Saturday, July 31, 2010

3951 BBY: The Sith Lords Chronicles

In Joe Bongiorno’s complete chronology he cites the source The Sith Lord Chronicles (Knights of the Old Republic II website) immediately after the source KOTOR II. You can find the source in question here. I’m not entirely certain why this is included, but I’m sure Joe has a reason for its enclosure. It basically surmises the events of the Great Hyperspace war from 5000 BBY to the events leading to the end of 3951 BBY and the destruction of the triad of Sith Lords at the hands of the Jedi Exile. Nothing we as amateur historians didn’t already know.

However, with that being said, there are some interesting things I’ve wanted to comment on that are re-iterated in this source regarding the figure of Revan. Under the heading Part XII: 3955-3953: The Feeding of Malachor V, it says: “…Revan seeks out the secret dark outposts he established during the Mandalorian War. Journeying to the Outer Rim in the EBON HAWK, Revan is focused with a single purpose: locating the source of the dark power on MALACHOR V. Those awaiting Revan's arrival, including members of the Sith and the Jedi, are shocked when he fails to return from this pilgrimage. It is unknown whether Revan destroyed or resurrected the primal Sith forces on this forbidden planetoid” I think knowing what we know from the timeline updates from the website, we can surmise that Revan made his way back to unknown space, and to the foot of the Sith emperor – the one who sent him in the first place. I’m interested in seeing how the developers at TOR are going to bring Revan back into the new Star Wars MMO. I wonder if in some twist of fate, Revan has transplanted the Sith Lord who originally sent him, and is now himself the Sith emperor referred to in the sources articulating the events leading up to the Treaty of Coruscant.

In the next heading titled Ascension of the Sith, I thought it interesting the mention of the Lost Jedi; those Jedi who became disillusioned with the constant battles against the Sith and the forces of evil in the galaxy. What I found most intriguing is the mention that even Jedi Watchmen, some of the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy, stepped down from their duties and sent themselves into self imposed exile.

This source also reveals it was Artis who brought the Jedi together for the conclave on Katarr (I’m not sure if this was explicitly mentioned in KOTOR II) for the purposes of drawing out the Jedi’s attackers. But her ruse went horribly wrong when Darth Nilihus arrived, devouring the planet. As this source says: “…the results were worse than Artis could have possibly imagined”.

For my next post I’ll be going back to the source Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force, and the section dealing with the second Sith War – which will most likely again be review of events already encountered. No matter though. That text is by far my favorite source to turn to. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Star Wars Chronology Project: One Year Later

It is the anniversary of when I began my quest, and one year later the Star Wars Chronology Project is still a burning goal, a burning desire in my heart. At the risk of sounding somewhat sad, my life has gotten better since I started this little Star Wars blog.

I never thought the Star Wars Chronology Project would be as fun as it is. I wish I had thought of this sooner, knowing now how much more interesting my daily life has become – to myself anyway. The SWCP is that ‘thing’ constantly in the back of my mind; the little joy I escape to when I have free time; my place of fantastical refuge from the real world; my little corner of the library where I can discuss with like-minds my thoughts on this vast and deep universe.

I have given myself an excuse to really, in an almost unhealthy manner, love Star Wars, and an excuse to buy all the material.

“But honey! It’s for my Star Wars Project!”

In short, the Star Wars Chronology Project has become my labor of love.

I’ve ‘tounge-and-cheekly’ called this project a PhD in Star Wars-ology, so with that in mind I’ve given myself four years to complete it. One year later, I’m not where I thought I’d be. I grossly under-estimated how long KOTOR I would be to get through, and I thought that by this time I would be somewhere in the early prequel area. Though I didn’t set a hard goal for myself going into this project, I think now with one year behind me I will.

Taking a look at Joe Bongiorno’s timeline, and still using that at my compass, I hope to be through all of the prequel material by next year, and on the precipice of engaging with the original trilogy. Knowing the workload I’m walking into come September, this may prove to be too much, but I might as well set the bar high, with a reasonable chance of success.

Since this is a PhD, I’ve also played with the idea of asking knowledgeable persons on Star Wars if they would be my officially un-official PhD directors; persons willing to place their rubber stamp (but with some critique and criticism) at the end of this. I have three people in mind I would like to ask, and if they agree, hopefully they’ll join as followers.

The first is a no-brainer. Plaristes has already filled the role of PhD director this past year, so hopefully he agrees to be the first of my officially un-official directors. (Whaddaya say?)

The other two I may have to work on for a bit.

If you have been regularly reading this blog I hope you have enjoyed the past year, and I hope you keep reading in the year to come. The Star Wars Chronology Project has, most certainly, been my pleasure.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

3951 BBY: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords

I tried not to let the grass grow under my feet while encountering the source KOTOR II from Obsidian Entertainment. KOTOR I took me entirely too long to play through, and I did not manage my time well while trying to complete it. However, I learned my lesson, and took a more aggressive approach to playing through KOTOR 2. Of course it does help that I have 2 months off in the summer – being a teacher and all.

