Oct 30, 2011

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Wild Space: Questing, Beta Testing, and Mobile Apps

It’s a big galaxy our there, and Wild Space can be a dangerous place. Worry not, explorer – each week we’ll navigate you safely through the lost hyperspace routes of the Deep Core and track down the great articles and entertainment from around the SW:TOR fan community, all in less than 12 parsecs, of course!

First up this week, is great article from Force Junkies about the not-so-heroic quests that all “theme park” MMOs have players partake in. Author Laura H. does a really good job of explaining that this is all going to be different in SW:TOR because in this game, you actually care about what you are doing. As Ms. H explains, you aren’t just killing 10 wolves to get some experience and a minor reward, you’re killing 10 wolves in order to save a village from the persistent, feral attacks by the wolves and in return, the leader of the village pledges his support to your cause.

Making a player care about what they are doing from a story perspective certainly makes doing it much more fun. It’s the motivation for doing the quest (i.e. story context) and the presentation of it (i.e. interactive voice acting) that makes these “mundane” quests not so mundane anymore. Be sure to check out the full article over at Force Junkies.

Amid all of the Warzone update information that came out as part of the Friday Update this week, EA released their Fiscal Year 2012, Quarter 2 Earnings call. These calls are snooze-fests for the majority of the time, but every once in a while we get a pertinent bit of information out of them. Some poor soul over at Darth Hater (author Jaspor, I assume) had the dubious honor of listening to the Earnings call for that bit of information. What he found was even further confirmation (from EA Chief Operating Office Peter Moore, nonetheless) that the SW:TOR beta is going to eventually get downright massive:

“…the Old Republic is in Beta right now and players are blown away by the immersive story, dynamic combat and authentic Star Wars feel. In the coming weeks we’ll invite hundreds of thousands of players into our biggest Beta test to date.”

So if you haven’t gotten into the beta by now, you’re going to have a pretty good chance in the future. Keep tuned to www.swtor.com/tester to see if you’ve been selected for beta testing and head over to Darth Hater for the full article which links out to the official EA remarks and webcast.

What do you all think of one or more SW:TOR mobile apps? Marshall Carr from TORWars think that it’s a pretty good idea and has some suggestions for BioWare about what he wants to see in a mobile app. One idea that quickly jumped to his mind was a crew skills app. Since your crew can be working on Crew Skills while you are offline, an app to modify your Crew Skill queue and send companions out of missions would be extremely convenient. Other apps for in-game communication would also be really handy and I could see even becoming a necessity.

Another thought that I just had is something that the successful MMO Eve Online is already doing: build API tools and let the community create their own mobile apps. With access to an API, the amount and variety of apps created would only be limited by the community’s creativity, skill level, and commitment (and I think that the SW:TOR community can summon up droves of all three).

However, Mr. Carr is quick to point out that there is a concern with creating mobile apps and that some players could have a significant gameplay advantage over others just because they have a better phone. Still, smartphone ownership is on the rise and BioWare is surely thinking about how to approach mobile app development very carefully. Check out the full article over at TORWars and let us know what you think about SW:TOR mobile apps in the comments.

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Oct 16, 2011

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Wild Space: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Release Date

It’s a big galaxy our there, and Wild Space can be a dangerous place. Worry not, explorer – each week we’ll navigate you safely through the lost hyperspace routes of the Deep Core and track down the great articles and entertainment from around the SW:TOR fan community, all in less than 12 parsecs, of course!

I’ll just come out and say it: I’m a huge fan of Austen Courpet’s video blog series Yufmelt Shot First on his website Yufmelt.com. The series has been on hiatus for a while until this week when Austen and co. shot (see what I did there?) episode 9. The episode introduces a new cinematography style that looks less like a webcam and more like a professional interview (but where are the awesome posters?!). Since they haven’t released an episode since the release date was announced they devoted this 5:33 gem to talking about it. In short, having a release date is good, but a release date five days before Christmas is not so good. Lots of people who want to be there for release won’t be able to simply due to the release date being so close to a major holiday.

Yufmelt!

The video is nice and quick, gets to the point, and is done with a terrific sense of humor which keeps it entertaining. Check it out here.

