Former SWTOR lead Daniel Erickson shares behind-the-scenes secrets

    
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As you fight off another wave of the Rakghoul Plague (will it ever be cured?) in Star Wars: The Old Republic this week, you may want to spend some of your downtime reading some eye-opening revelations from former BioWare Austin Lead Developer Daniel Erickson, who popped up on a Reddit thread and shared all kinds of interesting behind-the-scenes tidbit and trivia about the MMO.

“We started talking about the MMO when we were still making [Dragon Age Origins] and James’ vision was far more BioWare than MMO,” Erickson wrote. “Basically a huge, sprawling, ever expanding BioWare storyline with a multiplayer marketplace, social spaces and PVP. Like Netflix or HBO we were okay that people might unsubscribe for a bit then come back as new content appeared.

“As we were sold twice (first to an investment company then to EA) the pressure for this to be the mega hit meant the finger kept being pointed at WoW. The problem of course is when you say ‘Okay, first we copy the most successful MMO of all time, THEN we…’ you’ve pretty much set yourself up for misery.”

Here are a few more choice quotes to share in case you don’t want to comb through the entire post:

  • “We actually did try some action combat stuff (saber locking was awesome… until a third person jumped in to shank you) but there were just too many battles to fight at once so we backed off to something safer.”
  • “The game didn’t do as well as EA hoped because they wanted to unseat the king (WoW) with the same product instead of leaning into what BioWare was great at.”
  • “We never properly priced out the cost of the Darth Malgus statues so lost money on the collector’s editions.”
  • “A couple classes had shared duties due to time constraints, staff changes, etc. more of them, however are one person. Sith Warrior: Neil Pollner. Imperial Agent: Alex Freed. Sith Inquisitor: Rebecca Harwick. Trooper: Charles Boyd. Jedi Consular: Jo Berry.”
  • How many people worked on the game: “At the peak? 200+ with about that many more working offsite, freelance, etc.”
  • “I wrote and came up with Huttball which I still giggle about. Mainly the thought was, ‘What would Hutts find entertaining?’ Which made me think of all those ‘lesser’ beings running and jumping and using their silly legs. Which of course led the thoughts of the Running Man movie.”
  • “When I wrote the book on the making of the game I tried to get our original lead engineer, Bill Dalton, to talk about HeroEngine and the lawyers removed every other word he said so I had to ditch the section.”
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Palistarius

And now I’m just reminded that my fancy pants Studio Edition box is still in it’s wrapping, collecting dust, containing long since expired codes…

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Sorenthaz

That seems like it’s fairly obvious that EA was trying to unseat WoW. The same attempt was made with WAR and it failed, and SWTOR was basically using the same combat as WoW except it visually looked better (at the time) and ofc was Star Wars.

Seems like EA’s attempt to try and get their own WoW led to screwing up two otherwise good companies. Really disappointing.

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Bruno Brito

“The game didn’t do as well as EA hoped because they wanted to unseat the king (WoW) with the same product instead of leaning into what BioWare was great at.”

“Never settle for Malice, what can be explained by sheer Stupidity.”

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Witches

They were actually doing better when they were copying WOW, true they were never going to be on the same level as WOW but at least they weren’t in the sorry state they are now.

I think that the true problem of copying WOW is that WOW had a few years of content plus WOW budget remains pretty high, so you don’t just want to best the best, you want to do it spending less than they do.

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Shawn Hargrave

If people want to play wow theyll play wow not a poorly done imatation with lightsabers. They should have made swg2 very stupid smh

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rosieposie

Yes! What a great idea! Don’t copy the most popular MMO out there. Copy a far less successful one!

*rolleyes*

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Vicarious Fan

…. you know that SWTOR is still way more succesful then SWG right? Even at SWTORS lowest point it still had more subscribers then SWG at its highest.

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Kickstarter Donor
mysecretid

“The game didn’t do as well as EA hoped because they wanted to unseat the king (WoW)

How many failed MMO games have essentially this epitaph inscribed on their tombstone?

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Loyal Patron
Bývörðæįr mòr Vas´Ðrakken

I know the stupid statues cost Disney 20 dollars from weta because I had to talk to weta to replace one after the two ce editions that bioware set aside for replacements walked off Disney’s grand central bld in 2012 or so. So there was zero money lost on those the added cost on the numbers was 125 per statute and weta charged Disney twenty dollars to replace one. Disney is doing really stupid things in the argument of if they can ignore a shareholder they represent becasue when the stock was bought the shareholder was a minor but stuff like this is about get exposed in court over a bunch of förskingring scams that bioware was not party to but you might want to look through that book for any thing else that might up in discovery since it makes a person look really stupid to quote losing money on statues. what cost the most money was reuse of assets and that is the most I can say on that.

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Vicarious Fan

wtf are you talking about? Disney didn’t own SW when SWTOR came out and they don’t own EA or Bioware.

Disney has nothing to do this.

Also Weta didn’t make the statutes

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Loyal Patron
Bývörðæįr mòr Vas´Ðrakken

big fan of not reading? Disney was charged 20 dollars to replace a customers statue, bioware set aside the two full unused collector’s editions. Disney bought ILM – Idustrial Light and Magic, EA bought Bioware. Disney Media Group provided support for SWTOR in 2012. If you had a statue you would have found out that weta made them, it is stamped on the bottom. Basically Disney Bought ILM from George Lucas and promptly lost money on it. Bioware was not owned when they started SWTOR and had to go to EA for funding about two years in around 2009, and the game released in 2011. Disney bought ILM on 30 Oct 2012

Disney buys Lucasfilm and thus ILM

I have a scan of my green disney badge some where if it is really important.

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Sana Tan

THANKS FOR HUTTBALL MAN

xpsync
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xpsync

” a huge, sprawling, ever expanding BioWare storyline”

Pretty sure i would have liked that game much more than another wow clone.

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Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

Basically a huge, sprawling, ever expanding BioWare storyline with a multiplayer marketplace, social spaces and PVP. Like Netflix or HBO we were okay that people might unsubscribe for a bit then come back as new content appeared.

Am I crazy, or does this sound a bit more like STO? Because this sorta sounds like STO, though with more flexibility. Either way, I’m super down with this idea and I’d have loved to see it over what we got…

As we were sold twice (first to an investment company then to EA) the pressure for this to be the mega hit meant the finger kept being pointed at WoW. The problem of course is when you say ‘Okay, first we copy the most successful MMO of all time, THEN we…’ you’ve pretty much set yourself up for misery.

Dude…your own studio head bragged about the fact that you were blatantly copying WoW and that if you weren’t you were an idiot. And SWTOR didn’t even do a very good job of that, the best parts were usually the parts that were the most unlike WoW and the worst parts usually the most like WoW.

The game didn’t do as well as EA hoped because they wanted to unseat the king (WoW) with the same product instead of leaning into what BioWare was great at.

Well, when they invest hundreds of millions into your game yeah, they’re expecting huge results…

We never properly priced out the cost of the Darth Malgus statues so lost money on the collector’s editions.

This could be a fitting analogy for the lack of forward thinking/planning related to a lot of their early design decisions for the game.

But…does he talk about Han and Chewie dicking around in space? : P