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Author Topic: Star Wars: The Old Republic  (Read 38692 times)

Raktus

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #180 on: August 16, 2010, 09:47:07 PM »

Interview: Drew Karpyshyn on The Jedi Knight
by sado, posted August 14th, 2010 at 8:39 PM

As an addendum to yesterday's reveal of the Jedi Sentinel and Jedi Guardian, we were about to wrangle some additional details about the Jedi Knight class from Drew Karpyshyn, BioWare's Lead Writer.

Read on for the follow up to our Comic-Con interview with him to find out his take on what went into creating the Jedi Knight, and debunking the perceived Sith bias in BioWare and LucasArts' marketing efforts.

Interview
________________________________________________

We spoke with you last time about crafting the general stories in Star Wars: The Old Republic. In light of the information found in PC Gamer, we wanted to focus this time on what makes a Jedi Knight the Jedi Knight. Can you elaborate on how BioWare approached the Jedi Knight from a design standpoint?

Drew: One of the interesting things about the Jedi Knight is how iconic it is for Star Wars. Lightsabers are what I think of when I first think of Star Wars. We know the Jedi Knight story was explored quite a bit, so the thing we wanted to do is get you something that captures the experience, but is still very fresh and very new. And the iconic figure from the movies that I think represents this style of Jedi Knight is Mace Windu. I think this is your Jedi Knight role model... right? This is the guy. He is badass with a lightsaber, he follows the code, he knows what it is all about and he knows what he wants to do to get stuff done. So that was our guideline.

With that guiding our design, we set out to say, "okay now, let's put this character into some situations that fit into our Old Republic time frame." The story needs to fit into this time of war between the Republic and the Empire where the Republic is sort of in a difficult position. The Empire, as everyone knows, sacked Coruscant as we see in the Deceived Trailer. This is tough for the Republic, and this is a guy who doesn't want to sit by while the Dark side does it's thing. He is not going to sit on the sidelines, but he also has to respect the peace treaty that is set up. He is not going to run off on his own and start breaking rules because he is a Jedi -- he does not do that.

That is where we set up this situation for him, and we had to be respectful of that. We didn't want to slip into some of the things that maybe wouldn't feel like a "Mace character." We don't want to have him become this rebel that defies the Jedi Council because that isn't really what the Jedi Knight story is. Now, having said that, of course as a player you can take it in all different directions and you can go down a darker path as you can in most BioWare games... but you'll still be a Jedi Knight.

Where the moral choices are concerned, we saw Dark side points and Light side points in gameplay demos. With this in mind, we see many similarities between the Sith Warrior and Jedi Knight, so what are the differences between those two stories from a morality standpoint? What makes a Dark side choice for a Jedi Knight different from a Dark side choice for a Sith Warrior?

Drew: Obviously, as you alluded to, they are in many ways opposite sides of the same coin. But, we wanted to go a little bit further in differentiating them. We don't want it to just be, "you're a Jedi Knight if you pick A, and you're a Sith Warrior if you pick B." We didn't want to go in that direction. So they both have their own unique story, of course as all our classes do, and what we did was focus on the framework of the story they are set in.

For example, the Sith Warrior is in a very different environment. He is in an environment where cutthroat ambition is encouraged and his masters are looking to challenge him in a way that if he fails, he dies. It is a very different setup. The Jedi Knight is in a very different kind of environment. His goal is to be a protector. His goal is to be a defender of the Republic and to those who are unable to defend themselves. He is definitely in a hero role. The Sith Warrior is more about surviving and acquiring power, while the Jedi Knight's decisions are focused more on accepting responsibility, self sacrifice, and putting other ahead of himself while still managing to overcome the evils and horrors that assault the galaxy.

Now when you go down the Dark side of the Jedi Knight, you are basically abdicating some of this responsibility. You're becoming a little more selfish and looking out for your own interest. Now this is a Dark side path, but you are still doing it within the framework of working for the Jedi Council and opposing the Empire. You are never saying you are going to join the Emperor; you still want to stop him. You're simply taking a different path to your goals. Whereas the Sith has totally different goals. It is really what your goals are in the story and in the character arc that define your class, how you go about getting there is the dark side light side part, but your goals are ultimately going to be very different from a Sith Warrior's.

I think that confirms that there is no mirroring between the story arcs.

Drew: There is none. There are planet stories that are faction specific, so everyone on a faction will have the same planet story, but each faction will have a unique story for each location. Every class has their own class story that follows you throughout the game and there is no mirroring. Even between the Jedi classes there is no mirroring, let alone between the Jedi and the Sith. They are unique characters. You all have your own motivations; you all have your own end goals. Very different.

What are some of the challenges in creating such a deep story experience with no mirroring?

