“It’s with a great sadness that I’m posting today,” project leader Taylor Trotter wrote on Twitter. “I recently received a letter from Lucasfilm instructing Poem [Studios, the team behind the remake] to end production on Apeiron. After a few days, I’ve exhausted my options to keep it afloat; we knew this day was a possibility. I’m sorry and may the Force be with you.”
Trotter posted a picture of the Lucasfilm letter.
“Notwithstanding Poem Studios’ affection and enthusiasm for the Star Wars franchise and the original KOTOR game, we must object to any unlicensed use of Lucasfilm intellectual property,” Lucasfilm wrote.
Lucasfilm demanded Poem Studios remove all traces of infringing copyright immediately, and cease all development of the Apeiron reboot as well as “destroy all code and materials related to the project”.
“Lucasfilm is the exclusive owner of all intellectual property rights in and to the Star Wars major motion pictures, games and any other Star Wars content,” the company stressed. “As such, Poem Studios’ continued use of Lucasfilm’s intellectual property and references to the KOTOR game is misleading to the public and is likely to create confusion as to whether it is affiliated with Lucasfilm.”
It’s with a great sadness that I’m posting today; I recently received a letter from Lucasfilm instructing Poem to end production on Apeiron. After a few days, I’ve exhausted my options to keep it afloat; we knew this day was a possibility. I’m sorry and may the force be with you pic.twitter.com/OCRmMIjwGT
— Poem Studios (@PoemStudios) October 11, 2018
Apeiron began development in late 2015. We picked up on it in early 2016, displaying a few mouthwatering side-by-side comparison pictures of what KOTOR areas remade in Unreal Engine 4 would look like. I then interviewed Taylor Trotter about Apeiron.
The plan was for Apeiron not only to visually overhaul KOTOR but also to mechanically change it. Customisable Lightsaber crystals and hilts were mentioned, for example, and Trotter talked excitedly about the possibilities today’s technology offered.
“A simple example is the iconic Force choke,” he told me. “With the physics we have in place now, imagine gaining the powers of the Dark Side and Force-choking your opponent, then hurling them towards you as you ignite your red-hued Lightsaber into their stomach and they fall lifeless to the floor – the other swoop-gang members running away in fear.”
— Poem Studios (@PoemStudios) August 6, 2018
There was never a release date for Apeiron, and whether it would ever come out – given its ambition and voluntary staff force – was always a big question mark. (I had been chasing Trotter all year in the hopes of writing a big project update, only to see his reply yesterday which read, “Oh wow Robert, what a day to send a follow-up email…”)
The other big question was always whether Disney/Lucasfilm would shut it down. When I originally asked Trotter he gave me an answer which sounded like wishful thinking. “[Fan-made content is] an obvious long-standing tradition in the Star Wars community … and we hope to follow in those footsteps,” he said. “We don’t see this game as stepping on anyone’s toes.”
Evidently, Apeiron did.
It’s a sad outcome. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and its Obsidian-made sequel are two of my favourite games and Star Wars experiences. It’s why I’ve tracked down the games’ makers to write postmortems for both KOTOR 1 and KOTOR 2. But the games are old now – 15 and 13 years respectively – however memorable their stories might be.
Where the next great single-player Star Wars experience will come from remains a bit of a mystery. With Amy Hennig’s Visceral Star Wars project no longer alive in any recognisable form, it’s to the Dark Times-era action game Jedi: Fallen Order – in development at Titanfall developer Respawn – we look, but we haven’t seen anything of it yet.
Nonetheless, you can always play the old KOTOR games if you hanker after them. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 1 is available on tablets, for goodness sake, and KOTOR 2 has had its many infamous imperfections removed by a fantastic group of modders.
As for Taylor Trotter, he once told me, “If the world falls into an apocalypse tomorrow and everything I’ve worked for falls into the void, so be it. That sounds very bleak but if that day comes there won’t be a way to fight it. The only way I would feel this whole thing is a negative experience is if we actually create the game and fans hate it. That is a day I fear; that’s what keeps me up at night when I’m up late working on levels.
“But,” he added, and I love this: “I have to remind myself that fear is the path to the Dark Side.”