So, Sith Holocron and someone else (I forget who, sorry) asked me to write something a while ago, about the ‘inside track’ on the TSLRP project in its last days, so here it is. This isn’t a definitive description, just my point of view on the thing. Other people may disagree, or remember things differently.
(A recent thread by N-Drew25 has reminded me that I’m a crusty prehistoric remnant in this community these days ( ), so for those who don’t know, TSLRP stands for The Sith Lords Restoration Project. This was the first attempt to restore the cut content in TSL, and petered out around 2008.)
First of all, I had somewhat limited involvement: I was on one of the people asked to take part in the “closed beta” of the mod in 2008-2009, along without a dozen others, and was one of those that survived the purge following the leak. Also, the mod was wound up in 2010, as I recall, so my memory is a bit fuzzy about a lot of this. With that said…
TSLRP began in about 2005. Very soon after the game had been released, people began discovering cut content, and forum threads on the Obsidian boards from as early as late 2004 have people beginning to make lists and quote cut dialogue. A user called AuroraJenkins got involved, and sometime in early-mid 2005, TSLRP was born.
It’s worth pointing out at this stage, that almost from the beginning, there were naysayers. Not just people who thought it was impossible, but also people, at least from early 2006, suggesting the project was vapourware, would never come out, or was pointless because the game was too old to be worth bothering with (stop laughing manically at the back there…).
I think I first became aware of TSLRP sometime midway through 2005. I had joined LucasForums (which was the hub for KotOR modding until the last couple of years, when it went down) in February 2005. Of course, in those days, the style was to wear an onion on your belt, and I needed to take the steamer over to…
My memory of all this is quite fuzzy, so I’m probably skipping quite a lot of material, but in essence, there were 6-7 members on the team, plus a small number of people beta-ing elements as they were put in place. Dashus, I think, was originally some sort of webmaster and coordinator (?), but ended up with a role in the project as well, co-ordinating the internal beta team (i.e., not me and the others like me [in theory], but the people who were testing stuff as it was implemented). Among the internal beta team (most of whom I don’t now recall), was Pavlos, who will enter our narrative in a few paragraphs’ time, and then leave again shortly afterwards.
For some reason, the exact cause of which I never did work out, back in 2005 the TSLRP team and the LF moderating team managed to rub one another up the wrong way, so that although there was a TSLRP thread which was updated for a while (more, perhaps, on that later), the TSLRP team decided to found a website.
This attracted a small but steady stream of visitors, including a fair, and, as time went on, increasing number of people who came pretty much to demand the project be released immediately as is, to accuse the project of being vapourware, or to ask when it was going to come out in good faith. The three categories started to merge into one sometime in 2007-8, at a guess.
There were also occasional (and sometimes persistent, repeated) offers of help to the team, to make things go quicker. These were generally rebuffed, on the grounds of too many cooks. This will become important later.
The TSLRP was not going to restore all unrestored content; some of it, they felt, didn’t really go together, there were bits that came from old versions of the game (there’s half an alternative lightsabre form system buried in the game code, for instance – but, importantly, only half; other examples are the ‘Nihilus vs Sion’ scene, of which at least three reconstructions exist and are on YouTube, and the character of Dvakhvar Grahrk (sp?), who was cut really early on in development), or stuff from which too little survived to really implement it. One key example of this was M478, the Droid Planet. (Alert readers will have recognised that TSLRCM also doesn’t ‘restore’ this, for the same reason.)
The M4-78 area geometry was in the game files of both games, but in the early days of KotOR modding, nobody had gone looking for them particularly, as far as I know. If they did, they don’t appear to have tried creating new game files to make those areas accessible. (So far as I know, the first person to try that was me.) But, the modules files for the Droid Planet areas were included in the Xbox version of the game, and these were made available for modding fairly early on. I’d guess c. early 2005, maybe?
There were, of course, repeated pleas for a restoration of this, which the TSLRP team repeatedly refused to do. So a new restoration team was born, based on the idea of restoring M4-78. At this point, things on the TSLRP website were still fairly relaxed and friendly, and a fairly sane, open moderating regime operated. Nonsense was got rid of quickly, but the atmosphere was generally positive.
(Sidenote: At that time there was a user on the TSLRP forums who went by Jedi Holocron. Then in about 2006, a new guy showed up calling himself Sith Holocron, as a kind of complement. He hasn’t changed usernames since, but I’m not in a position to criticise his lack of originality. )
So, the new team were given their own forum on the TSLRP website, and the two teams were friendly. A joke started about there being two ‘teams’, so the M4-78 team named themselves Team Bantha, and the TSLRP team called themselves Team Gizka. Team Bantha caused a certain amount of excitement, but, in all fairness, it has to be said they produced a big heap of nothing. By early 2007, the project had, unbeknownst to most outsiders, stalled completely. So, Pavlos posted a post-mortem at the Obsidian Forums, and LucasForums. The Obsidian one is here: http://forums.obsidi...rp-post-mortem/ and provides some good advice on running a mod project. At this point, Pavlos exits our narrative again.
