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EA’s plan for Star Wars: CEO wants Arkham-style "deep, immersive storylines", not film tie-ins

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EA’s plan for Star Wars: CEO wants Arkham-style "deep, immersive storylines", not film tie-ins

Andrew Wilson likes Arkham Asylum! And we thought he was only into sports games and the Democracy 3 clone that is high-level management.

The EA CEO would like to replicate Warner Bros. and Rocksteady’s success with the Arkham series, if possible: greenlighting games which stand apart from the films but thread themselves nicely into the extended universe.

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Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion adds player strongholds and guild flagships

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Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion adds player strongholds and guild flagships

BioWare has revealed the details of Star Wars: The Old Republic’s upcoming housing expansion which was teased a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, it’s all a bit pointless. Almost entirely cosmetic, real estate in The Old Republic’s only practical use is that it provides another place for you to store your crap and check your mail. Guilds will also be able to get their own strongholds, ships in fact, and yes, they are pretty pointless too.

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Pyramid scheme: The Old Republic's PvP Huttball to get a vertical makeover on April 8

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Pyramid scheme: The Old Republic's PvP Huttball to get a vertical makeover on April 8

One of those things that must have made KOTOR seem such a prime candidate for MMOification - besides its cooldown-based combat system and setting in bloody Star Wars - was its proclivity for minigames. 

In 2003, a player might have interrupted their journey of extraordinary self-discovery to play a few rounds of pazaak and watch the pod-racing, before decamping to the Ebon Hawke for a spot of turret target practice. 

These are precisely the sort of embedded distractions MMO players like to get involved in. In SWTOR, that’s manifested as something called Huttball: “the most brutal game in the galaxy", funded by its slimiest residents. To date it’s had a single PvP warzone to its name - but BioWare Austin have built a new one in portrait, on the atmospherically poisonous adopted homeworld of the Hutt: Quesh.

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Solving homelessness: The Old Republic to get player housing

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Solving homelessness: The Old Republic to get player housing

Up until recently, BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic had little in common with the now deceased Star Wars Galaxies. The former is a linear, narrative-driven MMO, while the latter was a huge sandbox ripe for roleplaying. But with SWTOR’s Galactic Starfighter expansion, which is like a limited, arena-based version of Jump to Lightspeed, the two MMOs have been brought ever so slightly closer together.

And now BioWare has announced player housing. How it will be implemented and what purpose it serves is still not clear. The trailer below is of a Coruscant apartment, complete with mailbox and droid pal. 

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SWTOR: Galactic Starfighter now available to everyone along with a gargantuan patch

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SWTOR: Galactic Starfighter now available to everyone along with a gargantuan patch

Star Wars: The Old Republic’s latest expansion, Galactic Starfighter, has now been made available all players. Previously, premium players were the only ones getting to flit around space and engage in some starfighter PvP.

Galactic Starfighter lets players customise their own ship, engaging in PvE and PvP battles. Along with the doors being opened to everyone, a recent update adds a slew of new features from the Bomber role to a team deathmatch mode.

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Star Wars: The Old Republic's 2014: two new expansions and a storyline to span "the whole year"

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Star Wars: The Old Republic's 2014: two new expansions and a storyline to span "the whole year"

SWTOR’s 2013 wasn’t anything at all like its 2012: last year its live team witnessed the game’s playerbase shift from subscription-only to primarily free-to-play; instigated the release of its first proper expansion; and oversaw mammoth construction of an all-new PvP dogfighting mode to banish the memory of on-rails space combat.

In 2014, BioWare Austin hope, there will be no paradigm shifts. Free-to-play will continue to draw in thousands every day, and there’ll be another two expansions - one about the size of a Hutt Cartel, the other as big as a Galactic Starfighter.

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A new hope: The Old Republic subscriptions "decline" as free-to-play "continues to grow"

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A new hope: The Old Republic subscriptions "decline" as free-to-play "continues to grow"

I don’t know what it’s like to be a subscriber of an MMO that suddenly goes free-to-play, but it must be pretty galling. Every month, I imagine, it becomes tougher to convince yourself that whatever in-game privileges you might have add up to another $10 your peers aren’t paying.

It must be somewhat easier in The Old Republic, where despite change for the better, free players are still visibly second-class citizens. Even so, as free-to-play numbers climb, subscriber rates are plummeting in the opposite direction.

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The Old Republic Galactic Starfighter expansion brings the dogfight to (some) non-subscribers

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The Old Republic Galactic Starfighter expansion brings the dogfight to (some) non-subscribers

Since early December, interstellar jousting has been the preserve of SWTOR nobility - its remaining pocket of subscribers, sheltered under an upturned boat in an otherwise free-to-play sea. But BioWare could hold back the tide no longer, and have made the new Galactic Starfighter expansion available to the riff-raff, the rabble, and the Rattataki, effective immediately. So long as they’ve bought something from the in-game shop.

