“Waitaminute,” you say. “Star Wars already HAS an established intellectual property!”
Yeah, you’re right. But also, you’re wrong. That’s why you fail, padawan.
BioWare has a tricky task ahead of them with Star Wars: The Old Republic, and that is building a Star Wars game that’s both somewhat familiar and somewhat brand spanking new. For many folks, “Star Wars” is firmly equated with the movies (or at least the original trilogy) — the mindshare of that IP is all about Empire vs. Rebels, Luke and Leia, Han and Taun-Tauns getting sliced open for a good night’s rest. We’ve played a gazillion games set in that time period, read the books, seen the TV shows, and whatnot. We’re so innudated with it that, unlike the more hardcore Star Wars fans and their Expanded Universe, it’s incredibly difficult to think of Star Wars outside of that narrow focus.
So while BioWare’s Old Republic series (KOTOR 1 & 2, and now TOR) are very much Star Warsian and somewhat known to the gaming public, it’s still an unfamiliar branch of the IP to the millions more they hope to rope in to their upcoming MMORPG. It’s not like Star Wars Galaxies, where players already had a frame of reference going into it — there are good Rebels and bad Imperials and I know what an ATAT is and why I should be wary around the Hutt — the rules of how the Old Republic works are a bit more fuzzy to most.
So it’s great to see that BioWare is placing a big pre-launch emphasis on bringing us up to speed on their unique slice of the IP, including the backstory, through comics and a potential series of narrated “Timelines” (voiced by Lance Henrickson, aka “Bishop” from the movie Aliens). It’s not too hard to grasp the situation, either — BioWare’s creating a platform for an edgy “cold war” between two previous combatants, and the Jedi didn’t exactly come out on top in the recent negotiations. Stupid Jedi. Always thinking with their stomachs.