Drew: One of the challenges is, "how do you keep this fresh and new, and make eight different versions of a Star Wars-feeling story?" Now different classes have different stories; Han Solo's is not the same as Luke's. To go back to our Jedi Knight example, Mace Windu has his own story which is different from anybody else. One of the challenges was to take it and come up with a story that still felt like a Jedi Knight story, but be something players had not seen before.

We looked at some of the traditional stories that were done, such as the temptation of the Dark side, the fall, and redemption. Then we said, "how can we take these themes, but do them in a different way people haven't seen before?" I'll admit it was difficult. The Jedi Knight is a class Hall Hood, one of the senior writers, and I spent a lot of time working on. We're taking this very seriously and we want to make sure we get the Jedi just right. So that is the challenge: it is the most iconic image of the Star Wars universe and we want to make sure we do it right.

The rewarding thing is that we arrived at that place. Seeing what we accomplished is this great reward. Seeing the stuff we were able to put in there... I think we are going to blow the minds of the fans out there. They are absolutely going to go nuts over this stuff. I'm really looking forward to the fan reaction, especially with the forums. We read the forums and we know there are hints at us having a Sith bias. We find that quite funny because Hal and I are so focused on making the Jedi awesome in every way we can. And we know once it comes out, people will be well satisfied.

We heard there are similarities between the Imperial Agent story and things like the television series 24. Are there any outside influences for the Jedi Knight story?

Drew: If you look at the Jedi Knight as a concept, I think you have to go back to things like the knights of Arthurian legend. A character like Lancelot is the classic knight who fell and was redeemed. We looked at a lot of these classic heroic figures, these defenders, these protectors. Then we said, "how do we take this archetypal story and then make it fresh and unique?" And then really spin it in a way that fits in the Star Wars universe. We want to show people something they have not seen before in the Star Wars universe so it doesn't feel like they are just rehashing something. So we did look back at the classics. The Jedi Knight is called a Jedi Knight for a reason. It harkens back to the knights of old who did defend the kings.

Thank you for your time, hopefully the people on the forums who worry about a Sith bias will like this. A lot of people do seem to think you are ignoring the Jedi Knight and Jedi Consular, but it appears you guys are not.

Drew: We definitely are not. I know personally that we spent a ton of time on the Knight and Consular trying to get them just right. One of the reasons we did not show a whole lot is because we don't want to show anything until we are totally happy with it. Because we are holding off on that, people think we are ignoring it, but it is actually the opposite. We are putting so much time and effort into it that we weren't ready to show anything. I think with the latest update people are seeing that we are starting to reveal things like the advanced classes. The Jedi Knight is an iconic Star Wars image and we are definitely taking it very, very seriously.
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Raktus

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #181 on: August 16, 2010, 09:50:34 PM »

Interview: Hall Hood on The Smuggler
by sado, posted August 15th, 2010 at 9:47 PM

We sat down with BioWare writer Hall Hood to get a behind-the-scenes look at the motivations behind the Smuggler class. Read on to get a peek at how factions are designed, and what goes into creating world stories arcs on the various planets.

Interview
_____________________________________________

What is your involvement on the writing team?

Hall: I started writing out for the Smuggler class, and wrote about half of the content for that before I got to jump over to the Jedi Knight class and put quite a bit of work on that class. It was really fun, and sort of a dream come true because I got to fulfill two fantasies. I got to write for Han Solo, and I got to write for Luke Skywalker. The great thing too is that I wrote world-based content, group content, etc. and that is really fun because I did it for both factions. I get to write for all the different fantasies; I get to write for Darth Vader and Boba Fett, and Rex the Trooper from Clone Wars.

What are main influences for the Smuggler inside and outside of Star Wars?

Hall: Well, the first time I ever saw Star Wars when I was a kid, I was like, Luke? Whatever. I want to be the guy with the big giant dog that can tear people's arms off and the guy that has his own ship. I was like Han all the way-he was where I wanted to be. And, of course, that changed over time. I was like, Luke is pretty awesome, too. But back in the day, it was always the kind of sarcastic, wise-cracking character. That was, to me, was the thing that I appreciated about Han. He was funny, he never took anything too seriously, and he always kept the story exciting and he was just kind of this outrageous character. You have all these other characters who are being very serious about everything, and Han is the one who is making wise cracks while the trash compactor is about to crush them to death. Obviously, I'm a fan of Firefly. I once heard Firefly described as a television series starring Han Solo where he shot first in every episode.

Many would say that the voice of the Smuggler sounds a lot like Nathan Fillion or very close at least.

Hall: Well, obviously if you're going to create that Han Solo feel, then there is a certain way of delivering dialogue that you have to capture.

There are few people that do that very well, too.

Hall: Yes indeed. I'm very, very happy with the Smuggler voice actors. They're both terrific. It is really great to listen to these guys. Getting back to influences, I was also a big fan of the Kurt Russell character in Big Trouble in Little China, and that was always an influence. But I always had an appreciation for all of the sort of outlaw characters -- the ones who are on the fringes of the big battle. The neutral parties that get swept up in events and have to make a decision about going one way or the other with it like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. Things like that, and of course I love stories about criminals. I love Elmore Leonard stories. I love Pulp Fiction and things like that. And that is part of the fun of getting to write the Smuggler; it is drawing on all of those different influences ad then filtering them into Star Wars. It is a tremendous amount of fun.