I got through the game in 34 hours, and woke up at 5am every morning since the start of my summer vacation to play as much as possible before my wife and son woke up. I would usually get in approximately 2 hours of playtime a day, with some stretches of no time at all, and other days where I would have either an entire afternoon or evening to myself.

Needless to say, I think I have passed the second greatest obstacle in the SWCP: a Star Wars RPG that swallows time like a leviathan swallows fish.

I’m nearly at the end of another era in Star Wars history, and I’m looking forward to diving into the remaining saga of the Old Republic epoch in the Star Wars story.

KOTOR II was very fun to play, and I think I enjoyed it more than KOTOR I, only because I dealt with it in a more cohesive manner. My experience with it was less disjointed than my experience with the first one. Though, I think if I had played KOTOR I in the same manner I played KOTOR II, I might have enjoyed it a little more.

Consequently, there are a great many things which I would like to discuss after having gone through such an encyclopedic source, but for the purposes of this post, I have boiled my reactions down to five talking points: the first being Obsidian Entertainment, the second being the settings of Iziz and Dxun, the third being the battle of Malachor V, the fourth being the destruction of the first Jedi order, and lastly, the topic I will spill the most ink on, the phenomenon of Gray Jedi.

At first I was a little disappointed that Bioware did not take up the second KOTOR game, but was instead handled by Obsidian Entertainment. Bioware did such an excellent job with the first installment of KOTOR, I’m not surprised Lucas Entertainment went back to them for the new Old Republic MMO scheduled for release next spring. That being said however, I think Obsidian did an awesome job with this title, and most certainly filled the excellent example initiated by Bioware.

I think Obsidian took some flak with its handling of the KOTOR story, since one level had been deleted from the game, and many cut scenes had been taken out as well. There is even an organization called Team Gizka which restored the lost content of the game. I haven’t looked into how one recovers this content, but from what I’ve briefly read it can be done. It was said that Lucas Arts put some pressure on Obsidian to complete the game for a holiday release in 2004, and therefore, some aspects of the game had to fall to the cutting room floor.

I myself did not really miss this lost content, but then again, I would not classify myself as a hard-core gamer (not anymore anyway), who would miss such game play.

Putting game development aside, and focusing on the game itself, I was very excited to see the planet of Onderon, and its moon Dxun. These setting were prominently featured in the stories of Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars of Onderon, along with the Sith War. It was very cool to walk around the city of Iziz, and see the great towered turrets, which once battled off the Beast Riders of Dxun lead by Oron Kira. There was even a point in the game where Captain Riiken, in conversation with the Jedi Exile (you as the main protagonist) mentions the marriage of Oron Kira to Princess Galia. What struck me about this piece of dialogue was that Captain Riiken mentions that the marriage took place nearly 50 years ago. This struck me because as an amateur Star Wars historian, 50 years ago seems like a really long time to me. It was as if one was to mention the events of World War II in 1995 – such an event was just out of reach, memory wise, to those that came a generation after the occasion. Being born in the late 70’s myself , WWII seems like such a long time ago, like I’m sure the mention of such a historical marriage in the Star Wars universe was to the Jedi Exile, who presumably was born a generation after this event. This little piece of dialogue made me appreciate how deep this universe is, and it reminded me of why I love the Star Wars universe so much. Indeed, intertexuality is one of the main features of Star Wars storytelling.

Moving on, like KOTOR I, there were times in KOTOR II where I had to ask myself: ‘did I miss something?’ The ‘something’ in this case, was the battle of Malachor V.

The battle of Malachor V was a momentous affair in the Star Wars universe, and an event that does not have source text depicting its happenings prior to KOTOR II. The battle of Malachor V is mentioned only briefly in the first KOTOR, and for a while there was a “historical article” on the battle put up by Lucas Arts on its KOTOR II website, but apparently it contained so many continuity errors it was removed.

In KOTOR II, the Jedi Exile was present at the battle, and his actions at that battle were the reason why he was expelled from the Jedi order. Like Revan and Malak being hailed as heroes of the Mandalorian Wars in one text (the end of the KOTOR comic series), and then being presented as villains in the next chronological text (Iridonian Darkness), I was left scratching my head at the mention of the battle of Malachor V. Needless to say, I played through the game knowing that the battle would be explained in more detail, and I then went to wookiepedia to fill in any blanks.

The battle of Malachor V is important to Star Wars history for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was important because many Jedi were killed in that battle. And secondly, the battle of Malachor V preceded the first destruction of the Jedi order – the destruction of the very few Jedi that did managed to survive the battle.

The battle of Malachor V brings me to my next point of discussion: the first destruction of the Jedi Order in recorded Star Wars chronology.

