Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast — An Elegant Video Game For a More Civilized Age

(Editor’s Note: This is a re­post from the won­der­ful Christian Kaleb, orginal­ly post­ed on https://www.ckaleb.com/. You can find more of his writ­ing there, or help sup­port his up­com­ing book Sword of The Nation by vis­it­ing his Patreon here!)

August 2002

The Attack of the Clones craze was still la­tent on the en­vi­ron­ment, I was gift­ed a burned copy of Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast. I loaded the disc into my brand-new desk­top com­put­er (1.4 GHz Pentium IV, 256mb of RAM, GeForce 4 MX440, 20GB HDD, and good old Windows ME).

I in­stalled the game, and had my fair share of fun in the Single Player cam­paign, but I nev­er got too in­volved with the game back then; Other games had caught my at­ten­tion the most, and as a re­sult, I nev­er fin­ished the sin­gle play­er mode on that oc­ca­sion.

December 02, 2002

The first day of Venezuelan General Strike of 2002 – 2003, this oil strike—as it was called — par­a­lyzed the na­tion as a whole for ap­prox­i­mate­ly two months. One of the con­se­quences of this oil strike was the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a cur­ren­cy con­trol ex­change, one of the ma­jor cul­prits of our cur­rent eco­nom­ic col­lapse.

Due to the strike, all schools re­mained closed, our 2002 class sched­ule end­ed pre­ma­ture­ly (~13 days be­fore the usu­al Christmas/New Year’s break pe­ri­od). With every­thing and every­where closed, there was only one thing that my fourteen-year-old self could do: Play pi­rat­ed Video Games copies on my mod­ded Xbox con­sole.

December 04, 2002

Being the reck­less child that I was (and prob­a­bly still am), I at­tempt­ed to flash my console’s Evolution X Dashboard to a new­er ver­sion, pow­er was in­ter­rupt­ed dur­ing the process and I end­ed up brick­ing the con­sole. The Xbox I had worked so hard to save mon­ey for back in April 2002 had be­come noth­ing more than an over­size pa­per­weight.

That was the day when I tru­ly un­der­stood the mean­ing of the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

With an un­bootable con­sole and no way to re­pair it at the time, in ad­di­tion to not be­ing able to go any­where as every­thing was closed due to the strike, I had no choice but to start us­ing my com­put­er for en­ter­tain­ment. I spent the ma­jor­i­ty of that “ex­tend­ed va­ca­tion pe­ri­od” try­ing dif­fer­ent em­u­la­tors, a few PC video games that I had avail­able, and mess­ing around with RPG Maker.

March 2003

The coun­try was re­turn­ing to a sense of nor­mal­cy, hav­ing hit a Roadblock on RPG Maker and get­ting bored of Empire Earth, I had de­cid­ed to try oth­er video games, even­tu­al­ly giv­ing Jedi Outcast’s mul­ti­play­er a shot.

Things were sim­pler back then, the game had no DRM, no cd-key check to ver­i­fy said copy’s le­git­i­ma­cy, and I was of course com­plete­ly obliv­i­ous to these con­cepts. There was no dis­tinc­tion or dis­cernible dif­fer­ence be­tween my burned copy and a le­git­i­mate disc.

After all these years, I still have it.

I couldn’t have pos­si­bly pre­dict­ed that by choos­ing to play this game I was em­bark­ing my­self on a still on­go­ing on­line jour­ney. Jedi Outcast was the rock upon a myr­i­ad of events un­fold­ed, my very first for­ay into the world of on­line gam­ing; it was a place where long last­ing friend­ships were formed, where many laughs were had, and where many dra­mas were suf­fered. It ul­ti­mate­ly be­came an im­por­tant and trea­sured part of the best years of my ado­les­cence.

Everything piece of cus­tom con­tent that I had made for that game is now lost, every screen­shot of those days is now gone, only the mem­o­ries of those bet­ter times re­main. This is my rec­ol­lec­tion of those eigh­teen months, my send­off let­ter to this di­a­mond from a now lost era in Video Games.

Here’s to ab­sent friends…

Released in 2002 and de­vel­oped by Raven Software, Jedi Outcast was the se­quel to 1997’s Star Wars Dark Forces: Jedi Knight. Players once again stepped into Kyle Katarn’s shoes, wield­ing both firearms and The Force as you shot and slashed your way through the Empire Remnants as well as the Dark Jedi, Desann, and his army of Reborn.

Powered by the ID tech 3 game en­gine, Jedi Outcast was a vast im­prove­ment over its pre­de­ces­sor. While it lacked the cheesy but great Live Action cut scenes of the first Jedi Knight, its game­play was miles ahead of its pre­de­ces­sor, the game fea­tured clas­sic weapons from both Star Wars’ Original Trilogy and the Expanded Universe (now re-branded as ‘Legends’) as well as fea­tur­ing well-known force pow­ers such as Grip, Push, Pull, and Lightning.

Fifteen years since its re­lease and the game has passed the test of age; it is a tes­ta­ment of a now lost era of video games. It of­fered a fresh and unique game­play ex­pe­ri­ence, es­pe­cial­ly in its mul­ti­play­er com­po­nent dur­ing a time  when the Battlefield fran­chise was tak­ing its first steps, be­fore the re­lease of the first Call of Duty, when Counter-Strike reigned supreme, and when the MOBA genre was still a rel­a­tive­ly in­fant niche.

He was no Jedi, just a guy with a lightsaber and a few ques­tions.

The plot was sim­ple: “stop the bad guy’s plan be­fore it’s too late” and yet, its straight­for­ward ex­e­cu­tion was su­perb. The Jedi Knight se­ries al­ways made great use of the Star Wars Universe, well-known lo­cales like Nar-Shaddaa and Yavin IV were promi­nent parts of the plot. Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian of­fered their fair share of as­sis­tance to Kyle’s jour­ney; these em­blem­at­ic char­ac­ters were used by the plot with re­spect, which is more than can be said about the Disney Sequel Trilogy.

