It may not be able to brag about escaping from the labs of Valve or Crytek, but that's no reason to discount Simutronics' HeroEngine. After all, BioWare, in its never-ending quest to unite as many seemingly made-up words as possible (Simutronics?), is using it for its Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO. And, no offense, but we think they know better than you. Probably.
“Our goal was to partner with a platform developer that knows online gaming and virtual world development, and the team at Simutronics has an excellent track record in that respect,” said Gordon Walton, Co-Studio Director at BioWare. “Their HeroEngine was specifically created for building MMOGs and it allows for a great amount of flexibility in the way our entire team collaborates.”
The HeroEngine allows developers to construct a game while playing on a server, meaning that a swing of the nerf bat will no longer take a couple weeks. Additionally, the engine eliminates "the need for nightly builds and code crunching, which significantly reduces the notoriously long MMOG development cycle." In short, this means that The Old Republic may actually escape from BioWare's tractor beam before the LHC comes back online and destroys us all.
Yeah, we're pretty determined to see this game end the world. What of it?
Update: *Waves hand in front of your face* This is apparently just a big misunderstanding. EA told Shacknews that "no statements have been made about the Star Wars business model," and that Ricitiello's statement was misunderstood. Thus, we can't really know how EA will sink its hooks into your wallet until February rolls around. So yeah, these droids? Totally not the one's you've been searching for.
Subscription fees, as we've discussed at length, are the beginning of a slippery slope down Blizzard's single, mega-games' throats, but microtransactions might be a different a story. Most titles that take up the little big label offer their services for free (or a small nominal fee), hoping that you'll drop a few coins into their cup at some point in the future. And if EA has its way, Star Wars: The Old Republic will be one such game.
"We are continuing to stick to the plan relative to building out our direct-to-consumer models which include microtransactions and subscriptions," said EA CEO John Riccitiello in a recent conference call. "The recent launch of Warhammer [Online] is a great example of that."
"Other initiatives we've announced, for example [the] Star Wars online MMO, are mid-session games which are microtransaction-based," he continued. "You'll be hearing more about those in the February [conference] call."
This announcement certainly seems to suggest that BioWare's galaxy far, far away won't take subscription fees as a viable method of payment, though Riccitiello didn't go so far as to completely rule them out.
Regardless, the potential accessibility of a "free" MMO combined with the production values and gameplay of a Scrooge McDuck-level big-budget game could very well melt the Lich King right off his frozen (and likely very uncomfortable) throne -- probably ending all productivity as we know it.
tl;dr: Looks like the Mayan Apocalypse might be coming early this existence. Neat!
Well, kinda. Make no mistake, BioWare, EA, and LucasArts hope to four-legged race right past WoW's 11 million subscriber record, but even if WoW's legions commit to Blizzard's ludicrously popular MMO, marry the game, have adorable children, and then sell them to buy more WoW gold, the Old Republic team won't lose any sleep over the lost customers.
“Just look at the base of Star Wars fans, plus what BioWare can do," EA Games president Frank Gibeau told Videogaming247. "Trust me: we want to win. EA’s reputation is for wanting to win."
“This is going to be a powerful category and there’s lots of ways to compete in this category. [Blizzard] created a much larger opportunity for everybody else, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way.”
LucasArts online boss Tom Nichols elaborated, and also downplayed Blizzard's userbase as the be-all, end-all of the MMO market.
“When World of Warcraft came out, everybody thought, ‘No, the market is only this big, because that’s as big as EverQuest was.’ Blizzard showed that it could be much larger,” he said.
“Our goal is to show that by bringing storytelling to the genre that we can attract an even wider audience. Plus, we have the benefit of this huge brand, which has done very, very well for nearly 30 years.”
We think The Old Republic has a better chance of seizing WoW's spot on the winner's podium than any other MMO. How about you?
