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KOTOR2: The Incompletion Controversy
By Craig Dixon
In 2003, Knights of the Old Republic was released to enthralled fans and critics alike. An engrossing story that rivaled that of the movies, impressive, addictive gameplay, and interesting, deep characters helped to make Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic into the 2003 game of the year. Fast forward to December 2004, and the sequel to the 2003 game of the year is already on the shelves, and flying off of them just as quickly. It seemed like a very short time to develop an epic successor to KOTOR. "How can anyone make a game worthy of the KOTOR title under such a deadline?" was the question being asked by fans and professional game critics alike, the task just didn't seem possible. It was indeed too good to be true.
In December 2004, game reviewers at sites such as IGN and Gamespot, brought a sigh of relief to fans of the series around the world when they reported that the game indeed managed to fill the shoes of its older sibling, despite the fact it was developed by Obsidian this time around instead of Bioware. Not only was it given high marks by numerous reviewers, more recently it was awarded "Game of The Year" by RPG Vault and "RPG of the Year" by RPGDot, in addition to similar awards by other groups. Upon initial release the game sales were quite pleasing for LucasArts...of course that was the intention of the December deadline after all. Booming sales, great ratings, awards...the game must be incredible, right? Not quite. Many gamers have since changed their view on the game upon completion.
Upon reaching the later events of KOTOR2, it becomes clearly evident that the game has suffered greatly from its short time in development. It's been uttered on forums around the internet but no major site has been willing to admit it or say it...LucasArts rushed this game onto shelves for holiday sales before it was ready to be released. The latter part of the game is clearly missing cut scenes, certain subplots and many elements of the main plot are left unresolved, gaping plot holes emerge that are never explained, supporting characters of the player character's party completely disappear from the game, never to appear again, with NO explanation as to where they are (evidence of these issues can be found by clicking on the hyperlinks that are provided at the bottom of the page). Bugs have ruined entire files, many gamers have reported constant crashes, having to restart the game entirely, quests that cannot be completed due to bugs, and a generally poor frame rate. The final cut scene, what some people have called a "cliff hanger" is lacking in even the slightest bit of resolve to be considered a cliff hanger.
Let's take a look at "The Empire Strikes Back", which some people have inaccurately compared the game to. "Empire" was a true cliff hanger, it was an example of masterful story telling, and though it was a cliff hanger even it had some resolve, enough to let you comprehend the story. Luke is rescued from his certain doom and is given a new robotic hand, Leia and Luke look out from aboard a Rebel ship into the galaxy knowing they face more challenges. I won't give away any "spoilers" (if it's possible for this non-ending to have any) but the ending would be comparable to ending "Empire" at the moment when Han is frozen. Complete games, books, movies, or any form of medium that is telling a story simply do not end in such a manner! It's preposterous!
In the past few weeks, problems that have arisen as a result of the game's incomplete state have become more and more evident. Numerous audio clips containing lines of cut dialogue have been found within folders on the game discs, events from the games original script that were cut (such as a more fleshed out ending) have also emerged.
One of the strongest pieces of evidence to support the accusations of the game's incompletion is a sub-plot involving G0T0 and Bao-Dur's remote droid. A conflict arises between the two in a video sequence that was left in game and yet a resolution is never shown on-screen.
According to the development team themselves in a recent interview with RPG Vault "...we had this incredible design for a planet of droids. We actually did the first pass on art and built the character models for the location. But we had to look at the schedule and make a big cut after E3. We cut the entire planet. " Not surprisingly, it was a planet you were to visit late in the game‘s progression. What was the reason for cutting it? Time constraints. This comment reveals just how damaging this deadline that LucasArts gave to Obsidian was to the development of a complete game with a fleshed-out story.
Upon finishing the game it becomes apparent that visiting the cut planet was important not only for sub-quests involving HK-47 (subquests that cannot be completed in the released version), but it becomes obvious that the events that were supposed to transpire were central to explaining other events on Malachor V. It was central to explaining the resolution between G0T0 and the remote droid. More importantly, it was a key to explaining the final cut scene which currently makes little to no sense, it gives absolutely no explanation of what has happened to the characters or what is going to happen next...and then...the credits roll.
A growing number of fans are upset, angry, and concerned. A petition has been posted at PetionOnline.com demanding that LucasArts and Obsidian take the time and effort needed to re-insert these vital elements back into the game, address other technical bugs, and frame rate issues that plague the game. It is perplexing that the critics have rated the game so highly, one has to wonder how many of them actually completed the game before reviewing it, regardless, their opinions are being increasingly countered by paying customers who are learning that the game is not quite as spectacular as "professional" gaming reviewers have been claiming.
Numerous events, found in the original script can be found in this thread.
Some of the audio tracks cut from the game have leaked onto the internet, they can be found at the Obsidianent Forums.
If you would like to sign the petition, it can be found at PetitionOnline.
This is an important petition to those who feel KOTOR2 was severely damaged by pressure from its deadline. Beyond the purpose of having KOTOR2's story told in its original intended manner, it will send a message to LucasArts that fans feel it is unacceptable to sacrifice the quality of such a potentially fantastic series in order for quicker profit. This petition is for the sake of preserving the value of story telling in the Star Wars universe. To many, the stories Star Wars provides us with are the reason we hold it dear.
We are all aware LucasArts is a business before anything else, but this petition will also send them another message, they will lose fans if they continue their trends of rushing developers and in turn, lose money. Their Christmas deadline was not financially sound in the long-run. A number of people who bought KOTOR2 on launch day without waiting to hear the opinions of others will not be doing so with KOTOR3. I know I won't be. Many people have even claimed to be done supporting LucasArts altogether. If they want our support as customers they need to be willing to release complete products as we are paying full prices.
For additional reading on the issue:
Christopher Buecheler, a member of Gamespy's staff, has expressed his own thoughts on the game, and has expressed his own dissatisfaction with the game's current state of incompletion. He goes against the trend of industry writers who hold the game in high regard. He shares evidence proving that KOTOR2's quality has suffered due to deadline cutting. That editorial can be found at The Resident Cynic: A Rush and A Push.
March 4th, 2005
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