A game like Jedi Outcast can­not pos­si­bly ex­ist in today’s “Games as a Service”  plagued video game in­dus­try. JK2 is a per­fect ex­am­ple of what games used to be when the video games in­dus­try was more in­no­cent, be­fore DLC, be­fore mi­cro trans­ac­tions, be­fore loot box­es and pay-to-win mon­e­ti­za­tion schemes.

The mul­ti­play­er had no un­locks to grind, noth­ing was locked be­hind pay­walls; every­one had the same op­tions avail­able, every­one played un­der the same even field, and every­one could ex­pand the game’s con­tent thanks to the SDK and tools that were avail­able at your dis­pos­al.

Despite not be­ing a graph­i­cal pow­er­house, the game was well op­ti­mized.

During its prime era, Jedi Outcast had hun­dreds of ded­i­cat­ed servers, all ran by the com­mu­ni­ty and by the nu­mer­ous clans that ex­ist­ed, un­like the match­mak­ing and peer-to-peer mul­ti­play­er sys­tems that has be­come the de-facto stan­dard in re­cent times.

Some game servers (most­ly non-clan ones) of­fered the stan­dard ex­pe­ri­ence. Jedi Outcast’s game­play is still unique and fresh, even af­ter fif­teen years, it blends lightsaber com­bat with weapons and the force, with some sup­port items scat­tered on the maps; the re­sult can of­ten be chaot­ic, but great and im­mense­ly fun. Nothing beats force grip­ping and then push­ing an en­e­my out of the map — or pulling them and tak­ing your as­sailant with you as a last venge­ful act of de­fi­ance.

Being pow­ered by the same en­gine that ran the leg­endary Quake 3 Arena made Jedi Outcast’s ded­i­cat­ed servers ex­treme­ly easy to con­fig­ure on both Windows and Linux plat­forms. While the de­fault serv­er con­fig­u­ra­tion files were quite bare­bones, ID’s en­gine al­lowed for a myr­i­ad of cus­tomiza­tion.

Servers of­fered dif­fer­ent game types (Free for All be­ing by far the most pop­u­lar mode), and also of­fered dif­fer­ent game type rule-sets; while some of them of­fered de­fault val­ues on their con­fig­u­ra­tion. Raising the force re­source re­gen­er­a­tion rate was a com­mon choice that gave way to a faster paced match. Some servers dis­abled all guns to pro­vide a pure lightsaber Deathmatch en­vi­ron­ment, oth­ers re­duced the amount of force pow­ers at your dis­pos­al, no two servers were equal.

The lightsaber com­bat is still sec­ond to none, it was a per­fect ex­am­ple of the “easy to learn, hard to mas­ter” par­a­digm. Lightsaber du­els re­quired pa­tience, mas­tery of the three stances (blue, yel­low, and red) as well as a keen eye, learn­ing to an­tic­i­pate your opponent’s moves was cru­cial to vic­to­ry — mak­ing them dance to your tune even more so.

Battlefront II (2017) wish­es that it had a lightsaber com­bat that’s half as good as JK2’s

The game al­lowed you to build your own Force Power spe­cial­iza­tion. All play­ers had a set amount of force points to spend — as dic­tat­ed by the serv­er, with some caps hard­cod­ed in the base game. You could spend these points into a neu­tral force pow­er tree (Push, Pull, Speed, Jump, Sense, Mind Trick) a Lightsaber tree (Lightsaber Attack, Lightsaber Defense, and Lightsaber throw), as well as Light Side (Absorb, Protect, Heal, Team Heal) and Dark Side abil­i­ties (Grip, Drain, Lighting, Dark Rage).

The Dark Side tree was more of­fen­sive ori­ent­ed and in all hon­esty, more fun, while the Light Side was more de­fen­sive. In the right hands, us­ing the Light Side tree made you an un­stop­pable be­he­moth, as Force Absorb coun­tered every Dark Side abil­i­ty while restor­ing your Force pow­er re­sources, while Protect gave you an as­tound­ing amount of dam­age mit­i­ga­tion, jug­gling these two auras and weav­ing heals in be­tween when need­ed made you a God among men.

The amount of force pow­ers at your dis­pos­al was up to the server’s set­tings

Saber Defend was a pas­sive but im­por­tant abil­i­ty, it al­lowed you to neu­tral­ize most (but not all) en­e­my weapons as long as you faced your op­po­nent with it, spend­ing points in Saber Attack gave you ac­cess to the Yellow and Red stances; Throw was more of a side abil­i­ty, as it was gross­ly out­classed by every oth­er weapon in the game, I of­ten avoid­ed putting points into this abil­i­ty.

My Regular to-go Light Side build in­volved max­ing Jump, Push, Pull, Absorb, Heal, Protect, Saber Attack, and Saber Defense, us­ing left­over points in Speed. Force Seeing was es­sen­tial­ly a wall­hack abil­i­ty (think Widowmaker’s ul­ti­mate) and al­lowed you to “Matrix dodge” sniper shots; Mind Trick was per­haps, the worst abil­i­ty, it act­ed as pseudo-stealth.

There were so many com­bi­na­tions that you could try out, and all of them vi­able. “Pull-whoring” was a fan­tas­tic way to an­noy peo­ple, as Force Pull had a chance to dis­arm an op­po­nent, giv­ing you an op­por­tu­ni­ty to steal their weapons.

The JK2 com­mu­ni­ty is what set the game apart from every­thing else. Long gone is that gold­en era of Jedi Outcast that flour­ished with a thriv­ing play­er base, it is now re­duced to a mere shad­ow of its for­mer glo­ry. Most servers (most no­tably, clan ones) be­came hubs to close-knit com­mu­ni­ties of gamers, each with their own twists and par­tic­u­lar­i­ties; ca­ma­raderie and friend­ship were things that you could eas­i­ly ex­pect in any of those servers. Small glim­mers of this be­hav­ior can still be found to a less­er ex­tent even af­ter all these years, but it is sad­ly be­com­ing a rar­er sight as time pass­es.

