KOTOR’s 10th Anniversary Commemorated

kotor_2BioWare have announced that given it’s 10 years since the launch of Knights Of The Old Republic, they’re going to recognise it within the SWTOR community:

We are happy to announce that on July 15th we will be celebrating the 10 year anniversary of Knights of the Old Republic™ from BioWare and LucasArts. To mark this celebration, we will be doing a couple of things both in-game, and out. Here are some of the things you can look forward to:

  • A blog from BioWare Creative Director, James Ohlen, where he talks about KOTOR and how it helped set the stage for making Star Wars™: The Old Republic™.
  • A brand new title “Revan’s Heir” coming to the Cartel Market for only 24 hours at the low price of 10 Cartel Coins! (July 15 2AM CT to July 16 2AM CT)
  • Cartel Coin giveaways throughout the day on the official Star Wars: The Old Republic Facebook Page.

We hope you will join us in celebrating the 10 year anniversary of Knights of the Old Republic.

The Star Wars: The Old Republic team

It’s not the most comprehensive commemoration you’ll see but it’s good to see the impact KOTOR had being recognised. If you’re a KOTOR player, jump in comments and let us know your thoughts of the past 10 years and the impact the game had on you.

[Pic courtesy of Maclife.com]

SWTOR: Grinding The Gears

There’s nothing so embarrassing as trying to go up a hill in the wrong gear. You can hear the engine struggle and have to endure the amused smiles from passengers in other cars as they bomb past you. Unless you are a complete idiot, you will change down gears.

This is clearly BioWare Austin’s revised philosophy as BioWare’s Executive Producer for Live Services, Jeff Hickman, has pointed out in a recent interview with Zam.com.  Lets face it, BW has become notorious for offering up big promises of things ‘coming soon’ but for the most part it’s been a bad case of over-promising and under-delivering. It look like this is changing – hopefully.

While his responses include the usual soft peddle and PR spin where he tries to paint the move of offering a F2P tier as a considered move that’s part of a larger strategy guided by keen observation of the market place (as opposed to the market pushing them towards a cliff), he also offers some interesting morsels that will appear to hint at better days to come for the struggling MMO.

The first thing to mention is that Jeff Hickman overall sounds like a man who wants to make things right. If that is reflective of the general attitude in Austin then good things might be about to happen. There had been fears expressed by some that EA/Bioware might just throw token resources at the game to keep it ticking over but not put any great effort into re-energising it. However it sounds, to me at least, that a shift in focus and attitude has occurred and with it some actual progress.

The six-week update schedule, if they stick to it, should be achievable especially since they’ve already got a significant amount of content mapped out and built ahead of time according to Daniel Erickson. DC Universe Online manages updates roughly every month, so lets consider this a likely eventuality.

Now, onto Space combat. While many are vocal about this being an irrelevant and seldom touched part of the game, recent figures indicate that it’s popular.  While Hickman confirmed that hard mode missions would be available, he was decidedly evasive about any other developments saying only that there was a dedicated space team working on ‘lots of interesting things’. Granted that smacks of ‘coming soon’ but in the overall context of the interview it sounds more substantial to me. Apropos of nothing? Maybe, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say I think this sounds promising.

Then of course we have the much derided Great Acquisition Race. While many found this frustrating and far too short-lived, Hickman said it was full of foreshadowing and hinted at where the story was headed. Again, this at least confirms that Makeb, as a class-generic zone isn’t all we have in store. There is more story to come and for many of us, that remains the main attraction of the game. Once again, it sounds hopeful.

Granted, there’s nothing rock-solid here and SWTOR has plummeted from keenly anticipated WoW killer to being written off as ‘a miss’ in the last EA earnings call. But this may be a blessing in disguise. Perhaps now that internal and external expectations have crashed, the game has a little breathing space to consolidate, reappraise and rebuild without the intense scrutiny and pressure. Perhaps there’s less need for the vague promises that gamers always assumed were directed at them but were merely coded messages to the stock market. Those messages caused most of us a lot of frustration and while I thought I was beyond believing or caring, this interview still leaves me oddly hopeful.

