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AusGamers Star Wars: The Old Republic BioWare Developer Interview
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 04:26pm 11/09/12 | Comments
AusGamers caught up with BioWare Austin General Manager Matt Bromberg to talk about the future of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Read on or watch for what he had to say...


Watch the full video interview embedded above, or click here for a direct link.


AusGamers: Ladies and gents, welcome back to AusGamers. You are here once again with Stephen Farrelly, coming to you live from GamesCom. I have Matt Bromberg here, who is... the boss...

Matthew Bromberg: The boss of all bosses [laughs].

AusGamers: ...boss of all bosses, out at BioWare in Austin. Thanks so much for talking to us today.

Matthew: It’s my pleasure.

AusGamers: You guys had a pretty interesting year. Some controversy here and there. Launched The Old Republic, to much praise, and now people are starting to sort of question what’s going on there... So I want to talk about that there, internally for you guys out at BioWare: What’s the vibe?



Matthew: You know, for us it’s really always been about this vision of combining classic BioWare storytelling, and the MMO genre, into sort of a game that no one else had seen before, and we feel that we were really largely successful with that.

Clearly there were some changes and things that we needed to make, but I think the vibe is really good, and people are still really focussed on that vision.

AusGamers: Was there always an internal idea to potentially go down the free-to-play route? Was that always somewhere on the cards? Were you guys just testing the water to see what the outcome would be there?

Matthew: I think for us, we always want to be sensitive to opportunities, and we really saw the market going in that direction, and we really thought there was an opportunity to take advantage of it.

AusGamers: What sort of potential can you guys see, now that you’re actually going down that route? And what hurdles is the team going to have to face?

Matthew: Well the opportunity is pretty clear, in that Star Wars is a big, broad brand. Awareness is through the roof, and they love it, and there are millions of Star Wars fans. So if we can reduce the... lower the separation barrier, I think there’s a real opportunity to introduce the game to lots of new people; and that’s an important piece.

The hurdles are: it’s a balance; you need to get it right. We want our premium subscription players to feel good, and to continue to be happy with the game, and we also want to open it up to new players. So we have to find that balance.

AusGamers: In terms of the content going forward -- at the press conference you guys talked about [new] stuff coming out -- is there a kind of quantifiable volume that you can talk about, in terms of what you would like to see by the end of the year, and then maybe the first quarter of next year?



Matthew: Well we’re committed to: about every six weeks, doing a major update for the game -- which would be a new Warzone, a new Operation, a new Flashpoint, a new event -- and to doing that on a really frequent cadence, every six weeks. So we’re going to stick to that.

AusGamers: In terms of getting those players back, that may have walked away, as well as inviting new guys in, obviously you have the free-to-play thing going now, but what else are you guys doing, in terms of fostering...

Matthew: As well as the free-to-play launch -- which is coming in the fall -- we announced that subscribers who have lapsed are already qualified to get Cartel Coins, which will be the in-game currency in the game once free-to-play launches. So you get credit, not just for becoming a subscriber now, going forward, but also for all the time that you were a subscriber, you get more credits and more coin. So we’re hoping that that will encourage people to come back to the game and try it now.

AusGamers: It seems also... it’s a pretty precarious route to take, to free-to-play. Because obviously there still needs to be monetisation incoming from the product, and you’ve got the in-game purchases and things like that. For you guys, what was the test-bed for you? Did you go and just look at every free-to-play game that was out there; see what people liked, and would pay for; and what people didn’t like and didn’t want to pay for? What’s the process there?

Matthew: Well all of our research told us, with our current players, the subscription barrier had become a real barrier. And that people really enjoyed the game, but that the business model didn’t suit the way they were playing it. So a lot of that information just came from our own research.

Then, absolutely, we’re voracious players of games in this space -- both for research, and just because we enjoy it -- so we tried to take as many lessons as we could from the industry, but also to maybe put our own spin on it.



