Can the new 135-million-dollar MMORPG turn Star Wars into World of Warcraft? T3 followed the money…
Developing a massively multiplayer online role-playing game is no mean feat. First off, it’s “massive”. That means there’s a plethora of things that can go wrong, from plot inconsistencies to graphical glitches.
Genre giant World of Warcraft spent a full 5 years in development prior to its initial release back in 2004, and developer Blizzard continues to tweak it. No MMORPG has replicated the success of Warcraft. However, The Old Republic, with gaming behemoth Electronic Arts’ Mass Effect master BioWare – a noob to MMORPGs – and the heft of George Lucas’ most lucrative licence pushing it along, has a better chance than most.
T3 few to BioWare HQ in Austin, Texas, to witness its force. “Essentially, The Old Republic is our love letter to Star Wars,” lead designer Gabe Amatangelo tells us. Yet The Old Republic was announced to some surprised faces in 2008. The audacious fanboy-focused online project Marvel Universe had been faltering for years, money disappearing down a black hole faster than a speeding bullet, so what made BioWare set its sight on this most difficult of genres?
According to Amatangelo, BioWare has always been keen to move into MMO pastures, but waited patiently for the “right technology, team and partners”.With an aim to “ful? ll player fantasy”, The Old Republic has made its move and then some – to the tune of a rumoured $135m budget, making it one of the most expensive games ever produced.
Text has been dumped in favour of an entirely voice-acted cast of characters – there are more than 200,000 lines of dialogue, penned by an in-house writing team of 20, taking in 60 years of gameplay evolution. That’s more content, says BioWare, than all its other titles put together. Looking for perspective? Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine alone is the size of the entire Dragon Age: Origins play area. So yeah, it’s pretty big.
Taking place 300 years after Knights of the Old Republic and some 3,500 years before the Star Wars films, players have to pick a faction, either Galactic Republic or Sith Empire; as ever the former have the moral high ground, the latter the cooler lightsabers. BioWare looks down with some scorn on the lack of choice and consequence found in other MMORPGs.
“Having context emphasizes the value of your actions,” insists Amatangelo. With this in mind, every decision you make in The Old Republic impacts your character in the long term, with the player constantly reminded of previous choices. So choose wisely.
Analysts have estimated that World of Warcraft earns Activision Blizzard a cool $1billion a year. By creating a rich universe and a storyline that’s engaging as well as offering massive freedom, The Old Republic has the potential to be a similar hit. It’s the best Star Wars franchise for many years. So, join up, grab your virtual blaster and let’s all draw a line under that whole Jar Jar Binks thing.
Price: $65 ON PC
Link: Star Wars: The Old Republic