Even with so much else in the market right now, SWTOR can still turn things around. It will never have ten million subs but it can find its niche. SWTOR still has a lot to offer and under the right leadership there’s no reason it shouldn’t continue to develop and mature into a game with a substantial, stable player community. With luck it might even evolve into the game it was always intended to be before EA pushed it out of the womb prematurely.

[Image via Free Images Archive]

SWTOR at Gamescom: New Trailer

In case you hadn’t heard, BioWare have a presence at Gamescom in the US, and they’ve released a video showcasing some future content. Have a look for yourself:

For avid SWTOR followers there’s nothing hugely new in there although I think there’s some shots I haven’t seen before of Makeb and Terror from Beyond.

Over to you: anything in particular that gets your juices flowing from the whole 1 minute of preview?

Rich Vogel Leaves BioWare: more layoffs?

Just a quick heads-up on an article over at Gamasutra, stating that SWTOR’s executive producer, Rich Vogel, has left BioWare. There are also reports of other layoffs but it’s unclear if it’s part of the original layoff announcement back in late May:

Amid reports that BioWare Austin is laying off staff today, Gamasutra can confirm that Star Wars: The Old Republic’s executive producer Rich Vogel is no longer with the company.

Vogel was instrumental in the development of SWTOR, overseeing all aspects of the MMO before and after its launch in December. The online game, though, has lost around 400,000 paid subscribers in recent months, and BioWare Austin recently said it’s considering free-to-play options for the title.

Reports also emerged on Tuesday morning that the Austin office is laying off workers, but it’s unclear if this headcount reduction is part of the restructuring plan BioWare announced in May. Though its parent company Electronic Arts didn’t specify then how many employees would be affected, the publisher said those layoffs were necessary in order for the team to maintain and grow SWTOR.

There’s nothing much to be upbeat about in regard to this announcement and we’ve had no official communication from BioWare on the changes at this stage.

We’ll have more as we find out ourselves, what’s your take on the situation?

The Wrong Revolution?

MMORPG is a stale genre in many respects. Leveling, crafting, gathering. It’s all very familiar – electronic Dungeons & Dragons®. So when a new one appears we all hope that it’s got something new to offer, something improved, perhaps revolutionary. SWTOR promised this with the ‘fourth pillar’ of story and voice. It’s definitely made the leveling process more interesting and immersive so long as you don’t mind having your character and path heavily defined for you. But once you reach endgame this fourth pillar effectively vanishes, leaving you with the same ol’ tripod – a notoriously unstable configuration, particularly if the legs are different lengths.

Which is why two recent MMOs have got me thinking about whether BioWare really chose the right thing to pour so much time, energy and money into. I’m talking about Tera and Day Z.

Tera was launched in South Korea in January 2011 and in North America May this year. It runs on the time- tested Unreal 3 engine. Unlike SWTOR, the producers (Bluehole Studio) have made no attempt to reduce grind or draw you into a rich compelling story. What they have done is bring a third person shooter-style aiming system into an MMO, along with distinctive play styles and strategies for each class. I don’t need to tell you that this can remain fun and interesting long after the leveling process ends. Despite a total lack of innovation in most other areas, many admit it’s still damn fun and compelling. People want to try new classes because they each offer a something substantial and distinctive, not just different animations and light effects.

Day Z is completely different. A mod for ARMA II (plus its expansion Operation Arrowhead), Day Z runs on the propriatory Real Virtuality 3 engine and throws you into a zombie infested, post apocalyptic landscape (254 km.sq). You have some basic supplies, a weapon and zombies… so many zombies. Scattered about this enourmous landscape are fellow players who may help you, or just as likely kill you for the pittance in your backpack.

