The worst-kept secret in the industry is a secret no longer: LucasArts and BioWare have announced Star Wars: The Old Republic, a new MMOG set in the era of the Knights of the Old Republic.

Taking place almost four millennia prior to the time of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, Star Wars: The Old Republic will tell the tale of a star-spanning war between the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire. Players will take on the roles of Jedi, Sith, or “other classic Star Wars roles” as they follow a path to the Light Side or Dark Side of the Force.

“Traditionally, massively multiplayer online games have been about three basic gameplay pillars – combat, exploration and character progression,” said BioWare Co-Founder and General Manager/CEO Dr. Ray Muzyka. “In Star Wars: The Old Republic, we’re fusing BioWare’s heritage of critically-acclaimed storytelling with the amazing pedigree of Lucasfilm and LucasArts, and adding a brand-new fourth pillar to the equation – story. At the same time, we will still deliver all the fun features and activities that fans have come to expect in a triple-A massively multiplayer online game. To top it all off, Star Wars: The Old Republic is set in a very exciting, dynamic period in the Star Wars universe.”

Star Wars: The Old Republic is set roughly 300 years after the events of Knights of the Old Republic, a timeframe that is completely unexplored in the lore,” added fellow Co-Founder and Bioware Vice President of Development Operations Dr. Greg Zeschuk. “BioWare has been able to add to the Star Wars history in developing the game’s story and has created an overarching narrative that players can enjoy, regardless of their play style. Our goal is to offer players an emotionally rewarding experience that combines the traditional elements of MMO gameplay with innovations in story and character development.”

Released in 2003, BioWare’s RPG Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was a major hit and received widespread acclaim including numerous RPG and Game of the Year awards for both the Xbox and PC versions of the game. A KOTOR-based MMOG has long been rumored, and at E3 in July this year Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello inadvertently confirmed the game’s existence when he said that EA, LucasArts and BioWare were working on “quite possibly the most anticipated game, full stop, for the industry.” When asked whether he was talking about a KOTOR MMOG, he replied, “Yes.”

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is the most critically acclaimed Star Wars game in LucasArts history and a preeminent example of our company’s interactive storytelling heritage,” said LucasArts President Darrell Rodriguez. “For a long time, we’ve wanted to return to the franchise in a grand way, and we felt that the best setting for it was an online world that would allow millions of people to participate in the experience together. We knew that the developer capable of working with us to deliver an engrossing story with a fully-realized online world was BioWare.”

Few details about the game itself have been revealed, except that it will take place in the years following a massive Sith onslaught against the Republic. “After decades of war, a tenuous truce has been established between the Sith Empire and the Republic,” the game’s website says, “But events occurring in the game are leading the galaxy back to an all-out war.” More information about the game – although there’s precious little of it at this point – can be found at the Star Wars: The Old Republic website.

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