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Old 04-30-2005, 05:59 PM   #1
Achilles
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TSL Postmortem in this month's issue of Game Developer

Here it is in all it's unformatted glory...

You're welcome

ALTHOUGH THE ORIGINAL KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC (KOTOR) was developed by BioWare, Obsidian Entertainment developed the sequel to the LucasArts game, STAR WARS KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC II: THE SITH LORDS (KOTOR II). Upon release, the original was met by both industry acclaim and consumer praise. The challenge for Obsidian was to attain the high expectations of such a game's sequel, while adhering to an ambitious development schedule.

In tackling this project, we decided to build upon the proven success of the first game's design and were careful to not fix aspects of the game that had already proved their worth. Instead, we identified areas of KOTOR that we could expand upon to create a better experience in a flavor similar to that of the first game. Almost without exception, every game design enhancement to KOTOR II was a natural extension from the original game, not a redesign.


This project was Obsidian's first, though most members of the 33-person development team had several years of game development experience. About half of the team worked together at Black Isle Studios, while other members came from companies such as Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Activision. About one third of the team was hired within the last six months of the project, including 70 percent of the design staff.

KOTOR II had dedicated producers on both the developer and publisher side, and all the members reported to one of three leads in art, programming, or design. The leads guided the development process, but gave considerable ownership to team members. BioWare provided the engine and toolset from KOTOR, which was the used as the foundation for KOTOR II. LucasArts provided all quality assurance, audio (sound, music, and voice), rendered cinematics, and also assisted in art asset creation. Most of the production phase of the project involved considerable overtime; however, employees were driven to work any extra hours not due to management, but due to their dedication to making a great game.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

1 ALIGNMENT AND INFLUENCE SYSTEM. The best example of expanding upon BioWare's strong game design is the influence system that Obsidian developed for KOTOR II. One of the most successful elements of the original KOTOR was its treatment of non-player character party members (companions). Their elaborate histories, personalities, and roles in the story were frequently praised as great features of the first game. Another powerful trait was the player character alignment system, the players' ability to earn lightor dark-side points for many of their actions.

Both of these elements were emphasized in KOTOR II. We expanded them by allowing players' relationships with their companions to change based upon the their decisions as the game progresses. When companions interject their own expertise or opinions during conversations, the player either gains or loses influence with that companion based on how they react to what was said.

The player's influence (either positive or negative) affects what types of information the companion will divulge and can even have more extreme effects, such as allowing the player to take on the companion as a padawan. Additionally, the player's alignment on either the good or evil side alters most of the companion relationships based upon his or her influence with them. Two of the prestige classes, Sith Lord and Jedi Master, had an even greater effect on their companions' alignments. The influence feature has been enthusiastically received by KOTOR fans.

We also increased the importance of alignment in other ways. Some of the dialogue, particularly from companions, changes when the player noticeably leans toward the light or dark side. A special lightsaber crystal attunes itself to the player's alignment and level, with its powers and abilities changing as the player does. The player's light or dark side decisions even effect who can become a player's companion.


2 MEMORABLE MOMENTS. Another aspect of KOTOR that received high praise was the non-linear game play. After completing the initial sections of the game, players were allowed to choose their own course through the game world. We sought to expand upon this idea by combining the non-linear aspect of the game with a philosophy of implementing memorable game moments. Often, what players remember from games are a few key moments that have great impact. Through cut scenes and innovative exploitation of the game engine, we created many of these moments throughout the game's story to continuously entertain and surprise.

Many of the events that occur in the game feel outside the scope of a traditional RPG, providing an experience that one normally doesn't find in the role-playing genre. For example, at several points in the game, the player takes the role of either a companion or a non-player character that's not in the party. These interludes allow you to experience different perspectives and to interact with the world in different ways. We felt this was also true to the Star Wars genre, shown m A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, among others, as the "party" splits up to pursue different agendas.

We also emphasized the impact of the player's decisions. The influence system, as discussed above, is a primary example of how we actually did this. Another example occurs on Dantooine when the player learns of a impending conflict between the provisional government and some mercenary groups. You can take several actions to assist one side or the other, such as repairing the settlement's defenses or reprogramming them to fire upon friendly troops. Your decisions affect the battle that ultimately takes place in visible ways, and the conflict's outcome affects events later in the game. Many of the late-game elements vary considerably based upon the choices made throughout the entire game.

3 AUTOMATED DESIGN SYSTEMS. To improve balance O throughout the game and to conserve design resources for content creation, we created semi-automated systems both for placing items and scaling non-player character difficulty.

In KOTOR, items were placed throughout the game, resulting in the same ones being found during every play-through. Because of the game's open-ended nature, the order in which items were found was unknown to the designer, which can reduce the entertainment value of finding the items. For example, if players find great armor fairly early in the game, they would be less interested in any armor found later.

In KOTOR II, we implemented a random item placement system. Every item has an effective character level for which the item was designed. Each area of the game, upon first entering it, is stocked with treasures appropriate for the player's level. We included a small random chance for a particularly powerful item and incremented this chance each time a powerful item was not found. When a powerful item was placed, this random chance was reset. This implementation guaranteed the frequency of powerful items that we desired. We also could override the random factors to ensure, for example, that a key bounty hunter finds a powerful blaster rifle before he'll definitely need it.


