Interview: BioWare’s Cory Butler and the Future of Star Wars: The Old Republic

Yesterday I had a chance to ask a few questions to Cory Butler, Live Producer of Star Wars: The Old Republic. We discussed his impressions of the first month of live service, the future of the game, and specific features the fans would like to see included.

If you’re curious about what’s coming next to the Galaxy far far away, or you simply want to read about the adventurers of one of the prominent figures behind SWTOR, jump to light speed past the cut.

Giuseppe: As you may have seen from my review, I definitely enjoyed the game, and so do many others. I gather that the launch was a success, but what are your personal impressions about this first month of The Old Republic

Cory: It’s gone really really well. We’ve been preparing for this for a lot of time, running fire drills, planning for the worst and working for the best. We were pleasantly surprised with the server stability and just how smooth the launch went, knock on wood.

Interview: BioWare's Cory Butler and the Future of Star Wars: The Old Republic

G: Star Wars: The Old Republic is a direct sequel to Knights of The Old Republic, but it’s obviously an entirely different game and an entirely different challenge to develop. What determined the choice to go the MMORPG route? Is there any chance, in the future, to see another single player Knights of The Old Republic game?

C: I don’t know about that. Star Wars: The Old Republic is actually multiple sequels to the original Knights of the Old Republic. It’s really not something we’ve talked about here at BioWare Austin, but you know, I certainly learned to never say never.

G: Do you have some time to play the game yourself? If yes, what do you play, and what is your favorite activity?

C: I do make time to play the game myself. I obviously check it up on our development servers, to see what’s coming up the pipe and then i definitely spend some time on the live servers. I have a level 45 Sith Sorcrerer that I’m playing right now and I’m really enjoying it. My favorite activities in the game, besides progressing my story, are Flashpoints… they are a big draw for me. I love that sort of short and focused group content. I also like Warzones and space combat. I do my space dailies almost every day. It’s something I can do quickly and hop out if i need to do a call or get into a meeting.

Anyway I’d say that my top right now are the Flashpoints, especially the new one that I haven’t checked online because I’m not level 50 yet (but hopefully I will be there by the end of the week). You know, the Rise of the Rakghouls is amazing. I think it’s probably some of the best content we’ve put out so far. It’s a lot of fun and I can’t wait to play it for real on the live servers.

G: Did George Lucas personally try the game?

C: George is a filmmaker first and foremost. We work very closely with LucasFilm and LucasArts but I can’t really say if he’s played the game or not, but I can definitely confirm that he has seen the game, he has seen presentations. He is very involved in the development process through his team. We are very close with those guys. I work as a liaison between LucasArts and BioWare on the development side of things and I know that they are very involved in all the content we create and the direction of the game.

Interview: BioWare's Cory Butler and the Future of Star Wars: The Old Republic

G: I read that BioWare is already hard at work on content that won’t see the light until 2013. What are the challenges of working with this kind of long head start?

C: That’s a good question, you know. There are some challenges with that kind of lead time but the game was in development for a little while, as you may know, so we had some lead time on that as well and that seemed to work out pretty well for us. Some of the challenges are in prioritizing between things that we need to be reactive on and things that we’re being proactive on. What I mean by that we have to listen to the community and to the the feedback, maybe on something that we had farther out in the development process, but we gather is really important to the community, so we may have to shift schedules and priorities and move that into an earlier update.

G: There are a few secrets in the game that players already discovered, the pink lightsaber crystal is an example. Do you know if there’s any that the playerbase still didn’t manage to find? Do you plan on implementing more in the future?

C: Technically it’s magenta… I’m not sure what else has been discovered, but I think it’s safe to say that we’ll continue to implement Easter eggs into the game.

G: Do you remember any particular instance during the development of SWTOR in which the discussion got really fierce?

C:  You know, the initial Star Trek vs Star Wars discussion… I’m totally kidding. Honestly it’s not really like that. The atmosphere here at BioWare and the climate the company has is not geared towards yelling matches and huge egos. We really do work well together and everybody comes in with a very humble approach to making the game and servicing the game, so even when there are some sticky situations and people chose a side we really work through it in a professional and civil manner.

You know, in some of the places I’ve worked at there was more of a cage match atmosphere in the conference rooms, but it’s really not like that at all here at BioWare.

Interview: BioWare's Cory Butler and the Future of Star Wars: The Old Republic

G: What is the future feature you think your players will appreciate the most?

C: The feature i think players will appreciate the most coming down the pipeline… That’s a tough one…  It depends a lot on the play style. I think UI customization is going to be a huge hit. Players want to have the game set up the way they want on their screen. As far as in game content guild banks are gonna be great. I know I’m personally looking forward to tap into some of the shared wealth of my guild. Legacies are the big one for me. It’s a really exciting and very innovative system and I think it’s going to be the one that will blow people away.

G: Between the features that get asked the most in the forums I noticed combat logs and chat bubbles. What are the plans on that front?

C: We always listen to our community and we take the feedback very seriously. I can confirm that combat logs will be coming in the relatively near future. I can’t really go into the specifics about chat bubbles just yet.

