Knights of the Old Republic EP32: Star Trek!

By Shamus
on Nov 19, 2015
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

Worldbuilding, man. I made fun of it on the show, but I love me a good worldbuilding dialog. Tell me a backstory that gives greater meaning or depth to the story I’m currently participating in.

Keys for making a good worldbuilding dialog.

  1. It should be optional. The player should be able to jump in and out of the conversation quickly and move on. Not everyone likes worldbuilding. Sometimes even people who like might not like this particular story. And even if they’re into lore and they like this lore, sometimes those people are on their sixth playthrough and don’t need to hear the story again.
  2. A good backstory is not a list of dates and people. It is a list of events and consequences. The lore should explain something about the state of the world right now. Culture, politics, religion, language, technology, etc. Everything else is cruft.
  3. Seriously, though. Make it optional.

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From the Archives:

  1. Spammy says:

    You know I remember getting to this conversation when I played KOTOR back in the day. I distinctly remember HK complaining about having to listen to thousands of years of who was the chieftain and who had the biggest bantha herd, but I guess I was too young at the time to pick up on the suggestion that Sand People and Humans share a common ancestor.

    • Matt Downie says:

      I just remember wondering, “So, are sand people humans with weird outfits and language or are they aliens under there?” The films didn’t do much to clarify that.

  2. John says:

    The bit with the Sand People storyteller is the kind of thing that is fun to do exactly one time. I’m glad it’s there, I thought it was interesting, but I don’t ever need to do it again.

    You know, I’d bet that the proportion of of players who have ever done the storyteller conversation is fairly small. In order to know about the option in the first place, a player needs to have explored the dialogue tree with the chief in a fairly exhaustive fashion. Then, just when that player has reached the Star Map and is probably ready to leave the planet, he has to do a bunch of back-tracking.

  3. All the story told seems to point to the possibility of Tusken raiders being old humans and that humans spawn from Tatooine. Now that about being Earth is pure bullshit. It’s a galaxy far, far away and a long time ago. It makes no sense talking about Earth.
    Male twi’leks have human like ears carved, female twi’leks have mounds. I say the tentacles are accumulations of ear wax, males clean just the orifice while females don’t because it makes them be sexy. That wax fetish has made it so bee is the racial enemy of twi’leks.

  4. Tapkoh says:

    Grey DeLisle does voice a video game protagonist (of sorts): the female bounty hunter PC in SWTOR.

  5. Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

    Speaking of the Fallout 4 beer bot and speaking of Star Wars, there is now a mobile R2 D2 Cooler that can bring you your beer.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Wow,Josh,that was pretty dumb,mixing up stargate and star trek like that.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    But Mumbles,isnt your idea of heaven going back to the vault and cannibalising your popsicle ex husband?

  8. 4th Dimension says:

    Josh exits chased by a mob of angry Trekkies.

    A beer sex bot. That sounds like something Aquisitions Inc might “acquire”.

    About lore. The key to good lore which is a mistake that is often made is that it needs to inform us about the forces that shape this world. So to make good lore it’s not enough to simply drop an encyclopedia of unconnected articles on the player. And this is what game devs most often do. They drop this large history on you that is filled with names and events that have no bearing on current events. Since they don’t help explain the current state of affairs this lore is largely useless.

  9. Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

    I feel a little sympathy for Mission’s brother. I knew a guy like this. Not so much a user as someone who felt the need to continuously craft a narrative that made him seem awesome. And it was pretty obvious to anyone who knew him.

    It later became clear that he wasn’t trying to seem awesome to us so much as he was trying to seem acceptable to himself. I think thats why his lies were so obvious. He only needed to fool himself. He eventually ran away, tried to craft a couple more even more outrageous stories and then offed himself.

    He’d told us that he was going to be a secret agent and its only just now occurring to me that he may have planted that story knowing what he was going to do to himself and desperately wanting to believe that we’d somehow not find out and actually think he was one because of his mysterious disappearance.

    Anyway, that’s what Mission’s brother seems like to me. He cannot accept that he’s a failure. He really does think that all those years of failed deals and debt will eventually result in him finding the right opportunity and striking it rich, vindicating all of his mistakes. And I believe his story ends the same way.