The random item system helps ensure that players continuously find interesting items throughout the game. It also aids replayability since each play-through can yield different items. (A single play-through of the game might reveal about half of the total possible items.) Finally, by being automated, it was easy to make sweeping changes to item distribution and to add new items without requiring placed items to be rearranged. Plot-related items were still placed throughout the game.

A second automated system, called auto-balancing, was used for adjusting non-player character difficulty. In KOTOR, non-player character difficulty was, for the majority of encounters, static. Because of the open-ended world, this design created severe balancing challenges. Any given area might be traversed by either a level 8 character or a level 18 one. For KOTOR II, we used auto-balancing to both address this problem and to save design time.

Upon entering an area for the first time, the difficulty levels for all placed creatures are scaled based on the player's level. We differentiated between five degrees of scaling to meet various needs and used controlled tests to set the levels of difficulty to appropriate starting points. Autobalancing was modest for common enemies so that you feel that they're consistently gaining power throughout the game. For bosses, however, auto-balancing was more extreme. We wanted to encourage players to try new tactics and use different items to defeat these opponents. Using it in this way, the auto-balancing feature ultimately saved considerable design time.

4 ITEM CREATION AND UPGRADING. KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC'S item system allowed the player to upgrade some of the equipment they found. The upgradable items had between two and four slots for upgrades, depending upon the type of item. For example, upgradable armor could be reinforced with a mesh underlay. Except for lightsaber crystals, item upgrade options were very limited. You didn't have to make any choices involving the upgrades, and all upgradeable items were acquired fairly early in the game. In short, you only had to take a few extra steps in order to get your upgradable items to reach their full potential.

For KOTOR II, we added choices to the upgrade process. For example, you can now equip your armor with one of 30 underlays and overlays (though many of these are variations on each other). We increased the number of lightsaber upgrade slots from three to six. All told, KOTOR II has more than 200 upgradable items. We also made many more items upgradeable, so that finding them is the norm instead of a rarity.


Another improvement we incorporated was an item creation system. Almost every found item can be broken down into components. You can then use these components to create different items. Your skill level determines which items you can create. And while most normal items cannot be created, all upgrades (except for lightsaber crystals) can be. Additionally, most disposable items, like medpacs, mines, and grenades, can be broken down into chemicals, which can then be used to make other disposable items.

The item creation system served multiple goals. First, it increased the importance of the player's skill choices because we felt that skills were underutilized in KOTOR. The item system also improved inventory management and customization by allowing players to exchange items they weren't interested in for those that better suited their preferred style of play (demolitions experts could break down items and turn them into mines, stealth characters could break down mines and use them for stealth equipment, etc.). Upgrades were made fairly rare in the game, so the item creation system could fill its own niche without reducing the thrill of finding new items.

5 NUMEROUS MISCELLANEOUS ENHANCEMENTS. We expanded in small ways on many other elements of KOTOR. These improvements helped the game to feel more upto-date despite using the same basic graphics engine and hardware as the original.

The choreographed combat, which many KOTOR players enjoyed, was expanded to include new unarmed animations. To help showcase these animations, we implemented some side quests that required them, such as duels with the Handmaidens and the Mandalorian battle circle on Dxun. We also made unarmed combat more appealing by providing Jedi with unarmed combat bonuses and having two of the player's possible companions be especially powerful when fighting unarmed.

We further enhanced the combat system and the distinction between the Jedi classes by introducingthe concept of lightsaber forms, which were taken from the Star Wars source material. Each provides some significant benefits, but also includes weaknesses. For example, the Soresu form was best at deflecting blaster fire and was also suitable for squaring off against a single opponent. But against a lightsaber-wielding foe or many enemies, it had significant drawbacks. Force forms had a similar effect on the use of Force powers. Players can eventually learn seven of the total 11 forms, depending on their class, expand ing their tactical options.

The user interface was another element we sought to improve. We added a second weapon configuration and allowed a quick shortcut to switch between the two so that players can easily change weapons from melee to ranged combat, for example. We also reorganized the inventory and equipment screens so you can sort items by type. We added additional information to many screens to reveal some modifiers and effects that were hidden in KOTOR.


WHAT WENT WRONG

1 QUANTITY OF CONTENT. Given the short production period and modest staff for the project, our goals for number and size of areas, quests, and non-player characters were unrealistic, resulting in some aspects of the final product feeling unfinished. Simply put, we were too ambitious in terms of total content, and this was realized much too late. Although our content ambition was the biggest problem we encountered, the problem seems to be fairly rampant among most development studios. In fact, this specific issue has been discussed in so many Gome Developer postmortems that we don't have much to add to what's been said in the past.

2 CUT SCENES. KOTOR II has dozens of cut scenes, plenty more than the first game. Many of these cut scenes, as well as numerous others that were not in the released version of the game, asked more of the game engine than it was designed to handle. In particular, any cut scene involving movement-which was most of them-suffered from unpredictable results during the making. Countless hours were spent by gameplay programmers to finalize cut scenes only to later find them broken for unknown reasons. Late in the project we observed that something apparently innocuous, such as adding an ambient sound object to a distant location on the map, could throw off a cut scene's timing. These problems added up to make an ambitious schedule even more difficult. Our programmers were often unfamiliar with the deeper nuances of the engine, so debugging and correcting these problems proved problematic.

