[SWTOR] Notes from SDCC, and scarce code is scarce

OK, a few more notes about The Old Republic to catch up on what we’ve seen last week, following up Arb’s summary of her flashpoint yesterday.

As an observer, I was mostly taken by:

  • Smoothness of the character animations. This isn’t LOTRO where the game is gorgeous until someone moves. It’s all very nicely animated.
  • Loved the female sith bounty hunter that Arb was playing, she looked very cool and badass. So did her armour.
  • It wasn’t all that easy for me to tell the various characters apart, aside from the sith inquisitor in his robes. Expect the inquisitor/ consular to get picked on a lot in PvP because they’re so easy to spot. As well as potentially being healers.
  • The dialogue wheels were lots of fun. I could see Arb settling into her character when she started instantly picking the most sarcastic options (which got darkside points, naturally.) What she couldn’t see but I could was that the guy sitting next to her was picking the exact same options with similar lack of delay. It’s almost a shame that the game can’t point out afterwards, “You know character X you met in that team? You guys have a lot in common and picked similar options, maybe you’d get on.” Would be especially neat for light side empire and dark side republic characters to be able to spot each other.
  • The instance was pretty much corridors (dressed up nicely as a ship) with mobs in them, broken up by the occasional boss or dialogue. There was an obvious influence from WAR in that side quests such as “kill 30 republic soldiers” kept popping up and it looked as though the team was completing them fairly organically just by running the flashpoint.
  • You do get to mow down lots of enemy mooks.

The point Arb made yesterday was that she could imagine groups getting very impatient if one member was slow to read or select dialogue or went AFK because the game does require everyone to make a selection before things continue. I assume there is a timeout, but we know how fast faster faster gogogo people get in instances.

Star Wars Panel

Bioware ran a 45 minute panel at Comic Con, at which they showed a few trailers, introduced some of the character voice actors, and answered some questions. G4TV recorded the whole thing, along with a commentary – mine would have been better (obviously) if I hadn’t run out of power on the iPod towards the end :)

The room was packed, and people cheered the trailers (which do look awesome on a big screen with proper sound equipment.)

Main points:

  • New trailer. This one briefly introduces the classes, it’s all made up of in-game footage, no cinematics. And I’m assuming you get to hear the actual voice actors who’ll be voicing the player characters. (The Imperial Agent not only looks geeky, he sounds geeky too! I may be a bit in love.)
  • No overlap of quest between class/ faction. For example, the bounty hunter and jedi knight have no quests in common from 1-max level. I’m assuming there may be some faction quests in common but definitely got the sense that the vast majority of class content is not repeated.
  • They discussed the solo endgame. There will be an entire planet devoted to this.
  • Planets can be quite large. They gave the example of 30 mins to run from one end to the other, although players will have faster transport than that.
  • You’ll be able to customise your companions, including changing their skin and hair colour. So yours don’t have to look like everyone else’s.
  • There is a LOT of dialogue in this game, which I think had been well broadcast previously. The voice actors discussed this, and the sizes of the scripts they had to read. They both really seemed to enjoy their characters and praised the writing (I hope the woman playing the love interest is ready for the amount of fan reaction she’s likely to get :) ).
  • They showed an example of the dialogue wheel, with a jedi vs sith fight where the winning jedi got to choose at the end whether or not to kill their opponent. They let the crowd choose, based on how loudly people cheered for each choice (cheers sounded about equal from where I was sitting). They said they expected people to choose killing, but showed both alternate endings. In the light side ending, the guy said he would change his ways, and they said you might run into him again later.
  • I can’t remember the character’s name but the twilek who ends up as a possible companion to the sith warrior is hilarious. They showed a couple of clips of her sassing people.
  • Level 50 was noted as the max level.

Pricing and Scarcity

There has been a lot of debate in the blogosphere (to put it mildly) about the pricing of the SWTOR pre-orders and collectors editions. Yes, they’re high, but they’re also bang in line with pricing trends for AAA games.

This will not be the first game to offer a $150 collectors edition, and it certainly won’t be the last. I don’t really understand the outrage on this particular point, collector’s editions were always supposed to be something a bit special for the hardcore (and rich) fans.  Having said that, I think Bioware could do fairly well if they sell the soundtrack separately.

Similarly, before complaining about the price of the standard edition, stop and think about how much MW3 is likely to be selling for later this year. Will it stop people buying the game? Hell no. I share the dismay on pricing trends, but this is pretty much in line with the way things are going.

Another issue is the deliberate scarcity of pre-order copies of the game. I have heard some obscure conspiracy theories around EA doing this to push prices up. I have also heard some more plausible debates about how to stop the servers getting swamped on launch (along with suggestions that EA should just somehow manage it.)

In any case, the real take away point I took from seeing the game and the dev team at Comic Con is that no one is trying to fool anyone. What you see is what you get. The game is very much for real. If you don’t like what you’re seeing and hearing in the interviews and demos right now, then it may not be for you. And I trust Bioware that if they are keeping the copies scarce, then they have a good reason for it.

It is a shame if players outside the US and EU have to wait a few more months for their servers, but we did that with WoW and it didn’t kill us. My advice is that it’s worth the wait to have local servers if you were planning to play the game anyway.

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11 thoughts on “[SWTOR] Notes from SDCC, and scarce code is scarce

    • For me, it’s more that I really think the storytelling and voicework is going to be AMAZING, and you’re not going to see the full scale of that in a demo or flashpoint. I trust Bioware enough that I’m keen to play through the single player game at least once on one character, and then we’ll see.

      You’re right that it didn’t charm the socks off me, but I think that’s because the real charm is going to be in the storytelling, which is pretty much what they’ve said all along. I certainly didn’t see any red flags here.

  1. Nice review, but what AAA MMO had a $150 CE already? Rift and the last WOW expansion were ~$80? I can’t think of any. Last one I bought was WAR (talk about buyer’s regret), but it was only like … $70, if I recall.

    The $150 pricetag is pretty insane.

    • I was trying to remember which of the AAA games had surprised me with the high pricetag CE. I’m thinking one of the shooters. I know Halo 3 had an expensive legendary edition, and think there was another one with a special mousepad or something. CODBLOPS probably also had a super expensive special collectors edition also — a swift internet search says it retailed at … $149.99

  2. Oh and: “I can’t remember the character’s name but the twilek who ends up as a possible companion to the sith warrior is hilarious. ” You are thinking of Vette, I am sure

  3. …I trust Bioware…

    Except it’s not just Bioware, it’s EA now. Something like limiting the number of boxes would be a business (EA) decision, not a developer (Bioware) one. Hopefully the business people took input from the developers, but that’s not always the case, unfortunately.

    Not saying one theory or the other is correct, but I wouldn’t discount suggestions of trying to create artificial scarcity as a “conspiracy theory”.

  4. “players outside the US and EU”.
    10 countries out of 27 from EU are “shown middle finder”.

    If it’s limited pre-order then why limit by country?

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