The biggest announcement came before the show even started, with the opening up of pre-orders for the game. Exciting stuff and it finally hit home that the game is likely to launch this year. I've officially purchased The Old Republic!
On Thursday night (or Thursday afternoon if you're in the US) Bioware gave their Comic-Con panel presentation, followed by a Q&A session at their booth. There was actually quite a bit of new information given out at these events, which I've summarised below. You can watch a video of the panel here and the full Q&A here (both are definitely worth watching, the panel especially, if you have a spare 90 minutes!).
We learned the following new details about the game.
- A new release window has been revealed - Holidays 2011
- There will be Beta Testing Weekends in September - large numbers of people invited to the Beta test
- The two factions (Galactic Republic and Sith Empire) have completely different missions. So, if you play the game to level 50 as say a Jedi Knight (Republic), then again as a Bounty Hunter (Empire), not only will your class quests be different, but every single quest you do throughout your 50 levels will be completely different.
- There is some sharding technology in the game, but it will only be used in very rare circumstances, such as on the starter planets when the game is first launched to avoid overcrowding. Once the population normalises the sharding will be removed. (Sharding is multiple versions of the same zone, for example Tython 1, Tython 2 etc).
- You will be able to change your Advanced Class. There will be a cost associated with this and it will increase the more times you change.
- Based on tester feedback Companions will have many more customization options, such as changing their skin colours.
- Companions AI is being overhauled and they will now have Dragon Age style customizable tactics. This is something that seems to have been lost in the rest of the news, but it's incredible news in my opinion, and will further differentiate companions from normal pets. For those that don't know the Dragon Age system allows you to fully program a companion's behaviour using tactics slots (which you get more of as you level). As well as each companion having a basic AI kit (tank, healer, etc.) each tactic slot can be used to refine a companions tactics to a very detailed degree (for example, you can give a companion a tactic to use ability X on character Y when situation Z arises). It's a really flexible system that offers some genuine tactical options to the game, and the thought of being able to give companions specific tactics for certain fights like boss battles is quite an intriguing thought! For more details on the AI system as it's used in Dragon Age see here. If they can achieve anything like that kind of depth it will be another unique game-changing system. I'm really excited about the potential for this.
- Based on tester feedback the mounts system has been overhauled, and as well as the segway type mounts there are now speederbikes and landspeeders available.
- There is an unannounced legacy system that will allow you to unlock new races/species for new characters.
- At level 50 each class will have around 30 abilities.
- Being able to customize you character's spaceship will not be in at launch but is scheduled as a post-launch feature.
- The following voice actors were revealed:
- David Hayter voices the male Jedi Knight (Solid Snake!)
- Lacey Chambert is the voice of Mako.
- Kari Wahlgren plays the female Jedi Knight.
- Catherine Taber. is the voice of Vette.
- A new companion for the Jedi Consular class was revealed - Nadia, voiced by Holly Fields.
- There are no plans for a Mac client, but the game apparently runs very well under Bootcamp.
On Friday Bioware gave another Q&A session at which the following information was learned. You can find full details as well as an audio recording of the session at Darth Hater.
- More information was given on the new companion customization options. Apart from body type and sex you will be able to customize just about every aspect of your companion characters. They showed an example with Vette, in several different skin colours, with different skin markings, facial features and headgear. This is on top of being able to give your companions any armour and weapons you find, further customising their abilities and appearance.
- The new speeders were shown off (bikes and landspeeders). They said you would not be able to take other people with you in multi-seat speeders, but said it was planned for post-launch. The speed of all the speeders has also been increased based on tester feedback.
- It seems that following tester feedback that permanent companion death may have been removed from the game (though it wasn't entirely clear). As there is no save-game option in an MMO if a player killed their companion it was gone forever and testers felt that was too harsh.
Darth Hater also had an interview with Dallas Dickinson, direction of production. The main reveal in the interview was that the planet Ilum is actually dedicated to end-game play for solo players. Bioware wanted to ensure that solo players would have plenty of great things to do at end game as well as the raiders.
On Saturday there were some further Q&A sessions. Darth Hater have a video of the sessions here. The following new information was learned at these sessions.
- Bioware will likely release the full talent trees for each Advanced Class prior to launch so that people can get a better idea of which class to play.
- There will be no global cross-faction communication, but you could use /say to communicate with the enemy.
- Bioware are also working on racial abilities but they may not be in for launch.
There was another Q&A on Sunday, but no real new information came out of it. However, GamewizX and Montybrython from the official forums got some face time with Game Producer James Ohlen and the following was revealed.
- Companion kits (equipable kits that define the role of companion character) are no longer in the game! This is part of a much wider and deeper overhaul of the companion system.
- There will be custom chat channels in the game.
On top of all that there was a great new video released during the con. The following is a new in-game video featuring all of the eight classes at end-game. It's called Join the Fight and is a very action-packed trailer.
The game was also available to play on Bioware's booth at the show. You can get a whole load of feedback from those who were lucky enough to play the game in this thread at the official forums. There is also a great write up of one players PvP impressions here.