IncGamers caught up with Bioware’s James Ohlen, lead designer on LucasArts’  upcoming MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic. Here’s the first part of the interview:SW:TOR is being developed by Bioware in Austin and not at Bioware Headquarters in Edmonton. Why is that? Who is Bioware Austin, and what games have they been working on prior to TOR?

BioWare’s Austin studio was opened in 2006, and the team here took on the development of the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO. BioWare has actually been interested in creating an MMO for about a decade, and we were simply waiting for the right opportunity to do it. Austin has been at the forefront of online game development since Origin created Ultima Online in the late 1990’s. There’s a rich talent pool here and the cost of living is reasonable, so Austin was the perfect fit for a new studio. The team in Austin is a mix of experienced MMO developers as well as experienced RPG developers from Edmonton.

There was a close cooperation between LucasArts and ILM on The Force Unleashed, with ILM providing technology for the game. Is ILM also included in the production of SW:TOR? And if they are: in what way?

Star Wars: The Old Republic is being developed almost exclusively out of the BioWare Austin Studio. Our partners at LucasArts are involved and have input on every stage of the process, but there are no current plans to make use of ILM.

Star Trek games are known for their strict approval process, in which every detail has to be signed by Paramount. What about SW:TOR? Has George Lucas or someone at Lucasfilm to approve everything on the story? Is there an example of anything you liked which didn’t make it through the approval process?

Star Wars is one of the most popular fantasy environments in history, so Lucas has good reason to keep a tight grip on the license, and we at BioWare are certainly some of the biggest fans of Star Wars in the world, so we respect the need to keep the franchise consistent. So yes, there is close collaboration and mutual approval between BioWare and LucasArts on everything that goes into the game. We want people to experience Star Wars in this game just like they did when they first watched the movies all those years ago.

How much is George Lucas involved in the production of SW:TOR? Does he give input? Has he played the game yet? Does he suggest parts of the story?

George Lucas has seen the game and has provided some high level feedback.

How many people are working on the game?

We aren’t giving out specific numbers but we will say that we have more than 100 people working full-time at the BioWare Austin Studio, and there are obviously other contractors involved and several people at LucasArts.

Will we see any familiar faces from the first two KOTOR games?

Star Wars: The Old Republic is set about 300 years after the events of Knights of the Old Republic, and if you’re familiar with Star Wars, you know that some alien races live that long, and of course, that’s no time at all for a droid, so you might see some familiar faces in the Old Republic. For the hardcore fans, there are also many nods to KotOR in the quests themselves, and you’ll certainly be hearing about some of the KotOR characters’ legacies.

So far only the Jedi and Sith classes have been announced, but in the fact sheet you also mentioned the new elite troopers of the Republic. Are those going to be a third class? And if they are, what are they going to be like? I imagine them a little bit like a Jango Fett kind of class.

We haven’t actually announced any specific classes yet. We have said there will be Sith and Jedi classes, but we haven’t given details yet. With all the classes, though, we’re trying to make them representative of the heroes from the movies. We want you to experience your Star Wars fantasy. That fantasy may not be to become a Jedi or Sith, but there will be a role in this game for you, whether Han Solo is your idol or Boba Fett. What we said in terms of Republic elite military forces is only that since the Jedi have withdrawn from Coruscant, a new breed of Special Forces has risen up to take the lead as the official defenders of the Republic. Whether these soldiers are a playable class… you’ll have to wait to find out.We’d like to thank our sister site, for conducting the interview and for the German language version of this interview, please visit our sister site Gamona.The second part of the interview can be found here.   

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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