(Side-note: Throughout all of this, a user called variously Darth Balor or Pikmin, or a host of other names, released various short-lived “restorations” which relied on stealing the work of other modders. They were generally crushed, only to reappear under a new team name, with a new username for the leader of the project. Actually, “modding teams” became a thing in 2007-8, with various KotOR beasts chosen for names. I’ve forgotten almost all of them, since 99% produced nothing but hot air. Pro-tip: Worry less about branding, team names, and portentous lists of everyone’s titles, and the % done on various subheadings, and more on actually producing a mod. Among these was Team Jawa, the original K1RP project team. You can read about part of that here: http://deadlystream....ngs/#entry25287 )
Now, if nothing much had been visibly happening with Team Bantha, there wasn’t much more on show for Team Gizka (the TSLRP project), either. So people were getting more impatient for the mod. So they vented on the TSLRP forums. So the mods clamped down, and the regulars started to get a bit… defensive.
Sometime around the end of 2007 – beginning of 2008, a small group of regulars at the TSLRP/Team Gizka forums were asked by Dashus if we would join the final beta of the mod before release. Our job was to find bugs, report them, and post updates to the forum about our playthroughs. I forget who the original list consisted of, though most of the names would mean very little to people now. I do remember VarsityPuppet of this parish was one of us, alongside Qui-Gon Glenn, 90SK, Darth Windu, Miltiades, and… other people. They presumably had usernames and identities. At the same time, a bug-tracker linked to the TSLRP content system went live on the website.
This had the effect of boosting the mod’s notoriety, increasing impatience, and giving an idea that the mod would be done ‘soon’, according to every individual’s personal notion of ‘soon’. It also meant that every time the number of major bugs got low, people started to assume the mod was about to come out. And then the number went up again, and they got frustrated.
At some point between 2006 and 2008, and I’m not sure when, the mod had been moved to the server space of a project supporter who went by the username killerbob, who became forum admin. I’m going to be blunt: I blame killerbob and her two moderators for the absolutely foul atmosphere on the forum in the last year or so of the project. The megafans became like insane cultists, the “vapourware” crowd became more intense, and the whole thing deteriorated. Flame wars broke out frequently over more or less any topic, stupid arguments got advanced by all sides, and the moderators, crucially, allowed a certain number of idiots to get away with backseat moderating. If you want to know why this practice usually annoys moderators on most forums, imagine a bunch of people who go around posting “This is off-topic. I think this thread needs locking” on more or less any new thread posted. By the end, the forum was a festering pit, and a perfect example of how not to moderate. I will say that I doubt I helped with that atmosphere much, and I do remember contributing… aggressively to certain threads, but still. Bad, heavy-handed moderation made the situation a lot worse. As a result, much of my memory of the period is how awful the forum was. As anyone who can remember that period can attest.
By this time, almost all communication anyone had was with Dashus. It became apparent, over the year between 2008 and 2009, that he was the last member of Team Gizka actually working on the mod. It’s important to note that those of us on the beta were being constantly assured, when we got hold of Dashus, that he was working on the mod, fixes were being implement. In 2008, this was mostly true, as I recall. (Communication, for those who want to know, was via a hidden section of the forums, and an IRC chat. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. Gimme five bees for a quarter, you'd say….)
I can’t say I was very active as a beta-tester. It was boring, required the game to be otherwise unmodded, and sucked all the fun out of playing and modding the game. In fact, I’m not sure I ever reported a single verifiable bug. This was more laborious than it might sound, since it required the beta tester to upload a savegame along with a detailed description of the bug in question. Which is a pretty good disincentive, but there you go. Other people were much more active in reporting bugs.
Partway through this process, in which a lot of people were increasingly angrily awaiting the mod, someone gave someone else access to a version of the beta. I think it was version 1.0b8. I forget where we started with the final beta. I think it was 1.0b5 or 1.0b6. This then went up on a torrent site. I think it was ThePirateBay.
Up to this point at least, progress was being made. New beta versions were being released to us, to test after each major round of bugfixing. The leak didn’t exactly change that, but…
The atmosphere in some ways didn’t change. Dashus acted as if nothing had changed, but also fired some of the beta-testers, based on a not-too-clear reasoning about who was responsible. Also, the download system for the beta changed to be more secure. I think 90SK ended up getting the blame, though I couldn’t say for sure, or why. Qui-Gon Glenn also ended up frozen out, though whether because of the change to the protocols for downloading the beta, or from being cut out of the beta formally, I’m not sure. At this point, communication with Dashus became much more difficult.
