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July 17th, 2017, 08:34
Gamasutra looks back at a Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic postmortem from 2003.

The article "Combat System Development on BioWare's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" initially appeared in the December 2003 issue of Game Developer magazine.

CASEY HUDSON | Casey was producer and project director on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

RAY MUZYKA | Ray was joint-CEO of BioWare Corp. and was executive producer of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

JAMES OHLEN | James was the lead designer of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

GREG ZESCHUK | Greg was joint-CEO of BioWare Corp. and was executive producer of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Many of the design decisions made, and project management methodologies used at BioWare during the development of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) were built on the experience of our exceptional staff from our past projects such as Baldur's Gate 1 and 2, Neverwinter Nights, and MDK2. We set our high goals for the combat system: first, we wanted our system to leverage the fun of BioWare's past RPGs and the experience we gained from them. In addition, the combat system needed to look as exciting as the battles in the Star Wars movies. Finally, the combat system and the game in general had to feature an interface that was very accessible; we wanted any player who likes Star Wars, likes playing Xbox or PC games, or likes console or PC RPGs, to have fun with the combat techniques in KOTOR.
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July 17th, 2017, 10:06
KotOR was the first step from Bioware towards major streamlining and appealing to the mainstream.

In my opinion, it's also an incredibly successful hybrid - and ultimately ended up being my favorite Bioware game of all time.

Then again, I don't necessarily consider mainstream concessions the "bane of all gaming" - as it really depends on the execution, and how much of the vision the developers manage to preserve, despite these very necessary and inevitable compromises.

Yes, when you need the support of suits with pockets full of cash - they're necessary. There's absolutely no way around that.

However, their next game (Jade Empire) took things too far - and represents the worst Bioware game I've ever played.

I think that's an interesting state of affairs - and something that supports the notion of how games aren't automatically good if they're "hardcore" or bad if they're "mainstream". It also supports how developers don't suddenly become "all bad" - and cutting them some slack can end up being a very good thing for yourself, as a gamer.

A lot of people could stand to think a little more in terms of the bigger picture - and a little less in terms of using principles of limited nuance to guide their opinions.

It's all about execution and implementation - and sometimes the best games can come from the people you would least expect them to come from.

Of course, all of that is merely my point of view - and my opinion. Nothing more, and nothing less.
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July 17th, 2017, 10:29
Although I loved KOTOR and still think it's an excellent game, to call it the best Bioware game ever is blasphemy and will not be tolerated Dart. That position belongs to BG2. Not an opinion, just stating facts.
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July 17th, 2017, 10:31
Originally Posted by tomasp3n View Post
Although I loved KOTOR and still think it's an excellent game, to call it the best Bioware game ever is blasphemy and will not be tolerated Dart. That position belongs to BG2. Not an opinion, just stating facts.
Didn't really care for the direction of BG2. It felt much too linear - and much less about freeform PnP gaming than BG1 did

Never came close to finishing it, though. I've always been curious to check out the writing - to see if it was really THAT good.
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July 17th, 2017, 12:07
How much better would Kotor have been if it was a pc only title? Dreams are free and it still turned out a decent good game. I would of loved it to have the depth of mechanics of bg2 but I guess thats not mainstream enough.
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July 17th, 2017, 12:13
Originally Posted by Silver View Post
How much better would Kotor have been if it was a pc only title? Dreams are free and it still turned out a decent good game. I would of loved it to have the depth of mechanics of bg2 but I guess thats not mainstream enough.
Depends on what you enjoyed about it.

I personally didn't care much for the combat system - but it worked well enough, and there was ample opportunity to experiment with a variety of playstyles, which is really what I enjoy most about combat.

I also prefer DnD 3.0 (which the Star Wars ruleset was losely based on) to the 2nd Edition AD&D rules of BG2.

However, there's no getting around BG2 combat was much better in a tactical sense - and in terms of meaningful challenge.

KotOR would have been better with such a combat system - but I honestly don't think it would have changed my experience with the game THAT much, because my own personal enjoyment was much more about the perfect Star Wars setting and excellent romantic fantasy narrative - and the fantastic character/loot systems.

