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Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic PC box cover
Developer(s) BioWare
Publisher(s) LucasArts
Designer(s) David Falkner (lead programmer), Steven Gilmour, Casey Hudson (project director), Drew Karpyshyn, James Ohlen (lead designer), Preston Watamaniuk, Derek Watts
Series Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Engine Odyssey
Version 1.03
Platform(s) Xbox, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X
Release date(s) Xbox

NA July 15, 2003
EU September 12, 2003
Microsoft Windows NA November 19, 2003
EU December 5, 2003
INT September 5, 2009 (Steam)

Genre(s) Action RPG
Mode(s) Single-player
Rating(s) ESRB: T
OFLC: G8+
PEGI: 12+
Media CD, DVD
System requirements
Input methods Keyboard and mouse, Gamepad

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KotOR) is a role-playing game developed by BioWare and published by LucasArts. It was released for the Xbox on July 15, 2003, for Microsoft Windows on November 19, 2003, and on September 7, 2004 for Mac OS X. The Xbox version is playable on Xbox 360 with its Backward Compatibility feature.[1] The PC version was re-released as part of the Star Wars: The Best of PC collection in 2006 as a limited release. The sequel, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II The Sith Lords, was developed by Obsidian Entertainment at BioWare's suggestion[2] as BioWare wanted to focus on their own intellectual properties. Jeremy Soule wrote the soundtrack score for the game.[3]

Contents

Gameplay

This game's system is based on Wizards of the Coast's Star Wars Roleplaying Game, which is based on the d20 role-playing game system derived from the Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules. Combat is round-based; time is divided into discrete rounds, and combatants attack and react simultaneously. However, the number of actions a combatant may perform each round is limited. While each round's duration is a fixed short interval of real time, the player can configure the combat system to pause at specific events or at the end of each round.

The alignment system tracks actions and speech—from simple word choices to major plot decisions—to determine whether the player's character aligns with the light or dark side of the Force. Generosity and altruism lead to the light side, while selfish or violent actions will lead the player's character to the dark side, which will alter the character's appearance, turning their eyes yellow and their skin pale.

Non-combat interaction with other characters in the game world is based upon a dialogue menu system. Following each statement, the player can select from a list of menu responses. The dialogue varies based on the gender and skills of the main character.

Story

The game takes place 4,000 years before the rise of the Galactic Empire. Darth Malak, a Dark Lord of the Sith and Darth Revan's former apprentice, has unleashed a Sith armada against the Republic. Malak's aggression has left the Jedi scattered and vulnerable; many Jedi Knights have fallen in battle and others have sworn allegiance to Malak.

The game opens with the player's character—the player can choose a face and be male or female—awakening aboard a Republic ship under attack by Malak's forces. The player's character gradually gathers companions and pieces together of his or her past while attempting to stop Malak. While taking refuge at the Jedi Academy on Dantooine, the player's character learns to be a Jedi, discovers a "Star Map", and learns of the "Star Forge", the probable source of Malak's military resources. The player's character and his or her companions search planets across the galaxy—Dantooine, Manaan, Tatooine, Kashyyyk, and Korriban—for more information about the Star Forge. During the search, the main character's actions and speech influence whether he aligns with the light or dark side of the Force.

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Characters and locations

Fazza's Hunting Lodge on Tatooine

Eventually joining the main character's quest are the Jedi Bastila Shan, Grey Jedi Jolee Bindo, veteran Republic pilot Carth Onasi, Mandalorian mercenary Canderous Ordo, assassin droid HK-47 if he is bought, the Twi'lek teenager Mission Vao and her Wookiee companion Zaalbar, and utility droid T3-M4. Juhani may join the party if the protagonist follows the light side of the Force, otherwise she will be killed in a fight with them. Antagonists include bounty hunter Calo Nord, crime boss Davik Kang, Sith Admiral Saul Karath, Sith Master Uthar Wynn, Sith apprentice Darth Bandon and Darth Malak.

Action takes place on the planets Tatooine, Dantooine, Kashyyyk, Korriban, Manaan, Rakata Prime, and Taris; aboard the cruiser Endar Spire and Saul Karath's Leviathan; and on the Star Forge space station. A space station near Yavin is a playable location in the PC version of the game and is available to Xbox players via download from Xbox Live. Travel between these locations happens aboard the freighter Ebon Hawk, which is also a playable location.

