Knights of the Old Republic EP5: Canderous the Manderous

By Shamus
on Sep 3, 2015
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

118 comments


Link (YouTube)

New games have spoiled us. There’s this unspoken assumption: If you change zones, have a cutscene, or pass through a loading screen, you get an auto-save. But in 2003, this was not a rule. We had all three of those things happen here without getting a save. Spoiler: This comes back to bite us in this episode.

If you want to know about this Invisible War game we were talking about, there’s an Errant Signal episode for that.

I find the comparison interesting because both of these games came out the same year and both were multiplatform releases, coming out on both Xbox and Windows. The original Xbox had just 64MB of ram. For comparison, Good Robot – the 2D side-scrolling indie game I’m helping to develop – currently eats about 200MB. To be fair, a lot of that bloat comes from the third-party libraries we’re using. Over the last 12 years, a lot of software has come along to relieve coders from the drudgery of making their own code for interfaces, audio code, rendering pipeline, controller input, and a dozen other things. That’s wonderful, inasmuch as it’s made the current surge in indie development possible for a whole generation of developers who would rather focus on gameplay than building complex technical frameworks. Sure, there’s a steep performance cost to doing things this way, but like I said in the column this week, Moore’s Law was pretty sweet while it lasted, and gave us so much extra power to spend on stuff like this.

Still, it’s amazing to think that my little game uses more than three times as much memory as KOTOR. Actually quite a bit more, since certainly the Xbox operating system would have eaten into that 64MB.

EDIT: Actually Good Robot only uses 132MB. I was looking at the numbers for the debug build when I wrote this post. So Good Robot is only twice the size of KOTOR, not three times the size.

I think one of the big technical blunders for Invisible War was moving to bump-mapping and bloom lighting. Those technologies were pretty new at the time. KOTOR doesn’t do any of those fancy tricks, and has a super-primitive lighting model. Going strictly by technology, KOTOR came out in 2003 but was using technology from 1999 or so. It’s also third-person, so the camera is further away from the scenery. Which means they can get away with low-resolution texture maps.

Not only were the texture maps in Invisible War larger, but they needed double the texture maps, because bump mapping / normal mapping requires another texture. The bloom lighting would have required an extra framebuffer, which would have eaten 3 precious megabytes all by itself.

EDIT: 3MB was based on the assumption that this game ran at 720p, but it was only 480p. So the bloom framebuffer would have been just under a megabyte. I still say that’s not the best use of resources in such a memory-starved situation, but not nearly as bad as 3MB.

By not blowing memory on fancy rendering tricks, BioWare was able to spend more of their meager memory budget on game space: Rooms and corridors and such. Yes, KOTOR looks pretty barren and could clearly use some furnishings here and there, but it’s still better than Invisible War and their closet-sized cities.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!



A Hundred!18118 comments. Quick! Add another to see if this message changes!

From the Archives:

  1. Warclam says:

    Josh, 25 minute mark: “Can I rob these guys blind?”

    Oh, you scoundrel, trying to put Rutskarn out a job.

  2. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Rutskarn mentioned that HK-47 is the reason to go to Tatooine ASAP. What I just figured out this playthrough is you can (if you have the credits) beeline to the shop, buy him, then leave immediately and go to Kashyyk so as to get Jolie Bindo. This is now the official way to play this game (only reason I don’t recommend Jolie first is it takes longer to get to him.)

  3. DrMcCoy says:

    Going strictly by technology, KOTOR came out in 2003 but was using technology from 1999 or so

    Aw, come on, that’s not really fair. Compare 3D engines of ~ 1999, for example Grim Fandango or Gabriel Knight 3 with KotOR. There’s quite a difference there.

    Especially the facial animations are very different between those eras: Grim Fandango and Gabriel Knight 3 do that mostly by animating the face texture(s), with some mesh-swapping for special cases (like Glottis’ huge jaw). KotOR, on the flipside, has meshes for teeth, tongue, eyeballs, and animates those, together with bone animations for the mouth and jaw.

    KotOR has multiple textures per mesh, cube maps for chrome-y reflections, both dynamic lights and soft lighting baked into textures, pixel shaders (the force speed shader, and the shaders used for force fields), translucent objects, …

    Even the “killer” graphics engines from 1998/1999, Unreal and Unreal Tournament, are technological completely different.

    • Shamus says:

      I was thinking of Unreal when I wrote that. I’d say in terms of texture resolution and polygon density, they’re right on par. And I’d say KOTOR looks WORSE than Unreal in terms of lighting model. KOTOR level geometry doesn’t seem to cast any shadows at all, not even the baked-in shadows of late 90’s shooters. Lights come from nowhere in particular and pass through walls. Also, it looks like all light sources are white. (But maybe that’s just on Taris.)

      Although characters do cast shadow maps, not just the “blob shadow directly under your feet” thing they did in the 90’s. Still, I stand by the idea that these visuals are not cutting edge for 2003.

      • Alexander The 1st says:

        There’s also other games like Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles (Linking a YouTube LP of one level in particular for its use of the game’s water effects) from the same year – and while its camera is locked top-down for the most part and scaled even further back than KOTOR, but to me it always felt better.