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BioWare's Old Republic studio hammering away at "several" unannounced projects

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BioWare's Old Republic studio hammering away at "several" unannounced projects

BioWare Austin was born to make The Old Republic. That’s not a comment on the studio’s suitability to build Star Wars MMOs, but a literal fact: its staff were brought together in 2006 explicitly to make that game, and since its release five years later they’ve done nothing else but run its operations, reconfigure its systems for free-to-play, and develop its expansions.

Or so we thought. A couple of new job listings ask for hires with experience in both MMO and action games to help out on some of “several unannounced projects".

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The Old Republic Galactic Starfighter expansion is live for subscribers

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The Old Republic Galactic Starfighter expansion is live for subscribers

Star Wars: The Old Republic subscribers can now bugger off into space and shoot each other's ships as the latest expansion, Galactic Starfighter, goes live. Starfighters can flit around the black expanse of space, getting into dogfights in 12v12 PvP battles, after selecting one of three classes (scout, gunship, strike fighter).

Pilots can add a personal touch to their ships, whether that's a new paint job (hot pink or no deal) or altering the colour and sound of the blasters, or more practical alterations like switching engines or weapons, changing the shape of the vessel. 

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The Old Republic celebrates the consumption of turkey meat with a double XP weekend

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The Old Republic celebrates the consumption of turkey meat with a double XP weekend

Centuries ago, some not-yet-American folk ate a meal with a bunch of people they met and would later treat rather poorly. I'm sure there's an analogue in the Star Wars universe, somewhere. Jabba probably shared a turkey with Luke before attempting to feed him to the Rancor. 

To celebrate Thanksgiving, Star Wars: The Old Republic is putting on a double XP weekend, getting characters up to snuff for the approaching Galactic Starfighter expansion. The event ends on Sunday, December 1st 11PM PST or December 2nd at 7AM GMT. It started an hour ago, so get cracking.

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EA implicate shrinking interest in MMOs in The Old Republic's free-to-play fate

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EA implicate shrinking interest in MMOs in The Old Republic's free-to-play fate

Imagine you’re a shit-hot PI looking into the mysterious disappearance of The Old Republic’s prospects. There’s a few places you’d be tempted to start: its publisher’s investment in comprehensive voice acting it would take years to recoup; a broadly conservative game design in an era of Eve and Guild Wars 2; and reliance on a subscription model already starting to look dated in 2011.

But here’s EA’s femme fatale tugging at your ear, pointing to something else - the declining fortunes of MMOs in general.

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Watch a minute and a half's footage of Star Wars: The Old Republic's dogfighting mode

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Watch a minute and a half's footage of Star Wars: The Old Republic's dogfighting mode

BioWare have changed. In Baldur’s Gate II, dog fighting meant handing over 10 gold pieces to a sprite-man named Surly in an iffy pub, and getting 20 back if you were lucky. And lots of barking in the interim.

The Old Republic’s dogfighting, built by an Austin studio that didn’t exist in Baldur’s Gate’s day, is all high production pew-pew and free-flight weaving. It’s like nothing else the developers have ever assembled.

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What is the best MMORPG on PC?

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What is the best MMORPG on PC?

Ever since I was a tiny child, I've had a love affair with an MMORPG. With huge open worlds, populated with thousands of players, each day would be laced with adventure. Some were short-lived affairs, while others earned months if not years of my attention. From Runescape, through to World of Warcraft, to more complicated fare like Eve Online - MMORPGs remain my preferred way to play. 

And I think that if you choose the right game, they could be yours, too. Here’s my list of the 10 best MMORPGs on the market. They’re in no particular order, but whichever place you choose to explore, will be stay with you. Here’s to growing old in strange new worlds.

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Star Wars The Old Republic characters could lose their names next month

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Star Wars The Old Republic characters could lose their names next month

BioWare are in the process of letting players know about a “Character Name Renewal" that’s going to be happening on November 12th. At first glance it sounds kind of cool; you get to rename your character! A great opportunity if you named your character ‘UberL33tStarKiller42’ and have been regretting it ever since. The real story is not as it first seems though. The full story is that unless you are a subscriber to The Old Republic, your character could be about to lose their identity, which is a bit of a bummer if you managed to bag yourself a cool Star Wars expanded universe name before anyone else took it. 

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The Old Republic update 2.4 kicks off the Dread War

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The Old Republic update 2.4 kicks off the Dread War

“CONFRONT THE DREAD MASTERS AND COMPETE IN THE WARZONE ARENAS OF DEATH!", suggest BioWare in anticipation of SWTOR’s next big update. If you find yourself in the Deathzone Arenas of War, you’ve taken a wrong turning. You’ll know you’re in the right place if you can spot new endgame operations, story missions and 4v4 arenas.

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Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion Rise of the Hutt Cartel now free to subscribers

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Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion Rise of the Hutt Cartel now free to subscribers

Now this is the way to encourage subscription. BioWare have used their stick to dig a trough in the earth and plant carrot seeds. After six months spent slowly relinquishing their stranglehold on free players, the developers have pledged access to their first and only expansion to new, old and returning subscribers for a fee of zilch.

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Star Wars: The Old Republic gaining 10,000 new players every day since going free-to-play

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Say hello to The Old Republic's gay planet