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Tag Archive 'interview'

The Future of SWTOR – Jeff Hickman Interview

Published by under Breaking News,Interview,video on Aug. 18. 2012.

During the biggest gaming event in Europe, GamesCom gaming convention in Cologne, Germany, we had the opportunity to talk to the man whose decisions will have a great impact on the future of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Mr. Jeff Hickman, the new Executive Producer for Star Wars: The Old Republic sat down with us and talked on a number of topics. You can watch the exclusive interview in the video bellow and here’s a recap of topics that were discussed:
  

  • Introduction of Mr. Jeff Hickamn and his previous work as well as his tasks in the future
  • His thoughts and plans on how to make the Free to Play model a reality
  • When will Free to Play launch?
  • Correlation between announced content (new warzone, raid etc.) and launch of Free to Play
  • Once Free to Play goes live, will subscribers ever have to pay for anything (like a big expansion/content pack)?
  • Will Makeb increase the level cap?
  • How do you introduce a cash shop into a story MMO?
  • What is your stance on “Pay to Win”
  • What did 50+ mean when new space missions were announced
  • Number one community question was “When will our story continue”. Can you tell us more about that?
  • Why the space missions and not Makeb?
  • What is the future of SWTOR in Mr. Hickman’s words?

  

  

Interview transcript

Swtor Spy/Life: We are here with Jeff Hickman. If you would like to introduce yourself to the Star Wars: The Old Republic community, because people have not seen much of you before. They do know that you were the Live Producer before, but the first we really heard of you was when you made the announcement about free to play. If you could tell us about your previous work and what is your future role in Bioware.
  
Jeff Hickman: I am currently the Executive Producer on SWTOR. My background; I’ve been in the MMO industry since 2001. My first game was Dark Age of Camelot. I worked on Dark Age from the time it launched, joined Mythic about 6 months before it launched; helped launch that game. Eventually, in 2004, became the Executive Producer of DAOC. I was also the Executive Producer of Warhammer Online, so that was my game. So, for 13 years I spent my time building, launching and running big MMOs, that’s what I do. Of course, this was all in Mythic Entertainment and Mythic in 2006 became part of Electronic Arts and in 2008 Mythic became part of the Bioware team within Electronic Arts. So, in 2010, after we launched Warhammer Online, Ray and Greg came to me and said: “Hey, we’re getting ready to launch SWTOR. You’re the guy who’s launched, probably more MMOs than most people on the planet. We’d love your help, would you like to come down and help us launch SWTOR?” and I said: ”Sure, sounds good”. I moved to Austin, I love Austin, and I became the Executive Producer of Live Services. What that means is that I was basically responsible for anything not development related. That’s Customer support, it’s live production, which is the guys who monitor the live servers, who patch the live servers, who take care of emergency issues and that kind of stuff, responsible for the Community team, I was also deeply involved with Marketing, Operations and with dev to a point. My partner was Rich Vogel and I literally sat in the office with him, this far away from him, and between him and I we mad the decisions for the launch of the product and what TOR was gonna become. Rich has since moved on, he’s looking for different things for his future, and so I’m still responsible for Live Service and they also rolled up the development team underneath me. I’ve got 14 years of experience to involve and it’s an awesome opportunity and a super big honor for me. You know, I’m working with guys that quite literally are my heroes in the gaming space. You talked about James Ohlen and having your first interview with James back in 2010. Well, James Ohlen and (I grew up?) playing Baldur’s Gate and KOTOR and other games that were my beloved games before I even got into the industry back in the 90s and James was the guy on those games and now James Ohlen sits three feet away from me, he’s my creative director on TOR, this is his game; and what an honor it is to have this opportunity.
  
Yet it is a big responsibility as well
  
Yeah it is!
  
Because you are actually in charge of making Free to Play a reality.
  
Absolutely
  
That’s how I gather things are, that was your first announcement so I presume that is what your task is specifically. So, how do you plan on accomplishing this?
  