        Now I did grow up with Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, so I might have a bit of nostalgia for it, but whenever I get shown KOTOR or play it, people often say “Well, it was impressive for the time.”; and it always makes me double take, because for me, the time it came out at it was already supremely out-classed from a technology standpoint, short of extra NPCs and animations – FF:CC’s a bit of a Gauntlet clone, so it has a lot less quests to take.

      • DrMcCoy says:

        I was thinking of Unreal when I wrote that. I’d say in terms of texture resolution and polygon density, they’re right on par

        Have you started up Unreal recently? Because I’m not sure it really looks how you remember it looks…

        KOTOR level geometry doesn’t seem to cast any shadows at all, not even the baked-in shadows of late 90’s shooters

        Okay, this here is the *unlit*, unshadered (and missing the chrome-y reflections) area geometry of Taris: https://drmccoy.de/xoreos/20150904T102510.png

        You see those shadow and light effects? That’s all baked into the textures. The effect is even more obvious in other areas, for example Korriban: https://drmccoy.de/xoreos/20150904T102732.png , but it’s also still visibile in indoor areas, like your Endar Spire starting room: https://drmccoy.de/xoreos/20150904T102352.png

        And then compare this, especially the character models, to KotOR’s predecessor Neverwinter Nights, which was released a mere year prior: https://drmccoy.de/xoreos/20150904T102929.png and https://drmccoy.de/xoreos/20150904T103631.png . Again, completely unlit, and it does look a bit more appealing and familiar with (not quite correct, and unshadowed) lighting applied: https://drmccoy.de/xoreos/20150809T223407.png .

        I can’t say whether the graphics are “cutting edge” for 2003, but they’re about en par with other games released in 2003, like GTA: Vice City or that Tomb Raider game.

        • Shamus says:

          Gah! The idea of baking lighting into textures makes me crazy. Okay, I did it myself in 1998, but even then I felt the technique was horribly dated.

          See, I wasn’t really an RPG fan yet when this game came out, so I’m using the frame of reference that’s familiar to me, which is shooters. Now if you want to argue that I should only compare KOTOR to other RPGs (or adventure games) then whatever. I’m more concerned with what I know about graphics technology at the time and less concerned about hurting KOTOR’s feelings.

          • DrMcCoy says:

            The idea of baking lighting into textures makes me crazy

            There was really no better way to do this in the 90s. There were no shaders at all in consumer level cards. DirectX 8 with beta shader support appeared in late 2000. OpenGL’s ARB assembly shaders in 2002.

            Apart from the baking, you had up to 8 (if you’re lucky) hardware lights, but most people could never have them all enabled if they wanted double-digit FPS. And forget about them all doing shadows.

            Hell, even applying more than one texture per mesh was new in 1999, and not necessarily supported by all cards.

            The shooter that did revolutionize shadows and lights was Doom 3, in 2004. Using an ungodly amount of ARB assembly shaders.

            I’m more concerned with what I know about graphics technology at the time

            So am I. And everything I know about graphics technology at the time, and how KotOR works, tell me you are wrong.

            I mean, just look at screenshots of Unreal and Unreal Tournament. The poly count is way lower, and the faces, again, just a texture. You don’t notice it that much, because you’re not all up starting at their face for minutes at a time, listening to their dialogue.

            There is a huge difference between 1999 3D and 2003 3D, both in how it looks, and how it’s put together. And KotOR is in the latter category. You can argue that they’re not pushing the 2003 era graphics to the limit, and I’d agree. But saying KotOR is a 1999 graphics game is just ludicrous.

            less concerned about hurting KOTOR’s feelings

            As I said in an earlier thread, I couldn’t care less about KotOR’s feelings either. I vastly prefer the two Neverwinter Nights games, especially when it comes to the more tactical, top-down combat.

            • Shamus says:

              I didn’t say it LOOKED like Unreal. I was talking about TECHNOLOGY. If you bake in lights, don’t use shadows, have colorless lights, then to me that’s 90’s tech, and bumping up texture resolution and polygons counts doesn’t change that.

              You said so yourself above, baking in lights was how you did things. In the 90’s. And not 2003. Baked in lights actually puts it behind Unreal.

              • DrMcCoy says:

                I was talking about TECHNOLOGY

                The technology of complex facial animations. The technology of using shaders. The structure of the level geometry.

                You said so yourself above, baking in lights was how you did things. In the 90’s. And not 2003

                The Witcher still baked in parts of the lights. In 2007. Drakensang did, in 2008. Both Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II do, for area meshes of a lower LOD.

                NWN2 has a graphical setting for environment shadows. Those are calculated on-the-fly. You can see that, for example, in the first outdoor area in the OC tutorial, your foster-father’s house shadowing the grass. But it still has baked in shadows in some other places.

                Really, baking in parts of the lights, especially for global illumination, was very common in the oughts. And still is, for certain use-cases.

                You can’t just take the existing of lightmaps as “Ah, that means it’s 1999 era tech!”.

                have colorless lights

                The color of the light doesn’t matter. It’s a glLightfv() call no matter if it’s white, red or aquamarine.

                Baked in lights actually puts it behind Unreal.

                Wat.

                • Shamus says:

                  “The technology of complex facial animations. The technology of using shaders. The structure of the level geometry.”

                  Okay, you run off with those goalposts. Bye.

