#4: Mods from the KOTOR Saga

JCarter426

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The need at all for this blog post blog post brings warm feelings to my heart. We’ve always had a decently-sized community, but we were always kind of under the radar of the modding community. I’ve had people who have known me for years as a modder tell me they were surprised to find out I was involved with the movies as well. But it’s true - I’m one of the animators for the KOTOR Movie Saga.

More than ten years ago, I was inspired by the original KOTOR Episode I to make my own projects. I initially made some comics, which I’ve posted about here, and I later started my own movie adaptation of KOTOR II (which I still haven’t finished). The director of Episode I @KOTOR_Trilogysaw the work I was doing there and asked for help with Episode II to do a few things he couldn’t do on the Xbox version. I also worked with him to update Episode II when we screened it at MAGFest, and then we were asked to come back within a year for Episode III. At the time, @DarthYcey was working on his own KOTOR II films and he came on board so we could actually get the film done in time. We now consider his Meetra films as a continuation of the Loganverse trilogy in one shared KOTOR Cinematic Universe, but that’s a whole mess of a story that I won’t get into right now. Anyway, @Jenko also joined us and more recently directed the special edition of Episode I, which just had its birthday last Thursday. So that’s the four of us. Mr Director and his three animators. We’re currently in preproduction on two new projects: Revan, a prequel trilogy set during the Mandalorian Wars, and Heroes of the Old Republic, an anthology webseries of little side stories that wouldn’t fit in the films.

Until now, all these goings-on have occurred in the shadows. We never drew any attention on LucasForums. I think I posted Episode III when it came out and nobody replied. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d put it down to LucasForums not having a very active fan media section. There were forums for for it, but not a lot happening in them. People went to the site for mods. On the other hand, a lot of Loganverse fans (myself included) discovered the movies because they were specifically looking for Star Wars fan films or new KOTOR content, and weren’t necessarily interested in modding the game. So there isn’t as much overlap as one might think. Recently, though, I’ve noticed we’ve started to attract more notice - or in more cases, actually, I’ve learned that certain individuals were already aware of the films and just never mentioned it to me (maybe because they didn’t know I was aware of and involved with them). Whatever the case, we’re out in the open now and while it wasn’t a big secret before, I’m now trying to be more open about my involvement and exactly what that entails. And that segue brings us back to the matter at hand. Lately, I’ve seen requests for some material from our films to be released as mods. I want to talk about why that hasn’t happened so much and what you can do to maybe change that.

First, I want to point out that not a lot of our stuff would work as mods. The scenes in the films were recorded solely for film purposes and utilize a lot of camera tricks and editing that can’t be done in the game. Most of the scenes aren’t complete in-game cutscenes. Even when I do program an entire scene, I don’t input each specific camera angle in the dialogue file that you’d need to do for a mod. Instead, I record the entire scene from every camera angle and turn the footage into a multi-cam sequence in Adobe Premiere. I do it that way because the game generally forces you to change angles at the start of a line of dialogue, but we don’t always want to do that when editing a film. Mr Director even asked me about this one time - he was wondering if, provided they had all the right files, someone could execute a scene and essentially see the whole movie in the game. And I could probably do that, but it would involve a lot more work than is necessary to make the movie and I’ve only ever done what’s needed for the movie. Unless we specifically plan for a scene to be released as a mod, it’s not a realistic prospect.

