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The Year In Review

By Michael Bitton on December 29, 2010 | Columns | Comments

The Year In Review

For many of us following Star Wars: The Old Republic new information can't come fast enough. However, if we look back at the entirety of 2010, we've learned quite a bit about Bioware's debut MMO and this week we'll be discussing the year's top stories and revelations.

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Release and Game Testing Date

2010 got off to a great start as EA CEO John Riccitiello gave us a late Christmas present by letting slip that Star Wars: The Old Republic would begin Game Testing this year and launch sometime in 2011.

A Big Gamble

While nothing has been confirmed, March brought us rumors that the budget for Star Wars: The Old Republic is set north of $100 million, followed by a report by Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia who noted that EA management have "high hopes" that SW:TOR will hit 2 million or more subs, and that it would require a cool million subs just for the project to break even. Ouch! If anyone had any doubts about Bioware's claims that Star Wars: The Old Republic was the largest MMO project ever undertaken, well, those are definitely washed away now.

Excited or scared, how The Old Republic eventually pans out will have far reaching consequences for the MMO genre, should Star Wars: The Old Republic fail, the days of blockbuster World of Warcraft type projects may be numbered. A lot rides on the success or failure of this behemoth project, both for EA and the genre as a whole.

Microtransactions in my Star Wars MMO? It's more likely than you think

Kotaku sat down with Bioware's Dr. Ray Muzyka at GDC this year and asked him about the game's pricing structure, revealing a broader than expected stance on the game's business model. Dr. Ray didn't close the door on any options. Combine that with the story we reported on in 2009, which revealed that the Terms of Service for the SW:TOR Game Testing program made mention of "points" and a "Game store" fans were abuzz with speculation that the game may feature microtransactions.

Advanced Classes

One of the more interesting developments of 2010 was the unveiling of the game's Advanced Class system. Those who were disappointed to find out that Star Wars: The Old Republic would only feature eight classes (four per faction) were glad to find out they would have additional options via the Advanced Class system. Each of the eight classes will branch off into two Advanced Classes that are chosen early in your character's career. The choice is permanent and can result in a vastly different play experience. For example, the ranged damage dealing Sith Inquisitor can further specialize in his electrifying force powers as a Sith Sorcerer or go completely in the opposite direction as a saberstaff wielding stealth-based Sith Assassin. Did I also mention that each Advanced Class will have two distinct skill trees to add additional depth and choice? The full roster of Advanced Classes was revealed in August, and all in all should offer players a wealth of play options.

Why do I sense we've picked up another pathetic life-form?

Bioware games are well known for their interesting companions dating all the way back to such quirky characters as Minsc & Boo from the Baldur's Gate series, and Star Wars: The Old Republic will be no different. Just as Qui-Gon Jinn's duo quickly expanded to include a Nabooian Queen, almost universally loathed alien, and a young Darth Vader (much to Obi-Wan's chagrin) in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, you too will be able to assemble your own crew of misfits in Star Wars: The Old Republic, and we learned a good deal about the game's Companions system throughout the course of 2010.

Players will be able to acquire a number of companions throughout the game, but will only be able to have one actively join them in their adventures at a time. Companions can be influenced by and react to the decisions you make, can craft for you and go on missions on your behalf, and more.

E3 2010

This year's E3 was a bit hit-or-miss, mostly due to the fact expectations were so high. Bioware returned this year with a new cinematic titled "Hope", which easily rivaled last year's "Deceived" trailer in sheer awesomeness There was a bit more than the flash of a new trailer to come out of E3 this year, however, as we also learned that Star Wars: The Old Republic would feature player starships and space travel in some form . At E3, we learned that player starships would serve as a base of operations and feature functionality similar to that of the Ebon Hawk in Knights of the Old Republic, such as traveling throughout the galaxy via a galaxy map and of course interacting with your companions. Unlike KOTOR, players will also be able to customize the interior of their ships.

E3 2010 also revealed one of SW:TOR's PvP features, Warzones, or as many of you know them "Battlegrounds". Bioware's twist on the tried and true instanced form of PvP will be to carry over the developer's pedigree for cinematic storytelling even into their PvP offerings. Warzones will tell their own stories and are said to feature varied and unique objectives and gameplay that can differ greatly from Warzone to Warzone. The first Warzone revealed was the Alderaan Warzone, and appropriately so, given the setting of the "Hope" trailer revealed at the show.

Finally, this year's E3 brought us our first taste of multiplayer gameplay and dialogue. Several multiplayer gameplay demos were shown and a trio of videos were put out by Bioware showcasing paired players in combat and participating in multiplayer dialogue.

That whole multiplayer dialogue bit has been perplexing to fans for some time. It's one thing to select choices for yourself, but what if my group mate wants to go a different way than I do? Well, it appears both players can select their dialogue choices and the game will basically make a dice roll (the roll appears beside your player portrait) and the winning decision is the one spoken.

Post-E3, Bioware's Daniel Erickson elaborated on this, noting that while the outcome of the dialogue may be permanent the game judges you based on intention, not the outcome, so players worried they'll be griefed out of their Light Side or Dark Side points can be at ease. Basically, if you thought it, you did it, regardless if the Captain gets to keep his head.

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