BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO Revealed

Ending years of silence and rumors, BioWare and LucasArts today revealed that they have joined forces to produce a Star Wars massively multiplayer online game set in the Knights of the Old Republic Universe.

Dubbed Star Wars: The Old Republic, the title will allow players to choose between Jedi and Sith Empire factions, with each having unique races and classes. Only a PC version was confirmed in today's announcement.

No release date was given, with BioWare stressing that the game has no release window, though a past report suggested it would launch in 2009. The studio is "definitely planning" an open beta, BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk confirmed.

The story-based MMO will be set roughly 300 years after BioWare's 2004 single-player RPG Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (PC, Xbox) and the Obsidian-developed sequel, or 3500 years before the beloved film series.

"We're making KOTOR 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and beyond--this game is that big, it's got that much content in it," explained BioWare co-founder Ray Muzyka. "It's very innovative--it's story based."

The game has seen a team of 12 full-time writers producing content for the past few years, according to IGN, with each class getting its own story arc as "not everybody's fantasy was to be Luke [Skywalker]."

"You get to choose many things in the game--your faction, your class, good and evil, how your story unfolds," explained lead designer James Ohlen.

"We thought of a Howard the Duck MMO, we thought it was a little too crazy," Muzyka joked. He also noted that the game will feature a "full economy."

"The game is playable," asserted BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk, though a playable version was not shown today.

The Old Republic will allow players to choose a companion, as with the previous KOTOR games, and will have full PVP, PVE and RVR (realm vs. realm) combat along with raids. No classes have been revealed as of yet.

"[Companion characters] are something that we're bringing to this game, and really the way we've described how companion characters work is the same in this, they're the lens with which you see the world," Zeschuk elaborated.

A pre-rendered trailer was shown, highlighting fights between Jedi and Sith. In one scene, a Jedi was assembling a lightsaber, with the trailer asking "Which side will you choose?"

"A new Sith Empire has emerged from deep space and has gone to war against the Republic," furthered lead designer Ohlen.

"If you remember in the movies you had Han, Luke, and Leia," he continued. "But they also had their own personal stories...that's the dynamic we want to create in this game. For players to have their own personal stories, but to come together with other players and have their stories together."

"No one wants to be just a guy," added art director Jeff Dobson. "There's nothing special about that. So we spent a lot of time really thinking about how the characters are going to look."

When asked about subscriptions, BioWare claimed that it has no details at this time. When the topic of other consoles came up, the company stated that it is "only talking about PC today, that's all we have."

Though the company did not talk specific system requirements, lead designer Ohlen noted that "it's very reasonble. From the outset, and it was really a team-wide decision, from a design side we taked about framerate being a really important accessibility feature."

As for the effect this could have on Sony Entertainment's existing Star Wars MMO Galaxies, BioWare dodged the question, noting that "today we're just focusing on the Old Republic."

While the Star Wars setting was confirmed by BioWare owner EA in July, both the developer and license holder LucasArts have remained silent about the project until today. BioWare has been quietly tinkering away on its MMO since the 2006 formation of BioWare Austin, after which the studio licensed all sorts of middleware technology.

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