How do you follow a game like Knights of the Old Republic, the most famous original Star Wars tale a video game has ever told? Forget about Obsidian's sequel for a moment and imagine it was BioWare staring at a piece of paper wondering how to follow a twist like Revan's. Because once upon a time BioWare was - and it came up with an idea.
In September we asked you to share your favourite moments from an Obsidian game and we, on behalf of Paradox, dangled prizes in front of you in return: consoles for the two winners, PC Pillars of Eternity and Tyranny keys for the 10 runners-up. And you answered in your droves.
Everyone has a drawer they can't close because it's stuffed too full of things. Mine has a whisk which always stops the bloody drawer from closing, and it's really annoying, but Obsidian Entertainment's drawer has around 100 game proposals in it. Game outlines in various states, from two-page snacks to 60-page feasts. "There's tons of them," Obsidian co-owner Chris Parker tells me. And for Obsidian there was never a time of greater need of an idea than summer 2012, after Microsoft cancelled Xbox One launch game Stormlands, and when South Park: The Stick of Truth was onboard THQ's sinking ship. It spurred a period now referred to in Obsidian history as the Summer of Proposals.
Last week a wonderful Star Wars animation captured the imaginations of gaming audiences and beyond. It told the story of a mother trying to rescue her young daughter from the Dark Side of the Force. Innocence versus corruption. It was emotional, cinematic and had an impressive fight scene. Such production values wouldn't have looked out of place in a cinema. But this animation wasn't building excitement for the big screen. It was building excitement for a game. But could a game ever live up to it?
What the animation tapped into was a longing for a cinematic Star Wars game with a story. Perhaps Star Wars: Battlefront 2 will have a story in 2017. Amy Hennig's Star Wars action adventure, due out in 2018, definitely will. But will they be deep and winding and emotional enough? Let's cut to the chase: what the trailer tapped into was a longing for Knights of the Old Republic 3.
Imagine the fantastical sights and sounds of Star Wars brought to life with the razzmatazz of the Mass Effect series (which in a way I suppose was BioWare's KOTOR 3 - one it could creatively fully control). Imagine an emotional BioWare tale of Light and Dark, with all the characters and romances and betrayals the studio is famed for. The battles! The Lightsabers thrumming and clashing like cymbals, Force powers crackling and raging. I would like no game more! But I can't have it.
A possible link between Kylo Ren's Lightsaber in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the decade-old Knights of the Old Republic video games, has been found. If the link holds true it would seem to cement those games in Star Wars film canon.
Knights Of The Old Republic 2 is a game I'd love to see the pitch for. Did Obsidian actually say that the plan was to systematically tear down, subvert and scornfully rip great chunks of flesh out of the Star Wars universe and George Lucas' shallow sense of morality and storytelling? or was it more on the lines of "So, we're thinking three bladed lightsabres this time," with Chris Avellone accidentally left locked in the car?
Please note that there are spoilers about Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2 in this article, although I try to keep them to a minimum.
I think it's fair to say videogames are fundamentally selfish exercises. And I mean that in a broad, all-encompassing sense: whether you're watching your gnocchi-shaped Mii squat its way into bikini season or conquering some remote alien backwater in the guise of a faceless space-bobby, the focus is on you, the player, and how absolutely amazing and sexy and important you are.