Dave Bissig is a sophomore ROTC history major at Temple, and is “unofficially minoring” in game development.
Instead, Bissig has spent the last nine months of his college career as the team manager of Project Black Light, a growing group of about 10 people from around the country and world working on pre-production for the video game, “Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 3: The Heart of Sacrifice.”
“The Knights of the Old Republic,” also known as “KOTOR,” is a series of role-playing games set in the “Star Wars” universe. The original “KOTOR” was developed by game studio BioWare and released back in 2003 for Microsoft’s Xbox system.
Receiving critical acclaim from the press and public, Obsidian Entertainment was then put in charge of developing the sequel, “KOTOR 2: The Sith Lords.” Due to pressure from the game’s publisher, LucasArts, the developers were forced to rush for a holiday 2004 release which resulted in an incomplete game that left a big cliffhanger for the series.
Obsidian was poised and had already started making the next “KOTOR” game – one that would truly satisfy fans’ desires to see a fitting conclusion to the story. Unfortunately, due to financial difficulties and the eventual acquisition of Lucasfilm, and subsequently LucasArts, by Disney, “KOTOR 3” was cancelled.
It’s been 10 years since the first game in the series was released and now, Bissig and the rest of Project Black Light, want to finish what Obsidian started.
Bissig’s experience in game development comes from his early high school days of modding, when people modify a game’s software in ways to add content and bug fixes. He’s worked on a couple of “Star Wars” games, most recently on the Expanding Fronts Mod for “Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds,” a real-time strategy game from Ensemble Studios.
Now working on “KOTOR 3,” it is Bissig’s first time being a leader of such an ambitious project and said he realizes that game development is difficult.
“I don’t even know where to begin explaining the whole process,” Bissig said. “Everything we’re doing is a challenge. There’s so much more to it than what everyone makes it out to be.”
The team is essentially tasked with making a draft for the “KOTOR 3” game that they would then pitch to Disney so it could be fleshed out into a full game by a larger, more enabled developer.
In no way does this mean that Project Black Light has an easy task. Even with a small team, they are responsible for “wearing multiple hats” when it comes to developing. Bissig himself is involved with the story writing, character development, marketing and PR, pre-visualization and more.
For him and the rest of the team, this is the first time they’re working with these kind of processes.
“None of us are qualified for this job,” Bissig said. “Sometimes we know what we’re doing, sometimes we don’t.”
Since they don’t actually have rights to the trademarks of “Star Wars” or the “KOTOR” series, they are not allowed to receive any financial support. The project is completely volunteer-based, meaning that Bissig and the others often lead a sleep-deprived life with their real-life responsibilities to think about as well.
However difficult, there has been an overwhelming amount of support from the public in wanting to see this project fulfilled. YusiFilm, a Copenhagen-based film company, reached out to Project Black Light wanting to help and they’ve already created the iconic “Star Wars” opening title crawl.
The team is fully dedicated because they are as much a part of the “Star Wars” fan community than anyone else. This fandom has helped each individual throughout the development process in interesting ways.
Bissig, a history major, is an expert on the “Star Wars history and lore which has helped with the story writing. Austin McComb actually wrote a full dissertation on the different titles of the Star Wars” franchise and the real-world sciences behind them. De’lante Capers’ technical expertise has become integral when it comes to the right look and design of certain elements in the “Star Wars” universe.
The team really is its own small community of fans and that’s translated to their ability to work together from all around the world. Bissig is the only team member from Temple, but he mentions that there is always the influence of being surrounded by “idea people.”
“We try to stay in touch with our humanity,” Bissig said. “I want others to know we’re a team effort.”
Currently, Project Black Light is looking for artists to join the team.
More than anything though, Bissig is concerned with his team and project being taken seriously by the community. He wants to reach out to more people wanting to take part in development but he is also dedicated to maintaining the best quality for “KOTOR 3.”