Every step you take, every choice you make has real consequences, it’s all about survival. But it’s not for everyone. There’s no crafting, no slick UI, no map (you WILL get lost… alot) or any of the plush velvet luxuries that many MMO players now demand. There’s no attempt at plot, but there are plenty of stories – all tales of player’s experiences – some are intense and no wonder. It’s just you, your wits and a little blind luck. This is a brutal, unforgiving place and it’s massively popular. So much so it’s pushed ARMA II sales up, even to the top of Steam’s sales chart. Not bad for a product still in alpha.

So where does that leave us? In fairness to BioWare, the world has changed a lot since SWTOR was conceived in early 2008. Back then K.Rudd had just apologised to the Stolen Generation and the Global Financial Crisis had yet to start biting. The world has changed a little since then, but not within SWTOR’s masterplan it seems, although that may change very soon. Only time will tell if the ‘fourth pillar’ was the right move or just a footnote in MMO evolution.

The real question is “where to from here?”. Maintain the ‘fourth pillar’ by continuing your personal story? Desperately add extra content for endgame? Re-examine the current market and make some hard choices? In all honesty, since it’s hard to tell what resourcing EA/Bioware have available for SWTOR, it’s hard to say – especially after the Austin studio lost somewhere around 120 fulltime staff (as best we can tell).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sick of the game, nor am I downhearted about its future, but I’m not going to gloss over existing problems. I believe that, with the world economy and reduced staff resources, BioWare need to decide who their core player base is and focus on improving the game for them. They will lose players but they’ll certainly gain many others.

In the meantime, we’ll just have to sit back and hope we see more openness and transparency in BioWare’s communication with their fans. They should remember that, like your character has a health bar, any business has a trust bar and that SOB drops fast and recharges very, very slowly.

The Spirit World Part 4: Attacking Bioware – A Help Guide

(This is the final part of a community-driven story – check out Part 1 herecheck out Part 2 herecheck out Part 3 here)

So, you are crawling through a sewer about to attack Bioware.

Yep that about sums up my current situation.

What are you trying to achieve from this help guide?

Honestly I have no idea. You haven’t been much help so far.

Then why did you summon me?

I’m crawling through a sewer, I want someone to talk to.

You summoned me just to talk? Great. Is my help so under-appreciated?

Please, you give the least helpful advice I have ever heard.

Oh, is that what you think? In that case, I’ll be off.

I summoned you, you need to stay untill I’m are done.

No, I only need to stay until you complete what you told me you were trying to achieve. And this time you set no conditions.

In that case, I am trying to free BioWare from the control of EA and the reapers.

What’s Kendra and her gang doing?

They are going to create a distraction in the street so that nobody interrupts me.

What about furry red yoda?

Apparently he is an informant for the underground resistance.

Underground resistance?

Can we focus on me?

Fine, if you are in the sewers, keep an eye out for pipes leading to Bioware.

What do they look like?

How should I know? You are in a sewer, they don’t exactly label them for your convenience.

Damn it, this feels like where I should move up. I’m cutting a hole with the lightsaber.

Make sure the hole you cut doesn’t fall on you.

It’s cut, I don’t think anyone above saw.

What does it look like?

I think it’s a car park.

Pull yourself up, but try and remain undetected.

I can’t even see anyone in the car park.

It would be wise to go quietly.

I thought my main problem would be smell.

Oh right. In that case I would recommend you just run for it.

And this time I’m taking the elevator.

Again, I’m going to recommend against it.

And what was your excellent logic for that again?

They would be expecting it.

Look, I’m going up there to kick some ass, you can either complain or help me.

Does it seem like I want to help you?

I thought so. Ok, I’m in the elevator. Top floor, same as last time.

Don’t you think it strange that nobody has tried to stop you yet?

Shut up, I need to ready myself.

Ok, two points. First, you have no idea what to ready yourself for and second, now you want me to be quiet, after telling me you only want me here to talk to you…


I’m telling you, those doors open and you are either fucked, or the luckiest person alive.

How lucky do you think I need to be?

The only way you are going to survive is if nobody up here has any idea you are coming and nobody has any weapons.

You think I have that little chance?

