Bioware’s team of writers must work very closely with the world design team to get through the painstaking process involved with creating a Flashpoint in The Old Republic. Starting with an idea, the writers then go through a gruelling process of peer reviews and rewrites until they have a solid and entertaining story for the flashpoint. This is where Jesse Sky’s team come in. The world design team then starts on a dry erase board tossing up ideas about how the feel of the Flashpoint progression should be, moving the player’s party from spacious outdoor or large indoor scenery to tight claustrophobic hallways and caves.
Sky says “Once we’ve decided on the structure of the mission, we start building. At this point, we become concerned with your visual experience. It would be a shame if the whole mission took place in a series of identical hallways, right? We strive for a lot of visual diversity in the environments. For example, the Taral V Flashpoint takes you through a jungle, an exterior outpost, and then deep into an Imperial research facility.”
Another focus of the world design team will be the combat in the Flashpoints, bosses and mini bosses seem to be plentiful in these story-driven instances. “The real challenge of building a Flashpoint is balancing momentum with storytelling,” says Sky, who also talks about not just having endless amounts of “Yard Trash” enemies standing around waiting to be slain in the middle of your path to bosses and loot but to have a compelling reason to keep pushing against enemies. “The combat experience in Flashpoints can differ radically from combat in the open world. We aim to tightly integrate the story with the types of enemies the Flashpoint calls for, their AI behavior and their abilities, creating unique scenarios seen nowhere else in the game,” say lead combat designer for The Old Republic, Georg Zoeller, who Sky brought in to elaborate on combat design in the Flashpoints.
Zoeller says “Flashpoints also feature some of the toughest combat challenges in the game. Flashpoints in The Old Republic will require a full group of players to succeed.” Zoeller goes on to talk about how a full team of players won’t be enough to get you through these epic instances due to the difficulty of the enemies and the coordinated teamwork it will require to conquer these intelligent and deadly foes.
What sets Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Flashpoints from a standard “Instance” or “Dungeon” in other MMO’s is the immersion and character development involved with these difficult trials. Sky points out that you shouldn’t feel like a part of a loot machine, instead like the Republic Hero or Sith Champion you are. It’s also been said that Flashpoints will have a play through time of 90 to 120 minutes for a party complete from beginning to loot-rewarding end.
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EA held its quarterly meeting on February 2nd and talked about costs, subscription quotas, and release date time frames. EA CEO John Riccitiello denounced the rumor of $300 million in development and production costs of The Old Republic. Riccitiello says that with 500,000 subscribers at launch the game would be substantially profitable, and anything north of 1 million would be very profitable for EA. EA CFO Eric Brown says the game will drop in 2011 but after EA’s fourth quarter of 2011, which ends March 31st, so we’re looking at April 1st through December 31st. I personally think The Old Republic will drop on the 34th anniversary of A New Hope, May 25th.
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