GDC: The Force Unleashed presentation

  • Posted February 21st, 2008 at 22:33 EDT by

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is no doubt one of the largest undertakings LucasArts has ever worked on. In 2006 LucasArts hired 181 team members and in 2007, it shot up to 221. What makes this title so massive is that for the first time ever, this is a project that combines LucasArts, LucasFilm, and Industrial Light & Magic studios. Furthermore, George Lucas himself is directly involved in the development, throwing out a few points and requests here and there. So why is a Star Wars videogame garnering this much attention? The answer to that can be found in the timeframe for the game.
During the presentation, Hayden Blackman, detailed the early development process. In the early stages, many ideas and concepts were tossed around the table as to what direction exactly LucasArts will go in regarding the next step in the Star Wars videogame franchise. Ideas ranged from a Darth Maul game, Knights of the Old Republic era game, and to even a game set in the far future of Star Wars, possibly thousands of years after the events of Return of the Jedi. Finally the team came to the conclusion that a game set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope was a far more interesting concept than anything else.

“We really wanted to focus on the time frame between Episode III and Episode IV. It is a very fertile time period, a vital time period in the galaxy,” Blackman said.

Blackman described how they did not want to create another “Jedi in hiding” game because that concept has been done before numerous times in novels and comics. They also did not want to do a Darth Vader game because his character development would be very limited and linear for the simple fact that that time in the saga, he is very dark. That is how they came up with the apprentice, a character that can go many ways in the story with redemption being a key theme.

“While you begin the game as Darth Vader’s apprentice, that isn’t where you will end up,” he said.

When LucasArts decided to go with this project, they felt as though they needed to re-imagine Star Wars and they wanted to re-imagine the force. In the beginning stages of development, Blackman described how the team came up with the “Big Five Questions”. These questions served as the outlying touchstone to which the team will go by throughout the whole development cycle.

- What is the Vision of the force?
- Who are you?
- When does the game take place?
- What is the concept?
- What is the theme of the story?

To give a clear scope on just how big this project is, Blackman said that they have done more concept art for this title than any other previous LucasArts project, including Knights of the Old Republic.

Towards the middle portion of the presentation, we were treated with a nice pre-visualization video. The video was separated into 3 parts: Group Combat Simulation, Pre-Boss Battle, and a Boss Battle.

The group combat simulation showed the apprentice tearing threw a horde of storm troopers, using his immense force powers. The Pre-Boss Battle showed the apprentice facing off against a female Dark Jedi named Maris Brood whom it is assumed that you must destroy. The Boss Battle showed off the famous Rancor that has been seen in many screenshots.

It’s understood that what we saw was a very early build of the game. Still I cannot get past the idea that the actual lightsaber combat is just a mere afterthought to the development team, since the concept of force powers is heavily featured. So for all of you lightsaber enthusiasts expecting a nice lightsaber game, do not get too excited. From what was shown in the lightsaber to lightsaber battle between Maris Brood and The Apprentice, I could only cringe in my seat as I was too embarrassed to watch. Here we are on a next gen platform and the lightsaber combat is on par with that of Jedi Outcast a few years back. So while the ... (continued on next page)

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