Lot of hard work. I think you hit it on the head. While I have broad responsibility across the development team, you know James is still the Creative Director; he’s the one who decides what the game is, the vision of the game. This is a James Ohlen product if you will and so he’s still deeply, deeply, involved in that. I help to make the decisions around a lot of the business aspects of the game. James and I work very closely together to make sure that the things that he wants to do with the game make sense from a business standpoint. Make sense within the kind of holistic structure of the game and so the Free to Play are both he and I, and the entire team of course, (there is a) giant team behind this, looking at what are the right decisions for taking this game Free to Play. What modifications do we make to the game? What does a Free to Play player experience when he plays the game? What does a subscription player experience when he plays the game? What are the different things that we need to do to keep our players engaged and how can we change the way that we’ve done things in the past to provide more frequent content updates; to give the Free to Play player a great experience, yet entice them pay a little bit here and there … This is all about business so we want a great game experience the people will love for years and years to come. What my actual plans are? Do the right thing for both our subscribers and for our Free to Play player. Do it as quickly as possible in a very high quality manner and provide a great play experience for both.
  
Since we are talking about “as quickly as possible” … Is November the month?
  
What have we said? Fall. Fall is what we’re aiming for. It is all we’ve said so far.
  
At the investor’s call …
  
They said … but it is fall
  
So you are broadening that deadline. Does that mean sooner or later?
  
As soon as it’s done at the right level of quality is when we’re gonna launch that thing and we think that we can hit the fall.
  
You’ve announced several new pieces of content. New warzones, new raid. Is that planned to come out before free to play launches or after?
  
They are not dependent on each other. If you’re a subscriber it doesn’t matter. As a subscriber you get all of that stuff. As a F2P player it almost does not matter either, because as a F2P player the restrictions you have, for example, one of the restrictions we’ll have is we will have a restriction on F2P players about how many warzones they can play in a given amount of time, so when we put out Ancient Hypergates, if you are a F2P player you will have that restriction. So, if you are currently a subscriber, which is the only kind of players that we have, you’re gonna get it no matter what. So, it doesn’t matter (if it’s released before or after F2P). We do not look at it that way. We have a track, a team of people working that are working on those six week content updates and those people, while integrated deeply with what we’re thinking about F2P, are not dependent on it. So, we’re gonna do that as fast as we possibly can, because we believe strongly that players want to see more frequent content updates and than we’re also gonna do the F2P piece as fast as we can also. It is all about Bioware quality. We are not going to launch any of these things until they are ready to go and we have, I think, really strong plans around both right now.
  
You answered a lot of question about the F2P model that you are going to be providing, but there are still some small things that we would like to find about. Will subscribers have to play for any kind of content? So, while it was just a subscriber game you would pay for a major expansion, but right now; I am guessing you are currently focusing more on smaller content…
  
Yes
  
What (if anything) will subscribers have to pay for after F2P launches?
  
I wish I had a solid answer for you on that. We’re still in discussion about some of the larger content updates that we’re planning. Great example is the planet Makeb. We’ve talked about Makeb, we have a lot of plans around Makeb. I wish I could give you more details, but I can tell you that I think the playerbase is going to be really, really pleased. More story content. New and interesting things for the players to do. More systems and interesting functions in the game … I can’t go into a lot of detail, but around things like that … This is a pretty big piece (of content). It is probably all that I can say. It is definitely still for discussion whether we sell that to the subscriber or the subscriber gets that for free because it is a big beefy chunk of content.
  
Makeb is going to expand the level?
  
… I can’t talk about that right now. She’ll kill me.
  
I think you guys will be very happy with what we have planned.
  
The one question I have personally is … How do you change a story MMO into a cash shop MMO? Because, you’re introducing a cash shop into a story MMO. There is definitely a process there. If you can talk about that that would be great.
  