In a time be­fore Social Media, be­fore Discord and Skype, mes­sage boards and AOL Instant Messenger were the top­most means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion used by the JK2 com­mu­ni­ty, it’s how you stayed in touch with your friends out­side the game, how clan match­es were or­ga­nized, how things flowed.

The Star Wars con­cepts of Jedi Orders were large­ly in­flu­en­tial in the way clans were struc­tured and op­er­at­ed, ranks were of­ten in tune with those found in the Star Wars Lore (Padawan or Apprentice, Jedi Knight, Jedi Master, and so on). Even though the ex­pe­ri­ence var­ied per clan, be­ing re­cruit­ed into one of­ten in­volved be­com­ing someone’s “ap­pren­tice”, af­ter a set pe­ri­od of time and af­ter a train­ing process, one would un­der­go a se­ries of “tri­als” with the pur­pose of prov­ing one’s worth.

This was large­ly cel­e­brat­ed with pride by some, and heav­i­ly dis­liked by oth­ers who wished a more “pure” on­line shooting/slashing ex­pe­ri­ence, but for all the dif­fer­ent par­tic­u­lar­i­ties and in­ner struc­tures that each clan or com­mu­ni­ty pos­sessed, at the core of every­thing stood the Saber Code.

The Saber Code: The tenets of a community

The “Saber Code” (also known as the Saberist/Honor code — con­temp­tu­ous­ly re­ferred to as h0n0rz) was orig­i­nal­ly con­ceived by the Jedi Knight I com­mu­ni­ty in 1997 – 1998, it spawned out of ne­ces­si­ty, large­ly in part due to the tech­ni­cal lim­i­ta­tions of the pre­vi­ous game.

Connecting to JK1 mul­ti­play­er servers had to be done man­u­al­ly via TCP/IP, there was no “Master Server” to choose where to play at, this meant that servers had even clos­er com­mu­ni­ties as peo­ple would, for the most part, share their server’s IP ad­dress with their clos­est friends only. Therefore, servers were most­ly pop­u­lat­ed by group of friends that band­ed to­geth­er for some fan­cy Jedi ac­tion.

In essence, the code orig­i­nal­ly was em­ployed as a means to slow down on the fran­tic ac­tion so as to be able to or­ga­nize Lightsaber du­els be­tween play­ers; two play­ers fought to the death while the rest of the play­ers watched the com­bat, wait­ing for their turn to demon­strate their prowess. The code was cre­at­ed be­cause JK1 lacked a prop­er duel mode to sup­port this prac­tice.

While Jedi Outcast does in fact have a duel game type, it of­ten felt con­strained and very bare­bones; the code was car­ried over by clans for their Free-for-All servers, and then it was great­ly ex­pand­ed upon, the prin­ci­pal core set of rules were as fol­lows:

No “Laming”: this meant that play­ers were not al­lowed to at­tack play­ers that:

  • Had their lightsaber switched off (turn­ing your saber off was a way to sig­nal oth­er play­ers that you did not wished to en­gage in com­bat)
  • Had their “chat box” up (when a play­er was typ­ing into the chat, they’d get an icon above their heads, nat­u­ral­ly, there were ex­cep­tions to such an ex­ploitable rule)
  • Attack a play­er while they’re knocked down, es­pe­cial­ly dur­ing a duel.

There were oth­er rules, no less im­por­tant in na­ture, but these were more of a in­trin­sic na­ture (Don’t be a dick would be one way to re­sume them all) and last but not least: Have Fun.

The Duel “Etiquette” was also car­ried over from JK1, these were sim­ple ca­ma­raderie and cour­tesy ges­tures among du­elists. The Etiquette pri­ma­ry con­sist­ed of “Bowing” (sim­u­lat­ed via crouch­ing) be­fore en­gag­ing in com­bat, and say­ing “Good Fight” to your op­po­nent af­ter the duel was over, re­gard­less of its out­come.

Some clans ex­pand­ed upon the core of the Honor Code, go­ing as far as to ban­ning guns — and even force pow­ers al­to­geth­er. While in ret­ro­spec­tion the en­tire rule-set feels lame and out of place (as it was, af­ter all, a Quake 3 based Free-for-All mul­ti­play­er shoot­ing game­play, not an MMO town/hub), large com­mu­ni­ties were built around these tenets.

I was kicked out of many servers be­cause I was com­plete­ly ig­no­rant of the ex­is­tence of these rules dur­ing my first days in Jedi Outcast. I did even­tu­al­ly learned about them, and re­spect­ed them (for the most part, that is), go­ing as far as en­forc­ing them dur­ing my tenure in Power of Thee, the only JK2 clan that I was part of.

One could still ar­gue that the code had no place in a mul­ti­play­er “free for all” death­mach serv­er, the truth is that not every­one was fond of the code, LucasForums housed long heat­ed de­bates that de­fend­ed each pos­ture with valid points, but ul­ti­mate­ly serv­er own­ers and clans had the fi­nal say in their game servers. If you didn’t liked the way a par­tic­u­lar serv­er was ran you could just go to an­oth­er one bet­ter suit­ed to your pref­er­ences, or set­up your own one.

One thing is for sure, Raven did not cre­at­ed JK2’s Multiplayer com­po­nent with the Code in mind.

