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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
… 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.