Nov 15, 2011

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Damion Schubert: The Senior Designer Mindset

As you might know, we’re big fans of Damion Schubert.

He is of course the Princple Lead Systems Designer on Star Wars: The Old Republic, and happens to have more than a decade of game design and development experience under his belt. Given all of that, he pens a great regular column in Game Developer Magazine entitled Design Of The Times that we like to cover, even though it’s not usually directly related to TOR.

This time around, his column subject is “The Senior Designer Mindset.” Damion discusses things that designers can focus on to improve their contributions with an eye on moving up into a Senior Designer role.

Under his first bullet, Damion discusses how important “finishing” is to the design process, and in particular how long that has been going on with Star Wars: The Old Republic:

We’ve actually been in finishing mode for months, long before our release date was public. Part of what allows heavyweights like BioWare, Blizzard and Valve to release such great games is their focus on ensuring they’re proud to put their brand on their end products.

Unfortunately the full text isn’t available online without a subscription, but well worth a read if you’re interested in taking a peek behind the curtain of the creation of video games.

You can subscribe to Game Developer Magazine or buy each monthly issue digitally here, or check your local newsstand or bookstore for a copy.

Game Developer - November 2011

Game Developer - November 2011

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Oct 21, 2011

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Blue Milk & Cereal: Will You Be A Datacron Hunter?

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!

One of the most unique things we’ve learned about Star Wars: The Old Republic so far, in my opinion, is the existence of datacrons.

Datacrons are Holocron-like objects placed throughout the galaxy for players to find. Some are out in the open and easy to access, while some are in hard to reach places that take some exploration and ingenuity to figure out how to reach. We got our first exposure to them at last April’s Fan Site Summit at BioWare’s Austin studio when Carla from Corellian Run Radio spotted on on her map, and found it in the world, but had to use some creative jumping and maneuvering to get to!

The reward for finding these is of course the feeling of accomplishment, but beyond that they also grant an in-game Codex entry according to BioWare’s Damion Schubert, “While most codex entries can be obtained with the players stretching their legs (searching the whole map, killing obvious targets you don’t normally need to kill), finding datacrons typically requires a little extra exploration and a even little ingenuity.”

Beyond the Codex, these datacrons also grant a permanent increase of one of your stats. “If you successfully reach one and interact with it, one of your stats will be increased — permanently,” said Schubert. This decision has not come without some controversy, as it would seem to force exploration for those that wish to maximize their combat stats.

So with several compelling reasons to go after these little buggers from lore to combat performance, will you be a datacron hunter? Will you make it your mission to find them as you level, or maybe go back and explore during down time between content patches?

Will you be a datacron hunter?

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Oct 13, 2011

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GDC Online: Damion Schubert Talks Casual And Hardcore

Even though content at GDC doesn’t often revolve around specific games, nor is it always “gamer” friendly, I know I enjoy keeping up on what’s going on behind the curtain. Taking a peek at how games are made is always interesting to me, and in my opinion no one gives a better look at it than BioWare’s own Principle Lead Systems Designer on Star Wars: The Old Republic, Damion Schubert.

I’ve been attending GDC Online (called Austin GDC prior that) since 2007, and I’ve always enjoyed Damion’s talks the most. He tends to hit on the topics that are the hot-button issues for online gamers. Back in March at GDC in San Francisco, he touched on the solo player in “Designing For Loners“. Last year at GDC Online in 2010, he talked about the grind in “How Online Gaming Has Adopted The Grind“.

So since I wasn’t able to attend this year, I was sad that I was going to miss this year’s topic – “Double Coding: Making Online Games for Both the Casual and the Hardcore“. Thankfully, this year Massively has me covered!

With MMOs, Schubert says that devs are often trying to double code the games for both casual and hardcore players. This is where the well-known slogan “easy to play, hard to master” originates. He held up Blizzard as a primary example of this model. Blizzard’s “donut,” as Schubert calls it, has a casual outer ring and a hardcore center for both types of players. By double coding, Blizzard ensures that casual players can invite their hardcore friends to experience the game and vice-versa.

This is fascinating topic by a talented game developer and covered wonderfully by Massively – head over for the full read if you want to know more about how the sausage is made!

Photo: Massively/Joystiq

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Sep 17, 2011

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GDC Online: BioWare Austin Contributes To Five Sessions [UPDATED]

Here at Ask A Jedi, we try to make our coverage of Star Wars: The Old Republic as comprehensive as we can. Most of the time it’s directly related to the game, and we really try not to wander too far off of that road (except of course, in our Off-TORpic column!)

But being the armchair game designers we are, we also like to follow BioWare’s developers in some of their other industry doings where we can. Wether it’s Damion Schubert and his regular contributions to Game Developer magazine, or attending industry conferences where various developers might be speaking or participating on a panel.

Every year in the fall, the Game Developers Conference holds court in Austin for their annual GDC Online show. As you might know, Austin just happens to be the city where BioWare Austin is located. :) Due to that, GDC Online usually gets some great participation from BioWare developers, and this year is no different – perhaps one of the best ever!

GDC Online has released their final schedule, and there are no less than four five sessions where BioWare Austin developers will be featured as presenters or panelists:

Of particular interest is the panel Full Immersion: Taking Your Game Everywhere. BioWare’s Erik Olsen will be on a panel along with ZAM’s Cody Bye and Curse’s Hubert Thieblot. Up until now, BioWare has been mum on how or even if they would be providing access to Star Wars: The Old Republic in some manner outside of the game itself, wether from your smartphone, tablet or the web. It will be interesting to see what Olsen shows and/or discusses here, as it might give us our first glimpse of BioWare’s plans in this area. Will we get a Crew Skills app? Guild Chat? It remains to be seen.

Personally, I feel there is no more important feature for a modern MMO than the extension of it  outside of the game itself, and I can’t wait to see this panel.

Ask A Jedi will be in Austin next month for complete coverage, so don’t forget to check back! We may even come back with a few surprises from the Lone Star State! ;)

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Aug 22, 2011

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Yellow Posts: EU Testing, Cross-Faction Chat, Huttball, and Loot!

Even with many of the developers and community managers away at gamescom, many of them still found the time to post on the official forums. This week, forum poster Hjaw asked the devs in his thread “EU Testing – we need info!” if they could elaborate on when EU beta testing would start. Currently, a few people from the EU are in testing, but a full-blown EU server beta test hasn’t begun yet. Stephen Reid, Senior Online Community Manager, took to the forums to answer:

Hello from the very loud GamesCom showfloor…

We know how much everyone in Europe is eager to test The Old Republic and while it’s been a slow process to get to the starting line, we’re really close.

Right now Game Testing is ongoing as it has been for quite a while. While some Europeans are in this program and are testing, there are more testers from other countries.

We will be adding more testers during September, including testers from Europe. This will increase the number of European testers by a considerable amount. As part of this increase, we’re hoping to add a number of European Guilds.

Beta Testing Weekends in the EU will start after the US, but not much later. That’s about all we can commit to right now.

Obviously, I’ve given you no dates or timeframes here, but as we get closer, we’ll have more to say. September isn’t that far away, after all.

Mr. Reid followed up that post with further details a little bit later, and in the interest of saving space, you can read that post here.

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