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Interview Matt Chat 447: Kevin Saunders on Knights of the Old Republic II, His Early Career and His Legacy

Infinitron

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Tags: Kevin Saunders; Matt Barton; Obsidian Entertainment; Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords

In the end, Matt Barton decided to upload the remainder of his interview with Kevin Saunders as one final 45 minute episode. As expected, the next topic under discussion is Obsidian's first RPG, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords. Kevin joined Obsidian after having worked on real-time strategy games at Electronic Arts for a year (he actually started at Westwood a week before EA shut them down). He was the one who created KOTOR 2's famous droid planet which was cut and restored by modders many years later. After that he shifted to a system design role, in which he was responsible for items, the lightsaber crafting system, some minigames and more notoriously, the game's level scaling implementation.

Kevin's career goes back further than that, though. Before Westwood, he actually briefly worked on the first Far Cry at Crytek. He began his career at Nexon, who hired him out of university to become a gamemaster on their first MMO, Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds. He has all sorts of amusing stories from that period and apparently did a good enough job that he was promoted to a lead design role on Shattered Galaxy, an innovative MMORTS that unfortunately was a commercial failure. Kevin returned to Nexon many years later and if his studio hadn't been shut down, they might have looked into creating a Shattered Galaxy 2 later on.



At the end of the interview, Matt asks Kevin how he would sum up his long career in game development. Kevin says he's happy to have worked with so many passionate people over the years, but in retrospect if he could have gone back, he would have chosen a more socially impactful occupation. However, he does take comfort in the fact that most of the games he worked on were meaningful experiences and not mere toys.
 

The_Mask

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The lightsaber crafting system was pretty fun, and easily one of my favourite aspects of the game. It's nice to know Kevin was the one responsible for it.
Fun fact: If you abuse the exp bug on Korriban, the enemies start hitting a lot harder and the crafting system (which is awesome otherwise) falls a bit off, because it's obvious no one thought of infinite levels.

I also liked how he said MCA impacted the way he started dealing with things after he met and talked to him. Fucking MCA man... what a guy...
 

Ninjerk

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It's sad that someone who has worked on some seriously quality (if flawed) content expressing such a sentiment. I don't want to draw any too-far-fetched parellels by comparing the games he worked on to classic art/artists, but you have to wonder how many directors/artists x of work(s) y might echo that sentiment.
 

MRY

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It's sad that someone who has worked on some seriously quality (if flawed) content expressing such a sentiment.
I suspect Kevin's views may be colored by the frustrations of the last three/four years he spent in the industry unable to see TTON through the end and then starting a new sub-studio for Nexon and then having the funding for it dry up. He had some significant successes with games / software designed for social impact (at Alelo and Embodied), and perhaps thus concluded he would've found it more rewarding to have worked exclusively in that field.

My own two cents is that one shouldn't underestimate the impact that a game can have on people. Even if it's not as obvious as other forms of social impact, good games can enrich lives in all sorts of ways -- exposing them to new ideas, modeling different modes of behavior, cheering someone up when they're low, inspiring them to make games themselves, etc. I'm sure MOTB did a lot of good, even if it's impossible to isolate it.
 

commie

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It's sad that someone who has worked on some seriously quality (if flawed) content expressing such a sentiment.
I suspect Kevin's views may be colored by the frustrations of the last three/four years he spent in the industry unable to see TTON through the end and then starting a new sub-studio for Nexon and then having the funding for it dry up. He had some significant successes with games / software designed for social impact (at Alelo and Embodied), and perhaps thus concluded he would've found it more rewarding to have worked exclusively in that field.

My own two cents is that one shouldn't underestimate the impact that a game can have on people. Even if it's not as obvious as other forms of social impact, good games can enrich lives in all sorts of ways -- exposing them to new ideas, modeling different modes of behavior, cheering someone up when they're low, inspiring them to make games themselves, etc. I'm sure MOTB did a lot of good, even if it's impossible to isolate it.

Yeah cause Codexers here show that the value of making good games in order to spare society at large from interacting with them is incalculable.

Salute to all the devs that contribute to keeping Codexers off the streets!
 

Sentinel

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KotOR2 is one of my favorite games. I always return to it and PS:T whenever I'm feeling down. Thanks for contributing to it.
 

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