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Big news this week - first real details on companions:
Star Wars: The Old Republic Companions
From Chewie to Artoo, we've got new details on the game's companion characters.
May 27, 2010
Today BioWare's giving us an advance look at the first details on the companion characters in Star Wars: The Old Republic. BioWare's provided us with an intriguing write-up that's going up on The Old Republic website tomorrow. To make things even sweeter, BioWare's creative director and lead designer James Ohlen consented to answer some of our questions.
Every Star Wars hero needs a companion. Han had Chewie, Luke had R2-D2 -- even Jabba had the cackling monkey lizard Salacious B. Crumb. These characters compliment a player's strengths or weaknesses, and provide company for the epic journey you will inevitably undertake. Whether they're combative, friendly, flirtatious, or even just good for a laugh, companions always contribute to your adventure.
In Star Wars: The Old Republic, a variety of these Companion Characters will join your cause. Some will join you for adventure, some for greed, and some for motivations that will remain hidden until much further along in your adventure. The Companions run the gamut from intelligent droids to bizarre aliens, from an honorable princess to a roguish pirate, and each class has a completely unique set to of Companions.
While traveling the galaxy, your Companion Characters will provide commentary, information on plots and directions to points of interest-- all from their own unique perspectives. Companion Characters may act as your conscience, and try to influence your decisions. In turn, you will influence them, and change how they develop as the story progresses. Based on your choices, some Companions will become your closest friends, others may become your lovers, and a few may even become your enemies!
You will be introduced to your first Companion Character early in your adventure. But as you become more seasoned, more will rally to your cause. As you travel with your Companions and get to know them better, they will not only become more powerful but they will also introduce you to a unique series of quests and rewards. Furthermore, you will be able to enhance your companions by equipping them with various gear.
As your team grows and develops, new options, strategies, and tactics will become available. When you're headed to "The Tomb" on Belsavis, who will you bring to watch your back and help out the rest of your group? Do you bring the hard-as-nails soldier who will help keep your enemies' attention off of your group, the gifted battlefield medic who can help keep everyone alive, or do you bring your ever-faithful Astromech whose computer skills may be the only hope for completing the mission? These are just some of the choices you will make while you and your Companions roam the galaxy in Star Wars: The Old Republic.
IGNPC: Companions have been part of BioWare games from Mincs to Liara. How has the role or design of companions evolved over the years? How will The Old Republic improve on the existing companion systems? What have you learned about players' expectations for the companions?
James Ohlen: Companions have evolved a lot since the days of Minsc and Baldur's Gate. In Baldur's Gate the companion characters we created were limited to voice over barks and a little bit of story. In Baldur's Gate 2 we expanded that significantly, adding the ability for players to get to know his companion through intricate conversation trees, companion centered quest lines and romances. Occasionally we wouldn't have companions as part of our initial design (Neverwinter Nights and Jade Empire were examples of that), but we'd always add them back because companions had become such a staple of our games. In fact, Mass Effect 2 has a storyline that is focused primarily on the collection of companion characters.
With Star Wars: The Old Republic we had to solve for the fact that this is the first Bioware (MMO)RPG that is entirely real time. All of our previous RPGs allow the player to pause the game. We have had to approach how a player controls his companion much differently than before.
IGNPC: Can you give us a few specific examples of how companions might impact a particular player's experience?
James Ohlen: Companion characters have a significant impact on the player's experience. They are integral to the player's storyline. They interject during conversation to give the player their view on things. They give commentary as the player explores the world. They are an important part of combat, providing extra DPS, healing, tanking abilities or even crowd control.
IGNPC: How flexible are the companions' story arcs? Are they merely scripted to provide a solid context for the player's own moral choices or will the player have an opportunity to change a companion's goals and attitudes?
James Ohlen: Players can change his companion's attitudes and sometimes even his moral leaning. It is dependant on who the companion is and what kind of person the player is role-playing as. Some companions can be twisted to the darkside of the Force and others can be redeemed. Some companions can become stronger and more independent or be beaten down until they are subservient. This is done through a system that we are tentatively calling the Affection system. It's loosely based on the Dragon Age affection system and allows the player to change his companion's attitude through his actions, words and even through gifts.
IGNPC: Companions play an important part in the story, but they also impact the player's gameplay options. What types of tactical contributions will companions be able to make?
James Ohlen: Companions add a lot to a player's combat capabilities. Each companion has a specific role, whether it be additional DPS, tanking, healing or crowd control. Companions also have special abilities that can be activated to significantly change what's going on during a battle. One companion might lay down suppressing fire, giving the player some breathing room to escape or turn the tide of the battle. Another companion might trap a tough enemy in an energy bubble, allowing the player to use a divide and conquer strategy in a battle. Players can also equip items to his companion character. This includes standard gear such as armor and weapons. Additionally, what a player equips to his companion can change the companion's behavior.
IGNPC: How do you determine which types of companions work best for each class and each story arc? Will the different classes have the same range of companions? Will Troopers have fewer or more combat companions than, say, imperial agents? Can you tell us how different character types might work with the same companion type?
James Ohlen: Each character class gets his own stable of unique companion characters. All of the companions available to a class are useful in combat. The companions have been built to complement a class, so a class with tank options like the Sith Warrior isn't going to have a bunch of tank companions as it would be redundant.
IGNPC: Who have been your favorite companions from past BioWare games?
James Ohlen: I could give the standard answer of Minsc, Boo and HK-47, but I'll go with something different. From way back I would say my favorite companion was Viconia. She had a long and convoluted development history, and the fact that she became the most popular romance in Baldur's Gate 2 was a relief.
My favorite recent companion is Alistair from Dragon Age. The concept for Alistair is a little bland and unoriginal. He's also competing against the player to be the 'hero' of the story (and players hate that). But Dave Gaider (lead writer of Dragon Age) created a personality for Alistair that worked really well. The voice acting was also phenomenal, so I found myself liking Alistair more than I ever thought I would.