EA’s E3 2010 Press Conference: Hope, Player Ships, and Warzones

EA just wrapped up their press conference at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles. The presentation included a number of games including relaunches of the Need For Speed and Medal of Honor franchises. Of course, we watched with bated breath for Bioware’s presentation. What did we get? The team showed off the new “Hope” trailer that was teased last week. The video is set on Alderaan and pits a Havok squad of troopers against an unmasked Darth Malgus. It was far and away one of the most exciting pieces of video game cinema seen since, well, the Deceived trailer! We’ll be sure to post a link to the video as soon as it goes live on the web. The second reveal of the presentation was a bit more gameplay oriented…

Player ships! LucasArts’ Mary Bihr and Greg Zestra from Bioware showed off two ships that will provide “a home for a player to use as a base of operations, from which to explore the galaxy.” The first of these is a ship for the Galactic Republic, not too-dissimilar from the Corellian Engineering Corporation’s XS-800 light freighter and the second is an unknown Imperial ship (similar look to the VCX-820), called a “Sith Inerceptor” which obviously takes visual cues from the later-introduced TIE series of ships. While there was no direct mention of space combat, this confirms that we will at the very least see a ship system on par with Knights of the Old Republic and the Ebon Hawk. Zestra finished the note on ships by saything that “we want a player ship to represent not only a right of passage in the game, but also a representation of their personal style.”

The second “reveal” is player versus player combat, or as it will be called in The Old Republic, “Warzones”. Little details were mentioned during the press conference, but Greg Zestra told the audience that “players will experience fierce battles that evoke the memories of famous Star Wars ground conflicts.” We did, however, find out that the first of these warzones to be revealed will be set on Alderaan. Press will be getting hands-on with the most recent builds during the week, likely showing off player ships and warzones, and we’ll keep you updated of those as well.

Update: In an interview with 1UP, Blaine Christine confirmed that other players will be able to come aboard your ship. He noted, “It’s your hub of operations; it’s your home within the game world. It’s where you come back to after a mission; it’s where you have deeper interactions with your companion characters; it’s where you store your gear or equip yourself out before adventuring again. But since this is a massively multiplayer game, it’s also a place where you can bring your friends.”


Electronic Entertainment Expo 2010

E3 is upon us! Starting today the developers will begin their deluge of new reveals about the direction Star Wars The Old Republic will be taking over the coming months. Between press conferences, interviews, and hands-on, there is going to be plenty of information for us to sift through. Like we mentioned in episode 19, we plan on doing a wrap-up episode at the end of this week, so you will definitely want to be on the lookout for that!

In the meantime, there are two great places to keep up with all of the newly released info about SWTOR. The first of these is the official site, where the community team will be updating the page regularly with links to various reviews and interviews from the games press. The second is over at Darth Hater, where they have a large portion of their team on the ground to cover every bit of news they can get their hands on. The team will be posting updates throughout the week, but their coverage kicks off today at 2PM PST with a liveblog of EA’s press conference. Video of the event can also be see at YouTube

In the meantime, we would invite you to join in on the discussion on our newly-revamped forums. Throughout the week we’ll be talking with you guys about impressions of what we’ve been seeing from the SWTOR team, and what impact this week’s reveals will have in the coming months. We look forward to hearing from you all!


Friday Update for April 2nd, 2010

With the transition away from news about the story pillar of The Old Republic starting to ramp up, this week’s update brings us a Developer Blog from Principal Lead Systems Designer Damion Schubert. The blog outlines Bioware’s approach to creating the overall feel of an MMO, either from the “world” philosophy or the “game” philosophy. Both approaches differ greatly, wherein the world approach focuses on an open sandbox and players’ imaginations, and the game approach tightly holds players hands through a fine-tuned experience.

Friday Update April 2nd 2010

Schubert went on to explain that the Austin development team approaches MMO development with a third philosophy: community. The community-oriented approach allows them to bridge the gap between world and game, providing opportunities for players to both interact and explore the world around them, and also to be engaged in stories surrounding their characters and the galaxy as a whole. From the article:

“To me, as an MMO designer, community is the whole ball of wax. Let’s face it, if you wanted to play just a ‘game’, you’d be off playing a single player roleplaying game. If you wanted a ‘world’, maybe you’d play a life-simulation game. But community – well, that’s the whole ‘massively multiplayer’ part of MMO. When you look at it this way, ‘community’ is at least as important as ‘game’ or ‘world’ in this debate.”

This should at least help to calm the fears of some fellow gamers about the focus thus far on single player content. While he couldn’t give any specifics, Schubert noted that we will be hearing from both him and “other systems designers in the coming months as we talk about the systems and features that are getting locked down inside of the game”. Some of these features include crafting, where he said that they want to allow players to create items in the game that will benefit the community as a whole, rather than just the individual.

The entire entry is a great read and you can expect us to cover in more in depth in episode 17. Read “Community: The Third Element”


Friday Update for March 26th, 2010

We’re here at PAX East! With a huge set of sessions and a sprawling expo floor to check out, we certainly have an exciting weekend ahead of us. Even if The Old Republic doesn’t have an official presence at the conference, expect to see a slew up updates about the things we see and hear.

