COLUMN: DIVISION OF THE FORCE
Throughout our shared imaginations about what Jedi Knight II (JKII) will become, arise many varied and often contrasting dreams. Prime among these is the implementation of Force powers in multiplayer.
Raven has recently revealed that, although the singleplayer component of JKII will allow the player to create a Jedi that uses both Light and Dark Force powers, the multiplayer game will take a dissimilar approach and limit the player to either the Light or Dark side of the Force. And so ensued some of the most impassioned deliberations in these forums, forcibly dividing the community along sharp ideological lines - one camp in favor of the new restrictions, the other wanting the freedom to choose. In the end, after several sessions of smoldering debate, neither side would yield their entrenched positions. But through the fires of controversy, a compromise was forged: Give the server the option to create either type of game.
It was a simple, yet
elegant solution to a divisive issue. But would Raven go along? To find out, I
embarked on a diplomatic mission and presented myself to Raven as an envoy of
the JKII community to plead our case. The person I sought out was Pat Lipo, the
man at Raven primarily responsible for the multiplayer portion of JKII.
Interestingly, and unbeknownst to me, another member of our community had
undertaken the same endeavor - our very own digl.
What follows is a compilation of Pat's responses to our questions, with his permission, as well as some of my own commentary. As I wrote this article, I grouped Pat's comments together, from three separate conversations, so some of his statements may appear out of sequence from the order they originally took place. The result, I believe, is more natural and easier to read. I think you'll find what Pat has to say very interesting, and regardless of your degree of agreement with his statements, at least you'll better understand why things were done the way they were, and what the future may hold.
Pat on beginning the design for JKII multiplayer:
The challenge we met when we embarked on the JK2 multiplayer design was pretty monumental. Not only did we have to build upon a respected classic, but we also had to try to please JK1 fans who wanted the same game, JK1 fans who wanted a different game, Star Wars fans who wanted it more like the movie, and shooter fans who wanted it more like their favorite game. In all, our goal is make JK2MP a game with depth, yet one that didn't confuse people to the point where they never picked it up.
So clearly, making JKII multiplayer successful was going to be a tall order, with many disparate groups to please and accommodate.
Next, Pat talks a bit about Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight.
I had already played a fair amount of JK1 multiplayer, but I started my initial research with an open mind and looked into the net presence of our predecessor. I found that the original JK1 community was rich and interesting, with strong factions, a varied lot of "killer strategies", and lots of smack-talk about the light or dark side. On the other side, MOTS (which also sold well) had new models, powers, and game types… a large number of things that would normally encourage hardcore players (who are still playing to this day) to move to MOTS, but it didn't appear to have nearly the backing that JK1 did. I concluded that the original JK1 had better stood the test of time, and we used that as our starting point.
Here, Pat discusses the impact of fan-feedback on the design, and the seriousness that was afforded the final decision.
I usually don't get a chance to read the jkii.net threads past a page or two, because they can get really, really long. However, I had already read many posts touching on the subject of dark and light, and knew there would be controversy on the Jedi Knotes I wrote. In reading the subsequent threads and your poll, I found that a lot of the people that argued for "side-less" force powers did so because they felt it was not logical and/or true to the mythos. I was concerned about these elements when we began this journey many months ago, and worked very closely with LucasArts to make sure that we maintained their vision. They supported us, feeling that a fun game was important over all.
So it would seem that this wasn't a decision that was made lightly, nor taken casually.
And more reasoning for the Light/Dark dichotomy:
I realize that there is an interest in allowing light-and-dark jedi to exist in the game … while it's not like such a request is unreasonable, I do believe that the voiced support for such an option reflects a few aspects of the general internet community... The first is that no matter what, people want as many options as possible. Who would vote against such a thing, if it meant that each person could have their own way? The second is that gamers always want more, to be more powerful than ever, to have all positives and no negatives. Many people dream of playing a Druid with a Warrior's Dual Wield ability in Everquest, or of commanding a battalion of Terran Tanks supporting their Protoss Carriers in Starcraft. Finally, … a lot of people support having any force power available because they consider it to be more "realistic", or true to the film. We realize that, but felt that the gameplay considerations were more important, and have repeatedly discussed this with LucasArts to get their blessing.
Pat talks more about adding options:
An additional reason I am hesitant is because blindly adding options for everything is to risk draining focus from a product. Typically when making a game a certain way of playing has to become the focus of the team, and adding all sorts of new variables makes such things foggier. It also would mean that we don't have enough confidence in our ability to hone a fun, well-balanced game. Finally, adding in new combinations of gameplay variables increases the number of possible game modes geometrically, and ultimately requires additional testing that can allow bugs to slip through.
More of Pat's philosophy on adding options:
It's funny, I've realized that even though options seem harmless, I had a fairly reserved opinion about them. I guess it goes way back to when we were making Heretic. The guys were considering … several options to about respawn rates, etc… John Romero told us that the best thing to do was to choose how you want the game to be played, and focus on that one thing above all. Such things are forgotten a bit more in the days of Quake and user variables, but I always considered that to be a very wise statement. It doesn't mean that we won't put any options in our games ever (and there's plenty in JK2), but it does mean that I will always consider the "why" before doing it.
This makes perfect sense to me. Below, Pat further describes Raven's concept on the Light and Dark sides of the Force in multiplayer:
Two factions, the subtle, defensive light side and the direct, offensive dark side, make for interesting dynamics that most games do not possess. The goal of our choices was to promote gameplay above all else. The logic in itself is not nearly as important, any more than discussions as to how lightsabers can block shots, or whether using the Force is actually telekinesis, etc. The point was to make a fun game that was not simply Quake with lightsabers.
One thing that I find interesting is the implication that the Light side will consist of defensive powers, and the Dark side of offensive. This had been alluded to and assumed before now, but here the point is underscored.
As we wrap up, Pat summarizes the rationale behind the division of the Force:
I looked long and hard at the history and community behind Jedi Knight, and I found that the original had a much more rich structure, while Mysteries of the Sith did not have nearly the support I expected. As such we made a choice in favor of gameplay and look-and-feel, and stand behind it. It isn't that we for some reason think that our opinion is somehow more valuable than the end users, but instead that there are so many people to please at times that it's essentially like hitting a moving target.
In the end, I'm pleased to know that this was given a good, hard look. My personal preference is that I'd like a multiplayer option to use both Light and Dark Forces simultaneously. But that's not in the cards, and so we all hope for the best.
And yet, the final chapter of this story is not yet written. When I asked Pat creating this multiplayer option as a mod, he had this to say:
Doing this mode as a mod should be quite easy, as the code to do this is very accessible.
Pressing further about whether this option might be made available in a future JKII add-on:
Yes, if initial play shows that such an element is very important to keep the community thriving, it will be strongly considered for an add-on.
And about the possibility of this option showing up in a patch:
Ditto from [my previous statement].
The moral being, if you come, they will build it.
And finally, morsel for those with the stamina to have read this far - our conversation took place in mid-January, and when I verified that JKII was due out in about two months, Pat replied:
… yeah, the shelf date is around there, you're correct, although I can't tell you exactly when.
It's nothing that most of us didn't already suspect, but some additional confirmation never hurts.
And Pat's final words:
Thanks for listening.
Anytime Pat, and thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to talk to the fans about what goes on behind the scenes when the big decisions go down.
So rather than, "If you build it, they will
come", the modus operandi is, "If you come, they will build it".
-- Vagabond, 02/06/02
JediKnightII.net tommorow for a response to this column from ZeroXcape.