JAMod: The sword that enforced the Saber Code

JAMod was the de-facto server-side mod for Saber Code servers, the quin­tes­sen­tial tool for en­forc­ing the code. Created by “cHoSeN oNe” and then man­aged by Orion, the mod was first and fore­most de­signed to of­fer ad­min­is­tra­tive tools to keep “peace” in your serv­er (ban­ning a play­er in the base game had to be done through a te­dious and rudi­men­ta­ry process of man­u­al­ly adding the person’s IP ad­dress to the ban­list file, and then kick­ing them; rcon au­tho­riza­tion had to be used if you didn’t had phys­i­cal ac­cess to the server’s con­sole, com­pare that to just typ­ing /amkick <PlayerName or ID No.> or /amban)

The mod also added a few nice fea­tures, such as rudi­men­ta­ry emote com­mands, the abil­i­ty to equal­ize the health at the start of every duel, eas­i­er Message of The Day in­put, admin/mod only chat chan­nels, and oth­er qual­i­ty of life en­hance­ments. It also added a fair share of abuse-prone com­mands, slap­ping, sleep, si­lence; and the “for fun” em­pow­er (vast­ly im­proved your saber dam­age and force pow­ers) and ter­mi­na­tor (grant­ed you all weapons and items at the ex­pense of force pow­ers).

Many de­bates were had over the use — and abuse — of JAMod’s fea­tures, even by “cHoSeN oNe” him­self, who had orig­i­nal­ly cre­at­ed it to be noth­ing more than a help­ful ad­min­is­tra­tive tool for his clan’s serv­er be­fore he de­cid­ed to make it pub­lic. It was a double-edged sword that could eas­i­ly get out of con­trol if ad­min ac­cess was giv­en to the wrong hands, but it was by far the most used mod by servers, as it of­fered a stream­lined set of tools to deal with “trou­ble­mak­ers.”

There were many oth­er mods that tried to repli­cate JAMod, adding a few ad­di­tions to their own. JAMod had a bit of a back­lash when a few ex­ploits were dis­cov­ered, some were as sim­ple as re­nam­ing your­self “@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@” which would glitch the serv­er and grant you ad­min sta­tus.

Another one was the “Sentry Crash”, it in­volved two play­ers, one would col­lect and drop the sen­try tur­ret sup­port item, the oth­er one would crouch, raise their saber and sim­ply get as close to the tur­ret as pos­si­ble. For some rea­son the con­stant de­flec­tion cou­pled with the prox­im­i­ty caused an ex­cep­tion that would crash any serv­er.

I am not sure if the Sentry Crash was ever fixed, every­one end­ed up dis­abling the tur­ret item from spawn­ing in any map as a tem­po­rary mea­sure.

FFA_Bespin

Bespin was and still is, the ul­ti­mate Jedi Outcast map, de­spite all the choic­es at your dis­pos­al such as the Deathstar map and Yavin, none of them held a can­dle to FFA_Bespin.

One map to rule them all.

This map, which also hap­pened to be the game’s “de­fault” mul­ti­play­er map, while tiny and sim­plis­tic in na­ture, en­cap­su­lat­ed all that JK2 had to of­fer. It had plen­ty of space to host fran­tic bat­tles of both saber and guns, had ad­e­quate spaces to en­gage in du­els with, and it had the most em­blem­at­ic spot of them all: The Pad.

The crown jew­el it­self. Two men en­tered, one man left.

The pad was the place where the ma­jor­i­ty of the du­els took place, it was the per­fect size and shape, with enough space for spec­ta­tors — and well, if your duel wasn’t go­ing the way you want­ed it, you could al­ways bait your op­po­nent out and make them fall to a hu­mil­i­at­ing death.

Bespin also had oth­er places suit­ed for du­els, a square-shaped are­na close to the pad (pic­tured above, a rec­tan­gu­lar rooftop, a cou­ple bridges, and am­ple space be­neath said bridges.

The v1.02 versus v1.04 schism

In ad­di­tion to the com­mu­ni­ty schism caused by those that fol­lowed the Saber Code and those that didn’t, there was also a split be­tween game ver­sions. A con­sid­er­able por­tion of the com­mu­ni­ty pre­ferred the game’s 1.02 ver­sion, as they felt that version’s game­play to be more “re­fined” and “ad­vanced” than the game’s lat­er patch­es. 1.02 al­lowed play­ers to per­form a se­ries of ad­vanced “tech­niques” that were re­moved by sub­se­quent up­dates.

Others will tell you a dif­fer­ent sto­ry, that what they call “bet­ter” is noth­ing more than abus­able com­bat glitch­es that need­ed to be fixed, one way to eas­i­ly ex­plain it is that it was as if Nintendo had de­cid­ed to up­date Super Smash Bros. Melee and re­move wavedash­ing.

After time, tools were cre­at­ed that al­low play­ers to ef­fort­less­ly switch around ver­sions (JK2MV), but this was a con­ve­nience that did not ex­ist­ed back then, even so, the large ma­jor­i­ty of the player-base ran the 1.04 ver­sion, as it was the lat­est ver­sion of the game.

Community made add-ons is one of the things mul­ti­play­er games have un­for­tu­nate­ly lost over time, the po­ten­tial for end­less cus­tomiza­tion and fresh ad­di­tions, to make one’s sin­gle­play­er and mul­ti­play­er ex­pe­ri­ence as per­son­al­ized as pos­si­ble, and to share that with oth­ers, it cer­tain­ly was bet­ter than today’s heav­i­ly mon­e­tized DLC and loot box­es mar­ket.

With the re­lease of an “of­fi­cial but to­tal­ly not sup­port­ed by the de­vel­op­ers” SDK, the po­ten­tial for cus­tomiza­tion was as far as one’s imag­i­na­tion could go, near­ly every as­pect of the game could be mod­i­fied to your whims and de­sires.

This is what made the PC ver­sion the de­fin­i­tive one ver­sus the Xbox and Gamecube it­er­a­tions of JK2, you could al­ways keep the mul­ti­play­er ex­pe­ri­ence fresh this way, there was al­ways some­thing new to try, a new map, a new skin, or even an en­tire­ly new gamem­o­de.