  10. SlothfulCobra says:

    You know what’s also really nice with these worldbuilding lore conversations? You get to stop every so often to say something. Even if it’s not that meaningful, at least you’re getting asked by the game to weigh in on things, so you have a reason to pay attention to it.

    The codex is a really convenient way to spew out all this lore without it getting in the player’s face (and give those annoying storytellers busywork so they won’t complain about your action game), but after a while it just starts to feel like homework going through the codex, and you inevitably fall behind and lose track of things. When you’re surfing through wiki articles, you at least have links to hop off a boring page and move on to a new one quickly without breaking any flow.

  11. Kerethos says:

    So… unrelated to the whole optional backstory thing.

    I’m kind of regretting my decision to look up why Twi’lek have those things on their head. But, for all the explanations in the lore, I think I found an image that explains it: http://img.niadd.com/funnypictures/hodgepodge/59/dattwilek.jpg

    For a moment you’d think the picture is just taken at an unfortunate moment for the twi’lek lady, as she’s picking something up from the floor. But no, that’s not it. That’s just how the back of her head looks, thanks to that headgear. I will henceforth refer to it as a “headthong”.

    Why Star Wars? Why? It cannot be unseen…

    • Metal C0Mmander says:

      I’m pretty sure this has nothing to do with anything. It’s just easier to think there’s something there when really it’s probably just the artist that wanted to do something kinda fancy with clothes.

  12. James says:

    Aren’t the Builders the Infinite Empire though? and the Rakata don’t look like Humans, unless ofc that maybe the sand people look very alien under the robes and all bipedal, two eyed humaniods look simular to them.

    • Ayegill says:

      I think the implication is that the Rakata adopted the ancient sand people, humans, as a slave species, and that’s how they spread all across the universe. Then, when they rebelled, the Rakata bombed the shit out of Tatooine. The sand people remember this event as angry gods(the Rakata) punishing them for their arrogance(hi-tech industrial civilization), and so they get really uppity when human settlers arrive and start doing the same things that their ancestors did(because they’re afraid the Rakata are gonna come back).

      Of course, this seems to imply that sand people look significantly differently from humans under their suits (or the resemblance of humans to old legends wouldn’t be significant, they’d just think of humans as “our weird space cousins”), which raises the question of: why do the legends record what ancient humans/sand people looked like(imagine telling your children “your grandparents did so-and-so, also their fingers were slightly longer than yours), and why have sand people evolved to look different, while humans have stayed the same?

  13. Micamo says:

    You can kill Griff, but only if you don’t have Mission with you when you meet him.

    And you can’t even tell her that her brother is dead! The quest just becomes impossible to complete.

  14. Gruhunchously says:

    I don’t think we’ve ever had a Josh-Shamus-Mumbles combo episode before. I like it.

  15. Gruhunchously says:

    In KOTOR 2, there’s a Twi’lek in a bar who asks you if you like his head tails, and that he just had them waxed. He also encourages you to touch them, saying he doesn’t mind. They’re apparently really sensitive.

  16. SlothfulCobra says:

    Twi’leks are one of those star wars races that were entirely defined by their one appearance in the movies. Bib Fortuna was designed to be a slimy advisor, and Oola was designed to be a sexy alien slave girl, so while Oola was covered in bright green, Bib got a bunch of weird prosthetics to be bony nodules on his head, and the expanded universe took the difference as a sign of gender dimorphism for the species. Oola had a weird headress with cones on it, so I guess that’s where the EU got the ears thing.

    Offhandedly, I’d guess that the major reason for the difference in their head-tails is because Bib Fortuna was the one who was going to have a lot of closeups, so his needed to be believable, whereas Oola needed hers to be able to flail around while she was dancing.

    • krellen says:

      So damn much of Star Wars EU is defined this way and it’s a major reason why I hate the EU with such fiery passion.

      • SlothfulCobra says:

        I don’t know, there’s kind of a stupid charm to the way that the EU deduces multiple subspecies of aqualish from a filming error, or the fact that somebody came up with a background reason to why Han Solo changes his pants.

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      This. so much this. I always took it that Bib was malformed as a visual representation of his personality. He’s a slimy sycophant working for an even slimy-er crime lord. Then someone missed the memo and assumed that’s what all male Twi’leks looked like. Ironically the one game I’ve seen that doesn’t do this is SWTOR.

