Interview with Star Wars: The Old Republics Producer and Creative Director
To celebrate the 5 year anniversary of Star Wars: The Old Republic, a new expansion, titled Knights of the Eternal Throne, is getting released.
Ahead of its launch, I was able to sit down with Producer Ben Irving and Creative Director Charles Boyd about the upcoming expansion and what we can expect once it arrives early this December.
One of the great things about the Star Wars universe are the family stories that take place inside it. If you look at the movies, the main story is ultimately about family. For people that have never played Star Wars: The Old Republic but want to jump in because of their love of Star Wars, you won't have any problem doing that with this expansion.
CB: "You can actually jump straight in with this expansion. You could start a level 65 character, jump right into the story and jump straight to the newest stuff. If you get into it and you're like you want to see all of it, you go right back and check out all the rest too. It's really up to you, you get to play it your way. You get to do what you want."
Irving added onto this, saying,
BI: "You can go in the game right now and you got enough time to kind of catch up on the story, play the core parts of it, and then be ready for this expansion. There's a lot of stuff to play to kind to kinda get caught up on, but you have maybe just enough time to get there before this launches. "
One of the things that intimidates me about MMOs is the amount of expansions that get released. I feel that I have to play each one of them so I don't feel like I'm behind in the gameplay or story. Irving assured me otherwise.
BI: "It's the challenge with having a game that's been out for 5 years. Is the longer you go on, that increases the barrier to entry. One of our big mantras is, lets make our game accessible to everyone. We can scale it to be hard, to give a challenge, but lets not turn anyone away because it feels overwhelming. With our last expansion, we let you start right at that story. Which is level 60. So you can experience the Fallen Empire story line. And we will do something again now where you can start right at this story if you want to. Obviously we recommend at least starting at the previous expansion, getting caught up on those 16 epic chapters, and then diving into this story afterwards."
Irving also said that he didn't want to make a game where parts of it weren't fun, and that's why he wanted to make a "really great storytelling experience" so you can level up without getting bored.
If you look at other MMOs, Star Wars: The Old Republic is big on the player making choices within the game. The Old Republic is made by BioWare, who also makes games like the Mass Effect series, where you also make choices to tailor the story to your liking.
A new addition to this expansion that wasn't present in previous expansions was the addition of Challenge Modes. When you finish the story in Knights of the Eternal Throne and the next expansion isn't available yet, Boyd laid out some options you now have so you can keep playing.
CB: "There is kind of the story, the easiest one, so if you're really focused on playing through the story, you just want to experience that Star Wars saga and make those choices, you could do that. If you want to embrace the more hardcore gameplay and take a step up, there's the middle difficulty (veteran) and then as you get better and better at that, then you can try Master, which is the hardest difficulty. If you're someone who's played a lot of MMOs or you're someone who's played The Old Republic in particular a lot, that's really where you're going to want to prove that you could really do it. It's going to be your chance to really go up against something tough."
These Challenge Modes will give you more reasons to replay the expansion. If you are more of a story based player, you could replay the story at a different difficulty and see how much better you have gotten since your last playthrough. If you are interested in the MMO part of the game, you will be able to enhance your skills. Boyd breaks it down like this:
CB: "You can experience it that way, get better rewards and really become a master of the gameplay. Really move your way up and become really badass at things. Beyond that of course, its the choices, you really want to see a different outcome from everything that you do. Playing through the story and making different choices all along the way and especially at the very end. We're not going to say what happens, but it could be very different and seeing that play out differently is really the fun of playing a BioWare game."
He continued by saying:
CB: "The Challenge Modes are definitely a key thing we took from the players. Before playing through the story, you would play through it at one difficulty. We tried to make this as accessible as possible which was great for a lot of players, but there were players who wanted that challenge. They were really hardcore, they want to show that they are really good at the game. You want to really feel like you're doing something amazing and so adding those challenge modes really let us cover both groups and lets you be the new story player and lets you be the really hardcore player and master of everything."
One of the best things about playing a BioWare game, like Charles said, was the fact that you could have a totally different ending than your friend. Irving knows how this felt when he was younger,
BI: "I remember growing up playing BioWare games and at the end of each play session, my best friend across the road, we would play it together but in our own houses, and we would call each other and go 'Did you kill ____?' 'What you could kill ____? Ahh man.' And you have to go all the way back and play it again and that's what we want to happen. You play through the end of the story and you talk to your friends and they're like 'You can what!?' And then you have to go back and kind of work out which path of decisions did I take that lead them to that versus what I got to see and I think that's a really cool thing we offer with this expansion."
In addition to the Challenge Modes, there will be some new abilities available for the player to use. When asked about whether those new abilities will replace the existing abilities or be mixed in with them, Boyd had this to say:
CB: "Mix of both -- you want to make that note of accessibility. You want to make sure that when players come in they kind of come in with a new experience and it feels fresh and gives us a chance to take that feedback that we've gotten through the gameplay and kind of condense down to what's the really cool part about playing a Jedi, what's the really cool part about playing a Sith and kind of do that. It's a mix of both. You want to have new stuff, but you also want to be sure you're taking a hard look at the old abilities as well and being critical of yourself. You want to make sure that it's the best that it could be. And that means combining or shifting abilities around."
One thing that is different about this expansion compared to others is that all the content will be released at once instead of the previous expansions where they were released in episodes. Boyd talked about why they decided to change that:
CB: "It was just really based off the player feedback. We did the episodic kind of storytelling through the year this last year and players really seem to like the story itself but they really wanted to play it all at once. It was a little bit at a time and we live in the era of Netflix now and then all of that. That's just the way people consume things right? You want to get the whole show and watch the whole season and it's the same thing with our game. We want you to be able to experience the whole story, all at once and make your decisions and see the impact right away. If you want that option to see it all at once in one break neck run, you could do it, and that to us was the key feedback we saw last year and we wanted to give them that option now and say 'You know what? That's the way to do it.'"
For you hardcore MMO players that want to best and make sure other players know, Irving said there will be something for you inside the game.
BI: "There will be some prestige flair that you could show in game. It will show if someone is more powerful than you are or if they've defeated harder challenges than you've defeated."
Something that brings players coming back to a game after release is the weekly events that take place inside the game. Although they couldn't say much about planned events for this expansion, I did get Irving to say this.
BI: "There are certainly going to be, as part of the Galactic Command system, there will be certain activities that will be much more beneficial to you but that will be information we will be talking about over the next eight weeks. So stay tuned and that will be coming your way shortly. "
If you are reading this and you can't wait for the expansion to come out on December 2nd, I have some great news for you. If you pre-order Knights of the Eternal Throne now, you will receive early access to the expansion and that will start 3 days early on November 29th. You will also receive some rewards -- like a Bounty Hunter with fiery red hair.
I would like to thank Ben Irving and Charles Boyd for talking to me about the newest expansion to The Old Republic. As someone who has never played the game before, I downloaded it immediately after talking to them about what's to come. Star Wars: The Old Rebublic - Knights of the Eternal Throne will be available on December 2nd.
Until then, May The Force Be With You.