What’s more eligible for release would be the assets we use to create these scenes - characters, outfits, locations, that sort of thing. And there hasn’t been much of that - yet. We’ve had to hold ourselves back a few times when we thought stuff would be filmed on the Xbox and therefore couldn’t utilize any modded assets. A few times this wasn’t necessary, and if I could redo things with that knowledge, Episode III would look a fair bit different. Canderous wouldn’t wear blue armor and a lot of the characters on Korriban wouldn’t wear officer uniforms. There were only a few cases where we knew we would record on PC and could do whatever we wanted. The earliest such case I recall is the Sith outpost scene early in the film (the one recorded in the Vulkar base). Since Logan had changed so much between films, Mr Director wanted his outfit to change too. We knew that I’d be recording that scene and that Logan would change clothes early in the film, so it wasn’t a problem to give Logan a custom outfit there. I dug through my files and we ended up using a texture I’d made years earlier. Another one that stands out is the Zabrak character Kondor Moderro. I remember making that the night I got back from the Episode II screening. We had a creative meeting in Mr Director's hotel room; he told us his plans for the character and asked if it was possible to add a new alien to K1 since we’d have to record all Moderro's scenes on PC anyway, given that he was a new character. Bastila’s outfit was another addition and in that case it was actually because there wasn’t a mod for it. Again, we knew her scenes would be another PC thing (you can’t use the Xbox freecam during those duels) so Mr Director thought of changing her outfit. He saw something he liked online but the mod was never released, so I came up with an approximation to use for the film. Things have changed since then - from now on, we’re recording everything on PC and the new projects involve new characters and locations that most definitely will involve new assets. But from our past works, only a few isolated bits come to mind.

And for those, the most common scenario is that it simply hasn’t occurred to us to release it. As I mentioned before, Mr Director is an Xbox guy, and of the animator trio I’m the only one who has released mods at all. I’ve been on the modding scene as long as I’ve been working on these movies, but the other guys only got into this stuff for the films. So the real question is why JC hasn’t released anything. Again, the usual answer is I didn’t think of it. I’m really bad at releasing things. I have tons and tons of unreleased material - unfinished or abandoned project, things I changed my mind about, or some stuff I just haven’t used yet. Logan’s Episode III outfit was one such case. That was one of a bunch of textures I made back in 2009 and I still haven’t used the others for anything. I have a backlog of useless assets and a lot of it I don’t think is worth releasing. Not necessarily because it’s bad (and a lot of it is) but because of the futility of it. “A bunch of robe recolors I made in 2009” doesn’t sound appealing for a mod. Plus there’s all the work required to test the mod (I don’t get much time to play the games these days) and write up a proper installer so it will be compatible with other mods (I usually manually edit my 2DAs and other files and have a totally garbage build with years of such clutter that barely works for recording purposes) and taking screenshots (I hate taking screenshots) and so on. The mods I actually do release are only released thanks to a focused, concentrated effort to release them instead of letting them sit on one of my hard drives forever. There’s more in there I’ve forgotten than I remember.

My incompetence aside, there are a few cases where we’re specifically reluctant to release our assets. It’s not the case for everything, and we likely could be persuaded to release some things, but it’s an ongoing concern for us that our films contain a lot of new content and don’t come across as footage of a 15-year-old video game. We want everything we make for the films to look and feel new, and to release that content, if you could see all the same stuff outside of our films, there’s a risk it could detract from that experience. I don’t feel that way about everything, but I do have mixed feelings. And because I’m not working on these films alone, even if the material in question is something I made on my own, if it’s I made it specifically for one of the films then I wouldn’t feel comfortable releasing it without getting the other guys’ approval first. And even though I think they’d probably say yes for some of it, I haven’t done so because there isn’t anything I’m particularly motivated to release. I made all this stuff for the films, not as mods. That goes for a lot of my own stuff as well. Some assets I have made with several uses in mind, such as my head resource, which end up being used in the films but weren’t made with that specific intent. When tha does come to mind, I do set it aside for release. But most of the time, I’m in one of two mindsets on this. Film, or mod. I don’t usually think of doing two things.

If there’s anything from our films that you’d like to see released as a mod, the most proactive thing you can do is let us know. We can only say no on a case by case basis and we have to know what in particular people want released. It’s not like we’re hoarding all our files, but even though we know that generally there’s probably stuff from our films that people would want, we aren’t inclined to upload anything in particular without some nudging first. We gotta know what you want then and you gotta make us let it go. So if you make a mod request for it, then we can address the matter.

I couldn’t end this post without a little promotion. If you want to talk about the movies to us directly, you can join our new discord. And if you’re reading this but you haven’t seen any of our KOTOR movies, the best place to start is with the Episode I: A Familiar Path Special Edition.

