Star Wars: The Old Republic
|Star Wars: The Old Republic|
Wilbert Roget, II
|Series||Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic|
|Genre(s)||Massive multiplayer online role-playing game|
|Distribution||Optical disc, download|
Star Wars: The Old Republic, often abbreviated as SWTOR, is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) based in the Star Wars universe. Developed by BioWare Austin and a supplemental team at BioWare Edmonton, the game was first announced on October 21, 2008, at an invitation-only press event. The video game was released for the Microsoft Windows platform on December 20, 2011 in North America and part of Europe. Early access to the game began one week before release, on December 13, 2011, for those who had pre-ordered the game online; access opened in "waves" based on pre-order date.
Although BioWare has not disclosed development costs, industry leaders and financial analysts have estimated it to be between $150 million and $200 million or more, making it, at the time, the most expensive video game ever made. The position was later taken over by Grand Theft Auto V, with an estimated cost of $265 million. The game had 1 million subscribers within three days of its launch, making it the world's "fastest-growing MMO ever". However, in the following months the game lost a fair share of its subscriptions, but has remained profitable. The game has since adopted the hybrid free-to-play business model with remaining subscription option. It is estimated that the game made $139 million in additional revenues, in addition to the subscription income, in 2013.
This story takes place in the Star Wars fictional universe shortly after the establishment of a tenuous peace between the re-emergent Sith Empire and the Galactic Republic, 300 years after the events of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games, and more than 3,500 years before the events in the Star Wars films. The Jedi are held responsible for the success of the Sith during the devastating 28-year-long Great Galactic War (which led to the Treaty of Coruscant prior to the "cold war"), and thus choose to relocate from Coruscant to Tython, where the Jedi Order had initially been founded, to seek guidance from the Force. The Sith control Korriban, where they have re-established a Sith Academy. The game's "Return" cinematic trailer depicts the events where Korriban is re-conquered by the Sith. During these events, a smuggler named Nico Okarr is being led to his prison cell in a jail orbiting Korriban by a Jedi, Satele Shan, and her master, Kao Cen Darach. Suddenly, a Sith named Darth Malgus, who serves as the main antagonist, and his master Vindican, along with several Sith troops, attack the base. Satele, a trooper named Jace Malcom, and Okarr escape the attack, but Darach is cut down by Malgus. Malgus then kills Vindican, who was wounded by Darach. 10 years later, new conflicts have arisen. In the "Hope" cinematic trailer, Satele and some troops destroy a Sith party that includes Malgus, and Malcom, who has become the troop's commander, states that, despite the losses, there is still hope amongst even "a single spark of courage". Later in the "Deceived" cinematic trailer, however, Malgus, having appeared to survive the earlier attack albeit with a mask covering his nose and mouth, leads an army of Sith into the Jedi temple at Coruscant, killing many Jedi including the Jedi Grand Master Ven Zallow. Satele is later named the Grand Master. The game itself is set in the cold-war soon after these events, with the Jedi order and galactic Republic struggling to maintain power while the Sith plot their downfall and the establishment of a new Sith Empire. The conflict opens on many fronts and across many planets, while native factions are engaged in political struggles or civil war.
A collaborative effort between BioWare, LucasArts, EA Games and Dark Horse Comics has resulted in webcomics entitled Star Wars: The Old Republic – Threat of Peace and Star Wars: The Old Republic – Blood of the Empire, the purpose of which is to establish the backstory as the game opens and close
BioWare stated, prior to release, that the game would have a significant focus on the storyline. Each of the eight classes has a three act storyline that progresses as the character levels up.
Players join as members of either of the two main factions – the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire. Although each faction is led by a benevolent or malevolent leader, it is emphasized that an individual member may possess a morality at any point along the light/dark spectrum. The project's key focus is to differentiate between the player's faction and morality. For instance, a member with ties to the Galactic Republic may belong to the Darkside while attempting to achieve their own ends, which may be misaligned or dissimilar from the Republic's vision.
