You may remember that Lucas Arts and BioWare launched a co-branded website in October and announced they were making an "interactive entertainment product" together. Well, it turns out it's not just any interactive entertainment product - it's a massive multiplayer online game based on the Knights of the Old Republic single player RPG's.

Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello confirmed the much-rumored KOTOR MMO in an interview with Portfolio.com at E3 yesterday. He also said the project would be "quite possibly the most anticipated game, full stop, for the industry at the point when we get closer to telling you about it." It's hard to argue with that point given how huge of a franchise Star Wars is. The built-in fan base gives it a good chance of grabbing a lot of customers who haven't even played an MMO before.

Plus there's already been a Star Wars MMO, Star Wars Galaxies, which BioWare and Lucas Arts can use as a sort of case study when they're determining how certain aspects of the Star Wars mythos will translate into gameplay. The biggest issue, something Galaxies struggled with, is determining who's going to be allowed to be Jedi and how powerful will they be compared to non-Force sensitive characters in this game. The KOTOR series was set during the Old Republic when the Jedi were all over the damn place. However, most of them get killed by the Sith between the first and second games in the series. Assuming they set the MMO after the second game, maybe they'll have the Jedi Order in a state of rebuilding. It's safe to say they'll let someone play a Jedi because lightsabers are just too damn cool to only be wielded by NPC's. Maybe they'll screw with everyone's heads by making Jedi the designated healing/buffing class like Paladins in World of Warcraft.

Even though I was a big fan of the first two KOTOR games, I'm still not sure what I think about the idea of a KOTOR MMO. A single player RPG is a completely different experience than an MMO. Part of the appeal of the single player KOTOR games was that I felt like I was starring in my own little Star Wars movie. The biggest strength was its central storyline, which is the very thing MMO's tend to push off into the background in favor of grinding. In general, BioWare's RPGs place a huge emphasis on player choice and moral decisions and I don't think I've seen an MMO yet that's allowed for that sort of interactivity.

My tune will likely change once I get some actual details on the game and BioWare's done enough to earn the benefit of the doubt. My point, though, is that it's tough to generate enthusiasm about a new game in a franchise if the gameplay tied to said franchise isn't there. Like shooter fans awaiting the Halo real-time strategy game, I'm cautiously optimistic that this new game will, in spite of its conceptual differences, still deliver a gameplay experience of the style and quality of preceding installments. However, I just keep imagining a Jedi Master sending his Padawan off into the woods to kill 10 boars and bring back their snouts.

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