Fan Site Summit: Ilum Open World PvP Detailed | Ask A Jedi


Image by Ordre de Brume via Flickr


So here we are at the end of a long day one of the Fan Site Summit. Games were played, secrets were shared, lasers were tagged. It was another incredible day at BioWare’s Austin studio learning all we can about everyone’s favorite upcoming MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Though there was a full slate of activity today, for this report, I want to talk about Ilum. As you may recall, BioWare introduced the planet Ilum as the first open world objective-based PvP zone at PAX Prime in August. Though brief, the glimpse we saw then of walker vehicles traversing the frozen tundra and legions of troops charging into The Battle of Ilum was enough to get the PvP juices flowing.

We were excited today when BioWare’s Gabe Amatangelo, Lead Endgame Designer for Star Wars: The Old Republic came in to talk to us about this resource-rich planet. He was able to provide some details and answer some very specific questions that have been on the mind of the community. Although we can’t show you any new screenshots or other visuals we saw, we just wanted to give a recap of the highlights here:

Fan Site Summit: Ilum Open World PvP Detailed | Ask A Jedi.

Star Wars The Old Republic: Advanced Classes categorized by Gameplay Type


  • Jedi Knight Guardian (Defense)
  • Sith Warrior Juggernaut (Immortal)
  • Jedi Consular Shadow (Kinetic Combat)
  • Sith Inquisitor Assassin (Darkness)
  • Trooper Vanguard (Shield Specialist)
  • Bounty Hunter Powertech (Shield Tech)

  • Jedi Consular Sage (Seer)
  • Sith Inquisitor Sorcerer (Corruption)
  • Trooper Commando (Combat Medic)
  • Bounty Hunter Mercenary (Bodyguard)
  • Smuggler Scoundrel (Sawbones)
  • Imperial Agent Operative (Medic)
Melee DPS:wea_03:

  • Jedi Knight Guardian (Vigilance)
  • Jedi Knight Sentinel (Watchman)
  • Jedi Knight Sentinel (Combat)
  • Sith Warrior Juggernaut (Vengeance)
  • Sith Warrior Marauder (Annihilation)
  • Sith Warrior Marauder (Carnage)
  • Imperial Agent Operative (Concealment)
  • Jedi Consular Shadow (Infiltration)
  • Sith Inquisitor Assassin (Deception)
Ranged DPS: wea_09:

  • Jedi Consular Sage (Telekinetics)
  • Sith Inquisitor Sorcerer (Lightning)
  • Trooper Vanguard (Tactics)
  • Trooper Commando (Gunnery)
  • Bounty Hunter Powertech (Advanced Prototype)
  • Bounty Hunter Mercenary (Arsenal)
  • Smuggler Scoundrel (Scrapper)
  • Smuggler Gunslinger (Saboteur)
  • Smuggler Gunslinger (Sharpshooter)
  • Imperial Agent Sniper (Marksmanship)
  • Imperial Agent Sniper (Engineering)

Star Wars: The Old Republic Preview for PC from

If you don’t like MMOs, then you won’t like Star Wars: The Old Republic. Despite Bioware‘s pitch that the game is “Knights of the Old Republic 3, 4, 5, and 6 rolled into one”, based my time with the beta, TOR owes more to World of Warcraftthan KOTOR.

I sunk around 20 hours into my human Jedi Shadow/Consular before writing this preview. In that time I went from young Padawan on the reclaimed Jedi homeworld of Tython to Jedi Consular on my own ship with a mission set to take me across the galaxy. My character is now sitting aboard said craft at level 20 — the same level I quit playing most of the WOW characters I ever created. However, I don’t want to quit. I’d be playing the game right now if 1UP wasn’t currently being slammed by the rush of games being released.

Click the image above to check out all Star Wars: The Old Republic screens.

As mentioned in the headline, TOR is basically WOW with lightsabers. That’s an overly reductive statement but I guarantee it’s one you’re going to hear from disappointed KOTOR fans upon the game’s release the Christmas. Do yourself a favor and stop listening to them now. Yes, TOR plays a lot like WOW, but that’s a good thing for the most part.


Star Wars: The Old Republic Preview for PC from

Blue Milk & Cereal: Will You Be A Datacron Hunter? | Ask A Jedi

Star Wars The Old Republic

No day would be complete without the breakfast of Jedi: Blue Milk & Cereal.  Every morning, the team at Ask A Jedi will get Force-induced thoughts coursing through your head with delicious issues from around the galaxy! Join in the discussion below to make your voice heard!