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And at this very moment I know- that there's something fishy with the movie back then. The first time I watch the movie [about last March] was about the very first time I play KotOR too, and I convinced that there are no Jedi robes with cape in the game; and this scene hit the hammer on my head real hurt! 🤣

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Yup, I ported that for the movie. Those are the master robes from K2. Yce wanted Vrook to wear the same robes he wore in his films. That's not really in releasable condition - I don't remember if his cape even animated. I'm working on a proper robe port now, however.

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Well, there was that nice landing shot that you guys made for Korriban . . . any chance you could expand those (outside the ship) scenes into full landing videos for Korriban in both K1 and K2?  I believe I may asked for these before and was shut down harshly.  (Edit: Not by you, mind you.)

Edited by Sith Holocron

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Hmm, if I remember correctly we only added three shots to the Korriban arrival. Most of the additions were from the K2 landing and I'm not sure how much sense it would be to add them. I guess it might be cool to see the Ebon Hawk fly through the valley though, when there's actually stuff there. To be honest, I'm reluctant to release the film version because I only see the parts I could do better now. But I have thought about replacing some of these videos before, and I guess there's at least a starting point here. But I've always held back because I don't have all the assets BioWare had. The Dreshdae that's in the videos is nowhere in the game files. There is one in the game, of course, and maybe I could make do there, but hurdles like that have kept me back until now. More severe examples would be Yavin Station and the Endar Spire escape pod sequence, for which some models are completely missing.

Also, if you want to extend the scenes rather than just replacing the existing footage, there's the matter of the audio - new sound design for the ship sound effects and new music. I don't think SFX would be that much of a problem thanks to the Star Wars Soundboards, but the movie version uses music from Seven Years in Tibet, which I don't think would be allowed. Although, now that we have MMO music as an option, that might be covered too.

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On 7/8/2018 at 7:24 AM, JCarter426 said:

Also, if you want to extend the scenes rather than just replacing the existing footage, there's the matter of the audio - new sound design for the ship sound effects and new music. I don't think SFX would be that much of a problem thanks to the Star Wars Soundboards, but the movie version uses music from Seven Years in Tibet, which I don't think would be allowed. Although, now that we have MMO music as an option, that might be covered too.

I lean towards replacing the in-game BIKs completely rather than merely extending them.  As you pointed out, it enables to avoid the issues of assets you don't have access to and using any sound design and music that you wish to use.  Seeing as you would be making a higher resolution (and larger) movie, not reusing any of the original materials to artificially extend the preexisting video is actually a bonus.

 

On 7/8/2018 at 7:24 AM, JCarter426 said:

To be honest, I'm reluctant to release the film version because I only see the parts I could do better now. 

I would cheer for new versions that make use of your current talents and the latest available tools.

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I meant replacing them but keeping the existing shots vs replacing them and adding new shots. In the former case it would be possible to still keep the original audio. But if you would prefer that to be replaced as well, well....

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I had never watched these until I saw your post last week. Only have watched Episode 1 so far, but I've really enjoyed watching. I especially enjoyed the scoring, restructuring/placement of conversations between Logan and the party, and the reveal of Saul. Not asking if these could be released as mods, just wanted to let you know what enjoyed during my viewing ;)

If anything from this saga gets released as a mod, I'll be sure to try it out!

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You have done a brilliant job!  Thank you for this) You are animating the kotor!  Successes to you and enthusiasm in work!) Mandalore the Ultimate looks amazing !.  Familiar canon helmet and stunning armor.  A beautiful combination of the original Mandalorian armor and Mandalore armor from Kotor 2. I liked this Armor to the core.
 Can I count on the fact that you put a modification (armor and mask (helmet))?  Thankful in advance))))) I would very much like to play in this armor and helmet))))) Success in the project!)

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That's one I probably wouldn't mind releasing eventually, though it still requires some touching up. I should note though that I didn't make the mask. It's from a very old mod by Silveredge9 & Quanon , though I don't know where it's hosted anymore. Nexus probably stole it, if you want to look there.

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16 hours ago, JCarter426 said:

That's one I probably wouldn't mind releasing eventually, though it still requires some touching up. 

I'm glad to hear it from you!) I'll be looking forward to it)

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