This is an old interview from Armchair Empire – our previous site. We have restored and rehosted this interview to preserve history, and to ensure there is always a copy of our old content online.
Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) is set roughly 4,000 years before the time of the current films. Why did the team decide to set the clock back by thouands of years?
Casey Hudson (CH): When we were contacted by LucasArts to do the first RPG in the Star Wars universe, we were given the option to place the game in the time period of the movies, or several thousand years before the movies. At the time, there wasn’t much material on that period in the extended Star Wars universe, except for a comic book series and references in a number of the books.
Looking at how the Star Wars timeline is structured, we saw that space travel had existed for almost 30,000 years at the time of the movies! Even if we went back a few thousand years, we would still be able to have all the things that make up the coolness of Star Wars – spaceships, lightsabers, Jedi, etc. Beyond that, we would have the freedom to create a story which would be the most important in the universe at the time, and we would be able to write part of the history of the Star Wars universe! Naturally, this presented a much more exciting creative opportunity for us.
If a franchise builds itself around KOTOR, is there anything preventing a further examination of the Star Wars mythos, going back a further 2,000 years? 4,000? 6,000?
James Ohlen (JO): I don’t think Lucas Arts would have a problem with a developer creating a game based six or even ten thousand years before the movies. Personally, I don’t think it matters which time period the game is set in as long as the game captures the spirit of the original Star Wars films.
KOTOR will feature downloadable content via Xbox Live. Does Bioware have any concrete ideas about what can be downloaded? Maybe a black or transparent lightsaber?
CH: We do have plans to release special content via Xbox Live, though we aren’t ready to say exactly what it is yet.
What was the inspiration to make KOTOR feature real-time fighting sequences with RPG elements? Do you consider the game more of an RPG, or an action game?
CH: As this was to be an RPG, we wanted to capitalize on our experience in developing RPGs and rules-based combat. At the same time though, since the Star Wars setting would potentially draw a lot of mainstream gamers, we wanted to make sure the system was as action-packed and easy to play as possible. So, we tried to find a balance, which captured all the strategy and variability of our previous RPGs, but would be accessible to a wide variety of players.
I think this is definitely an RPG – one that hopefully can be enjoyed by players of all different game genres.
Star Wars has spawned some of the world’s most rabid fans. How can you possibly please them all? Or was this even a thought?
CH: It’s hard to please everyone, but being rabid Star Wars fans ourselves, I think we had a good sense of what aspects of the Star Wars experience we needed to capture to create a satisfying experience for fans. That was probably a lot of the inspiration for what we chose to include in the game – what would we as Star Wars fans really want to do or see?
I remember we even made a list in the early design stages, where we recorded the things that make up the Star Wars experience, from the rich orchestral soundtrack down to a small droid quietly welding something in the background of a scene. By weaving these elements into our work, I think we were able to add completely original ideas to the material while maintaining a consistent Star Wars feel.
KOTOR was delayed many times and came out nearly perfect. Were there any items or worlds that were left out due to time issues? If so, what was left out?
JO/CH: An entire world had to be left out due to time constraints. The first pass level art was finished, but time was running out, so we decided to cut it. The world was called Sleheyron and it was one of the many planets in Hutt space. Sleheyron was supposed to be one of the most industrialized worlds in the galaxy. It was going to be a world paved over with layer upon layer of gas refineries, landing bays, slave pens and ship construction yards. The biggest level was going to be a massive coliseum where the Hutt lords pitted their gladiator slaves against one another.
We cut several sections out of Tatooine. The Star Map on Tatooine was originally located in the maw of a Sarlacc pit. The player had to find the Sarlacc pit in a cave complex and then figure out how to descend into the pit without becoming the Sarlacc’s next snack. We were also going to allow the player to become a sort of messiah of the Sandpeople and lead them against their Czerka corporation oppressors.
We cut several sections from Taris, more for pacing reasons than because of schedule pressures. There used to be three levels in the Black Vulkar base. The Gammoreans used to have a stronghold in the Undercity. There was also a trash compactor puzzle in the sewers.
Was there a specific moment when the whole project came together, when the team gave a collective, “WOW!” with what had been accomplished?
CH: I think for most of the team members, the “WOW” moment was actually in the last days of development, where they saw that the game they had been working on all this time was actually really fun! As is common in game development, most parts of the game were broken and ugly until the very end, where suddenly all the different systems reached completion and the game became exponentially better. In the last couple of weeks before the game went gold, people all around the office were playing the game (sometimes 2 or 3 times through) just for fun! That’s when we knew we had achieved what we set out to do.
When KOTOR ships for PC, will PC gamers find much to set it apart from the Xbox version?
CH: The PC version includes mostly the same story and content, though we have added a few special things. Can’t say what they are yet though. There are numerous PC-specific features, including high-res textures and scalable graphics. We’ve also put a lot of work into creating a completely different main interface for the PC version. Having played the PC version lately, I’m really excited about how good it looks, and how well the PC interface plays.
The game allows the player to choose between the light and dark sides. If you had to choose one side, which would it be? Why?
JO: I would choose the light side. I always feel guilty when I have one of my characters do something evil.