                  • DrMcCoy says:

                    …I mentioned the facial animations and shaders as a property of KotOR’s more advanced renderer in my very first post. O_o

                    Frankly, I’m just confused now. :/

                    • Wide And Nerdy says:

                      Why is this important anyway? A fair bit of Shamus’ audience is on the technical end, true, but for the audience as a whole, the broad strokes should be enough.

                      He isn’t writing documentation here.

                    • DrMcCoy says:

                      You’re right, of course, it doesn’t matter.

                      And it spiraled out too far for something that in the end is utterly meaningless. I’m sorry.

  4. James says:

    I think you can scroll wheel to cycle options, i think.
    also you can quick select abilities with the num keys
    (1 for attacks 2 for ability 3 for grenade ect)

  5. John says:

    You guys a being a little unfair to poor Canderous. Sure, he’s got a bunch of lines like “The weak exist to serve the strong; I’m glad you understand that.” But he doesn’t like it when you betray people, so he’s not completely psycho.

    Speaking of Canderous, the “camera” in the portrait for Dark Side characters is positioned much higher than in portraits for Light Side characters. It’s fun to compare and contrast the portraits for Carth and Canderous once you have both in the party.

    • Ledel says:

      Wait seriously? Canderous joins your cause by betraying his employer (and judging by the dialog in this episode he is probably newly recruited).

      • John says:

        I’m thinking here of a bit on Tattooine. Canderous gets upset if you kill someone you had been cooperating with earlier. I guess Canderous makes a distinction between “comrades in battle” and sleazy crime lords who don’t pay well.

  6. The Defenestrator says:

    I just foolishly fought Selven at a too-low level in my game. After several tries, I finally won using mainly saturation bombardment with grenades.

    ETA: I think that fight might be one of the few where you’re better off with ranged weapons. Selven’s sword packs a huge wallop, but she won’t switch to it unless you get close.

    • Smiley_Face says:

      The fight is in a circular hallway, so I got into melee range so she took out her swords, then ran away and kited her while shooting for 5 minutes or so. Same deal for the high-level arena fights. It takes way too long and you’ve gotta be careful so she doesn’t catch up and murder you, but it works in the end.

      As soon as I read that they got derailed from dying without a save, I knew it was Selven. Bloody hell.

  7. guy says:

    That fade-out after the explosion may have been technically necessary; with their engine they would have had to swap an intact model of the room for a destroyed model rather than simulating a collapse. At the very least, the fadeout covers the instantaneous transition so it doesn’t blatantly switch from being intact to a pile of rubble without actual falling debris. It might also have covered swapping other things. They probably don’t have two versions of the entire level to switch between because that would be really inconvenient, but they do need to set the pathfinding system to account for the fact that the room is now impassible.

    • Humanoid says:

      Do games released even today do it any more gracefully? Thinking the Thermite use in Gomorrah for example.

      • guy says:

        That’s probably the same reason, yeah. On the other hand, the Half Life 2 ep 2 portal storm does handle a bridge collapse live, so it wouldn’t be impossible. But that’s more difficult and not a main focus of RPGs.

        • PeteTimesSix says:

          You have to look at it with the right sense of scale, ie:

          A setpiece event in a linear hallway story that the game does its best to draw your attention to that is featured in the trailer and happens to be a demonstration of a new (at the time) technology.

          vs.

          That thing that happens if you pick a specific conversation option in an optional sidequest in an optional area.

  8. Viktor says:

    I’m really hoping Josh sides with the Vulkars. Because there’s no part of that plot that isn’t stupid.

    Also, seriously Josh, you’ve not saved in a while, both chars are low on health, and you choose to get in a wholly unnecessary fight? Back out of the dialogue, save, and then take on Selven. The save screen is far less of a time waste than redoing that whole appt block(or more).

  9. Thomas says:

    To be fair, KOTOR is not a 3D game gameplay-wise and the freedom of movement is very restricted compared to Invisible War.

  10. Chris says:

    Cool fact: Shamus just linked the very first Errant Signal ever made (could you tell?)

    I literally didn’t have a script for that episode. I had recorded some footage and was coming up with what to say next as I was editing it. Suffice it to say things have… changed.

    • AileTheAlien says:

      I like watching your old eps! You can totally see how the core of your style is still there, even though some other things have been removed:
      + in depth analysis of game/topic
      + long-form
      + appropriate use of sesquipedalian terminology
      – video footage of human
      – audio recorded on a tin can with a string

      I personally really dislike talking-head videos.* I’m not a friend of the person in the video I’m watching; I’m just some random guy on the internet. If I ever met somebody from the internet in person, I’d shake their hand, and grab a beer with them. But since we are on the internet, I just care about the topic of the videos. The only time I want to see somebody’s body parts in the video is if it’s necessary, or the subject. Video of tying knots – your hands will be in the shot. Video how-to on proper shaving technique – your face and beard are going to be there! :)

      * Not just Chris; Other internet videos, or videos in games bug me too.

      • Jokerman says:

        I would go for some Chris facecam horror playthroughs though…

      • Alexander The 1st says:

        Talking head videos help, at least I imagine, in helping solidify the video as the creator’s content – talking over footage from a game itself, even in a critical standpoint, is a lot harder to defend for fair use if you’re using it verbatim.