I think the core of that is actually fairly simple to explain, though it might be a bit more difficult to implement. If you look at what we’re planning on doing; the thing we’re giving away for free is the story. We talked a lot about … months of deep investigation … what are the restrictions the F2P player has in the game, and there was a lot of people who were saying you’ve got to restrict the story. The story is what it’s all about and therefore you have to restrict it. We actually believe the opposite. We think that the story is so core to the gameplay experience; the love and wonder of what Star Wars is; that breaking up the story in some sort of way is just not the right thing to do. We want that kind of casual player to come in and kind of start to play with the story and get drawn into what they are doing and we’re willing to give that away for free. There are so many other things outside of that that you can do that, that as a subscriber you will get for just being a subscriber, or as a F2P player you can buy out of a kind of À la carte way; you know – here’s a menu of things: You want more bank slots? OK. You want more warzones? OK. Whatever happens to be. So, for us, that is kind of the core of it. Give the story away. Make the casual player understand what that is. Don’t try to monetize that. Monetize all the things around that. I think, actually, as we looked through it is not as complex as you think it is (Ed. Note: converting story mmo to F2P). It is very difficult (Ed. Note to develop that system if it was not there before), believe me, the team is working really hard over there; working day and night to get this done, but it is pretty straight forward to understand once we through everything on the paper and went: “That actually makes perfect sense.” and we feel pretty good about it.
  
The major question about F2P; when any F2P project is announced or talked about is what’s gonna be in the cash shop? Lets just put this question out there in as plain and as simple form as possible. What’s your stance on Pay to Win?
  
Pay to win is not something that we like. I don’t want to unbalance the game by putting things out on the store that somebody can walk in on day one, buy and be the winner. Having said that, there will be some things that we put out in the store that do enhance power value in some way, but not at the top end. Trying to think of a good example. We may put a medium level blue piece of armor on the cash shop for example. We might do that. We haven’t decided and we’re still talking about this, but it’s one of those things it is like … most players will have something better than this anyway, but if you don’t here’s the way that you can get a leg up to at least make you equal with the normal players. That is kind of where our thinking is at, but we are still discussing it. But we do not believe in Pay to Win.
  
I have to ask you this question. It is a really strange thing to have been said. Just a couple of days ago the new General Manager
  
Matt Bromberg
  
He said that you are going to be introducing a new raid, a new warzone and multiple 50+ space battles. What does 50+ stand for?
  
That’s a great question. It’s one way of saying that they are hard mode space battles. They are space mission for players that are level 50, who have done all their space missions. Who have a super upgraded ship and now want a big challenge and I can tell you they are a big challenge.

You answered this already, but I just want to pass this onto you because this is a community question (Ed. Note question sent to us by the community to ask the SWTOR team). I think it is important for me to relate what the community wants me to ask you.
  
I do to.
  
The number one question was: “What’s going to happen with our story?”. Now we have the Epilogue screen. Some people have it for months and they want to see what happens to their companions and…
  
So do I. I’ve seen some of it actually, because we do believe in story and we have plans for story moving forward. Makeb is probably the biggest example of that. Makeb is a continuation of your story.
  
That’s my next question. Why the space missions and not Makeb?
  
The easiest way to say this is there are actually two very different team working on these things. We literally have a team, team catalyst is what they’re called internally, that is responsible for these frequent content updates. There’s a team who is responsible for warzones and flashpoints and some operations and some of the events. This is the team for doing interesting, frequent content updates. We also have a space team. We have a team that all they do is space and they’ve been working on these hard mode space missions for months now. And than we have another team that is working on Makeb. These three teams, while they work closely together, they are not dependent on each other and when one is finished with whatever they’re working on that is when we launch it. Makeb is on its own timeline and on its track and its not a matter of us choosing between the two, it’s a matter of which one is done first. That’s it.
  
One last question. I’ve been following the game for a very long time. There is one marketing story that we’ve heard all that time: “This is a subscription game, we plan to make this a subscription game”. We know how that went. We’ve seen the past 6 months. We’re at a new point of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Going forward you are going to be leading that new push for SWTOR. In your words, tell us about the future of SWTOR.
  