GTKRadiant was bun­dled with the SDK.

In a time be­fore DLC and Season Passes, you had ab­solute free­dom to add any­thing and every­thing to your base­jk fold­er. All of the game’s as­sets resided in­side .pk3 files, these were sim­ply re­named .zip files that you could open with any com­pres­sion pro­gram, or you could use pakscape. The game would read these files in al­pha­bet­i­cal or­der, which was some­thing you could eas­i­ly take ad­van­tage of when it came to cus­tomiza­tion or when you need­ed to re­leased patch files for what­ev­er rea­son.

Don’t like the mu­sic that plays dur­ing du­els? Replace it. (Burly Brawl was a fa­vorite back then as Matrix Reloaded had just been re­leased)

You want your Lightsaber’s trail to look more like Episode II’s? You could do it.

You want more char­ac­ters to choose from? Knock your­self out, it’s not like you have to pay for it. Although if an­oth­er per­son didn’t had that same skin in­stalled you’d look like Kyle Katarn to them, not like that was a bad thing.

You want to re­place every sound with Jar-Jar quotes? Uh, ok…sure I guess… (Before I joined Power of Thee some­one had made a cus­tom Jar-Jar skin, but he screwed up the sound folder’s name, so his skin made Kyle Katarn sound like Jar-Jar; I had two choic­es, fix that or nev­er adding his skin to my base­jk fold­er, I chose the lat­ter.)

Maps

Custom maps came in all shapes and sizes; the Saber Code, ever so present in the game’s idio­syn­crasy, in­flu­enced many of the de­signs that you could find (Jedi Council was a prime ex­am­ple of this), while oth­er maps were craft­ed with a more tra­di­tion­al mul­ti­play­er ap­proach in mind.

Maps were not only lim­it­ed to the Star Wars theme, some were large­ly in­spired by oth­er movies, tele­vi­sion shows, and oth­er video games. Clans would of­ten have their own unique maps, de­signed as base or hubs, this added a sense of prop­er­ty and be­long­ing — a pseu­do MMO game, if you will.

There were so many maps that me and my friends played on, these are some of the maps that I have very fond mem­o­ries of:

Jedi Council 

Nothing screamed “Saber Code” as this map did. As it name im­plies, the map was de­signed as a Jedi Temple — with cer­tain cre­ative lib­er­ties in mind; the main hall­way was rem­i­nis­cent of the one fea­tured in Episode II.

The map had a few rooms that could be used for du­els, with one main du­el­ing are­na, com­plete with a hand­ful of seats. A few bed­rooms, an up­per floor with a “coun­cil” room, as well as a gar­den; it also fea­tured a jump­ing room of sorts.

It cer­tain­ly wasn’t a map suit­ed for a Deathmatch.

This map had a fair share of east­er eggs, such as a hid­den room be­neath the wa­ter­fall.

 

Carbonfreeze

One of the most am­bi­tious Jedi Outcast Maps at the time, and one that pushed my old com­put­er to its lim­its. It was a faith­ful (as far as pos­si­ble) recre­ation of Bespin as it was fea­tured in Empire Strikes Back.

The en­tire map was lin­ear, you’d start here, and end there.

One way we’d have fun in this map was that we’d flood it with laser trip mines, and turn it into a very dan­ger­ous race to the end, as every time some­one died they’d respawn right at the be­gin­ning.

Country Roads 2

Ah, Country Roads, take me home. One of the sil­li­est maps ever made but also one of the most en­ter­tain­ing ones, there was a sur­prise at the end of the maze.

This map is per­son­al­ly no­to­ri­ous as the place where I ac­ci­den­tal­ly spoiled Knights of the Old Republic’s twist to a friend, I’m pret­ty sure he is still up­set at me.

Matrix Reloaded

What bet­ter way to go through the Matrix Reloaded hype than a Matrix map? It of­fered a faith­ful recre­ation of the “Burly Brawl” field (com­plete with de­stroy­able bench­es and all), a semi-accurate recre­ation of the The Merovingian’s man­sion, as well as a few oth­er orig­i­nal spots.

Graveyard

This one was a very niche map, so niche that it could only be found on less­er known web­sites, as a mat­ter of fact, I can­not seem to be able to find it any­more, not even a screen­shot of it.

It fea­tured a large church with a hid­den rave mode, a bell that could in­s­ta kill any­one, and a small town-like area.

Models and Skins

The most com­mon type of cus­tomiza­tion, you could ex­pand upon the base char­ac­ter ros­ter to your heart’s de­sire.

You could down­load new mod­els from a myr­i­ad of web­sites and ex­pand your se­lec­tion with char­ac­ters from the Original Star Wars tril­o­gy (Darth Vader, Palpatine, C‑3PO), or char­ac­ters from the Prequels (Obi-Wan, Anakin, Qui-Gon, et al.)

And if that wasn’t enough, you could grab char­ac­ters from any­thing you can pos­si­bly think of, Halo, Gundam, Metal Gear, Devil May Cry, Diablo, Final Fantasy, hell, even Mario Bros.

My per­son­al skin was a sim­ple re­col­or of this Dante mod­el, I have long since lost those files; this is the only pic­ture of the orig­i­nal mod­el that I could find.

It was not un­com­mon for clans to do cus­tomized skins for their mem­bers, rang­ing from sim­ple re­col­ors to more elab­o­rate re­works. I did a fair share of cus­tom skins for my old clan mates, clad in green and black, as those were the clan’s pri­ma­ry col­ors, in ad­di­tion to the red and blue themed skins for team modes. Custom clan skins gave play­ers a sense of per­son­al­i­ty and unique­ness among their peers, adding a cus­tom sound file for taunts made you the coolest kid in town.