In the mean time, this week Sean brings us a slightly different take on the Friday Update. No new planets or webcomics, but instead a deeper look into some of the characters we’ve seen thus far. Interested in Grand Moff Kilran’s rise to power or about the descendant of Bastila Shan? The new Biographies section of the Holonet looks like its shaping up to be the definitive source for info about some of the galaxy’s biggest names. Broken down into three sections (by faction), the list is rather slim at the moment, but we should expect to see more added in the coming weeks.

Friday Update March 26

The second portion of today’s update is a pointer to a short story on the official Star Wars site by Threat of Peace writer Robert Chestney. The story follows Hylo Visz, a Mirialan pilot who helped to break through the Mandalorian Blockade. Chestney chooses to focus on a time in her past where she is contracted to work for a large Hutt crime cartel. Of particular interesting note is the mention of a Corellian corporation. If you remember in episode nine we discussed how Corellia was one of the planets we would love to see in the game based on its rich history involving some of the galaxy’s most powerful and prevalent ships. Be sure to give the story a read!


Mice of the Old Republic: If Disney Purchased EA

The bulk of our Stories From The Outer Rim talk from Episode 14 was about the possibility of EA being purchased by a larger group in 2010, with Star Wars The Old Republic acting as a top selling point. While we touched on a lot of details around this topic, we felt it best to put together a definitive post from the fan’s perspective.

disney characters tatooine

Are We Crazy?
The cornerstone of the discussion behind EA’s purchase stemmed from the Christmas wrap-up and prediction episode of the 4 Guys 1 Up Podcast. John Davison’s first prediction was that one of the major four game publishers would be purchased by a larger media conglomerate sometime within the next year. His best guess? EA, primarily due to a number of its properties that dovetail with a large media company, especially a group like Disney. What we neglected to mention on the show was that this theory actually has some wings.

Martin Peers of The Wall Street Journal (coverage from Kotaku) actually brought forth the idea that Disney should purchase EA back in 2008. At the time, the company had taken a huge dive in its market value, with its stock dropping about $45 dollars per share from the previous Christmas season. The WSJ article is still true today, as its stock has failed to make any real recovery. Between the ability to tie in properties and the vastly lower purchase price, Disney could stand to make a huge profit by providing EA with the financial stability it needs to bounce back.

Blending the Lines
Even if we consider the power of companies like Comcast or National Amusements (they own CBS, Paramount Pictures, and more), Disney is really the ultimate example of a company looking to pick up EA, and the pieces start to fall in place very quickly. First and foremost is the natural combination of ESPN and the Madden, Tiger Woods, and FIFA franchises. Mickey Mouse cannot go wrong with the four most recognizable sports brands under a single roof. Also, Disney could easily expand its NASCAR influenced Richard Petty Driving Experience to include the export tuner demographic that Need For Speed markets (police “chases”, time trials, etc.)

The biggest opportunity that both companies have is to reinvigorate the theme park market by integrating a video game experience into rides and attractions. While Disney has started to venture into this area already, by bringing in development powerhouses like Maxis and Mythic they stand to grow that area by leaps and bounds.

Speaking Of..
At this point we’ve covered everything that doesn’t apply to our favorite development team. When speaking strictly in terms of dollars and cents, both Warhammer Online and The Old Republic provide constant revenue streams in a market that a company like Disney has failed to tap. Sure, Disney Interactive has managed to grab some money from parents buying the most recent Lilo and Stitch or Hannah Montana title, but they’ve failed to reach out to the hardcore gamers of the world in a meaningful way.

With SWTOR set to be the only contender to ActiBlizzard, Disney would be blind to see that EA is finally on the verge of making their financial comeback. The Spring 2011 release date puts the game in a perfect storm of post-Cataclysm boredom and the pre-summer release lull. What better way to start the new fiscal year with a boom than to prey on the thousands of disenfranchised Warcraft players enticed by all the opportunities that The Old Republic provides, not only in new gameplay experiences and mechanics, but in a Star Wars setting that we all know and love.

Meddling Hands Beware…
Gamers have a long history of despising the “buyout”. There are countless stories of developers being gobbled up and dismantled by publishers (EA not excluded). So what makes our situation different?

If Disney were to approach EA with a purchase deal, we can be rest assured that folks like John Riccitiello (EA’s CEO) and Ray Muzyka (CEO at BioWare Corp and Senior Vice President and Group General Manager of the RPG/MMO Group) would be our biggest advocates. With both companies looking to increase their market and overall revenue, they would be foolish to meddle in the everyday details that directly affect how and what we play. There is no benefit in stirring up the employment stew, removing the people who have managed to create so much positive buzz and excitement about a property that is still over a year away. The community backlash would reach epic proportions.

Of course we do write this with some trepidation in light of the recently announced lawsuit involving Activision and two of its recently-fired heads of Infinity Ward. But thankfully (for SWTOR fans) that situation is more about the rights to a franchise than anything else. With LucasArts involved, and Disney’s previous experience with Lucas properties, the chances of something like that happening to Bioware are slim to none.

Are We Just Talking To Talk?
It’s easy to get bogged down in the details about this property or that stock value. It’s even easier to wonder if this even effects what we as gamers care about the most: the characters, the story, the mechanics, the people. But we feel that it is important to see the whole picture beyond the virtual world we so very much want to be a part of. The educated gamer who cares about the entire process is the better gamer, and we want to do our best to spark meaningful discussion not only about the latest Trooper animation (which was sick, right?), but the games industry as a whole and what it really takes to push out an amazing title like The Old Republic.

We want to know what you think! Sound off in the comments…