The six-page comic Unseen, Unheard, which depicts the destruction of Katarr, now makes sense to me. After the battle of Malachor V, a council was called by the Jedi order to convene on the planet Katarr. The council needed to discuss amongst its members how to begin to rebuild the Order, after it had taken such heavy losses. While on Katarr though, Darth Nihilius, a powerful Dark Lord of the Sith who feeds on the Force, was drawn to the planet to destroy and consume the force users present on the surface. Darth Nilhius destroyed the planet and all its inhabitants, save for his apprentice, Visas Marr, and approximately 100 Jedi who managed to somehow escape the genocide.

The council of Katarr reminds me of the council called by Nomi Sunrider in 3986 BBY, 35 years prior. I remember in that particular source text thousands of Jedi met at Exis station to discuss the future of the Republic after the devastation of the Sith War. If there ever is a time to deal a striking blow to the Jedi order, it’s when it meets at a council. Darth Nihilius took his opportunity, and Force-Fed on the many Force sensitive beings meeting on the planet’s surface. I’m interested in seeing how the Jedi Order rebuilds it’s numbers from this point in time, and makes the Order strong once again.

Digressing for a moment, the character of Visas Marr and the Handmaiden were interesting. I thought the sexual tension between the Jedi Exile (a male avatar this time around), Marr, and the Handmaiden was an interesting sub-plot to the larger story.

The most interesting character in this game however, was Darth Traya: otherwise known as Kreia – which brings me to my last point of discussion regarding my reactions to KOTOR II; Gray Jedi.

Gray Jedi, for me, represent an extremely interesting and problematic phenomenon in the Star Wars universe. I have mixed feelings regarding the existence of Gray Jedi in Star Wars. I’ve managed to articulate and organize my feelings into two camps: one camp focuses around the concept of story-telling, while the other camp focuses on my own personal feelings towards “grayness”.

First, I want to provide some perspective on the concept of Gray Jedi, and what this actually means. A quick look at Wookieepedia defines the term Gray Jedi: “The term Gray Jedi, or Gray, had two meanings. First, it was used by Jedi and Sith to describe Force-users who walked the line between the light and dark sides of the Force without surrendering to the dark side, and second, it described Jedi who distanced themselves from the Jedi High Council and operated outside the structures of the Jedi Code.” (Wookieepedia – Gray Jedi).

Wookieepedia then goes on to list some of the more famous Gray Jedi in Star Wars history (non- chronological mind-you) Jolee Bindo from KOTOR I, Qui-Gon Jinn, and the Imperial Knights to name a few (Imperial Knights are found in the far distant future of Star Wars history).

Gray Jedi feel that the Jedi High Council do not have a monopoly on truth and morality and what the will of the Force may be for beings who are gifted with the usage of the Force. They operate outside of the Jedi Order: “The term dated back as far as the Old Sith War, when the High Council attempted to consolidate their power and centralize the Order. Some Jedi felt that the Council did not have the authority to reinterpret the Jedi Code, and considered themselves beholden only to the Force. These early Gray Jedi clashed with the Council over new strictures of the Code, such as those barring attachment or restricting training.” (Wooieepedia – Gray Jedi). It’s Martin Luther at Wittenberg and his 95 theses transplanted into the Star Wars universe.

Luther felt that the central authority of the Church did not properly interpret the bible, and he too also went against the mandate “barring attachment” and was a priest with a wife (which honestly wasn’t unheard of in Europe in that time period). Moreover, Luther, and later Protestants in general felt that they themselves were only beholden to God (re-the Force), and that they themselves could interpret the bible (re the Jedi Code) to fit their lifestyles as how they saw fit; What is more, some Protestants believe that there isn’t in fact, a “correct” interpretation, there was just your “personal opinion”. Similarity in the Star Wars universe, Gray Jedi feel that the Jedi Code is just simply a “certain point of view”, and not the height of proper moral living for a Jedi. But I’m letting my personal views get in the way now. Let me explain why I like Gray Jedi.

From a story telling and role-playing perspective, Gray Jedi are compelling. Gray Jedi open up a whole litany of possibilities for a writer may wish to explore how a character may pursue insight into the Force. Jolee Bindo is interesting; Qui-Gon Jinn is interesting; Kreia is interesting; all because they have that independent, “I don’t need some moral authority telling me how to live my life” attitude. As Frank Sinatra says “they did it their way”. What’s not to love about the rugged independent soldier, who works as ‘the rebel’, ‘the anti-hero’, or the ‘malcontent’? I myself am attracted to all these points of view, as I want to see myself like this in aspects of my own life.

Before I wrote this post I had my own personal ideas on the concept of Gray Jedi, but I wanted a little more insight into what other Star Wars fans thought about it. So I went to my favorite Star Wars discussion board at, and asked what fellow Star Wars fans thought about Gray Jedi. That discussion can be found here, and it’s from that discussion that I’ve pulled some of the ideas I present here.