Also, I really enjoyed their take on hacking and computer interaction. Those aspects could have been deeper, but Bioware has never made another game with that feature, except Mass Effect which was super shallow in comparison. I also found the planetary locations (and the end location) to be among the best of any RPG in terms of variety and distinct visual assets.

So, it's hard to say how it would have worked with a less mainstream approach. But it's almost certain that it would have been less cinematic and feature inferior production values. I think those aspects of the game were pretty important to the KotOR experience.

Stuff like fully voiced NPCs could have been cut - and I'm sure the game would have been less grandiose if they had to market to a much smaller segment of the audience.

On the upside, the game might have had a much better interface and sense of control if they didn't have to develop for consoles.

That said, I actually think the KotOR PC version is superior to all subsequent Bioware games in terms of interface and controls. With the possible exception of Dragon Age: Origins.
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July 17th, 2017, 12:58
This game vs another game… Better, worse, whatever. Who cares? Why is Jade Empire even mentioned, it was shut down completely after the first game.

Kotor was awsome, Kotor 2 was awsome, then EA decided it's time to screw fans and force them to switch into MMO. A fan of a singleplayer suddenly had to flush their taste down to toilet and become EA's drone.
Instead of getting awsome Kotor 3 we got a turd, some people did go MMO, but sorry, even if Bach and Vivaldi were alive and turned into Bieber's composers, I'd call their new dumbed down, worthless yet better in earning $ compositions: bullshit.

Here's hope someone dares to buy Bioware from EA and make it back into one of the strongest RPG developers they once were. Lemme remind you that the biggest player when it comes to gaming industry, Tencent, still doesn't own a RPG developing studio.
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July 17th, 2017, 12:58
@NewDArt
I liked the world design, characters, writing and the Star Wars feel of the game. The combat didn't work for me and I was disappointed with the smallness of the worlds.

A straight up bg2 approach would work for me. The kotor cinematic conversation style is more appropriate however.

A tactical camera panning option for battles, like Dragon Age 1, that can go into third person cam for exploration would be the best option in terms of retaining the cinematic feel without sacrificing tactical depth.
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July 17th, 2017, 13:45
To me it was the weakest BW game, and by a considerable margin ( yes, even including DA II).
I did play it late though, some time after ME II… by then their classic main story template ( Prologue->Player is the Chosen one->Storyline splits into three arcs to recover/gain 3 x to stop the Evil one(s)->Betrayal->Final act) was already overdone.

I saw it as ( mechanically clumsy) middle ground/transition between crpgs and more cinematic arpgs, but without real strengths of either…and both DA/ME did much, much more in investing the player in their worlds and lore.

Writing lacked nuance ( especially dialogue flow), interesting themes( except on few occasions, like with Jolee), strong char development ( Bastilla's fall, non present villain, protagonist personality ( or lack of it, despite very strong background)), sometimes fourth wall breaking ( from the start, introduction of classes to the player) and "evil/Sith" options were more often than not outright comical. The game clearly was centered around good as default path, it would not even make sense otherwise.

What stood out was the "plot twist" ( this was no " I see dead people" foreshadowing…something pretty obvious past few dream sequences), only two or three well written characters ( Jolee and HK for comedy factor, perhaps Juhani for female player) and a couple of interesting side quests ( like the Jedi trial).

For Combat I remember it as some of the weakest out of any rpg: no challenge past first act, characters doing bizarre automatic flips to simulate "action" in between attack pauses… essentially, click on things until they die.

On "rpg part", skills were mostly trivial and it offered very limited char development ( clear superior options, little value of stats past basic passive bonuses, choices had little impact ( in comparison with intersection of some of the arcs in DA Origins, player prologues, companions, different epilogues, race/history checks, etc).

Loot, crafting/upgrade system? Can't even remember, did it have anything like BG/NWN style of uniques/artifacts with interesting properties tied to history/lore?

