While only one member can accompany you on quests, the others can be assigned special tasks on your ship and out in the world without requiring the player to be present. On top of that, these new A.I. pals can be forced to work at all times while you're offline.
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Basically, the game features the ability to be the worst friend in over twelve systems. All that's missing is a lightsaber-powered bullwhip. But I suppose that's being held for an upcoming expansion pack.
Star Wars: The Old Republic launches for PC in 2011.