Production

Development

In July 2000, BioWare announced that they were working with LucasArts to create a Star Wars role-playing game for the PC and next-generation consoles.[4] Joint BioWare CEO Greg Zeschuk commented that "The opportunity to create a richly detailed new chapter in the Star Wars universe is incredibly exciting for us. We are honored to be working with the extremely talented folks at Lucas Arts, developing a role playing game based upon one of the most high-profile licenses in the world."[5] The game was officially unveiled as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic at E3 2001. At this point, the game had been in development for around six months.[6] "Preproduction started in 2000, but the discussions started back in 1999," LucasArts' Mike Gallo said, "The first actual e-mails were in October or November of '99. That's when we first started talking to BioWare. But some really serious work finally started at the beginning of 2000."[7]

The thing that seems to stand out is that the current game is almost exactly what we envisioned almost three years ago.

—Project director Casey Hudson in April 2003[8]

The decision to set the game four thousand years before Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was one of the first details about the game made known.[4] LucasArts gave BioWare a choice of settings for the game. "LucasArts came to us and said that we could do an Episode II game," BioWare CEO Raymond Muzyka said. "Or LucasArts said we could go 4,000 years back, which is a period that's hardly been covered before."[9] BioWare chose to set the game four thousand years before the films as it gave them greater creative freedom.[9] They aimed to create content similar to that from the films but different enough to be a definite precursor.[10] Concept work had to be sent to "the ranch" to be approved for use. Muzyka noted that very little of their content was rejected: "It was more like, 'Can you just make his head like this rather than like that.' So it was all very feasible. There were good suggestions made and they made the game better, so we were happy to do them. It was a good process really and I think we were pleasantly surprised how easy LucasArts was to work with."[9] Zeschuk said that "Overall, we were really happy with the results. We felt like we had enough freedom to truly create something wonderful."[10]

Gallo said that BioWare and LucasArts were aiming for a gameplay time of around sixty hours: "Baldur's Gate was 100 hours of gameplay or more. Baldur's Gate 2 was 200 hours, and the critical-path play through Baldur's Gate 2 was 75 hours... We're talking smaller than that [for Knights of the Old Republic], dramatically, but even if it's 60 percent smaller, then it's still 100 hours. So our goal for gameplay time is 60 hours. We have so many areas that we're building--worlds, spaceships, things like that to explore--so we have a ton of gameplay."[7]

Project director Casey Hudson said that one of the greatest achievements and one of the greatest risks was the combat system. "We wanted to create something that combined the strategic aspects of our Baldur's Gate series and Neverwinter Nights but which presented it through fast, cinematic 3D action," Hudson said. "That required us to make something that hadn't really been done before."[10] The developers intended to make the game have more open-ended gameplay. Gallo compared some situations to Deus Ex: "You have several ways to get through an area and you might need a character who has a specific skill to do that."[7]

Technical

LucasArts and BioWare settled on developing Knights of the Old Republic for the PC and Xbox. The Xbox was chosen over other consoles because of BioWare's background of developing PC games and greater familiarity with the Xbox than other consoles: "We could do the things we wanted to do on the Xbox without as much effort as we'd need to do it on the PS2 or GameCube," Gallo said.[7] Other factors included the console's recent success and the opportunity to release one of the Xbox's first RPGs.[7] BioWare had previously developed MDK2 for the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2. Hudson said that "Having experience in developing for other consoles gave us the proper mindset for implementing this game on the Xbox, and, by comparison, the Xbox was relatively easy to develop for."[10]

Hudson did, however, note that there were some challenges during development. One of the difficulties was in deciding how much graphical detail to provide. "Since our games generally have a lot of AI and scripting, numerous character models, and huge environments, we stress the hardware in a very different way than most games," Hudson said.[10] This made it difficult to predict how well the game would run.[10] The game uses the Odyssey Engine, based on the Aurora Engine (previously developed by BioWare for use in Neverwinter Nights) but completely rewritten for Knights of the Old Republic.[7] It was highly detailed for its time: grass waves in the wind, dust blows across Tatooine and puffs of sand rise as the player walks across the seabed.[9]

Hudson noted that the differences between consoles and PCs mean that the graphics would have to be modified. "You typically play console games on a TV across the room while PC games are played on a monitor only inches away."[10] Console games put effort into close-up action and overall render quality; PC games emphasize what can be done with high resolutions and super-sharp textures. Hudson also noted that the difference between a game controller and mouse-and-keyboard setup influenced some design decisions.[10] The PC version features an extra location the player can visit and more NPCs, items and weapons; these additions were later made available on the Xbox version through Xbox Live. The PC version supports higher display resolutions (up to 1600x1200) and has higher-resolution textures.[11]

Sound

Edward Asner is one of many actors to lend their voice to the game.

