Nov 15, 2012

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A Trip Down SW:TOR Memory Lane – Hang A Left At Free-To-Play Parkway

Ah, the memories.

Chances are you’re reading this post now because you were a fan or follower of Ask A Jedi back in the day. I started this site back in 2010 because, quite simply, I couldn’t get enough of Star Wars: The Old Republic! There were already plenty of great sites like Darth HaterMos Eisley RadioTOROcastCorellian Run Radio and soon TORWarsRepublic Trooper and more, but that wasn’t enough for me! I wanted to be fused at the hip with the next great MMO, which by the way was set in the STAR WARS UNIVERSE and made by BIOWARE!

The next 20-some odd months that followed were nothing short of amazing, and running this site while following the game’s development was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had in my life. Obviously, it was great getting so close to the game in its early stages of development, but you know what made it really special? The people!

Over the course of that time, I got to meet a lot of great peeps from all of the fan sites above (and more!) What was so special about all of these folks is that what they were doing, they were doing out of passion. Everyone traveled to every corner of the map, from conventions like E3, PAX and more. And they did so on their own dime and their own time. I can tell you from personal experience that it was hella expensive being a TOR groupie for a few years, but it was worth every penny.

Not only that, I had the great fortune of getting to meet many designers, developers, marketing and community folks from BioWare, Electronic Arts and LucasArts. It was my first real exposure “inside” of the game industry, and I have to say everyone was absolutely awesome. The hospitality shown by each of those companies and especially individually by all of the folks we met was incredible. I felt like they really cared about the fans and the fan sites, and they did. The Fan Site and Guild Summits held at BioWare in Austin… I’ll never forget it!

And of course, there’s no way I could forget the peeps who helped me run this site… You think everyone running by you on Tatooine is some random gamer until you get to know them. We had a special team keeping the wheels greased at AAJ – dare I say the best in the business.

No, I’m not getting the band back together, but felt like I wanted to do a special post here to commemorate the occasion that today is, especially for those of us who were so close to the game!

Looking Forward

It’s hard to believe that this time last year, we were all eagerly anticipating the launch of a brand-new Star Wars MMO. It’s even harder to believe that very same game is relaunching today, less than a year later, as a free-to-play title. So on this dawn of a new era for Star Wars: The Old Republic, I just wanted to take a minute to remember what is so great about this genre we all love – the people we play with.

Anyway, there’s a lot of Light side mushiness going on here, so I’ll start to wrap it up.

While I don’t have a lot of time to devote to gaming these days, I’ll be joining my buddies from TORWars, along with *many* other community members over in the newly formed TORWars guild on The Shadowlands server. Yes, they went Empire, but don’t hold that against them – they’re good peeps! :)  I’m looking forward experiencing TOR this time around casually and socially in the best possible way – with friends!

– Bill (Lethality)

P.S. Some folks have asked what I’ve been up to, so I figured I’d give a quick update!

  • I’m still working my day job as an interactive producer at a large advertising agency, desperately trying to make the jump to the game industry (If you’re hiring, let me know! :)
  • I’ve also taken up as a news editor for ZAM Networks, and you can find my stuff there every day! By the way, you should keep an eye on ZAM… big things ahead.
  • I’m also doing some blogging over on my MMOpinion site. If you know me, you know that I’m never short for words when it comes to how MMOs “should” work and be played, so you can find some commentary and discussion over there! You can also follow me on Twitter, which is the old Ask A Jedi feed, except re-named!
  • Finally, I’ve joined forces with Andy and the fine chaps from Republic Trooper to form a new site called Titan Everything dedicated to following Blizzard’s upcoming MMO, code-named Project Titan. Right now, “following” is a loose term as I’m sure we’ll be AARP members by the time it releases, but stop by, join the community and chat it up a bit!

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Feb 29, 2012

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Calling All Guilds – Do You Want To Test Game Update 1.2?

If you’re the member of an experienced Star Wars: The Old Republic raiding guild, BioWare wants to hear from you! They’ve just posted notice that they’re nearly ready to begin testing Game Update 1.2 on the Pubic Test Server, and are looking for guilds to test the high level content:

As you know, Game Update 1.2 is packed with new content, including a new Flashpoint, Operation, and Warzone. To that end, we’re looking for some end-game guilds to test this new content and to provide feedback before the update goes out to our live servers.

While we don’t have the technology for mass character transfers yet, we do have a manual process to copy characters from our Live servers to our Public Test Server that we will be offering for Guilds that are accepted for testing.

Needless to say, if you’re a guild interested in this, you should get in touch with BioWare asap. The full instructions are here, but the email address to use is

On a separate but related note, BioWare is also looking for experienced TOR players local to the Austin area to test the content as well.

The Star Wars: The Old Republic team is looking for skilled SWTOR players in the Austin area to test out brand new content in the BioWare Austin office. We are looking for players that are experienced with endgame Operations, Warzones, and Flashpoints. 

The only requirement seems to be that you’re local to BioWare’s Austin studio, and you must complete this survey. This is a temporary paid position that will take up about 1 weekend per month. I’ve never wanted to live in Texas as much as I do now!

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Feb 2, 2012

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Blue Milk & Cereal: Would You Attend A “BioCon”?

