Knights of the Old Republic game
LucasArts via Nintendo

‘Knights of the Old Republic’ Remake Delayed Indefinitely

The upcoming remake of 'Knights of the Old Republic' has been indefinitely delayed, and now could come out as late as 2025. That is, of course, if it comes out at all.
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Aspyr Media, a game development company known for porting older titles to modern hardware, drummed up a ton of excitement last September when it announced its plans to remake the beloved classic RPG Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Often called KOTOR, the game is often referred to as one of the best RPGs ever made and is considered a groundbreaking Star Wars story. 

Notably, KOTOR’s gameplay has aged… poorly. The game uses an extremely stiff combat system and features some downright ugly environments. In a word, it’s janky. Even when it came out, reviewers noted that it was worth playing for the storyline and voice acting, but that the gameplay was more something you’d suffer through to get to the good stuff. But that good stuff is about as good as it gets: KOTOR boldly explores a previously unknown era of Star Wars history and tells one of the franchise’s most original stories.

As such, you can imagine the hype when fans saw the announcement trailer for a modern-day remake of the beloved classic title. Many Star Wars megafans pictured a version of KOTOR that took cues from the recent Final Fantasy VII Remake, a gorgeous modern version of a timeless classic RPG. Now, however, something seems to have stalled in the KOTOR remake’s development, leaving the studio unsure when–or perhaps even if–the game will come out. 

Why Is KOTOR a Big Deal?

When the first Knights of the Old Republic launched on the original Xbox back in 2003, it was one of the most anticipated major projects from developer BioWare. The company had made a name for itself with its work on fantasy RPGs like Neverwinter Nights and Baldur’s Gate both in the Dungeons and Dragons universe. However, the news that the upstart company was planning to make a Star Wars title was enough to excite fans.

Notably, the game was hitting home consoles while the prequel trilogy was in theaters. While it might be strange to think of this now, the prequels were pretty universally detested in the early 2000s, and hardcore Star Wars fans were somewhat starved for content that resonated with their view of the series.

So, BioWare’s straightforward, Gungan-free take on the franchise was a breath of fresh air for many fans. The game promised to allow players to forge their own destiny, to choose to become a Jedi or a Sith and shape the course of galactic history in an era thousands of years before the start of the prequels. That the game delivered on this epic and sweeping story was enough to cement it as one of the best games ever in the hearts of millions of fans.

Would a Remake Help That Much?

The original KOTOR has aged pretty poorly. BioWare has never been renowned for designing games with tight gameplay mechanics, so it’s not surprising that one of their earlier outings feels a bit stiff to modern gamers. While many fans will recommend newcomers to check out KOTOR when they’re getting into the Star Wars Legends universe, many younger players simply bounce off the game because of its creaky old mechanics.

As such, a remake would go a long way toward winning over newcomers to the franchise who might have missed the game the first time around. The idea of a KOTOR remake with a modern user interface, updated combat system, and improved graphics is literally a dream come true for some Star Wars fans. 

Of course, the dream was simply too good to be true. Recently, Bloomberg has reported that things aren’t going according to plan at Aspyr Media. The development studio has laid off some key managers recently and put the planned remake on ice for the time being. What’s going on?

What’s Going on at Aspyr Media?

According to a recent report from Jason Schreier, development on the KOTOR remake isn’t progressing as smoothly as expected. Aspyr suddenly fired the game’s art director and design director in July, only a month after the company sent a vertical demo to its developing partners like Sony. Afterward, the studio heads told developers that they planned to pause the project indefinitely and look for other contracts. 

This means that the KOTOR remake is basically in stasis while Aspyr plans to work on other ports for modern systems. Notably, the company has never made an original game: all of its other credits are on remasters and ports, which involve significantly less creative input than making new games from scratch. Some commenters online mused that Aspyr might have been unprepared for the rigors involved in remaking a game from the ground up, as they will have to do with their proposed version of KOTOR.

This development pause isn’t just a let-down for fans, it’s a major black eye for Aspyr. Massive entertainment conglomerate Embracer Group purchased Aspyr in 2021, and the KOTOR remake is being partially funded by Sony in exchange for the game becoming a timed exclusive on the PlayStation 5. Its indefinite delay is a huge blow to the PlayStation 5’s lineup and a noticeable crack in Embracer Group’s recent acquisitions. 

This One Was Supposed to Be Huge

The KOTOR remake was supposed to be the next big thing for Star Wars games. It was to be the first Star Wars video game to release outside of EA’s control since that studio gained the exclusive rights to make Star Wars games in 2012. Moreover, the game was supposed to introduce a new generation of fans to the storied Old Republic era, a storytelling era that older fans hold in extremely high regard.

The studio’s decision to fire key leaders and pause development came as a shock to developers within Aspyr. The company reportedly put together an internal demo for its partners at Sony and Lucasfilm in June, and reports indicate that the developers felt the game was progressing at a good pace. Then, higher-ups suddenly fired design director Brad Prince and art director Jason Minor, effectively halting work on the new game. 

Some employees reportedly suggested that a point of contention between management and the developers could be the proposed timeline for the remake. While Aspyr’s leadership apparently wanted the game to release by the end of 2022, developers felt that it would more realistically be ready by 2025. A three-year differential in a game design timeline is an astronomical set of mismatched expectations, and some onlookers have remarked that such a disconnect between management and developers is troubling. 

Now What?

In May, Embracer Group assigned another development studio, Saber Interactive, to help Aspyr with the creation of the KOTOR remake. Saber reportedly was primarily helping outsource some tasks, but wasn’t deeply involved in the development of the game. Now, however, some anonymous developers within Aspyr say they think Saber might completely take over the project. 

“We’re fully confident that the game is going to be fantastic, but it’s a massive, massive product and massive products require a lot of effort and a lot of time to make good,” Saber Interactive CEO Matthew Karch explained to Embracer’s investors of back in May. “And especially when you’re talking about a game [that’s] already old—very old—we’ve basically had to remake that game from scratch.”

Now, with the game in a state of limbo, many fans are scratching their heads over what went wrong. KOTOR is hardly the first high-profile game to experience shocking delays after management and workers expressed vastly different expectations for release timing. In 2020, the much-maligned Cyberpunk 2077 experienced several delays, from April 2020 to December of that same year. Recently, Bethesda delayed two of its most highly anticipated titles, Redfall and Starfield, into next year. Across the industry, it seems like developers are struggling to meet their deadlines. What’s happening out there?

What’s Happening With Game Development?

Games are harder to make than ever these days. That’s not to say it’s impossible to ship a decent product on modern hardware, but developers and managers need to get on the same page before work starts. When management expects a game to ship after three years of development, it needs to make that desire clear to the people actually making the game from the start. 

When developers have a clear timeline from their higher-ups, it makes it easier for them to prioritize the gameplay mechanics and art details that form the core of the experience. However, without this clear timeline, the studio could find itself progressing smoothly and then suddenly confronted by incredulous studio heads who want to know why the game isn’t finished yet. Game design is a time-consuming process that requires the hard work of dozens, if not hundreds, of developers.

With modern hardware, these problems are only going to become more prevalent. Games that run at 60 frames per second and have 4K ultra-high-definition graphics are orders of magnitude more difficult to make than standard definition games. Small hiccups in the design process can balloon into significant delays in the completion of the game. So, as long as studios are focused on making cutting-edge games that make the most of modern hardware, delays and long development times like these are likely to stick around.