3 TECHNICAL LIMITATIONS. One of the common criticisms of KOTOR II has been low frame rate. One assumption made by those who played the game was that we failed to address some of the technology limitations of KOTOR, which also suffered from choppy frame rates. These performance issues were partially the fault of design, and partially due to the time we were able to devote to optimizing the engine. While the time we were able to spend optimizing the game engine helped, we used most of those savings on making more detailed models, more nonplayer characters, and larger areas (to reduce the frequency of load times]-often having more than twice the active content than a comparable region in KOTOR. The load times between KOTOR and KOTOR II are comparable, although the frequency of them is much less in KOTOR II.

This approach had mixed results. Few who play the game notice the liveliness of the areas or the fact that they contained a greater variety of non-player character appearances. Had we reduced area size to KOTOR-sized levels (and thus decreased the amount of content required to make an area feel sufficiently and diversely populated), the overall game would have been more enjoyable.

4 AI IMPLEMENTATION. One element we wanted to improve in KOTOR II was the Al for both enemies and, especially, nonplayer character companions. The Al in KOTOR is quite simplistic. Companions attack their target, closing in on it if they're using a melee weapon, and attack it until one or the other is dead. They would never switch weapons. The ability to control a characters' Al was limited to specifying if grenades or Force powers should be used. How these special abilities were used was based upon simplistic algorithms, without taking into account the tactical situation.

We did not focus on improving the NPC AI until late in development, and a lack of programming resources allowed us to implement only the simplest improvements. We added a couple of behavior varieties to allow the player to control how far his companions would stray and whether they would prefer ranged or melee weapons. We had already committed to removing the companion Al interface from an obscure start menu screen and we placed it as an option on the main interface. This would have been a good improvement except that the Al options were not interesting or useful enough to warrant such prime placement.


In the end, our efforts had essentially no meaningful net impact on the game. We should have either realized that improving the Al was beyond the scope of what we could accomplish, or we should have scheduled more resources to the task so that the Al would be significantly improved.

5 INSUFFICIENT POLISH TIME. Many of the new game systems did not receive significant polish time. Instead of being well-refined systems, the final implementations were essentially rough drafts with design flaws that we were able to identify but not address.

Companion dialogue was implemented fairly late in the development cycle, which limited our ability to fully experiment with the influence system. The number and quantity of influence changes were not well-mapped or balanced between various characters. During late testing, we found that we simply did not have enough influence opportunities for some of the characters. With insufficient time to properly address this issue, we simply increased the magnitude of each influence shift. Fortunately, given the praise the influence system has received, this minor change adequately addressed the issue. But at its core, the influence system is not as well designed as we would have liked.

The auto-balancing system was less successful in achieving its goals. We achieved complete play-through of the game only shortly before our gold date and were unable to evaluate issues like game balance until it was too late to make many changes. As a result, we erred on the side of making the game too easy and, therefore, largely undermined the potential of auto-balancing as a tool to provide a consistently challenging experience.

Obviously, better initial design and planning would have been the best way to prevent these types of problems. But a more realistic approach might have been to schedule more polish time for properly addressing design flaws such as these.

MAY THE [ENGINE'S] FORCE BE WITH YOU

Without the high quality engine and toolset from BioWare and the extensive support from LucasArts, a game of this caliber would not have been remotely possible in little more than 14 months. We are applying the lessons learned from the goals we didn't fully attain to our future projects, including NEVERWINTER NIGHTS 2. Overall, we're pleased with KOTOR II and the feedback we've received. Given the ambitious development cycle of the project, we feel we accomplished our goal of creating a worthy sequel to the award-winning KOTOR.
[Author Affiliation]
KEVIN SAUNDERS is a senior designer at Obsidian entertainment. He was the lead designer and producer of SHATTERED GALAXY, which swept the 2001 Independent Games Festival. Kevin worjed as a designer on NOVERWINTER NIGHT 2, STAR WARS KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC II: THE SITH LORD OF THE RINGS: THE BATTLE FOR MIDDLE-EARTH, COMMAND & CONQUER GENERALS: ZERO HOUR, and FAR CRY. He earned his Master's of Engineering degree from Cornell University and is currently writing an educational text on game interface design. Send comments about this article to <removed per forum rules>.
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Old 04-30-2005, 07:00 PM   #2
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Well that was interesting. To bad they didn't say anything about fixing it for us XBox users. thx


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Old 04-30-2005, 07:45 PM   #3
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That was an interesting read.

We still all know it's LA's fault for the lack of time.


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Old 04-30-2005, 07:50 PM   #4
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And we know (officially) that it's LA's fault for a lack of QA.
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Old 04-30-2005, 08:51 PM   #5
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A smarter but radically different approach would have been to make the games smaller/tighter and release planned add-ons to the game. Oh well. We have what we have at least they admitted some obvious faults unlike EA SPORTS who likes to by bury thy head in the sand


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Old 04-30-2005, 10:29 PM   #6
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That some great info.
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Old 04-30-2005, 10:42 PM   #7
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Sheesh. All five of the "What went wrong" topics could be traced to LA's management. Even a few of the "What went right" topics were affected by that too.
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Old 05-01-2005, 12:41 AM   #8
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Good read Achilles, thanks for posting!

