May 18

Next update Jun 1

Time for another update. Today, I’m going to contrast Revan as a game character and a book character. Plus, some other interesting news…

So, let’s start off with something cool. I just found out that Del Rey is going to finally add all my Star Wars novels to their e-books catalog. That means you can finally buy the Bane novels for your Kindle, Nook or whatever. Well, you can pre-order them now. You can’t actually buy them until JUNE 28.

My Mass Effect books are in e-book format already. So if you haven’t read them and you’re waiting for the Star Wars stuff, check out Revelation, Ascension and Retribution while you’re waiting.

And I’m happy to report that Random House/Del Rey is offering me the same royalty rate for the e-book as they do for paper copies. For a while, some publishers were only paying half royalties on e-books, which I couldn’t understand. The consumer price is roughly the same, and the publisher costs are far less, so why should the author get a lower cut? The publishers already make a higher profit on e-books; why screw the writer? The only answer I could come up with was “greed”. Thankfully, that seems not to be the case in this instance.

I’m also happy to report that the new novel – Revan – will also be available in hard cover and e-book format. (By the way, the publication date listed on Amazon and the Barnes & Noble website is UNOFFICIAL. Don’t believe any date until you hear it from Random House, BioWare or me.)

Okay, with all that out of the way it’s time to talk about Revan – video game hero and literary protagonist. I know some people are concerned about the “power level” of Revan as a Jedi because of what they saw him accomplish in the video games. Other people are excited because they want to see Revan in a book smashing thousands of Sith with his uber-powers.

Let’s set the record straight right now: games and books are NOT the same thing. In a game, we have to constantly progress the power level of a character to keep things interesting. In a book, any character progression is slow and arduous – it often makes up the character arc, which is the whole point of the book. The two mediums are meant to convey different experiences and the two representations of the character cannot simply be laid overtop of each other.

To put it bluntly, Revan in the book will not be the uber-powered death machine you controlled at the end of the video game. You might have min-maxed your character to smack Darth Malak down in seconds without breaking a sweat, but in a book that battle would have been a brutal, hard fought affair spread over multiple pages. In a video game it’s fun to kill hundreds of Sith Masters, but in a book that would just be boring. It would suck out any drama or conflict or tension, and as an author I have no interest in writing that.

Now, I suspect some of you are already getting worked up about how I’m ruining SW canon by nerfing the Revan from the game. Well, tough. The game was a game – the powers and abilities you had in it were ways to make the game fun. They were representative of Revan’s power level versus enemies faced in the game, but they weren’t a blueprint of his abilities in the persistent fiction of the Star Wars universe.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to ignore Revan’s accomplishments as detailed in the game. The high level events and history are canon. Revan did defeat Mandalore and Darth Malak. He was an incredibly powerful Jedi. But a powerful Jedi in story terms (films, TV, books) is very different from a powerful Jedi in game terms.

To keep characters compelling, there has to be some kind of balance. Witness the Jango Fett/Obi Wan battle from the films – they were pretty evenly matched. It was a close fight. However, in the KOTOR games Jedi classes were inherently stronger than other classes, making this result unlikely.

It’s interesting, because in the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO we decided to follow the movie blueprints – a bounty hunter (like Bobba Fett) or smuggler (like Han Solo) can match up evenly with a Jedi of similar level; the classes are balanced. That wasn’t the case in KOTOR, though, so some people may have the misconception that Revan will be able to break planet’s with his mind or something like that.

Trust me – that is not the case. The Force has very real limitations, and even those who do not consciously draw on the Force – like Jedi and Sith – can have a connection to it that makes them formidable opponents, even for a Jedi Master.

Given all this, some of you are probably wondering what “level” or “class” the Revan in the novels will end up being. STOP! Class and level are game mechanics, not character traits! Saying someone is a 20th level Sentinel in KOTOR is a shorthand way to define their skills and abilities within the confines of a game setting. But this has no relevance in a novel or film.

In a novel, I don’t want to shorthand the characteristics of my protagonist. I want to elaborate on them through the story. I don’t want to think about what “level” the hero is, then compare it to the villian’s level and know who would win and how tough the fight would be. That’s not what dramatic conflict is about; it’s an oversimplification.

I don’t want to be limited in what skills, abilities or actions my characters can take by labelling them with a specific class from a game. If I want Revan to pick and choose from Sentinel, Guardian and Consular abilities to make a better story, then I will… because those terms only have meaning inside the framework of the game they came from, and that meaning doesn’t extend into the larger narrative of the Expanded Universe.

Look, I understand why people want to label fictional characters with levels and classes. I understand why people have “versus” threads on the message boards. Competition is fun – that’s why I love sports. And in the absence of narratives depicting a battle between two interesting characters, people will make up their own narratives. Classes and levels impose some rules on this unofficial battle, helping people state their case when they choose one combatant over another.

It’s like arguing if Muhammad Ali could beat Mike Tyson if both were in their prime. Or if Jordan’s Bulls could have beat Russell’s Celtics. It’s fun to argue these things because there is no right answer. It’s the same thing with character versus threads – there is no right answer, because their “level” depends on the specific game (video, pen and paper, board, etc.) they are represented in.

Okay, I think I’ve belabored this point long enough. If you want more, check out my FAQ page for my opinion on who’s the strongest of Bane, Revan and Vader.

And don’t expect Revan in the novel to be the invincible bad-ass you played at the end of KOTOR. Because that would be boring and lame. Revan is still a bad-ass, but even bad-asses can get their asses kicked by other bad-asses. And the relative badness of a specific ass rises and falls based on numerous factors throughout the narrative arc, so that a wuss-ass at the beginning of the novel may become the ultimate bad-ass at the end.

Got it? Good. Later.