This past week saw news dropping from Disney and repeated by various news outlets that may have some impact upon the future of Star Wars: the Old Republic. For a number of years, Lucasfilm kept an archive of what was and was not considered canon and which level of canon it was. Wookieepedia maintains a page explaining how canon has evolved over the years and what bits of the Expanded Universe fits in where.
Leland Chee, the Keeper of the Holocron, announced the formation of the Lucasfilm Story Group on Twitter, also mentioning that Brand Communications Manager Pablo Hidalgo was a part of it. This group’s purpose was to oversee the overall canon of the franchise, and Mr. Chee has also commented that one of their biggest goals was to streamline this hot mess and pretty much boil it down to Canon or Not-Canon. While it’s obvious that certain things are already going to be NC (Tag and Bink, anyone?) and other things should be NC (George Lucas offhandedly telling Jon Stewart that Obi-Wan’s home planet was called Stewjon), it’s not so obvious how that will affect our beloved MMO.
Right now, as it stands, canon is a hierarchy of spaghetti with six different classifications. SWTOR is considered C-canon (aka Continuity Canon, the third tier of reality), below G-canon (the movies, anything Lucas says), and T-canon (stuff like The Clone Wars CGI series). Unlike most other Star Wars video games that have light side and dark side options, there isn’t one particular side that is considered more canon than the other. Most of the other games consider playing light side to be the ‘intended’ canon. This hierarchy has sparked a tremendous number of flamewars on the net and also probably fisticuffs in real life when fans couldn’t agree to disagree on what counts and what doesn’t.
We as players might easily say something like, “Well, the entire Old Republic era should be canon, it doesn’t affect anything else in the movie era,” and rejoice in being elevated to Canon full stop. On the other hand, we should consider the matter from a business perspective, because you can bet your cartel coins that Disney will be looking at it from that angle instead. So, think about this: we don’t know the names or titles of all of the other members of this Story Group, whether they come from Lucasfilm or Disney, whether they’re creators passionate about lore quality or business folks who are passionate about what will sell the most and thus make the shareholders happy. However, they’ve already had a hand in SWTOR, because four of these people (Chee, Hidalgo, Franchise Synergy Producer Diana Williams, and Creative Content Strategy Directory Carrie Beck) are mentioned as the ‘Lucasfilm Story Team’ in the Galactic Starfighter-specific credits in the game.
With Episode VII due out next year (let’s all muppet-flail for a moment about those words… next year), it might be a good business decision to trim some of the fat off what can be a bloated and often confusing continuity for the sake of those people who have actually never seen a Star Wars movie – yes, they do exist! – particularly people who will be spending money on the franchise. Just look at how many flavors of Clone Wars stories are out there and how the CGI cartoon series punted the Genndy Tartakovsky 2D animated shorts and the comics spawned by the 2D series to the curb.
To be fair, right now pretty much the only folks publishing Old Republic materials are BioWare for the game, Dark Horse for the comics (and they lose that license to Marvel next year), and Del Rey for the novels. Merchandising (and Legos) don’t really count in this sort of discussion. It’s obvious that most of these works are attempting to keep a reasonably singular continuity, but there are differences. I would assume that logically, again from a player or consumer standpoint, that such a relatively seamless continuity could remain wholesale and everyone just Jedi handwaving the honestly small details that only canon nerds really care about.
However, using the Clone Wars example, there’s already an established history of a new canon completely obliterating an older one. That raises the possibility that someone within Disney could say, “Hey, I like the Old Republic name, but I don’t like how well SWTOR did, let’s do a remake.” Or they could say, “We should make a movie about this guy Zayne Carrick,” and lift elements from the Knights of the Old Republic comics to make a whole new canon that overrides everything. This is one of the reasons that a new Old Republic standalone movie or TV series would be a very bad idea, as I noted last year. Let’s be clear here, the Old Republic name and concept is trademarked to LFL, not to BioWare, Dark Horse, or any of the other licensees.
The other side of the canon debate involves the simple fact that if the Story Group declares it to be Canon, complete with trumpets and angelic Jawa chorus, which canon are we talking about here? All eight classes have individual stories, and our choices as players in some fashion dictate the end result. Who’s to say that the light side Jedi Knight choices should override the dark side Bounty Hunter choices? Even the SWTOR Encyclopedia had to vague it up a bit. The broadest strokes of all of the class stories have to stay the same for overall continuity, with the fates of certain key NPCs being mysterious (although I will tell you definitively that I killed that one personage. Dead. Totally dead. Like the rakghoul plague.)
At the end of this particular day, one that resembles Hoth once more where I live, all we can do is wait and see. And speculate, because that’s fun to do. Let’s hear your thoughts on canon and what you think is likely to happen. Do leave us a comment below!