The file nam­ing struc­ture for skins was quite strict and had to be faith­ful­ly fol­lowed, but if you did a few omis­sions on pur­pose here and there you could hide skins from show­ing on the char­ac­ter se­lec­tion menu. This ef­fec­tive­ly turned them into “hid­den” skins that could only be ac­cessed via the /model con­sole com­mand. This was a prac­tice I of­ten did in many of the skins I made for my old friends, the “clan themed”  green/black skin would act as the de­fault, while the more per­son­al­ized one would serve as the hid­den one for their per­son­al use.

Some mod­els were more elab­o­rate than oth­ers, and had “tog­gleable” parts, such as robes, or hel­mets, that you could re­move via script­ing. Others made use sim­plis­tic shaders (if you com­pare it to more re­cent games) to cre­ate elab­o­rate spe­cial ef­fects, such as be­ing a “holo­gram”.

Grayfox, by KSK, was one of the ear­li­est mod­els re­leased, it was also one of the most elab­o­rate ones, and one of the first ones that used .surf script­ing to dis­able parts of the mod­el in or­der to have an “open mask” vari­ant.

Mods

If a few new maps and char­ac­ters for mul­ti­play­er wasn’t what you were look­ing for, you had ac­cess to sin­gle play­er mods too. From sim­ple changes in the cam­paign, to more elab­o­rate Total Conversion mods that of­fered an en­tire­ly new ex­pe­ri­ence.

My ex­pe­ri­ence with those was lim­it­ed, if not out­right zero, as I nev­er fan­cied much the idea of mod­ding the sin­gle play­er com­po­nent, all of my work was fo­cused on the mul­ti­play­er facet of the game.

Instagib

Following the tra­di­tion of Unreal Tournament and Quake, Instagib of­fered a fast paced “kill or be killed” mul­ti­play­er ex­pe­ri­ence.

No weapons, no saber, one shot snipers only, fi­nal des­ti­na­tion; CTF Instagib was a blast.

Me and my friends used to oc­ca­sion­al­ly hang around in “Chop Shop,” one of the most con­curred and well-known in­stag­ib servers in JK2, ran by “Amidala from Chop Shop” as she was known in LucasForums, the serv­er could eas­i­ly fill dur­ing peak hours. If you’ve nev­er played an in­stag­ib mode in a fps game, then you’re miss­ing out, and I say this as a per­son that is far from good at snip­ing.

One of my friends who was ex­cep­tion­al­ly good at snipers, had a ri­val of some sorts called “American Dream”, he would drop out of any­thing just to com­pete against him in Chop Shop.

Mau’Dae’s Kill Tracker

While not a mod per-se, this ex­ter­nal add on spread like an air­borne plague, even I am cul­prit of us­ing it for some time.

This sim­ple pro­gram would hook into Jedi Outcast, and re­lied on read­ing the game’s mes­sage and chat logs to track your kills, deaths, duel vic­to­ries and de­feats; it would also au­to­mat­i­cal­ly type a cus­tom mes­sage in-game for all your brag­ging needs.

The way it worked was also its most glar­ing weak­ness, as all you had to do was repli­cate any mes­sage to mess with an­oth­er player’s record, the Kill Tracker couldn’t dif­fer­en­ti­ate one mes­sage from an­oth­er.

Its only re­deem­ing and use­ful fea­ture was that it gave you the abil­i­ty to con­trol Winamp from with­in the game’s chat it­self, and of course, it let you dis­play your cur­rent song, be­cause every­one to­tal­ly want­ed to know that you were lis­ten­ing to Evanescence – Bring me to Life. Then again, an­oth­er play­er could eas­i­ly trick your track­er and force-skip songs, much to their dis­may and to your amuse­ment

It is both hi­lar­i­ous and sad that a “kill track­ing” fea­ture is now con­sid­ered a pre-order bonus (Looking at you, Bungie.)

Hydroball

This one was spawned out of Final Fantasy X’s pop­u­lar­i­ty at the time, this client-side mod tried to recre­ate Blitzball right into Jedi Outcast.

There were oth­er mods, such as one that tried to turn the game into Dragon Ball Z, com­plete with the sound ef­fects and all, but JAmod servers were the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­i­ty when it came to server-side mods.

If you’re in­ter­est­ed, Jedi Outcast’s source code was re­leased a cou­ple of years ago, you can grab it here.

For all that Jedi Outcast had to of­fer in its hey­day, noth­ing is more trea­sured to me than the mem­o­ries of the good times that I had the plea­sure of shar­ing with my friends, it is what makes me cher­ish this game long af­ter its glo­ri­ous dawn, its ra­di­ant noon and its solemn sun­set.

The Early days

Just like any new­com­er, I spent the first days of my first Jedi Outcast ad­ven­tures be­ing a com­plete and ut­ter noob. The first thing I did was open the char­ac­ter op­tions, and named my­self “Darth Kaleb” an oh-so to­tal­ly orig­i­nal name that I had pre­vi­ous­ly used for my MSN mes­sen­ger ad­dress dur­ing the Attack of the Clones hy­pe­fest.

The game al­lowed you pick the col­or of your Lightsaber blade. No Sith wannabe was ever com­plete with­out its red Lightsaber, so nat­u­ral­ly that was my first choice. With my name and saber cho­sen, it was time to hit the serv­er brows­er and find a game. I, of course, went with Dark Side dur­ing those times, and swung my Lightsaber at en­e­mies, but I was no match for ex­pe­ri­enced gun-wielding op­po­nents.

The first few days went by, slow­ly learn­ing from my mis­takes, and im­prov­ing my skill in the game, as well as slow­ly learn­ing the ex­is­tence of the Saber Code by force, many times was I kicked out of servers for break­ing those rules, rules that I had no idea ex­ist­ed in the first place.