Player advancement occurs by a combination of mission completion, exploration, and defeating enemies. New skills, unlocked by level, are taught by trainers and can be learned in game at a multitude of locations. Heroic missions exist that require the cooperation of multiple players to complete objectives, and can be repeated normally on a daily basis.
While each class in The Old Republic favors a certain play style (ranged/melee damage, healing or support skills, or tanking), customization combined with companion characters allow for a class to be able to tackle many different situations, with or without the support of other player characters, and without requiring specific other classes in order to move forward.
Players' choices permanently open or close storylines and affect players' non-player character (NPC) companions. It is intended that the game should provide more context for characters' missions than any previous MMORPG. Every character in the game, including the player character, features full voice dialog to enhance gameplay, and interactions feature a dialogue system similar to that used in the Mass Effect series. Players are able to choose from a variety of NPCs, although spending time with a single companion will help more in developing story and content than dividing time among several, and may even develop a love interest. It is possible for players to "blow it big time" if they fail to meet NPCs' expectations. Players also have access to several planets, including Korriban, Ord Mantell, Nal Hutta, Tython, Coruscant, Balmorra, Alderaan, Tatooine, Dromund Kaas, Taris, Belsavis, Voss, Hoth, Corellia, Ilum and Quesh, and the moon Nar Shaddaa. The planet Makeb was added in Patch 2.0, along with the Rise of the Hutt Cartel Expansion.
Every player receives their own starship, which was announced at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2010. Footage of space combat was released at Gamescom. The short clip provided by BioWare revealed that space combat would be a "tunnel shooter." A tunnel shooter, otherwise known as a scrolling shooter or rail shooter, is a flying game where the player is on a predetermined track. Game play includes moving right and left on the X axis and up and down on the Y axis; however, players do not have control of the speed of their space craft. Jake Neri, LucasArts Producer, told PC Gamer in their October 2010 issue that their goal was to "capture the most cinematic moments that we can create. We want players to get in and feel like they're in the movies. It's about highly cinematic, controlled combat moments ... very heroic, action-packed, exciting, visceral and dangerous encounters that'll make you pee your pants." With the December 2013 release of the free expansion, Galactic Starfighter (GSF), players now have a free flight PVP space combat experience, with multiple ships and roles independent of other aspects of the game.
A range of playable species are available for the player to choose from, some limited to their factions. Both sides can play Human, Cyborg (human-based), Twi'lek or Zabrak (whose appearances are initially depending on which side the character is from). The Republic-only races are the Miraluka and Mirialan, while the Empire-only races are the Chiss, Rattataki and Sith Pureblood. Humans and Zabrak can pick any class available, while the other species are restricted to limited choices of classes by default.
More playable species are said to be available in the future through major updates and the Legacy system and able to use other classes abilities through this system. The Cathar has been added to the game during Patch 2.1, and is available to all players who unlock the species through the Cartel Market.
The release of the expanded "Legacy" system in April 2012 allows for species to be able to play all classes (both Empire and Republic) by unlocking that species with an infusion of in-game money or by levelling a character of that race to level 50. Under this system, for example, a player may choose Chiss, which by default can only choose the non-Sith classes on the Empire side, as a new Sith character. Likewise a Sith Pureblood, which by default can only choose the Force-powered classes, could choose to be a non-Force class. Along the same vein, both species, which are restricted to the Empire, could even choose the option of fighting for the Republic, including training as a Jedi. By the same way, unlocking the Zabrak species allows to play both appearances regardless from which side the character is from.
Each faction contains different classes, each with a distinct backstory and a branching storyline affected by players' moral choices. Classes are exclusive to one faction or the other. However, the classes of one faction mirror the classes of the other (for example, Jedi Knight and Sith Warrior). Eight classes exist: the Bounty Hunter, Sith Warrior, Imperial Agent, and Sith Inquisitor for the Sith Empire; and the Trooper, Smuggler, Jedi Knight, and Jedi Consular for the Galactic Republic. Although each class has a distinct storyline, they are integrated with the game's overall arc.
