SWTOR Interview: Achievements, UI Mods, Cross-Server
Game Front’s Ben Richardson sat down with James Ohlen, Game Director of SWTOR, at PAX East this weekend and asked some of the community’s burning questions about the game’s future. Achievements, UI mods, cross-server Warzones, high-res textures, a real Looking-for-Group feature… Read Ohlen’s responses, below.
Game Front: Does the amount of voice acting involved in The Old Republic present unique problems creating content updates and patches compared to other MMO’s that don’t have as much voice acting?
James Ohlen: Surprisingly, it’s not one of our limiting factors. It’s when we’re building Operations and Flashpoints for the updates – yeah they have voiceover, but that’s never the the thing that causes issues or problems. In fact, it always goes smoothly. We never have bugs, or problems, or any kind of issues.
I feel like I get asked that question a lot, and I always say “no, not really.”
GF: So even though you’re breaking new ground with this fully-voiced system, the challenges really lie in problems that have existed all along, since the games were more rudimentary?
JO: The problems with creating new content are the same with every MMO. You have to build all this new art, all these new environments, you have to balance it all. You have to make sure it’s fun, and has good pacing, and everything else.
With the voiceover, you have to come up with good stories, you have to write a good script, but we have that process down pat. We have a whole writing team, and that goes really smoothly. We have the same problems with content as every other MMO developer.
Is there a character, or enemy, or location, or story arc that you’re particularly excited about in 1.2, personally?
I think the Rise of the Rakghouls, that coming to an end, is kind of cool. It’s a cool plot, and there are a few more surprises that are coming with that whole storyline.
I played the new Warzone yesterday, and I had a lot of fun. Can you talk a little about what distinguishes it from the old three-point capture-and-defend Warzone?
We were trying to go for more of a wartime flavor, sort of a Normandy beach, D-Day type flavor. That was the initial concept for it, and I think it gives it a different feel than the other Warzones.
Are there any plans to add achievements? People love earning achievements.
Achievements is a feature we want to get into the game. We’re working on it right now. I can’t say when it’s going to come – not in update 2 or 3, but very soon, definitely this year. We want to make sure that whatever system we come up with, that it has a Star Wars flavor, that it fits the game, and that it fits in with all the other game systems.
How about user-created UI mods? People are excited about the UI customization that’s on its way, but is there a possibility of allowing people to go even further and create mods for the game?
There’s always the possibility for people to take things further, and we’re going to be giving players more hooks into the game. One of the things we’ve noticed, since we added our combat log, we’ve been seeing a lot of sites come up — some of the community is very focused on getting that data and doing a lot with it.
That’s kind of exciting, and it’s always good to give the community things that they can focus on, and build upon. I think that’s one of the best parts of allowing UI modding, is that it gets the community more engaged. Even though a very small percentage of players is actually working on the UI modding, a much bigger percentage of the population uses it.
At the same time, UI modding… right now, we’ve designed the Operations so that you don’t require UI modding to be able to finish them.