      • ehlijen says:

        It didn’t even need to be malformed. There is a pretty wide range of face shapes just among healthy humans, so there is no reason to assume both Bib and Oola aren’t both just perfectly representative of their species and nevertheless have their own distinct features.

  17. Warclam says:

    It’s not another sun, come on. The second one is actually a daughtur, the sun’s little sister. Duh.

  18. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So if tatooine is earth with an extra sun,that means this universe is actually a continuation of 2010 where jupiter became another star.

    • Metal C0Mmander says:

      I was waiting for someone to bring the possibility of a second sun forming close the earth. However it wouldn’t work because it would raise temperature to a unabitable degree for humans.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Not necessarily.Jupiter is about 5 au away from earth and smaller than the sun.So it would burn colder and heat earth from a greater distance.Also,jupiter is not always on the same side of the sun as earth.So while it would change our climate somewhat,it probably wouldnt change earth into an uninhabitable planet.But maybe into a desert planet?

        • 4th Dimension says:

          Main problem lies in the fact that Jupiter is nowhere near to the mass necessary to become a Brown Dwarf let alone a Sun. Thus to make it a star you would need to somehow feed it a LOT of mass. And then any arguments that “It’s smaller it wouldn’t produce as much heat/light” fly out of the window since we don’t know how it gained that mass. Also considering how close it will to Earth it could easily start seriously messing with the orbit of Earth, hell all of the planets of the system.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Well 2010 turned jupiter into a star by condensing it,not by increasing its mass.And it was possible due to magic space technology.

            But even if we were to apply real world physics to this and say that jupiter gets turned into a star by adding mass to it(some 80 times more mass,in order for it to be a bright star),it would still be waay lighter than the sun.It would impact the orbits of planets,but not in a significant enough manner.Though how this sudden shift would impact earth would largely depend on where the two are when it happens.

          • Jarenth says:

            If only there was some sort of advanced alien civilization, with both the magic-level technology needed to turn Jupiter into a sizeable sun and the incentive for doing so knowing that it would turn the planet into an inhospitable desert wasteland.

  19. Pyrrhic Gades says:

    How do you glass a planet? You smash a beer bottle against a table, and then stab the ground with it.

  20. Star Warring across the universe!

  21. Karanith says:

    Regarding Bioware and their ancient alien civilisation fetish – it actually started with Neverwinter Nights’ original campaign which is ultimately about stopping the evil reptilian empire (that ceased to exist about 10 000 years before the events of the game) from coming back and taking over the world. It was especially jarring (at least for me) because KotOR was released only one year after NWN.

    • ehlijen says:

      It is a common trope in fantasy, and thus also space fantasy.

      Much of the European dark and medieval age, which starting with Tolkien many fantasy works drew from heavily, was defined by knowing that the huge Roman empire collapsed not too long ago. The roads were still there, the ruins were still there, but the skill and infrastructure to rebuild it all wasn’t.

      And Rome isn’t the only collapsed civilisation. We’re still not 100% certain, last I checked, just what kind of logistics building the pyramids required, for example.

      It’s also not just bioware, really. The Enclave in Fallout was pretty much the same thing, just with a much smaller year count.

      • Viktor says:

        Actually, we are. They poured water on the ground to make the blocks of stone easier to slide, that’s how they managed to move them in the timeframe allotted. They even drew artwork of slaves pouring the water and we just spent hundreds of years assuming “religious ritual” instead of looking for an actual reason for it.

        • ehlijen says:

          I take it that brought the estimated manpower needed down enough to make food supply achievable?

          The latest I’d heard, admittedly a while ago, was on the feasibility of feeding a workforce that large that far away from any known farmland.

          Thanks for the heads up!

        • Matt Downie says:

          I think I remember reading pyramid construction works weren’t necessarily slaves.

  22. ehlijen says:

    I think the krayt dragon pearl is a midlevel crystal, actually.

    It’s something like +2 to hit +3 damage, or possibly the other way around?

    Not as good as the later upari and solari and whatnots, but still a lot better than the initial +1s you get on dantooine.

  23. Grudgeal says:

    A whole episode of nothing but tusken screams, translated exposition of no relevance to the plot, and Griff, The Least Tolerable Twilight in the World.

    Truly, this is the greatest episode you’ve ever produced.