Again, from a storytelling perspective, one poster by the name of Roda said something I thought very interesting: “A disenchanted Jedi is also a very real possibility in this setting (that of the Old Republic timeframe). A Jedi may not agree with the decisions of the Jedi council during this period of war (for various reasons), so this could prompt a Jedi to distance themselves from the order while he or she chooses his or her own path in these confusing and turbulent times.” I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment, as I find the idea of Gray Jedi an interesting avenue to explore, but ultimately as an avenue as a character whose view of the Force from a Gray philosophy may be noble, but deeply flawed. It is here we get into my own opinion of Gray Jedi.

I don’t like the concept of Gray Jedi because of the idea that Gray Jedi are somehow more “balanced” than other Jedi. Take the character of Kriea for example. In KOTOR II, on the character sheet screen, the player is presented with a sliding scale of the ‘lightness’ or ‘darkness’ of the character. Kreia sits in the middle of this scale, proffering the view that either strict adherence to light or dark one becomes narrow-minded or “unbalanced”. And using the sliding scale at the visual for such a philosophy, one can see how the viewpoint that Jedi that follow the Jedi Code, and are ‘light’ Jedi are indeed somehow unbalanced, and vice-versa for ‘dark’ Jedi.

I think this is a product of our morally pluralistic society. In the discussion post I alluded to earlier, one poster by the name of Rougee touched upon this notion: “People want their cake AND ice cream at the same time. They want the "structure" and power of the Jedi but don't want to be bothered with their moral code, since humans have no moral code in real life anymore anyways”. I found this comment quite profound because I do think that much of Western culture is operating without a moral code, and view institutions and authority suspiciously. If we transplant this suspicion and bring it into our gaming and fantasy life where we indulge ourselves in the Star Wars universe, we begin to see that the Jedi Order is, most certainly, a religious order, and that the Jedi High Council is basically the Star Wars equivalent of the Magesterium of the Roman Catholic Church – and I think that this does not sit well with people. A lot of people don’t like the idea of an institution that sets itself up as a moral authority telling people what to do – in real life or the place they run to in order to escape real life. “I like the idea of being a “lightside” Jedi, but I want to explore this character on my own terms, and not be “restricted” by others ideas.”

I want to challenge the notion that “middle of the road” somehow equals “balanced”. Again, in the discussion thread, a poster by the name of JacenHallis had this to say: “The Force by itself is harmonious, at peace, balanced. Obi-Wan described the Force as an ‘energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.’ Yoda concurred: ‘Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere’. The Sith philosophy of "power above all" throws The Force off balance. It is a perversion of the Force, using it to do things that it is not meant to do. They use the Force to maliciously harm others. They use the Force to kill. They disrupt the harmony that is the Force's natural state.”

Growing in the knowledge of the lightside of the Force is balance. The lightside of the Force is the balance all Force users should strive to achieve. Following the Gray path means that “balance” has not been realized, and following down the dark path one becomes even more “unbalanced”. To be truly balanced, one must necessarily follow the Jedi Code, as properly interpreted by the Jedi High Council.

I’m being polemic now, so just make sure to take me with a grain of salt.

In my opinion, “grayness” on the part of a Jedi is just a prelude to a fall to the darkside. Kreia offered gray Force philosophy to the Jedi Exile, but the ‘middle of the road’ philosophy spewed by Kreia was just a set-up to candy coat in a layer inclusive wisdom the Jedi Exile’s fall to the darkside. She says to the exile: “One quickly learns the Jedi Code does not give all the answers. If you are to truly understand, then you will need the contrast, not adherence to a single idea.” She presents following a “single idea”, regardless of how good and trustworthy that idea may be, as a silly notion. Palpatine famously used almost the same line on Anakin. In episode three, when Palpatine finally revealed himself to Anakin, he says to him: “Anakin, if one is to understand the great mystery, one must study all its aspects, not just the dogmatic narrow view of the Jedi. If you wish to become a complete and wise leader, you must embrace a larger view of the Force.” It all sounds too rational, too scientific, too “balanced”.

The ‘middle of the road’ gray Force philosophy proffered by Jedi who think the multiple- millennial wisdom the Jedi Order can be bent to suit their own worldviews are sorely mistaken. As Kreia says towards the end of the game: “The Mandalorian wars were a series of massacres that masked another war, a war of conversion”. This conversion is the conversion of the galaxy to the darkside; a world stripped of the moral compass of the Jedi Order, to be replaced by nihilism and apathy. And the galaxy applauds at the new wisdom they have been handed by “the wise” while they gleefully trod down a path of miserly, pain, and loneliness that they have yet to realize.

Man! I really enjoyed KOTOR II!

For my next post I’ll be taking a look back at what I’ve accomplished in the Star Wars Chronology Project thus far, and do a ‘year-in-review’ type post to see where I’m headed from here. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Monday, July 5, 2010

3951 BBY: Unseen, Unheard

Unseen Unheard is an origin story for the Knights of the Old Republic 2 video game – or so I presume. We’ve moved ahead five years in Star Wars history, bringing us ever closer to the end of another era in Star Wars chronology.

In Unseen Unheard there are no character names, and there is no indication to the reader who the two protagonists are. Knowledge of them, I assume, is assumed. This six page black and white comic’s story is told in 200 words, but it’s not the words which convey the message – is the stark black and white images which depict the coming together of these two characters.

