Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR's Creative Director on Uprisings and Update 5.1

We are a couple days early with the Hyperspace Beacon this week for a reason you're going to love: We had an exclusive conversation with Creative Director Charles Boyd about the Star Wars: The Old Republic update releasing tomorrow, and we wanted to give you some insight into what Defend the Throne might offer you. Even though you won the day at the end of the latest expansion Knights of the Eternal Throne, there are still factions that have problems with you and your Alliance. There are still uprisings all over the galaxy.

The new group content called Uprisings (pretty on the nose there, right?) is the focus of the next update. We'll see five more four-player, intense instances launch tomorrow, along with changes to the Command XP system and (of course) a new Cartel Market Pack.

I talked to Charles Boyd on Friday to get his input on the new content and a breakdown of each new Uprising and the overarching purpose behind them all.

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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR Creative director discusses a 'new adversary'

For the last five years and more, Star War: The Old Republic told the story of Tenebrae, a Sith of humble origins who rose to great power and ultimately corruption. Of course, there were other great stories along the way -- the eight player stories, and ultimately, the Outlander's story -- but even the story of Revan revolved around this hidden but powerful figure who was eventually unveiled as the Sith Emperor.

At the end of last year, I talked to Producer Ben Irving and Creative Director Charles Boyd about the past five years of SWTOR and about what the future holds for the game. It turned out to be a wonderful, frank interview. I learned many things that I didn't know about Irving and his introduction to BioWare, which I mentioned a post last year. But I also learned some fun facts about the future of the SWTOR story.

Without spoiling too much, I think it's safe to mention that Tenebrae's story wraps up in a nice little bow at the end of Knights of the Eternal Throne. I spoke to Boyd about the challenges of closing up a long, pivotal story and where the writers go from there. And one of the things he mentioned is a "new adversary."

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Tamriel Infinium: Elder Scrolls Online's Homestead player housing blew my mind

I usually like to bury my opinion behind a bit of measured fact-checking and the weight of opposing opinions, but Elder Scrolls Online hit all the right buttons for me with its new housing system. I have to sing its praises right now. Based on what I've seen on the public test server, Homestead will give us exactly what we are looking for in an MMO housing system.

Here comes the measured part: We won't really know exactly how the system will work in action until it hits live servers. Crafting and the horrid vendor system in ESO will likely make finding specific housing items unnecessarily difficult, but it's possible that it could be balanced by the crafting system and the Crown Store.

Despite some of the unknowns, I do really like what I've seen so far, and I'd like to give you my first impression of the Elder Scrolls Online housing system.

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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR predictions for 2017

Here we are again. Star Wars: The Old Republic survived another year despite those who predicted five years ago that it would shut down in less than a year. Although I've been pessimistic about the game at times, I've never believed that Electronic Arts and BioWare would give up on the game. And it's clear by the enthusiasm of its producers and developers that there is still a strong love for the game at the creators' studio.

Some people believe that 2017 will be the last year for SWTOR, but I choose not to believe that either. I think that SWTOR has made a strong showing and continues to make the studio money, despite my best effort to discourage the purchase of lockboxes.

Since the game will still carry on in 2017, let me give my predictions for it. But first, let's talk about last year's predictions.

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Tamriel Infinium: Elder Scrolls Online's 2016 report card

Greetings, men and mer. It’s that time of year again when I take a look back on everything that Elder Scrolls Online has given us and give it a rating based on my opinion. However, I don’t just want to grade arbitrarily; I like to use one of the oldest measurements for online roleplaying games: Bartle’s Taxonomy.

Those who haven’t been a part of the online world since the '90s will likely not recognize the name Richard Bartle, but he was one of the founders of online roleplay gaming. He co-created MUD1 and wrote many papers about online gaming and the people who inhabit that world. Besides the original taxonomy, Bartle’s work was famously turned into a test that asked a series of questions that would fit you into the taxonomy grid of four categories: Socializer, Achiever, Explorer, and Killer.

Unfortunately, the original test no longer exists, but 4You2Learn has a similar one to find out where you fall. Of course, few people will sit 100% in any one category, but it’s the balance of all four that make for a fun game for the largest number of people. I will explain what each group is about as I give the grade.