  24. StevenDeRosa says:

    There really isn’t anything sexist about that line by the brother. If he would have said, “She is in a bad mood because she is a girl,” then that would be sexist. But, the current way the brother comments on Mission’s mood is no way sexist at all. He says his sister has always been fiery. A sexist would say his sister has always been fiery because she is a woman… Something along those line at least.

    Even then, depending on your definition of sexism, my modified line still might not be sexist. It all depends if you think a fiery mood is a trait that makes women a lesser sex/gender. Granted, you can infer some condescension from the brother’s tone. Still, the condescension doesn’t necessarily originate because of Mission’s sex/gender. If you were to swap Mission to a man, the scene would play out exactly the same. The brother isn’t sexist, he is just a scumbag.

    • Mumbles says:

      I really don’t want to get in an internet war about this, but unfortunately this is a case of coded language. What that means is sometimes a person will say something that on the surface doesn’t seem sexist or offensive, but people who it’s being directed to have heard it enough that they understand it as sexist. In this case, women have been accused of hysteria since FOREVER and their anger or aggression hasn’t been taken seriously by men because of sexism. I’ve personally had something similar said to me. “Oh, she’s upset now but she’s probably on her period” or simply being told my anger is *cute* because I’m a woman. I’ve witnessed this happen to other women as well, especially in online gaming or co-ed sports.

      • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

        I understand the issue. Most people know better than to be so obvious so comments are literally worded to avoid the perceived line while still getting the point across.

        My question is, what if someone really is a certain way? Just the other night, my roommate’s girlfriend was literally rolling around on the ground in my house in a screaming fit of rage demanding that we leave when she was right by the door and could walk out whenever (and its not the first time she’s done this sort of thing). She’s the outlier and far from typical from any other woman I know, but that’s exactly my point. What do you do when the shoe really does fit?

        Its like the ‘bossy’ thing. I have a great female supervisor. The best boss I’ve ever had is the woman I’m currently working for and this is the last word I’d choose to describe her. But I’ve worked under one or two bossy ones as well (and guys who were like that too.) Seems to me that the fix is to call out bossy guys rather than stopping calling out bossy women.

        But because its ‘coded’ suddenly its taboo to say anything which will just lead to euphemisms and reinforcement of stereotypes because everybody has bad behavioral tendencies and social feedback is one of the mechanisms for fixing that.

        If we can’t call people out on bad behavior, I’d sooner stay home. But then I’m a homebody anyway.

        • James says:

          On the first example its not because shes a girl and throwing a fit, its because shes an asshole and throwing a fit, the shoe doesn’t fit ‘cus shes Cinderella.

          Anyone can be a dick, anyone can abuse power by being a bad boss and thinking that their position gives them authority to be bossy, ive know some of the chillest people in the world to be women, and some of the most temperamental to be men, and vice versa, people be people, not the gender.

        • RedSun says:

          The problem isn’t “we can’t say that some women have attitude issues because that’s wrong because women are special.” The problem is “when women express anger, even it’s on a rare basis, it gets dismissed or we just up and decide they’re a bitch.” That’s a problem because if something’s going on that people should be getting mad at, it gets ignored. Or maybe a woman has a legit reason to be a little pissy-sometimes, we all do. Basic empathy and a little patience gets that problem fixed a whole lot better than “woman, amirite?” That’s a courtesy we’ll give to men a lot more readily, too. This isn’t universal across men, due to various reasons, but in general, when certain people are angry, others will ask “why” for them a lot more than others. It’s a cascading problem that empowers a lot of society’s leftover worst traits.

          And before saying “well, I would never do that”, maybe examine your own biases. This isn’t something that exists because everyone is consciously okay with it. It’s something that happens because we spent literal millenia not listening to woman or really caring what they think about, and that kind of attitude sticks around in a lot of little and big ways. Culture dictates a lot of what our immediate reactions to things are, but not our actual response.

          And last bit: no one’s saying you can’t criticize women, and no one’s trying to create some dystopia where you can’t go outside because women will run rampant and you just won’t be able to say anything without offending some deep cultural more. In fact, little secret:

          Saying that a woman is “too emotional” and propping up yourself as some kind of confidant of reason and logic who’s just trying to keep the conversation civil because some women is just taking things too personal or getting too angry for anyone to listen to her is a pretty common tactic on the internet. In fact, it’s a good(read:shitty) way to get a lot of followers who will think you’re smart for some reason.

          • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

            Not that we couldn’t have a conversation but we can’t have one that should be allowed in Shamus’ comment section. Sorry. Its my fault. I carried this too far.

            I can’t offer a valid response to this that wouldn’t push this fully beyond what Shamus wants this comment section to be.

      • StevenDeRosa says:

        Mumbles, I agree about the situations you have outlined. I just don’t feel this particular situation within KotOR reflects the situations you have outlined.

        Also, Griff is Mission’s older brother. Younger people, especially by older siblings, are mocked about their emotional states due to their younger age. This is even more so true when put into the context of KotOR. Here, Mission is supposedly a teenager.

        I am not saying the situations you outlined don’t exist or that they are not socially relevant. They are very relevant today and are a problem. However, the context suggests that this is not what is going on between Mission and Griff. Griff is a scumbag and an jerk older brother. Griff is not a sexist.

        (Plus, if they wanted him to come off as sexist, Bioware probably would have made it more obvious.)

        PS: I apologize if my initial comment started a flame war. This was not my intention.

        • Mumbles says:

          The whole point of coded language is that it’s not obvious like the examples I gave.

          Disregarding a woman’s feelings (when they are entirely valid) and painting them as hysterics or bad temper is sexist. Regardless of their family relationship. I am not saying that he as a character is a sexist. You can say sexist things without knowing or actively being sexist. This happens all the time on the internet, which results in awful flame wars.

          I’m going to be honest, your comments really bother me because you seem intent on proving that something a woman finds sexist is actually totally fine. I’ve had to live with this shit for my whole life. It hurts. If you listen to my reaction, it come from the gut. It’s wounding because I’ve heard people belittle me like that without realizing it’s a gender issue. I think it’s important to look at the perspective of others, even if you don’t really understand it at first, and see where they’re coming from. As the only girl on the show and a woman in a obviously male-dominated space, talking to me like I’m wrong about an issue I know a lot more about than any dude here is not the right way to look at things.

          • StevenDeRosa says:

            I am sorry. I never meant to bother you. I see now that my opinion is clearly incorrect. At the time I made the original post, I clearly did not have an understanding for the weight and depth of this topic. I am very sorry. I am a very internal and private person. This is one of a very few times I have ever posted on this site or on the internet at large. I am actually super embarrassed and ashamed. If you could find it in your heart to forgive me, I would appreciate it.

            All thinks considered, I am still very excited a member of the Spoiler Warning crew responded to my post. I have made a terrible first impression, I apologize.

          • Atarlost says:

            You do realize that by raging about supposedly implicit sexism in innocuous language that other people cannot see you’re actually promoting the very mindset you want to forbid, right?

            You can’t change minds by attacking language and if you could you’d be no better than IngSoc. If minds actually change the language will naturally follow. Hysterical is now used without any gender specificity and can also mean uproariously funny. In a century all the stuff you’re complaining about will also lose its alleged coded meaning unless you keep reminding people of it.

            • Shamus says:

              “raging”? She did nothing even approaching rage. She expressed and explained a common frustration of hers. Something she’s experienced personally.

              By responding this way, you are perpetuating the very thing she finds so very annoying.

              “You can’t change minds by attacking language”

              I’ll be honest, I don’t think you’re doing so hot in the “changing minds” department either.

              I get how annoying it is when the behavior of a single problem person is called out as “sexist”. I know my gut reaction is always, “Hey, you know that guy is an asshole to me, too, right? He’s not sexist, he’s a jerk.” But after living with and working with women for a few years I’ve gotten a feel for how these negative feedback loops work and how fast seemingly innocuous comments can sabotage relationships. It’s much too complex to map out here and would take us into political places I don’t want to go.

              Changing minds and getting people to see the world through your eyes is HARD. And even if you’re really good at it, the other person still has to be willing. But Mumbles isn’t “raging” and she wasn’t trying to “forbid” anything. She gave an honest reaction to something. If you can’t accept that then no further discussion is possible or worthwhile for either party.

  25. anon says:

    So, who else always got the storyteller to tell his story, then deliberately insult him to attack and proceed to wipe out the entire enclave for XP and loot? Oh and this also gives you zero dark side points.

    Moral of the story, if you’re going to profit massively from something, it’s not bad karma as long as you have plausible deniability.

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