I think that the future of TOR is about lowering the barriers for people that would like to play the game, but are not ready to commit to 15 dollars a month or who are willing to wait for 3 or 4 months for a new content update. Lowering the barriers to get into the game and stay in the game I think is probably the number one piece of the future that I am focused on. Free to play is a part of that, because I think money is a barrier to a lot of people, and so I look at the focus on Free to Play, the focus on more frequent updates, yet a continued commitment to things like story and that is the future of TOR for me. It is a future where we have more people playing than we ever had before, where we have a wide variety of options on how you want to play so you play the way you want to and pay for the things that you want to pay for and enjoy the game you want to enjoy it. That is the future of TOR.

  

9 responses so far

Balkan Force Guild Story

Published by under Guild Story on Nov. 06. 2011.

Balkan Force SWTOR Guild logo
 
When the Pre-Launch Guild Program was announced by Bioware it caused a largely positive response in the community. Bioware provided basic tools for people to organize themselves into guilds so when the game releases you are starting the adventure together with your friends. With tens of thousands of guilds being made within the first months it is clear that the community welcomed the Program with open hands. This great mass of guilds makes it kind of hard to find the right one though. With the launch getting closer and the Guild Program in its third and final phase I thought it would be a good idea to try and present a few prominent guilds so you might find a guild you could call your home. The honor of being the first guild to be presented on SWTOR Life is a guild from my own country. I thought it would be interesting to share a story about what it’s like to create a guild and be in the Red Zone country (countries that are not in the initial launch list) and still manage to gather a fair number of members. Here’s the Guild Story of Balkan Force as told by its founders Branislav and Bojan.
Click here to read the interview with Balkan Force founders

11 responses so far

Chimaera interviews Alexander Freed

Published by under news on Nov. 02. 2011.

He wrote the Imperial Agent story. He wrote Blood of the Empire and The Lost Suns comics. He is one of the nicest guys on the SWTOR writing team (lets face it, they are all cool). He was present at Paris Game Week this year and he talked to Guild Chimaera about SWTOR. For all you US visitors – Guild Chimera is one of the most prominent fansites in France and you can find great footage from the convention held in Paris on their site (click links for day 0 and day 1 footage). I have two questions for them though – does their guild have a large number of French women as members (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) and did I see right – did Alexander Freed cut his hair while he was in Paris?
 
By the way, isn’t that just a great news title? In what other line of work would you be able to write that Chimaera interviewed someone?

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Calling All Crafters! Have Faith, SWTOR Crafting and Crew Skills Info Coming Soon!

Published by under Crafting,SwtorCrafter on Sep. 23. 2011.

Have you just about dried up and blown away from the lack of information released on crew skills in Star Wars the Old Republic MMO?

I feel your pain and that is why I come to you today to preach the word and let you know to have faith, information is coming!

Monday the 19th TORWARS one of my favorite fansites focusing around SWTOR released an interview they had with my hero on the SWTOR developer team, Lead System Designer Damion Schubert.

In this interview Damion had some nice nuggets of information for us such as this when asked about what system he can’t wait to see players mess with,

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4 responses so far

Gambling in SWTOR? You Decide.

Published by under PAX Prime on Aug. 29. 2011.


One of the nice little tidbits that I just found that came out of PaxPrime this weekend thanks to Kristen Archer of Torwars.com was this tasty little morsel about the possibility for gambling in Star Wars The Old Republic MMO.  Courtesy of an interview that Video Nvidia did with Cory Butler.  At about 3 minutes in we get this question and very interesting answer from Cory,

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7 responses so far

Gamestar Magazine Interview With Gabe Amatangelo About Operations In SWTOR

Published by under Breaking News on Jul. 28. 2011.

According to Cebo in his thread on the official forums for Star Wars the Old Republic MMO, Gamestar Magazine had an exclusive interview with Gabe Amatangelo from Bioware regarding “operations” (Bioware’s term for raiding in it’s MMO) .  He talked about different sizes of operations, plus he also revealed that there would be adjustable difficulty levels for you and you group.

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9 responses so far

Deconstruction in SWTOR?

Published by under SwtorCrafter on Jul. 07. 2011.