We heard a lot about moral choice in SWTOR, especially during the panel. What goes into that as far as the Smuggler is concerned? We heard it implied that for the Imperial Agent that one side will basically be subservient to the Dark Council's wishes. And from Fatal Alliance, the other one thinks they're just a bunch of crazy freaks and they can run things better. Or some of the things Drew Karpyshyn told us about the Jedi Knight; he will still want to destroy the Empire if he goes down the Dark path, but more on his own way. Can you describe how that would be for the Smuggler, because there's no mirroring of these class choices or moral choices. How does the Smuggler approach his world?

Hall: The Smuggler's moral conundrum is always the conflict between selfish-self interest and being greedy, and doing the right thing. "Do you need those credits at any costs? Do you care who you hurt as long as you get paid?" And the reality is that the good Smugglers are the ones who are still in it to make some credits. They got to keep their freighter flying and all that. But the reality is they balance against the "well, I'm not going to hurt somebody. I'm not going to make sure that I profit and someone else suffers." And they can occasionally do the pure paladin thing of "alright, I'm going to give up my profit on this so that someone else doesn't suffer." That is the extreme example, but that is kind of where it is.

And also, in the greater conflict of the Sith versus the Republic, it is very much about how you can play a Smuggler who doesn't care about any of it. You can play that Smuggler who's like "I'm in business. I'm just going to continue to do my thing and let these other people fight it out. That is not my problem." Or you can go the very passionate privateer route, where you can decide "I'm going to lend my ship to the Republic."

Your use of name privateer... there was a game that came out in the 90s called Privateer that I was a huge fan of. The story line of a Smuggler was one of those key things that attracted me to that story. I'm glad that you use that context.

Hall: Absolutely. And also thinking back to other eras in our own history, there has always been the potential for the independents in times of crisis to jump in and lend a hand.

What were the challenges of writing the Smuggler story?

Hall: The Smuggler was fairly easy to write once we got over the biggest hurdle of trying to figure out how to motivate the Smuggler because unlike the Jedi and the Republic Troopers, the Smuggler is an independent operator and is fairly self-interested most of the time. If you look at Han Solo, he doesn't care about the rebellion and he doesn't care about the Empire either. He is just making a living. That was one of the things we had to work really hard at was justifying how the Smuggler can get involved in the same kind of adventures as a Jedi Knight or a Republic Trooper. Once we did that, from then on it was just humor and sarcasm, romance and outrageous characters, and crazy plots.

That is the other thing too... the Smuggler plots always start out as a very simple job that progressively becomes more complicated until the entire galaxy is in danger of exploding. That is Han's story; all he wanted to do was drop the old man, the whiny kid and the droids off on Alderaan. Three movies later, look where he wound up.

How involved are the writers in class combat design or developing abilities for a class?

Hall: The great thing about BioWare is that writers are part of the design process from the beginning. We work as closely as possible with all the other departments to make sure everything fits together, and everything feels like it belongs in the game. By the same token, we have an amazing group of systems designers who are incredibly smart people whose job is to come up with "how do we actually implement this in the game, and what would be fun?" We had meetings early on where we talked about the different character classes and about what their ability packages might be. And we speculated what separates a Smuggler from a Jedi Knight. How is Han's style of fighting different from Luke's or Yoda's or Rex the Trooper's? So we talk about that early on, and we have some input into this, but at the same time we have so many incredibly talented people on the team. My personal attitude is trust them to be brilliant. I know they know their stuff, and I can trust them to do what they need to do.

What is your involvement with the writing of other world stories, and what is the process that goes behind crafting those?

Hall: The reality about our world-based content is that it has to be exciting for everyone. It has to be exciting and make sense for all of the classes to be playing this and saying "yes, okay, I want to do this. I want to be involved in this." But also at the same time, they have the ability to play according to their own unique styles. And I talked about it a little bit in the presentation today: the notion of what happens when a mercenary Smuggler teams up with a goody-two-shoes Jedi Knight or a straight arrow Trooper. What happens when they need to go and deal with someone who has a problem: the Smuggler is sort of like "well, I have expenses." The Jedi might be "no, we have to go help these people," while the Smuggler is more "I don't know... do they have money?"

That is part of the excitement there. One of the primary things of making sure that any of our group is going to be thrilling no matter what character class you are playing. It will maximize your ability to play it according to how you play your role in the game. Are you a Dark side-leaning Jedi Knight? There is a place for you in the world content. We have ways for you to play through that, and maintain your character's integrity.