To me, KotoR was a game more impressive in a few dramatic moments than it's
structure, mechanics, world or storytelling.
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July 17th, 2017, 14:03
Originally Posted by BoboTheMighty View Post
did it have anything like BG/NWN style
No, NWN Tomi "I have to rush on everything and die" AI didn't exist.
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July 17th, 2017, 14:05
Originally Posted by Silver View Post
@NewDArt
I liked the world design, characters, writing and the Star Wars feel of the game. The combat didn't work for me and I was disappointed with the smallness of the worlds.

A straight up bg2 approach would work for me. The kotor cinematic conversation style is more appropriate however.

A tactical camera panning option for battles, like Dragon Age 1, that can go into third person cam for exploration would be the best option in terms of retaining the cinematic feel without sacrificing tactical depth.
That might work well for me as well, but - again - it would depend on what they would have to sacrifice to achieve it.

Note that I don't want them to sacrifice anything - and I prefer a "hardcore" approach to game design. It's just that I'd rather have the best version when subject to the reality of the publisher model - and I'm far from certain that KotOR would have been better - overall - without what I assume must have been a pretty significant budget back then.
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July 17th, 2017, 15:14
I haven't hit up the post-mortem yet, so just commenting on the comments

I LOVE KotOR, already re-played it this year. For me, KotOR and BG2 are the pinnacle of my Bioware love, with NWN and DA behind them. When Jade Empire released for iPad I made my comments on how that port reminded me of the issues I had with the game.

But yeah, there are definitely things going on that end up almost as 'Bioware Tropes' … oh well, I love them anyway
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July 17th, 2017, 18:22
KotOR is a "good" game but has always been vastly overrated imo. Take away the Star Wars trappings and it's a very average RPG at best.

And yeah, it was definitely held back by being an Xbox title.. there's zero doubt about that. You can clearly see it in the level design.

Like Silver, I'll always wonder what it could have been like if it was a PC-first title.
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July 17th, 2017, 18:33
I agree the levels didn't meet the quality standard of other RPGs in terms of size - and especially not in terms of non-linear exploration.

They were, basically, corridors.

In an odd way, I think that helped the flow of the game somewhat - because you didn't spend a whole lot of time scouring empty planes like you so often do in RPGs.

For instance, if you contrast the KotOR version of Tattoine with the SWtOR version - I prefer the KotOR version by a HUGE margin, simply because of how much useless walking/driving there is in the MMO.

But it was too obvious a part of the console memory limitations.

But I think we all understand what a PC-only RPG would have meant in terms of budget and publisher support.
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July 17th, 2017, 18:50
The KotOR games had nice stories and atmosphere, but replaying them a year ago made the poor gameplay mechanics obvious and took alot of the fun away. Still they are classics everybody should have played.
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July 17th, 2017, 19:09
OK, so I read the post-mortem … which was done before the PC release of KotOR, and it shows. Being so close to the game release, I found many of the assessments lack perspective and context and are too much 'inside baseball'.

Honestly, this discussion is much better than the article.
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July 17th, 2017, 19:33
I remember reading online comments praising KotOR repeatedly when the game first came out. And I remember being convinced that "Star Wars" and "RGP" were simply incompatible. But the positive comments kept on, and on, and on…

So I finally tried the game. And loved it.

Loved the characters, their backgrounds and developing stories. Loved the detailed different settings, cities, creatures. Loved the light sabers. Learning about Jedi training. Loved the surprising plot twists.

The game was just a series of surprises, one after another.

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July 18th, 2017, 02:43
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
KotOR is a "good" game but has always been vastly overrated imo. Take away the Star Wars trappings and it's a very average RPG at best.
Yes, the Star Wars sci-fi elements were probably the best aspects of the game. There was a lot of drudgery to the game play, but in places it really shined.
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July 18th, 2017, 04:52
Love the game. What it lacks in density of deep RPG mechanics it makes up for in charm and fun factor, for me.

A great one to get on tablet, too. I played the PC version more but the controls for the touchscreen are exceptional. Last I saw it was a free Amazon Underground title, too.
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