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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR's 2016 Report Card

It's that time of year again where we reflect on the year gone by and consider Star Wars: The Old Republic as a whole. Pretty much since the game launched five years ago, I've calculated my judgment for the game not as a single score but as a group of scores based on the taxonomy created by Dr. Richard Bartle that focuses on player motivation and how to appeal to them.

I'm not going to pretend that this is the perfect way to judge the game because it would leave out important things like the cash shop and the single-player elements like storytelling. However, it does look at the motivations of gamers and analyzes their general gaming style. Bartle divides gamer motivations into socializers, achievers, killers, and explorers. Of course, player specific motivations will encompass a spectrum of these four. But just as with most psychological categorization, gamers will lean heavy in one or two areas and less so in the others. If you're interested in where you lean, there is a test you can take to find out. (The original GamerDNA test is gone.) However, it will be completely obvious where you lean as soon as you read my individual descriptions.

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Interview: BioWare devs reflect on five years of creating Star Wars: The Old Republic

I know that sometimes it's hard to remember exactly what you were doing five years ago. I know that I had been playing Star Wars: The Old Republic for a couple of days attempting to level my character quickly, but at the same time, enjoying the game. I honestly don't remember exactly what I was doing five years ago on this date, but there is probably video record of it someplace. Last week, I spoke to two people who know exactly where they were and what they were doing five years ago. I'm talking about Producer Ben Irving and Creative Director Charles Boyd.

Many of us think of these triple-A games as part of the giant corporate machine, and unfortunately, there is a part of the game industry that is that money-making monstrosity. However, when you look at a game like SWTOR, you see passionate people who really want to make a great Star Wars game. You find Irving and Boyd both were there when the game launched on this date five years ago: December 20th, 2011.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Where can SWTOR go from here?

Have you ever watched a great movie and ever wished that the director would make a sequel but also not make a sequel, all at the same time? More often, we are usually begging for a sequel only to be disappointed by it. Star Wars had the exact opposite effect to on me. I thought the sequel was better than the original. However, when Return of the Jedi released, I can't say that I was begging for a sequel to that. I'm not a fool; I wanted more Star Wars movies, but we hit the happily-ever-after moment. The story was done.

I won’t dive too far into the spoiler territory just yet, but it’s safe to say that with Knights of the Eternal Throne that the story for Star Wars: The Old Republic is done.

There have been some movies that wrapped up nicely that also did well when they received a sequel. The Terminator is the first example that comes to my mind. The sequel did just as well as the original, but that is rarer than the opposite happening. Although the Star Wars universe continued to turn with the books, when the creator went back to tell the beginning of the story, it fell flat. I have a fear that the same thing likely could happen to the story in SWTOR.

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Tamriel Infinium: Elder Scrolls Online juggles making money and making content with Crown Crates

I think it's fair to say that the $15 subscription model just isn't cutting it for MMORPGs anymore. I understand that. The $15 pricetag dates back at least 15 years, and even if we were to factor in inflation alone, the cost of that subscription would be worth about $19 today. Teams creating the content were a lot smaller then, and frankly, players were satisfied with less than perfection. (Think about the number of incomplete MMOs that launched at that time.) There has to be a new way for developers to make more money. There has to be a way for developers to give players what they are looking for and at the same time bring in enough income to support its engineers, producers, and investors.

I believed that Elder Scrolls Online had that system down. The developers created content like the Thieves Guild DLC, then sold that as a package or allowed players to subscribe to get content as it released. Single-player games have done similar for years and have even adapted a type of subscription model with season passes. Unfortunately, it's becoming clear that the DLC with optional subscription just isn't enough, at least for the beancounters at ESO. Like many MMORPGs before it, ESO has now adopted lockboxes, gambleboxes, in the form of Crown Crates.

I've spent some time and more than a few of my own Crowns to attempt to discover how worthy these crates are and if they are actually worth it from a player's perspective -- with an understanding that ESO needs money to continue to thrive as a company.