While the main game, graphics engine and story were developed by BioWare, LucasArts worked on the game's audio.[7] Knights of the Old Republic contains three hundred different characters and fifteen thousand lines of speech. "One complete copy of the Knights of the Old Republic script fills up 10 5-inch binders," voice department manager Darragh O'Farrell noted.[12] A cast of around a hundred voice actors, including Ed Asner, Raphael Sbarge, Ethan Phillips, Jennifer Hale, and Phil LaMarr was assembled. "Fortunately, with a game this size, it's easy to have an actor play a few different characters and scatter those parts throughout the game so you'll never notice it's the same actor you heard earlier," O'Farrell said.[12]

Voice production started six months before the game's beta release. The voice production team were given the script 90% complete to work with. "There were a few changes made during recording, but most of the remaining 10 percent will be dealt with in our pickup session," O'Farrell said, "The pickup session is right at the end of the project, where we catch performance issues, tutorial lines, verbal hints, and anything else that we might have overlooked."[12] A game the size of Knights of the Old Republic would typically take seven weeks to record; two weeks of recording all-day and all-night meant LucasArts were able to record all voices in five weeks. Actors were recorded one at a time, as the non-linear nature of the game meant it was too complicated and expensive to record more than one actor at a time.[12]

Most of the dialogue recorded was spoken in Galactic Basic (English); however, around a tenth of the script was written in Huttese. Mike Gallo used Ben Burtt's Star Wars: Galactic Phrase Book & Travel Guide to translate English into Huttese. "The key to recording alien dialogue is casting the right actor for the part," O'Farrell said, "Over the years I've had actors take to Huttese like a fish to water, but the opposite is also true. In the past I've had to line-read (when an actor copies my performance) 150-plus Huttese lines to an actor in order to make it work."[12]

Award-winning composer Jeremy Soule was signed to compose the game's score.[13] "It will be a Star Wars score, but it will all be original, and probably the things that will remain will be the force themes and things like that," Gallo said.[7] Soule was unable to write a full orchestral score for Knights of the Old Republic due to technical limitations: "At the time we only had an 8 megabit per second MIDI system. That was state of the art... I had to fool people into thinking they were hearing a full orchestra. I’d write woodwinds and drums, or woodwinds, horns and drums, or strings and drums and brass. I couldn’t run the whole orchestra at once, it was impossible."[13]

Release

When announced at E3 2001, Knights of the Old Republic was originally scheduled for a late 2002 release.[6] In August 2002 it was announced on the game's forums that its release had been delayed: the Xbox version was to be released in spring 2003 and the PC version in summer 2003.[14] A further delay was announced in January 2003, with both versions of the game expected to be released in fall 2003.[15] Zeschuk attributed the delay to BioWare's focus on quality: "Our goal is to always deliver a top-notch gameplay experience, and sometimes it can be very difficult to excel in all areas. We keep working on tackling each individual issue until we feel we've accomplished something special."[10]

The Xbox version of Knights of the Old Republic went gold on July 9, 2003 with a release date of July 16.[16] It sold 250,000 copies in the first four days of its release, making Knights of the Old Republic the fastest-selling Xbox title at the time of its release.[17] Following the game's release, it was announced that free downloadable content would be available through Xbox Live at the end of the year.[18] The PC version of the game went gold on November 11, 2003 and was released on November 18.[19] It was re-released as part of the Star Wars: The Best of PC collection in 2006.[20]

Reception

 Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 94/100[21]
Metacritic 93/100[22]
MobyGames 94/100[23]
Review scores
Publication Score
Computer and Video Games 9/10[24]
Eurogamer 9/10[25]
Game Informer 9.5/10[26]
GamePro 4.5/5[27]
GameSpot 9.1/10[28]
GameSpy 5/5[29]
IGN 9.5/10[30]

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic received strong praise, along with high critical acclaim. KotOR won numerous awards, including Game Developers Choice Awards' game of the year, BAFTA Games Awards' best Xbox game of the year, and Interactive Achievement Awards for best console RPG and best computer RPG.[31]