Doing a little bit of internet research, enough I think to clarify this story and not give away too much of the KOTOR 2 video game, we are presented here for the first time with Visas Marr and Darth Nihilus, an apprentice to a Sith Master, and a Dark Lord of Sith Lord who cuts a fairly intimidating form.

The story itself gives the account of the destruction of the planet Katarr at the hands of Darth Nihilus. At the end of the tale, Nihilus has rescued Marr from the destruction, and has brought her onto his ship to make her his pupil – I, once again, presume.

Some things of note I found interesting in this story:
Firstly, I found the reference to “hungered” by Marr interesting. It seems Darth Nihilus “feeds” on death and destruction and hungers for such things.

Secondly, I at first thought that Marr was Q’anilia from the KOTOR comic series, but she is not (because I had to remind myself that Q’anilia died of course). She is, however, of the same species as Q’anilia, which is Miraluka; a species which does not have eyes to see, but sees the world through the eyes of the Force.

Thirdly, the emergence of this new Sith Lord is interesting. I look forward to finding out what Darth Nihilus is all about.

The ending of the story was a little beyond me though. When Marr wonders why Nihilus has saved her from the destruction, the answer becomes clear to her. She said Nihilus saved her because: “he wanted my people to at last see”. This point is further exclaimed by having Marr’s non-existent eyes plucked from her head, as she stares out into space through gaping holes where eyes once were. I’m not sure what these means, and I hope its meaning is made clear to me once I immerse myself in the story of KOTOR 2.

My continuance in the SWCP will once again subside with this post. From here I am moving on to the source KOTOR 2, and of course it will take me a while to get through it. Hopefully I’ll be a little more efficient this time around. I think before I finish the game there will be a new Old Republic novel due to release, so if it’s before the KOTOR 2 timeframe, I’ll give it a read and report on it when I’m done. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

3956 BBY: Knights of the Old Republic

This post was a long time in the making, and was the greatest obstacle I had to face for the continuance of the Star Wars Chronology Project. I know I have made many references to my status within the KOTOR video game since the beginning of the year, but I have finally done it. I have played and finished the Knights of the Old Republic video game.

In my very first post on this blog, I made reference to the “monumental nature” of my undertaking, and now that I am on the opposite side of having completed KOTOR, I feel my words were apt. My task truly is monumental. 48 hours of video game playtime to some people may be a drop in a bucket, but to me, those 48 hours represent the idea that, yes, I can obtain my PhD in Star Wars-ology, and read, watch, listen to, and play every piece of Star Wars media ever produced, and do so in the chronological order of events contained within the Star Wars universe (or almost chronologically anyway).

By finishing KOTOR, I have demonstrated to myself that I AM going to finish this project, and there WILL BE a date in the future where I’ll have studied everything Star Wars.

I have always believed that this project was for real, but now I know it.

So with my own back-patting out of the way, I want to begin my musings on KOTOR with the writing s of Abel G. Pena.

In an essay titled Video Games and Star Wars Continuity, which can be found here, Pena investigates the question, ‘do the events contained within Star Wars video games count towards a comprehensive Star Wars continuity?’ And the answer he provides his reader is “yes!” To quote Pena’s words: “Here we discuss an eccentric part of the Star Wars canon, the videogames produced by LucasArts. Though frequently overlooked in the past, videogames have been borrowing elements from and contributing characters to the Star Wars Expanded Universe mythology overwhelmingly shaped by novels and comics with greater and greater consistency. For fans, and writers, this has proved to have its advantages, and its disadvantages.” Pena goes on in this essay to discuss those advantages and disadvantages, but to be honest I found this essay extremely amusing and rather quaint, which begs the question ‘why am I referencing it here?” The reason I’m quoting from Pena’s essay, is to demonstrate just how much of a gamer-changer the KOTOR video game was.

I’m not sure when Pena wrote this essay, but it must have been sometime after KOTOR, because he found that the question of Star Wars video games affecting continuity and canon relevant, as in, there was a time when video games did not contribute to the larger Star Wars story – or at least no one thought they did. In this essay Pena even refers to video games as “that eccentric part of Star Wars canon”. Well, circa, 2010, they are not so eccentric any longer. And KOTOR, so full of story and correct historical Star Wars events, changed the way we integrated video games into the larger Star Wars canon. As Pena says: “Other fans, however, complain that sweeping galactic events such as those in the Knights of the Old Republic games should not be relegated to as inaccessible and unconventional a “literary” source as a videogame”. Basically saying, the events of KOTOR are too important to ignore, they must necessarily be included into Star Wars canon, even though the telling of this tale was not found in a book. In a post Knights of the Old Republic Star Wars universe, the question of video games contributing to a comprehensive continuity was no longer a question. It was obvious that this one did, and future games would as well.