Once a character earns enough experience, each class may also choose from two advanced classes, resulting in a total of 8 advanced classes per faction. Advanced classes share the same storyline as their base class. Lightsaber and blaster colors are not faction or class restricted, but some are restricted based on level and/or Lightside or Darkside alignment. For example, some light sabers/blasters can only be bought if Light or Darkside aligned, not by color.
Each class has their own starship, which serves as the player's base of operations. Bounty Hunters have the D5-Mantis patrol craft. Sith Warriors and Sith Inquistors have the Fury. Imperial Agents have the X-70B Phantom. Smugglers have the XS Freighter. Troopers have the BT-7 Thunderclap. Jedi Knights and Jedi Consulars have the Defender. Certain pieces of these ships can all be upgraded, allowing them to perform better in space combat missions.
The game features a passive form of crafting, known as Crew Skills, in which a player's companions carry out gathering and crafting tasks asynchronously to the player's adventures out in the world. Each class gets five companions via their storyline. The player can assign up to five companions to perform up to 3 various skills. Crafting skills allow the player's companions to create items, and the player can reverse engineer many items to possibly learn to make a better version. The item is destroyed in the process, but the player gets some of the materials back. Gathering skills allow the player or their companions to gather resources out in the world. Mission skills allow the player's companions to perform acts on the player's behalf, gaining the player Light or Darkside influence and other rewards, such as medical items or companion gifts.
During E3 2011, a video was shown with gameplay footage of the Bounty Hunter, along with a Jawa companion named Blizz. The developers stated during the chat that only the Bounty Hunter would be able to get Blizz and that other classes would have unique companions as well, including some companions that are force users. It was also shown that companions would have a similar character screen as the players and can have gear just like a player character.
BioWare has also confirmed same-sex romance options between characters will be available post launch.
During patch 1.5, HK-51 was added for all classes on both Empire and Republic factions. He was the first companion added to every classes story, and can be obtained through questing. He is an assassin droid based on the popular HK-47 from the original Knights of the Old Republic series.
An Ewok companion, Treek, was implemented in patch 2.3 and is available to all classes. This companion requires either a purchase from the Cartel Market or a 1,000,000 credit fee along with a Legacy Level of 40.
The Old Republic required a monthly subscription to play, following a month of play included with the initial purchase. Options are available to pay for one month, two month, three month, or six month blocks, with discounted rates for multiple month blocks. Payment is by credit card or time card. The free-to-play version integrates most of the primary features in the game, but has several restrictions, such as credit limits and reduced leveling speed.
After launch, the game's subscribers rose to 1.7 million by February 2012. By May 2012, those numbers fell to 1.3 million. By July 2012, the subscriber base fell below 1 million, prompting EA to convert the game to free-to-play. EA stated that 500,000 subscribers were needed to make the game profitable saying that they were "well above" that number. On November 15, 2012, the free-to-play option went live on all servers. As of August 2014 the game has over one million monthly players.
The Old Republic is BioWare's first entry into the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) market, and is the second Star Wars MMORPG after Star Wars Galaxies, which was shut down in December 2011. BioWare had long been interested in working on a MMORPG, but waited until they had "the right partners, the right team, and the right I.P." A major focus in the game is on developing characters' individual stories and, in October 2008, BioWare considered this game to have more story content than all of their other games combined. The writing team worked on the project longer than any of the game's other development teams. An October 2008 preview noted some of the 12 full-time writers had been working on The Old Republic for more than two years at that point.