In theory, we were still making progress, though. People played the leaked beta, could see it wasn’t vapourware, and although there were issues with it, some people seemed happy enough with it. The calls to just release what was done increased, if anything. Dashus became increasingly difficult to get hold of. As part of the beta, each beta was numbered. The idea was that the numbering system would go up to 1.0b12 as the final beta, and then 1.0c1 would be the release version. We actually reached 1.0b11, but whether we were actually all that close to release, I don’t know. When beta-testers could get hold of Dashus, his message was that everything was fine, we were on course, the mod would be released when it was done, yes, he was working on it. It really can’t be emphasised enough that although we were beta-testing the mod, we had no more idea about what was actually being done at any minute than anyone on the outside who could watch the bug-counter. Any time we asked about the leaked beta, Dashus brushed it off, and offers of help were generally rebuffed.
Some time in mid-to-late 2009, I think, it became clear that actually not all the content was completed, when a detailed, though constructive, conversation took place in the beta’s hidden forum on what the HK Factory should look like. This came after a lengthy absence by Dashus, during which I at least had gone around telling people not to worry, he was working on the mod. Which, as far as I knew, was true.
I forget the exact sequence of events now. But some time previous to this, zbyl2 and Darth Stoney had released a restoration of Dantooine, I think. And at some point around this time, they released the first complete version of TSLRCM. My own (over)reaction was one of great hostility, which I’m going to gloss over. So far as I know, the forum posts from back then no longer exist…. >_>
Dashus had gone to ground again, but I was still insisting TSLRP was being worked on, and we would definitely be moving forward. And then Dashus made a new thread on the TSLRP forum. In it, he said he hadn’t done any work on the mod in two months (something he didn’t share with the beta-testers at any point), because he’d been too busy in real life with his girlfriend. Nevertheless, he told everyone, the mod would definitely be coming out at some point, when he felt like finishing it up. It was at this point, I think, that everyone gave up. Certainly, I did.
The forum was closed shortly afterwards, and the website eventually went, too. For a while, there was some discussion among the former beta team over what to do with the final beta we had been given. There was some discussion of releasing it ourselves, but as it was still a beta and we hadn’t actually produced any of it, this didn’t seem like a viable option, and we didn’t. Some former members of the TSLRP team who had moved on popped up and individually gave their original contributions (such as the animation for Atton’s leaning pose at the end of the game, in some endings) to TSLRCM.
It’s difficult now to remember how TSLRP differed from TSLRCM. My main memory is that everything seemed a lot smoother than the first version of the RCM I played, when I eventually swapped over (since I still had TSLRP 1.0b11, I carried on using it for a while). Less content was restored in it overall, probably, but much of what wasn’t was stuff that was quite small, and didn’t fit. The voice acting for Kaevee was awful. Really awful. The other bit which was pretty bad was the GenoHaradan restoration. Although it was implemented competently enough on the whole, the way it was done entailed dragging the player back to Nar Shaddaa between the final confrontations on Dantooine and Telos, for a single, relatively short boss sequence. The result felt arbitrary, out of place, and needlessly lengthened the already lengthy end-game. This was also probably the most heavily reconstructed restoration.
So far as I can see, the GenoHaradan actually belong to a version of the Nar Shaddaa plot from before G0T0 was moved there (or invented?) after the Droid Planet was cut. Originally, the player would have confronted the GenoHaradan under the Jekk’Jekk Tarr. Their boss, when defeated, would have detonated a huge bomb, destroying the docks sector of the city, and the player would have been rescued by Zez-Kai Ell, who would have whisked the Exile back to the Refugee Landing Pad just in the nick of time. Somewhere in all of this, Sion would have left Malachor V for Nar Shaddaa to kill you, but probably arrive just in time to see the explosion, and assume the Exile was dead. The Exile would have lain unconscious, listening to the thoughts of the crewmates on the Ebon Hawk. Sion would have visited Nihilus and told him the Exile was dead (one restoration of that scene can be viewed here: https://www.youtube....h?v=9y3wCJ0TLEY ). Where the chat with Zez-Kai Ell fits into this, I don’t know. This appears to have been the rough outline of the planet originally, as far as I have been able to piece together, and can remember. When they cut the Droid Planet, Obsidian moved G0T0/invented him, and put his yacht as the centre of criminal activity on Nar Shaddaa, and got rid of the GenoHaradan. This left a slightly unsatisfactory situation with Batu Rem on Telos, but that was about it.
Lessons to learn from the TSLRP? Don’t run a project with only one person doing the work; make sure you moderation team are competent; don’t whip up expectations you can’t control, and don’t set yourself up as somehow a superior breed of modder, whose work is more “professional” than the rest, if you can’t deliver the goods. Or maybe the lesson is not to ask me to get involved in your mod project, since they tend to fail with me on board. >_>
I’ve no idea if this is what SH had in mind for a post-mortem on TSLRP, but there you go. It’s most of what I can remember, or want to remember, of the affair. Maybe other people can respond with their own memories of the project.