At least there was admittal, that's usually the first step to improvement (hopefully). But at least now that it's Officially confirmed, maybe the team will strive to get some decent patches and/or content fixes in the works.

TSL IMO is far too big of a ca$h cow to leave sitting. It'd be a pity for them to squander the opportunity to 'heal' the wounds of dissapointed fans. I for one would feel much more comfortable buying NWN2 and perhaps Kotor3 (if it's to be made) if the developers (or LA rather) gave the go ahead to mend their admitted mistakes...


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Old 05-01-2005, 12:42 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Derc
Sheesh. All five of the "What went wrong" topics could be traced to LA's management. Even a few of the "What went right" topics were affected by that too.
agreed. i still find it interesting that he declined to comment about even parts of the cut content. perhaps it was even more than what we know.

from what i just read, if OE had been given more time in general, KOTOR II could have easily been Game of the Year material. i guess this means that LucasArts isn't committed to that kind of quality in the games it publishes.


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Old 05-01-2005, 12:43 AM   #10
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Nice article! Very interesting...the devs criticizing their game and all.

But that was just dumb how the author was blaming all of the problems on his own team. It's pretty obvious they could have been solved in Lucasarts gave them more time and resources.

It was good that the author stated that time was a problem. Mabye Lucasarts will realize that for Kotor 3, who knows?
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Old 05-01-2005, 12:49 AM   #11
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Thanks for posting that Achilles!

Makes me wonder what LA is smoking?


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Old 05-01-2005, 12:53 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by RedHawke
Makes me wonder what LA is smoking?
My guess is the "blueprints" for TSL patches


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Old 05-01-2005, 01:26 AM   #13
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Great article, Achilles.

LA should have given Obsidian more time... It's a bit outragous that someone has to make a mod to restore the content.


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Old 05-01-2005, 01:45 AM   #14
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Why are you guys just blaming Lucasarts? They gave Obsidian a deadline and budget, and they did not come up with a suitable design that could be achieved with the alotted schedule. That is not Lucasarts fault. If Obsidian didn't think they could make the game they wanted with the provided budget, they should have passed.

Sure, we'd all like Lucasarts to give them 10 years and a bazillion dollars for development, but if the game is unpolished, it is because Obsidian mismanaged their efforts. Lucasarts does not have infinite funds they can throw around. They are running a business like everyone else. Ask yourself: Are you willing to pay another $10, $25, $50 dollars so that they can have a huge budget and lots of time?

Personally, I think Obsidian made a fun game, flaws and all.

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Old 05-01-2005, 03:49 AM   #15
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Ah, playing the old "bait & switch," eh Prime?
First you defend LucasArts and bash Obsidian, then you give Obsidian some credit at the very end...
Quote:
That is not Lucasarts fault.
So it's Obsidian's fault that LucasArts made them rush the game for the holidays?
For the "What went wrong" list...
Quote:
4 AI IMPLEMENTATION.
3 TECHNICAL LIMITATIONS.
2 CUT SCENES.
All of those contributed to the...
Quote:
1 QUANTITY OF CONTENT.
Why? Because of the...
Quote:
5 INSUFFICIENT POLISH TIME.
...that LucasArts gave them. See the trend? All paths lead to them. Might as well blame LA for allowing Obsidian to develop it in the first place.
Quote:
Ask yourself: Are you willing to pay another $10, $25, $50 dollars so that they can have a huge budget and lots of time?
If the game would actually be completed, with all quirks fixed, and with whatever Obsidian wanted finished and polished, then yes. Certainly better than a $50 flawed game.
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Old 05-01-2005, 09:16 AM   #16
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To answer Derc and the rest of the LucasArts bashers.

Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
They gave Obsidian a deadline and budget, and they did not come up with a suitable design that could be achieved with the alotted schedule. That is not Lucasarts fault. If Obsidian didn't think they could make the game they wanted with the provided budget, they should have passed.
Further on Kevin Saunders admits to the insufficiency of his own staff. That is his own admittance, he is not getting paid by LA to say it's their own (OE) fault.

Let's not point fingers to OE is GOD and LA is SATAN! Both erred in their production. Money, economy and our society in general is to blame, not LA or OE. Or if you, absolutely have to blame someone, blame both!


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Old 05-01-2005, 10:36 AM   #17
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To bad he didn't mention anyhting about KOTOR 3....
Us Xbox user are left out on the porch again whil the PC people are getting served dessert....


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Old 05-01-2005, 11:51 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally posted by Derc
Ah, playing the old "bait & switch," eh Prime?


Quote:
Originally posted by Derc
First you defend LucasArts and bash Obsidian, then you give Obsidian some credit at the very end...
I'm not bashing anyone. I'm not saying anything that Obsidian isn't. Obsidian did make a good game. By by their own admission, they dropped the ball in terms of planning.

"our goals for number and size of areas, quests, and non-player characters were unrealistic."

"Simply put, we were too ambitious in terms of total content, and this was realized much too late."


But those things happen all the time in all software development. Lucasarts set the schedule and budget from the beginning. It was Obsidian's job to develop a game based on those parameters. They failed to do this to some extent. Yet, I think they still made an enjoyable game. Thus my original comment.

