Chris Avellone talks about KOTOR 2 and life in the industry

(Part 2 of 2)

In Part Two of Winterwind's interview with Chris Avellone, we turn our attention to his current game, Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords, which is being developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by LucasArts and is slated for a February 2005 release.

Chris Avellone: In opening, if it’s cool, I wanted to introduce the members of our design team at Obsidian who are working on KOTOR 2 : Ferret Baudoin (Black Isle, formerly Van Buren and Jefferson), Michael Chu (Worlds of Warcraft), Kevin Saunders (C&C: Zero Hour, Shattered Galaxy), Scotty Everts (every Black Isle game ever made), and John Morgan (first project, but willing to suffer for his art).

WW: Article after article mentions that the main character in KOTOR2 will have amnesia or will be blacked out and therefore can’t know what has happened to him during that time. You said in a post on the Obsidian message boards that memory loss isn’t the case, which doesn’t technically include blacking out. So, one last time, what’s really going on, and why does the press for this game consistently get it wrong?

MCA: The main character doesn’t have amnesia, but he isn’t sure where he wakes up or what’s going on when he’s back on his feet at the start of the game. So it’s understandable why some game sites have printed it. What we really wanted to do was have the main character have amnesia, be the chosen one, wake up in a prison, and emerge into a grim, dark world. One of those is true.

WW: Another fun mix up is the number of planets (or should I say worlds) you visit. Five and seven have both been reported; which is it?

MCA: Seven, although each world contains a number of sub-locations that aren’t necessarily the world itself, if that makes any sense. If it doesn’t make sense, well, imagine if you will a common apple pie. Cut the pie into slices. Put one piece of pie on a plate, then watch the plate take off and orbit the table. Is it still all one pie?

These are the questions Chris Parker, our producer, both asks and answers on a regular basis.

WW: Can we expect Peragus to be closer to Taris or the Endar Spire in terms of how involved you get there, and will that count as one of the worlds/planets in the game?

MCA: Peragus is in-between the two; it’s not as fast-paced as the Endar Spire – it’s more like a building mystery, trying to figure out what happened and why, introducing the major problems (and minor ones), etc, etc. At a certain point, however, the action builds considerably. Peragus does count as one of the worlds in the game, but as mentioned above, there will be sub-locations that aren’t really the world itself.

WW: Game length seems to be a concern with the community after previews seemed to indicate K2 will be roughly the same length as KOTOR, a game many felt was a bit too short (a problem they were counting on the sequel to fix). Where do you currently foresee K2’s game length to be compared to KOTOR, and if about the same, would you like to justify that to some of your critics?

MCA: Right now, I’m guessing it’ll probably be a bit longer, but I can’t say exactly at this time. Peragus is long, but it’s not the same length as Taris, for example.

WW: Something a lot of people disliked about KOTOR was its endings. While they were pretty vague, giving you more freedom in K2, will the endings be more fulfilling to the player this time around and reflect what you’ve done in the game? Besides for just which side of the force you align yourself with.

MCA: The current game mechanic we’re playing around for the endings with is something similar to Fallout, but it will be presented a little differently. I can’t guarantee it will work in the game, however, but cross your fingers.

WW: In one of the articles about K2, it stated that each NPC will be getting a special ability. It mentions Atton as an example and stated he couldn’t be knocked out, preventing the “game over” screen. This strikes me as you can’t lose with him in your party. Can you better explain his ability, as it stands now?

MCA: Atton’s power only works if he’s not the last man standing. If he is and he’s knocked out, game over. That’s one of his special abilities – the other ability is that whatever he says is usually wrong. He’s like an inverse barometer. He probably also has some dark past involving some alien STD, but no confirmation on that.


WW: In a recent preview it says you'll have 10 NPCs to choose from, but it also says that you will get different ones depending if your LS, DS, male, female, etc. So does that mean there are more than 10 NPCs, but depending on your character, only 10 of them will be available to join you a game?

MCA: Currently, there are more than 10 CNPCs (currently, this may be scaled back), and you can choose between the 10 for which ones you want in your party again depending on your sex and your light side and dark side total at certain points in the game.

WW: KOTOR touched on same sex romances in a responsible way, but stopped short of the lengths other romance options went. Will this be furthered in K2?

MCA: Nope. I don’t have a problem with it, but it never struck me as part of the Star Wars genre, and it’s not my playground to dictate things like that. If it was Fallout 1 or 2, I wouldn’t care.

WW: It was stated in a recent Gamespy preview that K2 “will have a twist the equal of and possibly more spectacular than the one that graced the first game.” After that and the big twist in KOTOR1, is it a difficult task to think of a way to surprise people when they seem to be trying to guess the plot twist already. A sort of “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me?”

MCA: We’re just trying to make a fun game with a cool story, not deliver a surprise. I guess you could call that the surprise. So enough with the shaming and the fools already.

WW: It is well known that conversations you have early on in K2 will have an impact on the game. What is not known is how much those conversations can change the game. Will conversation about Revan’s romances take place, and will the conversations in general affect the quests you get in a way you regard as “significant?”

MCA: The game changes, and that’s all I’m going to say right now.

WW: A common question on the Obsidian boards tends to be about the chances of seeing new robes and possibly new hilts in the sequel. While we saw a few new robes in the videos, can we expect even more, and varied in color?

MCA: We’ve got the basic Jedi and Sith robes right now, we might have more. There will be new lightsaber colors – hilts are still unconfirmed.

[note: Feargus Urquhart of Obsidian has confirmed the presence of new hilts.]

WW: A common complaint in KOTOR was a lack of character models for aliens. Will we be seeing increased variation in the models for K2?

MCA: We will have new aliens, but the variations will be similar to the first game.

WW: Possibly the number one question asked on the Obsidian boards is whether Bastila will have some role to play in K2 (early dialogue dependent, of course). So how about it, can we expect to have the possibility of seeing Bastila again?

MCA: We can’t comment on that at this time.

WW: In closing, aren’t you just a little sick of hearing people say “That White Haired Chick?” Any chance of you guys re-releasing that NPC’s name, or at least giving us something catchier?

MCA: I never get sick of hearing people say that “white-haired chick,” because it has a certain ring to it. I imagine you guys shouldn’t have to wait too much longer for a name. Besides, what’s in a name? Real computer game characters never really need a name anyway.

WW: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us and answer some common questions.

Winterwind would like to thank Chris Avellone of Obsidian Entertainment for taking the time to talk to us. We would also like to extend our gratitude to LucasArts and its PR department for their help through this process.

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Part 1 is available here