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Book Review – The Art and Making of Star Wars: The Old Republic

Sold separately from the Collector’s Edition of the game, The Art and Making of Star Wars: The Old Republic is about two-thirds art and visual development, and one-third systems and game design. Thick, glossy pages are hardbound into a very attractive volume, giving the impression of a high quality work. While there is some new material, a good portion of the content repeats information and artwork previously made available on the SWTOR.com website and in other marketing materials. In addition, pages are plagued with unused space, and font sizes are irritatingly small.

There isn’t much in the way of new game content reveals (e.g., previously unmentioned companions Broonmark and Pierce), but there is some interesting insight regarding decisions made during the development process. While the book appears to be written for an audience that doesn’t necessarily have prior BioWare familiarity, those readers with experience playing Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) will better appreciate some of the references. As an example, when discussing the morality system the authors discussed why the KOTOR-style morality system needed to be tweaked:

While playing a light side Sith was certainly possible, it made no sense that those players would announce their light side ways to their Master. […] TOR’s system therefore became purely action-based, reacting to what players do instead of what they say. A young Sith can look his Master straight in the eyes and promise that he will go commit a massacre–but it’s when he instead secretly prevents that same massacre that points are awarded. (p. 38)

Printed on high quality gloss paper, the artwork is very appealing. Even though some of the artwork has appeared elsewhere, the look of the images in this book is much better than on a computer screen. There are some very detailed full page images, and even two-page spreads of both Malgus and the female Bounty Hunter from Deceived. The best artwork is located in the planet design section, with both beautiful images and interesting text describing planet art design. For a sample of the artwork available, visit the publisher’s site for this book and go to the “Look Inside!” section.

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Trooper concept art by Paul Adam (p. 73)

The book’s two greatest weaknesses are its foreword and lack of conclusion. The foreword, credited as “Penny Arcade” and written by Gabe, appears to be a lighthearted attempt to show how the foreword author is enthralled by the game. At the end of the foreword, Gabe writes: “He showed me that … woah, that’s 750 words! See you later suckers, I need to roll a Sith!” As the tone of this book is fairly professional, the foreword seems a bit out of place. That’s better, however, than the complete lack of any sort of conclusion at the end of the book. After going through the section on music in the game, the reader is smacked with the Acknowledgements. No summary or conclusion to tie the chapters together. No aspirations of the developers or designers for the reception and future of the game. Just … done!

While not a must-have for gamers or Star Wars fans, the artwork on high quality paper should be enough to justify this book’s place on the avid collector’s shelf. However, curious players of Star Wars: The Old Republic should take the opportunity to thumb through the book at a friend’s house or the local library if available. This recommendation could improve if a second edition saves the book from its awkward foreword and absent conclusion.

Bottom Line: Text-dense art book that may only appeal to readers who are both Star Wars collectors and game design enthusiasts. Three out of five stars.

3of5stars

 

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The Art and Making of Star Wars: The Old Republic
Frank Parisi and Daniel Erickson
Foreword by Penny Arcade (Gabe)
Published: November 2011
ISBN 10/13: 0811875008 / 9780811875004
Hardcover; 160 pages
$40.00 USD

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