Interviews// Star Wars The Old Republic Lead Writer Alex Freed

Posted 20 Dec 2011 15:09 by
With Star Wars The Old Republic out and “ fundamentally change the way people perceive MMOs moving forward”, I went along to interview Alex Freed. Alex is the chief writer on the title.

I began by asking him, “Good god man, that's quite a scary thing, isn't it? That must be one of the most terrifying things ever!?”

Alex: Quick correction! I'm a senior writer, I'm not the lead writer on the project.

SPOnG: But you've done Blood of the Empire, the webcomic tie-in and Lost Suns as well, yes?

Alex: Yes, and I've been with the project since essentially the beginning. And it is still a scary thing! It's by far the largest writing project the industry has ever done. It's one of the largest writing projects mankind has ever done. It's enormous, it's a priviledge to be part of it and it's very strange to be releasing this thing after all these years.

SPOnG: I can imagine! Let's begin at the beginning then; tell us a little about the SWTOR story. Where does it fit in with the grand scheme of things?

Alex: Sure. SWTOR takes place about 3,000 years befor the time period of the movies. In many ways its a very different galaxy but it's got a lot of the familiar elements that people like about Star Wars.

It's got a Galactic Republic protected by the Jedi and it's got a Sith Empire at the same time. At the time the game begins there's a very tense peace between the Republic and the Empire, and as yo can imagine that kind of peace isn't going to remain peaceful forever…

SPOnG: So how did you get brought into this big wide world Alex? What's your pedigree? I think 99.9% of people on earth are Star Wars fans so you must be one of those, but what experience did you have previously?

Alex: I came to Bioware for this project, but I worked as a freelance writer doing prose fiction, short stories, anthologies, that sort of thing. I did traditional pen and paper game design, role playing games for companies like White Wolf, and merging the game design with fiction elements is how I made my way into the video game world.

SPOnG: I take it you're a gamer as well? What sort of stuff do you enjoy playing?

Alex: I've always enjoyed the great canon of western RPGs, going back to the Ultimas. Back when Ultima was the role playing game series. I loved the old adventure games, the Sierra and Lucasarts stuff, the story driven material that the industry grew up around.

In later years as the industry became less number-crunchy, less puzzle solving; there's the Deus Ex's, the Looking Glass stuff like Thief... not really a plotty game, but still much about story and atmosphere.

SPOnG: Nice! So, I'm always interested to see how people get their start on massive projects like this. When you first went to Bioware, did you know what you were getting into? Did you know it was a Star Wars writing job?

Alex: I knew it wasn't out of the question, but I didn't know specifically what I was getting into specifically when I applied for the job. Even when I interviewed the still would not tell me!

SPOnG: That must be a really weird interview, "We'd like you to work for us but we're not going to tell you what it is you're doing.”

Alex: Yeah, it was an unusual day! But being in there, seeing this high level project and what they were interested in doing, what wanted this project to accomplish, it was very exciting and I'm glad I signed on. Like I said, I've got to be part of the biggest project the industry has ever done.

SPOnG: Exactly how big a project are we talking, Alex? You're one of the contributing writers, but how many people are working on this story?

Alex: Well, we can't give out exact numbers, but at any given time we've probably had about a dozen writers and we've cycled through some people over the course of the years. Roughly 60 man-years of writing.

SPOnG: That's pretty hefty! We're not just talking story here, we're talking voice work; lines characters are going to say, that kind of thing as well?

Alex: Yeah, those 60 man-years encompass designing stories on a high level, figuring out what's happening, what the actual missions are going to be, what sort of gameplay is there going to be.

(This includes) writing all of the dialogue - which obviously takes a tremendous amount of time - as well as working with the other teams to figure out "What should the art in this area represent, what's the visual storytelling here?". All sorts of things that aren't literally typing words that go into the game but that's a lot of it!
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swtor67 9 Jan 2012 08:43
I agree with you ,I play The Old Republic very long,But I am not indulge in it.
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