One of the most unique things we’ve learned about Star Wars: The Old Republic so far, in my opinion, is the existence of datacrons.

Datacrons are Holocron-like objects placed throughout the galaxy for players to find. Some are out in the open and easy to access, while some are in hard to reach places that take some exploration and ingenuity to figure out how to reach. We got our first exposure to them at last April’s Fan Site Summit at BioWare’s Austin studio when Carla from Corellian Run Radio spotted on on her map, and found it in the world, but had to use some creative jumping and maneuvering to get to!

The reward for finding these is of course the feeling of accomplishment, but beyond that they also grant an in-game Codex entry according to BioWare’s Damion Schubert, “While most codex entries can be obtained with the players stretching their legs (searching the whole map, killing obvious targets you don’t normally need to kill), finding datacrons typically requires a little extra exploration and a even little ingenuity.”

Beyond the Codex, these datacrons also grant a permanent increase of one of your stats. “If you successfully reach one and interact with it, one of your stats will be increased — permanently,” said Schubert. This decision has not come without some controversy, as it would seem to force exploration for those that wish to maximize their combat stats.

So with several compelling reasons to go after these little buggers from lore to combat performance, will you be a datacron hunter? Will you make it your mission to find them as you level, or maybe go back and explore during down time between content patches?

I will be trying to get every one in game !!!

Head over there and take the poll :

Ask A Jedi.

The best example of a light sided Sith in the SW universe!

Darth Vectivus

Darth Vectivus
Biographical information
Died Centuries before 40 ABY, The Home [1]
Physical description
Species Human[1]
Gender Male[1]
Height Tall[1]
Hair color Dark[1]
Chronological and political information
Affiliation Sith[1]

Strength that is never touched by ruthlessness is touchingly irresponsible.

―Darth Vectivus[src]

Darth Vectivus, in the life he enjoyed prior to becoming a Sith, was a male Human who served as the director of the Jonex Mine Eight Eleven B asteroid mining colony in the MZX32905 star system near the planet Bimmiel. A shrewd and principled businessman, he shut down the operation when the reservoir of dark side energy over which the colony was situated began to negatively influence his employees. Because of his own Force sensitivity, he began to study and experiment with the mysterious anomaly himself, where he developed a Force technique which involved the creation of dark side–empowered phantoms. He eventually did away with the entire mining operation and left the habitat for a time in search of the Sith. His quest was ultimately fruitful, and upon completion of his apprenticeship he ascended to mastery as Darth Vectivus, Dark Lord of the Sith. Though a proponent of the dark side, Darth Vectivus’ self-discipline and preexisting code of ethics allowed him to remain fair and balanced without succumbing to the lure of power which plagued many of the Sith Lords who preceded him. He eventually returned to the mine and maintained a plentiful existence in the company of friends and loved ones alike.

Vectivus passed into physical death centuries prior to 40 ABY, but his spirit retained its power and lingered in Jonex’s labyrinthine mines underneath the Home, where in life he had once resided. It was also there where his ghost met then–Dark Lady of the Sith Lumiya, who had since taken up residence in his home. Lumiya later raised a phantom of Lord Vectivus that encountered a young female Jedi Knight named Nelani Dinn in the asteroid mines. Vectivus had a conversation with Dinn, during which he attempted to convince her to slay him in order to save the lives of countless others. Dinn declined the offer, which prompted the Dark Lord to transform into the likeness of former Galactic Emperor Palpatine and entice Dinn to strike down the visage of a known villain. Vectivus rebuked her when she again refused him, and declared that she lacked the ability to sacrifice a life other than her own for the sake of many. He then illuminated the exit, mocked Dinn’s purported weakness, and allowed her to escape while he disappeared into the Force.

Darth Vectivus – Wookieepedia, the Star Wars Wiki.

Star Wars: TOR: Revan Mini-Excerpt #1

Revan at the Motor City Comic Con in 2008.

Image via Wikipedia

Del Rey’s Star Wars Books Facebook page has posted the first mini-excerpt from Drew Karpyshyn’s game tie-in novel The Old Republic: Revan. Check it out below.

“I should have guessed it was you.”

Revan rose from his chair to face the speaker. She wore the robes of a Jedi Archivist, though she was in fact a Jedi Master. She was young for the position, but her hair was platinum white. She had cold blue eyes, and a pale complexion that spoke of a life spent inside the Archives, sheltered from the sun.

“Atris,” Revan said, silently cursing.

Del Rey’s Star Wars team will continue posting mini-excerpts from upcoming novels on their Facebook page every Thursday. The Old Republic: Revan will be released on November 15th, 2011 from Del Rey Books.

