Months back we showed you a fan made HD remake of one of the best Star Wars games of all time. Several of you said it looked gorgeous, amazing, and illegal. I recently spoke to head of Apeiron KOTOR remake Taylor Trotter and discussed all that. I learned how this all came to be, what we can expect, and saw some gorgeous exclusive screenshots for what should be an amazing remake! Read all about it below, and look out for an alpha sometime late 2016!
M:What inspired this project? What made you think I want to do a FPS of Knights of The Old Republic?
T: Well...just to clarify, most of the screenshots that have been released are in first person because we want to show off the environment. If you check out the livestreams that we do we have the code and functionality to switch back and forth between both first and third (perspective) and were just gonna give the player the option to go back and forth. As I had a person tweet at me a while back "is it only first person or third person...or can we Skyrim it?" and I love that term. Yes you can Skyrim it.
M: Okay! Good to know! (shamefully bows his head for his ignorance.) Back to the original question. How did this whole thing get started?
T: It's a little bit of a lengthy story, but it all kind of started back in 2012 is when The Old Republic came out. At that time I was taking a job offer in China so I was moving abroad...and I had about a month between jobs in order to play The Old Republic. Before it came out everyone was saying...well I think even THEY were saying in a press release "This is KOTOR 3,4,5 and 6." Of course that made me really excited. I was like "this is going to be the best thing ever!"
So I got the game, and I've said this before, but it was a really ambitious project. It was really fun, and I enjoyed the game...I played it every day before I left to go to China, but it still felt like it was an MMO. It didn't feel like that nostalgic feel of KOTOR. That's something that really bummed me out I was excited as that game as it had a ton of potential. For the time of it's release (2003) that game had a lot of innovative storytelling...
But it wasn't KOTOR. So it came down to who's going to do it? The major opinion (of the gaming community) was they're ding the MMO...KOTOR 3 will probably be later on...and KOTOR 3 never happened.
So what happened was I tried to play The Old Republic in China, and it was blocked by the Chinese government...I still had KOTOR on my original laptop, so I was able to get my fix playing that again, and again, and again. It kind of got to the point I felt that someone had to step up and do it (make a KOTOR successor) and that person WAS NOT me! Of course, as more time went by and no one was even discussing a successor or reboot...I was in Hong Kong and thought "what if I did that? I could make a game I know computers!" In my head it felt like something out of Andy Griffith like "I'm gonna make a video game!" It's all gonna work and it's all gonna be easy and little did I know the undertaking it would be.
This was all before Unreal Engine 4 came out...when I got back to America in 2013. I still had the idea in my head but I didn't have a way of going about it. If I actually knew the complexity and workload making a game entailed I would have given up right then...but I had my new laptop and was back in the states so I said "I'm gonna make this game."
I was using Cryengine 3, because back then it was free, and I could run it on my laptop...I also had a 3DS Max student version from when I was in grad school. So I went and kind of just made basic levels, like that...I just kept trying to recreate what I saw in the game on my screen and it was going miserably. It was just something I was doing in my spare time...nothing serious you know...just to have fun.
If you flash forward to 2014, this is when UE4 came out. At the time I was a front end developer at a start up in Atlanta. I was too poor to budget the $16 a month...but then it was free! I got a new system to get off my laptop...if anyone has ever tried to make a game on a laptop it is exceedingly difficult! If anyone is out there thinking about making games and you only have a laptop, start small with mobile games! At this point I hadn't touched KOTOR for about 9 months or so, but I had a new computer and free UE4 and I started getting into it!
The company I was working for folded...it was really stressful I just bought this new computer and apartment...but it did allow me to devote my time to KOTOR. I had side projects so I wasn't completely penniless...but it was rough. It all served as a catalyst as to where the project is now. From not being able to play The Old Republic in China to becoming unemployed to now. All that led up to Apeiron development that started last August. It was an up and down ride leading up to now spanning 3 countries in 3 years. There was never this golden switch...it was never A to B...it's kind of this crazy road! I believe that's a part of it in game making. You're paying your dues. There's 1000 times where this all could've gone really wrong really fast.
M: But it didn't! You guys went viral on the web and we're all over the place! For those of us that haven't been following since then...bring us up to speed on Apeiron's KOTOR HD.
T: You know it's nice to have all this publicity, but we try not to let it affect us in development terms. I get emails every day about people wanting to see Manaan and Korriban....which they're planets that I'm very excited to work on...but we aren't going to rush it out. It will happen! It would hurt the game for us to consistently play to the audience. We plan on having a working Alpha by Q4 of 2016 so we don't want to play around with our schedule now.
M: If you want to have a working alpha by 2016...how far along would you say you are now?
T: I'm not sure I can give a number or percentage...on the design side I just finished the main room for the Jedi Enclave Dantooine. I've been working on Dantooine for the past 3 weeks now. Our lead dev Drew Morris, who I actually met at my former job, he does all of our code C++ and behavioral trees and projectiles. He's integrating Slade wth the UMG for the mini-map (Mick here...I'll be honest this is over my head but maybe you understand it) so that's where we are right now.
As for an easier to grasp idea of where we are now, it'd be easier to say where we are going next. Gamewise we are going in a chronological order...and we're about 50% done with Tatooine and 30% done with Dantooine.
M: We clarified this earlier that you can play the game in first person or third person. As far as first person, does that change any elements of the game or are there sections where you have to play third?
T: Currently our plan is if you want to play entirely in first person you can and of course you can play in third. If you're like me I go in between the two. It's going to add a new level of immersion I feel. There are moments where if you were able to be in first person it really feeds that immersion into the Star Wars universe. Whenever you're on Taris and you're standing on buildings and you see cars flying by...I would take time out of the game just to watch them go by! I think a lot of players are really going to enjoy that. Being able to play in first person will make things different, but also a little more special.
I have had people email me saying not to have the first person, saying it's not KOTOR, but this is our project this is KOTOR Apeiron. We want to add things that we want that are out of the shell of traditional RPG KOTOR. A majority of people will be very happy about that.
M: Going on that...I saw on the site you guys are talking about adding content and new game mechanics!
T: I can't talk terribly too much about it...but I will say there was some really fantastic content in the original game that unfortunately had to be cut. There was a "certain planet" that got cut that people were bummed about. Players may see said planet in Apeiron. There were things in the original that were cut. I think if you want to play those things now there are mods for it. When we say updates we talk about that kind of material. The original writer for the game had some really interesting dialogue and choices that got cut and we are looking to ressurect some of that. There are "other things" but I don't want to say them now in the event we run out of time or they don't fit the game. From new things visually and game mechanics!
M: You're making a game that has several owners. Bioware, Lucasarts, Disney. Do you ever worry the lawyers will come knocking on your door?
T: That is a real possibility. The world could end tomorrow and there's nothing we can do about it. This isn't your typical remake. You still have to own the original game. We are still using the audio and dialogue of the original game. At it's core, and technical level it's still a mod...just a very large conversion expansion mod. George Lucas himself has applauded user created content for the Star Wars universe...it has this really rich history of engaging with users as opposed to shutting them out. I think we will be fine.