Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II

J Marv

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Gamespy posted an interview with Feargus Urquhart, CEO of Obsidian Entertainment, the team developing KOTOR II. Here it is:

GameSpy: The original KotOR had a few homages to the movie and expanded universe characters. Can we expect to see more of that in KotOR II, and will they just be cameos or do any of the major characters have connections to the larger universe?

Feargus Urquhart: We've spent a lot of time and effort trying to use as much of the Star Wars universe as possible in various ways. Hopefully, there will be things that hearken to both the movie lover and the super-hardcore-reads-every-Star-Wars-novel fan. Those kinds of things are all over the game in the naming of the items, to the look of certain areas, to one-liners that are spouted off by many of the characters in the game.  As for the major characters, some have ties to the larger universe, but like the first game, those ties aren't direct because the game is set some 4,000 years before the movies.

GameSpy: The original game included really cool short-bladed lightsabers as a usable weapon, are you planning on including any new twists on the lightsaber this time?

Feargus Urquhart: One of our focuses was to put a lot of effort into the weapon and item upgrade system, so not only will people be able to upgrade the crystals in their lightsabers, they will be able to upgrade the hilt with six different types of upgrades. As well, one of the major quests in the first half of the game is to get your lightsaber. I don't want to reveal too much about the why, but we wanted to make getting your lightsaber an important achievement.


GameSpy: Can you talk a bit about the game's "deconstruction" system? Is it similar to MMO crafting? How will it work and are there items that are only available as "recipes?"

Feargus Urquhart: It's not going to be as complicated as something like in Horizons. When you "deconstruct" things like weapons and armor you get components; while medical supplies, mines, and grenades get you chemicals. You can use the components at work benches to make all types of items, including those you can only get by making things. When it comes to chemicals, you can use them at lab stations to make extra med-packs, thermal detonators, etc…

GameSpy: The original game had a problem in that the Jedi tended to be a bit overpowered -- to the point where players missed some of the storyline because they weren't using all the available characters. How are you changing the game to make sure that all of the player's NPC allies are useful this time around?

Feargus Urquhart: There are a number of things that we've done to keep your other companions interesting throughout the game. Some if it will be a part of the story, while others will be useful in what they can do for you on the Ebon Hawk. What has also turned out be a great way to keep your favorite companions around is that depending on what you do in the game, you can convince many of them to become Jedi. The biggest change was having specific quests in the game where only a certain character or characters can do them -- and those characters are not the PC. So for certain portions of the game, while you character is off doing one branch of the story, a small group of NPCs will be in a party of their own taking care of a different branch.

GameSpy: Why did you decide to make this a single-player-only game? Was a co-op mode ever under consideration?

Feargus Urquhart: We thought about it quite a bit when we were first looking into making KotOR II, however we felt that the game really is centered on the story. If we added multiplayer in with multiple main characters, the story would have started to make less sense and would probably get confusing at times.

GameSpy: Sound was one the strongest parts of the original game, especially the music. What do have lined up for us this time? Who'll be doing the sound effects and composing the score?

Feargus Urquhart: Over an hour of new music was composed by Mark Griskey, a composer for LucasArts who has composed an excellent score for the game. We have also made a large effort to use musical stingers to accentuate dialogues and expanded the engines capabilities with all types of sound to make the audio landscape deeper and more engrossing.

GameSpy: When designing characters and settings for KotOR II, what inspirations and resources have you drawn from? The original movies? The prequels? The first game? The books?

Feargus Urquhart: All of them -- and I do mean all of them. Our lead designer and one of Obsidian's owners, Chris Avellone, set out to read everything. There are books, guides, modules, young adult readers, and graphic novels jammed into our Star Wars cabinet. If I had to pick a couple specific inspirations I would say that other than the KotOR I, we relied a lot on the Knights of the Old Republic graphic novels and the original movies.


GameSpy: Whether the player went Dark or Light Side in the first game should have a huge impact on the universe five years later. You, as the developer, however, won't know. How specifically will you address the problem of not knowing how the player decided to play the first game?

Feargus Urquhart: What we've done is allowed the player to tell the game through dialog, revealing some information about what happened during their play through of the first game, and some key things about Revan. For people who didn't play the first game, they can just say they don't know and the game happily continues after that.