Jedi Romance in the Old Republic – Darth Hater

Opening logo to the Star Wars films

Image via Wikipedia

Romantic arcs are integral to BioWare‘s game design style. This is true all the way from Baldur’s Gate II to Mass Effect 3, and Star Wars: The Old Republic is no different. By giving our companions gifts and picking the appropriate dialog choices, we may gain enough affection to pursue a romance with them. This process also leads to additional quests given by the companion and a richer understanding of who that companion is. However, this romance system isnt without its controversy, especially when it is concerning the romance arcs of the Jedi Knight and the Jedi Consular.

BioWare announced that pursuing a romance as either a Jedi Knight or a Jedi Consular will result in our characters gaining dark side alignment points. This announcement has obviously caused a lot of distress in the official forums. BioWare is taking the stance established in the Star Wars prequel films, specifically Episode II: Attack of the Clones. The film established that the Jedi Order forbids romantic relationships, as it is a form of attachment. The Jedi believe attachment can lead to the dark side. In an interview we conducted during last year’s Jedi Immersion Day, Daniel Erickson expands on this concept:

Daniel Erickson said:

When you follow the Dark side as a Jedi, what it means is that you’ve given into your emotions. You gave into the hate, and even the love. One of the things you got to see today with Tython is that there is an entire quest in there to introduce the concept of romance leading to the Dark side. It is absolutely forbidden in the Jedi to get married and to have romance. According to the rules, you can get married with permission, but it very rarely happens and you basically have to prove to them that you don’t particularly care about the other person. So it is complicated, and usually done to protect Force bloodlines.

To provide a counterpoint to this logic, Alesul started a thread a couple of months ago. “Romance. To make a point Bioware..” is already at 92 pages and counting. He starts by saying:

Alesul said:

Okay. There are threads about this but Bioware has to see that giving DS points for romancing is really a bad idea. They are contradicting themselves. Let me quote the wise Jolee Bindo:

“Love doesn’t lead to the dark side. Passion can lead to rage and fear, and can be controlled, but passion is not the same thing as love. Controlling your passions while being in love, that’s what they should teach you to beware, but love itself will save, not condemn you.”

Straight from Kotor 1. And if I remember correctly at some point in the game he tells us that he had a wife (not sure about wife) or that he was in love as well. Is he a dark jedi? No. He is not.

Please Bioware consider this because I don’t want to be left out of a part of this magnificent game because I want to roll a lightside Jedi.

He points out that in Knights of the Old Republic, BioWare reasoned a way for Jedi to be able to be in a romantic relationship and still resist forming attachments. Although Jolee Bindo’s wife did fall to the dark side, there are other examples. Alesul again offers another example, building on what DavidForce had to say:


Community Pulse: Jedi Romance in the Old Republic – Darth Hater.

Fully Operational: Hybrid Theory | Ask A Jedi

“Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station!” — There is no better example of damage in the Star Wars galaxy than the scene attached to that quote. Each week in Fully Operational, join Kray as he takes a look at the damage dealing role in Star Wars: The Old Republic. And yes, we’ll blow up a planet if we get the chance.

I’m sorry, I really am — the title was just too perfect. Listening music for today is, unfortunately, not off of the Hybrid Theory album, but it’s close enough.

Back in August (I’ve been slacking!) we went over all the advanced classes in The Old Republic that you can choose from to deal your damage. Republic here, Empire here. The sharper tacks among you may be saying “… but Kray! Every class can deal damage! How does that make any sense?!” Aside from telling you to lay off the exclamation points, I would say you are indeed right. TOR is pretty unique in the fact that no matter what you choose, you have at least one skill tree available for damage dealing. And that’s what we’re talking about today.

(Almost) Everyone’s a Hybrid!

Flexibility is key when it comes to the advanced classes in TOR — nearly any character you create will have the ability to spec as either a tank or a healer from within their advanced class. To give a quick review, consult the hastily-constructed chart below.

As you can see, we have three tanks, three healers, and a ton of dps. The thing about it is, that chart doesn’t even take into account the fact that, in addition to the two specific roles that you can spec into, each class has a shared tree that can be accessed by either advanced class. Good Lord, that gets confusing fast!

What we really need to take away from this is the idea that you should stay open-minded. Sure, you may only want to deal damage or tank or heal or jump around wearing a dress, but BioWare is giving us OPTIONS and we should use them! Unfortunately, that flexibility will come at a cost, as BioWare has not confirmed a dual spec system for launch, meaning if your group needs you to switch roles or you want to alternate between PvE and PvP, you’re going to have to come up with the credits to do so every time. Personally, with a system as flexible as this, I think the absence of dual specs is a huge design flaw, but we’ll have to see how things go after launch.