        At least, I imagine that’s why it was more common in earlier videos, but phased out more often as people try to improve videos based on comment feedback.

        It’s also rather easy to sync audio that way too. :p

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Wait,it wasnt half life 2?But youre the half life 2 guy.

      • Chris says:

        I believe the original order was something like Deus Ex: Invisible War, Duke Nukem Forever, Far Cry 2, Adaptation Consternation, and then some other stuff. That might not be 100% accurate, but I felt I had to work up to Half-Life 2. I posted Half-Life 2 in November/December of 2011, a full six months after starting the show. And that’s how I landed the Spoiler Warning gig!

  11. Wide And Nerdy says:

    So how have I been following this blog so long without looking up what bump mapping is? Well finally looked it up and its kind of got me wondering.

    Seems like this technique would steer developers to using especially blasted out or worn down environments. War torn regions. Post apocalyse. Ruins. Etc. More Etc. Because if I take this technique and apply it to an entire brick wall, it looks like its going to make the whole thing look crumbly. But brick walls on normal well maintained buildings don’t look THAT crumbly. They look relatively crumbly with the cement and relatively smooth with the bricks.

    I’m guessing you want to use a relatively fine bump map in this case and cheat by baking a little extra shadow into the texture where the cement is to give it a little extra false depth. Otherwise you have to do brick by brick stuff which is more polygons. Not that I have any idea whether its better to spend the polys vs the cost of bump mapping.

    Am I even in the ballpark of this sounding right here? Sorry if its painfully inaccurate.

    • Xeorm says:

      Bump mapping by itself only simulates adding height to an object when it interacts with lighting. If you have a fine material that has no real height differences along the texture, then it’d also have a very uniform bump map. There’s nothing mandating that the bump map be lumpy or have variation.

      As far as your examples, remember that the texture for a wall will be an entire texture pasted on. To you it may look like bricks that are separate, and it will look that way if done right, but as far as the designers and computer care, there’s one wall and one texture. (well, 2 textures, there’ll be a texture for the bump map, and a regular color texture)

      So there’s no need to cheat. The map will be fine, outside of the cement lines, which will be indented enough to be noticeable. Creating the illusion that there’s a wall where really there’s only a normal picture.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        I feel like we both said the same thing different ways. Yes I know the object would either be a single smooth block or alternately a sheet, in either case with a brick wall texture on it. I was just saying that I figured that a fine bump mapping wouldn’t work equally well for the brick and the cement.

        • AileTheAlien says:

          It will work fairly well for both of those, but it fails when you get severe bumps. Like, if your brick is a normal 10 – 20 cm brick, then the 0.5 – 1.0 cm gaps with the cement will be fine. However, bigger depth fail when viewed from near the side. i.e. Sticking your head against the wall, to look down the length of it at the bricks. At that shallow angle, basic bump-mapping will just look like a flat surface with obviously-fake color changes. There was a related / advanced technique I read about, that actually made bumps that weren’t just lighting-tricks, so it would also do view-occlusion* in addition to just color changes. Even more advanced was making a wall that looked like swiss cheese, or like a coral reef. Just the extra-hard / taken-to-the-extreme version of the same technique. I can’t seem to remember the name, or find any papers on the method, though. :C

          * I hope I’m using the right term here. Basically, I mean that if one object / pixel is occluding another, then it’s blocking the view of that other one.

          • Bryan says:

            If there were extra vertices present in the mesh, it’d be possible to offset them in the vertex shader according to the bump map height (depending on how many texture lookups the card can do in the vertex shader…), which would fix the low-angle problem.

            But it requires that the scene become closer to vertex-bound than it would otherwise be, and it sort of defeats the purpose of the bump map. So I’m guessing it wouldn’t be worth it…

            Maybe a geometry shader to emit the extra points? That’s relatively new though…

            • guy says:

              Uh, probably not vertices. Bump-mapping is a fragment shader job, and I don’t think the vertex shader would normally get to look at the texture and probably shouldn’t if it can. Besides, if you’re going to have the extra verticies anyway you might as well move them into position to begin with.

    • guy says:

      I’ve not done it much, but as I understand it it works perfectly well for being very subtly crumbly. The height is very configurable, and the map itself is a texture file, except interpreted differently, so you have many discrete points. The Wikipedia article image shows it being used subtly. I would guess if you’re writing your own bump-mapping shader you can multiply the texture values by whatever coefficent you want, but normally it’s for making stuff look a bit rough or creating small surface details rather than massive shifts. Remember that this is purely on the graphics card, so if used too dramatically it’ll create clipping issues. Also, a lot of stuff happens before it’s used, so I imagine that it has to either be minor enough people don’t notice issues from it not being taken into account. Probably the biggest issue would be the culling phase, when the system determines which polygons shouldn’t be drawn because they’re behind other objects or outside the viewing cone. Do something too dramatic and it’ll mysteriously vanish when the base polygon is hidden.

      Basically, if you see something in a remotely modern game and it doesn’t look like it’s made of solid metal or smooth plastic, it’s probably bump-mapped.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        So then its not what makes old crumbly battered walls in games look especially crumbly and battered (such as collapsed walls in ruins where a craggy remain of a wall sticks out of the ground) though it could help add to the overall roughness?

