Oceanic SWTOR beta invites are rolling in

Just a quick note to say that we’ve had a number of oceanic players email / phone us to confirm they’ve received beta invites for Star Wars: The Old Republic. As you can imagine, they are pretty damn excited.

So, if you were cynical about oceanic players getting more widespread beta access, then maybe it’s time for a Force-induced attitude adjustment!

UPDATE: Some great comments pointing out that invitees may have registered their SWTOR account under a US address – we’ve confirmed with one invitee that that was indeed the case.

[Picture courtesy of Walk Sydney Streets]

Some Clarity Emerges: Bioware on Oceanic access

What a few days it has been. The threads continue unabated on the official forums on the staggered release issue. Until now the only response has come in intermittent tweets from Stephen Reid whilst wrangling the masses at Comic-Con.

Today, one of the other Senior Community Coordinators, Allison Berryman, has posted a response to the ongoing concerns. Although it only repeats the tweets from over the weekend, it at least puts a more official backbone behind them:

Hello everyone. We know that you have questions about this topic, and we hope to have more clarification for you all very soon. For those who may not have seen Stephen Reid’s tweets from this weekend regarding some of these subjects, I’d like to share that information here.

Regarding whether the game will block players from some regions by IP address: currently, there is no plan to block players from the game by regional IP blocking. Playing on servers physically distant from your location might mean you experience some issues with latency, but at this time we don’t plan on blocking players from a region by IP. On a similar note, anyone who pre-orders the game (and redeems their code) would receive the early access that is part of that pre-order.

We are continuing to investigate payment methods (specifically regarding credit cards billing addresses), and should have a definitive answer on the topic very soon.

I know you’ve probably seen this link a ton already, but please make sure to consult the pre-order FAQ if you have any questions related to pre-order (aside from these that we’re investigating). We really appreciate your patience as we get more information for you.

So there’s a little more clarity than 72 hours ago:

1. You can order the game from overseas.
2. You will get early access as per the conditions of the pre-order program.
3. There will be no IP blocking / regional blocking of those who order from overseas.
4. You’ll be able to pay your subscription via PayPal
5. Regional blocking of credit cards for payment remains an unknown but will be clarified in coming days.

It’s overall a small step toward setting some groundwork for the future. Hopefully the communication continues to improve – it’s hard for it to go a lot further backwards…

Over to you: what’s your thoughts?

UPDATE: Allison Berryman has clarified the credit card issue:

Hello everyone! We have some more information regarding subscription payment options.

Currently, any payment method supported by EA in a particular country will be accepted for subscription payments for Star Wars: The Old Republic. This includes major credit cards. We will provide further information as we approach launch. As we have mentioned previously, if you choose to play on a server that is physically distant from your location, you may experience latency issues that impact your gameplay experience.

Thanks again for your continued patience as we continue to answer your questions and provide clarification on these topics.

Hitler and Darth Vader’s Views on the Pre-Order Segregation

SWTOR fan drivebypsychology has been on a roll over the weekend, cheering up the ‘red zone’ masses on the official SWTOR forums. He’s created two pieces of parody on the staggered release schedule for SWTOR.


Regionally locked out of SWTOR? Maybe not

Well it’s as close to ‘official’ as we’re likely to get over the weekend. Darth Hater posed a question to Stephen Reid at the San Diego Comic Con, on the pre-order shenanigans in the 50+% of the world not included. The question and answer:

Darth Hater: We know that publishers have a variety of problems when trying to launch a game overseas that range from regional politics, ratings boards, server infrastructure, localization, distribution, and more. Why did you choose not to launch in certain regions?

Stephen Reid: The answer is “none of the above.” We didn’t make that decision because of ratings board issues, localization or whatever else. What it ultimately comes down to is simple, but it is kind of a difficult concept to grasp: it is about quality of service. We know the level of demand for Star Wars: The Old Republic is pretty much unprecedented in MMO history. We know realistically the number of players we can deal with on launch day and the launch period. We made the difficult decision to say the player experience is paramount. We don’t want them to have a bad experience on launch day. And that led inevitably to certain decisions and one of them was reducing the number of territories we go into at launch.

The process of putting a boxed product in any territory is difficult. The process of deciding whether or not we want to put regional services into an area is also difficult. So it is a combination of a lot of different factors, but ultimately it comes down to the two competing factors: one is demand for the game, and two is what we can supply at that level of service we really want to give. And this is the result. We understand many people want to play the game from all around the world, and we’re absolutely going to get to as many territories as we can over time, but we’re not ready to commit to a specific time frame on that yet.

There’s certainly no hint of a change of tack in regards to the issue, which isn’t a great surprise. Over on Twitter, Reid has also made a mention of the concern that credit cards from regions not able to pre-order locally would be blocked if they chose to pay a subscription that way after securing a copy of the game from overseas:

So to sum up: you can still try buying from an overseas retailer and it seems you’ll be able to play the game if you’re happy to pay your subs via PayPal or you are willing to wait on the above information.

As we discussed in detail on the podcast last night, it just seems really strange that these issues weren’t foreseen before the pre-order launch. We also discussed the fact that it’s understandable that Bioware want to create a good experience via a staggered release. Using geography as the filter is the cause of the majority of issues. A random allocation may have just worked a little better…

Over to you: do you feel there’s more certainty around the issue or not?

Flash Point 12: We Are Still Available In Your Region

A huge episode discussing the pre-order and the fact all of Oceania, Asia and South America (and parts of Europe) has not been included. We’re really pleased to have guest co-host Mark Duncan, an Aussie SWTOR guild master on board as well!