GameSpy: Will we find out what happened to Revan, and will it be different based on how you played the first game?

Feargus Urquhart: Sorry, but we have to keep quiet on this one.

GameSpy: What kind of new character customization options should we expect? Will we be able to play as a race other than human this time, and how will that impact your character's abilities and how the storyline plays out?

Feargus Urquhart: We've stayed with keeping the player human, however, you get to start out as a Jedi and then later on in the game you can choose a new Jedi prestige class to become based upon whether you've traveled the Light or Dark path. Other than that we have added a lot of special abilities that really make each of the classes and companions feel different. On top of that there are more Force powers and feats to get and more levels to move through.

GameSpy: Will the two versions eventually be fundamentally identical?

Feargus Urquhart: Both the PC and Xbox version will be the same in the end; however, we have put in a lot of work on the PC interface. It will now work in multiple resolutions in full screen. That not only includes the menus, but the in-game buttons and graphics as well. So, when you take the resolution all the way up, the interface won't just be smaller in the middle of the screen with a nice border.

GameSpy: Will you have more variety in the building appearance and NPC heads?

Feargus Urquhart: We've really tried to put in all that we can into each of the areas and we are paying for some of that right now. However, were using every trick in the book that we've learned through the years to keep all of those cool things in the levels and not have the Xbox start smoking. I would say that we've increased the number of heads in most of the areas by at least half and hopefully doubled it in others. I think you'll also notice that the areas in KotOR II are a fair amount larger as well.

GameSpy: Will there be a plot twist, and if so, how do you plan on topping the plot twist of the first game?

Feargus Urquhart: We have never set out to make a newer, better, and more improved plot twist. Our goal has always been to craft a story that the player loves and enjoys playing. There will be all sorts of different twists and turns in the story, but we never set out to craft an entire story around making a bigger twist than KotOR, we set about making a story that stood on its own and was as deep and intriguing as KotOR. We think we've done that and hope all the people out there will dig it.


GameSpy: Will KotOR II implement the d20 system in manner different than its predecessor?

Feargus Urquhart: We kept the fundamentals of the d20 system in place and expanded on it as much as possible. As we've balanced the game out, though, there are some divergences from d20 that we introduced to try to make the gameplay better for the player. This is especially evident at very high levels in the game. Did I mention we removed the level cap so you can go above 20? Above level 20 is really where we have made the most significant tweaks to the system.

GameSpy: How have the last game's Jedi classes changed? Will there be any new Jedi classes available?

Feargus Urquhart: We've played around with the Jedi classes to have them feel a little bit more distinct from each other, and like I said above we've added the prestige classes that are going to allow each person to pick a new class dependant on which side of the force they have decided to follow. One of the areas where we have spent a lot of time is to balance the amount of skill points that the different Jedi's get. You'll feel a big difference now between Jedi's when creating them and distributing skill points at each level.

GameSpy: Can you talk about specific Jedi powers new to the sequel?

Feargus Urquhart: There is certainly a whole list of them, plus we've also changed powers from the first game here and there. One of my favorite new powers is Crush Opposition which requires that you are Dark Side to even work and is given free to the Sith Lord class. It disrupts the attention of all of the Dark Jedi's enemies in a pretty large radius around them making them miss more of their attacks and less able to other kinds of powers that the Dark Jedi has. It's a great power to get off early in a fight to be followed up by more target specific powers.

GameSpy: What information can you give regarding the secondary characters?

Feargus Urquhart: We're not talking about all of them yet, however, each of the companions is not only going to have very distinctly different personalities and roles to play in the story, they also each have special abilities that no other character can get.

This game is going to rule all. Your entire party will be affected by your alignment, rather than just one member (other than your main character). Plus you start as a Jedi, meaning you get access to more Force Powers and get further power in them.

I can't wait until February of '05. I hate the stupid XBox.

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Gah, I'm fucking miserable every time I see somthing regarding this game. The original was one of my favorite RPGs of all time, I had to play it twice with both alingments. Then Enrique took the Box to college...

I'm too cheap tp buy another XBox and my computer can't even run the first one, so all I can do is wait till Enrique comes home for the holidays and pray I can get it done before he leaves. The game will own though.

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