier space combat game, but given the iterative nature of game development, I’m not going to spend time on them here today as many of the gameplay hints or art could be completely invalid by now. If you’re that curious to find out what people have dug up, a cursory Google search should do the job for you.

What I will talk about this week is what I feel BioWare can do to create a meaningful and compelling space game that really helps Star Wars: The Old Republic live up to its potential.

Off-Rails Gameplay & Distinct Zones

The first is almost a given considering the video we’ve seen, but it’s still the most important aspect of whatever this project ends up being. Anything delivered using the original implementation of space combat just won’t cut it. I want full control over my ship and so do the vast majority of players who give a damn about the space game at all.

Zones are important too. The current game focuses on instanced missions as a structure. Instead, we should be able to launch from a planet right into its space sector and hyperjump out to other sectors and fly around.  Enemies should be around to kill and any associated quests should have us play in an open space. However, I don’t mind the use of instanced missions in some cases if BioWare is also looking to further a space-related story arc with this project.

The Game’s First Boxed Expansion

If this isn’t already the plan, it should be. As a boxed expansion,  Star Wars: The Old Republic would enjoy a major and renewed marketing push and also a fresh new presence on retail shelves. What better way to stand out as an expansion than to offer completely new gameplay options? Adding new zones, races, and other typical content with boxed expansions is getting pretty tiresome at this point. What happened to the days where expansions were reserved for major system additions? This fits the bill perfectly.

A boxed expansion also ensures the project can feature the breadth and depth of features, content, and systems needed to do a proper space game. This should be a major moment for Star Wars: The Old Republic, not a cobbled together main feature of one of the game’s numbered updates.

A New Story and ‘Class’

A revamped space combat system is a great idea, but why not take advantage of what BioWare does best and put a major story arc behind the new systems, too? Extend the inter-faction conflict between the Empire and Republic to space and give players on both sides a full story arc to go through in the process.

These stories could be tied together as part of two new classes: Imperial Pilot and Republic Pilot. These wouldn’t be classes that replace your current class, but they would be what your character becomes when you launch into space.  Include three different talent trees and maybe even two Advanced Classes if you want to go that far.  Many gamers clamor for that X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter experience, but why not take advantage of the RPG side of things and give us some meaty class based progression to work through? Specializing as a scout pilot or a bomber pilot and unlocking abilities and passive bonuses to go with it would be an awesome way to add depth and RPG twist to the experience.

The Little Things

Hook Crew Skills into the system. Let players modify ships via parts crafted by cybertechs, weaponsmiths and the like.  Do a proper cockpit view. Let me shift powers to different systems, reinforce my fore and aft shields, and leverage my droid (if applicable) in interesting ways. For PvE, I’d love to see existing companions or even brand new companions integrated into the experience as well.  Wingmen would be awesome.

It may sound like the scope of my suggestions are larger than what BioWare likely has in store, but that’s all right by me. BioWare needs to think big with this project. If they knock this one out of the park it could completely change the game and offer a distinct space and ground experience that players haven’t seen since Star Wars Galaxies.  Many gamers didn’t feel that BioWare did enough with SWTOR to set itself apart from the crowd. This is an opportunity, as late as it may be, to give players something they can’t really get anywhere else at the moment.

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB

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Michael Bitton
MMORPG.com's Community Manager Michael Bitton gives us his thoughts and opinions on the happenings in and around the world of MMORPGs.
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