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Columns: Speaking Up

By Michael Bitton on January 19, 2011

Speaking Up

With Star Wars: The Old Republic set to launch sometime this year, fans are getting even more antsy for more information now that the new year has begun and rumblings of a more talkative BioWare are starting to appear.

Just last week a user on the official SW:TOR forums created a thread discussing the relatively quiet nature of the BioWare team throughout development and comparing it to the silence of the APB dev team (with or without merit) on the run up to that game’s launch.


Star Wars: The Old Republic Community Manager Stephen Reid threw his hat into the ring on the subject and addressed a number of things at length, surprising many fans in the community.  The surge in activity also brought some news on the game’s roster of healing classes. There will now be three Advanced Classes capable of fulfilling a healing role instead of two, though we don’t know any more than that just yet.

Stephen first took an opportunity to discuss the philosophy of discussing aspects of the game as well as the challenges involved with their particular process:

“Let's see if I can dig in a bit here and give you some insight. First of all, to re-iterate the general attitude towards development on The Old Republic. It's fairly simply summarised - we talk about things that will be in the game when they're ready to be talked about, and not before. That's an easy mantra to explain, but it's tough in practice, especially over a protracted development period - which any MMO goes through, TOR being no exception.

With a long development period and a regular update schedule (every Friday - even holidays - since the website launch, in case you didn't realize), maintaining the attitude of 'talking when ready' is even harder. It naturally leads to a couple of things; one, weeks in which we have to be 'light on detail', and two, a heck of a lot of speculation in-between 'major updates'.”

The gist of why they take this approach has to do with the history of the genre. Going back through the many failed MMO ventures that have come and gone in the days since the original EverQuest, it’s easy to point out many games that were overpromised on any number of things and under delivered. In the interest of not repeating history, many of the developers creating MMOs in the last few years have ascribed to talking about things “when they’re ready” in order to avoid a similar fate, and BioWare is no different. Well, slightly different. BioWare has been especially tight-lipped and has controlled the valve of information very carefully, leading to all sorts of wild speculation, and whenever they do say something it is “taken as gospel” as Stephen notes. This fact probably makes it even more necessary to really plan out what they say and when.

There is certainly a lot left to learn about the game, but I don’t really subscribe to the seemingly popular wisdom that we haven’t really learned too much about the game at this point.  When measured against all the sorts of super specific topics fans have speculated about the game since it was announced, sure, we don’t have answers to many of those questions, but one would be hard pressed to say we didn’t learn a good deal about the game in 2010.

On a positive note, last week’s Friday Update brought with it the announcement that Star Wars: The Old Republic will be at this year’s PAX East in March. This hopefully bodes well for fans looking to get some face time with the developers and their hands on the game given the fact that PAX is traditionally a show for the fans.  We still don’t how large of a presence BioWare will have for Star Wars: The Old Republic at PAX, but with a launch window fast approaching and only so many big shows left where fans can get their hands on the game before launch, I feel comfortable speculating that SW:TOR will have a considerable presence at PAX East.  I hope BioWare has some good surprises for us waiting at the show!

What are your thoughts on BioWare’s philosophy on talking about the game? And what are you hoping to find out about the game from PAX East? Let us know in the comments below! (Oh, and make sure to let Bioware know too.)

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 as the site's Community Manager.