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A Missed Opportunity at Celebration

Jean Prior Posted:
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This past weekend saw the advent of Star Wars Celebration, the Star Wars version of BlizzCon or SOE Live, only bigger and let's be fair, better.  Hosted in the same venue as BlizzCon in Anaheim, CA, SWCA featured more stormtroopers than you could shake a Jawa at, Star Wars celebrities ranging from Mark 'Luke Skywalker' Hamill to Anthony 'These aren't the droids we're looking for' Forrest.  There were epic moments such as 4000 fans losing their minds when a practical BB-8 droid rolled onto the Celebration Stage, and then again at the words 'Chewie, we're home.'  Unlike the last Celebration held in America in 2012, this one saw a Star Wars: the Old Republic Cantina Tour stop.

SWTOR and its world weren't only visible at the Cantina Tour.  I counted at least a dozen different Revan cosplayers out wandering the convention center.  Former BioWare writer Drew Karpyshyn did a few signings and was part of a writing panel.  There was a truly phenomenal pair of cosplayers doing Darth Malgus and the Twi'lek Eleena Daru who showed up at the tour stop.  While he wasn't present at SWCA, former Imperial Agent class writer Alexander Freed's name came up often when EA/DICE and Del Rey announced that he was writing a tie-in novel for Star Wars Battlefront called Twilight Company.  Someone other than lead writer Charles Boyd showed up in Havoc Squad armor (he did too).  The voice actors for Vette, M1-4X, and several other minor characters were there as well. 

SWTOR's potential canonicity was brought up at the canon panel featuring Pablo Hildago and Leland Chee (the Keeper of the Holocron) – both members of the Lucasfilm Story Group – and during the Q&A, they said the game is still not considered canon.  Both Hildago and Chee pretty much pointed out that the Old Republic era was so far in the past that they had no pressing reason to go back and sift through it.  With Lucasfilm and Disney's interests focusing on moving the Star Wars timeline forward, they weren't likely to go back and revisit the Old Republic era, but Chee added it wasn't off the table entirely.  Naturally, that simply means it's business as usual for BioWare Austin.  Personally, I don't mind that the game remains in the Legends imprint.  It means that BWA can still do silly little things like Halloween speeders with a wink and a nod.

The actual Cantina Tour stop was the largest gathering of SWTOR fans I've ever been at, easily twice the size of the ones I've been to in Boston, Austin, and San Antonio.  There were 800 preregistrations, and enough hopefuls who hadn't preregged showed up that they wound up opening the airwalls and taking over the ballroom next door to the one chosen for the event.  Officially representing BioWare at the event were Community Manager Eric Musco, Senior Designer Michael Backus, Lead Writer Charles Boyd, and Creative Director Jesse Sky. For the first time, the Cantina Tour's primary Q&A was livestreamed thanks to the folks at ESL, and the Q&A was handled via player-submitted questions on index cards – for those PVPers wondering why they didn't answer PVP questions, the list of questions was vetted by a BioWare employee and only certain ones were chosen – they didn't answer the one I submitted either. 

With all this lead-up, knowing this event should have been the biggest and most revelatory Cantina Tour stop ever, you might expect that some serious blowing off of lids would happen.  With recent statements from BioWare that Cantina Tour stops were going to be more than they had been in the past, one might think this one would truly be worth missing Mark Hamill's panel, which was at the same time.  I'm sorry to report that you'd be disappointed.  For players present who hadn't really been keeping up on the game's news reports, perhaps all of the 'reveals' would be new and worthy of high praise, but 3/4 of the information presented as new to us was actually covered in the makeup livestream they did recently.  

So, here's the actual new pieces of information we were given:

  • The story on PTS is not the entire story that goes live in 3.2.
  • 12x class XP (with a free disabler item obtainable on fleet) is back for subscribers as of May 4th.
  • Yavin stronghold is coming.
  • A new cool mount called the Koensayr Monocycle will be available at some point on the Cartel Market.
  • #FallenEmpire is a thing.

The Fallen Empire hashtag along with the date 6.15.15 was printed on bracelets that prereg attendees were given, and the usual flashdrive that was handed out had a secret file on it that revealed an expansive starship bridge with a fleet in the background, a throne in the middle, and a cityscape visible on the planet below.  The image is intriguing because it's vague enough that you can't tell whose ship it is.  The fleet in the background could be either the Republic or the Empire or someone entirely new.  The style of the bridge doesn't look like either faction's usual art style, with what looks like a ring of water around the throne and a lone figure standing on its steps.  That figure is humanoid but is so small and indistinct, it's hard to judge which race he (?) is beyond I'm pretty sure not being Rakata.  The buildings on the planet below, some of which must be huge to rise out of the atmosphere like that, don't look like either Imperial or Republic architecture. 

So whose Empire falls?  It's an easy assumption that since the big bad of 3.2 is the Sith Emperor, it means our Empire, the one many of our toons actively are a part of.  However, I can't honestly imagine SWTOR overthrowing one of the two primary factions in the game.  As much of an interesting story it would make if one were writing a novel, in a video game like this, you can't just off one of the two factions and uproot all its players.  The figure in the image isn't Rakata, so it's not likely the long-dead Infinite Empire.  There are other empires scattered throughout the history of Star Wars' original Expanded Universe, such as the empire ruled by Empress Teta, or Xim's empire, or any of the others you can dig up via Wookieepiedia.  However, there's no real way of knowing which empire BioWare means until they actually say something a bit more concrete.  My theory is that we'll find out more near/around June 15th, which is conveniently near E3.  It's no secret that BioWare will be doing another major story update later this year, and rumors are rampant that it will be another expansion, although I'm not convinced we're going to see 4.0 until at least the end of this year.  We'll see.

At the end of this particular day, I can't help but feel as if BioWare could have done more to make this Cantina Tour stop much more beefy, either by simply delaying the announcements that had been planned for Boston until now, or offering more future content and teasers.  Celebration is truly an epic occasion for Star Wars fans, and while the players certainly brought their best costumes and questions to the party (there was someone cosplaying a Dread Master!), I didn't feel as if BioWare's presentation stepped up to match what we were seeing around the rest of the convention.  While the info about the Outfit Designer was new to some folks in the room, for example, there were others near me who were muttering unhappily about having missed the Mark Hamill panel for this.  BioWare had said recently that they were planning better Cantina Tour events for players, but this really felt like almost the same kind as we'd gotten last year, with flashdrive contents mostly already known in advance, and announcements that had already been tossed out there a couple of weeks ago.

I hope the Cantina Tour events for the rest of the year improve upon this one's model.


Jean Prior