I didn’t even used WSAD to move, I used the ar­row keys in­stead…

The Power of Thee

I con­tin­ued to roam around from serv­er to serv­er un­til I land­ed on the Power of Thee clan serv­er, the serv­er was of­ten full, there was al­ways some­one to fight against, some­one to duel with; suf­fice to say, my English was even more bro­ken than it is to­day. Communication was a hell of a bar­ri­er that I had to some­how sur­pass (made more dif­fi­cult by the fact that I had no idea that you could press Y to quick chat).

As time went by, I start­ed to get the hang of the game. I learned so many things; at first I thought that the high­er my ping was, the bet­ter my con­nec­tion, I had no idea why that per­son with 50 ping was be­rat­ing me for “lag” when I had 999 ping, the max­i­mum.

I’m sure he is just jeal­ous that I have so much ping than him.” I said.

Learning from my mis­takes, I be­gan to im­prove and I “got gud” at du­el­ing (just a lit­tle though) Concepts like Death from Above and Lunge (spe­cial moves that can only be per­formed un­der spe­cif­ic Lightsaber stances), kicks, and us­ing Y to quick chat in­stead of us­ing the con­sole to type were now known to me.

I start­ed to re­al­ize that many of the play­ers, both from the clan and out­side, were reg­u­lars just like me, lan­guage lim­i­ta­tions aside, I be­gan to com­mu­ni­cate with oth­er play­ers, grasp­ing around the idea that these were peo­ple just like me, and not mind­less bots. I en­joyed play­ing in [PoT]’s serv­er and its mem­bers, so why not? Let’s join them.

The way they op­er­at­ed was Jedi-esque, you didn’t sim­ply joined them, some­one had to take you as their ap­pren­tice; I kept play­ing un­til Evolution no­ticed me, and de­cid­ed to take me as his ap­pren­tice.

I had a ba­sic foun­da­tion of how du­el­ing worked in Jedi Outcast, he helped me sharp­en it, he taught me how to be un­pre­dictable, but most im­por­tant­ly, how to use the “for­bid­den tech­nique” of the yel­low stance.

For some in­ex­plic­a­bly rea­son, I still didn’t used WSAD for move­ment, af­ter fif­teen years I still can­not find an ex­pla­na­tion…

During my tenure as an ap­pren­tice in [PoT] I be­came friends with many of oth­er fel­low as­pi­rants, as well as mem­bers of the clan, these are friend­ships that still en­dure, even af­ter fif­teen years have passed.

Time went by, un­til my ini­ti­a­tion “tri­al” was at hand, two days be­fore the ap­point­ed date how­ev­er, Evolution left the clan, and I was left with­out a “mas­ter.” I was ap­point­ed an in­ter­im mas­ter for those ~48 hours.

It was a Monday night if mem­o­ry serves me well, the night of my “tri­als”, pass­ing the first half — Lightsaber du­els — ex­on­er­at­ed you of the sec­ond (a free for all death­match); the du­el­ing tri­als con­sist­ed of six du­els, all against mem­bers of the clan, emerg­ing vic­to­ri­ous in at least four of those was nec­es­sary to be­come a full-fledged Knight of [PoT].

I won all six.

Over time, some of my new friends also car­ried out their tri­als, and passed them with hon­ors, it was dur­ing that time when I be­gan tin­ker­ing around with the SDK, mak­ing my first at­tempts at skins us­ing Paint Shop Pro. The first one I pro­duced was a sim­ple edgy re­col­or of an Anakin Skywalker skin, over the next weeks I start­ed to take re­quests from my friends and fel­low clan mem­bers, pro­duc­ing well over a dozen of these re­col­ors of du­bi­ous qual­i­ty.

With every­one sat­is­fied, it was time to do one for me, but I couldn’t de­cide on a base skin to de­file — I mean, mod­i­fy, un­til I gazed upon a Dante mod­el (the one shown ear­li­er in this ar­ti­cle), be­ing the com­plete Dantesexual that I am, I didn’t need to think it twice, that was it.

I dropped the “Darth” pre­fix on my name, switched from red saber to blue, and start­ed to em­brace Light Side builds. I also, at last, switched to WSAD, bind­ing my force abil­i­ties to near­by keys, a prac­tice that I’ve now di­aled to eleven in MMO games.

All teenage dra­mas aside (as those are al­ways to be ex­pect­ed), our mer­ry band of friends con­tin­ued to have fun in JK2; I was even­tu­al­ly as­cend­ed from Knight to Master, and then to Council Person, the youngest one to have at­tained that rank, I was be­yond hon­ored.

A few months lat­er, dur­ing a week­end, busi­ness was usu­al, un­til Evolution con­nect­ed to the serv­er, I had not seen him since he quit [PoT]; we shared one fi­nal duel, which I won. That was the last time I saw my men­tor.

I only “trained” a sin­gle ap­pren­tice, but in his case, qual­i­ty > quan­ti­ty; he went on to take a lead­ing role in the clan long af­ter I was gone, I’m glad that I left them in good hands.

Power of Thee: The Movie

Back in Fall 2003, there was this brand new and rev­o­lu­tion­ary pro­gram called Fraps, be­lieve it or not, it al­lowed you to record your game­play, it cer­tain­ly was some fu­ture shit right there!

A friend and I had this sim­ple idea: “Let’s make some movies with it.”

We start­ed work­ing on a six-part script that ex­ten­sive­ly bor­rowed el­e­ments from the Star Wars Universe while us­ing con­cepts and pre­cepts from the “Expanded Universe.”, with cer­tain cre­ative lib­er­ties at hand of course.

In ad­di­tion to the Star Wars themed core, the premise and set­ting also took el­e­ments from Jedi Outcast’s mul­ti­play­er com­mu­ni­ty, such as “clans” and their re­spec­tive head­quar­ters (servers) and tried to ap­ply them to the Star Wars Expanded Universe mythos.