The game's first cinematic trailer, "Deceived", was shown at the Electronic Arts 2009 E3 Press Conference on June 1, 2009. A public live demo was shown for the first time at the Gamescom. On September 29, 2009, BioWare announced that they would be accepting applications for testers from the game community. Within minutes, the official website was down due to traffic, and BioWare announced shortly after that the site was being changed in order to accommodate the increase in visitors. A second cinematic trailer, "Hope", was released on June 14, 2010, that depicts another battle that happened before the game, the Battle of Alderaan. On June 6, a new trailer "Return" was released at E3 2011 depicting the initial Sith invasion force as it retakes its home world of Korriban. Game testing was officially announced to be underway on July 9, 2010, for testers from North American territories.
Although released in most regions of the world, EA have said Australasia will be getting the game at a later date. The reason behind this is to hold back digital and boxed copies for a smooth launch so to avoid any problems encountered during launch. However, BioWare have revealed that the game won't be region or IP blocked, allowing players to purchase the game from other regions. Additionally, BioWare have allowed Australian and New Zealand players to take part in the beta stages of the game. BioWare community manager Allison Berryman said "Data from this test will be used to inform decisions about the launch of the game in Oceanic regions", however, she was unable to provide any information in regards to the game's launch in those regions.
On October 11, 2011, BioWare announced that Star Wars: The Old Republic would be released globally on December 20, 2011. However this 'global' launch would only include North America and part of Europe, as the launch date had still been staggered for the Asia and Oceanic regions. However, on December 21, 2011, BioWare announced that an Australian and New Zealand release date had been set for March 1, 2012. BioWare's Stephen Reid announced on the official Star Wars: The Old Republic forums: "We can confirm that Star Wars: The Old Republic will be launching in Australia and New Zealand in the spring of 2012". BioWare has stated that they intend to find a solution to allow Australian and New Zealand players who have already imported the game to play on local servers upon the game's release in the first two quarters of 2012. On January 18, 2012, the first content patch (1.1) was released, adding a new Flashpoint and adding four bosses to an existing Operation.
Patch (1.2) was released on April 12, 2012. The game update included the new Legacy system, a new Flashpoint, Operation, a PVP Warzone, as well as improved character textures and advanced options such as UI customization. Guild banks and player character pets are also introduced. A Weekend Pass Free Trial was made available for new players but has since closed. Patch 1.3 was released in June 2012. The game update featured a New Group Finder, the ability to augment every item, and adaptable social gear. In addition, players will be able to request that their characters are able to transfer to other servers. Subsequent patches have introduced a 'Cartel Market' where players can purchase virtual currency to spend on cosmetic items in-game. Thse items include armour sets, lightsabre colour crystals, mounts, pets and character-perk unlocks.
In January 2012, Star Wars: The Old Republic was officially recognized by Guinness World Records as the "Largest Entertainment Voice Over Project Ever", with over 200,000 lines of recorded dialogue. This feat is recorded in the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition book. On April 26, 2012, BioWare announced that the game was available in the Middle East and remaining European countries who were excluded from the original launch.
In October 2012, BioWare announced The Old Republic's first digital expansion pack, Rise of the Hutt Cartel. The expansion is centered around the rising threat of the Hutt Cartel, which has arisen to challenge the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire for control of the galaxy. The battle with the Hutts is centered around the planet Makeb, which hides a "powerful secret". Much like the main game, the campaign on Makeb is fully voiced. The level cap was raised to 55, with the levelling from 50 onwards centered around Makeb.
Rise of the Hutt Cartel was released on April 14, 2013. Those who pre-ordered the expansion prior to January 7, 2013 were allowed early access on April 9. In late September, Rise of the Hutt Cartel became free of purchase after subscribing to the game.
In October 2013, BioWare announced the second digital expansion pack, Galactic Starfighter, which introduces 12v12 space-based PvP combat on two maps, with 2 'capture-the-flag' combat missions. Three stock starfighters were made available -a scout, a strike fighter and a gunship. More are accessible for Cartel Coins. Subscribers began their early access on December 3, 2013, with full subscriber awards if they maintained an active subscription on November 1. "Preferred access" players, those who do not have an active subscription but have purchased items via the Cartel Market, will receive their early access on January 14, 2014, with some rewards. Full access to all players with a SWTOR account opened on February 4, 2014. A new 'deathmatch' game style was added with the update, as well as a new starfighter class, the bomber.
