Star Wars: The Old Republic is a massive game and it is finally set to release in the holiday season this year. A lot of fans have been eagerly anticipating this MMO. Some have been waiting as far back as the initial announcement. Despite being officially revealed to the public in October of 2008, the rumors surrounding TOR began much earlier then that. In part one of this two part series I’m going to look the very beginnings of TOR up until its public announcement on October 21, 2008. In part two I will look at all the build up from announcement to the present. Where did it all begin?
BioWare opens a studio in Austin, Texas and more after the jump.
March 13, 2006. BioWare reveals that it has set up a brand new studio in Austin, Texas to develop a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. At the time BioWare made no mention of the game they were currently developing.
March 23, 2006. Kotaku publishes an article claiming that Sony Online Entertainment is in trouble due in no small part to Star Wars Galaxies. The article states that the upper brass of the company have been jumping ship and moving on in their careers. Other gaming sites such as Gamespot pick up on the article and soon rumors are flying all over suggesting that LucasArts is looking to make a new MMORPG with a different developer. The two lead suspects being City of Heroes creators Cryptic Studios and BioWare, who was most recently known for Jade Empire at the time. This is where rumors of TOR first began as it was known that BioWare had just set up a new studio in Austin, Texas and was hiring ex-SOE employees. All anyone knew at this time was that the studio in Austin was hard at work on a new MMORPG set in a science fiction universe.
November 27, 2006. BioWare is featured in the Games for Windows magazine and talks about TOR for the very first time. TOR is still that unnamed sci-fi MMO at this point and BioWare is very vague. Here they explain how they started working on the game in December 2005 and give a general idea of where they are at in the game’s development. “We’ve got a lot designed,” says James Olhen. “We’ve got the GDD [game design document] done, we’ve finished more than three quarters of the detail design documents. We’ve got a couple prototypes up.” Even today the article gives a lot of insight on The Old Republic. You can really see what BioWare set out to do and that they set themselves to be ambitious from the start.
June 12, 2007. BioWare’s MMO is planned for 2009 according to technical director Bill Dalton. Featured in Information Week, Dalton goes into the technical side of BioWare’s still-unnamed MMO. Even today it is an interesting read to see the kind of tech that will be going into the game.
July 21 2007. On the Star Wars Galaxies site Ahazi dot Org a user by the name of Loook makes a post regarding a survey he took on SurveySpot. He goes on to describe the features he was surveyed about:
- Set 3500 years before Vader
- Title: Star Wars: The Old Republic
- 8 Professions. Smuggler and Bounty Hunter “stick out.”
- Functional light side and dark side system. NPCs and others remember what you do and react accordingly.
- Legacy system.
- Companion. Han had Chewbacca, Luke had R2-D2
- Fully-customizable ship. Can be bought or stolen!
- No more miles of reading text. Events happen in game with full voice overs. “Sounds damn impossible if you ask me.”
- Full grouping.
- A minigame that is used to influence others.
Take a good look at that list. Back in 2007 it would be easy to brush this forum post as nothing, but most of these features are in TOR. Eight classes, companion characters, starships, full voice overs and more. We knew a lot more about this game than we originally thought back when it was first announced.
October 12, 2007. Electronic Arts acquires BioWare and Pandemic Studios from their parent company, VG Holding Corp, for around $620 million. Would a recently released Mass Effect and an in-development Dragon Age be reason for EA to spend this much money to acquire the company? That is a lot of money to drop down on a developer that makes games for a niche audience. When you consider BioWare is working on an MMO in their Austin studio one could consider that is why EA wanted them. It would explain why EA won’t stop talking about the secret MMO in the next year.
October 23, 2007. The first rumors that BioWare is working on a KOTOR MMO begin to surface.
June 20, 2008. During a financial conference EA CEO John Riccitello states that BioWare’s MMO is scheduled to release between April 2010 and April 2011.
July 17, 2008. EA slips that BioWare and LucasArts are indeed making an MMO together. Given all the previous rumors up to this point anyone could have connected the dots here. BioWare’s secret MMO is not so secret anymore.
September 2008. Damion Schubert talks about MMO’s at the Austin Game Developer Conference. He goes on to discuss endgame and how it is vital to an MMO. There is a lot of design philosophy in this article and looking back on it now could shed some light on what might be in store for TOR’s endgame. Given what we know about TOR now it’s well worth reading to see if we can put together these vague hints with the game mechanics we now know about TOR.
October 21, 2008. We all know what happens next: BioWare announces Star Wars: The Old Republic at a press event. I was among the first to register up on the site that day. In my next article I will be looking through all the news, releases and reveals since then. There is a lot to cover and it will be nice to look at how our perception of this massive game has changed over the years.