By Larry Frum |
“Who are you?”
“I’m no one.”
Those six words kicked off the latest wave of excitement, anticipation and intrigue as the official trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” swept across the globe recently. It features new characters, old favorites and the continuation of a story that has captivated audiences for many, many years.
The movie blends nostalgia with the promise of something new. Lucasfilm and game developer EA Digital Illusions CE wanted to capture those emotions in a video game and worked for three years in an unprecedented collaboration to create “Star Wars Battlefront.”
“This is the deepest we’ve every opened up our archives to any partner,” said Ada Duan, vice president of Lucasfilm Digital Business and Franchise Management.
‘We wanted to honor the memory of the movies’
The team from Digital Illusions (known as DICE) wanted to make a game that all “Star Wars” fans have dreamed of playing. To make that a reality, artists, designers and developers traveled to the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum at Skywalker Ranch near San Francisco and were allowed access to the props, costumes and artwork that created the original trilogy of “Star Wars” movies.
“We wanted to honor the memory of the movies,” said Sigurlina Ingvarsdottir, senior producer for “Star Wars Battlefront.” “We were invited by our partners at Lucasfilm to go to Skywalker Ranch to walk around and soak up the atmosphere. But then (we were allowed) to go to the archives and actually get to see the props and to figure out to what extent we could use them.”
The DICE team took many photographs and measurements and looked in-depth through the archives to study each piece so it could be as perfectly represented in the game as it was in the movie. However, Ingvarsdottir realized it is more about fan perception than historical accuracy.
“The movies were videocaptured the late ’70s and early ’80s,” she said. “A lot has happened in terms of bringing rich visuals, but I think that when you see them, this is how you see the movie in your mind’s eye.”
The artistic crews also traveled to Iceland and Muir Woods, California, for inspiration in re-creating the environments of a few of the planets in the game.
DICE and Lucasfilm knew they would have to work together more closely to bring the original trilogy to life in the video game in a way that fans would appreciate and desire.
“They were able to take a lot of photos and use those as actual reference as the most authentic representation of those props, whether for weapons or for a planet,” Duan said, adding that even original reference artwork was available. “We really opened up all of our archives, not only reference from the original films but just a lot of material that we have here available to them.”
The game takes players through many adventures from “Episode IV: A New Hope” on Tatooine, “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” on Hoth and “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” on Endor. Though some missions are pulled straight from the scripts, there are others that use the movies as a backdrop to provide challenges for would-be rebels or Stormtroopers.
But the story doesn’t end after the explosion of the second Death Star. The game also travels to previously undiscovered planets, like Sullust, a lava planet. Sullust isn’t something dreamed up by the designers; it is mentioned, but never seen, in “Return of the Jedi.”
Tie-ins and X-Wings
It also directly ties into the upcoming movie, “The Force Awakens,” by letting players engage in the battle of Jakku starting December 1. This desert planet was the battleground of a fierce conflict between the New Republic and Imperial holdouts 29 years before the events in the movie.
“It’s definitely been a part of our strategy from the beginning, because it has been 10 years since the last live-action ‘Star Wars’ movie in theaters,” said Duan. “As a result, we know there are going to be a lot of new audiences that are going to be seeing ‘Star Wars’ in the theater for the first time. Part of the strategy was to really engage, or re-engage, ‘Star Wars’ fans into that excitement of the film (through the video game).”
Ingvarsdottir and her team, all “Star Wars” fans themselves, recognized the pressure they would be under from the fans, who know many movie details intimately. It was a challenge she and the developers embraced, but they also realized the limitations.
“It’s a mix of incredible excitement and privilege, combined with a sense of pressure and responsibility,” Ingvarsdottir said. “The fans, there are so many and so vocal. They care so much. We are ‘Star Wars’ fans ourselves, so we care equally much. But obviously, we have to make the game that we want to make, and it doesn’t include everything that everybody wants.”
Lucasfilm and DICE believe they have made a game that is true to the history of the original trilogy but is visually accurate and stunning in its presentation. Duan said the short development time really pushed both groups to fit in everything they wanted.
Ingvarsdottir thinks fans and players alike will appreciate the breadth of the spirit the teams brought to the game.
“You’re fighting against your friends; you’re dogfighting in the skies; you’re flying over a canyon in an X-Wing in an all-out battle,” she said. “I think people will really appreciate the different types of scenarios we’ve brought to life that they can enjoy them whether they are playing by yourself or split screen on the couch with a friend or our larger battles.”
The game was released Tuesday in North America and is out Thursday in Europe and Australia on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.
Lucasfilm and DICE are eager to show gamers around the galaxy.
“This is the year of ‘Star Wars,’ and I think the entire world is extremely excited about what’s supposed to happen,” Ingvarsdottir said. “We can see our fans are eagerly awaiting our game. Obviously, everyone is eagerly awaiting ‘The Force Awakens.’ I don’t think there has ever been a better time to be a ‘Star Wars’ fan than now.”