To create these world stories, what we do in initial stages is look at the planet we're going to create world-based content for and ask ourselves "what are the stories here? What is going on this planet, and what is the big conflict? Who are the different factions that are involved in this?" Then we allow that inherent conflict of the planet to drive what we are doing in terms of generating stories. We want those world-based content stories to tell the story of that planet. If you play the group content, then you are going to come away really understanding that planet backwards and forwards, and understand what the conflict is while also making a difference there.

Is there a formula that is standard across all of the planets where there are two main factions at conflict with one another?

Hall: We don't try to adhere to any particular formula for the planets. But good game design necessitates providing opportunities for players of any persuasion to have quests to perform and content to experience on those worlds. So yes, it is important to us to make sure that if you are with the Republic faction, you may be dealing primarily with these people, and you may be shooting those people over there. Whereas if you are playing for the Sith Empire side, your allies may be the ones the Republic are shooting at. And sometimes there is a wild card in there where everyone shoots at it. Whenever we sit down to design stories for a planet, we always want to maximize player opportunities, maximize fun, team up with who you want to team up with, and make moral choices around that.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Hope to see you in game.

Hall: My pleasure.
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Raktus

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #182 on: August 16, 2010, 09:54:26 PM »

Interview: BioWare's Clint Young
by sado, posted August 16th, 2010 at 3:44 AM

The Star Wars: The Old Republic development team was out in full force at Celebration V, and Darth Hater was there to hear what they had to say. Over the weekend we learned a great deal from writers Drew Karpyshyn and Hall Hood, and now our interview blitz continues with BioWare concept artist Clint Young. Hit the jump to learn just what it takes to craft art for The Old Republic.

Interview
____________________________________

What is your role at BioWare?

Clint: I'm a concept artist at BioWare. My time with BioWare and the Star Wars license actually started way back in 1994 when I was hired on by LucasArts. I did work for them as a conceptual artist, a rendered cinematic artist, and head of the visual effects department. I worked on a slew of titles from Jedi Knight Dark Forces 2 all the way up to Republic Commando. Then I moved down to Texas to be a part of the fantastic BioWare team that is bringing Star Wars: The Old Republic to life.

Do you use outside sources to create concept art? Can you share some details about that process?

Clint: We are a MMO, and that requires an enormous amount of art. When someone asks me how much art we do for a typical MMO, I say it is three films worth of concept art. We're talking costumes, spacecraft, environments... all the way down to what does blue milk come in. The drinking cups. What does a Sith sit in when he is at a conference. It is a massive amount of work. There are actually five concept artists at BioWare, myself included, and each of us have our own specialty. Arnie works on characters, Ryan Denning is a fantastic spaceship designer, Paul Adam does great stuff with costumes, and Diego does the most phenomenal placeables. He knows the look of Star Wars down to a tee. I'm the one who gets the blank canvas to do the larger concepts of what the worlds look like right before they kick off the start of the planet.

We do have some guys out of house that we work with and we direct them to the look and the satisfaction of the management team at BioWare. I think we had 12 to 15 concept guys going at once, and now that we are entering the last phase of the project, we're down to five major players currently.

So everyone is in their own specialty areas?

Clint: We cross-pollinate as much as we can. You can imagine someone thinking "how many Mandalorian outfits have I done? How many Jedi robes have I done?" Come over here and I'll give you a mountain to draw. So there is a little cross-pollination that goes on among the concept guys. Obviously, we get burned out drawing the same thing over again, but it is Star Wars so there is something fresh and exciting to draw on a daily basis. What guy or kid would object to being told they are drawing a Sith starship when he asks what he is going to do today? There that is that general excitement that happens to us daily when we come in and we don't know what we will work on. It could be something as cool as that, or figuring out what a Sith warlord has as his lightsaber. How do you make lightsabers cooler? It is a big task.

What goes into designing a planet?

Clint: The writing staff has an understanding of the planets, and we usually like to kick off a planet after they started writing it. By that time, they are giving me a broad overview of what is going on that planet: what kind of strife is it in, what kind of characters live there, the alien species that inhabit the planet, etc. Then after it comes to me, I do what we call quick studies about a day after reading the documentation. These are about 25 different sketches to give them the general look and feel of the planet. Then they come through and pick out their favorites. I pick my favorites, and then we kind of meet in the middle and build from there. By the time the planet actually gets kicked off and given to the world builders and designers for fleshing out, we came down to about five different large scale paintings that I gave them for each one of the regions on the planet. Be it the Imperial underground on Korriban or the Jedi Academy on Tython, each one of these areas gets broken down into its own painting that I feed to the world designers and world builders.

How much time occurs between the start and finish of the entire process to where the planet is final?

Clint: That is a good question. It is a trick question, and I'll tell you why. As an artist, you are always in love with the art and you have to divorce yourself from it. From start to finish, I gave the world designers a painting and three weeks later, I walked by their desks and thought to myself, "interesting. He has my painting up as his wallpaper." And it was the actual world itself. They nailed it so perfectly that I mistook it for my own art.