If you’re a die-hard DPSer and want to have the most options available to you, you’ll either want to be a Sentinel/Marauder or Gunslinger/Sniper, depending on your range and faction preferences. Each of those advanced classes will have 3 dedicated DPS trees available to choose from. I’m no engineer (that’s a lie), but that’s at least 40 bajillion different ways to kill stuff.

The Hybrid Tax

One issue you’ll see people ranting and raving about all over the Internet is something that World of Warcraft dubbed the “hybrid tax”. For those not familiar, this is the concept that since Marauders can only fill a DPS role, they should be better at it than a Mercenary, who has the option of switching to heals if a group requires it. Being the best on paper supposedly ensures that the so-called “pure” damage classes will always have a spot available for them in groups. First off, this is a complete logical fallacy, as 99.9% of groups running flashpoints and operations will take many factors into account rather than raw dps, such as gear, skill, ranged versus melee, and the general likability of a person. On this note let’s switch over to a July quote from Georg Zoeller, Principle Lead Combat Designer for The Old Republic.

It’s simple. Let’s say you have a DPS-focused Jedi Guardian or Sith Juggernaut. You get to wear heavy armor. You get to do a small amount of damage less than, say, a Gunslinger who isn’t wearing heavy armor. Well, in reality it’s not really that simple at all.

This particular bit is referring to PvP, but you get the gist — the difference in damage between classes is negligible, and we should trust BioWare to ensure everything is balanced in the end. The people on the forums are incessant when it comes to this sort of thing, so Georg responded again just a few days ago:

The design for the game is that if you fully spec into a specific role (dps, tank, healer), you will be comparable in effectiveness to characters of all other classes in the same role. No second class healers, tanks, or dps.

A DPS Juggernaut is a pure DPS character, not a hybrid.

Yes, the hybrid tax exists. No, it is not going to affect your gameplay. On a long crazy fight, a Juggernaut might be able to survive longer than a Marauder due to having a few survivability buttons and heavy armor, thus doing more damage over the course of the fight! Don’t let naysayers fool you, pick what advanced class you want.

Keep in mind this point doesn’t apply when you refer to where exactly you place your talent points. If you try to make a Vanguard build that’s half tank and half dps, you’re going to be subpar at both — there’s no getting around that. If you want to be doing the best damage possible, you’ll need to pick mostly damage talents!

How Companions Fit In

From a leveling or small groups perspective, none of this really matters too much. The fact of the matter is, BioWare’s companion system in TOR means that no matter what you pick, you can choose a companion to compliment your character. If you’re a Jedi Sage with healing and damage talents, grab a tanking companion and go to town. If you’re a Bounty Hunter Powertech focused on tanking, get yourself a dps character to help you mow things down. Each class has a full set of companions that will be able to fill any role you might need while flying through the galaxy fixing (or causing!) problems. The Old Republic is giving us a lot of options, and a lot of ways to use them.

If you liked this article, be sure to check back next Friday for another regularly scheduled episode of Fully Operational. Can’t get enough of me? Follow me on Twitter for more updates and musings.

Fully Operational: Hybrid Theory | Ask A Jedi.

Star Wars: The Old Republic-Studio Insider: Combat Animation

Gamescom 2011 - Fr - 170

Image by mchenryarts via Flickr


With each Studio Insider, members of the Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ development team take you behind the scenes to give you an inside look at the work that goes in to making the game. This week, Principal Lead Animator Mark How discusses the work that goes in to creating the animations for combat in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Combat Animation in The Old Republic

Hi. My name is Mark How and I am the Principal Lead Animator at BioWare Austin. Many ideas have been dreamt up since the inception of this extraordinary game and the animation team has been hard at work since the very beginning. While we see each project as a challenge, we have a lot of fun imagining all sorts of unique, action-packed scenarios that can play out in The Old Republic. Of course, the main purpose of animation is to produce characters that adhere to the basic laws of physics, but good animation also ties into many other facets of game design. Today, I’ll tell you about our experiences and techniques that go in to our creating the animations that compliment the exciting and visceral combat in The Old Republic!

We start out like any other game that has big ideas for combat: at first we thought about the classic battle between Jedi and Sith. When you picture these powerful Force users meeting, you think of how they Force Leap into battle! You think of their Lightsabers clashing, and how they use the Force to push and pull each other around the battlefield. We wanted to be able to replicate this sense of action and exhilaration in the way we capture the combat animations. We wanted to show Force Lightning exploding from your fingertips and have your character show their raw mastery of the Force by hurling large objects at your enemies. We also had many ideas about ranged combat; about ducking behind cover and blasting your way through a pack of enemy troops. Knowing that many of you who will play the game are going to be playing as non-Force users, we wanted to capture that feeling as well.