        • guy says:

          Depends, really. They can be used to do some fairly impressive things, but games aren’t meant to show off the theoretical limits of the technique and there’s those issues I mentioned. Probably the ruined wall uses multiple polygons for the overall shape and then the bump maps make the bricks look weathered and also on the edges so it doesn’t look like it was cut with a laser. If there’s pits and divots in the wall, they’re probably from bump mapping; if it looks like a big chunk has fallen away, that’s probably from multiple polygons but with a bump map so it looks like the surface has eroded.

          As for more dramatic things you can do with them, I’m pretty sure Half Life 2 Episode 2 uses them in the antlion tunnels to give them that rough, organically-carved look. I can’t imagine doing that purely by polygons with any sort of sane budget. I mean, look at this. Without the bump-mapping, it’d look like a Combine building.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            Thank you. Mix of polys and bumpmapping then. What I was picturing is actually a lot of the exposed bits of brick near the old collapsed fort in Witcher 3 in White Orchard. That looks like a lot more detail than what you could accomplish reasonably with either just lots of polys or next level bumpmapping. Seems like you’d need both. Seems like Skyrim could have used that for their mountains.

  12. Spammy says:

    You’re welcome, Josh.

    I know what I did.

  13. Gruhunchously says:

    As annoying as they could be sometimes, I really liked the *IMPOSSIBLE* security doors. They helped give the impression that the world existed beyond the places you could access, that you were only visiting small parts of larger complexes.

    • MrGuy says:

      Seconded.

      I like this better than the “You can’t get ye flask” approach of some games where some doors are arbitrarily marked as “Inaccessible” when you look at them. It’s not clear how you know this, or what about those doors make them completely inaccessible to a lockpicking master carrying a demolition-site worth of explosives. At least “look, the crypto is too hard to break” is a plausible explanation.

    • Viktor says:

      Actually, the ones Josh hits here are only temporarily impossible. If you betray the Beks, you come back here and go through those doors as you murder everyone.

  14. Syal says:

    Of course everyone knows you’re not from Taris, Josh; your butt is OUT OF THIS WORLD.

    • Ledel says:

      This brings up a nitpick I had with this question. With so many people recognizing you being an off-worlder, and those same people being so familiar with everyone who lives in their section of town (upper-, lower-, and undercity). Why is it that nobody questions you suddenly showing up in their section of town.

      The feeling I got talking to everyone is that the Sith blockade had been going on for weeks. You have to go through so many hoops just to be able to move between the sections, nobody calls you out on it or tries to get you to do a quest that involves travelling between the levels of the city.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Dont you know that everyone on the planet has the very same accent?Of course they know you are not from there.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        I wonder if KOTOR 2 makes similar mistakes. Thats usually the kind of detail Obsidian will catch.

      • Really? I always thought the sith blockade was very recent, maybe even caused by the battle. Otherwise the Reps are kind of stupid, going to a blockaded planet without expecting a battle and with a lone corvette. So if they went there it’s because it’s at least new enough they didn’t know it was there when they began the trip.
        That is also how I explain how the entrance to the Undercity has heavier vigilance than to the Lower City: they know Bastila was in one of those pods that fell there and they really want to capture her. The check between Upper and Lower cities would be a first filter to avoid companions to get there. Though then the issue are the soldiers in the medical facility: how did they get there so fast? Or how do the Sith know Bastila is in a pod that crashed in the Undercity and not above?

        As for not questioning you, not only you just appeared, but you go asking about the fallen pods. There would be those who don’t care, those who would want to help but don’t dare, those who would want to help but aren’t shown and those who would want to get some points with the Sith and denounce you, which, disaapointingly, there aren’t. I missed the doctor’s assistant speaking on you when you refuse to give the anti rakghoul serum to Davik. I figure he’d be the kind to do that to get some credits from the Sith. Or at least some explanation on why he doesn’t, as in if that raises chances of finding about the soldiers and going down with the doctor even if he told on him too or something.

        • Ledel says:

          It depends on who you talk to about the Sith on Taris. Nobody gives an exact date (at least nobody I’ve found), but some talk about it as if the Sith have been there for weeks or months. As best I can figure the Sith probably have had control of Taris for a while, but recently put up the blockade to prevent Bastila from escaping.

          I may have misspoken/typed when I said the blockade had been going on for weeks, but there are several traders that loudly bemoan the blockade preventing them from completing deals they had in the works.

          • guy says:

            I think the blockade started shortly before the Endar Spire arrived; it may even have arrived while orbit was still contested. You get knocked out for a few days, giving time for the Sith to firmly establish control. I don’t think they’d have left the elevators closed to civilian traffic entirely for weeks, and there’s no indication that the lockdown is newer than the invasion.

            • Ledel says:

              Ok, just to settle it I decided to consult the Wiki about it. Dear lord they do not hold back in the slightest about spoilers. The blockade/martial law of Taris only started after the battle with the Endar Spire, so really only about 2-3 days. They had an ambush in wait for your ship, but otherwise didn’t do much planet-wise until the escape pods crashed there.

