Writing Stories in the STAR WARS™ Universe
The writing team for Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ faces an unusual set of challenges. It’s not enough to write a great story; it’s not even enough to write a great player-driven interactive story, or a great player-driven interactive story that fits within a massively multiplayer environment. On top of everything, every story in the game must be a great Star Wars story. If it’s not, it belongs somewhere else.
So how does the writing team approach a challenge like that? Here’s a look at some of the features that make a Star Wars story worth telling.
The Foundation[edit | edit source]
We can all list familiar elements from the Star Wars films: Jedi, Sith, the Force, droids, lightsabers and starships; themes of heroism, redemption, learning, friendship and oppression; a trilogy structure, pulp-inspired “episode” names, and so on.
These iconic elements are the basic tools the writing team uses to build uniquely Star Wars stories—stories that feel like they’re part of the same fictional universe as the films. Not every Star Wars story needs a cantina or a wise old mentor, of course, but the films are the foundation for everything we do. If you’re not using at least some of those iconic elements, your story probably isn’t about Star Wars at all.
The original Star Wars™: Knights of the Old Republic™ is a great example of a story that uses this foundation well. Even without characters like Luke and Leia, it’s clearly Star Wars—it’s a story about Jedi, Sith and redemption, taking place against a galactic backdrop of strange planets and alien species.
The Building Blocks[edit | edit source]
But we’re not restricted to the movies. The Star Wars Expanded Universe of novels, television and comic books provides a tremendous amount of material for us to draw upon (as does Knights of the Old Republic specifically). Without the Expanded Universe, we wouldn’t have Mandalorians, a Sith Empire or even our setting’s time period! We wouldn’t know anything about the temple where the rebels hid on Yavin 4 or the names of the alien species in Jabba’s palace.
So long as these building blocks don’t obscure the foundation, we’ll use them. We’re also not averse to creating new settings, species and technologies, expanding on old ones, or developing new themes. Contributing fresh ideas to the setting is one of the most exciting things about working in Star Wars—but those ideas always have to fit, which leads to…
Star Wars “Feel”[edit | edit source]
The flipside of straying from the films is that we need to be careful about what we introduce. It’s easy to accidentally ruin our Star Wars “feel” by writing a story that just doesn’t seem right.
Sometimes, identifying these ill-fitting elements isn’t hard—time travel and dimension-hopping are staples of science fiction, but they don’t work well in the Star Wars universe. Other times, it’s a matter of staying true to the mythology of the Force (especially when it comes to new powers) or figuring out “Would a Jedi really say that?”
It’s not uncommon for debates to spring up around the office as to whether a story idea is “Star Wars-y” enough, and sometimes there isn’t an easy answer. Maintaining a Star Wars feel is one of the most difficult things our writers do. We need to constantly edit ourselves and ask if what we’re doing is right for the grander story of the Star Wars universe.
Respecting the Continuity[edit | edit source]
There’s one last big challenge to writing a great Star Wars story. Even if the story grows organically from the setting, adds something exciting and new, and has an undeniable Star Wars feel, it still needs to work within thirty years of other Star Wars stories told in comics, novels and television.
Since Star Wars: The Old Republic takes place almost four millennia before the films, it removes a lot of potential for error, but it’s still not easy keeping track of when Species X was first discovered or when Technology Y was invented. We do our best to work within established continuity where we can, and adjust it gently where we can’t—even a long-forgotten issue of Marvel’s Star Wars comic series is something we’d rather not contradict.
We always try to respect the fact that we’re not the first or last writers to work in this universe. Yes, we want to leave a mark—we’d love to see other writers expanding on what we’ve done, years down the line—but not by hurting the continuity as a whole.