Lightsaber Clashing

One of the most iconic images in the Star Wars™ universe is the Lightsaber. Making the Lightsaber come to life in The Old Republic requires a collection of all the correct elements falling into place at the same time through visual effects, sound design and animation. Our challenge was to make the iconic Lightsaber battles from the movies come to life within the design confines of an MMO. We worked closely with the combat programmers and designers to ensure that the combat visuals do not detract from the gameplay experience. A key aspect we learned early in development was that players do not enjoy having character control taken away from them because of an action or animation. Similarly, we realized that any action a player takes in the game needs to be visually represented in a way that is consistent with the player’s expectations. Combining these two things, it was particularly challenging to develop animations that allowed for visually appealing combat while still allowing the players complete control over their characters.

Once we knew what our rules were for combat, the programmers and animators were able to create a Lightsaber clashing system that could predict the volleys of weapons fire and other attacks being thrown at the player from all directions, and have the player dynamically react to ‘block’ these attacks. Not only that, but we were able to keep this system active while players were deflecting directed attacks, engaged in melee combat or even running. Players may not even realize all the factors that are coming into play to visually represent the combat experience, but we believe it’s critical for making the player really feel fully engaged in the fight. Without these dynamics, the players would wind up locked in certain animations when they go to engage in a “Stock strike” or “Project,” and then the combat would really be failing to capture the feel of Star Wars; it would give the player the impression that they are watching the action rather than taking part in it for themselves.

We’ve iterated on the mechanics for a long time, and I think the Lightsaber combat system that the programmers and animators ultimately devised has really gone beyond expectations. Even in a battle scene with multiple players and multiple targets, each Lightsaber wielder can be seen attacking opponents with varied tactics while deflecting, parrying or dodging the attacks of the other enemies. It gives the whole experience a really dynamic, visceral feel, making the player feel like they’re taking part in an intense battle where their character has the heroic qualities expected of a Star Wars icon.

Combat Cover

“How could Han Solo possibly compete directly with Darth Vader?”

This was one of the situations our designers found themselves thinking about when balancing the character classes. Though armed with many brilliant blaster attacks, tactical abilities and cheap tricks, one of the most challenging tasks for the entire team was in designing a cover system that was useful to the player while keeping them feeling like they were part of the action. Some might argue that you don’t even need a cover system in an MMO, but the benefits provided to the classes and the overall visual dynamic of the combat system is incredible. This all comes back to the expectation that the player has. If you were a Smuggler in the Star Wars universe and there was a crate available for you to roll behind to deflect enemy fire, wouldn’t you want to do that? Of course you would. The cover element has provided a tactical way for the Smuggler and Imperial Agent classes to be competitive against their Force wielding and gadget-toting opponents. Deciding we were going to create a cover system was one thing; creating it was something else. It took many hours of research, play-acting and experimentation to nail down the animations for ducking into, rolling into, or just dodging into cover. As you can imagine, with the variety of places where these characters can take cover in the game, that created an additional layer of complexity which had to be addressed. In the end however, cover looks, feels and functions like the real thing, and we think it bring an entirely new dynamic to ranged combat in the MMO genre.

Here we see a breakdown of the Imperial Agent rolling into cover behind a barrier.

Once it was established that melee-based player characters wouldn’t be locked into doing certain animations, we wanted to make sure that ranged classes worked the same way. The unique challenge with the ranged classes was that we wanted them to always keep their blasters pointed at their target until they were damaged, downed, or until the player chose to manually change targets. This needed to be true while standing still as well as when the player was moving. In an MMO, players don’t usually stand still and fight mobs of static NPCs. Consider PVP: as smart as NPC AI can be, it cannot compare to the intelligence, skill and intuitive reactions of a real human player. This means that when two human players duel each other, they can adeptly circle one another and jump to get in and out of range. They can’t be stuck in long, static animations when they attack. We had to work closely with the programmers to devise an aiming system that could account for numerous gameplay possibilities. I think what we achieved allows players to play the way they want and does not lock them into a combat system that only obeys a limited set of rules. As pretty as it could look, who wants to play a game where you run and then have to stop each time you want to fire your blaster? “Not I,” says the Smuggler.