G: Will Space Combat ever entail a multiplayer component? Or your plans include only single player missions for now?

C: We’re working on adding new single player missions to the space game, and we’re actually working right now on another project with space that will expand the game significantly. Unfortunately I can’t go into details about that at the moment.

Interview: BioWare's Cory Butler and the Future of Star Wars: The Old Republic

G: Well, you did tell us the project exists, that’s quite a lot already. I wonder what it is about. In the star wars saga the borders between the Empire and the Republic is often a bit blurred. Often characters from the two factions are forced to collaborate, and undercover infiltration missions are a daily occurrence. Are there any plans to consider cross-faction collaborative gameplay? Maybe a quest line to infiltrate the enemy capital planet in disguise?

C: You know, those are both really cool ideas, but there’s nothing we’re ready to announce about that currently.

G: The Old Republic already has Housing, but there’s no way to customize one’s space turf visually. Will we ever be able to add a personal touch to our Spaceship?

C: We understand that our players love customization. The game is about choices after all. We want our players to be able to make choices as often as possible and those choices to have consequences. Part of that is being able to chose how things look. It’s going to be the focus of some of our future updates but there are no specifics yet.

G: Some servers have a faction balance that seems quite skewed one side or another. Is there any future plan to give local advantages to the outnumbered faction in order to encourage them to come out and fight against the odds?

C: We are hyper aware of server populations and faction balances on the servers. As far as what we’re going to do about that, it’s something we’re keeping up our sleeve right now, but I can tell you for sure that we are  looking at that very seriously and we’re coming up with a plan of action there.

Interview: BioWare's Cory Butler and the Future of Star Wars: The Old Republic

G: A couple weeks ago you teased us by naming a new planet that will come with the March update: Denova. I did some research, and I couldn’t find anything about it anywhere. Is BioWare creating Denova from the ground up? If yes, what kind of involvement does LucasArts have in the process?

C: We are creating that planet ourselves. There have been a couple of instances where there are planets that haven’t shown up in previous lore: Kaon for example. LucasArts is very involved in the process and we go through them to make sure everything is in canon and following the overall lore and they have been in from the conceptual stage all the way through implementation.

G: Will there be more character customization options in the future? Are there any plans to implement some sort of barber shop or plastic surgeon that will allow players to change their appearance in game? Maybe a toggle for the hoods?

C: Do you want to be able to drop your hood and put it back up?

G: Yeah I’d like to drop my hood, because I play a Guardian and basically all our armor has hoods. 

C: That’s definitely stuff we talk about often. We haven’t really announced any formal plans, but it’s very important to us to allow players to fullfill their own personal Star Wars fantasy and along with that we want them to be able to customize their character the way they want, so it’s something we’re currently taking feedback on and we’re making plans on how to address in the future.

Interview: BioWare's Cory Butler and the Future of Star Wars: The Old Republic

G: The Old Republic is probably the MMORPG with the most locations in which you can just walk off a ledge and fall to your death, even in completely safe areas. What gives?

C: I think it’s just part of the vastness of the universe. The worlds are big and open for exploration and  it doesn’t make much sense to have a safety rail around a plateau or a mountain that hasn’t been visited in hundreds of years…

G: But it’s the same even in cities…

C: We want you to be careful! (laughs)

G: Thanks a lot for your time and your answers. Is there anything else you’d like to say to your fans? You know, this is the final “Do my job for me” moment. You can go wild.

B: When you hit max level with your character  definitely reroll and try another one. The stories are unique for each class and I can guarantee that you’re going to find something you’ll love in a class that you didn’t anticipate playing. When I went into it myself Trooper was probably my last choice, but once I checked it out and played through some of the story, it became one of my top three favorite classes, so there’s definitely something to be said for exploring things you wouldn’t normally think to check out in our game.

Editor’s note:  the final question about death plunges was intended as a closing joke. We sincerely apologize to those offended by it. DualShockers does not endorse the indiscriminate abuse of railings and safety nets in MMORPGs.  

Join the Discussion

  • Jurnee

    Honestly, watch the movies. With the exception of the Emporer’s Throne Room, THERE ARE NO RAILINGS!

    • Ahah I know. That was supposed to be a final jest, not a serious question 😀

      • Renedaigle

        If you watch the movies there’s a lot of catwalks and things without railings so it more true to the original feel if you ask me. Just don’t walk down it. And if you do, wait a few seconds and you’re back. I can’t believe ( or can I? ) people would make an issue of that question. I thought it was funny.

        Can’t wait to see what the space expansion’s gonna be.

        • I honestly didn’t expect anyone to take it seriously 😀

  • Stryke

    A lot of, “We’re taking feedback and are most defiantly looking into it”. The big one’s such as faction imbalance, more character customization etc. Those things were addressed in beta and preventative measures should of been there at launch. If it didn’t have such a solid story playthrough, this game barely eeks by as an MMO.

    I’d rather have bug’s/tweaks fixed before receiving new content filled with more minor bug’s. As well as ability delay actually fixed. While improved, my sentinel still stands there stunned while I’m mashing a key for an ability to go off. 

