Developer Blogs

06.17.2011

The Post-Writing Polish Process

Writing is complete on Star Wars™: The Old Republic™. The last lines of dialogue are off for recording and translation; only pickups and polish remain. But at BioWare, a writer's job doesn't stop at the written word. I'm Ian Ryan, a Writer on The Old Republic, and I'm going to show you some of the many ways a BioWare writer continues to shape our game’s stories long after the writing is finished.

There are no less than seventeen planets in The Old Republic. Each one was conceptualized with a rich story, built by our talented world designers then lovingly brought to life by our art team. However as the game's final pieces fall into place, some areas don't perfectly reflect the stories that take place within them: a field is peaceful when it should be battle-scarred, or a residential district lacks the feel of a neighborhood.

As writers, we know the stories and the worlds they play out in. Armed with that knowledge, we set out to provide feedback on each planet’s art as it relates to story. While other teams continue working hard to finish The Old Republic, the writers log in to play the game. A tough life, but someone has to do it. We begin our art passes, giving notes and suggestions to highlight the mood, function and story content of particular areas. For instance, if a luxurious cantina was built in the middle of a devastated warzone (not that we’ve seen that so far...) the writers would ensure that got changed.

For a glitzy example of one of our art passes, let's go to Nar Shaddaa. Nowhere else in the galaxy is flash, glam and crime so prominently displayed - and often on the same street corner. The writing team had great fun in building stories for a world where the rich and privileged rub shoulders and strike deals with the galaxy's criminal underbelly. But when the writing was over, we returned to the lavishly seedy streets of Nar Shaddaa to complete our art passes.

If Nar Shaddaa is the Hutt version of 1970s Las Vegas, the Promenade represents the grand extravagance of the Vegas Strip. The first incarnation of the Promenade was impressive but subtle, a far cry from the glitzy and exorbitant tastes of the Hutts. The risk of a spontaneous party breaking out was slim to none. Here’s an image of the ‘old’ Nar Shaddaa Promenade:

Click the above image for a larger view.

After reviewing this, the writing team asked the artists to kick up the Promenade's glitz and glam levels a few hundred notches. Lead Concept Artist Arnie Jorgensen responded to the challenge and the result speaks for itself:

Click the above image for a larger view.

Now that's more like it! Lights pulse at every turn, expensive boutiques line the walls and yes - that's a golden statue of a Hutt taking center stage amidst the debauched revelry. Look closely and you may find even more gems. Now it looks like the kind of place you'd go to meet friends and plan your next adventure.

Thanks to the writer's notes and our talented art teams, you will be able to marvel at this new Promenade in all its brazen brilliance when you visit Nar Shaddaa. Transformations of this level bring the world to life and provide a worthy home for those who spend fortunes and do business in the shadow of that gilded Hutt.

For another example of a writer's art pass, we'll go to the polished streets of Coronet City: the Corellian metropolis that is as glorious as Nar Shaddaa is gaudy.

When Republic players first arrive on Corellia, they emerge into the Blastfield Shipyards. Corellia is home to the galaxy's largest ship builders, and this area was originally envisioned by the writing team to fully display the large-scale operation required to build a fleet of capital ships. Unfortunately because we never explicitly said ships were constructed here, the area was originally built to resemble a downtown block of office buildings.

Luckily the Blastfield Shipyards received a full renovation. Acting on the writer's art pass, Ryan Dening created a great piece of concept art that was then perfectly realized by the world art team. See the below images for a look at how the Blastfield Shipyards transform from a standard city block to a massive construction site where the Republic's glorious capital ships are born.

Click the above image for a larger view.
Click the above image for a larger view.

So, what do writers do when the writing is finished? We play and scour the game, polishing everything we can and then compiling these art passes to help the game world reflect the stories. That's on top of writing additional content, creating and dressing the thousands upon thousands of characters living in The Old Republic and looking, for the first time, to the future.

But at BioWare, every designer is a storyteller. Writers begin the process with words, only our jobs don't stop there. We know the universe, we know the stories and with that knowledge we help the rest of the team create a cohesive whole out of millions of different parts. In a galaxy as rich and massive as the one in Star Wars: The Old Republic, that task is as colossal as it is rewarding.

Ian Ryan
Writer