For The Old Republic, we are committed to giving you a great combat experience through aesthetic movement, strong character and great design. These elements come together thanks to the efforts of many different departments that are all working hard and working together to reach a common goal. Our combat has unique concepts that set it apart from other MMOs and help deliver another BioWare-quality Star Wars™ experience that we hope fans will find incredibly enjoyable and will want to continue as they progress in their stories and create new experiences of their own.

We’ll see you online!

Community Q&A

With each Studio Insider a member of the development team takes the time to answer some of the questions that are put forward by the community. The next Community Q&A will center on the many aspects of socialization in Star Wars: The Old Republic. If you have a burning question, ask us via our Forums or on Facebook. Make sure to get your questions in no later than September 30th if you want it to be considered for the next Community Q&A.

Today, Principal Lead PvP Designer Gabe Amatangelo answers a few of your questions about Player-vs-Player Combat in The Old Republic.

Q: How important is the PvP community to BioWare? – Kryptorchid

A: Very important. The Old Republic’s PvP developers are avid gamers and active, long-time members of the MMO PvP community. We hold preservation and growth of the The Old Republic PvP community near and dear to our hearts.

Q: Will there be any kind of arena system? If so, which brackets will it support? – Inquiescent

A: ‘Arena System’ has come to mean two different things depending on the context: Single Elimination PvP game mode and Ranking/Tournament Systems. Whether or not we add that game mode to The Old Republic’s current lineup (domination, assault and bombing run) is TBD. However, one of the top things on our list for post launch is a rated Warzone system where players can form teams, earn team ratings, earn individual ratings, as well as participate in tournaments, etc.

Q: Are there any plans for non-combat forms of PvP, such as Pazaak or Swoop Racing? – RizzoRatchet

A: We are considering, testing and/or developing several things like that. We’ll let you know as soon as we are sure about what we’re going to add.

Q: Will we see a “Criminal” or “Bounty” mechanic so that we can persistently hunt down and torment those who hinder our progression? – Gryffin

A: Haha. Nice way of phrasing ‘how do you guys plan to deal with griefers!’ We are currently testing and iterating on a system to ensure player progression cannot be blocked by griefers on a PvP server, while still allowing for the thrill of spontaneous open world PvP conflicts.

Q: Will there be safe zones on PvP servers outside of faction-specific planets? – Zepplin

A: There are very few, but some do exist. For example, the promenade on the neutral planet of Nar’Shadda is a sanctuary.

Q: What incentives will there be for players to focus on targets outside of the typical “gank the healer” strategy; and how will factors such as burst damage, crowd control and “PvP tanking” play a role in accomplishing this? – Marsobot

A: Winning will be the incentive. Attacking the healer will be the right decision sometimes, but not always. A key contributor in ensuring this is the tanks’ Guard and Taunt abilities. Guard will redirect half of the damage through the Tank’s mitigation and avoidance. A taunted target will deliver less damage to everyone but the tauntee. Players will be able to easily visualize which Tanks are guarding and taunting, who their targets are, and when damage is deflected through clear animations and effects. This adds to the dynamics of a skirmish as players of varying skill levels can easily react to and be on their toes about who the real targets of opportunity are and when. Additionally, Tanks will be recognized and rewarded for how much damage they deflect in this fashion on Warzone scoreboards.

We have a fairly large health pool to burst damage potential ratio. This allows for burst damage to be useful when the time is right, while not letting it dictate the outcome of all skirmishes.

And as far as crowd control goes, there is ‘Resolve.’ Every time a player is crowd controlled they build up Resolve, which is pictured as a bar over the characters head (below the health bar). Once a player’s Resolve Bar is full it changes colors and starts to decay over time, during this they are immune to crowd control. The visual element helps with PvP accessibility, and tuning the Resolve values allows us to achieve a fun tempo ensuring crowd control as its place but isn’t the end all be all of PvP.

Q: Since it has been clearly stated that there will not be dual specs for characters in the game, can you explain your philosophy behind the skill trees and how you are taking into account players that want to be able to play PvP and PvE content on the same character? – illumineart

A: Dual Speccing is something we want to add soon after launch. Also, features like Guard, PvP Taunt, Resolve, etc. work to narrow the gap between PvP and PvE specialized skills (i.e. a +Block skill would be helpful in both PvE and PvP).

Q: Are waiting queues cross-server and, if so, also cross-language? – Kisskill

A: No. We believe that fostering rivalries and memorable encounters with recognizable players are important in building a good PvP community on a server. We suspect cross-server queuing compromises these key tenets. Additionally, systems like bolster and same faction vs same faction Warzones (like Hutball) help matches pop frequently and regularly.