They keep polishing it past that. We're still in polish for worlds that the general public would consider done a year ago. So we're really taking the time to give players the best looking Star Wars environment ever. We're really taking the time to do it especially because this is an MMO, and it keeps getting better and better. These world builders are top notch, and every time I look at their screens, I am blown away. If I had it my way, I would say six months start to finish on a world. But that rarely happens in the gaming industry.

How much impact does the world builders, the concept artists, the animators -- everyone who works on it -- have on the process so the art style is conveyed to the player?

Clint: Everyone has their own ingredient that they bring to the pot. The soup is very colorful and tastes very good, I might add. I generally like to give the broad overview. I don't like to nitpick any concept art for any given world right off the bat because I know the world builders are going to bring something new and exciting to the page.

I like to start off with color and really rough paintings. This is what I imagine, these are the general shapes, these are the silhouettes, this is the color of the floor, and this is the kind of planet that I want. They go off and work on it. Once it gets to a point where we start testing that world, we as the concept team like to go back, play through it, and paint over the top of it to bring it to that next level. There is a lot of give and take. By the time it goes up to Design to prop it, it is an amazing piece of art. Everybody gets to add their little bit in, and right now even in the polish phases, there is still noodling on it. I'm sure the designers will add their two cents in the bucket. I know it sounds cliche to say it, but this is one of those games where everybody gets their say.

And it really is a fantastic place as a Star Wars fan because some of the stuff you put in suddenly becomes bible. When you look up something on Wookiepedia and see the stuff you designed or a screenshot from the game, you realize what kind of impact you are having on the Star Wars world. Everybody from the writers to the owners of the company contributed.

How is like working with LucasArts when it comes to concepts of the worlds?

Clint: We talk to them every day. The friendship between LucasArts and BioWare is a fantastic one. We love the IP and those guys are involved with just about every concept. As a matter of fact, every time I finish a world piece or design or drawing, it gets put into a folder to be sent to them for their stamp of approval. I wouldn't have it any other way because those guys know Star Wars as well as we do.

One of the Developer Dispatches highlighted the process from concept art to completion. Can you give a bit of insight on how the creatures are designed?

Clint: We normally have a list of skeletons we can use for each one of the creatures. For example, take something like a Tauntaun, and it becomes our base model with a skeleton. In order to minimize the amount of skeletons that we're actually using in the world, we'll go in and design twelve creatures that can exist upon the Tauntaun's skeleton. Some of them might be as simple as a black Tauntaun with a white stripe and give it a skunk look. Or we can really go to town and change the silhouette of this thing just enough to where it is a different creature, and then we populate them on different planets.

Now, that doesn't mean we are cheating the system. When I look back and ask how many skeletons we have... we have hundreds. It becomes one of those things where you are designing over the same skeleton but you can really push the envelope on how different these things look.
It starts at writing. They give us a general description of where the alien lives, what the alien eats, how does it survive, if it runs in packs, etc. -- anything you would expect someone coming up with a creature design to tell you. We take all those things into consideration, and go out to scour the internet. What I love to do is look at old National Geographic magazines. I have a slew of stuff I scanned and we start to pick out elements we like to match. Certain times it may be a camel head mixed with the body of a flying creature. Then we massage it and make it work. That is the basics for designing a Star Wars creature.

One of the points you were hammering on at the panel was the blackboard of outfits as steps of levels and progression. Can you give more information on that?

Clint: It wouldn't be right of me to say what your character is going to look like at the end of the day when you play Star Wars: The Old Republic. However, I will say that when you have thousands of different costume variations you can choose while playing the game and then level up, it becomes a question of -- especially from a concept and design standpoint -- how do you take what Obi Wan wore that was obviously at the top of the Jedi line, because that is what they all wore, and make it cooler. It is a tough, tough call because it is like someone coming to you and saying "design me a lightsaber but make it cooler." Well, there is nothing cooler than a lightsaber.

I think we've seen some of that there with the Sith Warrior and the Sith Inquisitor codpieces.

Clint: (laughing) Right. Sometimes it gets unbearably hard to really take these things to the next level. Obviously working on a MMO, it is all about "hey, look at me. Look. At. How. Cool. I. Am." So saying I'm a 40th level Sith Inquisitor... you really have to change that silhouette to make him look cool. He is so much more over the top than Emperor Palpatine ever was. And suddenly you realize we are really doing it -- we are really pushing the Star Wars envelope to places it has never gone before. This game is so phenomenal.

The stuff you all see -- it is the tip of the iceberg. When Arnie said we have blackboards full of costumes, he didn't tell you that the hallway that these reside in is roughly the size of a football field. We're talking thousands of outfits all designed by concept artists here at BioWare.

We'd love to have a high res image of that to dissect.

Clint: I would love to have a high res image of that! It would be a hell of an image.

