Casey Hudson, Producer/Project Director – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - BioWare.
Teresa Cotesta, Public Relations – BioWare.
Can you tell us who you are, and a little about yourself please?
Casey: I’m Casey Hudson, Producer and Project Director of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I started working at BioWare about 5 years ago, as a 3D modeler on Neverwinter Nights. At first I worked on a lot of the prototyping of NWN and later moved to MDK2 to build some levels and do some technical art work. After returning to NWN for some work on the visual effects and combat system, I was presented with the opportunity to be the Producer on this project.
Can you give us a little teaser of the plot of the game?
Teresa: As the first ever Star Wars role-playing game, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is set roughly 4,000 years before the time of the movies. The story takes place shortly after the Republic has won a war against the Mandalorians. At some point during the war however, something twisted the two powerful young Jedi who led the Republic to victory. When they came back from the war, they returned not as saviours, but as conquerors at the helm of an unimaginably large Sith fleet. Darth Malak lost his Master in a battle with the Jedi but the Republic is slowly succumbing to his overwhelming armada of warships. As the game starts off, you must find a powerful female Jedi whose skills in Battle Meditation may give the Republic its only hope for survival.
What genre of RPG is it? How will we see the action? What about fight scenes? How will they play?
Casey: Though it sounds cliché, I really think the gameplay is unique enough that it doesn’t completely fit into existing categories. It’s in 3rd person perspective, so although it looks very much like an action RPG, it plays much more tactical than that. It has explosive-looking combat and effects, but you control your characters more on a strategic level. We really went back to first principles to create the best RPG possible with current technology.
Who is the game aimed at?
Casey: I suppose we had quite a variety of players that we wanted to be able to enjoy the game. There are a lot of people who enjoyed the Baldur’s Gate series and Neverwinter Nights, so we wanted to capture a lot of what made those games really good. As well, with the game being implemented on the Xbox, we wanted fans of console RPGs to be able to have a lot of fun with the game. Finally, we wanted anyone who really enjoyed the magic of the classic Star Wars films to be able to recapture that same feeling while playing this game.
What kind of innovations are we to expect? any new gameplay elements for us innovation-junkies?
Casey: The combat system is definitely an innovative aspect of the game that will be obvious right away. Though it starts out pretty simple, you’ll quickly realize why we designed the system the way we did. It is a unique hybrid of exciting real-time combat with the strategy of a turn-based system. When you’re in a battle with a party of 3 and several tough enemies, you have an amazing range of strategies to use. You’ll find yourself using your party members and their various skills, weapons, and items in surprisingly tactical ways to beat your toughest opponents.
Can we expect much in character development?
Casey: Character development is a huge part of the game. Starting with a character that you create, you can move your character towards that dark or light side with actions you take in the game. You’ll not only learn about your character’s involvement in the story, but you’ll also be able to follow the story arc of each of the 9 party members that you’ll meet in the game. Since they all have full voice acting and substantial individual storylines, their development is quite a compelling part of the game.
Which attributes can the player have?
Casey: As part of character creation, you’ll choose your starting abilities in things like strength and intelligence. There are a huge number of skills, feats, and Force powers for your character to pick up throughout the game. As you gain experience and levels, you’ll have more of these things at your disposal to help you get past various obstacles in the game. Your party members progress in this way also, so you can start to really specialize each character into “experts” in whatever you want them to be good at.
How many types or character are available to you, which are the main differences amongst them?
Casey: One of your choices in character creation is whether you’ll be male or female. Although this won’t affect your ability in combat, it will affect how parts of the story play out. Since there are romances in the game, you’ll find that people respond to you differently when you’re a female as opposed to when you’re male.
You can also determine your starting class, which essentially decides whether you’re the smaller skill-oriented character, the big tough character, or something in between. Beyond that, it’s up to you to choose your starting abilities.
How wide is the world, have you got a main plot and various sub-quests or how is the adventure sorted? Can you complete it in different ways?
Teresa: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic offers you seven different planets to explore and adventure through, as well it has a strong story arc that guides your adventure along. Players have the complete ability to advance the plot in a manner and pace that they find most interesting. That is one of the strengths of the game, you have the option to do as many or as few of the side quests as you like. The Ebon Hawk is your main base from which you have the option to travel to many different planets. This allows you to return to a planet you’ve already visited and complete old quests and possibly pick up new ones.
Depending on your character alignment, the game can be completed in two different ways. The player can choose to play the dark side or the light side, each giving you a different gameplay experience. As well, there are two different endings depending on whether you are a Dark or Light side Jedi. You can be the evil villain that rules the universe, or the hero that saves the galaxy.
Is it hard to create the detailed Star wars universe in a game like this?
Casey: It’s certainly a lot of work – and responsibility. There are hundreds of new concepts for ships, weapons, armor, and creatures in the game, plus all-new types of architecture and geography. All of this had to be designed so that it looked like something you’d expect to see in a great Star Wars movie. We also had a lot of work to do in detailing this part of Star Wars history, and making it both familiar to players and yet new enough to be a compelling time period to explore.
Does this offer little chance for creativity from the team?
Casey: In this case, there was a huge opportunity for creativity from the team. Since we were free to create the most important events in the galaxy during the period of the game, we were able to creatively explore everything from starship designs to political situations in the Republic.
How difficult is it to deal with such a huge franchise? Are you going to concentrate more on the gameplay than trying to achieve 'authenticity'?
Casey: Working with Star Wars is a huge responsibility, but our approach to it is the same as with any BioWare game: the best way to do a good job with the license is simply to make the best game we can. That includes creating a game that’s extremely compelling to play as well as being as faithful as possible to what people love about Star Wars.
What do you feel you personally brought to the project?
Casey: I’m really passionate about games, and about the idea of making something really special for lots of people to play. I also really love Star Wars, and wanted to make something great within the Star Wars universe. I think that kind of excitement and a vision for where we were heading were some of the main things I added to the team. But, anyone who is familiar with game development knows that it’s all about teamwork, and I was really lucky to work with a very talented and motivated group of people. It’s because of their passion and skill that we were able to create a game of this quality and scope.
How much have you enjoyed working with the Star wars universe?
Casey: It’s been great fun. We’ve had the rare opportunity to create part of the history of Star Wars, design new species, and envision entire worlds. Seeing our work woven seamlessly with things that are classic Star Wars material (like talking to a Wookiee aboard the Ebon Hawk) are almost magical moments in developing a game like this.
Thanks for answering our questions... It's been nice chatting with you.