That being said we will be keeping a close eye on the communities and re-examine the system as necessary.

Q: Are there rewards for PvP, such as Titles, Badges, Grades, etc.? – Xenthor

A: Yes. Players will earn currency for PvP Gear, Valor Ranks, titles and other privileges through PvP accomplishments, such as winning Warzone matches, claiming Open World PvP objectives, finding hidden caches in PvP areas, etc.

Q: How will the Bolster system work? – Kelremar

A: If after a time the Warzone matchmaking system has not found a match of players of the same level range, then it will start up a ‘bolstered match’ where players of varying levels will have their stats bolstered to within 20% of each other. Therefore, player skill disparity withstanding, the lowest level player will be 80% as effective as the highest level player in the match.

Thanks for checking out this month’s Studio Insider. We hope you enjoyed taking a look at what goes into creating animations in The Old Republic, as well as our Q&A on PvP. We know you have a lot of questions, so we’ve opened new Community Q&A threads in the forums and on Facebook which center on the topic of socializing in The Old Republic. Post your questions before September 30th and they may get answered in our next Studio Insider!

Star Wars: The Old Republic | News, Updates, Developer Blogs.

Star Wars: The Old Republic-Stepping into a Larger World: The Old Republic in Comics and Novel!

I’m Alexander Freed, Senior Writer here at BioWare Austin. As a sequel to two video games which derived their setting from the Tales of the Jedi comic books, Star Wars™ The Old Republic™ is intimately linked to a slew of other tales. This web of storytelling stretches back over thirty years across mediums ranging from film and television to novels, to radio plays and even coloring books!

As part of this immense Expanding Universe, it’s hardly surprising that The Old Republic would generate its own array of tie-ins. By the end of 2011, The Old Republic will have three novels, three comic mini-series, a handful of short stories and much more to its name. Being one of the largest projects in entertainment history, it’s not as if there isn’t plenty of material in the game that can be drawn from; it is, to put it mildly, a big game.

I’ve had the pleasure of working on The Old Republic as a writer for both the game and for two of its tie-in products–Blood of the Empire (first published as a webcomic then later brought to print) and The Lost Suns, a new five-issue comic book miniseries that is currently being published by Dark Horse Comics. For this Developer Blog, I’ll be sharing a few of my thoughts on expanding the mythology of The Old Republic and laying down a few rules that any new tie-in should follow.

Make it Count

The first thing that any potential tie-in to Star Wars™ and The Old Republic should do is answer a series of questions: What does this story contribute to mythology of The Old Republic? What does a reader get from this story that changes the way he or she experiences the game? Does it give the reader a new perspective on a character? Does it explain a mystery that isn’t resolved in the game? Does it explore the setting and the timeline in new depth?

Once you are able to answer those questions, you’ve got a good starting point to create a story that’s worth the valuable time of an both Old Republic fans as well as the larger community of Star Wars™ fans.

For the Blood of the Empire comic, we wanted to tell a story about the Sith Empire to explore that culture in a way no one had before. Our protagonist was Teneb Kel, an ambitious and clever young Sith at the very bottom of the hierarchy, scraping by and still retaining a glint of humanity. As a prequel to the game, Blood of the Empire serves to set up several major villains (players of the Jedi Consular and Sith Inquisitor classes are especially well served) and plot points.

Blood of the Empire: Penciled by Dave Ross, Inked by Mark McKenna and Colored by Michael Atiyeh

For The Lost Suns, we took a different approach. Instead of setting the story before the game begins, we decided to make it run concurrent with the game’s plotline–to make it a “ninth story” that parallels the eight class stories within the game. This time, we made a Republic spy the star–Theron Shan, son of Jedi Grand Master Satele Shan (previously seen dropping a mountain on Darth Malgus in the Hope trailer, as well as graduating from Knight to Master in the Threat of Peace comic).

With a family tie to one of the setting’s key figures and a career that lent itself to discovering the dark truths of the galactic war, Theron Shan–resourceful, jaded, and alternately suave and crude–worked perfectly as the centerpiece for a story revealing past (why did the Empire agree to a peace treaty with the Republic?), present (what’s the Dark Council‘s master plan when the game begins?) and future (what are the threats players will be facing in later portions of the game?) of the Star Wars™ galaxy in and around the time of The Old Republic.

In Paul S. Kemp’s novel Deceived, we witness the rise of Darth Malgus and the chaos surrounding the Sacking of Coruscant–one of the pivotal moments leading to the current events within The Old Republic. Drew Karpyshyn’s forthcoming novel Revan manages the trick of being both a prequel to The Old Republic and a sequel to the original two Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games, describing the journey of the titular character and revealing the identity and past of the mysterious Sith Emperor. Unfortunately, I can say no more.