KotOR has seen success as the game of the year from many sources including IGN, GameSpot, Computer Gaming World, PC Gamer, GMR Magazine, The Game Developers Choice Awards, Xbox Magazine, and G4.[31] According to the review aggregator Metacritic the PC version received an average score of 93 based on 33 reviews.[32] Interactive Achievement Awards awarded it for Best Story and Best Character Development.[31] IGN gave KotOR additional awards in Best Sound (Xbox category), Best Story (PC category), Xbox RPG Game of the Year 2003, PC RPG Game of the Year 2003, Xbox Game of the Year 2003, PC Game of the Year 2003, and Overall Game of the Year 2003 across all platforms. In 2007, IGN listed it at #27 on its list of the Top 100 Games of All-Time.[33]

At the 2004 Game Developers Choice Awards, HK-47 won the category of "Original Game Character of the Year".[34] In 2007, the plot twist in KotOR was ranked number two in Game Informer's list of the top ten video game plot twists of all time[35] and number 10 on Screwattack's "Top 10 OMGWTF Moments".[36]

The game is also part of The Xbox Platinum Series/Classics for sales in excess of 1 million units.[37]

The Los Angeles Times listed Knights of the Old Republic as one of the most influential works of the Star Wars Expanded Universe.[38]

Some criticisms of the game include extensive back-tracking. That is, the player has to make frequent, time-consuming, in-game trips back to a previous locations along passages that have already been explored and cleared. Also, frame rate issues pop up from time to time.[39]