Video games have come a long way, and when I began this project, the thought of not including them never once entered my mind. I would argue that it is now expected that video games have an effect on Star Wars continuity, and that fans expect video games (to a certain extent) properly follow Star Wars continuity. Indeed, Pena was a Star Wars fanboy ahead of his time.

Moving on, Knights of the Old Republic was an epic struggle of good vs. evil. It was a choose your own adventure come to life, and one of the most fun video games I’ve ever played.
For the purposes of this post, I’m going to give my reflections on each part of the game, beginning with Taris, then Dantooine, Tatooine, Kashyyyk, Manaan, Leviathan, Korriban, the Unknown Region, and finally the Star Forge.

Taris was a much longer level than I would have liked it to be. To be honest, I must have stopped the game three or four times while in the Taris phase, feeling like I’d never be able to get off that stupid planet, with its Sith quarantine and hatred of alien races. Eventually though, I managed to make it off Taris, only to come to a cut scene where the entire planet was destroyed by Darth Malak. After watching the cinematic action of Taris being destroyed, something strange came over me; I felt an actual pang of sadness watching the planet burn. Silly thoughts entered my head: ‘What about the lady that sells the droids?’ ‘what about that dude who could never win a dueling match’ What about that racist guy on the street corner? Are they all dead too? Man, that Malak is an A-hole!

It’s funny, because Drew Karpyshyn, one of the developers of the new Old Republic MMO, and one of the lead writers on this game, said of that episode in KOTOR on the developer dispatch ‘Returning to Taris’: “we really needed an impactful moment from the main villain of the game” Well, mission accomplished Drew. I really did come to love the planet Taris, in all its quirky uniqueness. I was happy to be done with Taris though, and moving on to Dantooine.

At the Dantooine stage I was still playing off and on, and I had yet to find a rhythm playing the game. Short bursts of playtime were interrupted by long episodes of real life. I was looking forward to Dantooine though, because of my time on that planet playing Star Wars Galaxies. Galaxies developed Dantooine a little differently that what was found in KOTOR, but for the most part the planet seemed very familiar to me. I had spent many hours killing Jantas on Dantooine in SWG. Old school players of SWG will know exactly what I mean.

My favorite part of Dantooine besides is familiarity, was the bit of meta-text offered by one of the NPCs, Desser. Upon stepping off the Ebon Hawk in Dantooine’s docking bay, you are met by Desser, who tells you about ‘The Great Hunt’, and then begins to tell the story of Shadows and Light, which took place 37 years prior. Shadows and Light tells the story of three Jedi Knights who were sent by the council to exterminate the Terentatek. My reactions to that story can be found here. I also enjoyed how you were able to find the journals of Duron Qel-droma, Shaela Nuur, and Guun Han Saresh within the game, and find some of their equipment. Most of all though, was that I was able to make sense of one of the final boxes in the comic: Revan standing over the body of Malak.

I also enjoyed interacting with Master Vandar, and some of the members of the Jedi council. I am beginning to believe that dealing with the story of Star Wars in its chronological order does have something to offer a devoted fan (a question I had asked in one of my earlier posts). What that “something” is I have yet to clarify and articulate in my own mind, but there is “something” to engaging with Star Wars from its beginnings, and eventually, to its end. I liked the feeling of being knowledgeable about the story Shadows and Light, and knowing, in more than a passing manner, what Desser was talking about.

If Dantooine was familiar to me, Tatooine felt even more familiar. At this point in the game I was feeling much more like I was part of something epic. The cut-away movie scenes of Malak hunting Bastila gave me a sense that I was part of something big. Like Dantooine, I also remember Tatooine from my days as a player on SWG. Anchorhead was a familiar landmark for me, but not somewhere I frequented. I do remember getting my first taste of player vs. player combat in Anchorhead though. And I do remember hunting down a Jedi in Anchorhead, and engaging in an epic one on one duel with him. It started in the cantina, and eventually wound its way out into the dessert.

I completed all the quests on Tatooine, and then made off for Kashyyyk.

I think Kashyyyk was the most entertaining level for me. What struck me most about Kashyyyk were the sounds of wildlife. KOTOR was made in 2003, and the Kashyyyk expansion for SWG debuted in 2005. The devs at SWG made sure to properly emulate the sounds of Kashyyyk from KOTOR, because when I was exploring the lower level of Kaskyyyk’s forests, I thought I was back on my bounty hunter again, tracking down AFK Jedi, leveling up their force-sensitive characters.

Any old bounty hunter from SWG will remember the days of AFK Jedi on Kashyyyk’s forest floor, as any AKK Jedi will remember some griefing scoundrel bounty hunter killing their characters while they sat in another room preparing themselves a sandwich. I could very well get into a rant about how terribly designed yet ridiculously fun to play SWG was – and I will when I get to the SWG novel the Ruins of Dantooine. I already have the majority of that post written in my head. As it is – the sound effects of Kashyyyk brought me back to my days as an intergalactic hunter of Jedi.