      • Ledel says:

        I just realized there is at least one quest where someone asks you to travel between the levels of Taris. The doctor trying to make the Rakghoul antidote. He knows patrols in the undercity carry the serum, and wants you to try to get some for him. So at least one person is trying to make the best of your freedom to move around the city.

  15. Protocol95 says:

    I get the difference between controlling party members in Kotor versus Mass Effect, but at least you can tell them where to go in Mass Effect even if you don’t have direct control over them. (That reference wasn’t intentional I swear)

  16. Ledel says:

    I wouldn’t classify this game as being barren, it has some fairly well fleshed out cities and characters you can interact with in those cities. Compare this to some of the cities you visit in Fallout 3 or Oblivion. The upper city feels alive, has a wide variety of characters, and many stories you can uncover.

    Everywhere I have visited so far seem to have a good cast of characters: Some being very friendly, some obviously just after your patronage (money), some people looking just shady enough where you question whether or not you can trust them, some honorable to a fault, and many more. Yes, sometimes its a long jog to get from one person to another, but it’s not so long that you feel like it was put there just to stretch out the play time of the game.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Old games(especially the ones before kotor)are very barren.But plenty of them still manage to look alive.Meanwhile,modern games have a bunch of clutter,yet are often very lifeless.Its the effect of having so much small clutter(mugs,pieces of paper,loose bricks,…)lying everywhere,while reducing the number of people that are around(because everyone is orders of magnitude more detailed,thus taking up much more memory).

      Compare deus ex with its sequel,human revolution(I have no clue what this “invisible war” everyone is talking about is):In deus ex desks are flat,with maybe a computer monitor and keyboard on them,and thats it.But areas are huge,with plethora of people everywhere.In human revolution,desks have paper on them,pencils,little toys,scratches,etc.But areas are way smaller with less people.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        I don’t blame them. People and water are probably the last things we haven’t completely nailed as far as photorealism goes. We’ve certainly got good enough levels that involve a lot of design and writing and motion capture. But the dynamic systems are worlds away.

  17. SlothfulCobra says:

    I always got this Bob Hope vibe from Calo Nord. He’s got a prominent nose, and his particular sci-fi getup looks exactly like the clothes that people wear in old movies when they go out driving a Model T. If only Darth Bandon or Bendak Starkiller somehow resembled Bing Crosby.

  18. Heregoesnothing says:

    Actually, you can betray the Hidden Beks for the other gang. You still have to do the race though. I always take that option because you get a bonus mission to go to their hideout and kill them. Same reason I usually side with the vampire lady in Baldur’s Gate 2 actually. The Thieve’s Guild base is a giant dungeon you’d never get to see otherwise.

    • djw says:

      A dungeon full of hidden thieves that backstab your squishies…

    • Slothfulcobra says:

      I thought it ended up as just a decision between which gang you want to slaughter, because the other way around you have to kill all the Vulkars.

      • PlasmaPony says:

        You have to plow your way through the Vulkar base no matter what, if I recall correctly. The option to attack the Hidden Beks doesn’t come up until you’ve reached the end objective of the Vulkar base. So really, it’s pretty counter productive to fight the Beks, since by continuing the fight the Vulkars you have just the last fight, rather than going through all the Hidden Beks. So basically it’s the perfect choice for Darth Cuftbert.

    • Grudgeal says:

      Er, you can walk around that base if you side with the thieves you know.

      Bodhi’s base is also a giant dungeon, and you only get to ‘explore’ that one if you side with the thieves.

      Also, killing the vampires is worth more XP. I counted.

      • Supahewok says:

        And unfortunately you can’t do both because the Shadow Thief leader will summon a minion that’ll insta-gib your PC if you haven’t sided with Bodhi prior. Totally cheating. I’m guessing it’s so you don’t lock yourself out of a means of future progression.

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Ok,I get that the blaster fire is missing so much so that it looks more like the movies,where lasers are flying around everywhere,but is there a satisfying in universe explanation for why that is?The reason why real life guns are so hard to hit things with is recoil.But with laser pistols,there is no recoil.Once you align the target,you should hit it with every single shot,in precisely the same place.

    • Humanoid says:

      The energy beams are so bright that people flinch as soon as they fire, creating an effect similar to recoil. This is why stormtrooper helmets have permanent inbuilt sungoggles, and even then the goggles do nothing.

    • Grudgeal says:

      Well, these clearly aren’t lasers in the real sense (since, you know, you can see the projectiles). They’re ‘blasters’, and ‘blasters’ could possibly have some kind of propellant or cycling of something.

      • guy says:

        They fire plasma bolts. There’s a special gas used to generate them.

        • I would make a book where it explains the issues from the first tries to make a blaster like so:

          «… He took it with him to the bar. He played with it and only a puff of smoke came out of the barrel. He was banned for smoking for a month. The next test he did in the open. The bar fiasco had taught him two things: the penalty for smoking in the bar was too steep and that the blaster lacked power. He added more to the propellant gas. He pointed the gun carefully at the target. The trail of fire and smoke was seen from miles away and he was shot backwards into the air. He went through a barn and a church but nobody knows how did he survive for the next tests of his new weapon…»

    • Lame Duck says:

      Because of midichlorians.