No day would be complete without the breakfast of Jedi: Blue Milk & Cereal.  Every morning, the team at Ask A Jedi will get Force-induced thoughts coursing through your head with delicious issues from around the galaxy! Join in the discussion below to make your voice heard!

Today’s BM&C was seeded by an idea from Zach Lee on Twitter… thanks Zach!

Gaming conventions are always a big deal every year, and Star Wars: The Old Republic along with EA, BioWare and LucasArts attend many of them. Some are for players such as PAX or gamescom, and some are geared for the industry such as E3. These are generally huge stages upon which publishers can catch the eyes of the public, and shine the lights on their wares.

A few years back in 2005, Blizzard sort of redefined the idea of a gaming convention by holding their own – Blizzcon. Since then, they’ve held it every year except 2006 and attendance has grown exponentially. In 2005, just over 8,000 people (including myself) were there. Last year? Over 29,000. And they’ve worked to make it accessible not only on the Internet but also on pay-per-view over DirecTV.

So that got me to thinking… BioWare has plenty of franchises and some equally passionate and numerous fans. Would something like a “BioCom” be possible? A gathering of all of the BioWare games and gamers, focused on letting fans see and play the future? It’s possible that with this week’s announcement of the Guild Summit in Austin, the seeds have already been planted… come on David, 200 people is no different than 20,000! :)

Anyway, would you attend a BioCon if there was one? Would you travel to get your hands on Mass Effect 3 early? How about an early peek at the TOR expansion race? Let us know!

Would you attend a "BioCon" if there was such a thing?

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Jan 6, 2012

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Blue Milk & Cereal: Is TOR The Last Of Its Kind?

No day would be complete without the breakfast of Jedi: Blue Milk & Cereal.  Every morning, the team at Ask A Jedi will get Force-induced thoughts coursing through your head with delicious issues from around the galaxy! Join in the discussion below to make your voice heard!

Developing a massively multiplayer online role-playing game is a complex task. There are all of the creative aspects to it, it’s a massive technical undertaking, a logistical Matterhorn to manage, and last but not least, it requires large investment in the form of human and monetary resources. There aren’t many publishers or developers who are willing – or even able to – take on that burden, float the cash and shoulder the risk.

Electronic Arts/BioWare, Activision/Blizzard, maybe Bungie and some others probably can afford to, but even they have to question the status-quo when it comes to development budgets and timelines for these games. Star Wars: The Old Republic was in development for about 6 years, give or take, with a rumored budget of over $100M. Everything from record albums, movies and skyscrapers all take less time to create. Part of the reason is because there are long-tested and improved processes for doing so.

In my opinion, the only practical way we’ll continue to see games of this scale is through development and advancement of core technology and tools to assist designers and developers adopt a more rapid development cycle. In other words, things that let them focus on creating the content rather than the technology, with a simplified pipeline.

The problem is, this set of tools and technology also has to keep up. BioWare used the HeroEngine in an attempt to avoid creating some of their technology completely from scratch, but ended up customizing it so much it’s but a shadow of it’s former self. Could a game as large as TOR rely on a third party company to advance their product? Can they trust them to even exist in the future? So even with available middleware, engines and other “starter kits” to help reduce the cost (possibly) and time (maybe) to make games, we’re still not there yet.

We wanted to get the collective thoughts of everyone in the AAJ Army… we’re suspecting many of you are MMO enthusiasts, not just TOR players, so you may have an opinion. Is TOR the last of it’s kind? What can be done for these games to keep coming? Is it even a good thing if they do?

Do you believe TOR is the last of it's kind?

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Dec 28, 2011

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Free To Play? Not For The Old Republic.

Joystiq has a short interview with BioWare Co-Doctor’s Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka centered primarily around the idea of the free-to-play subscription model. As before, the BioWare Co-Founders deflect any notion that Star Wars: The Old Republic is headed that way, only this time they expand that it isn’t even necessarily a good thing.

In regards to available resources for development and expansion, Zeschuk put it like this:

“I’m not saying it’s better or worse. It just doesn’t supplant the other things. ‘Cause we can do some things no one else can,” Zeschuk added. In his eyes, a free-to-play dev isn’t able to throw the same amount of resources and time at an MMO project, and that marks a big differentiation between the two business models. “The free-to-play people can’t invest to the level we can invest, and can’t create something of the size and scale of something we can create,” he said. The idea that free-to-play will take over all other MMO business models, he said is, “from a business perspective, ridiculous.”

For my money, I tend to agree with him. Lowering the price can only take you so far. Look at Dell as compared to Apple. It’s better to deliver a premium value and charge accordingly. Anyone can compete on price. Few can compete on quality. You can only cut off so many limbs before it ceases to function.

While not TOR-related, perhaps the most interested point in the piece led to the revelation that there might be an older BioWare IP surfacing in the free-to-play arena soon:

“You can re-imagine things and kinda envision them in different ways,” he said of the business model’s advantages. “We have some other stuff we haven’t announced yet coming from our play-for-free team that I’m really excited about. It’s gonna bring back some IP that people have a lot of fond memories around.”


Head on over to Joystiq for the full read!

The Co-Doctors!

The Co-Doctors!

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