Quote:
Originally posted by Derc
So it's Obsidian's fault that LucasArts made them rush the game for the holidays?
Can you point to where they say Lucasarts made them rush the game for the holidays? Or are you just making that up?

Quote:
Originally posted by Derc
For the "What went wrong" list...

4 AI IMPLEMENTATION.
3 TECHNICAL LIMITATIONS.
2 CUT SCENES.

All of those contributed to the...
1 QUANTITY OF CONTENT.

Why? Because of the...

5 INSUFFICIENT POLISH TIME.
And why did that occur? Because Obsidian tried to do too much with the resources, time and money they were given. Not because Lucasarts screwed them over somehow.

"Obviously, better initial design and planning would have been the best way to prevent these types of problems. But a more realistic approach might have been to schedule more polish time for properly addressing design flaws such as these."

They freely admit to their mistakes in planning and thus the game was not as polished as it might have been. Yet you completely disregard that and say Lucasarts ruined it all on their own.

Quote:
Originally posted by Derc
...that LucasArts gave them.
Polish time is determined entirely by the developer, not the producer. Lucasarts in no way dictated how much time Obsidian had to polish things up. They didn't have time because they misjudged the effort on the initial development. The article points this out, but you want to ignore that too.

Quote:
Originally posted by Derc
See the trend?
Yes. You want to bash Lucasarts for issues regardless if they are to blame or not.

Quote:
Originally posted by Derc
All paths lead to them.
You might want to read the article again.

Quote:
Originally posted by Derc
Might as well blame LA for allowing Obsidian to develop it in the first place.
Lucasarts made an offer to Obsidian specifying the time and budget they that was available. Obsidian chose to accept that offer based on those guidelines. If they felt they could not make the game they wanted with those limitations, they should have passed.

But they did feel they could do it (and I think they were right), and so they accepted the offer. The issues arose during development, not with the initial contract. The entire article spells this out.

But I say again. I still think Obsidian made a great game that is fun to play. Every game has issues...

"Although our content ambition was the biggest problem we encountered, the problem seems to be fairly rampant among most development studios. In fact, this specific issue has been discussed in so many Game Developer postmortems that we don't have much to add to what's been said in the past."

that come up in design and development. The pros of the game far outweigh the cons.

Quote:
Originally posted by Derc
If the game would actually be completed, with all quirks fixed, and with whatever Obsidian wanted finished and polished, then yes. Certainly better than a $50 flawed game.
But that simply isn't what works. If completely polishing a game, any game, regardless of time and budget and then charging $100+ dollars for it resulted in substantially more sales and money, then companies would do it. The fact of the matter is that investing that time and money is not justified by the returns. And uber-polished game isn't going to sell substantially better than a game with some bugs.

I'm not saying Lucasarts is blame free, but the point is that you are placing all the blame for every issue with Lucasarts, when Obsidian is stating that this is simply not true. The entire article is about mistakes that Obsidian made. But you ignore all of that so that you can bash Lucasarts.

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Old 05-01-2005, 01:56 PM   #19
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^^^^
i'm not denying what you said Prime. however, you have to take into account that OE was originally given a timetable that lasted till Febuary for a simultaneous release. although that may not have been enough time to include the cut content, it would have been enough time to do the proper QA that would have allowed them to correct a number of mistakes that were mentioned in the article.

but, LucasArts decided to cut the schedule and have the Xbox version released almost 3 months ahead of the original schedule. so, you have a game that was released to the public ahead of schedule without the proper QA being completed. that part is not OE's fault. the fault lies with LucasArts for pushing the release date ahead.

however, the point is conceded that OE did attempt to do too much with too little time and staff.


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Old 05-01-2005, 02:04 PM   #20
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Yes, but LucasArts should have known that you can't get a new developer for a game and have them magically crap out a complete game within 14 months.


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Old 05-01-2005, 04:32 PM   #21
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Originally posted by Prime
I'm not bashing anyone. I'm not saying anything that Obsidian isn't. Obsidian did make a good game. By by their own admission, they dropped the ball in terms of planning.

But those things happen all the time in all software development. Lucasarts set the schedule and budget from the beginning. It was Obsidian's job to develop a game based on those parameters. They failed to do this to some extent. Yet, I think they still made an enjoyable game. Thus my original comment.
Ok. Yes, I DO agree that the game was decent. And we can also agree that it could've been better.
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Originally posted by Prime
Can you point to where they say Lucasarts made them rush the game for the holidays? Or are you just making that up?
Just my inductive reasoning. And I'm sure others know that's what it looked like.
December 6 release + Holiday shopping period = LucasArts: $$$

Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
And why did that occur? Because Obsidian tried to do too much with the resources, time and money they were given. Not because Lucasarts screwed them over somehow.
They certainly could've done MORE with those resources if they were given MORE time. Something which LA didn't allow for the Xbox release.

Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
They freely admit to their mistakes in planning and thus the game was not as polished as it might have been. Yet you completely disregard that and say Lucasarts ruined it all on their own.
Of course. Even Ubisoft admits that for Halo 2. Why did that happen? Because Microsoft wanted to rush them so it couldn't possibly affect the Xbox 360's sales. Thus, Microsoft can be blamed for Halo 2's shortcomings, whereas LucasArts can be blamed for TSL's shortcomings.

Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
Polish time is determined entirely by the developer, not the producer. Lucasarts in no way dictated how much time Obsidian had to polish things up.
Ok. =/
Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
They didn't have time because they misjudged the effort on the initial development. The article points this out, but you want to ignore that too.
Then didn't they misjudged their efforts because they aniticipated a Febuary release for the Xbox? Bah.
Keep in mind that I'm only standing for the Xbox release, so please excused for being so bitter and hostile towards LA.
Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
Yes. You want to bash Lucasarts for issues regardless if they are to blame or not.

Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
Lucasarts made an offer to Obsidian specifying the time and budget they that was available. Obsidian chose to accept that offer based on those guidelines. If they felt they could not make the game they wanted with those limitations, they should have passed.
Pass on the opportunity to make themselves known, even when they were handpicked by Bioware to do TSL? I think not.
Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
But they did feel they could do it (and I think they were right), and so they accepted the offer. The issues arose during development, not with the initial contract. The entire article spells this out.
They accepted the offer for the February release, not the December release, as stingerhs points out...
Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
But I say again. I still think Obsidian made a great game that is fun to play. Every game has issues...
I know. That's why critics exist to point out the flaws.
Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
The pros of the game far outweigh the cons.
Nice hyperbole. Ok, some would disagree. I guess the cons were more glaring to point out, then.
Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
But that simply isn't what works. If completely polishing a game, any game, regardless of time and budget and then charging $100+ dollars for it resulted in substantially more sales and money, then companies would do it. The fact of the matter is that investing that time and money is not justified by the returns. And uber-polished game isn't going to sell substantially better than a game with some bugs.
With reviews and public reaction, a well polish game will receive much more acclaim than a game with "some bugs."
Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
I'm not saying Lucasarts is blame free, but the point is that you are placing all the blame for every issue with Lucasarts, when Obsidian is stating that this is simply not true. The entire article is about mistakes that Obsidian made. But you ignore all of that so that you can bash Lucasarts.
I guess I should've said that they were OB's mistakes...with the knowledge that LA played a role in it...
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Old 05-01-2005, 09:57 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally posted by stingerhs
i'm not denying what you said Prime. however, you have to take into account that OE was originally given a timetable that lasted till Febuary for a simultaneous release. although that may not have been enough time to include the cut content, it would have been enough time to do the proper QA that would have allowed them to correct a number of mistakes that were mentioned in the article.

but, LucasArts decided to cut the schedule and have the Xbox version released almost 3 months ahead of the original schedule. so, you have a game that was released to the public ahead of schedule without the proper QA being completed. that part is not OE's fault. the fault lies with LucasArts for pushing the release date ahead.
Here is a quote from Lucasarts about the changed date:

"We were hoping we could bring the Xbox platform into December but didn't want to make the formal announcement until we knew an earlier ship date would not compromise the quality of The Sith Lords," says Producer Mike Gallo. "We recently completed a very important milestone which confirmed we can confidently do this."

Certainly in hindsight that statement is dubious. But I haven't seen any comment from Obsidian that the above was incorrect. But who knows?

Quote:
Originally posted by Dragonball Fan
Yes, but LucasArts should have known that you can't get a new developer for a game and have them magically crap out a complete game within 14 months.
They did know that, which is why they were licensed the engine, development tools, support, and all the assets. They were by no means making a game from scratch, and so the 14 month schedule is at least in theory feasible.

Quote:
Originally posted by Derc
Ok. Yes, I DO agree that the game was decent. And we can also agree that it could've been better.
Definitely.

Quote:
Originally posted by Derc
Then didn't they misjudged their efforts because they aniticipated a Febuary release for the Xbox? Bah.
Keep in mind that I'm only standing for the Xbox release, so please excused for being so bitter and hostile towards LA.
I agree that the decision wasn't in the best interest of the game's quality. But that being said, because there was a contract Lucasarts could not have changed the dates without the knowledge or consent of Obsidian. Of course, there can be pressures that Lucasarts could have applied, but if Obsidian really felt that the game would have really been unacceptable with a December release, they could have pushed back and prevented it.

Quote:
Originally posted by Derc
Pass on the opportunity to make themselves known, even when they were handpicked by Bioware to do TSL? I think not.
But if they felt that the goal was unachievable given the provided time and money, accepting that would make them known for all the wrong reasons when they failed. They accepted the offer because it was a good opportunity and at the time they felt it was doable.

In any event, they are going to become plenty known with NWN 2.

Quote:
Originally posted by Derc
I know. That's why critics exist to point out the flaws.
Yep. And they are fair criticisms.

Quote:
Originally posted by Derc
I guess the cons were more glaring to point out, then.
Of course that is opinion either way. But I think it is safe to say that even with the flaws most critical views of TSL were at least above average if not highly favorable. If the game was generally considered that terrible, it wouln't be getting some GOTY recognition. But again, people's milage varies.

Quote:
Originally posted by Derc
With reviews and public reaction, a well polish game will receive much more acclaim than a game with "some bugs."
Sure. But that does not equal a proportional increase in sales. Again, if giving a bigger budget and more time led directly to an equivalent or greater increase in profit, every development house would be doing it. And that isn't just for games...