Points of discussion:

– SWTOR pre-order and impact on the half of the world not included (including some mentions of petitions and Facebook protests on the issue)
– Captain America film review
– The Space Shuttle – end of an era!
– Shout outs for our forums, Facebook page, Oceanic Guild listing, and Twitter account.

Listen via iTunes or right here:

Oceanic release for SWTOR: the state of play 24 hours on

Wow, what a period of 24 hours it’s been. Since the launch of the SWTOR pre-order scheme, with it’s exclusion of Oceanic areas, Asia and South America (as well as parts of Europe), it’s fair to say the reaction has been…animated. The official forums have a rather large thread on the issue, and there’s no shortage of activity on Facebook (including a protest) and Twitter. It’s always difficult to summarise a situation as fluid as this, but here it goes:

1. You can order box copies of SWTOR from online retailers in the US or anywhere willing to sell them. Reports are that the Collector’s edition is sold out across most online retailers.

2. Although Bioware’s Stephen Reid gave some encouragement on the abilility to play the game if you get a copy, he’s put some disclaimers around it in the past 30 minutes:

3. Oceanic retailers who have listed pre-orders appear not to have any basis in fact for assuming deliveries of the game at this stage.

4. There is absolutely no information on when there would be local availability and when full access to the game would occur.

So there you have it – it seems there’ll be no further update until around 24 hours time i.e. after another day of Comic Con is done. We’re devoting tomorrow’s Flash Point podcast to the issue and we’re investigating a live stream so stay tuned.

Oceanic players: no local pre-orders

Well, pre-orders for Star Wars: The Old Republic are now up and running, and unfortunately for any Oceanic players, there’s no local options for us to take part. The pre-orders offer three options:

1. Collector’s Edition

As mentioned yesterday this is a mighty nice piece of gear. A whole bunch of US / UK and European options are given, but none for Asia, South America or Oceanic players.

2. Digital pre-order via EA’s Origin Service

This graphic says it all if you try this route as an Oceanic player:

3. ‘Normal’ boxed edition

See point 1.

Some key points

Aside from the obvious disappointment, there’s some key issues that need to be emphasised:

a. This does not mean we won’t be able to play the game: you can obviously order the game from overseas. I’ve asked Bioware to confirm that such orders are valid i.e. that there’ll be no regional / IP block on regions taking part in playing. The Oceanic server issue seems a little optimistic at this stage to say the least – we’ll let you know of any response on the stance with ordering from overseas.

b. It appears there will be a staggered release: according to the pre-order FAQ:

c. No-one particularly cares but us: there is the reality of being part of a ‘smaller’ region. There’s just no urgency around this for anyone but the people affected. That said, South America and all of Asia are in the same boat.

d. If preordering from overseas: there’s a few glitches in the links to pre-order retailers. Amazon US’ site lists SWTOR as being for Mac and Windows. Amazon UK says it’s not available at all. Find a retailer that suits you and go from there. I’ve done a pre-order but with the full awareness of the (small) risk that I may not be able to play it if there’s some sort of regional block on playing. I still can’t see that happening though. This Tweet from Stephen Reid puts paid to the idea:

As does this follow-up to an Aussie SWTOR player’s question:

e. It’s just a game: I’ve already seen a lot of aggro over this issue expressed on the forums, Twitter and via emails we’ve received already today. It’s understandable but at the end of the day it’s a game. Don’t do anything rash and don’t make threats – that’s a surefire way to alienate people from the get-go.

As I mentioned above we’ve submitted some questions to Bioware on the issue. Given they’re in the middle of San Diego Comic Con I can’t see a prompt response but you never know.

Over to you: what’s your take on the situation?

Update: Stephen Reid has started a new thread on the SWTOR forums with this post:

To all of our fans outside of North America and Europe:

Today we’ve announced the pre-order details for the initial launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic, and as you may now know, we’ve taken the difficult but necessary decision to limit our initial launch supply for the game. BioWare and LucasArts are completely focused on building an exceptional game and an exceptional game service to go with it. We decided to constrain our launch capacity to ensure we deliver a great experience to every player.

Part of the reason this decision was made was because of the overwhelming demand for The Old Republic, and we’re humbled by that level of excitement and anticipation. We fully intend to deliver to you an amazing game when we expand our service post-launch, but right now we cannot commit to any timeframe for when that may happen. As soon as we have more information about additional launches in more territories, we’ll let you know.

We are committed to delivering Star Wars: The Old Republic to BioWare and Star Wars fans around the world, and to growing a truly global community.

Flash Point 11: Boba Fett Was A Bad Guy

A fun-packed episode covering everything from the danger of firearms through to a discussion on adding a third amigo/amigoette to the Flash Point Team.

Points of discussion:

Bounty Hunter character progression
Maps in SWTOR
– San Diego Comic Con and potential announcements
Oceanic release update
– Oceanic servers
– Discussion on adding someone else to the podcast team
– Google Plus
– An ad hoc Skype video chat to determine what we each look like!
– Thanks to our iTunes Store podcast reviewers
– Shout outs for our forums, Facebook page, Oceanic Guild listing, and Twitter account.

Listen via iTunes or right here:

Oceanic release dates: no news is what news?

In the few weeks since the rumours surfaced of a delayed oceanic release for SWTOR, there’s been no shortage of debate, with some lengthy threads still discussing the issue on the official forums.

Unfortunately things are no clearer than when the issue arose and although I remain semi-confident the rumours may not translate into reality, that confidence has waned a little over the last fortnight. We’re still trying to get some more clarity so stay tuned.

In the meantime, here’s a story I’ve written for the ABC’s Technology site – there’s nothing exciting in it for the avid SWTOR follower but it’s a useful overview of the issue for a beginner.

Image courtesy of Dead Cow Girl.