Oh no, I think even if that’s exactly what happens, you will still figure out a way of hurting yourself.

Some help you are…

Just tell me when the doors open.

They are opening now.

What’s happening, what do you see?

The floor is entirely deserted apart from someone sitting in a chair on the other side of the room.

Who is it?

I think it’s Stephen Reid.

Told you so.

When? When did you tell me?

Just before.

No you didn’t, the only thing you told me was that I was going to die!

Stop talking to yourself.

No, you stop talking to yourself.

Lame, real lame.

BioWare have fired all their staff who ever fought against EA. I don’t think it was BioWare’s decision, more pressure from EA.

Sucks to be him.

What now?

Now, I’ve been thinking about that. I think the best thing for me would be to join the resistance, help them for a while. You should probably get back to your own life. This world is soon to see war.

But can’t I help?

There is nothing you can do. You can’t fight, you talk to yourself and you smell like a sewer. Your purpose was to keep my lightsaber safe from BioWare so it wouldn’t be destroyed when this day came.

Ask him what happens to BioWare now.

What happens to BioWare now?

Bioware is now but a shadow of its former self. With a decent chunk of the staff joining the resistance, the resistance now knows exactly how they work. There won’t be anything they can do to help EA other than continue to make games.

This concludes “Attack Bioware Via The Spirit World Help Guide”.

Well, here is the lightsaber back.

Thank you.

In order to return to the real world click your heels together three times.

Farewell strange world.

Did everything go as expected?

With the idiot, yes. Everything went mostly as planned.

Is the resistance in place?

Downstairs waiting for you.

You did well guide, I dismiss you.

This concludes the “Joining the EA resistance in the Spirit World, a help guide”.

I said I dismiss you!

An original Ken Clark / TOROZ production

BioWare lay off SWTOR staff: is it the beginning of the end?

To answer this post’s title first up: no.

Most importantly, commiserations to those who have lost jobs – it’s never an easy thing for anyone having to adjust to a new reality, even if they’re lucky enough to have another job to go to.

The full announcement from BioWare’s founders:

Hey folks, since you’re reading this you may likely have heard that we’ve done some restructuring here on the SWTOR team. Sadly, we are bidding farewell to some talented, passionate and exceptionally hard-working people who helped make SWTOR a reality. Impacting people’s lives this way is always very hard, but we’re ensuring the affected people are treated with dignity, fairness and respect.

Looking back at launch, we all came together and did something historic. We executed one of the largest, most successful and stable launches of any MMO yet in industry history. That is not an easy feat for any development team or company and we are humbled and honored by our fan community’s strong support both at launch and beyond.

Looking forward, the studio remains vibrant and passionate about our many upcoming initiatives for Star Wars: The Old Republic. We still have a very substantial development team working on supporting and growing the game, and we feel we are in a strong position, with your continued involvement and feedback, to continue to build Star Wars: The Old Republic as one of the most compelling and successful online experiences in the world today. There are many strong initiatives planned for cool new content and new features that we’re excited to tell you about in the upcoming weeks and months.

Rest assured that we remain dedicated to delivering a high quality service in SWTOR to you, our fans, and we will continue to support and grow Star Wars: The Old Republic over the weeks, months and years to come.

Greg and Ray

So, in regard to the layoffs and their implications for SWTOR, there’ll be no shortage of prognostications about how this is the beginning of the end. There’s one small flaw in that argument though: can anyone show me where an MMO development team maintains its full workforce post-launch? Surely no-one thinks that the huge team involved in getting SWTOR off the ground would all be kept ongoing?

Sure, there’s a massive amount of development of the game still to do, particularly given the proposed enhancements and the regular content updates that need to happen. Even then, I would have thought ongoing efforts require a smaller team now that development processes post-launch would be well and truly bedded down.

Again, it’s a hard time for those affected, but let’s not mix up respect for that with an assumption of more ominous undercurrents.

Over to you: do you see this announcement as a natural part of the process or am I being a BioWare apologist?