    • ehlijen says:

      That is inaccurate. The reason real world guns are so difficult to hit with is because it’s very difficult to line up a heavy precision tool in a rushed combat. And once you do hit, it’s often quite difficult to tell if you’ve hit or the enemy just ducked back into coverl, so you’d keep firing some more just to be sure.

      Real armies in real wars have shots fired to casualty rates in the hundreds if not thousands to one. Even if you reduced that by an order of magnitude, you’d still look at dozens of shots per hit (remember also that unlike RPGs, in the real word single shots tend to kill or cripple).
      Given rapid fire capable weapons, suppression and blind fire tend to be the best at keeping your own soldiers alive. Most armies have concluded that throwing more shots at the target is more cost effective than training expert marksmen to make every shot count and then losing them when they get hit while taking aim.

  20. Haddron says:

    I assume Josh has his sound system set up so Mumble’s voice sounds like its coming from a couple inches above his right shoulder, whispering in his ear.

  21. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “So this guy had an aprentice,naver was his name.”

  22. Thomas says:

    Okay so interface:

    You can use the mousewheel over all abilities to switch through them.

    Or, you can use Shift+1 to cycle attack abilities, Shift+3 to cycle grenades, Shift+5 to cycle medpacks/buff drugs, etc.

  23. Soylent Dave says:

    My PC only had 192 MB of RAM roundabout when KotOR came out. And none of that (then) new-fangled DDR RAM, neither. Just three sticks of good old-fashioned SD-RAM.

    I say ‘only’. I was thrilled to have that much, which I could only afford because RAM had reached then astonishingly low prices of roughly £1 per MB.

    Hmm. That was a horrifying waste of money, in retrospect.

    • Humanoid says:

      At least you didn’t end up with RAMBUS RDRAM that was in vogue back then because it was what Intel was pushing. Then again, all smart people with with AMD that generation, I would have been running an Athlon XP 1600+.

      I don’t tend to remember how much RAM my old systems had though, because the numbers go up too fast to remember. I know my old Pentium 200 had 32MB SDRAM and that my current system has 500 times as much (there’s a thought), but I have only a fuzzy idea of what the 3-4 systems I had in between had.

  24. Grudgeal says:

    Just as Mission is basically a prototype Tali, Canderous is basically a prototype Wrex. Only in this case, with the interesting parts not added. All of his talks and personality are basically about how glorious war is and crushing the weak is and how great the Mandalorians are/were, with a little bit of self-consciousness added if you do his personal quest.

    Wrex basically had that self-consciousness baked in from the beginning and it really did wonders in making for a much more interesting ‘warrior race guy’ character.

  25. WILL says:

    HK-47, much like Canderous, is somehow a lot better written in the sequel.

    HK-47 gets a character arc (or three) and reveals a lot about what happened between first and second. He also has a much more insane and sarcastic voice. Overall he’s livelier and has more funny, brutal lines. He has more lines of dialogue than major NPCs in the first one.

    Canderous gets a whole secondary goal parallel to the Exile’s quest – reviving and uniting his mandalorian clan. It fits in perfectly with his feelings about being a simple mercenary in KotOR 1 and expanding on the Mandalorian lore (which Star Wars has been feeding off for years since then). Doesn’t quite pay off perfectly in the incomplete ending when you board the ravager – mandalorians are there whether you rounded up the clans or not and they only really show up as special forces.

    One thing I liked a lot about the sequel is characters regularly argued between each other. Canderous/Mandalore has conversations with Bao-Dur about the Mandalorian war of which both are veterans and Bao-Dur has turned into a massive pacifist because of the genocide he caused and Mandalore is only interested in nostalgic glory. HK-47 regularly argues about memory loss with T3-M4 since the little robot knows everything about what happened since KotOR 1. That’s right, T3-M4 is a real character in the sequel with his own secrets and agenda.

    You can hate on the technical aspects of the sequel, but the writing is top-notch.

    • Smiley_Face says:

      I love how T3 really turns out to be just as secretive as Kreia; maybe more, because Kreia’s got plenty of secrets, but she’s really BAD at keeping them – she can’t help but act really suspicious all the time. T3 just acts like a dumb droid and gets away with all sorts of stuff – he foils HK50’s plan in the prologue, he hacks Atris’ database and gets the Exile going on the main quest, and when HK47 is snooping around the navicomputer too much he overpowers him and shoves him back in his closet.

    • SlothfulCobra says:

      You can hate on a lot of Paragus, but the first time you play through, it really is amazing to go through this entire facility full of dead people to find HK-50 pretending as hard as he can to be just a run of the mill droid.

      It’s a shame that Obsidian decided to not finish about 20% of the game, so you don’t get the conclusion of the HK saga until you get the restored content mod.

      • Supahewok says:

        It wasn’t their “decision.” They were originally promised an 18 month development, of which 5 months was cut out at damn near the last minute because LucasArts decided to ship it early for Christmas. It was out of Obsidian’s hands.

        • Joe says:

          For that matter, Lucasarts wouldn’t let them put out a patch to finish the game.

          • Rob says:

            The original Xbox had no online patching capability, and pre-Steam* only a tiny fraction of PC users would download patches for their games. Combine that with the common “PC gaming is dying” articles coming out around that time, and LucasArts’ decision to not allow a patch is understandable, if regrettable.