One of the things I have really liked about crafting systems in past games I have played was the ability to break items down into raw resources or the ability to “Deconstruct” them.  Sure the ability usually was present to just go gather myself and gain the resources I needed that way.  Also I could just go to the auction house and buy them, but sometimes it wasn’t practical to do either or economical with crazy server prices and it was just easier to deconstruct stuff I had lying around for the few ingots of a certain type of metal or wooden grips, etc, I needed at the time.

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8 responses so far

Razer Interview and News

Published by under E3,video on Jun. 13. 2011.

Razer, maker of various gear for gamers, has presented at this year’s E3 a special set of peripherals they made in association with Bioware and LucasArts that are all themed in The Old Republic fashion. To celebrate this announcement Razer has been running a giveaway on their site for a few days now. The giveaway is called “Choose your allegiance” and lets people choose Republic or Empire and put in their details to be eligible to win some of Razer’s products. The faction that has more members will also have an additional cache of prizes handed out to lucky winners. Today is the last day to enter this giveaway so feel free to hop over to Razer’s site and try your luck.

SWTOR Life also has a special treat for all of you wanting to find out more about the Razer gear that will come out simultaneously with The Old Republic. We were at Razer’s booth during E3 and we managed to shoot some in detail video of the peripherals as well as talk to mr. Hilmar Hahn and Melonie McElhannon about the products. We got to hear about some cool features and the way they are working together with Bioware and LucasArts to present in-game information on the keyboard. I am rather tantalized by that multitouch pad they have there. Seems like part of the game could be moved there.

 


 

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Day 0 News and First Impressions

Published by under E3,news on Jun. 07. 2011.

News is already starting to come in from E3 although it hasn’t even started yet! Unfortunately, a lot of sites are reporting wrong information so stuff like 4-man raids and experience with the Operation: Eternity Vault are all wrong. This puts a taint on what information is actually correct and what is a product of reporter confusion. My best guess is that some members of the press were invited to play Talar V flashpoint and got to play the Origin worlds (as is said in the machinima.com interview with Daniel Erickson). Everything else you might read is reporters getting confused in between what they played and what they heard will be talked about on the show floor.
 
The following interview Machinima did with Daniel Erickson is a nice intro into what is happening. Nothing new is revealed but it is always nice hearing DE talk (yes, I’m a fanboi).

The next piece of information I am not sure about. Kotaku released an article about the first impression of the game and mentions the Raid content. There have been some questions raised about the validity of information in this article, but some of it seems valid.
 
I hope we’ll sort all of this confusion out by this time tomorrow when people that know what they are doing will be reporting from the show floor.
 
On that note I leave you with an image of our very own SWTORCrafter’s E3 Media badge that he just got at the LA Convention Center.

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End game, mounts, new CGI trailer – all at E3

Published by under E3,video on Jun. 05. 2011.

Here’s some honest, heartfelt and hopefully friendly advice for #SWTOR fans: take a deep breath and know we’re making an amazing MMO that IS coming. Trust me. It’s coming. :)

The above was tweeted by Stephen Reid, Community Manager of The Old Republic. Having met the man I can tell you he is the least bulls**t person in marketing I’ve met so far. The quote above, it is actually his honest opinion. After seeing Friday, pre-E3, information blast we come closer to sharing his sentiment.
 
Information was released through the official site and its Friday Update as well as through Gamespot and MMORPG.com. What we know now from this info blast is what we can expect to find out more about at E3.

  • End game content (introducing the first raid The Eternity Vault)
  • High level gameplay on Tatooine with Imperial classes
  • New Cinematic Trailer (last of the trilogy)
  • Something about Alderaan (I am thinking PvPvE scenario)
  • Vehicles (mounts)
  • Auction house and social hubs

Next big thing is the trailer released on Gamespot that shows all of the game’s systems and for the first time we officially see player mounts, auction house and social hubs. You can see the trailer bellow:
 

 
Click here to read more about the MMORPG.com interview with Georg Zoller and Gamespot interview with Daniel Erickson

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