The Spirit World: Infiltrating Bioware – A Help Guide

So, you’ve taken on your spirit form and are now looking at Bioware HQ from across the spirit street.


Yep, that sums up my current situation.


What are you trying to achieve from this help guide?


I’m trying to get to the same floor Stephen Reid is on so I can ask him about the future of SWTOR.


What are you wearing?


Is that really important?


This is your first spirit heist isn’t it?




You need to be wearing appropriate clothing for this or their spirit guards will catch and torture you.


I’m wearing a balaclava, t-shirt, jeans and thongs.


That sounds about appropriate for someone trying to pull off the “casual and about to rob you” look. However, Thongs?


Flipflops, sandals.


Sorry, the usual people that ask for my advice are American hippies.




No its not, they argue with me every step of the way and then end up losing their soul because they didn’t follow my advice.


Losing their soul?


Sorry, did I say soul? I meant spirit …juice.


Are we going to start?


I was waiting for you.


I’ve been ready since I summoned you.


Ok, what do you see?


I see Bioware HQ and there is something that looks like a furry red Yoda standing around outside.


Furry red Yoda?


Yea, it looks kinda cute.


Furry red Yoda?


Yea, its looking at me.


Ok, the fury red Yoda must be a guard of some kind. What I suggest you do is walk across the street and inside as though you belong there.


It’s still looking at me.


Just tell me when you get inside.


I’m inside and I’m headed over to the elevator.


No, do not use the elevator that’s what they’ll be expecting. Take the stairs.


The stairs. But who knows what floor Stephen Reid is on?


If you take the elevator I cant be held responsible for what furry red Yoda will do to you.


Stairs it is then.


Try the top floor.


Why the top? I don’t want to walk all the way up there.


Think about it, the more floors you try the more suspicious you will seem, so we need to decide where he will most likely be – and because I dont think you would risk your soul juice just to be on the same floor as the janitor he must be important. Important people are on the top floor.


Sounds reasonable.


Also listen out for people following you.


I think I can already hear someone following me.


Why didn’t you say something?


Because you didn’t ask.


That is very childish considering you are the one risking your soul juice.


What is soul juice anyway?


It’s actually just soul, I didn’t want to scare you considering this is your first foray into the soul world.


What could possibly happen to my soul?


It’s link to your body could be destroyed, thus trapping you here.


Why wouldn’t you tell me that?




The footsteps are getting closer.


What floor are you at?


I’m on the top floor.


Go into the room and tell me we found him.


Yep I can see him… oh F***, there is some kind of crocodile man standing next to him.


What’s it doing?


It’s seen me, now it’s walking towards me… it’s got a lightsaber.


This ends the infiltrate Bioware via the spirit world help guide.


What, you cant leave me like this, what do I do?


For more help guides visit…


What, I need help now!


I would suggest the “Escape from Bioware HQ Via The Spirit World Help Guide”. However in the meantime I would recommend you… RUN

Community involvement: Vote to decide what happens next.

  1.  Option 1) run into the bathroom.
  2.  Option 2) run back to the stairwell.

Voting will close a week after release. Post your vote in comments!


An original Ken Clark / TOROZ production

Bioware launch official SWTOR podcast

BioWare have entered the podcast fray with a pilot episode of their official podcast.

It’s a very polished product as you’d expect, and there’s no doubt they’ll have lots of interesting info to share ongoing. There’s no confirmation of how regular the podcasts will be, but they’l certainly be worth following.

Of course, you won’t get a lot of criticism or analysis of any issues SWTOR may be having – that’s what our own podcast is for of course!

SWTOR Asia-Pacific Launch Event: Live Blog

Welcome to the TOROZ live blog of the media launch of SWTOR for Australia and New Zealand. We’ll be updating throughout the launch with both information and pics. You will need to refresh this page manually to get the updates sorry. Enjoy!

UPDATE: head over to Capsule Computers for some great pics of the event!

3.35pm: The event this evening is for people who’ve registered via EA’s social media presences – so not an open public event. This will end the live blog, expect the video and further info later this evening. Thanks for reading!