    Combat fluidity is key, esp for this game. And it’s just not there yet. Blah.. I thought that after 200m dollars spent on the development of this game, at least core mechanics would function on a whim. Guess dishing out content and minor game breaking mechanics is what they’re focused on.

    • Actually combat is very fluid since the latest patch. 

      And sorry, “barely eeks out as an MMO” is entirely false. It has the full features of a MMORPG. Grouping is actually more encouraged than in most MMOs out there. 

  • voiDude

    Honest to god you’re questions to him about ledges and falling to your death literally made me rage. You simpleton. The last thing any game in this day and age needs is invisible walls. How about you learn to use your mouse and keyboard and stop comiting suicide by accident all the time?


    • Ever heard about jokes? 😀

      • Guest

        Ever heard about Trolls?  Seriously some of the info is good but LFG is necessary, I’ve been guild hopping trying to find a place to fit in for more then a month now.  It’s harder then trying to find a job.  People will tolerate a lot for a job.  They won’t tolerate anything for thier entertainment dollar.

    • It’s called levity.  Are you really so simple that you don’t recognize that?  And you accuse him of being a simpleton.  

  • Matthew Creelman

    If there’s one constant in the Star Wars universe, it’s that there’s no respect for Occupational Health and Safety concerns among the Sith. More than one Sith Lord has met an unfortunate end due to the inconvenient location of a bottomless pit; more than one Jedi has survived an encounter with a Sith Lord thanks to a convenient bottomless pit. 

    So long as the Sith keep building bottomless pits, the Jedi will always triumph.

    • Jeffrey Chen

      It doesn’t have to be Sith building bottomless pits, the Jedi just have to keep luring the Sith to pit-riddled planets.

  • Adam

    Wish you asked him if dual specs were in the works and an ETA on them….

    • Guest

      For sure, Tinkerbell.  Dual Specs need to be implemented, also a BETTER LFG system holy crimony, this is getting rediculous.  Ive been in Fleet for 6hrs now, as a tank, LFG.  

      • himynameiswill

        No, you need to get in a guild. Or go play WoW. Don’t taint a fantastic game with the lazy crap that Blizzard came out with to cater to lazy players.

        • Elijah1

          No LFG?  Than you will watch this game die.  Do you want that?

          • sorry, but honestly the argument “the X game will die if they don’t implement this ONE feature I happen to want” never held much water.

            And mind you, I wouldn’t be against it. But it’s hardly a requisite for the game’s survival.

          • Looking for a group allows you to build relationships, gain perspective, and broaden your otherwise narrow immediate surroundings in a vast world.  If you can’t find a group for something after say 30 minutes, go do something else and try back later.  The one thing people agree on most with LFG is that it takes away accountability of behavior.  

          • Donn_jon

            No it doesn’t itinvolves sitting for longs lengths of time while everyone on the station seemingly ignores you.

      • Guest

        Our server created it’s own LFG channel. Brilliant idea since you don’t need to be stuck on the Fleet if you want to find a group. Every once in awhile someone will post in the general chat reminding ppl to join the channel. This also helps you find groups with the serious/competent players. 

        Only downside I’ve seen so far is you see ppl leave and join the channel.

        • That’s actually a very good idea. I’ll do the same on my server tonight if it’s not already there 😀

  • Edward T. Riker

    Why nobody is asking when they expect the game enter in survival mode and then F2p? Is what use to happen with premature releases and not finished products like this. We already see it at Warhammer online.

    • Nobody is asking that because this isn’t a premature release or an unfinished product. It’s most definitely full featured for a launch MMORPG (actually it’s the launch MMORPG that has the most complete set of features I’ve seen in a long, long while). 

      Besides, there’s absolutely no tangible signal anywhere that the game is any less than successful. No F2P or anything of the sort in sight, and that’s the simple reason why no one asks it. 

      It would have made way more sense for me to ask when they’ll implement pony mounts in the game. The possibility is probably higher.

      • Gurv

        “actually it’s the launch MMORPG that has the most complete set of features I’ve seen in a long, long while”
        No combat log, no customizable ui, no ui scaling, no LFD, no dual spec, no AA, no draw distance setting, no macros = most complete in a long while?
        Rift was released less then a year ago…

        • Yeah, and RIFT lacked a lot of the features that SWTOR has. Very good game mind you (would be great if it didn’t have such a bland and generic world), but SWTOR is definitely richer in more than one way.

          Mind you, most of what you list isn’t even a standard launch feature for MMORPGs. 

          Just because a game doesn’t have a feature you want doesn’t mean that that game has a poor feature set.

      • Edward T. Riker

        ahhh the irony… F2play and not pony mounts yet…

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  • Guest

    Well… well… well.  Tinkerbell.

  • Mick

    Thanks for the interview; I can’t wait to see what they meant with the space comment.

  • Awesome interview. Getting a dev to say something they haven’t mention is +2 to Light Side points Mr. Nelva!

    • I need to call Bioware tomorrow morning. I just need another 4999 interviews to get to Light V 😀

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