But given that we're Star Wars: The Old Republic, it is one of the things where I really enjoy the ornate-ness of it. It is finding out a way to make that costume and that look very high level without taking it to the ridiculous level. Obviously we didn't want to go the WoW route, or the Mad Max shoulderpads as we like to call it. But we want to give the player the bling. That is what Arnie always calls it. We really take lessons from the actual films themselves, but we take them to the 100th degree... especially with the style of the conceptual artists of the films like Doug Chang and his ornate designs.

It is a slippery slope because you want to make it look good and you want to make it look high level, but you don't want to go so over the top that it takes people out of the Star Wars universe. That isn't what Star Wars is about. Especially as a Jedi; it isn't about showing off but about what can you do.

Thank you and we look forward to seeing it in 2011.

Clint: Thanks!
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Raktus

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #183 on: August 16, 2010, 09:58:40 PM »

Interview: BioWare's Lead Concept Artist Arnie Jorgensen
by sado, posted August 16th, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Star Wars Celebration V allowed us to talk with multiple members of the LucasArts and Bioware teams; many of which, such as Clint Young and Hall Hood, joined us for their first official Darth Hater interview. Now we add to that list with BioWare's Lead Concept Artist Arnie Jorgensen. Read on to learn about concept art, as well as the loot and levels in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Interview
_________________________________

Can you give some background on what you do and your involvement on the team?

Arnie: I'm the Lead Concept Artist, and overall, my task is vetting all the art. First at the concept level and then at the higher level to make sure it looks like it is all continued within the same universe we established. And it all looks like it is concepted and built by -- as much as possible -- one artist. It all looks uniform, and I do all of this before it is looked at by Jeff Dobson (Art Director). So I'm kind of in charge of gathering all of this stuff; making sure it is up to what we are hoping to do before final approval by the Art Director.

How much involvement does LucasArts have in the day to day development of art production?

Arnie: We work in what is called "milestones," where we have six weeks for each milestone. Every three weeks, we gather all the art we're working on, concept or otherwise, and we present it to Lucas for approval.

So far, Lucas is great to work with. I worked with them for a decade now, so I'm probably just getting good at it... I hope. I know what they are looking for, and what they will not like or nix. Sometimes we push the envelope on things where I go, "ooh, Lucas might not like this so much," but you know what? Lucas so far has been great with every game I worked on with them. They are pretty easygoing guys and we sometimes make small changes for them, but by and large, they really let us go creatively. In fact, sometimes Lucas even pushed us by saying "hey, you guys need to go further with that stuff. You're getting a little conservative here." So it is a good relationship.

That is good to hear because some of the community, for whatever reason, may feel that you might be limited by LucasArts' involvement.

Arnie: It is not that way; I haven't seen it that way at all. Sometimes they have their thing where they say, "that wouldn't happen in this time frame; you guys can't do this." Fair enough -- they have their IP to maintain. As far as visually, I haven't noticed Lucas doing anything negative. They push us even further sometimes, and I enjoy working with them.

You guys can really create this time period, and maintain the legacy from KoTOR into SWTOR. How important has it been for you guys to make sure that legacy is not tarnished?

Arnie: It is extremely important to us for one reason -- we weren't on the original KoTOR team. Now we have people like Drew Karpyshyn and those guys that were, but we really feel that we have to pick up the mantle and take over where they left off. I wouldn't call it pressure, but there is a lot to live up to. And there are BioWare standards beyond that where we really don't want to be the ones to drop the ball -- we're doing everything in our power not to. We're really making this game for KoTOR fans, so someone who really enjoyed KoTOR will enjoy the heck out of this game as well.

We saw Clint do a mock up piece today. How typical is that of the amount of time that goes into a piece like that?

Arnie: I think the level of what Clint did was exactly the level of a color mock-up we would do maybe when laying out all the planets. That is why I made the joke about "two greens, two this" because he was doing a green one at the time. But it isn't indicative of what we go into beyond that phase. When we're doing color mock-ups, what Clint did today is spot on and what we expect. Beyond that, no... we go into far greater detail than what he did. This was really a concept to show basically this is what this planet is about. It is green, it has volcanic eruptions... we got it, move on to the next planet. When we get into more depth on this particular planet, then we really explore a lot more than that, and the concept wouldn't take only an hour: it could take two to three days to do one concept.

Is the concept art Clint created today indicative of something you will use in the game?

Arnie: Absolutely. We'll use every concept that is approved. If he did that concept for us as a company, and we built off that, then we'd leverage for anything we wanted to. We'd give it to the environment guys to look at for look and feel, but it wouldn't be something that is buildable. On our concept team, a lot of it is serious development-type stuff that needs to be buildable; you couldn't really hand that concept that Clint did to someone to actually build.

So this is great for high concept, and that is what we love and Clint is amazing at it. But beyond that, we'd have to go into much greater and greater depth with even more detail. That is why sometimes it takes days and days per concept.

