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JEDI KNIGHT II Interview: Mike Stemmle

Q: First can you tell us how you got into game designing?

A: Almost by accident. Even though I’d been building computer games for years and had an actual honest-to-Yoda computer science degree under my belt, it never even occurred to me to apply for a job at a game company. I’d been out of college for almost a year when a job at Lucasfilm Games practically dropped into my lap, despite the fact that I hadn’t applied for the position.

Q: What other projects have you worked on at Lucasarts?

A: Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Sam and Max Hit the Road, Afterlife, and Escape from Monkey Island have been the biggies. Curiously, despite a twelve-year career with LucasArts, Jedi Outcast is my first Star Wars credit. Go fig.

Q: As the scriptwriter on Jedi Outcast, what part did you play in the development process? Dialogue? Plot? Story?

A: By the time I jumped onto the project, the story and most of the plot points were a few swift kicks from being finalized. I was a part of a task force of LEC and Raven guys that generously supplied those kicks, in a passionate story refinement session that took a couple of days to complete. Once we were all happy with the story, I was sent off to a cave for a couple of weeks to write the script. Every few days I’d shoot scenes off to the rest of the task force, which would correct my atrocious grammar, change all my goofy made-up words to goofy made-up Star Wars words, and generally critique the heck out of the thing. Within a month we had a final script.

Q: What research did you do? Kyle Katarn is getting to have a pretty long and involved continuity in the other games and the Expanded Universe.

A: Research? Darn, I knew I’d forgotten something…

Seriously, I deferred all the serious continuity questions to a small cadre of people within the building who have a disturbing grasp on the ins and outs of LEC’s Star Wars characters. Those guys are real whip-crackers…they wouldn’t even let me HINT at Kyle’s dormant bantha jerky abuse problem.

Q: Did you get to work with Billy Dee Williams or write dialogue for him?

A: While I did get to write Billy Dee’s dialogue, I didn’t get to go down to L.A. for the recording session. Rats.

Q: Mike, Is there a patch in the works? The animations to things such as the thermal detonator are incomplete.

A: I don’t have the foggiest.

The following three questions were answered by Tom Sarris, official LEC PR Guru, and all-around swell guy…

Q: Did the "Bring Obi-Wan Back to the PC Petition" (with over 7000 signatures) raise LucasArts attention that PC fans wanted another game like Jedi Knight?

A: No. A Jedi Knight sequel was always under consideration since it’s one of our most successful game series.

Q: Did any fan created levels serve as an inspiration for Outcast? Areas such as the hanger in the Jedi Temple, and the part where Kyle controls the mouse droid, were exactly like scenarios which fans had created in Jedi Knight levels.

A: I don’t think so. Those are fairly common scenarios for this kind of Star Wars game so I suspect it was merely coincidental.

Q: Is there an expansion pack in the works? Are Raven or LEC considering it?

A: At this point neither LucasArts nor Raven are considering plans for an expansion pack.

Thanks, Tom!

Now back to your regularly scheduled interview with Mike Stemmle...

[ The following questions contain spoilders ]

Q: Why aren't Kyle and Jan married yet? The Dark Forces books hinted that they intended to get married.

A: You know how it is with working couples. A mission here, an uprising there, and the next thing you know, you’ve been "engaged to be engaged" for nearly a decade.

Q: Where was WeeGee, Kyle's droid from Jedi Knight?

A: One suspects he was off getting his enthusiasm simulators upgraded. They kept burning out, leading him to constantly whine "Wee Gee bored! Wee Gee bored!"

Q: Why were Jan and Kyle the only survivors to know the location of the Valley of the Jedi? During Jedi Knight, Jerec's fleet of Star Destroyers above the Valley of the Jedi sending supplies down from orbit. Kyle and Jan never destroyed that fleet. Wouldn’t someone in that fleet know?

A: After the events in Jedi Knight, Jerec’s fleet got wiped out in a spectacular cut-scene that LucasArts couldn’t afford to produce at the time.

Q: Kyle's father, Morgan Katarn, was not a Jedi. So why did his spirit appear to Kyle in the Valley of the Jedi? Why not use Rahn, the Jedi who's spirit guided Kyle during Jedi Knight, instead?

A: -- Mike snorts his afternoon whisky out his nose --
Say wha? Since when was Morgan not a Jedi? When did this happen? Haden!
-- Mike tromps off to Haden’s office –

Okay, I’m back. I’ve been assured that Morgan was a Jedi. He had a lightsaber ‘n’ everything. Don’t scare me like that.

Q: Why was there another color change to Kyle's lightsaber? He ended Jedi Knight with a yellow blade, and used an orange blade in Mysteries of the Sith. (Which was possibly intended to be the same yellow one.) When did he build/find the blue saber and give it to Luke for safekeeping?

