Is Star Wars: The Old Republic Canon? Ask Disney

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Posted on November 24, 2014, Phil Owen Is Star Wars: The Old Republic Canon? Ask Disney

Star Wars: The Old Republic is in an odd spot: It is the only story in the Star Wars universe that began prior to Disney’s acquisition of LucasFilm and that will continue on into the future.

Disney has returned Star Wars from the nerd fringe to its rightful place as a general pop culture juggernaut, and in the process, perturbed some longtime fans by declaring the old and massive Star Wars continuity defunct.

Back in April, Disney and LucasFilm, in a sense, rebooted the lore of the entire franchise. They felt it best to take the films and the Clone Wars animated series as the foundation moving forward, with all other previous Star Wars stories, such as novels, comics and video games, considered expendable as they were closed out. Any new Star Wars tales would be a part of a new, rock-solid continuity, and it’s possible some aspects of the old canon would be adopted into the new.

But The Old Republic continues. Next week, BioWare’s Star Wars MMO launches a new major story expansion, Shadow of Revan. And with a healthy population of nearly a million active players still in the game after three years, SWTOR is not nearing the end of viability. As the only part of the old Star Wars Expanded Universe still standing, many folks have wondered: what exactly is the canon status of SWTOR?

GameFront posed that question to SWTOR Senior Producer Bruce MacLean and Executive Producer Jeff Hickman last week during a meeting at EA Redwood Shores in California. The answers they gave were not quite conclusive, but they do seem to feel good about working within the new Star Wars machine.

“I don’t actually have a Lucas-approved ‘yes, we are lore’ or ‘no, we are not’,” Hickman said. “I don’t want to make a statement here that they’re going to come back and feel like they have to clarify. So I’m not gonna answer that, because Lucas is very particular about that question, as you know.”

“They were like, ‘Guys, this doesn’t change anything. You tell great Star Wars stories set in this time frame; you continue to do that, and we’ll continue to support you.’”

But MacLean went a little further with the explanation of whether SWTOR could be considered part of the overall franchise canon.

“Let me answer it the way they answered it to us,” he said. “Because we asked when this first came up, we were like, ‘What does this mean for us?’ And they were like, ‘Guys, this doesn’t change anything. You tell great Star Wars stories set in this time frame; you continue to do that, and we’ll continue to support you.’

“We are fortunate to be set thousands of years before the time of the movies. And that really allows us a lot of freedom.”

That seems to be the key to the situation. SWTOR takes place a solid 36 centuries before Emperor Palpatine’s rise to power, and so it’s not so difficult for everyone involved to avoid any significant story clashes. But as with everything Star Wars in 2014 and beyond, Disney’s new Continuity Council keeps close tabs on everything — SWTOR is certainly no exception. The developers have freedom, but not absolute freedom.

“We talk to Lucas and Disney about everything we do, and they approve everything we’re putting into the game, and they are coming at it from a continuity standpoint,” Hickman said. “So if they have deep continuity discussions, we’re not a part of those. But are we part of the greater planning around Star Wars? Sure.”

BioWare is experienced in making their stories fit the greater Star Wars continuity. SWTOR and Knights of the Old Republic, also a BioWare tale, are far from alone in this ancient time period — the war between Sith Empire and Galactic Republic in SWTOR is actually rooted in the Great Hyperspace War from the “Tales of the Jedi” comic series, which started in 1995 and which were set 1,300 years before SWTOR. And BioWare always has had Star Wars continuity folks to answer to, though in the past LucasFilm may have been less rigorous and thoughtful in its overall planning than it is now.

MacLean said BioWare still deals with some of those same continuity people from before the Disney acquisition, but now the developers also are supervised by the newly formed LucasFilm Story Group — a committee of execs and writers, like “Star Wars Rebels” showrunner Simon Kinberg, tasked with planning the Star Wars canon from here.

But the question of whether SWTOR is canon ultimately isn’t something with which BioWare is very concerned. What really matter is whether the company be able to keep doing what it does with SWTOR, and it appears that situation surrounding the MMO won’t be changing anytime soon.

“They [Disney and LucasFilm] are very happy to give us the freedom to tell stories within our nice little Old Republic, this Bioware game period of time,” MacLean said. “So there hasn’t been any fallout or impact with those changes for us at all. It’s been 100 percent business as usual for us.”

“They’re so great, just supportive of us, wanting to be as inclusive as they can be and still make it fit with what their vision of the future is,” Hickman added.

So is The Old Republic canon? Maybe. Does it matter? Probably not, so long as BioWare is allowed to keep telling the stories it wants to tell.

But if you want a real, definitive answer, you’ll probably have the wait for Disney to provide it.

Phil Owen is a contributor to GameFront. Find more of his work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @philrowen and @gamefrontcom.

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