The re­sult was as com­plex and pro­found as two fif­teen year old kids could pro­duce (as in, it was pure and un­fil­tered cringe, but hey, at least it was bet­ter than The Last Jedi)

We stopped pro­duc­tion halfway through, for nu­mer­ous rea­sons, in­clud­ing but not lim­it­ed to our de­par­ture from [PoT]

Unfortunately, due to our youth and in­ex­pe­ri­ence when it came to safe­guard­ing files and our ap­par­ent in­abil­i­ty to prop­er­ly keep back­ups, all of our work is now for­ev­er lost. I am pret­ty sure that if copies of these videos still ex­ist then they’ve aged ter­ri­bly. Jedi Outcast’s mul­ti­play­er frame­work wasn’t de­signed with sto­ry­telling in mind, in ad­di­tion to the lim­it­ed knowl­edge and soft­ware that we had at our dis­pos­al back then.

The only thing I could find was con­cep­tu­al trail­er video. Behold! The purest form of cringe!

Come think of it, we should’ve just learned how to use the lim­it­ed cutscene tool pro­vid­ed in the SDK; that would’ve cer­tain­ly eas­i­er than get­ting a bunch of teenage kids to work to­geth­er…

Note: my friend might still hold a copy of these videos, if he’s suc­cess­ful in find­ing them I will post them here so you can die of cringe.

The YV clan Incident

Now this one’s spe­cial, a prime ex­am­ple of tak­ing things a lit­tle too far…

It was a sim­ple sum­mer Sunday of 2003, I re­mem­ber the hot weath­er and the sun’s glare on my win­dow.

For di­verse rea­sons, many of my friends weren’t on­line at the time, ex­cept for one; we were se­vere­ly bored, and thus de­cid­ed to kick around sev­er­al servers, even­tu­al­ly ar­riv­ing at the Yuuzhan Vong clan Sever (YV)

Because we were hot-blooded and full of our­selves, we de­fi­ant­ly chal­lenged them to a 2v2 match. They ac­cept­ed our pro­pos­al, and we de­feat­ed them with ease; how­ev­er, they did not take our ban­ter light­ly.

A few hours lat­er, we were hang­ing around on our clan serv­er, just like every oth­er night un­til some­one from their clan im­per­son­at­ed one of our clan mem­bers (do­ing a poor job while at it), he was swift­ly dealt with re­peat­ed kicks, and then a ban, and that should’ve been the end of that sto­ry.

But no, of course now. This “trans­gres­sion” was too much for one of our lead­ing mem­bers, and he co-opted us into re­tal­i­at­ing. To achieve this end, he es­tab­lished a Joint Task Force or “JTF” for short, some sort of one hun­dred per­cent to­tal­ly se­ri­ous Special Forces unit.

The first stage in­volved gath­er­ing Intel—
>On a clan full of kids
>Some of which le­git role­played as the Vong
>On a video game serv­er
>On that Jedi Council map

Stage II in­volved in­fil­trat­ing said clan, for rea­sons, and at­tain­ing high ranks among them, as all you had to do what beat a high rank­ing mem­ber to get a pro­mo­tion, some­thing that wasn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly hard to achieve.

Stage III in­volved a “lmao, got’em” mo­ment of some sorts, I still don’t know what was the whole point to be hon­est.

Looking back at it, the whole thing spawned noth­ing but cringe, JTF con­tin­ued their shenani­gans long af­ter I left the clan in sum­mer of 2004, with things like a “Delta Force.”

The TMBJ Match

The apex of my JK2 ca­reer, and quite pos­si­bly, that of my friends too.

We or­ga­nized a clan match be­tween [PoT] and They Might Be Jedi (TMBJ), some of the lead­ing fig­ures of TMBJ were be­hind jk2files.com (the largest repos­i­to­ry for Jedi Outcast mods), and an­oth­er of them was the au­thor of the most beloved Country Roads 2 map.

The rules were sim­ple: Capture the Flag, best of three, six ver­sus six.

We prac­ticed day and night, mi­cro­manag­ing every as­pect of our de­fense and of­fense, our hard work paid off, we beat them 2 – 1. That match was the first and only time that we used the two team-exclusive abil­i­ties: Team Heal and Team Energize, our ace in the hole (sup­port abil­i­ties like those two are now tak­en for grant­ed, es­pe­cial­ly in games like Overwatch, where they make all the dif­fer­ence in the world)

I am glad to say that I had an over­whelm­ing­ly fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing those eigh­teen months that com­prised the prime of my Jedi Outcast ca­reer. This game was es­sen­tial­ly my gate­way to the on­line world, with­out it I wouldn’t had been able to meet a group of fan­tas­tic in­di­vid­u­als, and es­tab­lish bonds of friend­ship that I hold dear even to this date.

Life has per­haps tak­en us down dif­fer­ent paths, and I’ve un­for­tu­nate­ly lost con­tact with most of them; I’m pret­ty sure we see the world through dif­fer­ent lens­es nowa­days, we’ve been nur­tured by dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances over the sub­se­quent years, but for all the dif­fer­ences that we might have now, for all the good (and the bad) that hap­pened, al­low me to para­phrase the im­mor­tal words of Obi-Wan Kenobi and say that they were good friends.

My ap­par­ent de­scent to the Dark Side would’ve been a bet­ter plot than The Last Jedi. :^)

The path of my Jedi Knight sto­ry did not end with Outcast; a year af­ter its re­lease, Raven re­leased a se­quel: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, me­chan­i­cal­ly su­pe­ri­or un­der the hood — ex­ter­nal­ly in­fe­ri­or in many as­pects; but its virtues and short­com­ings are a sto­ry for an­oth­er time…

The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent be­low.
Christian Kaleb
Best Venezuelan Pariah Upstart Fiction Writer | Professional bread line doer. Dreaming of big­ger things and wan­na leave my old life be­hind.
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