3.30pm: Sorry for the delay, was pulled in to interview Gabe Amatangelo. Very open interview, all community questions have been answered. Not to be a tease but you’ll need to wait until I get home to upload the video 😉 Can confirm definitely late April for the free transfers, delay is to ensure the tech is right and isn’t aligned with a wider server transfer program at this stage.

3.02pm: Time for people to play the game.

3.00pm: GA back on stage – discusses 1.1 update, 1.2 ‘coming soon’ and key new content given an overview. Ranked Warzones etc.

2.56pm: Couldn’t be happier with where the game is at right now. Lots of awards, great server uptime (95%+). Looking toward community for what they want. Starts video showing first 30 days of SWTOR, interviews with (US) community members. More than 14 million characters created. 6 million PvP battles daily. David Bass and Stephen Reid make cameos.

2:55pm: GA back on stage – vids not a reflection of class balance ;). Context of the game given on timeline. Unique opportunity to craft SW pre-history. Class overview.

2:49pm: Hope trailer played

2:45pm: Game intro cinematic played (Empire)

2:41pm: Game intro cinematic played (Republic)

2:37pm: GA: servers – we’ll open more as demand increases. Free transfer overview (no details different from announced)

2:37pm: Gabe takes the stage.

2:35pm: And we’re underway.

2.27pm: lots of mingling, so while we’re waiting for the official stuff to get underway, here’s a shot of the SWTOR mural and the PCs with SWTOR installed for journalists new to the game to have a play with:

2.16pm: Slightly late start – but the atmosphere is building:

12.28pm: Still hunting for info. There’s definitely something on this evening but not sure exactly what yet. Stay tuned. Sydneysiders – maybe keep your social diary free just in case 😉

10.48am: Rumours of a SWTOR community event tonight in Sydney? Will find out and post any info as soon as I have it.

8.23am: Welcome to the live blog, expect updates to start a little before 2pm AEDT / 11am AWST / 4pm NZDT

Don’t forget the official Asia-Pacific launch FAQ for all the nitty-grittys, and we’d love you to post your ping times if you get a chance.

SWTOR might have been a Game of Thrones MMO

PC Gamer has an interesting interview with Bioware’s James Ohlen on the early discussions at Bioware around developing an MMO.

I’d always thought it would have been a little like the United Nations meeting for the first time, but apparently it was a core of three people. And according to Ohlen, those three tossed around ideas, including options if the Star Wars franchise wasn’t used:

“We had backup plans,” said Ohlen. “In all the design team was like three of us at that point, in total. So we were looking at doing a Lord of the Rings MMO, a Silmarillion MMO, a kind of a Gunslinger-esque Dark Tower MMO, a Game of Thrones MMO.”

Now, is it too much to ask for Bioware to develop all of those options – I mean how hard could it be? I’m not 100% sure on the Dark Tower option, but I’d definitely play the other three. A LOTRO competitor would have thrown in one hell of a competition dynamic into the MMO field, that’s for sure.

Over to you: if it wasn’t Star Wars, what lore-base should Bioware have used? Any commenters suggesting a Gilligan’s Island or Twilight MMO will be banned – but I’d back a Happy Days game.

Bioware’s no Grinch: SWTOR Grace Period returns

Overnight, Bioware’s founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk have jointly announced that there’ll now be a 48-hour grace period for anyone who has pre-ordered SWTOR.

What does that mean for you? Once the 20th December rolls around, you’ll now have 48 hours to enter the code from your physical copy of SWTOR (or your digital copy if you’ve somehow organised one).

So on top of yesterday’s announcement that Amazon orders will ship a little earlier, Oceanic players who pre-ordered via Amazon can expect the product a number of days earlier than previously expected. The post also emphasises there is no option to extend the grace period beyond the 48 hours.

It’s an encouraging sign that Bioware have reacted relatively quickly to community feedback – a key part of success in any MMO.

WHat do you think?