AusGamers: And is there anything else you can tell me... I mean, you guys are great storytellers, and you’ve got The Old Republic; Mass Effect is now wrapped up. But I’d argue that there is so much left for you guys to do in terms of storytelling. Can you give us a hint at anything that might be coming on the horizon?

Matthew: I agree with you. I think the sort of core qualities of BioWare games, and the ability to tell really deep and engaging stories is as valuable as it has ever been, and we’re really going to stick to that. And we do have a bunch of new stuff on the horizon, but I can’t tell you about any of it [laughs].

AusGamers: Will we hear anything new this year, about anything going forward? Apart from...

Matthew: I’m sure you’ll hear new things this year, but not from me.

AusGamers: Ok. Alright. Fair enough. Well, we’ll leave it there Matt, but thanks so much for your time today. And good luck for the game. I really hope that those Star Wars fans actually get the experience that they’ve been wanting, and that you guys can keep delivering it.

Matthew: Thank you, we’re pretty confident about it.

AusGamers: Ok. Cheers. Thanks.
Read more about Star Wars: The Old Republic on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!



Latest Comments
Nerfy
Posted 05:01pm 11/9/12
What they really need to do is overhaul the hubs, they are the most depressing virtual world locations ever. :/
Dazhel
Posted 05:13pm 11/9/12
This comes in response to SW:The Old Republic subscribers earlier commitment of a 10% reduction in their own numbers every six weeks.
Khel
Posted 05:36pm 11/9/12
I really enjoyed it, just ran out of things to do :(

And nothing they're adding is really enough to keep me occupied enough long term to have me consider going back to it. Hopefully they're working on a big expansion or something that has a tonne of new content, I'd come back to it for that.
eski
Posted 05:55pm 11/9/12
I reckon they'll wait and see how their free to play strategy pans out before committing to any expansions or big investments. Right now ToR is a f*****g expensive bomb and I bet EA want to forget it ASAP.
Deviouz
Posted 06:17pm 11/9/12
They have been working on Makeb for some time, new planet and level cap it's somewhat of an expansion, they have been previewing it around (gamecom) it continues the class stories too
Nerfy
Posted 08:43pm 11/9/12
The voice acting and class designs are top notch, and I think that the game could be saved with a map overhaul.

The world design just blows a big one, especially for an mmo. It's just a series of mission spaces which you will never ever return to, and could be a procedurally generated set of hallways for all that I can tell. There's nowhere interesting or memorable, it's just tents with droids and mission givers in slightly different biome themes depending on the planet. No memorable towns/cities/landmarks/vistas/etc, just flat rat-maze right angled paths, quest hubs, slow ass speeders getting around and if you try to go off the path, you're generally f***ed by the terrain and mobs. And as I mentioned, the hubs blow a big one.

And who the hell builds all these giant walls which players have to spend ages backtracking around, and amazing paths with street lamps and all, which only ever lead to more tents? It's like the entire galaxy lives in war tents and has no actual buildings.

Still a very good game, but piss poor world building. The only thing I remember about each planet aside from the story, was whether or not it had visual lag.
groganus
Posted 06:38pm 11/9/12
Personally my favorite MMO to date, was ruined when they brought in another 2 tiers of gear in the 3rd and 4th month.... Turned it into a huge grind.
Grundar
Posted 06:44pm 11/9/12
I enjoyed playing TOR one of the things that really bothered me was that it was pretty much a game that encouraged alts but made the classes play otherwise very similar, so the repeat experience was quite boring imo. It was probably made worse that you could only play humans or some very minor variation of a humna - this one has face tatts! this one has a shrouded face! completely different!

The big problem for me though, as in cataclysmically big, the space combat blew it was not very fun and required not a great deal of skill. I hope they do a JTLS style expansion for space, as that was the best part of SWG for me.
Nerfy
Posted 07:33pm 11/9/12
I mean, what the hell is this? Not-Imagination-Hour?

WorldMap-SearingGorge.jpg

vs

lore_object_personnel_map.jpg

If you stare you eventually realise that there are walls on the map, endless walls around the road which they never want you to go off... All leading to just more tents...