In January 2014, BioWare revealed plans for 2014 including two expansion packs, with one similar to Galactic Starfighter in scope and one more closely resembling Rise of the Hutt Cartel. The first is entitled Galactic Strongholds, introducing player housing and flagships for guilds. Subscribers received early access August 19, 2014, as well as access to the exclusive "Nar Shaddaa Sky Palace"; preferred access players will receive early access starting in September. Full access to all players with a SWTOR account will open in October.
Chronicle Books released The Art and Making of Star Wars: The Old Republic in November 2011, which chronicles the creation of the game and includes concept artwork and interviews from the development team. The book was written by former Star Wars Insider editor Frank Parisi and BioWare writing director Daniel Erickson. The book includes a foreword by Penny Arcade's Mike "Gabe" Krahulik.
Leading up to game's release on December 20, BioWare released music tracks from the game each day which weren't included with the soundtrack which came with the Collector's Edition of the game. The first track released was titled "The Mandalorian Blockade".
An internet comic produced by Dark Horse and written by The Old Republic developer Rob Chestney offers backstory to the game. The story spans ten years from the signing of the Treaty of Coruscant to the events that start the game. The comic, titled Threat of Peace, was released bi-monthly, and reached its conclusion in March 2010.
A second internet comic titled Blood of the Empire has been released and follows the story of a Sith apprentice on a dangerous and secretive mission. It is produced by Dark Horse and written by BioWare's senior writer Alexander Freed. The story is set 25 years before the Treaty of Coruscant, and offers readers a new perspective of the events leading up to the start of The Old Republic. A sneak preview of the art was released, followed by the first issue on April 23, 2010.
A 256-page novel called Deceived was released by Del Rey on March 22, 2011. This story, by Paul S. Kemp, tells of Darth Malgus, the Sith Lord responsible for the sacking of Coruscant. Another novel written by Sean Williams called Star Wars: The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance was published on July 21, 2010. Drew Karpyshyn wrote a novel titled Revan, published on November 15, 2011. It features Revan as the main protagonist, revealing his fate after the Knights of the Old Republic games. Karpyshyn wrote another novel, Star Wars: The Old Republic: Annihilation, that was released on November 13, 2012.
Star Wars: The Old Republic has received generally positive reviews from critics, with a score of 85 on Metacritic and an 83.87% on GameRankings. G4TV gave a review of 5/5 and praised the game for "Top notch music and voice acting" and "hundreds of hours of content." PC Gamer gave a 93/100, praising the story, voice acting, and the amount of content available. Gamespy gave a review of 4/5, praising the story lines and companion system but criticising the "standard kill and fetch" quests. GameSpot gave the game 8.0/10, saying "SWTOR isn't the next step in online role-playing games. Instead, it's a highly entertaining refinement of what has come before it." GamesRadar gave the game 8/10 calling it "an extremely satisfying experience that sets the stage for a bright future". The game has received a 9.0/10 "Amazing" rating from IGN.com
During Star Wars: The Old Republic's launch week, long queue times were seen on some servers, with BioWare increasing population caps and adding more servers to attempt to resolve them. Some pre-order users discovered they had invalid registration codes.
In 2012, The AbleGamers Foundation awarded Star Wars: The Old Republic as their Mainstream Game for 2011 for being able to accommodate gamers with special needs. It praised the game's features which included many accessibility options, including full subtitles, queue-able actions, multiple action bars, area looting, auto looting, and built-in mouse sensitivity.
After release, at least one reviewer was less favorable as Eurogamer lowered their rating to a 4/10 from its initial high score.
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