Knights of the Old Republic II: Sith Lords questions from Joakim... some spoilers follow.
1. K2 pretty much changed on how the force, the galaxy, the Jedi are portrayed. How did that work in terms that you were making a sequel to a very typical Star Wars game? (KotOR1, we have this evil dude who wants to blow up the galaxy just for the hell of it).
A lot of it came from deep-rooted feelings and opinions about the Star Wars franchise, both positive and negative, and especially what it would feel like to be a Jedi or Sith in that universe. I've always had an issue with the Force because of its predestination aspects, and I wonder if any Jedi or Sith would ever want to rebel against it entirely... and if they'd be willing to give up their ties of the Force (and all that power) to do it. Nihilus in K2 is a being who's wholly surrendered himself to what the Force is, and the fact he's completely consumed by the self-destructive Sith technique sums up my problems with the Force.
Don't get me wrong, though, I found a lot to enjoy in the Star Wars universe, much like the other franchises I've worked with. I do like to go into a campaign setting though and poke at the foundations a bit.
2. The ending of the game was pretty much a buildup for a (where is?) Kotor III. I imagine that you had the details pretty much figured out - but how much details did you have in mind before the game (the time between K1's ending and K2's start).
Not much, was mostly struggling with K2 storyline at that time. The events that were to lead into K3 came more and more as we backtracked through Revan's plotlines in K2 and wondered if we could do a Babylon 5 spin with it, where Revan had a greater plan in mind when attacking the Republic. Just thought that would be kind of cool.
3. Where the game inspired by some real characters and/or events?
Not really, although Kreia had some similarities to Ravel in Planescape: Torment, since there were some directions I wished I could have taken with Ravel.
4. What would you change with KotOR 1?
Nothing, overall, I liked it. In fact, there were a number of high points when I was playing where I almost broke the controller because I didn't see how we could possibly top some of the events or locales in K1 (like walking on the sea floor in Manaan). I wish Juhani could have been a lesbian, though, not for a crude reason, but because that seemed true to her character arc.
5. Who do think deserves the most credit for K2? (except you)
The whole team for different reasons. Really, we had such a small team that everyone really had to wear a lot of hats to get it all wrapped up, and everyone pitched in and pushed themselves, even those that came on at the end (Tony Evans, one of our senior designers and the lead designer for Storm of Zehir, showed up in the last part of the project, and he was instrumental in getting the game done).
6. Would the game (K2) have turned out different (story/characters) if you would have worked on it today or five years before you did (1999) that is. (If we pretend you had the same amount of resources and technology)
Totally - it would obviously be a much more polished experience. However, it would suffer from the fact that if it had been worked on in 1999, some of the character arcs (notably Kreia) would not have been present, since much of that was spawned from NPC ideas in Torment.
7. Were there some things that you had to change due to disagreements with LucasArts or other Obsidian employees (not talking about cut content) If so, what - overall, are you happy about those changes or do you think the game would have turned out better without them?
Lucas Film had about 5-6 comments on the game over the course of the title, which I'd like to think was because we "got" the universe, but might have been more because they were so swamped with making Episode III. We do try to thoroughly research the franchises we work on at Obsidian and do due diligence to the franchise holders so we can match their ideas for the license. As such, we've rarely had problems in the approval process. There are times we've asked to do things with a franchise that have been turned down (we wanted to make Gann in Mask of the Betrayer a bi-sexual, for example, because that felt true to how he perceived love).
In the Obsidian ranks as far as K2 is concerned, I think we probably wasted time with the mini-games (we should have dumped those), done one less planet, and did less with the interface (we lost a lot of scripting and programmer time to it in exchange for not a lot of impact) and just concentrated on making a great polished adventure.
8. How did the first draft of KotOR 2 look like, and did any ideas survive to the final product?
The Handmaiden did, some characteristics of Kreia, and so did the planet Peragus, but almost nothing else did, which was for the best after playing K1. The original premise had the player drafted for help by the Handmaiden to free her world from matriarchs led by a figurehead reminiscent of Kreia. After playing K1, we ditched the storyline - and it sucked that we wasted 2 months on it considering how little time we had over the course of the project, but LucasArts couldn't legally give us copies of K1 to examine or play until the contract was signed, so no one's to blame, it was just circumstances.
9. What made you go for the Exile as the main character?
Maybe it was just that because I didn't grasp the Force (or want to, initially) that seemed a natural character to start the game with. I also had been watching Chinatown and the whole ending for that movie (that there's an event in the character's past that's never spoken about that haunts him) also seemed to be appropriate.
2. What happened with Bao-Dur - we know that he was supposed to die near the end because of the: "make my sacrifice matter line".
Bao-Dur - we didn't have time to finish his thread, but if I recall (it's been a while), he was supposed to die on the attack on Telos to help HK-47 get to the HK-50 factory and shut it down to save the planet.
3. How much content did not make it into the game (such as Bao-Dur's death. Content that aren't even in the game files).
I wanted some more unrequited romance sequences between Sion and a female Exile player (there was supposed to be more build up to Sion's obsession for the player stemming from something other than just hate), but that didn't get in. Also, obviously, the companions turning on each other at the end didn't have time to get in and polished, and I've never been happy with the final confrontation with the Jedi on Dantooine.
One last thing - I guess what I miss most about K2 that never got in was an audio sequence where the Exile is meditating about where Nihilus and Sion are striking from, and there's a telepathic blending sequence of all the companion VO that culminates in the revelation of Malachor V. I was so sad there wasn't time to do it, because the blending just sounded soooooo good. Ah, well, I guess that just adds another brick to the Fortress of Regrets.
ONE FINAL QUESTION. Do you have some tips and tricks to new game designers (people who already are one)? What "traps" they should avoid and what do you want them to focus on?
Document all you can in case you're hit by a bus but don't make them so exhaustive that no one ever reads them - keep it to bulletpoints, streamline it, use mock-ups, and if a particular design runs more than 3 pages, consider fragmenting it into its own document to ease reading. Details matter. Learn scripting, make attempts to understand the tools and pipelines of other departments. Don't just play other games to get ideas - read books, graphic novels, history, non-fiction, and expose yourself to a variety of media to round out your design ideas. Learn to recognize design clich