How Star Wars: The Old Republic’s developers craft choice in the story

Often, a role-playing video game strikes the gamer with an option that is legally hard. It can be an ethical dilemma, or a concern of what to compromise. Star Wars: The Old Republic is an MMO with a strong concentrate on narrative material, therefore the video game has lots of hard options developed to make the lead character sweat. While the galaxy’s politics can alter in time, and brand-new opponents appear or are beat, the core of the video game stays making those hard options.

The Old Republic designer BioWare Austin has actually been consistently upgrading the video game because it was very first launched in 2011. The next growth, Tradition of the Sith, presents brand-new endgame material in which gamers ferret out a rogue Sith Lord to the watery world of Manaan. The growth likewise consists of great deals of crucial modifications in the early video game. For instance, brand-new character developer choices enable gamers to blend and match in between their capabilities, weapons, and stories they experience, rather of funneling down among 8 roadways with more stringent guardrails.

“We’re continuing a storyline that kicked off with our last expansion, and even before that with a plot,” said Charles Boyd, creative director on Star Wars: The Old Republic, in a call with Polygon. “There’s a lot going on with [Darth] Malgus, and he’s going rogue a bit. There’s also a storyline where there’s a civil war brewing among the Mandalorians.”

The Sith have continually been one of the high points of The Old Republic. There’s no Rule of Two, which means there are tons of them, and they’re all constantly fighting. That conflict is great for game design, according to Boyd, because everywhere the Sith go, conflict follows: “With Sith, it’s built right in. That’s their instinct, to bounce off each other as violently as possible.”

While there’s plenty of new stuff to explore, it’s still worth stopping to go through those old campaigns, especially since the chaff has been cleaned out. Over the years, BioWare has been courteously curbing the need for players to grind. It’s possible to skip past the campaign side quests, filler material, and early expansion content like the Hutt Cartels and get right into the meat of intergalactic adventure, evil emperors, and moral choices. Something that makes the MMORPG feel like, well, an RPG is that the early campaigns are still very relevant to the endgame story, and the player’s choices matter throughout.

The characters that players meet, even during their earliest days, can come back into the mix. “We have so many cool characters, anytime we’re establishing a situation we’re like, OK, who would make sense for this?” says Boyd. “We have a wealth of choices that are already established that folks already know and can get excited to see again, but it’s also a challenge because it’s a huge cast. We only have so much canvas to paint on at any one time.”

Star Wars: The Old Republic - a squad of knights line up outside a high wall on Dromund Kaas.

Image: BioWare/Electronic Arts

But when expansions like Legacy of the Sith come around, this huge cast can be a boon. Characters like Lana Beniko are loyal to the player, and have their own interpretations of Sith philosophy. Those characters, and their influence on the player, help set the stage for Darth Malgus and the Sith as antagonists. Different campaigns also meet different characters; while my Agent might know one assassin well, my Smuggler might be entirely in the dark.

“Whenever we look at a scene, one of the key pieces we look at is, how can we change this for a Sith Lord versus a bounty hunter versus a Jedi?” says Boyd. “You need the story moving in the same direction for most everyone, because otherwise it’d turn into a big mess. But we also want to honor who you are — or were when you started — and make sure the characters treat you importantly.”

Boyd continues, “We’ll know the general premise of where [the story is] going, and we think, OK, well, what would be the most interesting moral choice? Sometimes they aren’t even Dark Side or Light Side; it’s about loyalty. Then, we build the story around that and work backwards so we can make it less about morals or your character and more about you personally engaging as much as possible.”

Star Wars: The Old Republic - four of the series’ companion characters pose on a sandy dune in an action shot

Image: BioWare/Electronic Arts

Legacy of the Sith’s new character creation choices make going through the campaigns again an appealing option, since you can blend and match weapons and skills from different classes under the tech or Force umbrellas. Many of these old stories hold up remarkably well.

Dark Side Inquisitor, for instance, is the most unhinged fun I’ve ever had in an RPG of any genre. I walked around the galaxy like a total girlboss, electrocuting everyone who disagreed with me, and dealing with administrators who were forced to treat me like a toddler with a gun. The Imperial Agent story is another fantastic path, with some truly twisty decisions that can make the gamer a double or even triple agent.

Tradition of the Sith is currently set to be released before the end of 2021. It will likewise start The Old Republic’s 10th anniversary occasion, which runs throughout 2022.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.