Of course, players who never read a comic or tie-in novel shouldn’t feel like they’re missing an important part of the story. Instead, the goal is to reward those who do read the tie-ins with a much richer understanding of the setting. This leads into the next point for readers who aren’t necessarily fans of The Old Republic…

Assume Nothing

In addition to having connections to the game, a The Old Republic tie-in also needs to stand on its own. Not every reader is going to be intimately familiar with the game’s background and characters (especially before the game has come out!). For that matter, some may only have a broad familiarity with the Star Wars movies–perhaps they’ve only ever seen the original trilogy and don’t know Jar Jar Binks from Mara Jade.

So how do you write for an audience of casual fans along with the hardcore? You assume no foreknowledge on the part of the reader and you introduce everything he or she needs to know–and you make sure that you have characters and situations that resonate regardless of how they interact with the game.

Does a reader of The Lost Suns need to know that Theron Shan’s mother is a Jedi? Absolutely, and seeing Satele Shan in action during her youth (as we do in both the “Return” cinematic and The Lost Suns issue one) helps establish Theron’s identity and the setting as a whole.

The Lost Suns: Penciled by George Freeman & Dave Ross, Inked by Mark McKenna and Colored by Michael Atiyeh

Does a reader of Blood of the Empire need to know that Exal Kressh is the latest child of a Sith bloodline going back to Ludo Kressh (a character established in Tales of the Jedi comic series)? Absolutely not! Knowledgeable fans will spot the reference and infer its impact on Exal’s character, but it’s an extra–not an integral part of the plot.

There is one exception to the rule, however, and that is to always assume that your audience is smart. Give readers a strong story with characters they care about, and they’ll figure out what matters. There is no need to spoon-feed people. Simply make sure everything they need is there and they will put it all together.

Make it True to the Setting

This shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, who wants comic or novel based on The Old Republic that doesn’t resemble the setting of the game? But keeping the story true to the setting is about far more than just keeping track of the timeline and spelling characters’ names right.

For the comics, it’s our job to make sure the designs you see on the page match the designs you see on the screen. Every artist has his own style, but to make sure that everything remains true to the established aesthetic of a project like The Lost Suns, BioWare supplies hundreds of pieces of reference art. Between all the screenshots and concept art of different outfits, species, weapons, abilities, environments, and characters, the amount of source material used to make sure the artists keep the comics feeling accurate to the period adds up fast.

This also means that there are designs which you’ll see in the comics before you see them anywhere else. For that matter, there are designs you’ll see in more detail in the comics than you’ll see in the game – not because the detail isn’t there, but because when you’re actually playing you tend to be too busy fighting the ancient monsters to admire the color of their scales.

Give Back As Much As You Take

One of the reasons people have come to love Star Wars is because it’s fantastic and full of wonder. A cantina full of bizarre aliens is exciting and fresh, and unexplained references to the “Kessel Run” and the “Battle of Tanaab” suggest a galaxy that is full of strange places and events. When these places and events are fully explored – when every alien species is named and every square kilometer of Kessel is mapped – they can become the focus of stories in their own right instead of remaining on the periphery.

In this case, what’s true of Star Wars in general is true in The Old Republic as well. Mysteries are there to be solved and characters, with their own unique backstories, can make for a fascinating read. In return, a good tie-in throws new characters, new settings and new mysteries back into the pot to maintain a sense of freshness and wonder.

Every piece of literature for The Old Republic to date, whether it be a comic series or a novel, has shown something new and unexplored in the game–something that genuinely adds to the setting, instead of detailing what’s already there. And when the writing team finds something new and exciting in a tie-in, it can be explored further within the game itself, thus continuing the cycle.

Tell a Great Story

None of the other rules matter if you can’t apply them to a great story with an engaging plot and memorable characters. This is also the hardest rule to follow. Usually you won’t know whether you have succeeded in telling a great story until it has been published and is in the hands of the readers. Those readers, from the ones that are knowledgeable of Star Wars lore to the most casual fan of the movies, will be the ones who ultimately cast judgment on whether or not the story you told was great.

So tell us how we’re doing so far. Tell us what you’re looking forward to, as well as what you’d like to see in the future.

In the meantime, we have more stories to write both for the game and beyond. After all, with a galaxy as large as the one that’s far, far away, The Old Republic gives us plenty of material to work with.

Alexander Freed
Senior Writer

Star Wars: The Old Republic | Developer Blogs.