Quote:
Originally posted by Derc
I guess I should've said that they were OB's mistakes...with the knowledge that LA played a role in it...
Dispite my overly long posts, that is really my only point.

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Old 05-01-2005, 10:24 PM   #23
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Great reading there! But, problem fo me is, I use XBox so the bugs won't be fixed. Thy really should not have pressed on them like that, there was no need for the game to be released so early. Well, the wait for 3 continues.
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Old 05-01-2005, 11:02 PM   #24
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We'll never know, but it would be interesting to know if sales for the XBox game were in fact greater than they would have been with a February release...

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Old 05-01-2005, 11:21 PM   #25
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Quote:
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We'll never know, but it would be interesting to know if sales for the XBox game were in fact greater than they would have been with a February release...
I'm 99.99% sure they would be lower, if the game came out in February. Christmas is when all the little kiddies ask their parents to buy them gifts.

Christmas is when sales of almost anything go sky high.

Marketing knows that.

There is a possibility to calculate the amount of money they would lose, but it is usually flawed since it does not take into account all of the factors that could influence sales.

Nevertheless, there's little chance that a February release for the X Box would've been more profitable.


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Old 05-01-2005, 11:57 PM   #26
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Originally posted by Prime
They did know that, which is why they were licensed the engine, development tools, support, and all the assets. They were by no means making a game from scratch, and so the 14 month schedule is at least in theory feasible.
Point taken. Although OB was expanding on Bioware's system, Bioware did have a little over 36 months to do KoTOR. More than 2 times than what Obsidian had to develop TSL.
Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
They accepted the offer because it was a good opportunity and at the time they felt it was doable.
And they did do it...to an extent of course. And for that, we give them credit.
Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
Sure. But that does not equal a proportional increase in sales.
Heh. Sometimes it does, but yeah, sometimes it doesn't *thinks back to Beyond Good And Evil and Prince of Persia*
Quote:
Originally posted by lukeiamyourdad
Nevertheless, there's little chance that a February release for the X Box would've been more profitable.
Who knows? Maybe they would've made great Valentine's gifts.
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Old 05-02-2005, 12:03 AM   #27
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Yeah, but both Beyond Good & Evil and Prince of Persia didn't have great marketing campaigns. I barely heard about Beyond Good & Evil until I saw that a demo existed for that game and to my knowledge, Prince of Persia didn't get that much marketing space either...except in Montreal, since it was made here, they made sure everyone in the city knew of our baby


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Old 05-02-2005, 07:41 PM   #28
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interestin read thanks achilles that article does answer a lot of questions

but here's where i'm a little confused

ok so obsidian admit that if they had more polish time and such we'd have a better released version of tsl, now we all blame LA fo this but srely if they new this at the time and from the sounds of that article they did long before deadline why didnt they ask for an extension on the deadline

or maybe they did and got told no but i cant see LA being that stupid a finished game is better than an rushed to market with all the bugs under the sun finished game

but this is what i think the real problem is LA gave a slightly unrealistic deadline but obsidian were too proud to say umm Mr LA we need a bit more time to give you the fully furnished finished game

and i believe that LA gave them that deadline so that they wouldnt drag their heals and actually work for there money but probably believed it couldnt be done and was waiting for obsidian to ask for the extension the proof of that is when the release date kept being changed obsidian said that their deadline had never changed

however this article does give me hope for kotor 3 to become game of the year 2006 or 2007 as i believe lessons have been learned from this experiance


So long and thanks for all the fish

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Old 05-02-2005, 10:51 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally posted by Aleggy
but this is what i think the real problem is LA gave a slightly unrealistic deadline but obsidian were too proud to say umm Mr LA we need a bit more time to give you the fully furnished finished game
Very good point I think. I believe the blame is equally shared between both companies.


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Old 05-02-2005, 10:54 PM   #30
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It's really BioWare's fault for making such a good fame the first time. Obsidian just couldn't live up to the first.
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Old 05-03-2005, 12:29 AM   #31
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Quote:
Originally posted by Hugh Jass
It's really BioWare's fault for making such a good fame the first time. Obsidian just couldn't live up to the first.
Well, everyone is entitled to their opinions. I for one think that TSL holds it's own against the original. It seems that everyone has forgotten that it took 3 patches to get KotOR right. Oh well...
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Old 05-03-2005, 12:31 AM   #32
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KOTOR had the better storyline, but KOTOR2 had better things, like prestige classes


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Old 05-03-2005, 02:02 AM   #33
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I for one think that TSL holds it's own against the original. It seems that everyone has forgotten that it took 3 patches to get KotOR right. Oh well...
I agree! KOTOR I was far from flawless when it was first released. People just tend to remember what games were like the last times they played, and not what it originally was, and the time it took to become what they remember.


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Old 05-03-2005, 08:03 AM   #34
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Yeah, but one thing is a game with some bugs that can be fixed, another is a game with missing content that would vastly improve it...

Also @ Darth_Crow, I think that the TSL storyline has much more interest than Kotor I's... it just wasn't all shown in the game...


