Bioware’s Humble Beginnings
2003 was the year Bioware released Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on PC and the original Xbox. This groundbreaking RPG, set in the Old Republic era of the Star Wars timeline, raised the bar in choice-driven storytelling. Along with the Mass Effect and Dragon Age franchises under their belt, this cemented Bioware as one of the best storytellers in the gaming industry.
Nobody could have foreseen the impact Knights of the Old Republic (KotOR) would have had on the gaming industry, not to mention its legacy within the expanded Star Wars universe. To this day, KotOR, is still regarded as one of the best RPGs ever made and was recently included in VG247.com’s ‘The 50 best RPGs ever’ list.
A lot of has changed in sixteen years. Bioware has had some well-documented problems since the release of Mass Effect Andromeda in 2017. Alex Kane’s insightful book, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, takes us back in time to when Bioware was a much smaller company who were better known for their Dungeons & Dragons RPGs, Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights.
The Creative Brains Behind the Games
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic focuses on the game’s development; from the very first internal discussions at LucasArts in 1999 to the games eventual release in July 2003. Kane collates the experiences of those who were directly involved with KotOR’s production and includes contributions from lead designer James Ohlen, writer Drew Karpyshyn, producers Mike Gallo and Haden Blackman as well as the former LucasArts president Simon Jeffery.
It’s interesting hearing from those at the top who were there when key decisions were made. It’s great that Kane managed to organise the involvement of the content creators and that they were willing to share their many stories and experiences of their time on KotOR.
These first-hand accounts remind us of the human element involved in game production. We’re often told the hard facts of a game i.e. how long a game’s been in development for, how many hours of gameplay, the technical specs, etc. Those of us on the outside of the gaming circle hear very little in the way of the personal experiences of the creative team behind the games we love. We just get to play the end product of many months and years of hard work.
The Layers of Game Design
Each chapter concentrates on a different element of the game and is filled with insider accounts of the behind the scenes decisions that took place. Reading about how some of the game’s characters were developed was a highlight for me, including how HK-47 was named and created.
As well as important creative decisions, we also get to hear about the problems that arose and how these were overcome. One such example is the planet of Sleheyron, that had to be completely omitted from the final release due to the looming release deadline.
Star Wars aside, this book gives an eye-opening account of the game industry and the developmental decisions behind one of the most well-loved games ever. The book is easy to pick up and read and I thoroughly enjoyed reading each page. The only criticism I have is that I was finding it so interesting that I was disappointed when I finished reading the final page. I wanted more! At 128 pages it shouldn’t take you long to read but the content is well-written with no waffle or ‘padding out’ included.
A Worthy Addition to Your Bookshelf / eBook library
KotOR is one of my favourite games and is one of the few games I go back to and revisit every couple of years despite my forever growing games backlog. I found the book a great addition to my love of all things related to The Old Republic. At £5.26 // $4.95 for the eBook version it’s not an expensive purchase. The paperback edition currently retails at £11.51 // $14.95 which for a niche book I don’t think is unreasonable considering the costs involved with printing a physical product compared to the digital edition.
This book is not a guide to playing KotOR and it pretty much assumes the reader has already played and completed the game. Despite this, it does try to be accessible to those who may not have played this gem of a game or those who aren’t ardent Star Wars fans. Chances are if you’re thinking of purchasing and reading the book then you’re probably already a fan of all things KotOR. If this is the case then Alex Kane’s book won’t disappoint you and is worth reading. However, if you’ve never played KotOR, or have a general interest in the history of the now (sadly) defunct LucasArts, the book can still be appreciated and enjoyed.
Alex Kane is a journalist who has written for the likes of Polygon and StarWars.com. Alex kindly took the time to take part in a Q&A session for us to talk about all things The Old Republic, Star Wars and the current state of the gaming industry. Be sure to read In Conversation with Alex Kane brought to you by Ancient Gamer Reviews.
Boss Fight Books | Great Books on Classic Video Games
If you enjoy reading books about video games then you should make sure to check out the other titles published by Boss Fight Books.
There are currently twenty books in the series with another two set for release and available to pre-order.
The selection of games ranges from the hugely successful small indie game Spelunky all the way to Blizzard Entertainment’s unstoppable World of Warcraft. There’s bound to be at least one book that would appeal to every type of gamer out there. Whether you spent your childhood playing Super Mario Bros. 3 or Mega Man 3 on the Nintendo, have fond memories of playing Metal Gear Solid for the first time on the Sony PlayStation or enjoyed the more recent Shovel Knight or Shadow of the Colossus, there’s a game for everyone within their series of books.
Boss Fight Books have been able to produce this excellent collection as a result of successful Kickstarter campaigns. The latest campaign, titled ‘Season 4 – Creator Access Edition’, reached its $10,000 goal with five new books being published. Each book, including Knights of the Old Republic by Alex Kane, contains first-hand accounts from those who worked hard to bring us the games we love to play.
Every book in the collection is available as a DRM-free eBook or in paperback if you’re like me and prefer the feel of real paper between your fingers.
Visit Boss Fight Books to find out more about individual books in the series and for more information on where to purchase them from.
A copy of the book was provided by Alex Kane for the purposes of this review.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means we may earn a small commission at no cost to you if you choose to make a purchase.