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Oct 2, 2011

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Wild Space: Another Spin on the Release Date and Lore Updates

It’s a big galaxy our there, and Wild Space can be a dangerous place. Worry not, explorer – each week we’ll navigate you safely through the lost hyperspace routes of the Deep Core and track down the great articles and entertainment from around the SW:TOR fan community, all in less than 12 parsecs, of course!

Star Wars, in general, doesn’t have the the best history when it comes to the Christmas holiday. While I’m sure that the release date for of December 20 (NA) and 22 (EU) was chosen for a multitude of very well thought out and logical reasons, it is curious that BioWare and EA would choose to release the game so close to a major holiday when many of us will have a lot of other real life stuff going on. MrWarlock of the fansite SWTOR-Life posted an editorial exploring this very topic.

The article hypothesizes that maybe releasing the game so close to Christmas is going to be used as some sort of load balancing mecahnism. Bioware and EA must know that people will be busy during this time and some will be forced to play the game less than they normally would at any other time of the year. Having slightly fewer players on the server may help their launch day performance, but it may upset some people who hoped to devote a considerable amount of time to the game right at launch.

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Sep 25, 2011

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Wild Space: Release Date(!) And Developer Interviews

It’s a big galaxy our there, and Wild Space can be a dangerous place. Worry not, explorer – each week we’ll navigate you safely through the lost hyperspace routes of the Deep Core and track down the great articles and entertainment from around the SW:TOR fan community, all in less than 12 parsecs, of course!

It’s been a long time coming but we finally have an official release date for Star Wars: The Old Republic. December 20, 2011 cannot get here fast enough! To start us off on Wild Space, here are a couple of release date articles and features from a few fansites that you may have heard of before.

- Darth Hater has an article with a bunch of information about the release date. It includes an interview with Stephen Reid, highlights of the actual announcement from the BioWare doctors, and an audio/media gallery of the whole thing. I highly recommend the interview with Stephen Reid about SW:TOR’s release, Early Game access, and the ongoing beta.

- TORWars has a short phone interview with Stephen Reid that they transcribed on their website, a breakdown of the SW:TOR pricing model, and a video of the BioWare doctors making the announcement.

It’s tough to contain my personal excitement since I have been looking forward to this game for a long time (as I’m sure a lot of you have). I have been wanting to play a sci-fi MMO for some time and it looks like my wish is finally going to come true on December 20th. Congrats to BioWare on this amazing milestone!

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Sep 18, 2011

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Wild Space: Engines, Holidays And Videos!

It’s a big galaxy our there, and Wild Space can be a dangerous place. Worry not, explorer – each week we’ll navigate you safely through the lost hyperspace routes of the Deep Core and track down the great articles and entertainment from around the SW:TOR fan community, all in less than 12 parsecs, of course!

At their core, all video games are based on a game engine that renders the graphics and provides a framework for developers to work from when designing a game (among many other things). If you were not aware, SW:TOR is built on the Hero Engine which was built from the ground up to for MMO games. BioWare acquired one of the first licenses to utilize the engine which by all accounts has worked out very well.

This week, fansite Red Rancor has an awesome write up about the Hero Engine, what a game engine actually is and does, and what functionality the Hero Engine allows BioWare do when developing SW:TOR. The one feature of the Hero Engine that really caught my eye was how it could potentially handle game updates and patches. To quote the article:

Says [Neil Harris of Simutronic, creators of the Hero Engine] “The developer could be working on adding new content, and when they like it, they could push the new content out to the players and it will stream down to you.”  Um, did I read that right?  Wouldn’t that mean that having heaping loads of changes, in a “patch”, would no longer be necessary?  Does that mean that patches could become a thing of the past!?!  “Another advantage is that you don’t have to wait six months for another expansion pack. That content can be streamed down live to the players, and it’s very efficient,” stated Harris. 

If content can be streamed to a user’s local client, having to download a separate update or patch would become unnecessary. This should result in less downtime, traditionally need for patches and updates; perhaps less maintenance outages for the game; and an improved gameplay experience for the player since content is updated and bugs are fixed in close to real-time. I don’t think I see a downside here! The annoying “update day” could be heading for it’s demise. Check out Red Rancor for their very detailed article about the Hero Engine.

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