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Old 05-03-2005, 11:37 AM   #35
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Quote:
Originally posted by Aleggy
ok so obsidian admit that if they had more polish time and such we'd have a better released version of tsl, now we all blame LA fo this but srely if they new this at the time and from the sounds of that article they did long before deadline why didnt they ask for an extension on the deadline
When a company contracts out to a third party, there are always clauses that spell out the penalties for late deliveries, and those penalties are usually very steep (i.e. millions of dollars). Usually when a deadline is renegotiated, the penalties are still incurred. So Obsidian probably felt that taking extra time and paying the penalties did not make sense in terms of what was left to polish up.

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Old 05-03-2005, 12:00 PM   #36
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Quote:
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I agree! KOTOR I was far from flawless when it was first released. People just tend to remember what games were like the last times they played, and not what it originally was, and the time it took to become what they remember.
Mmmmm... point 1/2 taken. KOTOR I even when released was almost perfect. In fact, the XBox version IS perfect without any patching. In all the 16 times I beat it, I only had 1 major problem, and it was derived from my own stupidity. Ive played it for the PC without patches, but dont own it, so I cant really give an opinion. But TSL had tons of bugs everywhere! Even the XBox version. It crashes totally like 4 times per game run. The amount of patching well need for the PC version of TSL will be incredible. I feel so angry at the game companies, not Bio, but LA and Obsidian as they are almost forcing me and other users to buy the PC version 2 to enjoy the game fully. KOTOR II isn't bad in terms of story, content, sound, etc. Maybe a litle on graphics and all the load of bugs. Thats why KOTOR I is overall better. Id rate TSL: 8/10 and KOTOR I 10/10. I cant wait for III, but at the same time, wish they have lots of time to do it right, making it 20/10 for me and the best game EVER to conpensate all the BS in TSL.
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Old 05-03-2005, 12:05 PM   #37
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Well, not everyone had loads of bugs and crashes you know.

KOTOR I, even after three patches, still crashes every two hours of play or a bit less often.

KOTOR II, at the highest, crashed twice during a full playthrough and with newer Catalyst drivers and the patch, I haven't had any since then.

I do agree that at 1.0, KOTOR I felt more complete then TSL, but claiming that KOTOR I was more stable is bull.
The XBox version of KOTOR had an infamous bug on the Leviathan that basically crapped your save.
That's worse then most, if not all of TSL's bugs.


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Old 05-03-2005, 12:05 PM   #38
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Quote:
Originally posted by stingerhs
agreed. i still find it interesting that he declined to comment about even parts of the cut content. perhaps it was even more than what we know.
and

Quote:
Originally posted by Emperor Devon
It's a bit outragous that someone has to make a mod to restore the content.
Perhaps they don't concider it something that is relevant to comment on since the content is cut, and as such not a part of the final product.

Content seems to get cut from a lot of games at various stages prior to release to meet milestones and deadlines. Or simply because the story is altered along the way and some elements already started on no longer fit in it.

From Obsidian's perspective I would imagine the biggest mistake in this area was not devoting time to clean out remnants of cut content from the game data prior to delivering the game. If they had eradicated all traces of what they had worked on at various times but didn't finish, then people would be none the wiser as to what could have been, and would have one less thing to complain about.

Then Obsidian would have avoided the public embarassment of having a group of fans slap them on the fingers and say "This is how you should have done your job!" by finishing the unfinished content by using their interpretation as to how the pieces should fit together, use their imagination to fill in the blanks and then release it.

Other companies are usually much more thorough in ensuring they leave as little scraps as possible. Concidering that Bioware were not publically lynched by the fans for cutting Sleheyron, and Ionstorm wasn't repeatedly ridiculed for cutting the whole Moon colony and Washington DC locations from Deus Ex prior to release, perhaps it would have been worth it to Obsidian to take that extra cleaning time to avoid future trouble.

Of course, from our perspective as modders it's fortunate they they did leave scraps of unfinished content in the game since it gives us more to play with.

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Old 05-03-2005, 12:12 PM   #39
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Quote:
Originally posted by lukeiamyourdad
Well, not everyone had loads of bugs and crashes you know.

KOTOR I, even after three patches, still crashes every two hours of play or a bit less often.

KOTOR II, at the highest, crashed twice during a full playthrough and with newer Catalyst drivers and the patch, I haven't had any since then.

I do agree that at 1.0, KOTOR I felt more complete then TSL, but claiming that KOTOR I was more stable is bull.
The XBox version of KOTOR had an infamous bug on the Leviathan that basically crapped your save.
That's worse then most, if not all of TSL's bugs.
Mmmm... Never got that Leviathan bug. In fact, I only had 2 real bugs in the first game, plus the one I stupidly did, and they were not really ones. Im telling ya, TSL has a lot more bugs than KOTOR I, at least in the XBox version.
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Old 05-03-2005, 12:40 PM   #40
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Quote:
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Perhaps they don't concider it something that is relevant to comment on since the content is cut, and as such not a part of the final product.
There are various reasons for which they may have decided not to comment on this, including legal reasons. From a lawyer's pov, I am surprised at how much info they disclosed about this, even on the Obsidian boards (no wonder a few threads mysteriously disppeared after a day or so).

However, I guess the fact that there were so many noticeable elements of cut content left in the game (example the HK quest that leads nowhere) and so much noise around this, didn't left them much choice and they had to explain themselves publicly.

As mentionned by Stoffe, Bioware did left some unused content in the game files but it was not noticeable when you played the game and normally the general public does not dig into the game files.
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