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San Diego Comic-Con Highlight Reel

Michael Bitton Posted:
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Phew! What a week!

Last week was all around a big news week for Star Wars: The Old Republic, so let’s talk about some of the highlights this week. Obviously, the biggest piece of news coming out of SDCC was the announcement of pre-orders for Star Wars: The Old Republic, which, like everything else, was not without its own level of controversy.

The other major announcement at this year’s SDCC was the announcement of beta weekends kicking off this September. This is much less controversial, but has stirred up the excitement for fans as the announcement really evokes a sense that the several year wait may finally be ending and the game will actually see a release sometime this century.

If you need something a bit more tangible, BioWare also officially narrowed the date down to “Holiday 2011,” though with the months left in the year that doesn’t really say much. The holiday shopping rush kicks off in October and ends around the end of November, with last minute shopping continuing through early December. Or, you know, night before Christmas for you serious procrastinators.

Let’s start with pre-orders! Given the unprecedented levels of demand for The Old Republic, BioWare’s opted for a “limited release” of the game in order to control the amount of frothing MMO nerds trying to rush into the game all at once. In order to facilitate this, pre-order allocations have been limited and entry priority to the Early Access program is being determined by when you redeem your pre-order code on the official The Old Republic website. This ticked off a lot of gamers, but honestly didn’t go as badly as I expected it to.

There was certainly a bit of confusion, and those pre-ordering their copy from some slower retailers didn’t receive their pre-order keys right away, causing a bit of an ultimately unnecessary panic.  Gamers were eventually reassured that even with all the rush everyone so far should be making it in for day one or day two of Early Access at the latest. However, if you’re redeeming your pre-order code a few months from now, well, you might not have as much Early Access time as someone who redeemed their code within the first week.

That, unfortunately, wasn’t (and isn’t) the end of the pre-order mania. BioWare also announced three different versions of the game: the standard (digital/physical) edition, the Digital Deluxe edition, and the Collector’s Edition (physical only). The latter of which was priced at an (some considered to be) astronomical $150. The price, coupled with some of the exclusive goodies, namely the Collector’s only in-game store, caused some fairly exceptional, but again, ultimately needless panic.

I think BioWare definitely could’ve explained the exclusives a bit more clearly. As it turns out, the exclusive in-game store is more of a VIP lounge with a shop containing items that offer no power advantage over other players. It’s not quite the “Pay-to-Win” brouhaha some people were making it out to be.

As for the price, well, full disclosure: I pre-ordered the Collector’s Edition (I’m a huge Star Wars nerd, the statue alone is worth the price for me!) at pretty much the minute sales went live. Clearly, I had no issue with the price. For a Collector’s Edition, the TOR version offers a pretty solid amount of goodies, both in-game and in the box. I felt it was definitely worth it for me, but your mileage may vary. For those experiencing sticker shock, the Digital Deluxe edition offers a significant majority of the same bonuses at a much more palatable and typical price. With that said, I’d love if they’d offered a Republic version of the CE with a Satele Shan statue, but my girlfriend and I plan on bookending our dual Malgus statues so I guess that’s pretty cool too! What really isn’t cool is the resulting class warfare in the fan community over the haves and have-nots; lording your CE purchase over others is pretty silly.

Ultimately, all we’ve proven is that we’re willing to drop $150 mostly on faith (for many of you) that this game will be exceptionally awesome. If the game turns out to be a total flop, you’ll just end up looking like an idiot while everyone laughs at your silly golden key in your signature. Come on, guys.

A few weeks ago I’d made the case for why most of you probably really don’t want to get into a general beta for The Old Republic, asserting that instead, most of us really just want to get a taste of the game. I suggested BioWare should conduct some beta weekends to accomplish just this sort of goal, and lo and behold, BioWare has announced beta weekend events beginning in September. I willed it to be so and take full credit for said announcement. You can thank me with donations, cookies, a Satele Shan or Shae Vizla statue, etc.  I love oatmeal raisin, by the way.

There were some lower-key but fairly significant miscellaneous developments at SDCC as well. For one, BioWare announced that companions in The Old Republic will feature a far greater level of customization than before. Players will now be able to customize many of the visual details of their companions (gender, species, and possibly body-type excluded), and will even be able to fine-tune companion AI with Dragon Age-esque AI scripts. This sort of runs counter to the deliberately simpler system of control BioWare was previously going for, but us power users are sure to appreciate it. Those of you who don’t care to mess around with all that will do just as well using AI builds developed by other users who are sure to min/max their companions’ efficiency. Everyone wins!

Oh, and racials, yes, racials may be a possibility for launch. I’m extremely apprehensive about racials in The Old Republic. Racials have a pretty inconsistent track record throughout MMO history. More recently, RIFT had a major issue with racials (don’t you miss that Kelari criticals racial?!) and solved the issue by pretty much nullifying most of their value altogether. On the other hand, you have World of Warcraft, where racials still play a very significant role in the viability of certain class picks. I hope BioWare leans towards the more flavorful racials and doesn’t go for the WoW approach. If I have to make a Zabrak Trooper in order to be viable due to their inherent toughness, I’m not going to be a happy chappy. At the same time, I wouldn’t mind a fairly minor racial that highlighted their significant constitution, but made absolutely no difference in terms of endgame performance in PvP or PvE.

On a much smaller, but still significant scale, long-standing community issues such as fan-reaction to the Segway-esque speeders in the game and concerns over permanently boning your character by choosing the ‘wrong’ Advanced Class were also addressed at the show. Vehicles will be much speedier and come in many varieties, including the coveted speeder bike and landspeeder types. On the Advanced Class front, gamers will be able to respect their Advanced Class, though this will become prohibitively more expensive and difficult with continued respecs. The first time you respec your Advanced Class is said to be fairly painless, but it sounds like the cost and difficulty will ramp up sharply from there.

Last, but certainly not least, the oft-rumored “Legacy” system was seemingly hinted at during various points of the show. I’m going to speculate that the legacy system will basically unlock existing species for classes or even factions that don’t have access to said race by leveling up a character of that race to the level cap. Pretty much wild speculation here based on what we heard at the show, but so what? Speculation is fun.

What are your thoughts on the Comic-Con developments? Did you pre-order the game? If so, which edition and why?


Michael Bitton

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