You spoke about how some of these concepts goes away due to design mandates. How many pieces of concept art never see the light of day?

Arnie: I couldn't give exact numbers... there wasn't much thrown away. I wouldn't throw away that green shot. We would color adjust it; I would say "go back and make the sky more blue because we have enough green sky." We're getting real basic here, as it goes beyond this... you would take that concept and move it along. I wouldn't say "throw it away," and we would go in a totally different direction. Sometimes it is salvaged and we do different things. But there are hundreds and hundreds of concepts you will never see just because it isn't in an art book somewhere, and we don't post them on the web. Hundreds and hundreds... I don't want to say thousands but on that level of number of concepts.

At the last company I worked at, which was Star Wars Galaxies, I was the Lead Concept Artist because I was the only concept artist. On this project, I worked with up to 17 concept artists at one time. This game in magnitude is much larger than what we did for Galaxies.

Speaking to that as well, we have subgroups in the Concept Art division. I'm the Lead Concept Artist but I found that it was much easier if the guys working with me owned their own projects. We have five guys working on the concept team: myself, Diego Almazon, Ryan Denning, Paul Adam, and Clint Young. Clint seems to have a really good handle on environments, and he has a really good feeling for it as far as color and other things, so he is heading up the environment division. If you like starships, interiors, Flashpoints... Ryan Denning is doing all that stuff. The guy is a maniac at.. if you're into amazing cross section books, Ryan Denning does that and heads that up. Paul Adam heads the wearables division to make sure all the wearables are balanced, color adjusted correctly, and fitting the right note for the story. And Diego Almazon is really good at creatures and stuff like that.

All these guys help out with those categories; everybody does everything on this team. Everyone is a jack of all trades but master of one. So that is why Clint is a master of environments, but he also creatures, vehicles, wearables, etc. But when he is doing a starship, Ryan Denning will be the one that gives him the box to play in because he was at the meetings. He'll say "the starship is about this, this, and this." We call that "The Funnel." Then Clint will take those things in the box he has to play in, and he will fulfill that and take it to the next level. He can do what he wants with it, but as long as he is fulfilling what we need him to as far as art and stuff, then he is succeeding.

So that is what each one of these people do in their own disciplines, and ultimately I oversee all of it, but these guys are really talented. And for the most part, I just let them run because that is the way you are going to get the best stuff anyway.

A lot of teams don't have a lot of resources, and sometimes outsource some of the work. Can you speak more to that?

Arnie: We had up to seven in-house concept artists, which leaves a good eight external ones. We definitely used external concept artists, which were vetted by the heads of the subgroups I mentioned. They would also vet the art as it would come in to make sure it worked, up to snuff, and buildable.

If you think about it: right now we have five in-house concept artists, we had up to 17 concept artists at one time, and we relied on up to 50% of our concept art coming from outsource, which in many ways is more difficult. We have such a big game to do. We have so many placeables and props that need to be built by 3D artists. Every single placeable, prop, vehicle, environment, etc. has to be looked at as a concept and built exactly like the concept. We can't take figures and fade them off to black like "it is just a concept." We can't do that because we're all production-oriented.

So we had to rely on these guys and push them hard to nail this stuff down, and come up with exact concepts that we needed. And they did a good job with this, and we were happy with the work that came from outsource. A lot of times this wasn't done overseas; we had a couple in our offices in Austin. Some of them are associated with a company, and others are freelancers.

Right now, we're paired back with five in-house concept artists. We don't any outsourcing right now because we can manage it. That is why I'm doing more art than I used to, and it is really fun for me to get back in there and draw again. Not to take away from the outsources, but the in-house guys were hired because they were the best.

Can you elaborate and explain the wearables board we saw today in the panel?

Arnie: We have all the boards divided into class groups, and there are subgroups... let's take the Smuggler. This is the Smuggler progressing (level) 1 through 50. And we have all the different lines broken out: levels 1 to 5, 5 to 10, 10 to 15, 15 to 20, and all that. When we were initially planning all the different wearables for any class, we came up with sort of the hero pieces for each one -- about seven or eight different looks for each class. For the Smuggler: this is the Han Solo sort of Scoundrel, to the Lando Calrissian "bling," over to the "Space Cowboy," moves into the "Firefly" but hey, that is what Star Wars is. We developed more than that, but we paired it back to seven or eight different looks for each class... throwing out looks, adding to this, adding to that until every single class had its own unique looks. And enough given so throughout your play of your character, you're really going to progress through not just wearable 1, wearable 2, wearable 3 -- but totally different looks.

What is interesting about it is that still to this date, we're still looking at those boards, re-balancing, moving stuff around, saying "this looks higher level than this" and moving it around. Believe it or not, we're still adding to the world a couple of new wearables right now because there are some deficiencies. We're still messing with all of that. Even if I snuck you out photos of all of these right now, it would be helpful and wouldn't be exact because we'll be balancing this thing until it ships.