When I watched the cinematic cut scene of the Ebon Hawk leaving Kashyyyk I did so with a bit of a heavy heart. As I said earlier, I found myself really getting pulled into the story of KOTOR. As I went to Manaan the next cut scene introduced me to Darth Malak’s apprentice Darth Bandon, and I must admit I found his introduction quite intimidating. It was a well done piece of story done by the devs at Bioware.

Manaan itself was interesting but the storylines there didn’t really pull me in. What I found most interesting about Manaan was the expansion of the storylines of Canderous and Juhani. Canderous mentions Revan killing Mandalore, which caught me a little off-guard, as I think this bit of history has not been mentioned in Star Wars chronology to date. I wonder if it has been presented in some other Star Wars source text. I also found Juhani’s mention of the Exchange interesting, as this storyline was a major part of the KOTOR comic series.

Upon leaving Manaan, the Ebon Hawk was pulled to the Leviathan, Saul Karath’s ship, and Carth’s old commanding officer. This level was fun to play, and revealed for me the most significant plot twist in the game.


This honestly caught me by surprise. You’d think that even though this game has been out for seven years, and the fact that I’m a fan of all things Star Wars, I would have at least heard of this or seen it coming – but I didn’t – which I totally loved. Before the first confrontation with Malak I paused the game and yelled upstairs to my wife “I’M DARTH REVAN!!!” There was no response, so I can only assume she rolled her eyes at me and kept on doing whatever it was she was doing.

I want to pause for a moment and talk about this scene and continuity.
Firstly, I now understand why Darth Revan’s face has never been shown in other Star Wars sources, including the source Timeline #8 which I examined before this post, and why he is usually shown with a bit of a lithe body – neither too masculine nor too feminine. With that being said though, timeline #8 clearly presents Darth Revan as a male figure, although his face is never shown. This new revelation bothered me somewhat, as now my own personal Star Wars worldview was now in conflict with the official history – allow me to explain.

Many months ago, when I began playing KOTOR, I made a vain attempt to pull my wife into the game and the first character I created was a female avatar for her to use. I thought I could get my wife to play game while I sat next to her and coached her thought. It was a husband’s attempt to pull his wife into the things that he likes. On retrospect I realize how foolish this was. My wife would never sit down and put 48 hours into a video game with me “coaching” her through. She has her own hobbies and interests. We did try it for nearly an hour though. She quickly lost interest and moved on to her own things. I was now one hour into the game with a female avatar, so I continued on with her for the sake of time. I never play a female avatar when I play a video game because I’m a male and I want to identify with my character.

So now my Star Wars worldview consists of Darth Revan as a woman, while the canonized version does not. My understanding of Star Wars history is now heretical. I understand the dev’s motivation for giving the players choice at character creation, and we could dabble with the idea that the gender of Revan is not important, but I think that that’s just politically correct rationalization. I think Revan’s gender is important, and I think if the canonized view later down the road would be Revan as a man, then strictly males avatars should have been the only option at character creation. But ultimately I don’t think the devs at Bioware would think down the line Revan’s gender would be canonized, even if it’s in a ‘wink-wink-nudge-nudge’ manner.

I understand why the canonized portrayal of Revan would be male. It is mostly males who play video games, and males mostly chose male avatars. Therefore, it makes sense that Darth Revan would be a male, as this is the most common worldview held by those whose interest in Star Wars history is at stake. In truth, I want Darth Revan to be a male. However, I do think the idea of Darth Revan as a woman is more interesting.

This makes the Revan/Bastila storyline take on a whole new twist. If Darth Revan is a female, then Bastila’s relationship and feelings for Revan are now categorized as homosexual in nature. I’m referring here to the line in the KOTOR sourcebook: …”that Bastila would fall in love with Revan…” (pg 137). In defense of the devs at Bioware, the romantic relationship with Bastila as a female avatar was not an option.

I’m sure this view of Star Wars history would not sit well with most fans, but you never know. Maybe this worldview of Star Wars is a little more interesting that the accepted canonized view.
Moving on to Korriban, I thought the interaction of Master Uthar from the Sith academy and my character quite amusing. I don’t want to belabor the point, but I really do think that the Sith philosophy is basically the same philosophy we hold in secular western society. It is basically the worship of the secular over the sacred: climb to the top at any cost, and hold in contempt anything which begins to respect power outside of the individual.

Korriban was a fun level, and the scenery was cool. I especially liked the conversation I had with Ajunta Pall, and exploring the tombs of former darkside masters.

From Korriban I made my way to the Unknown Regions, which was a visually beautiful level. There was a lookout from a cliff top on the first level which provided a stunning view of the ocean and a fallen Republic cruiser. I got through this level with relative ease, and then made my way to the Star Forge. I was surprised at how susceptible to force powers Bastila Shan was in our fight, and I defeated her handedly.

The Star Forge was by far the hardest level of the game, and I had to take my time wading through the endless amount of enemies thrown my way. Needless to say, I eventually made my way to Darth Malak, only to die several times in my final boss fight with him. I eventually clued in to throwing my lightsaber to defeat him, and release the Jedi captives, and after I had figured that much out, I beat him with ease.

