Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords is one of the most anticipated role-playing games of the year. It also has some awfully big shoes to fill, because the original Knights of the Old Republic was a critically acclaimed game. To work on the sequel, LucasArts and BioWare, the developer of the original, turned to Obsidian Entertainment, which is composed of veterans of Black Isle's Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment teams. While the Xbox version of Knights of the Old Republic II shipped late last year, the PC version is currently in the final stages of development. To get the details, we caught up with producer Mike Gallo.
GameSpot: For PC fans who aren't familiar with the Xbox version of KOTOR II, tell us a bit about the game. What's new compared with the original? How long after the previous game does the sequel take place? Will we see any familiar faces in it?
Mike Gallo: The game takes place about five years after the first game, which is still roughly 4,000 years before the time frame of the movies. There are hundreds of new characters the player can interact with and of course an all-new epic storyline. We will have some returning characters who can join your party, such as T3-M4, but we will also have some cameos from KOTOR characters.
GS: The PC and Xbox versions of the game were originally scheduled to ship together, but then the PC version was delayed to 2005. What happened?
MG: At E3 2004, we made the official KOTOR II announcement and went out with a February 2005 ship date for both the Xbox and PC versions. After E3, we had the opportunity to pull in the domestic Xbox ship date to December and decided to keep the release dates of the PC and international versions as we had originally announced. Keeping the PC launch in February 2005 gave us the time we needed to translate all the voice and text for the PC and international versions.
GS: The Xbox version of the game is already out, so what's being done with the PC version? What sorts of additions and improvements can we expect to see in the PC version?
MG: We have resized the interfaces so they will now look right when playing at resolutions up to 1600x1200. We also have high-res textures and other high-end graphics-card features that are enabled. The game really shines on the PC in those areas.
GS: The original game had one of the best stories to grace an RPG in years. Looking back, how did you go about following it up? What kinds of challenges did that involve?
MG: Following up a game like KOTOR is tough, especially when the awards for that game came pouring in. We actually started in the same place on KOTOR II--with a list of "Star Wars" things that needed to be in the game to make it feel like it was part of the universe. We also wanted a darker storyline, and the team at Obsidian Entertainment was able to craft a great story with some memorable characters. Those two things were our top goals from the day we started.
Use the Force
GS: Obviously, in a game about Jedi knights, melee combat will play a central role. But was there an attempt to make ranged weapons more effective in the sequel?
MG: There were some rule changes to make ranged weapons more effective and also to encourage people to use them more often. It was really a bit of a balance issue, but it was one of those things that we had a lot of feedback on from QA and from the forums.
GS: We know that moral decisions play a greater role in the game, and not just in determining whether you lean toward the light side of the Force or the dark side. Tell us about why this decision was made and how it impacts the gameplay.
MG: The dark and light aspects of the first game were big hooks for players, and we wanted to expand on them for the sequel. One of the things we did was make them have an effect on the people around you--your party members. We think this worked really well this time around, and so far it's been received very well by the fans.
GS: Tell us about the new Force powers and Jedi abilities in the sequel. Were any of them tweaked in the PC version based on feedback on the Xbox version?
MG: We've added more than 60 new feats and Force powers in KOTOR II. All the powers and feats were rebalanced for the sequel, and most of that work was completed in October and November.
GS: Were there any other aspects of the game that were tweaked or modified for the PC, such as the level cap?
MG: We didn't adjust much in the PC version of the game, because once you start changing certain things, you have the potential for breaking something else that was working fine. We were careful about any changes or adjustments in the PC version.
GS: We don't want you to spoil anything, but were there any cool or interesting features or ideas that didn't make it into the final cut?
MG: There are some things, but I don't really want to go into them. Mainly because we don't want people to be disappointed about something that we cut, and because you never know where or when those things might show up again.
GS: Is there anything else you'd like to add about Knights of the Old Republic II for the PC, or about both versions of the game in general? Any thoughts on where a potential Knights of the Old Republic III could go?
MG: I can't really say anything about a sequel, other than that we definitely recognize the Knights of the Old Republic series as a strong franchise. But we've just signed off on the PC version of Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, so you can expect to see it on store shelves February 10!
GS: Thanks, Mike.