Deborah Shin, the Marketing Manager for Star Wars: The Old Republic told TOROcast at E3 that PAX was going to be the game's biggest event of the year. When I heard that announcement about a month and a half ago, I decided that I would have to make it to this event. Prior to that I was willing to let others do the reporting while I snagged some stories at home. I want Massively to be your source of SWTOR news, so how could I not go to the biggest SWTOR bash of the year?
This week's agenda is quite simple in scope, but a bit more complicated in execution. I hope to give you a very brief overview of what we know of our favorite game going into PAX, followed by a few directions I could go with information gathering. Ultimately, I want the fan's opinion. What information do you want to see come out of this fan-tastic exposition? Follow me after the jump, where I break down the possibilities.
Just like races in more traditional MMOs and RPGs, a player's race defines the character's place in history, if not the character's specific personal backstory. Species work the same way in science-fiction games. Although it's not a hard-and-fast rule, there are certain personalities who are drawn to specific species, or a player will pick a species because of the type of gameplay he wishes to experience. There are a large number of Mon Calamari shipwrights in Star Wars Galaxies, for instance.
In SWTOR, we know that a species is directly associated with a player's class, probably for story-related purposes. Smugglers can be Twi'leks; Jedi knights can be Miraluka; consulars can be Mirialan; agents can be Chiss; bounty hunters can be Rattataki; Sith warriors can be Pure-blood Sith; inquisitors can be Zabrak. There is a rumor that Zabrak is also a trooper species. We know most players will choose human. That's just the way it is among MMOs, for lots of different reasons, but BioWare has a tendency to make race/species integral to the overarching story.
The question here is, "What don't we know about classes?" The advanced classes were revealed at Gamescom: scoundrel (smuggler), gunslinger (smuggler), sentinel (Jedi knight), guardian (Jedi knight), shadow (Jedi consular), wizard (Jedi consular), operative (agent), sniper (agent), powertech (bounty hunter), mercenary (bounty hunter), marauder (Sith warrior), juggernaut (Sith warrior), sorcerer (inquisitor), assassin (inquisitor), commando (trooper), and vanguard (trooper).
We also know the roles of each of these classes via the Fan Friday report a couple of weeks ago. SWTOR-Station even took some time to break down some of the current special attacks of the Sith warrior. Of course, at this time, I am sure those specials are far from being set in stone since class combat balance is usually molded and tweaked up to launch (and beyond, if you're some companies). However, I think most of the class information has already been divulged.
In contrast to classes, not much has been revealed about space combat in SWTOR, but to be quite honest, how much is there to be revealed? BioWare has said that it will be mostly optional (if not completely optional), and although it is set in the Star Wars universe, the focus of this game is the ground-based story.
At E3, we learned that each player will get a ship. We learned this will work as a type of housing for the player. Then at SDCC, we were given the scoop on space combat: that it would be a tunnel shooter. Players had very mixed feeling about that news, but the Gamescom trailer did rejuvenate some excitement when it showed us what combat would actually look like. On top of that, we did get visual confirmation of all the ships. Fan sites have all pretty much made the same predictions about which classes get which ship, even if we don't know the names of them yet.
Some sites have leaked footage of the starting areas of the game, but the truth is we know very little about these areas officially. For instance, we know that the bounty hunter and Imperial agent start on Hutta. The Hutta quests have something to do with Nem'ro the Hutt -- likely also with Fa'athra the Hutt. Beyond that, details have been sketchy at best.
It seems that the endgame is usually the most game-breaking part of an MMO, yet it also seems to be the most secretive. SWTOR's endgame is no exception. We have been told there will be raids and repeatable quests. Our interview with Alexander Freed gave us the general impression of the quest arcs, and the E3 announcement regarding War Zones told us that PvP will be part of the endgame. However, the devs are being fairly vague, suggesting mostly that if-other-MMOs-have-it-we-will-have-it-too.
Foremost, we don't know how closely tied species is to class. It is my belief -- and a great majority of fans agree -- that one species per class is not going to cut it for variety. However, if some species (such as the rumored Zabrak species) are available to multiple classes, then a great majority of complaints would subside.
I firmly believe one of the big reveals for PAX will be every single species for every class. Well, OK; it's one of my high-hopes. If this is something you, members of the Massively audience, are interested in, I will certainly pursue it.
What don't we know about classes that is worth knowing at this point? I know we don't know specific abilities, but we do know the general roles of each advanced class, as I said above. We even know that there will be general armor progression. Unless we want to know everything about the game before it even hits shelves, I cannot think of too many questions to ask about classes. What do you think?
Because this event is the biggest one of the year for BioWare, I think we will actually get a hands-on demonstration of space combat. To top it off, I look forward to learning for sure which ship belongs to which class. Beyond that, I can't think of anything we really don't know about space combat.
The starting zones are all about story. What story is your Jedi going to run through on Tython? Is there any information a developer can give us that isn't going to totally spoil the story for us? There have been sites which posted long segments of beginning stories and quests. I don't want Massively to be one of those. Part of the fun of playing BioWare games is not knowing how the story is going to play out.
I believe the hardest thing to get out of BioWare will be, "What is your endgame going to be like?" Yet, I want to know. The MMO industry has been plagued by weak endgames. (I'm looking at you, Cryptic.) We don't want SWTOR to follow that example. But where do you start asking questions? PvP? Raiding? Repeatable quests?
Let me be your mouthpiece. What questions do you have? I know some of you are on the fence about SWTOR. Which area of focus will push you over the edge and say, "This is the game for me"?
BioWare has a booth set up for the game demonstration, so I will definitely take part in that as much as I can. I have one scheduled interview, as well as whomever I can just randomly run into. Next week, the Hyperspace Beacon will be my daily journal at PAX, so if your questions aren't answered in the interviews and news coming out of PAX for this week, perhaps they will be answered in next week's column.
I will see you next week and, as a SWG friend of mine says, "May Ashla watch over you, always."