Star Wars 1313 Interview: Creative Director Dominic Robilliard on collaborating with Industrial Light and Magic

We recently had the chance to chat to Dominc Robilliard, the creative director of Star Wars 1313. We covered collaborating with Industrial Light and Magic, visuals vs. gameplay and overpowered Jedi.

OPM This looks like a landmark moment for gaming, having ILM’s involvement. Where do you see this going in five or ten years, and what does it mean for the games and for movie industries? 

Dominic Robilliard There’s one big challenge that you have with making content like this, and it’s the expense of building the assets and the pipelines and the production flows. I think that we wouldn’t be trying to bite off this collaboration to pull off content we’ve seen in that demo if we didn’t think we could mainstream it and make it more affordable and more efficient from a production standpoint. I think it’s the big challenge that all of the studios making huge games are facing, is the cost of developing true triple-A content for platforms that are out there and will be out there in the future.

I think that by leveraging a lot of the experience and the understanding that we already have access to , and then getting more experienced at being able to have [everything] on tap, and being able to get all of the cinematic content in-game as quickly as possible is definitely going to be a big part of that. It’s certainly one of our focuses, as well as creating something awesome.

OPM Visuals and the mo-capping are such a big part of it. There must be a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and arguments to ensure that the gameplay isn’t being overshadowed. 

DR The conversation’s identical, frankly, to what I’m used to having, but it’s usually between art and design. You always have that friction. They can actually sit together perfectly well. Good game art revolves around gameplay, and they don’t necessarily require compromise. But the point is that when you have all these different disciplines with different passions, that’s where  you end up with a friction point – but obviously the gameplay has to win . There’s no two ways about that. I think the interesting thing is that when you’re talking about a narrative-driven game, gameplay and narrative can be at the same point – they can be at level pegging, and they can inform each other, because the narrative is so much part of the gameplay. It’s a different equation. Talking with the ILM guys who have such a singular point of focus usually, and being able to discuss with them what motivates a certain point of gameplay. So we’ll say, “We need the player to be provoked or telegraphed to do this, but he could do it X number of ways,” and it means that [ILM] has to have a much broader way of tackling some of the things that we’re up against. [The ILM team] seem to love the challenge – that added flexibility in how we tackle making things.

OPM It feels like Star Wars 1313 is going to set a precedent in terms of mo-capping, visual fidelity and suchlike. We’ve seen a lot of different triple-A titles that are striving for the same thing. Where does this leave the small indie studio that can’t afford things like facial capture? Is it triple-A or die for the games industry?

DR I don’t think so. I think that making videogames is about making the right game within your means. And I think the most awesome thing about indie development – and I’ve worked on small games here at LucasArts, as well, such as the Monkey Island Special Edition titles – is that you have to work within your means to make a game. If those means are small, then you need to use those restrictions to do something creative within them. But the point is that those small indie games can still make a hell of a lot of money, which means we’re actually in a really exciting time. So I don’t think it’s triple-A or bust – I think there’s a huge amount of other stuff that people who want to work in the games industry can still do and still be really successful, and that’s unlike any period that I can remember in the period that I’ve been making games.