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Interview: Everything we know about Elder Scrolls Online's player housing

The Elder Scrolls Online plans to release its next big update in February 2017. No solid date has been revealed, but we do have a name for the update and some very juicy details. It's called Homestead, and it will allow players to own their very own piece of Tamriel real estate. That's 40 possible dwellings, ranging from rooms at an inn to manors with huge outdoor spaces. Of course, players will be able to decorate these homes themselves, but ESO will also offer some fully furnished homes as well, for those of us who aren't Joanna Gaines.

All the homes will be in the base zones -- not the DLC zones -- and accessible via the world map like way shrines. Every character on your account may access the all your homes, and of course, you can invite your friends along, too.

ZeniMax plans on releasing more than 1,300 items to personalize and decorate your homes via the Housing Editor. The items will range from tables and chairs to paintings and light fixtures to beds and bookshelves. Players can also receive trophies as loot drops from Dungeon and Trials end bosses. ZeniMax also says that you will be able to place interactive items like assistants, mounts, pets, crafting stations, and combat dummies.

Of course, we had more questions, and ZeniMax had answers -- read on for our interview and the new trailer and images.

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SWTOR Knights of the Eternal Throne launches today; we chat with BioWare

Last year, the developers of Star Wars the Old Republic changed the focus of the game. Instead of continuing to make Knights of the Old Republic the MMORPG, BioWare decided to place heavy focus on its single-player aspects when it launched Knights of the Fallen Empire. Today, the next expansion, Knights of the Eternal Throne, officially launches and asks the question: Why can't we have a great singleplayer game and a great multiplayer game too? Why not both?

We were invited to speak to two of the key developers behind this latest expansion for SWTOR to see whether this question was answered. Producer Ben Irving and Creative Director Charles Boyd spoke to a small group of press on the phone to answer our questions as well as talk about some of the lessons learned from last year and the changes the game made in response to those issues.

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Hyperspace Beacon: What to expect from SWTOR's Knight of the Eternal Throne

After some of the major flaws with Knights of the Fallen Empire, I wasn't expecting much from Star Wars: The Old Republic's latest expansion Knights of the Eternal Throne. It was more than clear, given the last two chapters of KOTFE, that the previous expansion was a setup for the current expansion. In fact, that's probably the biggest flaw for KOTET: It doesn't stand on its own. However, BioWare has taken lessons from its previous mistakes and made an expansion that not only is entertaining as a story -- which BioWare has never had a problem with -- but features mechanics that are interesting and a vast improvement over the boring murder-tunnels of the last expansion.

Games ultimately prompt us to ask the question, "Is it worth the money?" I don't have an exact quantifiable measurement for fun had in a game versus its cost, but if we took my typical judgment that one fun hour should equal to one dollar spent, then at the cost of $15 dollars for a month's subscription (which earns you the expansion), it's a steal. I did have a couple of hours of interruptions, but I started playing the expansion when it first launched at 9 a.m until about 3 a.m. last night. I could have given my first impression on the first few chapters of the expansion, but the truth is that I didn't want to stop playing.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Analyzing SWTOR's Uprising group content

Star Wars: The Old Republic dropped a treat this week by allowing fansites to tour Knights of the Eternal Throne. Although we can now see the first chapter of KOTET on YouTube, that's not the story that I want to learn about now. Don't get me wrong; the story of KOTET is very important to me, and I really want meaningful and impactful choices. But seeing someone else play through the chapters at this point is only going to set me up for spoilers and disappointment, especially since there is only one story for every player and every character.

Group content is far more important at this stage because it's part of what makes the game feel bigger, and it's been a weak point for BioWare for the last year. So let's take a look at some of the fansites that released playthrough videos of both the story mode and veteran modes of the Crimson Fang Uprising: SWTOR Central and Kid Lee. They don't offer much commentary on what was happening during the gameplay. They did mention if things were more or less difficult but offered little in the area of why or how certain things worked. I don't fault them for that; it's difficult to make commentary while fighting for your character's life. Today, I will dive deeper into the Uprisings and the things we can glean from the video playthroughs.

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