Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KotOR) was released for the Xbox in July 2003 (& later on for the PC in November of the same year) under the licensing permission of LucasArts & under the direction of Casey Hudson, as his first time as head designer for Bioware.
The game was based on the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, which used the D20 system derived from the Dungeons & Dragons table top roleplaying game, with players choosing a class from a predefined list, & then selecting from a set of Skills, & Feats, to represent their characters specialities & preferences within the game. Players also gain experience points for many of their actions, levelling up after accumulating a certain amount, at which point the player would be given a certain number of points to improve their characters attributes & skills, & to gain new feats & abilities.
Under Hudson’s direction, the game came to be very free-roaming, with the player able to choose their characters response to any event or conversation which they encountered, allowing them to pursue the story & even the way they interacted with other member of the party in their own manner of choosing.
The story was also nonlinear as well, with players, after getting to a certain point, being able to do mission quests & events in whichever order they chose to do, rather than a default sequential order as in many other games. This helped to give the player more of a feeling of control over events rather than simply being ‘swept along’.
The game also featured an alignment meter, which tracked the players Light & Daark side levels. This was influenced by how players responded to situations, with diplomatic, peaceful & merciful options resulting in the character gaining Light Side points, & aggressive, violent & merciless actions resulting in Dark Side points. This alignment influenced the way that other characters reacted towards the player character, & even affected certain moments in the story.
KotOR was hailed as a massive success & is still seen by many as the best Star Wars game to be released to date, & with many other nonlinear RPGs with similar elements such as character development & alignment tracking often being compared to KotOR as a measure of quality & success. With this in mind it is surprising to note that the game that was released to the public was almost identical to the concept originally devised by the studio at the beginning, Casey Hudson commented himself “The thing that seems to stand out is that the current game is almost exactly what we envisioned almost three years ago.”, which goes to show that the team managed to produce such an impressive formula on their first attempt.
KotOR has long been a benchmark for quality RPGs for almost ten years now, & will most likely stay as such for many more years to come…