With rumours of a mind-boggling budget and recent criticisms calling Star Wars: The Old Republic a "WoW clone" these seem to be turbulent times for BioWare's upcoming MMO. Is the game likely to succeed despite the scepticism? We talk to Daniel Erickson, writer for Star Wars: The Old Republic, about the negative responses the title has had, recent design decisions, and the future for the MMO.
Q: At Comic-Con this year, one of the Star Wars: The Old Republic developers said the team hopes the game will last for decades. Can any game legitimately have that kind of longevity?
Daniel Erickson: That was James Ohlen and he was making a joke that got misquoted and misconstrued. Always watch what you say at a con!
Q: What are the steps it would have to take to last that long if it were the case?
DE: Some sort of free beer and pizza dispenser connected to said game?
Q: A few months back an industry analyst made news after he called Star Wars: The Old Republic a highly derivative WoW clone. Could you comment on why critics have been so sceptical?
DE: It's an odd notion that we've seen before in the industry when dealing with outside analysts. RPGs are more similar to each other than they are to FPS games. FPS games are more similar to each other than to racing games. If you're not playing something or a fan of the genre, the games inside that genre look fairly similar. If you're looking from 30,000 feet up and making comparisons then you could see the argument that Diablo and Baldur's Gate were the same game, as were Quake and Half Life but I can't imagine many player ever saw it that way.
Q: Many were surprised the game doesn't completely break from tradition, particularly in its action-bar style of combat. Would it have been more difficult to market the game had you completely re-written the rules of MMO design?
DE: It wasn't a marketing decision at all. We make RPGs and we use the best RPG interface we can put together. Not only did we not depart from action bar combat, the Dragon Age series adopted it right from the start for its single-player game. It turns out to be the easiest way to organize a complex series of powers. What we did bring was synchronized animations, more dynamic and movement-based combat (Force-push, explosions that send people flying, etc) and far faster fights. Which seems to be plenty marketable as a bonus.