We don't claim to be businessmen, but even we have to say LucasArts' rationale behind Star Wars Galaxies' continued existence seems a little off. When asked whether the troubled Star Wars MMO would step down gracefully or take a lightsaber to the gut, LucasArts senior online exec Tom Nichols replied:
“We’re still committed to Star Wars Galaxies. A couple of things: a demonstration of that commitment includes a recent trading card game that we launched in August. It’s doing very well for us and we have a new expansion pack being planned for that."
“I think the market will definitely support [both Star Wars: The Old Republic and Star Wars Galaxies]."
He also noted that the two games feature different mechanics, which he believes will attract different audiences.
But if you've never played either game, what can Galaxies throw your way to entice you to its shriveled up side of the force?
“Shortly we’re going to release a new Hoth encounter that recreates that classic battle in the Empire Strikes Back, and that’s exciting content for our Galaxies community, so we’re definitely committed to the product.”
A Hoth level. Added to one of the few Star Wars games in history that didn't already have one.
Galaxies fans, feel free to tell us why we're wrong/why we should die in a fire.
The wait is over. Today, LucasArts and BioWare finally force unleashed the first details on their joint MMO production, and it sounds like the best thing that could possibly come from Star Wars and gaming's unholy union aside from a Jar-Jar killing sim where you blast Jar-Jars with a Jar-Jar launcher*.
The game will take place a few hundred years after KOTOR 2 caught fire and skidded off a cliff to an eventual -- and undeniably painful -- halt, and will cast you as a jedi, sith, or something else that you probably won't bother with. As with any BioWare title, MMOTOR will focus on story foremost, spicing up the MMO genre with BioWare's top-notch storytelling prowess.
And oh will there be story content. According to BioWare president Greg Zeschuk and CEO Ray Muzyka, the game isn't KOTOR 3, "it's KOTOR 3, 4, 5, 6, etc. There's that much to it."
"It's a whole galaxy. It's a galaxy of Star Wars," they added.
In order to make such an ambitious story possible, The Old Republic will saddle you with single-player RPG-esque companion characters. You can change and manipulate them, and they can assist you throughout your adventures. As such, the game will "allow players to carve out their own epic stories," with your actions affecting the entire game world, as well as your characters' morality.
Even crazier, every class and faction configuration will have its own storyline. Lead writer on the project Daniel Ericson even claimed that his latest progeny could feasibly be played like a single-player RPG. There's that much story.
“If you’re a BioWare fan, you’re going to get everything you ever imagined from an extension of KOTOR,” he said.
We couldn't want this any more if it came with a ticket to beautiful women and infinite money island**. How about you?
*The alt fires are lightsabers and Hayden Christensen.
We don't get excited about much these days. When all we could muster over Deus Ex 3 deets was a guarded "Neat," it began to dawn on us that we might be suffering from chronic peace of mind, and that made us kind of upset, but not really. Fortunately, the kings of inapproPriate capitaLization have alerted various media outlets that they plan to trot out their highly anticipated collaborative effort on October 21. It's been all but confirmed that the LucasArts-BioWare tango has birthed a Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic MMO. And we're totally stoked.
The invitation, stamped with both LucasArts and BioWare's respective logos, boasts that "The wait is over," and gives members of the press a come-hither look with promises of "the official unveiling of the game that's been rumored about for years."
Gamasutra notes that the public may not see the game until a few days after the unveiling, thanks to embargos. Even so, we're marking down the minutes until BioWare and LucasArts yank the curtain off their latest (final?) group project. We'll make sure to give you a heads-up when it happens, assuming our keyboard doesn't malfunction while it's floating in a puddle of our drool.
Welcome, guys and gals, to the inaugural edition of the Gaming Roundup. The aim of this little column? Well, if you can’t deduce that from reading the title, then Lord bless you, at least you’re trying. Regardless, I implore you to sit back, relax, and enjoy some gaming news in tiny, fun-sized pieces. And if that doesn’t work, you can just read this article.