            * Steam existed in 2005 and had just started releasing third-party titles around that time, but it didn’t reach mainstream success until years later, and KOTOR2 wasn’t released on the service until 2012.

  26. Grudgeal says:

    Wait, Gadon is in a Geordie situation?

    His accent doesn’t sound the least bit Tyneside.

  27. Clint Olson says:

    “The bloom lighting would have required an extra framebuffer, which would have eaten 3 precious megabytes all by itself [Assuming 720p resolution, which I’m pretty sure would have been the standard.]”

    According to this, Deus Ex: Invisible War did not support 720p on the original XBox.

  28. Zaxares says:

    AGH, I hated these Swoop races with a passion. >.< It honestly felt they were just shoe-horned in to cash in on the whole Episode 1 swoop racing thing. It was a horribly shallow mini-game that really felt like it depended on luck rather than any kind of skill to win.

    Also, did I miss something with Canderous? O.o He felt kind of like a Wrex 1.0; the grizzled war veteran with lots of stories to tell. Wrex was a lot more fun to actually talk to and bond with though. Canderous was OK, but I never really found him useful enough to actually bring along. And his dialogue wasn't quite as cool as some of the others. If I remember correctly, my party was myself (Jedi Master), Bastila/Carth and Mission. On my Dark Side playthrough, it was myself (Jedi Guardian), HK-47 and T3-M1 (“I don’t trust organics. They always betray me! Surround yourself with droids whose loyalty can’t be bought!”).

    • guy says:

      Nah, the swoop races are exactly the kind of difficult that Dark Souls fans like to gush about. The track is perfectly fixed and your performance characteristics are set. DIAS.

    • Il Padrino says:

      Canderous is astonishingly useful if you build him as a melee fighter. Sadly the game doesn’t nudge you to do this, as it starts him off with a unique customizable rifle … but Canderous with Yusanis’s Brand is about as powerful as any of your Jedi, if lacking in crowd control powers, and late-game Canderous rocking Heavy Exoskeleton and two Baragwin Assault Blades is nigh unstoppable.

      As for fun dialogue, try taking him and Jolee as your “slaves” into the Korriban Academy. Very entertaining stuff to be had there.

  29. Galad says:

    Off-topic post, and I apologize for taking advantage of Shamus’ reading all the posts, but: Shamus, when I’ve had a twenty-sided tab opened for a while (Firefox 40.0.3., so up to date), and I get back to it, I somehow find out that your twitter feed has went totally Ballistic, with the latest (usually the last) post being repeated dozens of times and/or posts scrolling by very quickly from. The easiest fix to this is refreshing, it’s still bothersome in that it’s nearly a required refresh. Might be not an issue originating from your blog, but I thought you’d like to know regardless.

    Second edit: For example, right now, in the other, main tab of twentysided I can see your “Gah! That’s even worse..”tweet once, then I see MiLu’s tweet 4 times, then I see ‘Gah!’ again, and they continue repeating a few times until finally the older tweets start showing up. Reloading fixes that, it’s a bit jarring though, if that’s the right word.

    Also, that’s even more off-topic, but trying to find Rutskarn’s previously created fiction works in his patreon is pretty difficult thanks to patreon’s godawful “Creator posts” page. They must’ve been copying the worst examples of facebook designs or something :/

  30. MichaelGC says:

    So this apprentice guy whose name we can’t remember who, after a single setback, goes from being the golden child to Dr. Enemy McEvil … it’s a bit like Vader in the Prequels!

    Although one is rather more nuanced than the other, of course. After all, you can actually talk to Apprentice Guy and take his side, should you choose. :p

  31. Phantos says:

    When talking about prolific black voice actors along the lines of Keith David and Phil LaMarr, don’t forget Kevin Michael Richardson.

  32. Steve C says:

    Security papers? What the hell is this “paper” you speak of? This is Star Wars where paper was never invented. Are the expendable mooks so dumb they don’t know paper doesn’t exist?

    • Corsair says:

      Actually in the old EU they had both Flimsiplast for paper, in much the same way they had durasteel for steel, ferrocrete for concrete, duraplast for plastic, transparisteel for glass, and so on. Paper also showed up on the odd occasion.

      Star Wars pedantic nerd crap-man awaaaay

  33. muelnet says:

    The original Xbox was the same generation as the ps2 and GameCube, all of which were 480p capped, and that was only if you got the s-video cable. By default all did analog output that maxed out at 480i. This was all before HD Tvs and hdmi cables were common. Heck when these platforms came out dvds were still new.

  34. Dt3r says:

    Calo Nord’s design really makes him look like an Al Bhed extra from Final Fantasy X…

    Image

    Edit: Regarding that NPC’s accent, I was in another window and I could swear it was Rutskarn doing a silly voice.

  35. zookeeper says:

    Regarding bump-mapping: there are some bump-mapping effects in KotOR. For example, the skin of Selkath has very distinct bump-mapped specular highlights, and I believe at least some water surfaces do too. I don’t know if it’s some kind of more primitive form of the technique or how exactly they did it when there’s no per-pixel lighting in general, but it’s there.

    I remember that because at the time, I saw the effect on Selkath and thought it was really pretty, but when I replayed the game later on another computer (with a different graphics card), it was rendered all flat without any bumpness.

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *

*
*

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>