The Old Republic's class skills do your dirty work for you

Rich McCormick at

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I am a mighty Sith Warrior! I have a big red lightsaber and choke any mortal who dares question me! Excuse me for a second while I root around in that pile of junk to find some mushrooms to make some soup! Doesn't really work, does it?

So the Old Republic isn't even trying to fudge a heroic way to collect resources. Players in BioWare's gigantic MMO galaxy will still get their loot drops in standard RPG fashion - bending down to nab them from fresh corpses – but a new 'crew skill' system means you won't be need to spend hours glove-deep in shit to get the ten magic lizard tongues you need to make a lightsaber.

Players in the Old Republic eventually get their own spaceship. Acting as a home-base, your craft is accommodation for companion characters. There, you can chat to them at your leisure, or make them nip down to the space-shops for you.

Companions can be deployed to do useful stuff like snatch up a load of resources you're too awesome to go and collect yourself. Each companion has their own set of stats, along specific skill trees. These are split into three, of which a few subsets have been unveiled so far: gathering abilities vary according to how they're obtained, items nabbed from hacked computers coming under the 'slicing' skill, those extracted from living subjects under 'bioanalysis.'

BioWare's Blaine Christine was more cagey on TOR's crafting skills, but unveiled two subsets of the overarching ability: 'artifice', presumably used to make weapons and armour, and 'biochem' that provides medical and stim-packs. The image of a Sith Warrior beavering away at a workbench packing band-aids into a first-aid kit clearly doesn't work within Star Wars' fiction – instead, you can stand at the back and bellow “WORK HARDER” at your friends and minions as they do your nit-picky work for you. Or just leave them to it and get on with other missions. The Old Republic only lets you take one computer friend down with you on missions, and when you've packed a buddy off to complete a job for you, they're unavailable for the duration.

'Missions' are the final skill tree branch, and encompass 'diplomacy' and 'treasure hunting' specialisations as well as a few others. Choosing an inveterate trinket-seeker to nip down to a planet and go hunting for prizes gives you a good chance of them coming back with a spangly new item in hand.

The intention is to increase interaction with your team members, rather than just rolling with your favourite every time. With the crew skills system, BioWare hopes to foster the kind of personalised communal living arrangement that made the Mass Effect games feel so personable in the cold vacuum of space.