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SWTOR Editorial - A Guide to the Old Republic Jedi

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By Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor

In all honesty, there’s probably nothing that’s impacted my life more than the first time I watched the Star Wars Trilogy. When my father first inserted that video cassette into our ancient VHS player, I was a mere five years old and the epic anthem of the opening credits would blare in my mind for decades to come. Through the years I collected any piece of Star Wars memorabilia I could find and afford: books, roleplaying and collectible card games, LEGOs, and action figures were all part of my massive and ever-growing collection. To say I was obsessed would have been an understatement.

When I first heard that George Lucas was going to continue the epic story of Star Wars, I – like so many other Star Wars fanatics – was thrilled. Questions swirled in my head. Which part of the universe would he explore? How would he depict the Jedi? What sort of fantastic journey would we be going on next? The expanded universe of the Star Wars novels and comic books had opened up a completely new portion of Star Wars that was still being revealed, and Lucas had a veritable treasure trove of creative talent to help make his decision.

Knights of the Old Republic was an incredible best seller.

Yet Lucas’ prequel episodes – in the eyes of many – were lackluster. I was one of those disappointed fans; an individual that had spent hundreds of dollars in devotion to a franchise that ended up giving me a pre-teen Anakin Skywalker (“Yippee!”) and a pidgin-speaking alien. After the first two prequel episodes, droves of fans swore off the series altogether and turned elsewhere for the science fiction fix. But the Star Wars franchise continues to command one of the largest fan bases in all of pop culture.

Some of the franchise’s remaining popularity can be squarely attributed to the success of Bioware’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), which has sold well over a million copies. The open-ended stories that Bioware told within KOTOR were award-winning, and many fans that had lost hope in Star Wars could feel that soaring John William’s anthem rise in their soul again.

Now with the announcement of a Knights of the Old Republic MMOG, Star Wars fans are beginning to whip themselves into a frenzy once again. Forums are abuzz with the possibilities of a KOTOR online game and what it means for Star Wars players. Unfortunately, many individuals who are eagerly awaiting the release of KOTOR Online really don’t know all the details behind the Knights of the Old Republic. I constantly hear questions regarding the Jedi and the Sith, and how those powerful individuals are going to be depicted in an online game.

Will there be thousands of Jedi running across the universe? How will Bioware be able to justify having more than two Sith? Who will the players fight against? What kind of storyline will players follow?

For those players that do have those particular types of questions, you’re in luck. Although my knowledge of Star Wars is far from comprehensive, I can certainly assist those individuals who have general fears about the setting and timeline of Star Wars. Thankfully, things are not as restrictive as you may believe.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring different aspects of the background of Star Wars and the Knights of the Old Republic, and how these pieces of Star Wars history will help Bioware construct a Star Wars game that will be full of what players desire from the Star Wars experience.

For my opening article, I really want to hit on an important article for any Star Wars fan, whether they’re obsessive or not. The Jedi.

The Jedi Knights in the Era of the Old Republic

There is no emotion; there is peace.
There is no ignorance; there is knowledge.
There is no passion; there is serenity.
There is no death, there is the Force.
- The Jedi Code

Anyone who’s even the least bit interested in Star Wars knows about the Jedi and their stoic ways. Yet in the original trilogy and the prequels, the Jedi Knights seem to be a smaller organization, with few agents ever seen and the entire population of “good” Force wielders in danger of being driven into extinction by various outside forces, including their philosophical rivals, the Sith. Thankfully, the Knights of the Old Republic chronology places it completely out of the timeline of the movies, to an era that’s holds a much higher number of Jedi: the era of the Old Republic.

The era of the Old Republic is 4,000 years long.

Spanning a 4,000 year long timeline, the era of the Old Republic begins after the fall of the original Sith Empire (5,000 years before “A New Hope”) and continues until the very beginning of the Rise of the Empire (1,000 years before “A New Hope”). This is the era in which Bioware’s original best-selling Star Wars game, Knights of the Old Republic, takes place and features a time where the Jedi are plentiful and powerful. Despite the portrayal of the Jedi in the original Bioware game (you only see a handful of Jedi), there are a fairly large number of Jedi throughout the galaxy.

Throughout the whole Star Wars expanded universe, almost every mention of the Jedi depicts them as the “watchdogs” or “police officers” of the galaxy. It seems that wherever there’s a threat, a Jedi is more than ready to slip on the mantle of justice and fight against evil and oppression. While neither the novels nor the original Bioware game ever give exact numbers on the number of Jedi in the galaxy, it’s apparent that there are enough of them to disperse across to the far reaches and either help out local populations or do their own sort of research.

