Clearly it's early days for The Old Republic, and the company's priority is placating an already vocal crowd of fans who think KOTOR's about to be diluted in the vast lake of Worlds of Warcrafts, Warhammer Onlines and Ages of Conans.
"We'll have thousands of players in a persistent world," assures Ohlen. "We're building an MMO for MMO players, but we're also appealing to BioWare fans through the story systems we've built.
"We're giving you the Hero's Journey. We're creating an MMO that will be able to do everything you can do in other MMOs." So there'll be no skimping on the essentials then? "No way, if you come to The Old Republic looking for Star Wars, you'll get it," adds Erickson. "If you come looking for an MMO, you'll get that too."
Going hand-in-hand with character progression are the ways in which it is rendered visually. You only have to look at the recent Warhammer Online to see how precious and particular players can be when it comes to the look of their characters - it's important to have an avatar that reflects not only the time you've spent playing, but the choices you've made along the way.
"We spent a lot of time ensuring that progression is rewarded visually," explains art director, Jeff Dobson. "A level one guy lends himself well to a simpler outfit, regardless of your background. "As you progress you'll recover things or find loot, that sort of thing - you'll basically look flashier and cooler. We take characters from the movie and think, what level is that guy? And that becomes the target: Darth Vader is your top level Sith dude. Luke on Tatooine, he's a level one anything, you know? He's just getting started!"
"There's so much room for customisation," adds Erickson, "and different paths to take. Something our art team's worked really hard on is making your character not just say, 'Hey, look at me I'm really high level' but 'This is how I choose to play my guy.' If you choose to play a dark side Jedi and approach the world in that way, you'll look like somebody you shouldn't screw with."
Stylised realism is the term BioWare are using to describe their visual style, a sort of halfway house between World of Warcraft's system-friendly environments and City of Heroes' colourful characters. "We wanted to make sure we had a unique look," explains Dobson. "We didn't want to look like anything else out there. At the same time we didn't want to cross the line and become too cartoony or so stylised that people couldn't relate to it. We really strive to make our game look like our concept art. Quite often I'll walk
past somebody's PC and see some nice concept art suddenly begin to move on their screen."
BioWare promise that the combat itself is being built with attention paid to that all-important authentic Star Wars feel.Lightsabers will connect properly and blaster bolts will be deflected. Steps are being taken to avoid the floatiness of animation usually associated with MMOs.
"With our combat system," explains Ohlen, "we wanted it to feel different to other MMOs, we wanted it to feel like Star Wars combat. With a lot of other games, combat is too slow-paced and non-interactive. I can't go into too much detail, but we're ensuring it looks and feels like Star Wars." "Oh, it's also real time, all the time," laughs Ohlen. "You can't pause the server to queue up moves."
With an impeccable sense of self-awareness, BioWare are carefully navigating the expectations of millions of RPG fans. The shift into a multiplayer gear will be jarring news for some, casting doubt on whether we'll ever see a 'proper' single-player KOTOR 3, but The Old Republic is already promising to deliver far more than that. Almost certainly the biggest writing team in the industry is creating a series of intertwining legends in the Star Wars universe, creating more story content than every other BioWare game combined, and what they've revealed so far is hugely exciting. But no pausing mid-battle?Pfft, not interested.