Balmorra and Voss were pretty decent.
Everlong
Posted 08:36pm 11/9/12
Yeh if they had a more open world thing going on it would be a lot better.

Main thing for me tho was the lame space element, its star wars ffs and you give me an arcade game I could play on my phone?
deadlyf
Posted 09:05pm 11/9/12
Sounds like it suffers from typical Bioware level design.

I don't know why but every time they release a new game I'm surprised to still see the overly restrictive maps as though for some reason I just assume that they would have noticed how bad they were in the last game and fixed it for the next.
Nerfy
Posted 09:15pm 11/9/12
Yeah I was worried about Bioware map design syndrome going in, and it's not quite as bad (it is a fully explorable world in which you can jump), it's just part way there still. It's definitely no skyrim/WoW.

Still a f*****g awesome game though, for the usual bioware reasons. The classes which I've tried are awesome too, tons of abilities to use in interesting rotations. The gameplay somehow feels more repetitive than WoW though, it's just either kill a pack of weak mobs, a weak mob and a silver difficulty mob, or an elite mob, over and over, which you can always deal with. There's seemingly no quests except kill your way through a s***load of stuff quests, and very little goofy/fun stuff.

Then because of the constrictive hallway pathway nature of it (every cave is just a winding linear path) you have to fight your way back out through all the same spawns after talking to somebody at the end of the cave (had to go through the same long hallway cave both ways twice for one quest, but want to see this story ended dammit).
Khel
Posted 09:37pm 11/9/12
I dunno, I found some of the environments pretty memorable, I loved Nar Shadaa and Hoth was sweet cos it was Hoth, but yeah there were some pretty bland ones too. Voss was awesome too, actually, Voss was probably my favourite. Alderaan was probably one of my least favourite, I don't blame the Empire for blowing it up.
ravn0s
Posted 09:49pm 11/9/12
i hated hoth and tatooine. they just felt so bland compared to all the other planets.
Nerfy
Posted 09:59pm 11/9/12
Yeah I struggled with hoth, it was so huge and slow to go over. It was open, but not interesting...
Khel
Posted 12:11am 12/9/12
I dunno, something about Hoth appealed to me, it was stark and barren, but kind of beautiful with all the huge ice mountains and glaciers and stuff.

In other unrelated MMO news, played some Secret World tonight during WoW maintenance and holy s***, its completely dead, and I'm on one of the busiest servers too (or at least, it was at launch). Same deal as ToR though, fun game, just not enough to do. They probably should have looked at a free to play model right from the start imo, because they didn't really have the content to keep people subscribed long-term.
stinky
Posted 10:02am 12/9/12
ahhh those crazy bioware guys.
Hogfather
Posted 10:04am 12/9/12
ahhh those crazy bioware guys.

Haha, you out?
TufNuT
Posted 10:26am 12/9/12
And who the hell builds all these giant walls which players have to spend ages backtracking around, and amazing paths with street lamps and all, which only ever lead to more tents? It's like the entire galaxy lives in war tents and has no actual buildings.


yeah i have to agree, i really liked nar shaddaa but i think they could have done more with it.
OzGamer
Posted 10:59pm 12/9/12
"and what the team plans to do moving forward with their new free-to-play model"

Just a friendly language tip Steve: "moving forward" means nothing when used this way. It's just business world weasel words to try and make something sound like it's "being actioned".

If you try the same sentence without those words, you'll see what I mean: "and what the team plans to do with their new free-to-play model." Same meaning, less words, less bulls***. ;)

Anyway, thanks for the report.
stinky
Posted 11:31pm 12/9/12
Haha, you out?


Nah I'm still floating around. Just jealous that Ausgamers has never interviewed me! I guess they don't realize how important I am ... oh wait, on second thoughts seems like they know exactly how important I am.
Nerfy
Posted 11:33pm 12/9/12
Can you please innocently raise the issue of hiring an art person to draw some sweet maps? :P
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