A: There are number of dry, metatextual reasons for the color change, all of which would bore the living bejebus out of y’all, trust me. I’m loathe to give a "canon" explanation for the change, however…particularly when the fan-driven speculation on the topic is far more rational than anything I would dream up.Aw, come on! Don't make me put up with another 3 years of people discussing this saber coloring "error" on the web....

Q: At one point, Lando asks Kyle, "Are you and Jan having another one of your fights?" Is this intended to signify behind the scenes relationship trouble? It could be why Jan wasn’t in Mysteries of the Sith, or why they’re not married yet.

A: That works for me. A guy like Kyle can’t be easy to work with/woo/tolerate for long hours in a cramped cockpit. The way Kyle and Jan banter, it’s obvious that there’ve been some legendary blow-ups over the years.

Q: Was there any significance to the different hood colors worn by the Reborn?

A: Blue is for Beta.
Green is for Gamma.
Gamma is Good.
Sorry, went off to another place there for a tic. Color me clueless on this one.

Q: What was Tavion's intended fate after Outcast? Is she just another former-dark-jedi running around the galaxy unaccounted for?

A: In early drafts of the story, Tavion was slated to die like a good little boss monster. After we’d adjusted the plot a bit, it was decided that it would be more appropriate to let Tavion live as means to emphasize Kyle’s return (once again!) from the very edge of the Dark Side. Besides, disgraced dark Jedi roaming the galaxy in search of revenge and/or honorable deaths are great sequel fodder.

Q: The Shadowtroopers' armor is supposed to contain cortosis ore making it 'resistant' to lightsaber attacks. Cortosis was first conceived by Timothy Zahn in The Hand of Thrawn books. Cortosis was NOT resistant to lightsaber blades. But it did short out a lightsaber's circuitry causing the blade to shut off. Why does it act differently in JO? Shouldn't Kyle's saber just shut down when he strikes a Shadowtrooper?

A: Gameplay reasons, mostly. In video games, lightsabers can’t be as all-powerful as they are in the movies, nor can they be shorting out every time they strike an enemy. I suspect that cortosis was used, despite the confusion, to keep from adding another "saber foiling" element to the Star Wars universe. If it helps, imagine the Zahn cortosis as being the standard "Green Cortosis", and the JO cortosis as being the mutated "Red Cortosis." Remember kids, Blue Cortosis only affects Bizarro Jedi.

Q: This is a fairly minor point, but Jan tells Kyle she's been interrogated on the layout of the Jedi Academy by Galak's men. Couldn't Desann have supplied the information they needed about the Academy? He was a student there after all.

A: Desann hadn’t been there for years. The Academy could’ve updated their defenses. Of course, this implies that Jan’s been to the Academy more recently than either Desann OR Kyle, but maybe there’s a story there, too…

Q: What was Desann looking for under the ruins of the Massassi Temples, and what was the huge energy beam in the room you finally catch up with him in?

A: I have no idea. I haven’t gotten that far yet (

Q: Here’s the big final question that has been bothering many people on the message boards…
The timeline for when Jedi Outcast takes place in the Star Wars Universe is inconsistent.

The game's intro text crawl reads that the events take place 8 years after battle of Endor. (12 After Star Wars)
But the game’s manual says that events take place 9 years after Jedi Knight (14 after Star Wars).
The Jedi Outcast website confirms the 14 after Star Wars date. has an entry on Kyle, but it just indicates the events of Outcast happened "Several years" after Jedi Knight.

The Star Wars Essential Chronology by Dan Wallace and Kevin Anderson says that Kyle was one of Luke’s original students at the Jedi Academy. The story of the game seems to agree with this. It also says that later, during the novel Darksaber, Kyle participated in another battle at the Academy. The date in the text crawl seems to contradict Darksaber. Is the text crawl wrong? What is the correct chain of events?

A: When in doubt, go with the explanation that’s the most vague.

If you REALLY want the text crawl to work, say it’s been 8 years and 364 days, and that it rolls over to 9 years somewhere during the first mission. In any event, as far as Jedi Outcast goes, here are the only timeline points I consider to be of interest:

Several Years Ago: Mysteries of the Sith happens (#23 of 3000 in the ever-expanding "Sith Happens" lame joke series…collect them all!)

A Short Time after That: Kyle drops the Force like a bad habit, and leaves his saber with Luke. The definition of "Short Time" can be stretched as necessary.

Years Pass: Kyle goes back to being a hired gun for the forces of good, with his partner Jan. He acquires, and successfully kicks, an addiction to bantha jerky. His ability to wield the Force atrophies.

Now: Kyle encounters the Jedi Outcast, and reclaims the Force in a fit of rage.

Interesting. I always assumed that KYLE was the Jedi Outcast, but I guess it makes sense for Dessan too... Thanks for answering these strange questions.

Strange? Pshaw. I get stranger questions from my long distance provider.
In any event, it was my pleasure.

Bantha jerky free for fifteen months,
Mike Stemmle

Lou Graziani, 4/16/02




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