On top of that, the Jedi are also noted scholar and philosophers, so it’s not without reason to assume that a vast number of Jedi are not roaming the galaxy but instead are holed up in a library some where, finding out the origins of their past. Were there more Jedi Knights on Coruscant than those shown in the Jedi Council chambers in the movies? Absolutely. According to the StarWars.com website some 200 Jedi were still available during the Clone Wars, a number that was "spread thin."

The Jedi ability to use the Force inexplicably began to diminish. This, coupled with increasing violence in the galaxy sparked by a Separatist movement overburdened the valiant protectors. Their ranks were spread thin trying to maintain the peace, and many Jedi fell during the crisis. When it came to war, and the first shots of the Clone Wars were fired on Geonosis, only a scant 200 Jedi were readily available for the conflict. 

Although the Knights of the Old Republic games did focus on a large, galaxy-shaking type scenario in each of the two games; there was certainly more going on in the universe than those two particular events. Some fans of the Bioware games may know this, but the Knights of the Old Republic series was actually introduced toward the later end of 1993 by bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson and Dark Horse Comics. In the ongoing comic book series titled Tales of the Jedi, Anderson compiles a series of stories surrounding some of the major players in Star Wars universe between the years of 4,000 and 3,986 years before “A New Hope.”

Due to a very similar timeline in Bioware’s Knights of the Old Republic games (which were set right around 4,000 years before ANH), it can be surmised that there were far more Jedi – in fact many, many more – during that time period. Enough for their to be several different Sith assailants upon the Galactic Republic at the same time or a whole host of Jedi Knights wandering about the galaxy. In just a few of the comics, you find characters like Nomi Sunrider, Vima Sunrider, Ulic Qel-Droma and a number of others. 

On top of that, there are also several different variations of Force wielders throughout the Star Wars universe. Unlike what some people assume, not every Force adept person in the Star Wars universe chooses to follow the path of the Jedi or Sith. Aside from the Jedi and the Sith, Bioware might include character options in their game like the Dathomir witches, the Potentium heretic or any sort of strange hermit that may have simply become a shaman type of character to their tribe.

The official Star Wars website stated that only 200 Jedi were there to assist in the Clone Wars.

If Bioware was creating their game’s backstory with an eye on potentials, it would make sense for every character in their title to be a “Force sensitive” or someone that has at least some aptitude for manipulating the force, whether it be to simply affect gambling results or full on Force powers. It’d be silly to make the game in any other way, and it’d be impressive to see players that don’t have Force powers able to manipulate certain interactions within the game if they opted to perfect a particular element of their inherent “luck.”

The question that does remain is whether or not Bioware will ask players to “work” to make their characters into full-blown Jedi. Almost all of the Star Wars lore points directly at characters – even the most Force talented – requiring at least a bit of training in order to unlock their full potential. If Bioware opts to go this route, we may see players opting to create a variety of different characters before diving into the “Jedi” role. One particularly interesting facet of Jedi training Bioware might follow is the idea of Jedi Masters and their Padawans. Much like a "mentoring" system in other games, Bioware could definitely use this system to help new characters attain higher ranks within the game itself.

And the official Star Wars website even states that Jedi training is no easy task. Here's a snippet from the official website:

To become a Jedi requires the deepest commitment and most serious mind. It is not a venture to be undertaken lightly. As such, Jedi instruction is rigidly structured and codified to enforce discipline and hinder transgression. Only 20 Jedi have ever voluntarily renounced their commissions. It is with great regret that the Jedi order recognizes the so-called "Lost Twenty." A Jedi who fails in his training can be a very serious threat. The dark side of the Force beckons to the impatient, and students in the past have been lured to its call with devastating consequences.

In any case, Bioware has plenty of freedom to allow players to create whatever type of character they wish, be they Jedi Knight, alternate Force wielder, or common smuggler. While the mechanics behind becoming a Jedi – whether players have to “train” their minds or not – has yet to be determined, it’s safe to assume that there will be at least a few hundred Jedi running around each of Bioware’s KOTOR servers.

Although that number may be a bit high for the Star Wars universe, it’s not entirely unfeasible. I’m sure the developers at Bioware have taken all of these various factors into their thinking, and as players you shouldn’t be afraid to see a game filled with Jedi. Even if it does happen, expect Bioware to have a threat that’s equally capable of destroying legions of Jedi.

So fear not, Star Wars fans. The Jedi are perfectly safe in Bioware’s world, and they’re here to stay. But if you're more of an "evil" type of character, make sure you check back in with Ten Ton Hammer when we take a look at the history of the Sith!
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