I'm first an artist, but secondary a game player, and I'm really into MMOs. I wasn't joking when I said at the panel today that "I'm really about phat loot." We really went to extremes to make sure each class looks like its class but really gets badass as you get higher and higher into progression. Let's say you missed the first couple of months and you log in as some newb, you go to Coruscant, and see the higher levels run by... you're going to go "hooooooooly crap!" There will be a lot of that.

Speaking of loot... you are aware of the problem with a lot of MMOs, especially World of Warcraft, where all the higher level loot looks similar.

Arnie: I am so frustrated with my Paladin. I looked like a Death Knight for 90% of my play. Until you got to your tier armor, you don't even look like a Paladin! You look like everyone else. All they did was gear their tier armor to look like their class. I'm wearing spiked shoulderpads, and I'm wondering what is going on?

It is usually called "The Competition of The Bigger Shoulderpads." Can you reassure the community in that sense?

Arnie: We actually have a completely different loot process than WoW does. Our drops are different, our wearables are designed far different than WoW's are. This is coming from a guy who loves WoW, and I don't want to take anything away from that because if you have 11 million users, then you are doing something right. But in our game, when you are a Smuggler, you will in one form or another look like a Smuggler all the way through your game unless you purposely mismatch or go off the beaten track. You can do that in our game: you can play a Trooper and not look very Trooper-ish, but you really have to say "I really don't want to look very Trooper-ish."

For the most part, we have so many wearables that we designed now... it is like a joke when people walk into our office and say "holy cow!" We said upfront we need so many wearables because we have so many different classes and 1 through 50, this class has these wearables. We don't put this one on the Smuggler -- this is Trooper. There is plenty of gear, we can be the same level and look totally different, but we're both Troopers. That was very important to myself and the Art Director early on. We're going to try not to make that mistake if possible. I do understand why WoW did it; they make really good decisions on their team. But as a player, this bugged me and we tried to remedy it.

As far as the process of wearables, does the concept artist say "I think this looks cool" or does the writer come up with the first?

Arnie: It can be all of the above on some levels. "That looks amazing! We'll figure it out." But for the most part, what happens is the writers will come up with the hero's journey: "this is their story arc, and this is how we want them to progress." The concept artists along with the designers originally did all the boards: this is the look for the entire Smuggler class. Then we went to Daniel Erickson, the Lead Writer on our game, and we would pull looks out, add some in, do this and that, but it was a concept artist who originally made the pitch. And always, just like everything at BioWare, we went back to the team and said "what did you guys think?" The writer would say, "this doesn't fit the character at all."

The Imperial Agent was a really good example of this. It took us awhile as concept artists to get our minds wrapped around the idea of the Agent because we saw it as purely Imperial; this guy is Grand Moff Tarkin, which wasn't at all the intent of the writers. They said, "no, this is Imperial Agent. He is undercover a lot." So we had to come up with a lot of divergent looks for the Agent, one of which is "I'm now on the battlefield; I took off all my cover and you know now that I'm an Imperial officer. And you are about to get jacked up."

It is really cool. There are few points in the Agent story, and when you PvP and things like that, where the Agent says "screw this -- I'm an Imperial officer." And you'll see him as that.

To switch over to creatures, can you talk about how that process works with preserving the lore?

Arnie: The creatures were begun by writing and designing. We would go planet by planet: these are the creatures that live on this planet. We actually got lists with descriptions about each one. "Hey, you are doing this planet -- these are the creatures that live there. Make them fit into the planet." So that is how it initially went.

It is funny how things change over the course of a game, so here is something that probably a lot of people wouldn't know: things change. A lot. And what happened in Star Wars: The Old Republic is that we did all of these creatures, then we all started playing the game, looked at each other and said "wait a minute... we're not trying to build WoW or DAoC." Being in the Star Wars universe isn't about rolling through the countryside killing creatures. So we revamped and moved that around a lot; rebalanced the planets -- adjusting away from creatures as much as possible sometimes. So right now, what we got currently is a Star Wars-y feel of enough creatures to feel like a real planet, but not too many that you feel like you aren't playing Star Wars anymore.

Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us.

Arnie: You're welcome.
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Raktus

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #184 on: August 16, 2010, 10:02:47 PM »

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Raktus

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #185 on: August 17, 2010, 11:39:19 AM »

Dissection of the Space Combat Video
by sado, posted August 17th, 2010 at 10:55 AM

Our working dissection of the Space Combat Video is after the jump. As always, content that is covered in past dissections will not be covered in this one but feel free to take a look at our past dissections by clicking dissection in the tag cloud for reference.
 











« Last Edit: August 17, 2010, 01:18:54 PM by Raktus »
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ZIkar

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Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic
« Reply #186 on: August 16, 2011, 01:36:25 AM »

Wow Raktus thanks for all this Info!
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