The final cinematics of the game were awesome. My favorite part was the Star Wars orchestral fanfare at the very end, which made me feel like a hero.

I thoroughly enjoyed playing KOTOR, and I’m glad I stuck with it and completed the game.
I’m also looking forward to moving ahead in the project. For my next post I’ll be examining the 6 page comic Unseen, Unheard, found in Star Wars Tales volume 6. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

3962-3961 BBY: The Jedi Civil War

I am nearly off the meandering path of chronology I had to take, back-logging and considering times in earlier Star Wars history, to lead me back to the well trodden path of the Star Wars saga. This post today will be the last post before my regarding of the KOTOR video game, and before I get back to following Star Wars record in its proper chronological order.

With the coming release of the Star Wars ‘The Old Republic’ MMO due out in spring of 2011, Bioware, the company responsible for KOTOR parts 1 and 2, has been providing for fans on their website,, timelines leading up to the events of The Old Republic video game. These timelines have been, by far, some of the most interesting pieces of Star Wars history to engage with.

A few years ago I had to commute over an hour to work, and for a long time all I did during my commute was listen to the radio. I eventually got sick of all the nonsense of radio talk show hosts. For Christmas that year my wife got me an ipod, so I decided to put my ipod to work. I headed to my public library, and checked out some books on CD. I then went home, copied the CDs to my hard drive and transferred them to my ipod. So now on my way to work I was able to listen to a book on CD, without spending any money. One of my favorite things to listen to was a series of lectures called The Modern Scholar series. A few I enjoyed the most were: Eternal Chalice: The Grail in Literature and Legend, by Monica Potkay, and Rings, Swords, and Monsters: Exploring Fantasy Literature, by Michael D.C. Drout. While I was listening to one of my Modern Scholar lectures, I got the idea of doing one of these, but in the vein of Star Wars. I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be neat if a Jedi Master were to narrate a lecture series like this, and comment on eras in Star Wars history like the Sith War and the Jedi Civil War? Well, my musing came true, as the timelines by the developers of The Old Republic are basically lecture series by a Jedi Master.

In these timelines, Jedi Master Gnost-Dural explains his role as keeper of the Jedi archives, and the task before him: “Greetings, I am Master Gnost Dural, keeper of the Jedi archives. The Jedi council request I perform a daunting task: to revise the Order’s historical records, in light of new revelations about the formation of the Sith Empire. Specifically I am to trace the conflict between the Empire and the Republic, the Sith and the Jedi, to uncover the roots of this struggle which now plagues us…” (Timeline #1,)
The voice acting for Master Gnost-Dural in these pieces is brilliant.

So far there have been 8 timelines, and they are measured in time with the denotation BTC and ATC, which mean, Before the Treaty of Coruscant, and After the Treaty of Coruscant. Though Joe Bongiorno has not placed timeline # 8 in his chronological record, BTC 303, which is the listed date of timeline number 8, can be equated with 3962-3961 BBY, sometime after the KOTOR comic series ended, and before the chronological record of Iridonian Darkness.

Some very interesting facts come to light in timeline #8, the most notable being that both Darth Revan and Darth Malak were working as agents for a Sith emperor, and not of their own accord. Master Gnost –Dural’s premise is that the Sith Empire, hidden in deep space, and unknown to the Republic, under the leadership of an enigmatic Sith emperor, began laying the groundwork of their invasion of Republic space as far back as 3962 BBY. It is Master Gnost-Dural’s claim that the Jedi heroes of the Mandalorian war, Revan and Malak, were seduced by the Sith emperor to the darkside of the force, who then sent them ahead into republic space as Sith agents to begin laying the foundation of a Sith invasion fleet. To do this he gave them the information on how to recover the Star Forge, and incredibly powerful weapon which can basically produces an endless amount of warships and weaponry.

Once Darth Revan and Darth Malak recovered the Star Forge, and being Sith, each began to plot their own schemes of Galactic domination, and before long Malak turned on Revan, which then lead to the events of Iridonian Darkness, and the re-conversion of Darth Revan to the Light.

This makes sense to me, as from a chronological perspective, I remember being very bewildered moving from the end of the KOTOR comic series, to Iridonian Darkness. ( see my post on Iridonian Darkness here). From the ending of the KOTOR comic series, to Iridonain Darkness, Revan and Malak make the transition from heroes to villains with no explanation provided. Timeline 8 fills in those gaps.

After this bit of important historical information is revealed, Master Gnost-Dural basically surmises the events of the Jedi Civil war, and the events of the KOTOR video game.
Looking at the timeline provided by The Old Republic, it seems there are still eleven more to come, each spreading further and further back into Star Wars history. I can’t wait to engage with them! They are most fascinating pieces of Star Wars history.

My next post will be on my reactions to the KOTOR video game, and a post that may take me a few days for me to type up (I have it in handwritten rough draft form right now). Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.