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The past decade has made it clear that gaming, not film, is the medium where the great Star Wars tales of this generation are being told. While George Lucas was busy working on the mediocre-at-best Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Baldur’s Gate developer BioWare was crafting the outstanding role-playing game, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which earned PC Gamer’s Game of the Year award in 2003.
These past two years, while LucasFilm was making this year’s childish and critically panned animated feature, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, BioWare was working secretly on its next project: Star Wars: The Old Republic, a massively multiplayer RPG set 3,600 years before Lucas’s films, and sharing the original trilogy’s spirit of fantasy adventure, mature yet jovial tone, and appeal for all ages. BioWare has picked up the torch that Lucas dropped somewhere along the way; this is where the fans of old-school Star Wars storytelling belong.
No pressure or anything - although Dr. Ray Muzyka, cofounder of BioWare, is already well aware of the stakes. “It’s something I think we recognize as a real challenge: to meet and exceed the expectations of fans. And that’s something that’s very sobering, because we’re big fans ourselves. We want to make sure that our audience gets something they can look at and say, ‘Wow, this is the best MMORPG I’ve ever played, and I love it, and it’s everything I wanted a Star Wars game to be.’ That’s a big challenge, but we want to take that on,” he says as The Old Republic is unveiled at BioWare’s Austin studio. “We want this to be the biggest thing we’ve ever done at BioWare.”
But with BioWare’s Edmonton, Canada studio hard at work on games set in universes they themselves created (Dragon Age, and presumably the second part of the Mass Effect epic), why did the developer decide to devote so many of its resources to someone else’s story? “We love Star Wars, is the easy answer,” says Muzyka. “George Lucas created something that’s pretty amazing, with all this rich potential, and there are so many great things you get to do. It’s a universe that we’re very passionate about from having worked on Knights of the Old Republic and from just loving the great elements in Star Wars.”
With The Old Republic, BioWare’s stated goal is to put you into your personal Star Wars fantasy. No, not the one where Princess Leia asks you to polish her golden bikini; the PG-13 one, where you’re a hero fighting an epic battle between good and evil, and your actions determine the fate of the galaxy.