References

  1. ^ "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - Game Detail Page". Xbox.com. http://www.xbox.com/en-US/games/s/starwarsknightsofoldrepublic/default.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-14.  
  2. ^ Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords Developer Interview 2. GameSpot. 2004-05-08. http://www.gamespot.com/video/920194/6096604/star-wars-knights-of-the-old-republic-ii-the-sith-lords-developer-interview-2. Retrieved 2007-08-22.  
  3. ^ Jeremy Soule's official website
  4. ^ a b IGN staff. "Star Wars RPG Announced". IGN. http://pc.ign.com/articles/082/082553p1.html. Retrieved 2009-07-05.  
  5. ^ IGN staff. "First-Ever Star Wars RPG". IGN. http://ps2.ign.com/articles/082/082574p1.html. Retrieved 2009-07-05.  
  6. ^ a b Ajami, Amer. "E3 2001: LucasArts unveils BioWare RPG". GameSpot. http://gamespot.com/pc/rpg/starwarsknightsoftor/news.html?sid=2762052&mode=all. Retrieved 2009-07-05.  
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h GameSpot staff. "Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic Q&A (Mar 6, 2002)". GameSpot. http://gamespot.com/xbox/rpg/starwarsknightsoftor/news.html?sid=2852907&mode=all. Retrieved 2009-07-06.  
  8. ^ Bishop, Stuart. "Interview: Knights fever". ComputerAndVideoGames.com. http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=90074. Retrieved 2009-07-09.  
  9. ^ a b c d Bishop, Stuart. "Interview: Bump in the Old Republic Knights". ComputerAndVideoGames.com. http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=83466. Retrieved 2009-07-06.  
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i GameSpot staff. "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Q&A (Oct 28, 2003)". GameSpot. http://gamespot.com/pc/rpg/starwarsknightsoftor/news.html?sid=6077401&mode=all. Retrieved 2009-07-06.  
  11. ^ Bishop, Stuart. "Interview: Bioware's PC Knights exposed!". ComputerAndVideoGames.com. http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=97355. Retrieved 2009-08-26.  
  12. ^ a b c d e "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Q&A (Apr 23, 2003)". GameSpot. http://gamespot.com/xbox/rpg/starwarsknightsoftor/news.html?sid=6025565&mode=all. Retrieved 2009-07-07.  
  13. ^ a b "Interview with composer Jeremy Soule at PLAY! San Jose". Music 4 Games. http://www.music4games.net/Features_Display.aspx?id=145. Retrieved 2009-07-07.  
  14. ^ Parker, Sam. "Knights of the Old Republic delayed". GameSpot. http://gamespot.com/pc/rpg/starwarsknightsoftor/news.html?sid=2877085&mode=all. Retrieved 2009-08-26.  
  15. ^ Sulic, Ivan. "The Republic Gets Older". IGN. http://pc.ign.com/articles/384/384147p1.html. Retrieved 2009-08-26.  
  16. ^ Parker, Sam. "Knights of the Old Republic goes gold". GameSpot. http://gamespot.com/xbox/rpg/starwarsknightsoftor/news.html?sid=6071224&mode=all. Retrieved 2009-08-26.  
  17. ^ "KOTOR breaks sales record on Xbox". ComputerAndVideoGames.com. http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=94652. Retrieved 2009-08-26.  
  18. ^ "KOTOR Xbox live downloads - new details". ComputerAndVideoGames.com. http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=94319. Retrieved 2009-08-26.  
  19. ^ Thorsen, Tor. "PC Knights of the Old Republic golden". GameSpot. http://gamespot.com/pc/rpg/starwarsknightsoftor/news.html?sid=6081750&mode=all. Retrieved 2009-08-26.  
  20. ^ Sinclair, Brendan. "Star Wars gets bundled". GameSpot. http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/jediknight2jedioutcast/news.html?sid=6161767. Retrieved 2007-06-20.  
  21. ^ "GameRankings KOTOR". GameRankings. http://www.gamerankings.com/xbox/556553-star-wars-knights-of-the-old-republic/index.html. Retrieved 2009-04-10.  
  22. ^ "Metacritic Rankings". Metacritc. http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/xbx/starwarsknightsoftheoldrepublic?q=Star%20Wars:%20Knights%20of%20the%20Old%20Republic. Retrieved 2009-04-10.  
  23. ^ "MobyGames KOTOR ranking". MobyGames. http://www.mobygames.com/game/xbox/star-wars-knights-of-the-old-republic. Retrieved 2009-04-10.  
  24. ^ "CVG KOTOR review". ComputerandVideoGames. http://www.computerandvideogames.com/game.php?id=3928. Retrieved 2009-04-10.  
  25. ^ Gillen, Kieron. "EuroG KOTOR Review". EuroGamer. http://www.eurogamer.net/game/star-wars-knights-of-the-old-republic-xbox. Retrieved 2009-04-10.  
  26. ^ Reiner, Andrew. "GI KOTOR review". GameInformer. http://gameinformer.com/Games/Review/200308/R03.0807.1553.50172.htm?CS_pid=210172. Retrieved 2009-04-10.  
  27. ^ Fox, Fennec. "GamePro KOTOR review". Gamepro. http://www.gamepro.com/article/reviews/30205/star-wars-knights-of-the-old-republic/. Retrieved 2009-04-10.  
  28. ^ Kasavin, Gref. "Gamespot KOTOR review". Gamespot. http://www.gamespot.com/xbox/rpg/starwarsknightsoftor/index.html?tag=result;title;. Retrieved 2009-04-10.  
  29. ^ Padilla, Raymond. "GameSpy KOTOR review". GameSpy. http://xbox.gamespy.com/xbox/star-wars-knights-of-the-old-republic/6028p1.html. Retrieved 2009-04-10.  
  30. ^ Boulding, Aaron. "IGN KOTOR review". IGN. http://xbox.ign.com/articles/428/428645p1.html. Retrieved 2009-04-10.  
  31. ^ a b c "Critical Acclaim". BioWare. http://www.bioware.com/games/knights_old_republic/awards/#rpg. Retrieved 2007-03-30.  
  32. ^ "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (pc: 2003): Reviews". Metacritic. http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/starwarsknightsoftheoldrepublic. Retrieved 2009-02-22.  
  33. ^ "Top 100 Games of All Time". IGN. http://top100.ign.com/2007/ign_top_game_27.html. Retrieved 2008-03-06.  
  34. ^ Inside the 2004 Game Developers Conference - Event Coverage
  35. ^ Game Informer Issue #168 April, 2007
  36. ^ http://www.gametrailers.com/player/36111.html
  37. ^ "Xbox.com Platinum Hits: Adventure/Role-Playing Games(RPGs)". http://www.xbox.com/en-US/games/platinumhits/adventurerpg.htm. Retrieved 2007-10-26.  
  38. ^ "Star Wars' expanded universe". Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/movies/la-starwars-expanded-2008-pg,0,6986243.photogallery?index=8. Retrieved 2008-05-07.  
  39. ^ Byrne, Edward (2004). Game Level Design. Charles River Media. pp. 117. ISBN 1584503696.  —interview with Harvey Smith

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